Thursday, April 7, 2016

Five minutes at Roundhouse Park

Toronto, Part II - The following post is the second of four I have put together to chronicle the various trains I saw on a recent trip to Toronto with my family in mid-March. You can read the first part here.
I was like a moth to a flame when I saw the roundhouse. When my family was recently in Toronto, I was able to find a few minutes to go for a walk along the tracks downtown. The official purpose was to make my way to the Ripley's Aquarium and check out the line before my family visited the attraction. I knew the Toronto Railway Museum was across the road, but not having been to the area in years, I forgot that the museum had all its artifacts spread throughout Roundhouse Park for anyone to see for free. So, after checking out the line at the aquarium, I figured I had about five minutes to check out the trains before heading back to our rented condo where my family would be waking up from their naps.
I was able to pack a lot into five minutes.

This was my favourite piece in the park. This is a 1953-built GP7 that was used throughout Canada on the CN. It was retired in 1984 and donated to the City of Toronto to celebrate the city's 150th anniversary. Given that it was retired in 1984, this unit obviously wore the red and black wet-noodle scheme when it was pulled from service, but the museum chose to apply CN's green and yellow scheme, which was used until the wet noodle scheme began to be rolled out in 1961. That means this unit was in this green and yellow scheme for a relatively short time.

When you pass by the roundhouse on Bremner Boulevard, the first thing you see is wooden Canadian National caboose 79144 and the maroon Toronto, Hamilton & Buffalo caboose 70. The TH&B caboose was built in 1921 as a wooden caboose. The car was sheeted in steel in the 1950s and was painted yellow and black, which was meant to honour Hamilton's Canadian Football League team, the Tiger-Cats. The TH&B, formed in 1892, operated until 1987. Its corporate parents were the Canadian Pacific and CSX (successor to original TH&B partner New York Central).

The CN caboose was actually a wooden boxcar built in 1920, which was transformed into a caboose in 1957. The caboose is a recent addition to the museum, having been donated in 2014. The car was in recent years used as an office at a garden supply centre and nursery in the Toronto area. The interior of the caboose is still a work in progress, according to the museum's website.

Here's a better shot, above, of  the TH&B caboose's fa├žade and trucks. You can see that the window beneath the cupola was sheeted over at one point. Despite that, the caboose is still a striking piece of rail history, especially in the maroon paint and the classic TH&B logo. I have a beloved TH&B wooden boxcar as part of my HO scale trains (currently boxed up, sadly), so this road has always been one of my favourite fallen flags.

I like that this museum has an old Alco S2 switcher in the CP Rail multimark scheme. Despite its more modern colour scheme, this unit was built in 1944. This unit weighs 120 tonnes. It was powered by an inline six-cylinder, 1000-horsepower engine. CP soon began replacing its S2s with the lighter S3s. You can read about the S3 in this previous post. This unit was retired from service as a local switcher in Toronto in 1986. You will notice in the photo that this switcher is coupled to another switcher. Given its position behind those cement columns and fencing (not seen in photo), I was unable to get any useful shots of the maroon and grey switcher.

This is Canadian Pacific 411281, a 1931-built heavyweight sleeper, which was converted to maintenance of way service at some point, hence the CP Rail script. From what I could find, this sleeper was once called Jackman. It spent a good deal of time at the downtown CP Yard and at the John Street roundhouse before it was officially retired and donated to the museum.

This old CP station, the Don Station, has perhaps the most interesting history of any of the artifacts at the old John Street roundhouse. The station was built by the Canadian Pacific in 1896 near Queen Street as a suburban station to serve the needs of passengers who didn't want to go all the way to Union Station. This type of suburban station was quite common in big cities for decades until the development of better roads and highways eliminated the need for them.

In the case of this station, it remained operational until 1967, mainly as a stopover for passenger trains arriving from Peterborough or Havelock. After it was closed, the station was moved to the Todmorden Mills historic village in the Don Valley in 1969, where it housed a railway display. After a while, it was used for storage. It was recently moved to Roundhouse Park, where it has become a centerpiece.

It is the last remaining example of this style of turn-of-the-century station that existed all around Toronto. One note to the fine folks at the railway museum: it's time to powerwash the decking surrounding the station. I nearly slipped and fell as did a few other people.

This regal looking car is Canadian Pacific Cape Race, which was built in 1929 as River Liard. The interior was finished at CP's Angus Shops in Montreal. Typical of the heavyweight lounge cars of the time, this car had both men's and women's showers, smoking rooms and a women's lounge. These cars were not initially revenue producing, as they were placed in the consist for the exclusive use of passengers using sleeping cars. In the 1940s, the car was converted into a revenue-generating sleeper and was renamed Cape Race. The car was then used as a business car before it was acquired by a rail history society for use on railfanning trips. The years have been kind to this car. It's still a looker.

Cabin D, above, served as an interlocking tower at the rail junction just west of Bathurst Street in downtown Toronto, until it was moved to the roundhouse in 1984 and refurbished. The museum posted photos several years ago of the tower's move to its spot in the park.

One final shot of Cabin D and an adjacent rail structure located right beside the CNR GP9 and just across the tracks from the old Don Station. Next time I'm in Toronto, I will have to splurge and spend a full 10 minutes in the park to take in all this rail history. As it stands, I was happy to squeeze in this time.


_Don said...

Nice summary. It's interesting to see that the museum seems to be moving things around. I was there last summer for a concert and the GP7 was in a different location. I'd memory serves, more in the open between the turntable and the cabin. Also, I was down there last weekend ( for yet another concert) and the flat car in your photo was not there. Nor was it in June.

Last weekend, there was a small 44-tonner like locomotive and a wooden tanker on the turntable, that I don't recall being there last June.

There is a very small display within the roundhouse that has a CN steam engine and a few other things under restoration. It's not a big display of things, but you may want to reserve an additional 10 minutes ;-)

Michael said...

Thanks Don. I did see the 44-tonner and tank car on the roundhouse table, but I didn't put it in this post as I wasn't thrilled with the photo. I will be sure to take an additional few minutes the next time I am in TO.

Eric said...

Nice report, Michael. Fortunately, when I've walked over to the museum from my railfanning perch at the west end of the Skywalk, it's been nice weather. I'm actually surprised there is that much real estate available for their switching moves, and yes, they're always moving equipment around.

We were lucky enough to spend a little time in Cape Race during the 1979 CNR 6060 fantrip from Toronto to Gravenhurst. While I was a member of the UCRS, Cape Race was a constant source of worry through the 80s re: its eventual fate as the club was no longer using it on fantrips.

The nice thing about the museum set-up is that it attracts non-railfans walking about the area. Don't forget Steam Whistle Brewery - a tour is not necessary to get a sample - great on a hot day!


Michael said...

Ah, Steam Whistle. Been there, done that for sure! I think half the fun of operating such a museum would be moving everything around. I know they do this in Smiths Falls as well. Thanks for your additional information on Cape Race. Glad it survived.