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Looking for railroad history in Canada’s capital

Posted by Jim Wrinn
on Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Canadian Pacific 4-8-4 No. 3100. Photo by Jim Wrinn
OTTAWA – Participants at this year’s Association of Railway Museums/Tourist Railway Association meeting were up early in Montreal Tuesday for a trip to the nation’s capital and a railroad history tour. 

Bytown Railway Society's 1919 Central of Vermont steam crane. Photo by Jim Wrinn
There was only one way to get there, of course: VIA Rail Canada train No. 51. We boarded the five-car train behind F40PH No. 6438 and enjoyed the ride. The large windows of our LRC coaches provided wonderful views of the countryside. At Ottawa, we took a bus to the Canada Science & Technology Museum, which has a surprisingly large railroad component.

Grand Trunk 4-4-0 No. 40, an 1872 Portland product. Photo by Jim Wrinn
We marveled at one of only two Canadian Pacific 4-8-4s built, No. 3100, on display. Next door is semi-streamlined Canadian National 4-8-4 No. 6400, and CP Royal Hudson No. 2859. The cabs of both the Northern and the Hudson are open on a regular basis and have been stripped of most handles, gauges, and other loose parts. Over the years, visitors have damaged or removed these items, and the museum staff told us they’re preparing to restore the backheads to their original configuration with a clear plexiglass sheet to prevent them from suffering future damage. The CN engine’s cab is not normally open and is complete. There’s also a CP Ten-Wheeler, CN caboose, and a narrow-gauge office car. It’s a great exhibit.

Bytown Railway Society's two-truck Shay. Photo by Jim Wrinn
On the same grounds, you’ll find the Bytown Railway Society, which provides the operating railroad for the science and technology museum. On this day, the group ran a GE 45-tonner and a business car for us, fired up its 1919 Central of Vermont steam crane for demonstration, and showed off its shop. Inside is a cosmetic restoration on Grand Trunk 4-4-0 No. 40, an 1872 Portland product. In the summer, the group runs a two-truck Shay, which is in excellent condition and stored inside in the winter. The warehouse area is amazing with CP G5 4-6-2 No. 1201, an experimental GM hydraulic switcher, a broad-gauge coach body, and other items under the careful watch of curators. There’s even an empty track space set aside for an SD40 that is yet to come. Talk about planning!

A GE 45-tonner from Bytown Railway Society. Photo by Jim Wrinn
Our next stop was the O-Train, a Bombardier light rail train running on a 5-mile closed track, which provides a short commuter train. Two trainsets ping-pong back and forth all day. It must be monotonous for the operator. I’ve ridden on similar cars in Germany, so it was a short ride, but brought back good memories.

The O-Train, a Bombardier light rail train running on a 5-mile closed track. Photo by Jim Wrinn
From there, we visited a streetcar restoration project, Ottawa car No. 696, and, of course, took the VIA train back to Montreal.

We’ll have more coverage of the ARM/TRAIN meeting later this week.

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