1057 and all that

Ottawa area railfans have had the chance this summer to observe the operation of ex-CPR steam locomotive #1057. A few years ago I fired steam locomotives on British Railways and a comparison between Canadian and British steam is quite interesting.: Come with me on an imaginary trip on 1057. The names of some of the terms are different  so  I will  show  the British ones in brackets.

But first, what should the well dressed Canadian engineman wear? I’d never worn gloves on a locomotive before; on all ex-Great Western locomotives the cab controls were fitted with varnished wooden handles which didn’t get hot; anyway a few days on the scoop (shovel) soon hardened up your hands. I’d also prefer to wear my plastic topped British peaked cap instead of the flimsy cloth one but the Canadian crew does not normally need to go under the locomotive. Perhaps a cloth cap will do.

So, wearing a funny hat and trying to hide behind an enormous pair of leather gloves let's climb into the cab (on to the footplate) and have a look around. Heavens above, there are seats; padded ones at that! Every British locomotive I worked on was fitted with a hinged wooden flap that passed for a seat. It was generally more comfortable to stand up; you couldn't reach any of the controls from the seat anyway. The water valve for the injector was normally to be found under the seat. 1057 has two injectors placed in convenient positions inside the cab. In Britain injectors were generally placed behind the cab steps and could only be seen by either looking over the side or by squinting through holes drilled through the wooden footboard.

Let’s assume we have a full head of steam and are coupled on to our train waiting for the highball (right away).  Instead of peering back for a green light or flag, we listen for the cab signal whistle. We get it, start off and very soon it is time to put in our first fire. The number two scoop is a little smaller than a Western Region shovel and the blade is shaped differently.  What luxury: 1057 has air operated doors worked by a foot pedal. On British locomotives you had either to work the doors by hand each time or leave the doors open and run the risk of scorching yourself. The fire is built up well at the back, similar to the traditional Great Western "Haycock" fire, and 1057 steams well. I soon find out that if you take your foot off the pedal too soon the scoop will be trapped in the doors.

1057 is picking up speed now. As we are watering down the deckplate (footplate) with the squirt hose (pep or slack pipe) we can take a look at the engineer (driver). He is working the engine so that you can hear every beat from the stack (chimney). By British standards he would be thrashing the loco but 1057 thrives on this treatment.

Let’s assume we have kept a good head of steam and maintained the water level well. We’re now back at the terminal, ready to put the engine away. But I can't see a slice any-where. The slice is an ancient British instrument of torture that was designed to make a fireman's life a misery.  It consists of a shovel-like blade riveted to a twelve foot iron handle. It was used to shovel out the fire from the firebox through the firehole and on to the ground via any convenient door or window. (It was always difficult to walk through a British engine terminal because of the danger of receiving an earful of hot coals) But the slice isn't necessary because this sixty year old Canadian locomotive has a rocking grate! Wow, its easy, all you do is to rock the fire through to the ashpan then go down to the ground and open the hopper. After having thrown out the fire the British fireman had to go underneath, avoiding the leaks of boiling water on the way, and rake out the ashpan.

So how does 1057 compare  to a British steam engine? Comparisons are always odious but from the fireman’s point of view she stacks up pretty well. In fact, at the risk of causing a howl of protest from Duncan duFresne which will be heard from here to Swindon, I am prepared to propose that 1057 be made an honouray British locomotive, provided it had a copper band round the chimney and was painted green! Come to think of it, it should have a name -how about "Carleton Place Castle" or "King duFresne".

Note: The author wishes to thank Duncan duFresne for providing the Canadian translations to items in this article.

Bytown Railway Society, Branchline, October 1973.

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