Locomotives Named Ottawa

By Colin Churcher from research notes prepared by David Knowles of the C. Robert Craig Memorial Library

There is a long‑standing world‑wide tradition on railways of "naming" their locomotives. The tradition was particularly strong in the very early days of the railways, and locomotives often carried names before they carried numbers. Gradually, however, as locomotive rosters expanded the practice declined, although it never entirely disappeared. Few of the larger railways outside of the United Kingdom retained the practice although some named small classes, often of high profile locomotives used on first class "named" passenger trains. Some smaller roads did follow the practice for a long time.

The names chosen varied considerably. A class of locomotives often carried similar or linked names. Names linked to speed or power were common on many railways, as were the names of the railway's officers or their wives. Also common were the towns, cities and geographical features along a railway's routes, and the names of destinations that the railways hoped to reach one day. The use of town and city names were to commemorate the important communities of the line and to attract publicity and support. It was an attractive tradition and it may actually have helped to build support for the individual railways and their services.

1. The first locomotive to carry the name "Ottawa" was built by Hinkley (of Boston) for the Bytown and Prescott. [1] It was in service in July of 1854, and apparently carried the name before the line had reached Bytown, and before the town was renamed Ottawa. The locomotive was last reported "in service" in March 1880. It was intended for freight service. (The line also had a passenger locomotive #4 called "Bytown" one of whose nameplates is held by the Ottawa Historical Society. Another nameplate from the B&P (the “St Lawrence”) is held by the Canadian Railway Museum ( EXporail)) at St Constant QC.)
(Source: Unpublished manuscript by S.R. Elliot)

“Locomotive “Ottawa” at Sussex Street Station, Ottawa in August 1861. Robert Graham is the engineer.  This is the earliest known railway photograph of the Ottawa area.”  

2. In 1854 the Kinmond Brothers of Montreal built a locomotive for the Montreal and Bytown Railway which was to connect the two cities. However, considerable difficulties resulted in the locomotive being operated on the only section of the line to be built, the portage line between Carillion and Grenville on the north shore of the Ottawa River. The locomotive was badly damaged when the Carillion engine house burned down in 1895. It was not repaired and was broken up a few years later.  The name was apparently painted in the panel under the cab window.
(Source: Brown, The Last Broad Gauge.)

3. The second "Ottawa" of the Carillion and Grenville had originally been named "Carillion" but was renamed after the first "Ottawa" was "retired" in 1895. This locomotive was originally built as a 2‑2‑2 by the "Canada Works" of the Peto, Brassey, Bates and Jackson Company in Birkenhead ,England in 1856. (The Canada Works were built by the PBB&J to supply equipment etc. for its construction of the Grand Trunk.Railway)  The locomotive was rebuilt to a 4‑2‑2 and later to a 4‑4‑0. It was purchased by the C&G from the Grand Trunk about 1870. It remained in operation on the line, (the last provincial gauge (5'6") line in Canada), until it was abandoned in 1910.
(Sources: Railroad History #147, picture reference p.32; Brown, The Last Broad Gauge.)

4. The "Ottawa" of the Quebec, Montreal, Ottawa and Occidental Railway migrated to the Canadian Pacific Railway on the purchase of the QMO&O and appeared on the CPR roster in June 1882. It became CPR #244. In July of 1905 it moved to the New Brunswick Southern Railway where it became #6. It is not known if it carried the "Ottawa" name in CPR service.

(Sources: Hilton, American Narrow Gauge Railroads p.36; Railroad History #83; Lavallee, CPR Locomotives)

5. Another Ottawa based railway the Canada Atlantic also had a locomotive named "Ottawa". This was originally built for the Vermont Central Railroad where it carried road number 28 and was named "Sarelle" and later "Granby". It was acquired by the Canada Atlantic in 1881, at which point it probably acquired its Ottawa name. It was scrapped in 1889.
(Sources: Railroad History #147, p.96)

6. The final locomotive named "Ottawa" was #3399 of the "Bulldog" class of the Great Western Railway of the United Kingdom. It was a 4‑4‑0 with 68" drivers and 18"x26" cylinders. It was one of 156 locomotives in its class which were built between 1899 and 1910. The names assigned to the class covered a wide range of subjects but there was a block from #3391 to "3409 that were drawn from empire countries and cities; #3391 was Dominion of Canada;  #3397 Toronto; #3398, Montreal; #3399, Ottawa; #3400, Winnipeg; & #3401, Vancouver. Originally numbered 3461 when built in February 1904, "Ottawa" was withdrawn from service in October 1947.  "Ottawa" was an elegant 4‑4‑0 with clean boiler lines, a Belpaire firebox, inside cylinders, a short cab with no side windows and a curved "Ottawa" nameplate over the leading driver.

Bulldog class 4-4-0 No. 3399 Ottawa on the 2.38 pm Reading to Swindon stopping train coming into Tilehurst on 31 March 1926. From “Truly the Great Western” by Maurice Earley.

One of the “Ottawa” nameplates was presented to the City of Ottawa. It was subsequently rescued from a dumpster and saved and its current location is unknown.

One of the members of the Quainton Railway Society located in Buckinghamshire, England has stored an “Ottawa” nameplate since purchasing it from Swindon soon after the locomotive was broken up. It was purchased for 17 shillings and sixpence.  It was sent via goods wagon from Swindon to Amersham and was transported home on his bicycle.  The nameplate has subsequently been restored to its former condition for display in the museum.  It was claimed that there are three “Ottawa” nameplates in existence in the United Kingdom, one of which is a replica.

The restored OTTAWA nameplate is now on display at the Quainton Railway Society near Londo , UK.  Further details of the QRS can be found on their web site at www.bucksrailcentre.org
Sources: Casserly & Johnston, Locomotives at the Groupings ‑ Great Western, emails with Quainton Railway Society.



















4’ 8½”









5’ 6”



Canada Works














Sold 1905

4’ 8½”









4’ 8½”


3399 (3461)







4’ 8½”


[1]  This railway became the Ottawa and Prescott in 1855 and then the St. Lawrence and Ottawa in 1867. It was acquired by the Canadian Pacific Railway in 1884.  A few short sections of the roadbed remain in use. A major part is now the route of the O-Train transit line.

Bytown Railway Society, Branchline, March 2010.

In February 2020 John Peakman writes:

(I) thought you might be interested in details about an engine named Ottawa that is not mentioned on your web page.
The engine in question is German, a 2-4-0 tender engine built by Schwartzkopff, works number 487 of 1873 for the Königlich Sächsische Staatseisenbahnen as their number 445, later class IIIb number 312. It was retired in 1922.

From looking at the list of engines in the same class it seemed that a number were named after non German cities, such as Baltimore, Topeka, Denver, Adelaide, and Dundee. At least four were named after US States, and at least two were named after Canadian cities, Ottawa and Toronto. I don't have the full list but there may have been more.

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