Visit to Ottawa West Roundhouse, Published 6 August 1946
Dropped in at The Club yesterday for the first time in 20 years. By The Club. I mean of course, the CPR roundhouse. Like those oldsters fom the colonies who only drop in once in a generation to their London clubs, when they return from bearing the white man's burden amid the deadly stingers on Singapore, the dread gimlets of Sokotra, and the hardhitting planters' punches of Jamaica, so have I been most casual about my Club. Since I last checked in at the old roundhouse, I have visited locomotive stalls all the way from Vanceboro, Maine to Oakland, California, from the Ryecrot engine barns on the Northern Alberta Railway, to the Gulf Mobile and Ohio shops at New Orleans. Just the same it seemed good to get back to the old haunt.
There were some engines there that used to be on the same rails, when I first started attending The Bayview avenue istitution, back in the spring of '13. I saw for instance, old 2226. and 2227, not to mention 2603 and 2623. I remembered them when they had their old numbers, when the 2200's were 1000's, and the 2600's were 1200's.
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I caught the afternoon rush, just as they were wheeling out the slick 2459 to take train 504 from Ottawa to Montreal. They've cut that sleek string of varnish down to two hours and 45 minutes. Then there was 2455, here now on the North Shore to replace 2393. who's been on the North Shore for three years now. I saw 449, a brave little 33-year-old engine, snorting defiance as she made ready to haul the Pontiac to Waltham. Also resting quietly for her nightly hurly burly was 2819, which they use on No. 33 to Toronto.
I soon caught up with John Powers, locomotive foreman, who, being an old Toronto boy. and as recently arrived as 1944. seemed surprised that I knew him, that if things were as they used to be, there would be, just around the corner on the next wall, a blackboard with some engine numbers on it.
Powers grinned and said: "It's there all right."
So they haven't moved that board in 33 years. I used to pore over it, every time I visited the roundhouse. Some things don't change much in a third of a century.
They have widened the northwest side of the roundhouse, added new stalls. I remember the time they had, getting 5084 into her stall, when she was first assigned to our Hintonburg engine parlors. They had to move her up so far that she blocked the walk at the head end of the stall, near the windows. Later, they extended these tracks, and with the new "wing", they can handle even the big 2800"s.
A thing that has always aroused my curiosity has been the Ottawa roundhouse's affinity for engies ending in 27. For instance on train 559. the 3 p.m. (standard) train to Toronto, they used to use 2227 on week days. Then on Fridays, when they began to doublehead for the week end, they added the spectacular high wheeler 2927. (Wheel arrangement oo-OO-oo, or 4-4-4.) So we used to see on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, the 2227 and 2927 coupled together. Now, they have assigned one of those slim and slick new, blue-grey boiler jobs, the 1227. Today, you see 1227 replacing 2227. But on Friday's like as not, you'll see 2227 and 1227 coupled up together.
Roundhouse foreman Powers swears he is innocent of any planning; they just happen to send him engines that end with 27.
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I found out that my old nemesis Miller is in Hochelaga roundhouse, Montreal. Miller was a bit nasty with me, way back in 1915. He was a bit touchy over my visits to the roundhouse, but finally agreed to let me come in. However, one day, somebody set fire to the cab of old No. 23. there was talk of sabotage. Miller got the wind up, and told me I could not come back any more. As a result, I visited the place at night, when he wasn't around. Later, I was mooching through the roundhouse at Hochelaga, where strictly speaking, I had no business, and I saw him. He eyed me queerly, but his memory was poor, and he didn't flag me down. I still have scant sympathy for people who try to push kids around, like that.
I might say that I got a real welcome from Mr. Powers in his new reception room. Titivated with fancy wood, revealing the latest decor in polished desk, the foreman's setup today was vastly different to the dingy dump of 1913. About a year ago, the CPR decided to houseclean the foreman's suite, and today Mr. Powers really has an attractive place in which to work.
They look after 33 locomotives in the roundhouse.