Posted by: travelrat | December 13, 2016

374. A Canadian Rail Tale


Vancouver: 15th May 2016

Since we were about to embark on a Canadian rail journey, a visit to the Drake Street Roundhouse, in Yaletown, was almost inevitable. Yaletown used to be a huge railway complex, and was where the trains to Vancouver used to terminate. But, all that remains nowadays is the Roundhouse. This is a really ingenious arrangement, consisting of a railway turntable, with tracks radiating from it like spokes on a wheel.

The locomotive could be turned on the turntable to a selected track, then driven along it to its shed, at the end of the track. I don’t know of any similar arrangement in the UK, but it would seem to have worked better than shunting locos around in a standard shed, to get at the one you wanted.

Of course, the railway is long gone, and the engine sheds long converted to shops, galleries and such … except for one.

This houses locomotive No 374 … which drew the first passenger carrying train into Vancouver from the east. The trans-continental railway had been completed two years earlier, but previously, only freight trains had made the run.

(I once heard, incidentally, that no railway containing the name ‘Pacific’ ever came within sight of that ocean. That’s certainly true in the case of the Canadian Pacific; Vancouver Island tends to get in the way)

Anyway, on 23rd May, 1887, 374 rolled into Vancouver with several dignitaries aboard, including the Prime Minister, Alexander Mackenzie. But, the first person off the train was a 21 year old Welshman named Jonathan Rogers … who is said to have thought the fanfares were for him! He went on to become one of Vancouver’s leading developers, so the fanfares may well have been appropriate … eventually.

Another passenger was the Prime Minister’s wife, Jane. She couldn’t decide on which side of the carriage to sit, so they tied a chair to the cow-catcher on the front of the engine, and strapped her into it! Which is not as precarious as it sounds, for the top of the cow-catcher does cover a substantial area. And, in subsequent years, quite a few visiting Royal personages chose to travel this way.


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