When I was a small boy, I was fortunate enough to get to know my dad’s uncle Eddy. Born in 1884, Uncle Eddy was a lifelong railroader. He started out with the tiny Bay of Quinte Railway, then worked for Canadian Northern and later on joined Canadian National. He was a freight engineer most of his career, finishing up in Ottawa after living in Deseronto, Napanee and Trenton.
Here is Uncle Eddy with his crew and their locomotive 2922 – later renumbered 3322. He is standing on the running board near the bell. This is the locomotive my dad traveled around Ontario in, back around 1920.
CGR 2922 was an example of a 2-8-2 steam locomotive popularly called a Mikado, or “Mike” by its crews. First designed in 1883 for narrow gauge Japanese railways, the Mikado design became popular during the First World War when heavy freight trains took over the rails in North America. “Mikes” lasted until the end of steam – about a 40-year service life. In the days of steam, the locomotive was called “the Pig” and that seems an apt description for this out-and-out freight dragger. No tall driving wheels or colorful paint jobs like the high stepping Pacifics or Hudsons used to haul the passenger expresses – just brute force and black iron.
Now a few years ago I was able to contact Library and Archives Canada and get some information about uncle Eddy’s locomotive. All of the CNR steam records are in the Archives and they were very helpful. Here is what I found out:
- In July 1917, the Montreal Locomotive Works completes Job #58369, a model S-1-b Mikado. The new engine is the property of the former Canadian Northern Railway, now known as Canadian Government Railways. It is about this time that Uncle Eddy, who has likely been in charge of a Canadian Northern 2-8-0 Consolidation, gets behind the throttle of this big new machine. The engine receives the number 2922.
- In 1923, the Grand Trunk and C.G.R. become the Canadian National Railway. In revamping the locomotive rosters the “Mikes” are renumbered; former 2800 and 2900 series become 3200 and 3300. Hence #2922 becomes #3322. The history becomes a little harder to trace.
- In March of 1931, #3322 is now assigned to the Manitoba district and undergoes a boiler refit at the Transcona shops. Thermic siphons are applied to the boiler, and the engine probably receives an Elesco feedwater heater which radically alters her appearance. This makes it even harder for a latter-day detective to trace her history.
- In September 1936, #3322 undergoes another boiler refit at Transcona. She is still assigned to the Manitoba district and the high mineral content of Prairie water is taking its toll.
- In December 1947, #3322 is now in the Atlantic region. At that time 475 Mikados are still hard at work on the CNR. Out of 2583 locomotives, only 75 diesels and 24 electric cars are running on the railroad. #3322 is judged to be in poor condition and is scheduled for repairs.
- In January 1948, #3322 undergoes another boiler refit in the Moncton, N.B. shops.
- CN records show that Mikado 3322 goes to the scrapyard in April 1956. Uncle Eddy has passed away a month earlier. So the two old friends pass from history over 60 years ago.
None of the S-1-c class of Mikados survived the scrapper’s torch. One S-1-a (#3239) is preserved at the Canadian Railroad Historical Museum in Delson, Que. An S-1-b (#3254) recently ran at Steamtown, where another S-1-d (#3377) is on display in the loco graveyard.
I was lucky enough to be in Steamtown in 2011 when CNR 3254 was still operating and got a chance to ride behind her on a brief passenger shuttle. Now she is out of service and it’s unlikely she will run again.
CNR 3377 looks terrible but is actually in better mechanical shape than 3254. It was used as a donor locomotive for parts to keep 3254 working. Those parts could be swapped back and it is possible that 3377 may be restored to operating condition. However, this probably won’t happen in my lifetime.
In my long and memory filled life, I have a lot to be thankful for. My love of steam trains came about by getting to see them with my grandpa and by getting to know a man who actually ran them. Plus I had the opportunity to take my own grandson to get up and personal with a Mikado similar to Uncle Eddy’s. Can’t ask for more.