Uncle Eddy


Edward (Edmund) Leo MacDonald (1883 -1956) was definitely my father’s favorite uncle. The youngest of my grandfather’s brothers, Uncle Eddy got a job with the Canadian Northern Railroad as a young man, worked his way up to fireman, married my great-Aunt Winis and by the time the Canadian Government Railways was formed in 1915 was an engineer. He took over the mighty 2922 shortly after she came out of the shops in 1918, and when my dad was a boy he took him along in the cab for many freight runs (something they’d never allow today.)

This big powerful freight engine was fired by hand. No automatic stokers back then. The fireman was a busy guy.

This tiny photo is all I have of Uncle Eddy with his crew and his loco. He’s the guy wearing the cap and overalls, standing near the locomotive bell.

Uncle Eddy was quite a joker in his younger age. He had no love for the station agent in his home town, so when he came in to take on water at the tank near the station agent’s home, he’d play him a little tune on the whistle at 2 AM. He had another special whistle code he used to tell Aunt Winis he was back and would soon be home – get the tea made, please!

I met Uncle Eddy late in his life after he retired from CNR and he always had an interesting story to fascinate a young boy. He was a dyed in the wool union man – no fan of the government meddling in a railway strike in the early 1950s.

A few years ago I did some research and found out more about Uncle Eddy’s 2-8-2 Mikado – which he always called a “MIke.” In fact I got the actual service record of his engine from the Canadian Archives – all the old CNR steam stuff is there. It seems that CN renumbered the engines from 28XX and 29XX to 32XX and 33XX. Also they made some modifications that changed the loco’s appearance and made it harder to trace the history. Of course it’s all clear now with the available Internet info on CN steam locomotives.


Here’s #3254 – one of the 3 surviving CNR 2-8-2s as she looks today. The major difference is a big feedwater heater in front of the stack.


And here’s how she looked in 2011. Engine 3254 is a slightly older class of Mikado – none of Uncle Eddy’s class survived.

It seems rather appropriate that the year Uncle Eddy passed away his own big “Mike” was cut up and scrapped. Two old proud warriors riding off into the sunset together nearly 60 years ago.



Published by Ray MacDonald

Ray MacDonald is a retired food scientist who lives in Almonte, ON.
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