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CNR 4-8-2 6001 at Stratford's Big Shop

August 31, 2023

Now over to the Canadian National side, for another picture which was in the running for the 2024 Canadian Branchline wall calendar .

The picture below was shortlisted for the calendar. Here follows the story behind it.

It's Tuesday, December 30, 1958. Our photographer, my late friend and contributor Jim Brown, has nosed into the CNR's Motive Power Shop at Stratford for a look around.

Things have wound down here, to put it mildly, over the past year or more. In 1957, the Big Shop had its busiest year ever, in part due to the closure of Montreal's Pointe St. Charles Shops on August 23 of that year.

Since this past autumn of 1958, most of the heavy repairs at the Big Shop are oil conversion work on engines for the Western Region. Only two or three engines have been typically outshopped on a weekly basis, about half the rate since the busy 1957 year. Until recently, there were about ten locomotives under repair at any one time. But now shop men have taken on the sombre task of dismantling the same steam locomotives they recently repaired—in order to stay busy.

Western Region engines in Stratford's Big Shop over the past month have included 3552, 3571 and 6001 (Manitoba District) and 2721, 3545 and 3578 (Alberta District). Former Toronto engine 6079 arrived at Winnipeg dead on November 15 after conversion to oil firing at Stratford. Mikado 3549 will arrive dead at Winnipeg on January 13.

Today (Tuesday, December 30, 1958), Western Region Mountain 6001 has been reunited with her drive wheels, and is "sailing" across the shop floor in the cradle of the Morgan crane. Soon she will be discharged and towed back to Winnipeg:

The last regular-service overhauls on steam at the Big Shop will be completed over the next couple of weeks after Jim Brown's picture of number 6001. Oil-burning Consolidation 2721 will be test-run on Thursday, January 8, 1959. Shortly afterward on the same day, Southern Ontario District engine 6221 (assigned to Belleville) will make her test run. On Monday, January 12, Western Region Mikado 3552 will be the last locomotive overhauled at the Big Shop before the end of regular steam operations.

Well into March 1959, the Big Shop will continue to do light running repairs on several steam locomotives (among them, numbers 5611, 6175 and 6402). And, of course, the scrappings will continue, albeit down to about four engines per week from the customary ten (the general feeling is the shop men will slow the work down deliberately).

There will be a couple of curtain calls on overhauls at the CNR's Big Shop at Stratford, however. On November 29, 1961, Northern 6167 will arrive for Class 5 repairs, which will take three to four weeks. And a couple of years later, younger sister 6218 will undergo a full overhaul, which will close the Big Shop steam repairs forever.

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