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Last CPR steam out of Midland

October 23, 2020

Last CPR steam out of Midland


So reads the first page of a Midland Free Press article on Wednesday, May 4, 1960. It described the last day of operation—the previous Saturday, April 30, 1960—of the last steam branchline in Ontario (the Canadian Pacific’s Port McNicoll Subdivision).

Indeed. For my entire life, I have gazed upon, read, and re-read that poignant piece. It’s a yellowed clipping, snipped from the local Midland paper by my grandparents, for my dad. They knew he had a thing for steam locomotives, and that only three days earlier he had traipsed down toward Orangeville, with his wife (an expectant mother), three still cameras and a movie camera—something about a “tripleheader on the CPR”.

Both of those landmark events—the final day of regular steam operation in Port McNicoll and Midland, and the next day’s tripleheaded excursion to Orangeville—are covered in the upcoming Speed Graphics and Steam 1958! vol. 3. For the past two weeks, I have been laying out the sequence of spreads in the book, inking in the narrative, pondering the gloom for steam fans in 1960.

My Speed Graphics and Steam series encompasses four volumes, three of which are already in print. Together, they present a complete story of the forays to Canada of three stellar photographers—John Rehor, Don Wood and Herb Harwood. Some 1,200 pictures taken with professional cameras, all laid out in 768 pages between hard covers.

“The whistle you heard Friday afternoon belonged to CPR engine 3632 as it left Midland.”

My dad heard that particular whistle on one gloomy Saturday in the spring of 1959, when he and Mom were visiting her parents in Midland.

Dad was taking pictures around the CNR’s Tiffin roundhouse, where yard engine 7460 and Mikado 3436 were simmering (the end of CNR steam in Midland was about two weeks away). Along came CPR engine 3632 working the Midland way freight, and Dad snapped a picture in the drizzle as it went by.

Speed Graphics and Steam 1958! vol. 3 is on its way, soon. Notwithstanding the loss of our dear friend Jim Brown a month back, and my own dad five years ago, and regular steam operation in Ontario 60 years ago—the final volume in our series is coming together. We’re going out with the Port McNicoll Subdivision on April 30, 1960 and then the CPR tripleheader to Orangeville on May 1, 1960.

“Then it was on to the famed Angus Shops in Montreal—and the welder’s touch. Old 3632 is slated for the scrap heap.”

No fear. Canadian Pacific 3632, like all the other steam locomotives operating in Ontario and Quebec which attracted the lenses of Messrs. Rehor, Wood and Harwood will run forever in the pages of Speed Graphics and Steam 1957! and Speed Graphics and Steam 1958! vols. 1 to 3.

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