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CNR 4-6-2 number 5108 at Scarboro

August 29, 2023

Our 2024 Canadian Branchline wall calendar features Canadian National engine 5108 on the cover. She’s working train 92 for Peterboro up the hill at Warden Avenue in Scarboro on the morning of Thursday, January 12, 1956:

But what is this Northern Ontario District engine doing on a Southern Ontario District assignment—on the Belleville Division?

Here is some background for you—the story behind the picture...

Engine 5108 and her various assignments

Number 5108 is a Pacific of the J-4-d class. Traditionally, she’s been a Northern Ontario District engine from the late 1930s or before. Most of her time in the 1940s was spent in the Capreol area:

By the end of 1952, our engine was one of five in her class on the Northern Ontario District mainline. Numbers 5101, 5110 and 5112 at Capreol covered mixed trains to South Parry, Foleyet and Brent. At Port Arthur, Pacifics 5108 and 5109 handled passenger trains 79 and 80 to and from Longlac. Here’s our engine doing just that on number 79 at Longlac:

From Steam in Northern Ontario, describing the scene on the morning of Friday, June 25, 1954:

Seven miles east of Port Arthur near the shore of Thunder Bay, Pacific 5107 on train 79 waits at the west end of the siding for her eastbound counterpart. At twenty minutes to three on a warm summer morning, the headlight of sister 5108 on number 80 appears a mile in the distance as she rounds a right hand curve. Aboard the eastbound train, the engineer dims his headlight and pulls on the whistle cord, while the hogger on number 79 acknowledges that he is in the clear by flicking his headlight a couple of times. Under the glow of dim cab lights, enginemen aboard the sister locomotives exchange waves as their trains meet. Moments later, a trainman lines the switch for the westbound out of the siding while the eastbound accommodation regains speed on her two hundred mile journey. Behind the tender of Pacific 5108 are the customary baggage car, combination car, coach and sleeping car.

Back to our summary...

By the time of our picture on January 12, 1956, number 5108 is still officially working the passenger trains out of Port Arthur. But sister engine 5109 (which will appear in Steam Through Port Credit), the only one of her class at Toronto, has just been sent to Stratford’s Big Shop for an overhaul. So the NOD has sent locomotive 5108 to Toronto as a temporary replacement:

What lies ahead for engine 5108, after this picture was taken?

Some months after our cover picture, those passenger trains 79 and 80 on the NOD will be cancelled (on September 30, 1956). Three days later, our Port Arthur engine 5108, along with sister 5110, will be transferred to Toronto on the SOD.

After arriving at Toronto, number 5108 will enjoy more than a year serving on the Toronto–Peterboro trains 92 and 95 (similar to numbers 79 and 80 on the NOD), as pictured on the cover of our calendar. Ray Corley will catch her laying over at Peterboro between those very trains on Monday, June 3, 1957:

Likewise, Al Crompton will frame engine 5108 working train 92 through Markham on Tuesday, October 1, 1957. This picture appears on page 40 of Steam Memories of Lindsay, which has extensive coverage of trains 92 and 95 on the Uxbridge and Campbellford Subdivisions:

Alas, engine 5108’s boiler will be outlawed on January 8, 1958, and will not be renewed. She’ll make her last run during the first week of January, then be removed from service at Stratford before being scrapped in June.

‘Say, I love this background information on the 2024 calendar pictures! Any chance you can provide that for all of them?’

Good idea! Indeed, I will send a bonus PDF giving background on ALL of the 13 pictures appearing in the calendar. This will be emailed to everyone who has pre-ordered a copy by the deadline.

‘Those other books you mentioned...’

Yes indeed—like Steam Memories of Lindsay, Steam in Northern Ontario, et al? Now’s a good time to grab them. There are NO shipping charges for just this week (until the 2024 Canadian Branchline wall calendar offer expires).

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