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Turcot yard and roundhouse in November 1957

August 11, 2022

Let’s pick up the action on our November 1957 trek to Montreal, in search of active steam locomotives, with Bob Krone (along with his father Robert and school chum Jeff). If you haven’t read our first installment, you can find it here:

Northward to Montreal in November 1957

Now it’s the evening of Friday, November 8, 1957 as we continue. The temperature is dropping into the 40s on the Fahrenheit scale, with rain in the forecast. Tomorrow’s high will be 42 degrees for the visitors from Hackensack, New Jersey. Nonetheless, we strike out briskly from the Motel Raphaël southward, in the direction of the steam whistles we’ve heard coming from the CNR’s Turcot yard.

For orientation, the two-mile-long Turcot yard appears on this 1956 schematic of CNR track in Montreal (it’s in the left third of the drawing, about halfway down):

Zoomed in, our area of immediate interest looks like this:

Where is the Motel Raphaël in relation to Turcot yard? This black dot on an excerpt of a Shell Montreal street map shows the approximate location of our accommodation. It’s at the westernmost city limit, on Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue Boulevard:

Referring to this late 1940s air photo of Montreal, the red arrow points to a red dot marking the approximate future location of the Motel Raphaël. The green arrow points to Turcot West, a continuous train order office situated in an operator’s cabin at the westernmost end of Turcot yard. Every freight train stops here, a location with which we will become familiar:

The hour is late and the sky is overcast on Friday, November 8 and our young photographer manages only one colour slide image before the light gives out. He captures Northern 6238, a Mimico engine, fronting an extra on the westbound mainline out of Turcot yard, at Turcot West:

As we head back to the warmth of our motel room, we plan to be back at Turcot West first thing tomorrow. All night, we hear steam locomotive whistles. Sleep comes with difficulty.

Morning on Saturday, November 9 finds Northern 6123 heading an eastbound into Turcot yard on the freight lead, situated to the north of the two mainlines. This locomotive was displaced by diesels to Turcot roundhouse from her traditional Atlantic Region home:

On the heels of engine 6123, we walk eastward a mile or more, toward the CNR’s Turcot roundhouse, release forms in hand.

Inside the 56-stall roundhouse, we find Northern 6204, hundreds of miles away from her Sarnia home with a host of stablemates:

What appears to be a thriving steam roundhouse is actually a dying facility. Scarcely five years ago, in September 1952, there were 158 active steam locomotives here. That diminished slightly to 143 by December 1953. Steam was still holding firm at 145 active locomotives here only a couple of years ago, in October 1955. But road freight, passenger, and road switcher diesel deliveries reduced the active steam to 102 engines by three months ago. Now the number is a few more than 90, with several steam locomotives destined to be stored before the year concludes.

Outside, we watch Northern 6202 on the 100-foot turntable, while Mikado 3243 and Ten Wheeler 1391 look on. This is the largest turntable in Canada, serving the largest roundhouse.

On a shop track to the east of the roundhouse, we discover Pacific 5295 coaled and shined for a passenger assignment. This location, with the Imperial Tobacco warehouse in the background, is familiar to us. We were here with Jim Guerin in September 1956, as recounted in Steam Encounters at Montreal.

For Bob Krone and company, there is an entire other railway to explore on this November 1957 adventure in Montreal. We’ll join them for an overview of the Canadian Pacific goings-on in our next installment previewing Steam Encounters at Montreal vol. 2.

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