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Day 22

Most of the staff had saved money to spend in Montreal. No longer Canada’s largest city, it still reigns as the fashion capital. It seemed everyone but me wanted to go shopping. I intended to spend the day out of town, in Delson/St. Constant.

For railfans in Canada, Delson/St. Constant is almost a kind of Mecca. It’s the home of the Canadian Railway Museum. Some of Canada’s most famous pieces of railway history are preserved there, awaiting discovery by the rail-curious. I've wanted to make this visit for as long as I've been part of the railway community. When I was granted the honour of assisting with CBC's 50th Anniversary VIA Rail Train, and the schedule permitted, visiting the CRM became a personal priority.

Getting out to Delson/St. Constant was a challenge. Nary a rental car was available in Montreal. That meant a taxi. Worse still, my driver didn’t know where St. Constant was, nor had he ever heard of the museum. The CRM’s website had a vague map, but no details. (It turns out that the map is surprisingly accurate.)

The museum is not visible from Route 209 in St. Constant. The only indication is Old Sydney Collieries 2-4-0 #25 that sits next to the road. A little further down is a sign that provides the real clue. Follow a short dirt road, round a corner, and the transplanted Hayes railway station comes into view.

Founded in 1932, the Canadian Railroad Historical Association is Canada’s oldest and largest historical railway organization. In 1950, the group took possession of its first piece of equipment, a retired Montreal streetcar. Nine years later, there were enough artifacts to open a museum. The Canadian Railway Museum was founded in 1961, and opened its doors in 1965. Currently, the CRM is working on an expansion called ExpoRail, which will provide a greater interpretive experience for those visiting the museum.

My tour guide, sadly, wasn’t terribly knowledgeable in railroadiana. She knew the items we were looking at, but history beyond that, or of other items in North America, she knew little. I and others and in our tour group offered information as we deemed necessary.

The tour over, I returned to the locomotive house to take pictures. Inside are some of Canada’s most famous steam locomotives, including CN 4100 (the first locomotive ordered by the newly-formed Canadian National Railways), CP 2850 (the original Royal Hudson that towed the Royal Train in 1939), and The Flying Scotsman (donated to the Dominion of Canada in 1937 by Britain). It’s a steam buff’s paradise.

As I wandered, I learned that today was an auspicious day for the museum. In addition to it being a cultural day (meaning I didn’t have to pay the entry fee), there was a large announcement at 2 p.m. Luckily for me, that fit almost exactly into my schedule. As most of it was in French, I don’t know exactly what was said. But part of it I did understand. Today was the official launch of a new book written by the museum. It’s a collection of portraits and text about the museum’s collection. I bought the first English copy.

Returning to Montreal, I had the taxi driver drop me off on the waterfront. The sunlight cast wonderful shadows on the massive concrete grain elevators, and the rust on the metal portions exhibited classic industrial decay. I wandered all down the waterfront, taking pictures on the way back to the hotel.

We congregated in the hotel’s lobby. It seemed everyone except me had gone shopping during the day. I get the feeling many of us will be mailing packages home just so we can zip up our luggage.

Around 5:15, we departed for VIA’s Montreal Maintenance Centre. Our last VIA crew was waiting for us. We were greeted with cards left on every berth and on every door. They are certainly off to a great start!

We pulled out of Montreal, watching the glowing skyline as we crossed the Victoria Bridge. We didn’t want to leave -- Montreal is far too exciting a city to leave so soon.

 


CN #4100
The Flying Scotsman
CP 2860
The John Molson
Daniel McAllister
Locomotives
Grain elevators