September 26th, 2018

Hat steam train history remembered

By Gillian Slade on August 4, 2017.

Steam engines no longer chug through Medicine Hat but those days are recorded in a British publication from the 1970s. -- SUBMITTED PHOTO 

The era of steam trains in Medicine Hat may be in the distant past but it still holds a place of pride in notable publications.

In September 1956 a T1c 2-10-4 steam engine hauling freight through Medicine Hat was captured in a black and white photograph by J.G. Collias. It was featured in a book – Locomotives in Profile Volume 4 – published by Profile Publications Ltd., Windsor, England, in 1974. The book is owned by a local resident and train enthusiast.

In the photograph there is just a glimpse of the distinctive Medicine Hat station building in the top left corner.

The T1c engines ran east of Calgary over a 175-mile stretch between Brooks and Medicine Hat and occasionally to Edmonton. The furthest east the 2-10-4s ever appeared in service was Swift Current, Saskatchewan, a total of 323 miles from Calgary, according to the book. The nearly level track accommodated loads of 3,000 to 4,000 tons.

By 1956 only six of the engines were still in active service. The last engine built, number 5935, at the time the book was published, was preserved at Delson, Quebec by the Canadian Railway Historical Society.

“Following system-wide trials with diesels during the winter of 1949-50, the steep-grade Calgary-Revelstoke section was one of the first to be given a major diesel application, and by the end of 1951 all freight services were diesel-hauled by multi-unit diesel-electric locomotives. By the end of 1952 all passenger services likewise were diesel worked, and the steam installation at Field and the lesser ones at Golden, Lake Louise and Banff were closed,” says the book.

The 5935 was one of the largest and heaviest steam locomotive class in the British Commonwealth – the Canadian Pacific Selkirks. CPR held a contest among its employees to come up with a distinctly Canadian name, when they were introduced. The reward was $20, according to an online CPR publication. A total of 15 contestants came up with the name – Selkirk – a B.C. mountain range through which the CPR main line tunnels. The prize was awarded to one of the employees in a random draw.

The News attempted to contact those involved in the publication on the book. Profile Publications Ltd. apparently went into liquidation in 1991. The News was unable to made contact with J.G. Collias and the contributor on the Canadian Pacific Selkirks, C.P. Atkins.

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