24 August 2022
We have a guest blog this week. My brother Graham was a summer student in our museum just after it opened. In fact, he may have been the first full time interpretive guide the museum had. He’s been back and forth between Winnipeg and Minneapolis where he was an interpretive naturalist for both the Sea Life Mall of America Aquarium and the Como Park Zoo and conservatory. He brings a lot of experience in interpretation. He also took the picture. Take it away Graham.
On April 25 1960, Canadian National Railways engine number 6043 finished her final run from The Pas, Manitoba. This was to be the last scheduled run under steam in Canada. As she dropped her fire for the last time, the steam chapter of the Canadian railway story closed. Although she did run one last time on an excursion from Winnipeg to Brandon for the Manitoba Travel and Convention Association, on June 22, 1961, she has since been sitting in permanent stasis in Winnipeg’s Assiniboine Park as a window to a time when there was more romance associated with rail transport.
Since then she’s suffered at the hands of vandals and Winnipeg’s extreme weather. I remember as a boy, there was a set of steel steps up to the cab making it more easily accessible to visitors. After too much abuse of the privilege, the cab was locked and a chain link fence was erected around it making it inaccessible to the public.
While working as groundskeeper at the park, I’ve been inside the enclosure to cut grass now and then and I’ve been able to look inside. There’s not much left in the cab. Throttle, brake levers and all the valves, gauges, and fittings are gone. Only the Johnson bar remains. I think some components were salvaged and may be in storage at the Winnipeg Railway Museum, but she’s a skin and bones visage of her former self.
No one would deny she could use a makeover. The boiler jackets were removed many years ago, but are too badly corroded to put back on. The good news is there is enough left to make templates for new ones. The blueprints still exist, and new parts can be fashioned. We could dress her up as a better ambassador for Winnipeg’s transport heritage.
Easy? No. Expensive? Yes. Possible? Absolutely. Great things can be accomplished with dedication and funding.