The Royal Hudson And The Killer WhaleMonday, April 17, 2006
In December 1981, on contract with CP Rail, I was dispatched to photograph the Royal Hudson. She was being repaired at the CPR's Drake Street yard (where the refurbished Roundhouse on Pacific Avenue is now). 2860, the Royal Hudson's Montreal Locomotive Works serial number, is how she is affectionately called. She lay in the repair bay on a shorth length track, only slightly longer than her 90-foot, 10 inches length. She reminded me of the first locomotive I ever saw, in the late 40s. It also had the 4-6-4 wheel arrangement. Six large wheels were powered and the eight smaller ones were used for steering and stability, But that one was only five feet long and inside a glass display case at the entrance of Retiro, the cavernous Victorian style train station in Buenos Aires. My father had put a coin in a slot and the locomotive's wheels turned. I was most impressed by the glow of fire under the tracks.
While 2860 had been making the round trip from North Vancouver to Squamish since 1974, she had taken a different route to Drake Street. From the North Vancouver BC Rail yard she had crossed the CN Railway bridge at Second Narrows and steamed through the Thornton tunnel under Capitol Hill to the CPR/CNR interchange at Sapperton. She then headed to Port Coquitlam and then back on the CPR's tracks to Gastown. She went through the Dunsmuir tunnel and under the Connaught bridge (the old Cambie Street bridge) to Drake.
In 1979 I took my family on the Royal Hudson excursion to Squamish. Both my daughters came in long dreses and I photographed them (Hilary,7, left and Ale, 11, right)in the last rail car. It had colourful wooden seats. When 2860 changed tracks in Squamish to turn around, Frank Smith, the engineer, told us 2860's H1-e class engine generated 4500 horsepower at 60 mph.
Since 2550 and 2851, both earlier H1-d class Hudsons pulled King George VI and Queen Elizabeth across Canada in 1939, the whole class of locomotives from 2850 to 2864 was designated Royal. Only 2860 was still running until a yearly inspection in December 1999 indicated her fire box had to be replaced. It will take between $1 million to 2 million to get her in shape. I have not yet heard if she will ever fire her boiler again.
Rebecca, Hilary's daughter took the excursion with another older train, the 3716. This brings to mind that Hilary, Ale and Rebecca were all splashed (in different years) by a killer whale while sitting too close to the glass barrier at the Vancouver Aquarium. Will Rebecca's sister, Lauren, 3½, ever experience either pleasure?