Canadian National Railway (CNR) has historically been a significant employer of Transcona residents, in particular at the CN Shops located on Pandora extending south to Dugald Road. My grandfather, father, other relatives and friends have all worked for CN.
Growing up on Melrose Avenue near Day Street, a block away from the Shops, I have fond memories of the Shops’ whistle blowing at noon signalling me to get home for lunch (click on video below for a sample).
When we later moved to South Side Transcona, we’d cut through the Shops to get home, crossing countless tracks, sometimes running to beat a moving train so we didn’t have to wait. For fun we’d put coins on the track and wait for the train to drive over them, producing flattened treasures. I understand now why pedestrian traffic is no longer allowed.
Like many Transcona residents, we are proud of our train heritage, which is why the Transcona Museum took ownership of the Locomotive CN 2747 in 2015.
CN 2747 was the first steam engine built in Western Canada in the Transcona CNR Shops in 1926. They built 32 more steam engines until 1938. CN 2747 was in service for 34 years.
Upon its retirement, CNR donated it to The Kiwanis Club. It was brought to its new home in 1960, Kiwanis Park (now called Rotary Heritage Park) on Plessis near Kildare (affectionately also referred to as “train park”). To get it there from the main line, they built a temporary track.
Fast forward 57 years, the engine is still there, but is in need of some tender loving care. Weather and vandalism have contributed to its decline. Thankfully, the Transcona Museum is working to restore this beauty and preserve it for future generations to enjoy.
On June 20 Wyatt Dowling Insurance Brokers at Plessis and Devonshire graciously hosted a fundraising hotdog lunch to support CN 2747. For every donation, they were contributing an equal amount. The final tally was more than $1,600.
At the lunch I spoke with Jack Toet, chair of the 2747 committee, and Peter Martin, president of the museum. They explained the train needs a variety of repairs, from sandblasting and repainting, metal refabrication, replacing rotting wood, fixing items that have been vandalised, etc.
They would love to find the bronze sign board that was on the front of the engine but has since gone missing. Other items on the wish list are to have a cover built to protect it, and better lighting.
In conjunction with the lunch fundraiser, museum staff were on hand at the park and the gates were opened to view the train. It was a neat opportunity to see this behemoth unit up close without the obstruction of the very high chain link fence. The engine and tender (where coal was stored) are an impressive 14 feet high and 69 feet long.
The museum contracted GP Heritage Consulting to provide a condition assessment of the engine. Their report will provide a breakdown of all the restoration needs and estimated project costs.
Transcona Museum are trying to gather all the information they can on 2747. There are no known photos of 2747 in operation.
If you have photos or know of anybody who may have worked on building or working on 2747, they would love to hear from you.
They are also looking for people to help with the restoration process, and of course monetary donations are needed as well. You may contact them at transconamuseum.mb.ca/cn2747.
Previously printed in The Herald (with minor modifications)