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An Operating Steam Locomotive at the Museum

Between 1850 and 1950, railways were the primary means of moving goods and people by land in Canada. The steam locomotive reigned supreme — so much so that they continue to fascinate and excite the imagination of people young and old. The Museum has a variety of steam locomotives on exhibit that trace the development of the technology in Canada through the 1900s. The majority of these engines are large machines that weigh more than 190 tons (172 tonnes). The Canadian Pacific 2858 (670006*) on exhibit is typical of the machines used along the railway corridors linking Canadian communities from coast to coast. While none of the engines on permanent exhibit have operated since the early 1960s, a small but powerful Shay steam locomotive has been restored to operating condition. Merrill & Ring Lumber Co., Ltd locomotive No. 3 (740755) was acquired by the Museum from Crown Zellerbach in 1974 as an example of a geared locomotive used in the British Columbia forestry industry before 1950.

The Museum's Shay locomotive in operation in 1997 after being restored by Museum staff and volunteers. (CSTM)

The Museum's Shay locomotive is an excellent example of how function, materials and environment combined to influence the final form of a machine. The Shay was a commercially successful geared steam locomotive, initially conceived by an American lumber merchant, Ephraim Shay. In 1880, Shay arranged for the Lima Machine Works (which later became Lima Locomotive Works, Inc.) of Lima, Ohio, to work on a prototype locomotive to replace the teams of horses and oxen he was using to move logs to his mills. This association with the Lima Machine Works was an auspicious beginning and the Shay design became a stock item of the company. Over the next sixty-five years, the design of the Shay locomotive was considerably refined. When the last Shay locomotive was completed in 1945, the Lima Locomotive Works had built 2771 of these machines. They ranged in size from smaller, narrow-gauge engines to locomotives weighing more than 145 tons (131 tonnes).

* The numbers in brackets are the accession numbers of artifacts held by the Museum.