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Room Service? Can you send up a 6300?

By | July 7, 2010

Thoughts on changing land-use in Toronto

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In modern-day Toronto, Ontario, I’m told the Skydome Hotel occupies what was once the site of Canadian National Railway’s Spadina Avenue engine terminal. Back on September 4, 1958, I spent part of a warm, late-summer night at Spadina, lugging cameras and a tripod and multiple-flash equipment to record some of CNR’s still-numerous steam locomotives as they were serviced between runs. This photo of well-maintained U-3-a 4-8-4 6300 steaming in the darkness at Spadina is one of the results of that night photo session.

The 6300 was different from other CNR steam locomotives I saw that night-she was an immigrant from the U.S.A. Built by Alco’s Schenectady Works in 1927 for Grand Trunk Western, she and some of her sisters were later transferred to parent CNR, where they worked alongside numerous Canadian-built 4-8-4’s. These transferred 6300’s labored in relative obscurity, but some of GTW’s similar 1942-built U-3-b 6300’s, which stayed in the U.S., became famous among enthusiasts, pulling the last regular American steam passenger trains in 1960. None of the U-3-a’s survived (the 6300 was condemned early in 1959), but two U-3-b’s are still extant south of the border, including 6325, which was recently restored to operation by Ohio Central.

Meanwhile, if you should find yourself staying in the Skydome Hotel these many years later, pause for a moment to reflect, and to remember the beehive of smoky, coal-burning steam locomotive activity which once teemed beneath your elegant non-smoking room. And, Room Service in the hotel no doubt operates out of the establishment’s lower levels-perhaps in the same location where I photographed the 6300 back in 1958.

Wouldn’t it be nice if you could call Room Service and ask them to send up a 6300?

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