Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Niagara Then and Now: Fort Erie is the end of the line for CN steam locomotive #6218

Below: CN steam locomotive # 6218 in all her glory, seen leaving eastbound out of Toronto's Union Station, taken by R. Bobak ca 1971. The former postal-terminal (now the ACC where the Maple Leafs play) is seen at left of the photo.
Above: I visited the Fort Erie Historical Museum on May 13, 2008, and was truly brought face to face with a memory from the past. I came to see CN steam locomotive #6218, whose final resting place is now at the museum.

It was unsettling to see this mammoth beast of a machine resting so peacefully (along with its accompanying coal car, and an old orange caboose) in the museum's park-like setting, standing on their own short little piece of track, going nowhere.
It was a strange deja-vu experience seeing 6218 again, because I had last seen her probably 37 years ago! She was in her full glory then, when I saw her around 1971, and I clearly remember the spectacle of sounds and chugging and steam coming from this cast-iron and steel behemoth. I recall the massive cloud of steam trailing behind as she pulled her cars, and how the clouds of steam swooped and enveloped bridges as we passed under. It was a sight to see the raw, brute force of her massive main wheels (four of them per side, each about six feet in diameter!) propelled by those giant cast connecting rods, rumble by, with steam hissing and snorting from various pipes under the boiler. The early seventies were the end of the line for steam, the diesel age was in full swing, and 6218 was one of Canada's last workhorse steam locomotives to bow out. Even back then, as I took the photos, I felt I was witnessing the end of an era, something never to be seen again, and was privileged to have seen, ridden, and photographed this true relic of another age, while she was still performing in her final years.
So, these were the memories I had when I saw her again ... almost forty ... could it have really been that long!? ... years later. There she sat, rusty but proud, in the nicely-manicured compound, a monument to a bygone age. A plaque installed before her read that 6218 was displayed "... as a lasting memory for future generations of the "Steam Era" of railroading which can never be replaced." Thanks should go to the sponsors and volunteers at the museum who have helped keep 6218's legacy alive.
Below: May 13, 2008 - Locomotive 6218 at the Fort Erie Historical Museum, taken by R. Bobak.

Above: 6218 when she was alive and well, with a full head of steam. Taken by R. Bobak ca. 1971 in Toronto, as she left eastbound out of Union Station.
Below: 6218 now taking her well-deserved rest in Fort Erie. Taken May 13, 2008, by R. Bobak.

Above: same view of 6218, taken by R. Bobak, ca.1971, as she pulled eastbound out of Union Station in Toronto. A part of the Gardiner Expressway can be seen at the left of the photo.

My, how the time flies... memories of good times ... ...

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