Oldest Canadian Locomotive.
Railway and Locomotive EngineeringNovember,
We are fortunate enough to be able to present an authentic
picture of the oldest locomotive in the Dominion of Canada and
probably the oldest on this continent. This locomotive is the
"Samson" and is referred to in the chapter on Canada
in Angus Sinclair's book, the "Development of the Locomotive
Engine," to which the reader is referred for a detailed description
of the engine.
We are indebted to Mr. Charles Sibley, the Railway Editor of
the Daily Witness of Montreal, for, the photograph of this engine
from which our illustration has been made, and we clip the following
from Mr. Sibley's article on the evolution of the railway train
which appeared in that paper September 14, 1907. Speaking of early
days in Canada, he says:
"It was in 1836 that the first attempt at working a railway
was made in Canada, the St. Lawrence and Champlain, now a part
of the Grand Trunk system, being opened in that year. The rails
on this line were of wood covered with flat bars of iron, and
great secrecy was maintained over the first locomotive that was
used on it. For some reason the engineer would let nobody see
this locomotive, which is one that had been sent out from Europe.
"The trial trip was made in moonlight in the presence
of a few interested parties and it was a failure, the 'Kitten,'
for that was the name of the locomotive, proving refractory. Several
attempts were subsequently made to get this pioneer locomotive
to run to St. John, but in vain, and then to the great humiliation
of the Canadians they had to call in an engineer from the United
States, who promptly diagnosed the trouble. The engine, he declared,
was in good order, and all that it wanted was simply plenty of
wood and water. This opinion proved correct, for after a little
practice, what was then described as 'the extraordinary speed
of twenty miles an hour' was obtained.
"The 'Kitten' has long since disappeared in the scrap
heap, but Canada is fortunate in possessing what is undoubtedly
the oldest locomotive on this continent, namely, the 'Samson,'
which was built at Durham, England, in 1837, and had quite a career
before it passed to the Intercolonial Railway, on which line it
was the first locomotive to be used. This locomotive has been
exhibited all over the continent, and has also been on exhibition
in England and France, together with a tender shown in the accompanying
photograph. The coach is upholstered in white satin and is in
a splendid state of preservation. If is about the size of an old-fashioned
stage coach, and like one in appearance.
"The engine is a queer piece of mechanism as compared
with those in use today. It has perpendicular cylinders and connecting
rods; with the old hook motion. One curiosity about it is the
fact that the tender was pushed in front of the engine, because
the fireman had to feed the monster from the front.
"The main difficulty in those days centered around the
locomotive and very little attention was paid to what sort of
cars the locomotive had to pull. It is a matter of record that
Mr. H. C. Boulier, who took over the management of the Point Levis
and St. Thomas Railway in 1855, used to boast that his line never
refused traffic. 'Even when we had only one passenger car on,'
he used to say, 'we took butter, eggs, fish, vegetables, sheep,
calves and passengers. All went in the car together, a perfectly
happy family and no one ever grumbled or threatened, to write
to the Times.' This, line is now a part of the Intercolonial.
types of railway cars, like the family coach, and those shown
attached to the old 'Samson,' were soon to disappear, and the
short curves on many lines soon compelled the abandonment also
of the four-wheeled car with rigid axles. With the introduction
of the bogie or truck, came the lengthening of the car body, with
the aisle in the centre, at first with seats along the sides,
and then with seats for two occupants in each, at right angles
to the sides of the car."
This old historic locomotive, the Samson," is too interesting
and instructive a relic of the past to be let go to the scrap
heap and it is to be hoped that it will be taken good care of
and suitably preserved. Purdue University at La Fayette, Ind.,
has succeeded in securing a number of old locomotives from various
parts of the United States and exhibits them in a sort of locomotive
museum. It is to be hoped that the faculties of McGill University
at Montreal or the School of Science in Toronto will endeavor
to take official charge of the "Samson," not only as
a notable Canadian pioneer locomotive, but will preserve it as
a relic which will always be of great interest to the railway
world, not only on this continent and in the land from which it
This engine was at one time the property of the Acadia Coal
Company of Stellarton, Nova Scotia.
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This page originally appeared on Thomas Ehrenreich's Railroad Extra Website