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Oldest Canadian Locomotive.
Railway and Locomotive Engineering—November, 1907

 

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.

"The earlier 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 came.

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

 


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