Tuesday Train #88 – 15 Years of Change at Didcot

Great Western Railway 4079 Pendennis Castle (left) and 6023 King Edward II (left) when I first visited the Didcot Railway Centre in May 2002.

I first visited the Didcot Railway Centre in May 2002, while I was attending Oxford Brookes University as part of an exchange in the Urban Planning program from the University of Waterloo.  For me, it was an amazing place, scores of steam locomotives and preserved railway cars.  And, that sunny Tuesday when I didn’t have classes to attend, a bonus of seeing Great Western Railway 3822 in steam doing crew training and running in after recently having completed an overhaul.   Amongst the many locomotives inside the shed and the workshop that day were two famous locomotives in the early stages of overhaul to operation.

One, Pendennis Castle having recently returned from a lengthy 23 year trip to Australia, and was in the initial stages of disassembly.  The second, King Edward II also in mid-overhaul, with work being done on test fitting cladding and piping around the boiler after the running gear had been overhauled and before the boiler work commenced.   I went back to Didcot for a 2nd visit at the end of May in 2002 before returning to Canada for a “Steam Day” when scheduled trains were running and rides were available.  By then, Pendennis Castle had been stripped down and the boiler lifted from the frames as shown below:

01219_n_15amvrns7n1219Late May 2002, Pendennis Castle’s frames with the boiler lifted and pony truck removed.

Both were once considered “no hopers” for restoration, Pendennis because she was stranded in Australia, and King Edward because one set of the driving wheels was cut through with a gas axe after a derailment in the 1970’s, and casting new driving wheels was considered an impossible task.  Time, money, and advances in what can be done by the volunteer and paid workforces of the UK’s heritage rail sector have brought both locomotives almost all the way back.  King Edward II returned to steam in 2011, and Pendennis Castle is in the home stretch of her restoration

15 Years later, on New Years Day 2018 Pendennis Castle (left) nears a return to steam as its restoration nears completion, and King Edward II is receiving winter maintenance following the completion of its restoration in 2011.

Buildings of Liberty Village 2 – Sunbeam Incandescent Lamp Company of Canada /Canadian General Electric Co. (219 Dufferin Street)

This is the 2nd in a series of posts on buildings that I am hopefully going to be building models of in the coming years as I work on building a layout based on Liberty Village in our apartment.

219 Dufferin Street, originally the Sunbeam Incandescent Lamp Company of Canada.  Shown on the left in a drawing in the 1912 Canadian General Electric Annual Report, and in a current photograph.

This post is a building that sadly, only a very small portion of will be modeled on the layout, and not the impressive frontage in the pictures above.  Originally built in 1908, the plant was an early manufacturer of electric light bulbs.  The company was acquired by Canadian General Electric, and the plant was used for producing a whole range of products as well as serving as their corporate head office.  The Canadian General Electric Annual General Report of 1912 describes the plant as follows:

Two other large factories in Toronto, controlled by the Company, must be mentioned. The Canadian Sunbeam Lamp Company, which employs some 400 hands, is devoted entirely to the manufacture of Tungsten filament lamps under the Mazda patents, for which the Company owns Canadian rights.

If only we still described our industries in such delightful terms.  Fortunately, the building survived the years of industrial use, and the ever ongoing pressure to demolish industrial buildings and re-develop them.  The large floor areas and high ceilings are not an attractive feature, and used to market the loft office space in the building now called the “Dufferin Liberty Centre“.

Views of 219 Dufferin Street, showing the pattern of large windows on the north wall, and the power house, now a restaurant.  The 110′ brick chimney provides a landmark within Liberty Village.

As with most industrial buildings of this era, they were expanded and modified over the years as uses and owners changed. Because of the large size of the main building, most of the changes in this case appear to be internal to either the building or the courtyard created within them.  The City of Toronto added the property to the “Inventory of Heritage Properties” in 2005.  While this list is not a formal Heritage Designation, it ensures that the City monitors the site for any applications that may alter the heritage value, and is a first step to a formal Designation under the Ontario Heritage Act should a proposal that would negatively affect the heritage aspects of the site come forward.

IMG_4402Extract of Underwriters Insurance Plan Vol 2 Sheet 86 showing the Canadian General Electric Plant at Duffern St/Liberty St/Mowat Ave in 1945 (Toronto Public Library Collection).

For the layout, only the powerhouse and maybe a little bit of the main building will be modeled.  The building is located at the western focal point of the layout, the intersection of Liberty Street and Mowat Avenue, where both the Canadian National Railway and Canadian Pacific Railway served industries and the trackage crossed and connected in a mess of switches as shown on the Underwriters Plan above and the extract of the track plan below:

Oct 31 17 - Liberty Layout Concept 1-FastTracks 3.anyExtract of the Western Corner of the Layout Plan, 219 Dufferin Street is building “B” on the plan.

I’ll be able to fit the entire powerhouse into the layout, with the end wall of the main building in shallow relief behind it.  There will be a car spot on the north side of the building for deliveries/shipments to the plant.  Based on the insurance plan, it appears that the plant likely received coal by rail for the boilers.  It appears that there was a single loading dock door about half way along the building, which means it would be off-layout, where it looks like doors for loading box cars were available.  As with the other industries, I need to learn more about Sunbeam/CGE to understand if they were receiving raw materials, shipping finished product, or both by rail to understand where traffic would have been coming from and going to to develop an operating scheme for the layout.

District, King Street West and Spadina Avenue. - [between 1977 and 1998]The Power House of the Sunbeam Incandescent Lamp Company in its less than heydays of the 1970’s.  Picture courtesy of The City of Toronto Archives (Series 1465, File 51, Item 11)

The picture above also shows one significant change that won’t be modeled.  At some point between 1945 and the 1970’s, the corner of the power house was cut off and an angled wall with a metal roll up door was installed.  For the purpose of my model, I will continue on the pattern of the side walls to a square corner.  What is helpful about the image is that it shows what are likely the original style of multi-pane windows, which have been replaced as the building was modernized and converted to office-loft from industrial uses.

Tuesday Train #87

IMGP5782RawConvGreat Western Railway Steam “Railmotor” Number 93 at the Didcot Railway Centre on January 1, 2018.  The car was built in 1908 as a self propelled train, with a steam engine driving the wheels at one end, and a coach area at the other end.  The car was converted to an autotrailer coach in 1935, and retired in 1956, where instead of scrapping it was used as a service vehicle and an office, before being preserved by the Great Western Railway Society that operates Didcot in 1970.  In 2006, work began to restore the car and return it to it’s original condition as a self propelled Steam Railmotor.  The car was completed and entered service in 2013.  A full history of the car and the restoration project can be found here.

IMGP5786RawConvA shot of the powered truck of the Steam Railmotor.  A vertical boiler is located in this end of the coach which powers the two axles beneath it.

I took a number of videos of the Steam Railmotor during my day at Didcot.  They are linked below: