EMAIL mj.morris@live.ca


Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Engine 5433 a national treasure symbolizes Chapleau's railway heritage as one of only 48 preserved CPR steam engines

Brass replica of 5433. Courtesy Ian Macdonald

Engine 5433 located in Chapleau since 1964,  one of only 48 of the preserved 3257 Canadian Pacific Railway steam engines, perhaps more than anything else, symbolizes the community's railway heritage.
When I learned that Engine 5433 was one of only 48 CPR engines that have been preserved, and it is in Chapleau, its historical significance struck me, and during this Heritage Week in parts of Canada, including Ontario, I  have been "Googling" and contacting others who know much more about the history of the CPR than I do.

Well, let me digress for a moment with an anecdote about my display of CPR knowledge when I was taking Grade 13 history at Burnhamthorpe Collegiate Institute in Etobicoke.  Mr. Young, our rather excellent teacher was showing us the route of the CPR across Canada on one of those old red classroom wall maps.

I knew that he was showing us the route of the Canadian National Railway across northern Ontario but hesitated to tell him so. Gathering my courage, I raised my hand, and he said, "Yes, Morris." In those days teachers tended to call boys by their surnames.

Standing, I told him politely he was showing us the wrong route, followed by a dead silence in the classroom.

"How do you know Morris?", he asked, to which I replied, "Because I am from Chapleau, sir, and it is on the main CPR line." Mr. Young then invited me to come forward and outline the route. Gathering my courage again,  I did so and added that I knew the names of all the places between Chapleau and Fort William.  Mr. Young said, say them and I did: "Chapleau, Boucher, Esher, Pardee, Musk, Nicholson....and so on." He never held it against me but I sure had to know the history of the CPR as I was usually asked about it. Paybacks can be, well you know..!

How did I know them? Because my grandfather Harry Morris a CPR conductor gave me a timetable, and I learned them and when my mother   Muriel (Hunt) Morris and I were at their Elgin Street home for dinner waiting for him to come in off the road, I would tell them, 'ad nauseam', that  "Grandpa is now at Musk, now Pardee" etc.

Back to Engine 5433 and Chapleau. It arrived in 1964 because of the efforts of Arthur and Nettie Grout who were largely responsible for the creation of the entire Centennial Park. They contacted N.R. Crump, then the CPR president, who even came to Chapleau for the occasion.

Arthur Grout with N.R. Crump
How did they get it to the park after it arrived in Chapleau? I have the story from writings of Wilf Simpson and Dr. Bill Pellow.

Here is a summary. Engine 5433 is a testament to Chapleau's railroading past. The Iron Horse #5433, was proudly placed in the park in 1964, through the initiative and generosity of Arthur and Nettie Grout. This unit actually worked these tracks for many years west of Chapleau. It weighs 275 tons, measures 95 feet long, and hauled 1900 tons in its prime.

To place the engine on location meant building a special spur, or track, straight across from the roundhouse. A building had to be demolished to make way for the spur, which ran right up to the main line on the engine side, and continued on the other side of the main line. With a gang of trackmen, and everything timed to the minute, the spur was laid across the main line. The steam engine was then pushed across by a diesel. Within 30 minutes, the Iron Horse was in place, and the main line cleared again for service.

Also of historical interest is that J.M. "Bud" Park was the engineer on Engine 5433 for its trip from the roundhouse to the park while Earle Freeborn was the engineer on the yard engine diesel.

At the ceremony Samuel Chappise, a full blooded Cree who had come to Chapleau with his parents mostly by canoe from James Bay presented Mr. Crump with a rifle. Wilf Simpson related a story that Mr. Chappise had told him that for the first few weeks after they arrived along the CPR line near Nicholson, every time he heard a train whistle, he would race to the shelter of the forest.

Sam Chappise presentation to Mr Crump
In 1967, Mr. Chappise was invited to sound the 'O Canada' whistle opening the 1967 Centennial Caravan when it passed through Chapleau.

As I so often do, I turned to Ian Macdonald for his expertise on Engine 5433. Ian has a brass replica of this engine in his Winnipeg home. 

"Locomotives were the primary symbol of the railway. Occasionally we would digress ( as we did with the Canadian ) and use an image of an observation car or caboose but nothing really had the visual impact of a locomotive to define the railway. It was ( and is ) truly potent.  It is, therefore, the most logical symbol to use when you're trying to make a statement." Ian wrote in an email.

 "I remember when I first saw 5433 in (the park)  my first reaction was ' perfect'. Why perfect??? Dates generally become 'historic dates' when it can be reasonably said that the world was never the same after.  5433 to me, is important because it is symbolic of the end of the steam era in Chapleau in the same sense that the first GM diesel that went through Chapleau in December 1949 represented a new era which had an enormous impact on the community.

"In this sense, 5433 as an individual locomotive was not the important thing. It was everything required to operate it, maintain it and the infrastructure associated with supporting steam power."

For instance, Ian wrote, "try to envision the number of enginemen in Chapleau during steam power, their families, homes, and an economy generated to support them. Then think of everyone associated in some activity associated with maintenance and operation and interpolate this number into individual families etc. This was important in defining the specific culture of our community and who we were. Who we were is an important aspect of 'community'  and provides reference to who we are.

He explained that "The Mikado was the most dominant locomotive type on the Schreiber Division as the steam era ended and one which most people were familiar with. The era was important for me because the Mikado was designed and manufactured in Canada in direct response to the specific demands of Canadian operating conditions. I like that.

The GM diesel that went through Chapleau in 1949 was built in GM's plant at LaGrange Illiois and was typical of locomotives used everywhere else in North America. There was nothing particularly Canadian about it which didn't change when GM allowed them to be built under licence in Canada. Some people enjoy being reminded of that."

Until I started researching Engine 5433, I never fully realized the tourist attraction it is, and the potential it and all things railway in Chapleau has for the future. I discovered many references to it on web sites along with photos taken by people who had visited Chapleau. It may well be the most photographed site in Chapleau. 

While home for the CHS reunion in 2012, I was of course made aware that proposals have been made to enhance Chapleau's CPR heritage as a tourist attraction and ensure the care and maintenance of Engine 5433. Chapleau is home to a national treasure in having Engine 5433 there -- only one of 48 CPR steam engines that have been preserved. My email is mj.morris@live.ca

Thanks to Ian Macdonald, Dr Bill Pellow and Gerry Bowland director of the Crump Centre, Calgary


steamer101 said...

I was a young apprentice in the Chapleau shops at that time. Tom Godfrey and i did some wiring on 5433 and assisted the painter(don't remember his name?) in getting the engine ready.
Your article brought back many good memories TY.

James Stevens.

Anonymous said...

Hi there... What year is the locomotive from?

Anonymous said...

What year is the locomotive from?

Anonymous said...

What year is the locomotive from?

Unknown said...

Actually, Michael (Mickey) E. Morris was the engineer on the 5433 engine on that day. Mr. Park was actually a xonsuctor and not an engineer.

Michael J Morris

Michael J Morris
MJ with Buckwheat (1989-2009) Photo by Leo Ouimet


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