Iron & Steam:
A History of the Locomotive and Railway Car Builders of Toronto
Dana William Ashdown
More than 150 years ago James Good transformed his iron foundry at the corner of Yonge and Queen streets into the Toronto Locomotive Works. Soon the first railway engine built in British North America, the Toronto, was born, and over the next seven decades Toronto factories rolled out more than 220 steam and electric locomotives and hundreds of railway cars, not to mention giant Bucyrus steam shovels, turntables, bridges and streetcar trucks.
The names of their customers are legendary: the Ontario, Simcoe and Huron Union; the Northern; the Buffalo & Lake Huron; the Cobourg & Peterborough; the Grand Trunk; the Great Western; the Toronto, Grey & Bruce; the Toronto & Nipissing; the Canada Southern; the Canadian Pacific; the Canadian Northern; and others.
Yet the six concerns responsible for this prodigious output are largely forgotten. Most were iron founders like Good’s Toronto Locomotive Works; Dickey, Neill & Company’s Soho Foundry; William Hamilton & Son’s St. Lawrence Foundry; and Canadian General Electric’s Canada Foundry Company, later known as Canadian Allis-Chalmers. McLean & Company’s Toronto Car Factory specialized in railway cars, as did the Canada Car & Manufacturing Company. The latter was a social and economic experiment that relied on convict labour. It was believed that learning a trade would enable criminals to earn a living and make them less likely to return to crime. The story of this fascinating confluence of commerce and prison reform is told in detail.
Iron & Steam reveals the full story of these enterprises in text and pictures. Railway buffs will delight in the descriptions of equipment, including coverage of every known locomotive built. Industrial archaeologists can tour the works. And history readers in general will discover new insights into Canada’s past.
Dana William Ashdown is also author of Railway Steamships of Ontario (Boston Mills Press). He was a contributor to the book Researching Yonge Street, edited by Sheila Brown (Ontario Genealogical Society, Toronto Branch).