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March 19th, 2014 ~ Vol. 84 No. 11
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Looking Back - John Kinnear
Chasing the Royal Scot Story
Crowsnest Pass Herald Front Page
John Kinnear
Royal Scot 6100 saved from the cutters torch and restored in 2009
My last column took you on a helter skelter research binge that wound up in Moose Jaw where we found the 1914 Hillcrest Mine narrow gauge locomotive now called Shortline 101. Early on in my Google meanderings for this story I mentioned a booklet that alluded to the rescue of the Royal Scot train in our Rocky Mountains by Hillcrest steam coal. I thought it might be interesting to double back on the Scot and retrace its memorable journey in a little more detail.
While it was not uncommon for steam trains from the British Isles to be shipped to Canada for delivery purposes, having one shipped here and then back again to the Old Country as part of a specialty tour was rather a rare occurrence. The only other occasion that this happened that I have found (so far) is when the Great Western Railway (GWR) 6000 Class King George V was shipped to the US in 1927 as part of the Baltimore and Ohio centenary celebrations. This magnificent 4-6-0 locomotive was eventually presented with a beautiful brass bell and plaque that it carries on its pilot (cow catcher) to this day.
So, anyways, it was decided in 1933 to ship the No. 6100 Royal Scot 4-6-0 steam locomotive to the Chicago Century of Progress Exposition as a contribution to their celebration. Unlike the King George V story this one was unprecedented as there had never been an intact train (locomotive and eight passenger cars) shipped overseas like this before. This was a big deal. Its logistics presented some interesting problems. The Canadian Historical Railroad Association paper from 1965 that I mentioned in my last column indicated that the train and cars were loaded onto the CPR steamship freighter “Beaverdale” at Tilbury Docks in London. The eight passenger cars that included first class lounge, vestibule, sleeping and kitchen cars were lifted onto the Beaverdale and set on rails right on the ship’s deck, four forward and four aft. The engine and tender were lowered into the ship’s hold. Now doesn’t that present an interesting picture in your mind? Imagine that cargo going through rough Atlantic seas (which it did)!

Beaverdale eventually made it to Montreal where the train and cars were unloaded, assembled and made a test run to Farnham, Quebec hitting 75 miles per hour on that trip. It was officially unveiled at Windsor Station in Montreal on May 1st, 1933 where 18,500 people went through it. The Royal Scot was fitted with a CPR bell on its pilot and an electric headlight mounted on its smoke box. And off it went to Chicago through Ottawa, Toronto, Niagara Falls, New York and Washington before it got to the windy city. Thousands was drawn to the stations that it passed through to see this sleek Scottish speedster and it stopped on the way to Chicago on the famed Susquehanna Bridge for people to take pictures. I laughed when I read this as I then remembered the famous Abbot and Costello Susquehanna Hat Company routine (Google it, I guarantee you will laugh like hell!).
By the time it got to Chicago it had passed through 30 Canadian and American cities and already had had a half million visitors. Kids were given the day off school to see her and factories blew their whistles as she passed by to send her on her way. I love the romance of old time steam trains. In more uncomplicated times events like this could excite a whole community.
While it was always intended that the Royal Scot would return the way she came she created so much sensation and interest that it led to the decision to let her proceed across the United States from Kansas City to Denver, Salt Lake City and then on to Los Angeles. It is reported that as it passed through Bloomington it ran over a half mile stretch of copper coins, place along the track by children looking for a keepsake. From LA the Scot travelled north along the coast to Portland, Seattle and then into Vancouver and “Empire territory” via the Great Northern Railway where over 20,000 toured her on October 27th. The Royal Scot was now 6,000 miles from home.
By the following morning she was threading her way through the canyon of the Fraser River past Hell Gate eventually stopping at Revelstoke. Then it was up the valley of the Illecillewaet and through the famous Connaught Tunnel.
What an amazing ride that must have been for that British crew to travel through the Rocky Mountains to Field and then over the Kicking Horse Pass and across the Continental Divide into Calgary. On my going back in time bucket list is to be the fireman on that amazing train.
The Scot completed her tour of Canada through Moose Jaw, Winnipeg and then down into the States again, coming back into Canada through the St. Claire tunnel on the Canadian National Railway. By the time it hit Kingston it was November 11th and the crew participated in a wreath-laying ceremony and where incidentally the 3,000,000th visitor passed through the train. Eventually she wound up back at the Angus shops in Montreal where she was dismantled and reloaded onto the Beaverdale which sailed on November 24th.
The triumph of the Royal Scot was to successfully travel 11, 743 miles with no breakdowns. In fact several tons of spare parts were shipped back with her unused. One remarkable statistic was that over 500 light bulbs were surreptitiously unscrewed as souvenirs throughout her trip. One has to wonder if any of these “souvenirs” have survived to this time. I’ll pay handsomely to anyone who has one!
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March 19th ~ Vol. 84 No. 11
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