Old Number 7 or is it Number 1?

What is the oldest piece of machinery in Grand Falls-Windsor? Something down at the mill right? No?

The oldest piece of machinery in Grand Falls-Windsor sits next to the Mary March Museum on St. Catherine Street and predates the construction of the mill by twenty five years. Old Botwood/AND Co Number 7, a 0-6-0T steam locomotive was built in England by Hawthorne Leslie in 1881 and shipped to Newfoundland later that year for use in construction of the Newfoundland Railway.

Builders photo of Harbour Grace Railway ( A.L Blackman Syndicate) Engine Number 1, also known as Botwood Railway No. 7. (Photo from the Canadian Museum of Science and Technology http://www.images.technomuses.ca/searchpf.php?id=38932&lang=en
Builders photo of Harbour Grace Railway ( A.L Blackman Syndicate) Engine Number 1, also known as Botwood Railway No. 7. (Photo from the Canadian Museum of Science and Technology http://www.images.technomuses.ca/searchpf.php?id=38932&lang=en

For a person who has seen another steam locomotive what would strike you about this one is its size. It is tiny. This is because it is a shunter or switcher engine. It had no coal or water tender-all coal and water being carried on the locomotive itself, which made it a short ranged locomotive. A short ranged locomotive was all that was needed in the first years of the Newfoundland Railway, or should I say Harbour Grace Railway because that was the name and was as far as it reached.

So why is this locomotive in Grand Falls-Windsor? It is hard to find concrete evidence but most sources indicate that the engine was acquired by the Anglo-Newfoundland Development Company, along with another elderly engine, from the Reid Newfoundland Railway in 1917 or 1918. World War I would have been a driving force in the purchase of an almost forty year old engine because new stock would have been hard to come by.

There may be an even stranger war related reason why the engine was brought the Grand Falls, which may be better explained with by the picture below.

The Original caption to this picture says “New Construction at Cassandra” Cassandra is an area near Badger where the AND Co had a tramway. The wood piled alongside the tracks appears to be birch, which was not used in pulp manufacture, but burns very well. Due to coal shortages during the Great War wood was burned by the Grand Falls Mill.(Courtesy of the Grand Falls-Windsor Heritage Society)
The Original caption to this picture says “New Construction at Cassandra” Cassandra is an area near Badger where the AND Co had a tramway. The wood piled alongside the tracks appears to be birch, which was not used in pulp manufacture, but burns very well. Due to coal shortages during the Great War wood was burned by the Grand Falls Mill.(Courtesy of the Grand Falls-Windsor Heritage Society)

The picture is the only one I have come across of Number 7 at work. The Original caption mentions that it is “New Construction at Cassandra.” It is known that the AND Co had a pole tramway at Cassandra and later a siding. The wood piled next to the tracks appears to be birch. It is known that due to wartime shortages of shipping and coal the Grand Falls mill had to resort to burning wood for its steam plant.

Under normal conditions wood was driven to the mill by water. But this method would have been troublesome with firewood. For one it would have waterlogged some of the wood and 2). You can only drive wood at certain times of the year and not at all in the winter. It is my theory that AND was cutting wood between Grand Falls and Badger and bringing it in by rail to the mill. Little engine number 7 was part of this operation. In the Above picture it appears to be being used in track construction. In the below picture a similar looking engine is at the mill.

If you look closely to the right behind the pole in this circa 1919 photo you can see an engine that looks very much like Number 7. (Photo in the Collection of the Grand Falls-Windsor Heritage Society).
If you look closely to the right behind the pole in this circa 1919 photo you can see an engine that looks very much like Number 7. (Photo in the Collection of the Grand Falls-Windsor Heritage Society).

It would have been a natural choice to acquire and use an old engine, or a couple of old engines to continuously ship wood to the mill and town. The coal shortages that were experienced during the war continued for a couple of years after the cessation of hostilities and were not fully resolved until after 1921.

It should be noted that it must not have only been the mill that needed the wood. Under normal circumstances the AND Co supplied its workers and most of the buildings in town with coal for heating and cooking. Therefore there must have had to been quite a large amount brought in for domestic consumption.

Not much is known about Number 7 after 1919 other than it was discarded in 1938 or 1940. There was no shortage of work that it may have been engaged in: General work around the mill and Botwood Railway, Construction of the Harpoon Tramway, Construction of the Buchans Railway and it is reported to have used on the AND Co’s Millertown Railway.

Number 7 at the Grand Falls mill shortly before it was relegated to the scrap heap.(Photo from the Canadian Museum of Science and Technology-Picturing the Past)
Number 7 at the Grand Falls mill shortly before it was relegated to the scrap heap.(Photo from the Canadian Museum of Science and Technology-Picturing the Past)

Anecdotal evidence suggests that is was used on the other side of the river. At some point between 1919 and 1939 there was a tramway from somewhere up on Stony Brook to the Exploits River a short way above the present day Salmon Ladder. I came across a pile of coat and at least two sets of railway axles there a number of years ago. The story goes that there was a sawmill located on Stony Brook and the Tramway was used to being the lumber to the Exploits from where it must have been towed across in a scow or brought across in the winter.

Number 7 as she is today rebuilt and restored on display next to the Mary March Museum in Grand Falls-Windsor, NL (Photo from Google Street View)
Number 7 as she is today rebuilt and restored on display next to the Mary March Museum in Grand Falls-Windsor, NL (Photo from Google Street View)

At some point after a fifty plus career Number 7 was shunted off on a siding at the mill and forgotten. There are a number of stories of where it was found: Used as fill, in a scrap heap or landfill and even across the river. Whatever its fate after forty or so years rusting way it was rescued by concerned citizens who were aware of the engine’s historical importance, restored and placed at the Mary March Museum.

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1 Comment

  1. When I was quite young, I remember going from Badger down to GrandFalls to visit my Grandfather, Grandmother, Great Grandmother, and First Cousin Harvey Rowsell on Station Road. Right in back of the house was the little narrow Gauge Railroad which connected the Mill with the main RR at Windsor Station. I remember seeing the #7 Engine and waving to the men riding on the open cars.

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