Saturday, October 8, 2011

Big Day in Manitoba Railway History: The Countess of Dufferin Arrives

The Countess of Dufferin

Tomorrow, Oct, 9, is a big day for Winnipeggers. That's when the re-born Winnipeg Jets play their first game after 15 years absence.

Oct. 8 is a big day for the city, too, though not many people know it. 134 years ago today, in 1877, the Countess of Dufferin arrived in Winnipeg. Without it, and without the railway, there would be no Winnipeg as we know it today, and no Winnipeg Jets, either.

Named in honour of the wife of the Governor General of Canada, the Countess was the first locomotive in western Canada.

The Countess arrives by barge.

Built in Philadelphia by Baldwin in 1872, the 4-4-0 arrived by barge up the Red River from the U.S.

Before coming to Manitoba, it was owned by the Northern Pacific, working in Minnesota and the Dakotas.

Its first job in Canada was to help build a new line from Winnipeg to the U.S. border (the Pembina branch). It then worked from Winnipeg to Ontario and then to B.C. before being purchased by the Columbia River Lumber Company in the mid-1880s. It was used to power a sawmill until 1909, when it was donated to the city of Winnipeg.

On display in front of the CPR station. Who decided to
turn it into a large planter?

It was on display in two outdoor locations for many years (in front of the CPR station and later at the corner of Main St. and Disraeli). Today it is restored and housed inside the Winnipeg Railway Museum, located at the VIA station (formerly the Union Station) in downtown Winnipeg.

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