Big Complicated Machines

CPR Angus Shops Builds a Steam Locomotive

Sources indicate one lone worker made it into this pristine promo photograph. Can you spot him?

The Angus Shops of Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR), opened in Montreal in 1904. This was a railcar manufacturing, repairing and selling facility of the Canadian Pacific Railway, with most of its production consisting of passenger cars, freight cars and locomotives. I recently came across a 1928 promotional/newsreel type video for the locomotive building portion of the operation, and it is quite impressive. Hit the jump to see the video, and a little fun background on the Shops.


Those of you with particular musical particularities may wish to use the mute button, as the video is a silent film that has had a musical score added that may or may not suit your taste.

The yard and the shops covered 1,240-acres, had 66 buildings, and employed over 12,000 people over the lifetime of the facility. Below is a general layout of the yard, and an aerial photo from the early 1940s. (Click both to see larger images). Note that the facilities required for each construction shop are located near to them (ie, wheel foundry near the freight car shop; grey iron foundry near the locomotive shop; kiln, planing mill, and cabinet shop near the passenger car shop).

The production methods didn’t change much for these large machines over the years, and what follows is a description of steam locomotive rebuilding from CPR literature in 1946:

The steam locomotive has a working life of from 30 to 40 years. This span of life is determined by the boiler as all other parts are renewable, and through periodical inspections and general repairs locomotives are maintained in safe and serviceable condition for the life of the boiler. The longevity of the active period of a locomotive contrasts remarkably with the comparatively brief life of some other forms of motive power.

Even in the early stages of the design of a locomotive, careful attention is given to the arrangement, location and construction of each detail, to the end that accessibility and facilities for renewal of wearing parts may be provided.

It is the purpose of this article to outline the procedure by which the reconditioning of a locomotive is effected.

Selection of Locomotive for Shopping

The selection of a locomotive for shopping is determined by, several considerations, of which the factors are the mileage accumulated since previous general repairs, condition of boiler and firebox, date of next internal inspection and tests, condition of machinery, and operating requirements which may demand specific classes of power. Accumulated mileage since the previous general repair may be varied in the case of individual locomotives but in general a passenger locomotive would average, between shoppings, 125,000 miles; a freight locomotive 80,000 miles; a switching locomotive 65,000 miles.

The locomotive foreman of the roundhouse at which an engine is maintained, has a record of the mileage made by each locomotive, with a general summary of its condition, particularly as regards boiler tubes and firebox, machinery and tires. His recommendations, being transmitted to the division and district master mechanics, are used as a basis for the preparation of shopping lists, covering the engines which it is proposed to shop. These lists, made up each month, cover a period of three months in advance. They are then forwarded to the Superintendent of Motive Power, who makes the final decision as to which engines will be recommended for shopping.

Assuming the repairs will be made at Angus Shops for Eastern Lines locomotives. A work report is submitted to cover the necessary visible repairs required and authority is given by the Chief of Motive Power and Rolling Stock for the movement of the locomotive to the shop. Upon arrival at Angus examination of locomotive is made and an estimate is submitted to the Chief of Motive Power and Rolling Stock, giving particulars of the necessary repairs and the estimated cost to complete same.

Preparation of Locomotives and Repair Operations

The first operation is to place the locomotive on a coaling pit. Any coal remaining in the tender is removed, grates cleaned, ashes dumped, fire brick arch removed from firebox and all water drained from the boiler and tender.

From the coaling pit the engine is moved to the shotblast house, where any pitted and scaled paint surfaces are thoroughly cleaned by means of air-pressured shotblast. This cleaning includes wheels, cab and tender when necessary, smokebox and jacket and any other parts which require complete removal of old paint before the surface is suitable for refinishing. For protection against rusting, surfaces which have been shotblasted are given a priming coat of black paint, after which the engine is taken to the erecting shop for stripping.

Upon arrival at the erecting shop, it is placed upon a stripping track and stripping operations commenced. The tender is uncoupled from the engine and taken to the tender shop.

The preparation of the locomotive for lifting from the wheels, requires the removal of all guard stays, main and side rods and brake gear. While this is in progress, smokebox front, grates, headlight, handrails, dynamo, steam and safety valve casings and automatic fire door are removed by the erecting shop gang. The jacket shop removes firebox and cylinder jackets; the tank shop removes the netting and plates from the front end and commences to strip the ash pan. The carpenter shop removes firebox lagging, so that firebox may be properly examined, when being tested, and cab seats, sashes and arm rests are removed. The steamfitter shop strips the pipes for test. The engine is lifted off the wheels by two cranes and is carried down the shop and placed upon the pit where repairs are to be made.

To ensure complete repairs, and that all details will be reconditioned and returned to the erecting shop at the proper time for assembly, a definite system of scheduling is in effect at Angus.

When removed from the locomotive, all parts are sent to the various shops responsible for them, each of which has a definite date for the return of the parts, ready for application.

Assuming, for example, that it is desired to repair the locomotive on an 16-day schedule, the progress of the principal work would be as follows:

1st day : Stripping.

2nd day : Stripping, hydro test of boiler.

3rd day : Stripping completed and all parts cleaned and delivered; tube removal commenced.

4th day : Tube removal completed; driving box brasses and wearing faces removed; valves and valve motion cleaned and tested; main and side rods tested.

5th day : Old cylinder and valve bushings removed; boiler scaled and smokebox cleaned; new driving box brasses in; superheater header examined; frames repaired.

6th day : Cylinders repaired; driving boxes drilled; superheater pipes examined; motion work repairs commenced; dynamo cleaned.

7th day : Cylinders bored; boiler patches applied; tank, tender frame, engine truck and cab repairs commenced; dynamo repairs commenced; cab cleaned and primed.

8th day : Frame repairs completed; stay bolts applied and tubes welded; numerous frame castings completed; superheater pipes finished; tender cleaned and primed.

9th day : Guard stays up and shoes and wedges lined up; tubes cut to length and tested; pumps repaired; superheater pipes fitted; cab doors and sashes completed; first coat of black engine surfacer applied.

10th day : Boiler mountings applied; tubes rolled and beaded; arch tubes, crossheads, guide bars, dry pipe, etc.applied; spring gear delivered; inside of cab painted.

11th day : Dry pipe tested; tubing completed and boiler tested; wheels and motion parts delivered; headlight repaired; dynamo tested; paint rubbed down on tender and cab.

12th day : Engine wheeled and trucked; dry pipe and superheater headers applied; valves, steam chest covers and cylinder covers applied; tender brake details cleaned and tested; boiler and cylinders lagged; coat of black engine finish applied to cab and tender.

13th day : Main and eccentric rods delivered; stand pipe applied; superheater pipes applied and tested; jacketing commenced; lettering, numbering and striping on cab and tender completed.

14th day : Valves set; steam and exhaust pipes applied; varnish cab and tender.

15th day : Engine blown through; pistons, etc. delivered; tender and tender truck repairs completed; brake gear delivered.

16th day : Grates, fire brick, arch, pistons, brake gear, ash pan and cab doors applied; tender mounted; 2nd coat of varnish on tank.

Much of the factory production shifted over to weapons during WWII.

The last steam locomotive built by the Angus Shops, in 1944.

And if you might wonder what happened to the Locomotive 3101 that featured so predominantly in the video, fear not, for she is still around.

Discovered via, images from (1st, 2nd and 4th), cpr.cageocities.vs (5th and 6th), Wikipedia, and

  • Thank you for an excellent article around a great movie!
    One of my hobbies is to build working miniature steam locomotive (varying in scale from 1:20 to 1:8). Regardless of scale, the construction techniques and tools are similar: everything just scales up and down as needed.

  • aastrovan

    Good video,enjoyed this post .

  • Great post and great video!

    That was a trip back through time to when people made "real" things that lasted lifetimes. Great to see…