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Construction Locomotives

Hail! Hail! The gang's all here! This scene is the summer 1903 construction of the Preston & Berlin Street Railway Company's Waterloo spur at Cedar Grove, looking north. Hidden in the grove is a P&B car on King Street going to/from downtown Berlin (Kitchener). Dinky engine is believed to be P&B 4 acquired 1902, full identity unknown.

Construction locomotives belonged to contractors doing construction work, sometimes for a railway but often for roads. Beginning in the 19th century Canada's railways were built by contractors that bid for the work to be done. They employed large numbers of men for the construction period using mostly manual labour. The only large equipment used was steam shovels and the construction trains themselves, often made up of used steam locomotives and rolling stock that moved from contract to contract. In the decades before large and sturdy trucks and earth movers existed, the only way for large amounts of earth, rock etc. to be moved for removal or fill, was by using "trains". Many such projects utilized narrow gauge equipment on temporary track.

Scenes of contractors' construction trains building the major transcontinental railways are common, less common are scenes of non-railway projects being built using contractors' equipment.

Toronto-Hamilton Highway Commission

One of Ontario's first major highways was built between Toronto and Hamilton using 24" gauge construction trains.

#3 at Oakville, Sept. 22, 1915
National Archives PA71647

#2, at same place and date.
National Archives PA71648

#1, British Forgings, Ash Bay fill,
Toronto, March 2, 1917
National Archives PA144275

These unique little side-tank locomotives were built in the US by H. K. Porter, #5655, 5656 and 5657, May 1915. They were sold by their Canadian subsidiary, Canadian H. K. Porter to the Toronto-Hamilton Highway Commission. When it opened on November 17, 1917, the Toronto-Hamilton Highway was at 40 miles the longest concrete highway in Ontario.

Following completion of the highway work the equipment went elsewhere. Some details are known: #1 went to British Forgings (shown above) an armaments manufacturer in the Great War (World War I) located in the newly expanded land fill in Ashbridges Bay, Toronto. In November 1911 it became Toronto Harbour Commission 1. Then, #1 and 3 went to Ontario Construction (C) in March 1927, for the grade separation project along the waterfront in Toronto. #2 went to Merlo, Merlo and Ray (C) , Walkerville, for an unknown project. Their subsequent dispositions are unknown, although one was at Canadian Construction in Val Royal.

City of Toronto

City Engineer's Deptartment.

5, H. K. Porter #4900 8/1911. Gerrard Street, Toronto, August 28, 1911. City of Toronto Archives

In August 1911, the City of Toronto took delivery of a large amount construction equipment including two steam shovels along with considerable 36" gauge railway equipment. Six identical 0-4-0T saddle tank steam locomotives, 40 small 4 wheel, wooden dump cars, 700 tons of 30 lb. rail and 24 sets of switches. Totalling less than $50,000 with each of the engines costing $3,397.50.

This equipment was required to permit the construction of a number of street railway lines the city was undertaking to expand service in the far reaches of Toronto that the exisiting privately-owned Toronto Street Railway company refused to build. These lines were built under the name, Toronto Civic Railways. In the east, Gerrard and Danforth lines, in the north, St. Clair Avenue line and in the west, Bloor street past High Park. This latter line was a real construction effort, taking nearly three years to complete the fill, finally opening a double track line to Runnymede Road in October 1920. Four of the dinky engines had first been transferred to this line in April 1914.

1, and Thew steam shovel at St.Clair Ave.West and Oakwood Ave.
July 17, 1912
City of Toronto Archives

5, Gerrard St. material yard and GTR tranship. Note difference in size of standard gauge cars.
July 18, 1912.
City of Toronto Archives

5, Bloor Street West near Clendennan Ave. Note height of trestle carrying new storm sewer (far left) May 18, 1914.
City of Toronto Archives

Derailment on Bloor line construction, shows difficulties encountered.
City of Toronto Archives

Locomotives built by H. K. Porter, #4799, 4800, 4898, 4899, 4900, and 4901. This would indicate the first two had been built for stock, while the last four were built upon being ordered from the builder. Their disposition is unknown.


Beauharnois Construction

HEPC Queenston construction

Welland Ship Canal Construction

CPR Sudbury Line


Railway Construction Contractors

Chambers, McQuigge & McCaffrey Co. Ltd.

Dominion Construction Corp.

Foley, Welch & Stewart

MacKenzie, Mann & Co.

J.D. McArthur Co., Ltd.



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