Restoring Engine 374

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A Canadian historical landmark. Photo by Barbarah Senez

If you’re familiar with Yaletown or if you read my previous post, you know that in the Roundhouse Community Arts & Recreation Centre you’ll find the famous Engine 374,  which pulled the first passenger train into Vancouver. But maybe you haven’t heard how it ended up being housed after 58 years in service for the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR).

“It was given to the city by the CPR in 1945,” says William Johnston, director of the West Coast Railway Association (WCRA) and the volunteer in charge of the Engine 374 Pavilion, located at the Roundhouse. That is the good news. The bad news is that the Engine—a landmark in Canadian history—was originally placed in Kitsilano Park, close to the beach. “It was stuck in a parking lot for many years getting completely trashed.”

Knowing that Vancouver would host Expo 86 and celebrate the theme of Transportation and Communication: World in Motion–World in Touch, railway enthusiasts, companies and clubs decided to campaign to restore Engine 374 and move it to a safer place. The most remarkable of these groups was Friends of 374. “With the assistance of the Esso Heritage Brick Program, this group sold bricks for $19.86 each,” says Johnston. “Twenty thousand bricks later, we had enough money to preserve that piece and build the pavilion.”

“It was stuck in a parking lot for many years getting completely trashed.”

According to the director of the WCRA, it took two years to put Engine 374 back to 1886 condition. To protect it from being destroyed again and to house it, the Pavilion was built and this is where you see it today. An interesting fact is that the bricks that were sold to pay for the restoration of the Engine make up the floor in the Pavilion—and each brick is engraved with the name of the person who purchased it.

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Brick by brick, community generosity restored Engine 374

 “We had some people coming here and saying ‘Uncle Charlie bought me a brick in 1986. Where’s the brick?’” says Johnston. Since it would be difficult to find a specific brick among all the bricks that make up the floor, the volunteers at the Roundhouse use a computer program to locate each brick. Unfortunately, about 1,000 bricks are missing. “They were all in the Turntable area during Expo 86. When the Pavilion was built, they were moved and some were damaged. But most of them are here.”

“Twenty thousand bricks later, we had enough money to preserve that piece and build the pavilion.”

To learn more about the history of Engine 374, visit the Engine 374 Pavilion at the corner of Davie St. and Pacific Boulevard. It is open daily, 10am–4pm (except public holidays). Admission is free; however, a donation is suggested to maintain the locomotive.

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By Glauce Fleury, Roundhouse Blog Team. Glauce has a degree in journalism. She has worked as a reporter, editor, press officer, and communications coordinator in Brazil. She has just won the Student Communicator of the Year 2013—Award of Excellence from the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC/BC). She is particularly interested in the history of the Roundhouse.

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