Moving history – Guelph’s iconic steam locomotive is being relocated this weekend

After resting idle for years, Guelph’s historic steam locomotive is on the move again as the storied train from the past makes way for future improvements coming to Guelph Central Station. That’s good news – though life for the mighty machine hasn’t always been easy.

Locomotive 6167 is about to get moving again.

After sitting idle on Farquhar St., in Guelph, for almost a decade, the iconic Canadian National Railways (CN) iron horse is being brought to a new home tomorrow (Nov. 14).

The steam engine is shown.
The restoration of Locomotive 6167 was complete in 2014 and it became part of the Guelph Museum collection. (Jacob Patterson Photo)

Built in 1940 by the Montreal Locomotive Works plant, it was one of 203 ‘Northern’ locomotives used by CN for passenger and freight service and even played an important role during World War II.

Jacob Patterson, a photographer, historian and member of the Guelph Historical Railway Association says that most of it’s working career was spent in Eastern Canada, initially hauling troop trains to the port of Halifax during World War II.

“Guelph has a very special piece of Canadian history here,” he adds. “This locomotive logged over one million miles during it’s career and even survived a deadly head-on collision.”

On July 6, 1943, engine 6167 was involved in a full-speed, head-on crash with Locomotive 6166, killing three and injuring many others. The damage to 6167 was extensive and because there was a shortage of locomotives at the time, it was repaired and continued in service until the late 50s, when CN replaced all its steam engines with diesel engines.

That wasn’t the end of the line for this historic locomotive.

According to Patterson, 6167 was brought back to life for leisure travel from 1960 through to the last run on Sept. 27, 1964, when an ailing boiler forced a final rest. 

 “It used to fly through the countryside with cars full of passengers excited to see and experience steam in the final years before retirement,” says Patterson.

Locomotive 6167 is known as Canada’s most photographed locomotive after having carried more than 40,000 people on excursions. CN presented 6167 to the City of Guelph in 1967 in honour of Canada’s centennial. In 2002, a restoration committee was established, made up of railway enthusiasts and city staff.

The engine is shown resting on tracks.
Locomotive 6167 is moving to a new home. (Jacob Patterson Photo)

Now preparations are underway to move the locomotive – which weighs 490,000 pounds – from Farqhuar St. to a new platform located at John Galt Park on Woolwich St.

The big move is set to take place tomorrow (Nov. 14) from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., though local officials are asking residents not to gather live, as the event will be live-streamed.

The locomotive will be lifted by a crane onto a trailer and driven over the tracks to the west end of Guelph Central Station.

From there, it will be moved onto Macdonell St. through the intersection and onto Woolwich St., ending at John Galt Park in front of the River Run Centre.

“Its new location is on the site of Guelph’s first building, The Priory, as well as the former Canadian Pacific Railway yard,” explains Patterson.

“The location, beside the River Run Centre for the performing arts, and the Trans-Canada Trail will give the locomotive greater exposure for the public to experience this unique piece of history.”

The move is a much needed one.

The relocation will free up some space to allow Metrolinx to bring more GO service to Guelph Central Station, with work and improvements planned as part of the Kitchener’s GO Expansion project.

The relocation will no doubt be a sight to watch for residents and transit enthusiast alike. But to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, the City of Guelph is asking residents to stay home, as the move will be streamed live on the Guelph Museums Facebook page.

Locomotive 6167 is the last of its kind and isn’t losing steam when it comes to being an integral part of Canadian history.

Story by Nitish Bissonauth, Metrolinx bilingual spokesperson, media relations and issues specialist.