First Light
26" x 36", Acrylic on Canvas, 2004
Elden Smith Collection

Text by James A. Brown

It’s a crisp late winter day in March, 1935. Since late last night, Canadian Pacific’s Hudson 2815 has been
drowsing in the steamy warmth of Toronto’s John Street roundhouse, while the shop forces deal with the myriad
tasks of servicing and light maintenance in preparation for the H1b’s next passenger service assignment. Both
the locomotive and the shop are just five years old. And despite the Great Depression, railways are the preferred
mode of inter-city travel for Canadians, from coast to coast.

John Street boasts Canada’s first installation of a Direct Steaming system. This means that locomotives laying
over between runs can be maintained under shop steam without a fire on the grates. When the engine arrived
last evening, 2815's fire was dropped completely, a layer of fresh coal was placed on the grates and the engine
rolled into its stall on the steam pressure remaining in the boiler. Once in the roundhouse, it was connected
through its blow-off valve to the Direct Steaming system.

Now, 2815 is marked up for train 37, due to depart Toronto Union Station at 5:20 pm for Windsor. The Direct
Steaming connection has been removed. Steam sighs from the cylinder cocks and relief valves. A hostler
removes the safety chain from the rear driver and clambers into the cab. And as a helper swings open the great
doors of stall 2, the first light of 2815's new day glistens off the tender flanks.

Outside the roundhouse, the dry coal on the grates will be ignited, and within literally minutes 2815 will be
working up to full boiler pressure, and awaiting its crew for another day's work in the service of “The World’s
Greatest Travel System”.
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Copyright © David A. Oram