This Week in History: the Royal Hudson steam locomotive

This Week in History:  the Royal Hudson steam locomotive

Taryn Jones is a government records archivist for the Royal BC Museum. She is currently researching archival material for the Royal Hudson.

“It’s a steam locomotive that was built in 1940 in the Montreal Locomotive Works” explains Jones. “It was one of 65 Hudson class locomotives.”

“It started off as Engine 2860. The class of train was known as the Hudson, and it was given the Royal designation in 1939 when King George the sixth came to Canada.”

The archives already had a number of government records, photographs and one of the first railway tickets from the 1970s, but recently acquired was five boxes of records containing documentation about the day-to-day activities of the Royal Hudson.

The locomotive began operation as a tourist train in 1974.

“It travelled from Vancouver to Squamish,” says Jones. “And visitors could take the train up and the ferry, the Britannia back, or vice versa.”

Advertised as a day-trip for tourists, the train operated during the summer months.

“It quickly became one of British Columbia’s most loved tourist attractions,” says Jones. “In the first year alone, over 47,000 passengers rode the rails to Squamish…although it was slated to end on Labour Day weekend, they actually had to extend it to Thanksgiving, because so many people were so interested in riding the train.”

And, as Jones explains, the Royal Hudson wasn’t just a tourist train.

“It also acted as a ‘tourism ambassador’ for British Columbia.  In 1975, it travelled to Seattle to meet the Freedom Train, which was another steam locomotive that was celebrating
the American Bicentennial.”

More than 700 Canadians joined that trip.

Jones adds that in 1977, the Royal Hudson also travelled down to the United States, making 15 stops.

“That was to celebrate the Queen’s Silver Jubilee.”

“The following year, it traveled to Ottawa, all across British Columbia, and all across Canada, with information about British Columbia, working as a tourist ambassador for the province.”

The new acquisition is a fascinating addition to the Royal Hudson archive.

Veronica CooperVeronica Cooper

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