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Here Are The Facts On Pictou County's Old Historic Locomotives

Article published in The Evening News, New Glasgow, Nova Scotia on October 22, 1964

    Want to know some of the history and details of the old Albion, the antique locomotive in the Mining Museum of this town, and its 18 year older brother, the Samson, housed near the CNR station in New Glasgow?

    The following is also taken from Robert Brown's history of early railroading in Nova Scotia:

    The first three locomotives, the "Samson," "Hercules" and "John Buddle," were ordered, probably in 1837 by John Buddle, a well known mining and railway engineer who evidently was a shareholder or an official of the General Mining Association.

    They were built by Timothy Hackworth, at New Shildon, Durham, England, and were completed in August 1838, arriving at Pictou late in November or early in December.

    They were of a very peculiar type, similar to many of the locomotives of the Stockton and Darlington Railway, of which Hackworth was Locomotive Superintendent.

Vertical Cylinders

    The cylinders rested vertically upon cast iron box-like frames which formed part of a bonnet or hood which partially enclosed the valve gear, pumps, throttle, reversing lever and other working parts.  The crossheads instead of being guided by slides, had an arrangement of levers giving a parallel motion.

    The dimensions of the cylinders are usually stated to be 15 1/4 x 16 but 15 5/8 x 18 is correct.  The valves are actuated by a four eccentric gab motion working vertically from the rear axle.  The wheels, which were 48 inches in diameter , were of a very curious type, characteristic of the locomotives on the Stockton and Darlington Railway and those built by Hackworth.

    They were of cast iron and with a chilled tread, and were made up in two parts as there were no lathes in the Shildon shops large enough to turn the rims or threads of the wheels when fixed upon the axles.  The wheel centres of "bossess" were keyed to the axle and then machined true and then the outer part was put on and trued by the centre and made tight by wooden plugs and iron wedges.

    They were dotted with plug holes to ensure sound castings and reduce unnecessary weight and in actual use they were found to be extremely efficient.  The brokers, with a capacity of 540 gallons, were 13' 4" long by 48" in diameter and originally carried a pressure of 60 pounds but later reduced to 35.

    They had a single return flue, made of 3/8" plate single rivetted, 26 1/2" in diameter round the fire and diminishing to 18" at the base of the chimney.  The fire was made on an iron grate set at the bottom of the flue and these grates had to be renewed frequently.

No Frames

   The engine had no frames; the axle bearings were bolted to brackets which were rivetted to the underside of the boiler.  Individual springs were fitted to the front and middle wheels but the back wheels, to which the main rods were attached, had no springs of any kind.

    The tender was pushed in front of the engine, because of the position of the fire door, the stoker had to shovel the coal in left handed.  There was a powerful back-draught and every time he opened the door a huge cloud of black smoke emerged.

    The engineer sat in solitary state in a little iron chair at one side of the small platform at the rear end of the engine but , at frequent intervals, he had to leave his perch and clamber over and around the right cylinder and then out on the running board to check the try clocks on the side of the boiler.

    There was no cab or protection of any kind but Donald Thompson, who was a driver of the "Samson" for 40 years, claimed that in spite of the cold damp winters he never shivered once.

    These Scottish engineers took great care of their engines and old Thompson was fond of saying, "Indeed I was far more careful of her than of the good wife."

Weighed 19 Ton

    These engines weighed about 38, 000 pounds, and with a supply of spare parts, cost 2, 140 Halifax currency ($10,560) each.  They were retired about 1885 and the "John Buddle" was immediately dismantled; the boiler being used for many years for a stationary engine.

    The other two were left on a siding for 7 or 8 years and in 1892 or 3 the "Samson" was bought by the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad and sent to the Chicago Exhibition.

    It was then lost sight of for many years until it turned up at the Fair of the Iron Horse, at Halethorpe, in 1927.

    Shortly afterwards, on June 21st, 1928, the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad presented it to the province of Nova Scotia, and since then it has been kept in the Union Station at Halifax.

    The next engine on the line was the "Vulcan," a 2-4-0-type tender engine, with cylinders 15 x 24, 60" driving wheels and 36" leading wheels.  It had outside horizontal cylinders and a long boiler with a haystack or Gothic firebox.  Most accounts state that it came out to Nova Scotia in 1853 but the builder's plate stated:


built by

R. B. Longridge & Co.

Bedlington Engine Works.

    Perhaps then engine was second hand and five years old when it arrived in Nova Scotia.  It was retired about 1885 and scrapped shortly afterwards.

The Albion

    The locomotive "Albion" and "Pictou" followed in 1854 and the "Albion" is still in existence; it was at Chicago in 1893 at Halethorpe in 1927 and is now kept at the Nova Scotia Exhibition grounds at Halifax.

    When this history was written -it is now located at the Mining Museum in Stellarton.

    The "Albion" is the subject of a very curious controversy; in Nova Scotia it is quite generally known the "Albion" and "Pictou" were built in 1854 by Payne and Burn, of Newcastle, but, in other parts of the world, much ink has been spilled in an effort to prove that the "Albion" was built by Hackworth in 1839.

    To anyone who is familiar with Hackworth's practice, it is obvious that he had nothing whatever to do with this engine as it is quite unlike anything he ever built; especially in certain important details such as the type of boiler, wheels, cylinders and valve gear.

    The most ridiculous argument is one advanced by the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, that after the Hackworth works at New Shildon, were closed, a name plate bearing the name "Albion" was found, which evidently proved to the finder's satisfaction that Hackworth had once built an engine of ----it name for the Albion Mines Railway.

    As for the Payne and Burn plate, Mr. Cromwell, of the B, & O., tried to dismiss it as evidence of a repair job or replacement of the part of the frame to which it was attached but that is most unlikely as the cost of shipping the locomotive to England and back would be almost more that it was worth and there would be no  ------- sending over to England -----simple a piece as a boiler brace.

Built Locomotive

    The shops of the G.M.A. were equipped to handle any repairs and, indeed, a few years later a complete locomotive was built.

    An examination of the corresponding brace on the opposite side of the engine shows that at one time there were two builders' plates, one on each side.  Inquiries made in England indicate that these were probably the only locomotives ever made by Payne and Burn but they made mining machinery and tools and the name was well known at Albion Mines.

Was A Shunter

    These two engines were 0-6-0 type, with 15 x 24 cylinders, 48" wheels and weighed about 40,000 pounds.  They had wood and wrought iron sandwich type frames , multi-tubular boilers, wheels individually sprung and steeply inclined cylinders.

    The design was antiquated even for 1854, being really a -------- the "Invicta" of the Canterbury and Whitstable Railway, built by Stephenson in 1830, but it was also almost identically the same as the "Pioneer" of the St. Andrews and Quebec Railway, built by Stephenson in 1850.

    Then too it must be remembered that the "Albion" and "Pictou" were not road engines but simply shunters; they were built for use in a remote spot where fuel was cheap and plentiful and simplicity, durability and reliability were much more important than speed or efficiency and probably they were so designed that they would never need any major overhauling.  Perhaps too the builders' lack of experience and the necessity of paying royalties for the use of a more modern design had something to do with it.

    These two engines were retired in 1886 and evidently to "Pictou" was broken up soon after but the "Albion" was preserved.

    The next locomotive was the "John Bridge;" it was delivered to the Albion Mines Railway in the spring of 1872 but remained


The Old Locomotive "Samson."

By D. W. Rebb, Amherst, N.S. (Member of the Society)

    At the Albion coal-mines in Pictou County, Nova Scotia, may be found a curious collection of old machinery, mostly lying rusty and disused, which, to the engineer of to-day, recalls the times of Watt and Stephenson, and the early days of the steam-engine.  While making a recent visit to this place, the writer was shown many mechanical curiosities, notably three old locomotives, built by Timothy Hackworth in the shops of the Stockton and Darlington Railway, in England, in the year 1838; also a condensing beam engine, built about 1828, with ponderous  flywheel and square driving shaft.  A blowing cylinder, used to supply air to a foundry cupola of ancient construction, still in use, is connected with one end of the beam, the crank shaft being connected with the other end and the steam cylinder nearer the center of the beam.  Steam for this engine was furnished by an old-fashioned egg-shaped boiler.  The working pressure did not exceed five pounds above  the atmosphere, and the water was supplied by gravity from a tank placed a few feet above it.  Leaks were repaired by simply fitting a plate over the leak, in the inside, well packed with potatoes or horse dung, the very moderate pressure rendering rivets or bolts unnecessary.  One of the locomotives referred to, the "Samson", was in use as late as the year 1882, is in a fairly good state of preservation, and, as it is a good example of the first English locomotives, a brief description may not be uninteresting.  As previously stated, it was built at the repair shops of the Stockton and Darlington Railway, at New Sheldon, Durham Co., England, and was brought out with two similar locomotives, in 1839, to run on a railway, built for the Albion mines, to convey coal from its pits at Stellarton, to Pictou Harbor, a distance of six miles.  As will be seen from the illustration (missing), the "Samson" has three pairs of driving wheels, coupled in the usual manner, and not differing very much in appearance from the driving wheels of the modern "mogul" locomotives.  These wheels consist of a cast iron center and an outer rim, also of cast iron, twelve wooden plugs being driven between the center and rim to hold the rim in place, tires are of iron or steel, shrunk on in the usual manner, axles, which are five and five-eighths inches in diameter, ordinary journal boxes, bolted to brackets made of boiler plate, which are riveted to the shell of the boiler.  The boiler is a plain cylindrical shell, fifty-four inches in diameter, and about thirteen feet long, containing a single return flue, twenty inches in diameter; one end being fitted with grates was used as a furnace.  The products of combustion following the flue to the front end of the boiler, were then returned direct to the smoke-stack, which is at the rear end of the locomotive.  The cylinders and driving gear are at the front end of the locomotive, and the driver's place was at the front, so that he could keep a good lookout ahead.  The fireman was stationed at the rear.

    The cylinders (15 3/8" dia. x 18" stroke) are vertical, resting on cast-iron box-like frames, forming part of a bonnet or hood which partially encloses the valve gear, pumps, throttle and reversing levers and other working parts.  The cross heads, instead of being guided by slides in the ordinary way, have an arrangement of levers and sliding block.  That this device caused very little friction is shown by the fact that the original pins and brass bushes in the levers and sliding block are still in place, and show very little wear, after forty years of almost constant use.  The valve gears consists of four eccentrics, attached to the axle to which the cylinders are connected; the eccentric rods extending up into the hood on the front end of the boiler, have forked ends which engage the pins of a rock arm, which is connected with the slide valves; these eccentric rods are controlled by the reversing lever, respectively engaging or disengaging them for the forward or backward motion.  The feed pumps, two in number, are connected with the eccentric rods, and were thus brought within the hood in full view of the driver; in fact, this arrangement of cylinders and valve motion gave the driver a convenient oversight of all the working part of the engine while in motion, and without leaving his place; but, strange to say, he was compelled to go outside to ascertain the height of water or pressure of steam, the water gauges and steam gauge being located on the side of the boiler.  The steam gauge consists of a spring scale attached to the lever of the safety-valve.  The pressure of steam did not exceed forty pounds, the spring scale being graduated to fifty.  The exhaust steam after leaving the cylinders was conveyed within the shell of the boiler to the smoke-stack.  The reason for thus reheating the exhaust system is difficult to understand.  Probably the idea was that the heat of the exhaust could be utilized within the boiler, the designer overlooking or not clearly understanding the higher temperature of the live steam within the boiler.

    That the engineers of that date (1838) had, to some extent, grasped the requirements of locomotive construction, may be gathered from the many devices made use of in this early representative of the "species locomotive" which are still in use; such as the three pairs of coupled driving wheels, placed as near together as possible, the center pair being without flange, the forced draught obtained by means of the exhaust in the smoke-stack, and the cylinders connected outside the frame.

    One of these locomotives was driven by George Davidson, who worked on them while being built in England, and came out to Nova Scotia with them in 1839; he is therefore one of the oldest if not the oldest locomotive driver in America.  He is still hale and hearty, and tells many reminiscences of his forty years on the rail.  Donald Thompson, a "canny Scot," and another faithful veteran, scorns the modern locomotive with its complicated gauges, air-brakes, etc., and delights to recount a feat of hauling a train of about one hundred and eighty-nine tones of coal out of a crooked siding on a wet day, which one of the Intercolonial R. R. engines failed to move.  In reply to the writer's inquiry as to the effect of winter weather on the unprotected, cabless "Samson," the veteran replied: "Au' the rain an' wind an' snaw for forty year never made auld Donald Tampson shiever yet."  Further interrogation as to the care of his engine elicited the following: "'Deed an' I was far more carefu' o' her than of the gude wife."

    The sand-box of the "Samson" consisted of two buckets of sand, one at each end of the locomotive, the sand being thrown by hand on the rails.  This duty was attended to by the driver when moving ahead, and by the fireman when moving backward.   


Related Links

Biography of Peter Crerar - designed and constructed the Albion Railroad

Canadian Railway Links


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