Meet the Countess of Dufferin.
We did so today at the Winnipeg Railway Museum.
Built in 1872, and named after the wife of the Earl of Dufferin, Canada’s third governor-general, she was the first locomotive to operate in the Canadian prairies.
She arrived in Canada in 1877 and served for more than 30 years. In 1992, through the cooperation of CP Rail, CN Rail and VIA Rail, she moved to her permanent home on Track 1 in Winnipeg’s Union Station.
The museum is inside the Station, where it occupies 37,500 square feet. This I learned from Doug Bell, president of the Midwest Railway Association, a nonprofit organization that runs the place.
The Countess belongs to the glory days of Winnipeg. In 1881, with a population of 12,000, the city was a contender: third-fastest-growing in North America, after only New York and Chicago.
In the early 1900s, railroaders hired the same architects for Winnipeg and New York. They built Union Station (1911), visible from our room in the Fort Garry Hotel (1913), as a prototype for Grand Central Station (1914).
Winnipeg was bound for greatness. What happened? In 1914, the opening of the Panama Canal transformed shipping and devastated railways and railway centres throughout North America.
(Photos: Sheena Fraser McGoogan. Behind the VIA-Rail Station, the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, opening in 2014).