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© McCord Museum
Photograph, glass lantern slide
Interior of the Angus Shops, Canadian Pacific Railway, Montreal, QC, about 1930
Anonyme - Anonymous
About 1930, 20th century
Silver salts on glass - Gelatin dry plate process
8 x 10 cm
Gift of Mr. Stanley G. Triggs
© McCord Museum

Keys to History:

Urban-industrial society was an engineered society. Modern industrial equipment, public utilities like streetcars and steel-structured skyscrapers all required precision engineering to function safely and efficiently. Metal had to be milled to minute tolerances so that pressure would not escape or gears slip. Mass production depended upon the endless and invariable repetition of such precision.

The railway was a cradle of modern engineering. The locomotive was the epitome of early-twentieth-century engineering - a massive assemblage of precision-engineered parts. It also had to be serviced on a regular basis by skilled technicians. In 1902 the Canadian Pacific Railway opened a sprawling railway service centre in east end Montreal. The Angus Shops built locomotives and rolling stock as well as maintaining them. Its engineers designed locomotives adapted to Canada's harsh winters and long distances. Between 1905 and 1913 the Angus Shops built 502 "D 10" six-wheeled CPR locomotives. By 1919 Canada had 5,947 locomotives in service.


The locomotive was not only an industrial workhorse. It was also a symbol of modernity, used in advertising and national art to project an image of progress and speed. The CPR maintained a publicity department that commissioned artists to portray the glory of steam locomotion.


The Angus Shops were surrounded by working-class Montreal suburbs - Plateau Mont Royal, Hochelaga and Maisonneuve. Railway workers were the aristocracy of Canadian labour - skilled, well-paid and bound together by a distinctive culture.


The early-twentieth century marked the glory years of steam locomotion. Better engineering allowed the "tractive effort" of the locomotive - its ability to haul freight - to be maximized. The first diesel-electric trains did not appear until the 1920s.


In the nineteenth century the engineer was a jack-of-all-trades tinkerer, but modern industrial demands made him a professional. The Canadian Society of Civil Engineers imposed professional standards, and universities like McGill and Toronto set up engineering schools.

© Musée McCord Museum