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Back in the summer of '76, I visited the Spadina roundhouse fairly regularly with a couple of friends. We were all young train freaks... about 15 or 16 years old. Approval to walk around Spadina was never guaranteed. For the most part, it seemed to depend on which shop foreman was on duty.

 

Normally, our subway ride downtown was spent debating who was going to ask the foreman for permission. The arguments were always the same. "I did it last time"... or "You never do it"... or (my favorite) "You're the smoothest talker... you always get us in" (in the 45 years I've known these guys, that was the only time we ever gave each other a compliment)!



Looking back, it is kind of funny how shy we were. I know that we were all terrified approaching the foreman's office. Most of the time, approval was granted. Sometimes, however, they were crabby and turned us away. If permission was given, we were required to sign a Release Form (I'm wondering now how legally binding a 15 year-old's signature is, lol). As I recall, it was about three pages long and had been badly photocopied a few thousand times. It was pretty much illegible. I'm sure at the end of Page 3, it said something to the effect of... "You can't sue us - no matter what." The shop foreman would give us his Blessing and finalize everything with a last instruction... "Boys, don't get yourselves run over by a train."

 
We were then issued some well worn, greasy hardhats. They came in different sizes, but were all designed for heads three times larger than ours. We had long since determined that Chris had the biggest head (it really was pretty big). Anyways, he always got stuck with the hardhat that could have kept a Volkswagen Beetle safe from a falling locomotive. The first ten minutes walking around were usually spent trying to adjust the cage inside the helmet. The plastic straps were normally busted, so the whole exercise really was pretty much futile and hilarious.

 
Once inside the Spadina roundhouse, it was amazing! There was always so much going on... and so much to see. It smelled of diesel fuel and grease - if they sold it as a cologne we would have proudly worn it! 


If we were having a really good day, the operator would allow us to drive the turntable. It was a blast trying to get it lined up with the stall tracks. Chris usually had the most success (which we respectfully attributed to his oversized cranium). I think the workers around the shop found us pretty funny and entertaining. In hindsight, we were polite kids, we meant no harm, and we were always grateful for the privilege. 


My only regret is that I didn't take more pictures.

 
Spadina roundhouse gave way to Skydome. Even if it were still in existence, I'm guessing that no young train freaks would be granted the freedom of access that we enjoyed nearly forty years ago.
 
If any of those CN Spadina employees are looking here on RPca... hey, thanks again!
Copyright Notice: This image ©Peter Newman all rights reserved.



Caption: Back in the summer of '76, I visited the Spadina roundhouse fairly regularly with a couple of friends. We were all young train freaks... about 15 or 16 years old. Approval to walk around Spadina was never guaranteed. For the most part, it seemed to depend on which shop foreman was on duty.

Normally, our subway ride downtown was spent debating who was going to ask the foreman for permission. The arguments were always the same. "I did it last time"... or "You never do it"... or (my favorite) "You're the smoothest talker... you always get us in" (in the 45 years I've known these guys, that was the only time we ever gave each other a compliment)!

Looking back, it is kind of funny how shy we were. I know that we were all terrified approaching the foreman's office. Most of the time, approval was granted. Sometimes, however, they were crabby and turned us away. If permission was given, we were required to sign a Release Form (I'm wondering now how legally binding a 15 year-old's signature is, lol). As I recall, it was about three pages long and had been badly photocopied a few thousand times. It was pretty much illegible. I'm sure at the end of Page 3, it said something to the effect of... "You can't sue us - no matter what." The shop foreman would give us his Blessing and finalize everything with a last instruction... "Boys, don't get yourselves run over by a train."

We were then issued some well worn, greasy hardhats. They came in different sizes, but were all designed for heads three times larger than ours. We had long since determined that Chris had the biggest head (it really was pretty big). Anyways, he always got stuck with the hardhat that could have kept a Volkswagen Beetle safe from a falling locomotive. The first ten minutes walking around were usually spent trying to adjust the cage inside the helmet. The plastic straps were normally busted, so the whole exercise really was pretty much futile and hilarious.

Once inside the Spadina roundhouse, it was amazing! There was always so much going on... and so much to see. It smelled of diesel fuel and grease - if they sold it as a cologne we would have proudly worn it!

If we were having a really good day, the operator would allow us to drive the turntable. It was a blast trying to get it lined up with the stall tracks. Chris usually had the most success (which we respectfully attributed to his oversized cranium). I think the workers around the shop found us pretty funny and entertaining. In hindsight, we were polite kids, we meant no harm, and we were always grateful for the privilege.

My only regret is that I didn't take more pictures.

Spadina roundhouse gave way to Skydome. Even if it were still in existence, I'm guessing that no young train freaks would be granted the freedom of access that we enjoyed nearly forty years ago. If any of those CN Spadina employees are looking here on RPca... hey, thanks again!

Photographer:
Peter Newman [86] (more) (contact)
Date: 08/15/1976 (search)
Railway: Canadian National (search)
Reporting Marks: CN 6060 (search)
Train Symbol: Not Provided
Subdivision/SNS: Spadina Roundhouse (search)
City/Town: Toronto (search)
Province: Ontario (search)
Share Link: http://www.railpictures.ca/?attachment_id=18684
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Photo ID: 17577

Map courtesy of Open Street Map

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5 Comments
  1. Not only a great photo, but a wonderful narrative. I’d say dozens of us old enough to remember Spadina in its heyday, can remember the same antics you mention. Great, great memories.
    Oh to have had digital cameras back then.
    Keep ‘em coming Peter.

  2. Great story!! I’ll bet for a few minutes here you were transported back in time writing this one up. That is what is great about RP for me. Every photo has a story, no matter what others might think of the pictures. :o ) What young goofballs we once were. Good Show, Peter.

  3. Great story, Peter. I really enjoyed getting to read it. I may not be able to have stories such as this one when I am older, but I know there will be many memorable moments from time spent trackside with good friends!

  4. Thanks Steve, Arnold and Joe! I was hoping that my prose might induce a few smiles or perhaps even a chuckle. Joe is absolutely correct… and the end of the day it isn’t about the trains we touch or photograph. More importantly, it is about the friends we make along the way… either trackside or even on-line.

    Hey, can I put in a plug RPca? It strikes me as kind of strange that sometimes a great image will have a couple of thousand views, but just a dozen “Gold Stars”. For those on the sidelines, I’d encourage you to get involved. Please sign in and drop a deserving “Star” or leave a nice comment… it means a lot to those that share their photography!

  5. I love it!! Thanks for sharing Peter – keep the great anecdotes coming guys!

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