The John Street Roundhouse with turntable, sand/coal loader and water tower are located at 255 Bremner Blvd, at the Toronto Railway Museum. Located in Downtown Toronto, the 17-acre park is home to an incredible collection of historic buildings, structures, vintage trains and railway equipment.
Built between 1929 and 1931 by Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR), the roundhouse with its 32 pie-shaped stalls, serviced steam locomotives for the passenger trains from Union Station. The structure is made from concrete, brick and wood with a monitor roof and large windows, all designed by CPR’s Chief Engineer J.M.R. Fairbairn. The roundhouse featured modern technologies of its time using a Direct Steaming Process which propelled a locomotive onto the turntable and into a stall to be serviced. Once in the stall, it was attached to a steam line to keep the boiler at a reduced constant pressure until servicing was complete. Interested in hearing more about the project design and restoration of the John Street Roundhouse? Watch the video below.
Before the steam process, a locomotive would have a coal fire in its boiler from the turntable through servicing. It was smokey and dangerous. The new direct steaming process was safer, quicker and better for the environment.
The 3-point turntable bridge is 120 ft or 36.6 m. It was used to direct a locomotive into a stall for servicing. Made by the Dominion Bridge Company of Montreal, the turntable was powered by two compressed air engines. Did you know that this bridge company also made the steel-truss roof of Maple Leaf Gardens?
The Water Tower
Vast quantities of water were needed for the steam process and maintenance. 60,000 gallons of water were stored in the tower which was pumped in from Lake Ontario.
The Coaling Tower
Stored in the elevated silo were sand and coal. The sand was used for traction (and still is today) while coal was funnelled into the tender, a special car to hold fuel for the locomotive.
National Historic Designation
Around 1960, CPR retired the steam locomotives so the roundhouse was mainly used for diesel locomotives. The building was closed in 1986 and was declared a National Historic Site of Canada in 1990.
The Toronto Railway Museum
The museum was developed and is managed by the Toronto Railway Historical Association (TRHA). They present the incredible exhibits, tours and educational programs that help us understand and appreciate just how rich Toronto’s railway heritage is. Visitors can walk around the outdoor park that’s filled with trains, towers, a turntable, railway artifacts and more, free of charge. Tickets can also be purchased for entrance to the Toronto Railway Museum located inside the historic John Street Roundhouse or for an informative guided tour of Roundhouse Park or for a Mini-Train Ride. Visit Toronto Railway Museum for more details.
Toronto Railway Museum Photos
The John Street Roundhouse Video
- City of Toronto Report: 255 Bremner Blvd
- Toronto Railway Historical Association
- Parks Canada Directory of Federal Heritage Designations: John Street Roundhouse
- Toronto Railway Museum (plaques)
- Vintage Photos: City of Toronto Archives, Toronto Public Library & Archives of Ontario
- Video: Metropolitan Design YouTube Channel