Engine 86 was manufactured by the Canadian Locomotive Company in 1910. After 48 years of service with the Grand Trunk Railway and the Canadian National Railway, it was donated to the city in 1958, commemorating London’s 100 year history as a railway centre.
At the peak of operations in the 1940s, nearly 4,000 Londoners worked for the CNR, the CPR, and the London and Port Stanley Railway. Most of these workers were employed in the massive repair shops near the Western Fair Grounds.
By the 1960s, however, consolidation of operations in cities such as Toronto and the advent of diesel engines ended London’s role as a railway centre. Although many railway jobs were lost, General Motors of Canada later came to employ thousands of Londoners manufacturing diesel engines.9 This Mogul 2-6-0 locomotive was originally numbered GTR 1006, became CNR 908 in 1923, and 86 in 1952. In its last years, Engine 86 was used on a mixed passenger-freight line from Owen Sound to Palmerston.
After its donation to the city in 1958, it was necessary to move Engine 86 one mile from the CNR shops to Queen’s Park. This was achieved by using 60-foot sections of rail, which were moved from the rear to the front as the locomotive was pulled along with a winch. It was estimated that the move would take twelve hours. But the locomotive, once capable of travelling at 60 m.p.h., took four days to reach its destination. The engine became an attraction for children. The Public Utilities Commission disabled its bell after late-night ringing awakened the neighbourhood, and sealed its smoke stack after a youngster was found sitting in it.
Engine 86 was almost moved to St. Thomas in 1980, but public opposition to this plan has kept it here. G. M. Diesel of Canada and other local partners, restored Engine 86 during the years 1996-99.