Tank Cars

During the era of steam railroading, the most essential occupation of railway operating departments was the provision of water and fuel at convenient locations and in continuous supply. Finding a sufficient and quality water supply for locomotive boilers was a particularly difficult problem. Operating conditions also presented problems to slower trains and those engaged in frequent stops or delays, resulting in the limited supply of water carried in the tender getting dangerously low or depleted entirely. This was partly overcome by building tenders of larger capacities but many of the older locomotives continued to use smaller tenders.

The spare water car soon became standard equipment in way freight and work train service. The tank was connected by suitable hose and valves to the tank well on the tender and the two tanks could be equalized or used independently.

Employees and their families living and working along the line often had no water supply, or else water was not drinkable. The spare water car was used to fill the cisterns which were placed at wayside locations. Track gangs often had one or more of these cars in their consist. Fresh cars would be delivered to them as needed and the empties returned for refilling.

Many ingenious methods were developed to prevent freezing in winter conditions. One was a good pail of ‘dope’: wool waste saturated with car oil and used for packing journal boxes. The ‘dope’ was placed at the problem area and set alight. It was a sight to behold: a water car, tender pipe and locomotive feed pipe all ablaze as crews or shop employees fought to thaw out the equipment.


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NO SMOKING of any type is allowed anywhere on the museum grounds.  This includes the museum’s parking lot. Thank you for your cooperation.

Since the museum is an industrial site, for the safety of your dog, and for the safety of our other visitors, please leave your dog at home. Service dogs are of course welcome.

We regret that not all of the museum’s grounds and collection are wheelchair accessible. Baby and child strollers are not recommended for touring the site. Plan to bring a carrier.

Rail Safety

All visitors are reminded that this is an industrial site and that proper footwear is necessary. Please obey all warning signs, DO NOT CLIMB on the equipment and pay attention to uneven entrances in display cars. Visitors ride on equipment at their own risk.


The Museum supports the efforts of Canada’s railways to promote safety. We highly recommend that our guests also visit the Operation Lifesaver website. There you’ll find more information about rail safety, including in-person presentations, videos, and other resources.


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