The Andrew Merrilees Collection :: 1

Canadian railway historians owe a huge debt to this man:

Andrew Merrilees

Andrew Merrilees was a Toronto-area businessman who dealt in railways, boats and other large equipment. He was also a very active collector of photographs and other materials related to transportation. A huge portion of his collection – said to number 375,000 photographs and other documents – ended up at Library and Archives Canada.

I’ve known about the Merrilees collection for a while now, but I’ve never been into the archives to have a look. I rectified that oversight this past week, as I joined my friends Jeff Young, Peter Foley and Mike Walton on a trip to Ottawa for two days of document diving.

I’ve only scratched the surface, but already my mind is blown.

Fireless loco.
(An example of the weird and wonderful things we discovered. Photographer and date – and subject – unknown. But everybody agreed we want one!)

We photographed many of the interesting things we saw, and I’ll be sharing them on my blogs as I have time to process the material.

NST 60 - Terminal
(NS&T 60 at the Geneva Street terminal in St. Catharines. Photographer and date unknown.)

I was looking primarily for photographs and information related to the Niagara St. Catharines & Toronto Railway, and therefore much of what I found will appear on my Niagara Electrics in 1:64 blog.

Other fascinating finds may end up on my blog about Achievable Layouts, as much of what I saw could act as inspiration for a wonderful model – or model railway.

Toronto York Radial Railway rotary plow
(This piece of equipment just begs to be modelled. An unknown photographer shot this image in 1905 of a Toronto & York Radial Railway (Metropolitan Division) rotary snow plow. According to notes on the back of the photo, the plow was built by J. Coghlan Company and T&Y purchased it secondhand in 1904. The photo was taken on Yonge Street, at the GTR Belt Line Subway, outside the old T&YR Mount Pleasant shop. The gentleman is identified as Joseph Middlebrook.)

CNR 91 - Simcoe - AMC
(While I wasn’t looking for photos related to Port Rowan in 1:64, I did stumble across this nice shot of CNR 2-6-0 Number 91 leading a mixed train near Simcoe, Ontario. Photographer and date unknown.)

If you’re not following my Niagara Electrics or Achievable Layouts blogs, you might want to add your email to the distribution lists. You’ll find information on how to do that on each blog – in the righthand column on the home page.

Also, I’ve added “Andrew Merrilees Collection” to my list of Categories. You’ll find that list as a drop-down menu in the right column on the home page for this blog. In the future, if you want to find all posts related to images from this collection, that’s one way to do it.

6 thoughts on “The Andrew Merrilees Collection :: 1

  1. We may owe an even greater debt to Ottawa rail historian Colin Churcher, who looked through every box of photographs, maps and drawings to catalogue the collection. It’s not the official finding aid, but if you get your hands on his index, you can save days of research time.

    • Or at least, an equal debt.
      Yes, I have a copy of Colin’s finding aid and it was a great start.
      I find, having gone through 10 boxes (out of something like 180-200), that I could go through the same 10 again and again, and find new things each time…

  2. I’m flummoxed by that steam engine…. To me it shares the look of some of the earliest 19th century steam engines from when each loco was developed from first principles, like something designed by Blenkinsop or Hedley, but it appears much more modern than that. As all the drivers are all coupled together, despite initial appearances I guess it’s an 0-8-0 and not an 0-4-4-0, right?
    The vertical boiler and valves at the top clearance point maybe argue against use in a mine or other places with low clearances. To my eye, the wheels seem to be an unusually large diameter for something that presumably is moving slowly enough that you don’t need a cab for the engineer (assuming the picture is the final delivery product and not an intermediate point in its manufacturing), although I have no idea what conclusion to draw from that.
    Also, is it resting on wooden rails with a metal strap “facing”??? If so, maybe that argues for it actually being quite old.
    In short, I have no idea. Great find!

  3. An update for all those people holding their breaths: the bizarre locomotive is the one prototype ever built of the Raub central drive locomotive, found via “The Self Site” of unusual locomotives ( After the picture was taken, it would have a central cab and coal bunkers added and was finished 1887. There is an article titled “Raub’s Central Power: the Little Engine that Couldn’t” in Railroad History, vol 153 pp. 93-100 ( that has a picture of the final locomotive. The engine was not a success, technically or financially.

      • I shared the article with my friends who were on the trip. Jeff writes back…

        Neat article and written by Gerry Best too.
        You did know that he set up the movie sound department at Warner Bros. and was a good friend of Ward KImball’s?

        I did not. But now we all do.

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