6060 turns 66
reprinted from Red Deer
Express (Johnnie Bachusky) September 1, 2010
For half a century
train engineer Harry Home had dedicated his life to preserving one
of the last steam engines ever built in Canada. Today Canadian
National 6060 is restored and thundering along majestically on the
rails in Central Alberta
There is nothing more rewarding and exciting for Harry Home when he
puts his hand on the throttle to take Canadian National 6060 for a
The pure elation he feels at the controls has been with him for more
than 70 years since the day his father, a CN engineer, let him have
the throttle on steam engine CN 2021 in Hanna.
"He let me stand on the seat box and I burnt my hand when I touched
the throttle," said Home. "But I have never forgotten the thrill of
making that locomotive move. I knew right then what I wanted to be."
Home, now 77-years-old, officially began his railway career on July
28, 1949 as a train fireman at Boston Bar, BC.
He retired "reluctantly" as an engineer on May 14, 1998. But since
his retirement he has been busier than ever as he continued to be
the primary guardian of CN 6060. It is one of the last steam engines
ever built in Canada and is known today as "The Spirit of Alberta",
as well as "Bullet Nosed Betty".
The 6060, now owned by the non-profit Rocky Mountain Rail Society (RMRS),
has been the headline attraction along the 21-mile Stettler to Big
Valley line this summer for Alberta Prairie Railway, which offers
steam and diesel rail excursions - along with full course buffet
meals, on board entertainment and even a mock train robbery - from
spring to fall.
The excursions have become a major tourist attraction with thousands
regularly packing the train for a leisurely trek across the Central
Alberta prairie. With the 637,540-lb. 6060 leading the way,
passengers get a glimpse of the simple and humble joys of a
magnificent pioneer way of life.
"It is an experience for them, and they want their kids to
experience that. A lot of them have been on a train, and they are
not going to be on another train," said Don Gillespie, CEO and
president of Alberta Prairie Railway.
"Steam is what they come for of course. And it (6060) is a big,
But the heart of the experience always leads back to the helm of
this remarkable steam engine. This is where Home, whose residence is
in Jasper, performs his labour of love.
"The way I describe it is that we are trying to preserve the past
while serving the future," said Home, a member of the Canadian
Railway Hall of Fame. "We are trying to preserve a way of life that
was strictly Canadiana, and every part of it, from being in a
railway home, and mother preparing meals around dad's schedules. All
the railroad kids really enjoyed the way of life we had."
It has now been a full half century Home has played his remarkable
part in preserving 6060, which turns 66 this year.
It was originally built by an all female crew in 1944 at the
Montreal Locomotive Works. For the next 15 years it logged thousands
of miles between Ontario and Quebec hauling passengers and freight.
But by 1959, with the railway industry transitioning to diesel, the
steam era was over. CN 6060 was retired and destined for the scrap
But in 1960, while on a stopo in Winnipeg, Home noticed 6060 on a
dead line. Knowing an important piece of history had a chance to be
saved, he immediately got into action.
"My two buddies and I got busy. I did the letter writing and we
lobbied and went to the CNR vice president Roger Graham. He agreed
to give it to us in Jasper. It was brought to us in 1962," said
The steam engine went on display in Jasper and a decade later
underwent a major refurbishment. The 6060 arrived in Alberta in 1980
and was given to the Province of Alberta to celebrate its 75th
For years later Home and his friends founded the RMRS and 6060 has
been under its loving care ever since.
"6060 is alive as far as I'm concerned and our efforts to preserve
her feel like a keeping a living breathing entity alive," said
society spokesman Rich Graydon. "If you look at the communities we
live in, they are almost all connected in some way to the railway.
Either because they developed to serve the railway or the railway
came to serve them.
"In today's society we seem to be in a real hurry to forget and
remove the past without taking time to learn from it. 6060 is a
living artifact that demonstrates the peak of steam engine design
and what was accomplished by Canadians."
However, to maintain the 6060 to its full glory requires resources
and money, and society members hope to raise up to $75,000 to
replace its boiler safety valves, to repaint the engine, replace
parts, and to restore historic railway cars and equipment.
Meanwhile, while the society continues its hard work on the ongoing
maintenance of 6060 Home also wants to find funding to build a
permanent home for the steam engine in Stettler because he believes
the Central Alberta town should be known nationally as the "Steam
Capital of Canada."
"I'm very proud to be a member of the railway fraternity. I've had
the honour of working on this engine and other steam engines. I've
had the honour and the pleasure of viewing the Atlantic and the
Pacific from the cab of this engine," said Home. "It was a good life
and it still is."
For more information on the Rocky Mountain Rail Society visit its
web site at
www.6060.org or email
firstname.lastname@example.org. For more on
Alberta Prairie Railway and its tourist excursions visit
www.absteamtrain.com or email
ALWAYS THRILLED -
Harry Home is a resident of Jasper but is always available
and willing to operate the 6060 from Stettler to Big Valley
TAKING OFF -
The 6060 blows off smoke as it departs Big Valley to head
back to Stettler
Johnnie Bachusky, Red Deer Express