From 1856 through 1964, Stratford, Ontario, was a railway centre, first for the Grand Trunk Railway, then for the Canadian National Railway. For about a century, the city was a district headquarters, with a huge motive power repair facility and a roundhouse.
In the era when steam propelled the nation’s trains, the payrolls of the GTR and CNR pumped up the city’s economy. Sons followed their fathers and sometimes their grandfathers into the shops, or into the roundhouse, or into the running trades. They also followed them into the unions, and into the social groups and into the sports organizations that were so much a part of their community.
But with the introduction of diesel power, the city’s railway era came to an end, The CNR declared its operation in Stratford redundant. Some workers transferred to other CNR shops. Some took jobs with Cooper-Bessemer, a firm that built heavy diesel and natural gas engines and compressors. The Ohio-based manufacturer found the skilled workforce and the giant shops to be a nice fit.
As the last CNR workers walked from the shops in March 1964, Stratford’s days as a rail hub were officially over. This documentary is the story of some of those days, told mostly by workers who experienced them.