Dirty Hands Club

Ed Jr, Steve and Doug installing the sheet metal floor on the coal area of the tender.

A group of Society members/volunteers christened the "Dirty Hands Club" by Helen Tucker, meet every Wednesday and Saturday mornings in the back shop located at 2495 Lancaster Road, Ottawa Ontario, part of the Canada Science and Technology Museum's campus.

These dedicated people work to preserve The Society's Equipment. Painting, sanding, welding, scraping and woodworking are just some of the tasks performed by these members. The work not only serves to preserve but to fully restore our equipment to operating condition, especially for the summer months.

The summary articles below will give you a glimpse into the ongoing work that is being performed by the Dirty Hands Club. The seasonal descriptions below of the work being done are just snapshots of all the work our volunteers do. There is much more that goes on behind the scene by these dedicated members

For more in-depth details about restoration work please visit our Dirty Hands Club Blog.  You can also visit our DHC Photo Gallery on Flickr.

If you currently are a Society member with an interest in working to preserve railway heritage equipment, then Contact Us and we can get you started. We're always looking for an extra pair of hands!



As a memorial tribute to Duncan du Fresne, 1930-2012, the Society approached the Canada Science and Technology Museum with a proposal to restore the cab of CP 2858 to an as-built representation.  

The museum agreed, and the Society's Dirty Hands Club volunteers, led by John Bryant, tackled the project. 

The restoration allows museum visitors to see the inside of a steam locomotive cab as it would've appeared during it's working life.

The restored cab was formally unveiled at a special ceremony in April 2014 with Duncan's family as honourary guests.

Photo of the du Fresne family courtesy of Richard Lawrence Photography.

The following article originally appeared in Canadian Rail magazine, No. 560 • MAY - JUNE • 2014.

After the untimely death of one of the Bytown Railway Society's founding members in 2012, the Board of Directors sought an appropriate memorial for Duncan du Fresne. The Board felt that the restoration of the cab of Royal Hudson 2858, in the Canada Science and Technology 'Locomotive Hall', was a worth and suitable project to undertake – restore it to how it would have looked towards the end of its career in the late 1950s. The CSTM was approached, and with a few conditions, approved Bytown's funding and provision of labour. As could be expected, not all the necessary parts were at hand. Some did not come with the  locomotive when it was donated by the CPR, while some were removed or damaged after it was put on display.

Not to be deterred, Bytown's 'Dirty Hands Club' took on the tasks with great determination. Duncan was a friend and mentor to many, and they wanted the cab to look authentic. Replacement valves were made; where handles didn't exist, patterns were made an more cast. Alan Westland produced all the gauges and they look great! A few 'field trips' were made to Exporail to study sister Royal Hudson 2850, many photos and notes were taken.

The original boiler jacket was removed years ago in order to facilitate asbestos removal, and were found. Patterns were made so that those pieces too damaged  to be used could be fabricated. Once they were all made and fitted (after many trial fittings), the job of replacing all the missing parts could start. Other little tasks were also attended to: the frame around the roof vent was reconstructed; most of the floor was replaced. The cab seats were re-cushioned too!

Slowly the gauges, valves, piping and other accessories were replaced, and one could start to see what the cab would have looked like over 55 years ago whilestill in service. Working with the Museum, a new barrier was built and installed that will allow visitors to experience the work place for so many steam locomotive engineers and firemen, while protecting all the hard work of the volunteers. The photos don't do the restoration justice – come and see for yourselves!

Author: David Stremes

Built by Portland in 1872, this locomotive is a museum artifact and was pulled from storage in 2013 to start cosmetic restoration work.

This project was initiated in anticipation of using #40 as a key-note static display at a new museum building/site.

Under the direction of the museum staff, Dirty Hands Club volunteers worked at cleaning and needle gunning both the boiler and underside of #40 and it's front truck.

Subsequent to this initial restoration work, #40 was placed back into storage.

Photo courtesy of J. Loucks.

Pontiac HyRail #26 Work

Summary by Stephen Harling

  • Since the last update on 26 we have rebuilt the Rochester carburetor, pulled the gas tank had it pressure tested flushed and then rebuilt the internal float assembly.
  • The sending unit was repaired, some wiring replaced so we now have a functioning gas gauge. All fuel lines have also been replaced.
  • The original tires and air shocks have been removed and replaced with new tires and shocks which meet GM specifications.
  • The front-mount hydraulic pump for the Fairmont Rail kit was pulled and sent out to be rebuilt. During reassembly we replaced the front & rear hydraulic lines.
  • The interior seating has all been removed, frames disassembled, sandblasted and painted. The cushions are currently at a professional antique automotive restoration facility where all new O.E.M. seating fabric is being sown as well as the rebuilding of the cushion. The four door panels have also been removed and outsourced for replacement.
  • Finally all cargo bay panels have been removed, sandblasted and repainted. New rubber matting has been ordered to cover the aforementioned cargo panels and cargo bay floor. We also await delivery of new O.E.M. carpeting and kick panels for the passenger compartment.

Passenger Car #4977 Work

Summary by Ross Robinson

  • Roof planks on both side roofs replaced along with 20 purlins and new drip edges. New drip edges are being installed along the existing top roof.
  • Plan to install glued down EPDM rubber sheet (roof covering) in May.
  • All 44 new windows completed and painted. All wood material for the outside frames manufactured. Eleven windows are installed.
  • Steel openings refurbished, sills cleaned and repaired.
  • Seats removed to storage, arm rests cleaned and stored. Paint stripping ongoing at concession end and other small parts.
  • Exterior sheeting cleaned, primed. Heavy metal repairs started at vestibules. New traps required, new steps required. We have copies of original drawings.

The summer has been busy for the Society's hard working volunteers at the shop. Along with the regular restoration work there are the jobs relating to the Museum's Shay operations that keep many members of the group busy. However, a lot of work has been done on our own equipment.

OCR Woodings  CBL Work

Woodings CBL Work

Photo at Left:   Ottawa Central Railway Woodings CBL TU-1800 is getting much needed body work in preparation for eventual painting in this early summer 2011 photo inside the shop.

Work on the has just about been completed with. All that needs to be done is to apply the safety decals and stripes. Once this has been completed, the speeder is ready to go.

Car 26 Work

At the same time, other volunteers have been working on Canadian National 1958 Pontiac Station Wagon Hy-Rail. This long project is getting closer to completion but there are still some jobs to do.

The rebuilt wiper motor has to be installed, upholstering has to be replaced, and the hydraulics needs to be checked as there is a small leak. Not much further to go!

Baggage Car Work

For Canadian National Baggage Car No. 9627, there is very definitely "light at the end of the (railway) tunnel". The last of the body work is being done and lettering for the car is being sourced. The diaphragms have to be installed and several small tasks need to be completed. The final job of course is to paint and letter the car.

Crane Tender Work

Although the work on the crane tender is virtually completed, the group is looking at getting a small tank for water to be installed in the coal bunker. At the same time, a cover is to be created to look like the tender has a full load of coal (a bit like a model railway hopper car with a "load" of coal). Also required is a water pump (steam) to bring water to the crane.

Our equipment is now in pretty good shape thanks to all the hard work of the "Dirty Hands Club". Nonetheless, there's still lots to do!

Much has happened since our last report on restoration work by the "Dirty Hands Club". All the hard work over the years has resulted in the Society's equipment being in very good shape. Much of the work that has been done during the last fall and winter had been to finish up some of the final tasks on our equipment.

Duncan working on Car 26 engine.

 Let's look at some of the highlights of what has been accomplished.

  1. The work on the crane's tender has been completed and the final task was to number and letter it.

  2. The former Ottawa Central Railway Woodings CBL TU-1800 is now fully operational after a lot of work. All that is left is to do some work on the cab.

  3. After four years, our Canadian National 1958 Pontiac Station Wagon Hy-Rail is operational again and only a few things are left to be done. Besides having the engine completely rebuilt, the rear axles was replaced and work was done on the hydraulics for the flanged wheel lifting equipment. Most recently, there has been a lot of work done on the brakes.

  4. Much of the body work has been completed on our Canadian National Baggage Car No. 9627 but there is still more to do. Work has been done on the doors and the next major project will be to paint the car.

In-house Training

Despite all the "fun" the Dirty Hands Club has been having restoring our equipment, there are some "educational " requirements of these hard working people. Many of the members have been attending class instructions relating to the operation of the crane and participation in the operation of the Canada Science and Technology's Shay Locomotive.

Next on the list of activities is to prepare the Society's equipment for summer operations both with the crane and the Museum's Shay. So there's always something to do "Down at the Shop". If you want to help, Contact Us. If you can't, then come out and have a look at the Society's equipment in action!


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DHC Links

For more in-depth Dirty Hands Club restoration reports and photos. Please check the links below.

DHC Files

DHC Blog

DHC Photo Gallery

Photo Courtesy of Garry Knight, Flickr

Museum Shop Map