Railroad heritage research has received a major shot in the arm with the donation of Canadian Pacific’s enormous historic archive to the Canadian Railroad Historical Association. The archive has been moved to the Association’s Exporail museum outside Montreal. The records span 160 years from 1847 to 2007. They include:
561.75 linear meters of textual documents
167 books of letters
491 registers about locomotives and freight cars
About 67,000 technical drawings, survey plans and maps
About 625,000 photographs and negatives
About 800 publicity posters
154 films and videos
30 works of art
Not included were employee records.
Although the donation was recently completed, it actually took place in stages, starting in 2013. According to Exporail’s Peter Murphy, “The CPR Archives were donated in 3 stages, each stage taking about one year to complete, all over a five year period when you consider CPR sorting stuff out at their end. First were the letter books and mechanical department glass plates (photos of cars and car parts). Then came the ledgers and vouchers, other paper. Lastly came the CPR photo collection.
This collection was housed in Windsor station, the photos and books on the ground floor, almost all of the other stuff was in vaults in the basement some which had not seen the light of day for years.
The great thing is that there was never a fire, they did have a minor flood at one point and they were never moved so almost all was intact.”
Murphy says that the acquisition has filled their available storage space and Exporail is “looking into the possibility of a future expansion.”