Newsletter Sign Up

Railway Turntable

The history of this turntable is subject to some debate. However, to the best of the Park's knowledge, it was built in 1907 or 1922 at the Canadian Foundry Company in Winnipeg.

It was first installed in train yards in North Bend, B.C., 60 kilometres north of Hope, and was later relocated to Arrowhead, B.C., and then Sicamous, B.C. Although they are rarely mentioned in railway literature, turntables play a vital part in the efficient functioning of a division point. They provide access to the roundhouse, where repairs to locomotives take place, and they turn engines so that they are facing the right direction for a new assignment. A single locomotive or entire train can also be reversed using a wye, a Y-shaped track configuration.

A turntable sits in a circular pit with a diameter equal to the length of the turntable, which was usually between 55’ and 100’. In areas that receive heavy snowfall, the pit often contained steam pipes to melt snow that might fill the pit and hinder the turning of the table. As engines got longer, the turntables and pits had to get longer too. When turntables were smaller they could be rotated using the ‘Armstrong’ method, which was simply using a group of men to turn it manually. Steam power, an electric motor, or compressed air from either a locomotive or a compressor could be used to rotate the turntable. Larger engines had to be balanced perfectly on the table, or the turntable would tilt and the motor would be unable to turn it. Although they were vitally important to the divisional points of Canada’s railways, few people took much notice of turntables. Only when one broke down, wreaking havoc with repair schedules and timetables, did people notice how important they were. 

In 1981, the Canadian Pacific Railway donated the turntable to Heritage Park. It was set up behind the Roundhouse to give rolling stock access to the repair shops and to display areas of the Roundhouse. It was set up behind the Roundhouse in order to give rolling stock access to the repair shops and display areas of the Roundhouse. The grey mechanism to the left of the turntable is the air-operated motor that turns the turntable.

 

Location

Heritage Park has implemented the Restrictions Exemption Program. For more information visit our COVID-19 Information page