Date: May 1, 2021
Partner: Toronto Railway Museum
Location: Toronto Railway Museum, Roundhouse Park, 255 Bremner Blvd.
Project Members: Amanda Berardi, Martin Bierens, Madi Ghesquiere, Amanda Marino, Lauren McAusland
Trains do not run themselves; workers are vital to this industry and it is time these stories were told.
While visiting the Toronto Railway Museum, guests can learn valuable information about the railway and the John St. Roundhouse but all of this focus on the industry begs the question: who ensured all of this was possible? Using oral history interviews from real workers, the Roundhouse ’Round the Clock exhibition will explore the diverse roles of railway employees at the John Street Roundhouse and their “’round the clock” work. It will examine the risks of physical harm and demanding labour these workers performed to obtain financial security and social recognition.
The exhibit will take place at the Toronto Railway Museum (TRM), located in Roundhouse Park in downtown Toronto, across from the CN Tower. The exhibit space is located inside of the John Street Roundhouse itself.
This exhibit will open in late April/early May of 2021 and will be a permanent fixture in the space. It will take up a large portion of an 18’ X 8’ wall and will include a real, moving clock feature. The clock portion of the exhibit will outline the actual roles that were performed within the Roundhouse such as Switch Operators as well as other workers that supported the trains, such as Sleeping Car Porters, as well as biographies and photographs of some of the actual workers that once maintained the space. Important sub-topics such as unionization and industrialization are also examined in relation to these workers. Artifacts from the museum’s collection used or worn by railway workers will help to add context.
The research conducted was done through the TRM’s database and collection as well as archived CPR magazines, the Toronto Railway Historical Association, and other American and British railway sites and articles. Some of the main sources that were built upon for this exhibition are oral interviews that have been conducted by staff at the TRM, along with the TRM’s database and online resources. Other sources that were utilized are the archival research we conducted with the Archives of Ontario, the Toronto Railway Historical Association, and the Teamster (CPR union) archives.
We would like to thank the Toronto Railway Museum for their continued insight, especially Kelly Burwash for her mentorship throughout our project. We would also like to thank our historical editor, Andrew Jeanes along with the TRHA History Team for their reviews. We extend our thanks to our graphic designer Wade Thompson for his experience and vision. Lastly, we would like to thank our Museum Studies colleagues as well as our professor, Dr. Agnieszka Chalas, for their ideas and support.