Part 3 of 4: Important New Acquisition for the Toronto Railway Museum
Acquiring the Print
The print belonged to Mr. & Mrs. Henke, a retired couple who reside in Grand Rapids, Michigan and the sale to the TRHA was brokered by their son, Jim. Given their brief description of the print having been obtained in Detroit, my initial interpretation of its provenance was that it had hung in the Grand Trunk's Brush Street station. (IMAGES #14 & 15) The station had been built in the 1860's and used by the Great Western Railway of Canada. The GWR was acquired by the Grand Trunk Railway of Canada in 1882. Canadians travelling to Michigan would have been familiar with the depot since through passenger cars from Montreal and Toronto were ferried between Windsor, Ontario and Brush Street until 1955. (IMAGES #16 & 17- station on lower left)
Brush Street also has an important distinction in railway history, when it hosted what is generally acknowledged as the last day of regular service steam operation on a Class I railroad in the United States. On March 27, 1960, the Grand Trunk Western expected a few hundred passengers for the morning train to Durand. Instead, 3,600 people descended on Brush Street. (IMAGE #18) Unlike today's VIA Rail that limits ticket sales to a pre-determined consist and is unable to cope with spontaneous extra passengers, the GTW was able to marshal additional coaches and assemble another train to handle the unexpected crowds.
The Brush Street depot was demolished in 1973 to make way for the huge Renaissance Center so the timeline fit into the Henke family's acquisition of the print about forty years previously. Given the huge size of the print, 42 inches by 65 inches, much larger than other Grand Trunk prints in our collection, there were some difficulties in trying to arrange and safely crate it to Toronto. TRHA VP of Operations Michael Guy and I decided to drive to Grand Rapids to pick it up and bring it back to the Toronto Railway Museum. This was accomplished in one 14-hour marathon road trip on Saturday, November 24.
Upon our arrival in Grand Rapids, we were warmly greeted by the Henke family and sat down with them for some coffee and cake. We then learned that the print had been acquired from a family friend and that it had come into his possession a few decades earlier than the 1970s. The gentleman had worked as an inspector for the Michigan Liquor Control Commission and had travelled around the state licensing bars and restaurants and enforcing liquor regulations. This additional information caused me to rethink where the print had possibly originated.
Click here to read Part 4 in this series of TRHA Postings.
Posting by Derek Boles, Toronto Railway Historical Association Historian
Click on each image below for a closer look!