Though Canadian National Railways was friendly to the idea of main line steam excursions through the 1960s, railfans weren’t sure what to expect when 4-8-4 6218 was pending retirement in 1971… Certainly, few expected CN to pull “Bullet Nosed Betty” 4-8-2 6060 from retirement and return it to operation! Part of a group of 20 4-8-2s built by Montreal Locomotive Works in 1944, 6060 was one of a few to receive a conical cover on the front of the smokebox. After retirement in 1960, the engine was placed on display in Jasper, Alb. Being a relatively modern oil-burner, 6060 was a logical choice for reactivation to excursion service. The restored 6060 made its debut run in October 1973.
Canadian National operated an ambitious schedule of public steam operations for the next few years, later scaling back to shorter runs around Montreal and Toronto. By 1976, CN added steam to the regular schedule. Saturday-only Train 6060 departed Toronto for Niagara Falls in the morning, offering a side-trip to Yaeger that would allow for railfan photo stops before the train’s scheduled return to Toronto that evening. Friends arranged for then-Railfan editor Jim Boyd to enjoy a cab ride aboard 6060 from Toronto to Hamilton, and then chase the train to Niagara Falls and return. The experience of riding modern steam at track speed was shared in the August 1977 issue of Railfan.
Retired in 1980, 6060 made an encore performance as part of the Expo ’86 celebration in 1986. After several years of storage at the Alberta Railway Museum, it was moved to Stettler in 1998 to operate at Alberta Prairie Steam Tours. The Rocky Mountain Rail Society has been responsible for 6060 since 2009, and recently announced renewed efforts to restore and operate the historic locomotive following the receipt of government grants augmenting the society’s own fundraising efforts.
While restoring and operating big steam in recent years has been a formidable challenge, we continue to see projects overcome the odds time and again. Never say never for CN 6060.