Keep 'em Rolling: The Story of Toronto's Spadina Roundhouse as Seen Through the Camera of Harry Watson 1923-1966


140 pages
Contains Illustrations, Bibliography
ISBN 0-919822-63-0






Reviewed by Les Harding

Les Harding is author of The Voyages of Lesser Men: Thumbnail Sketches
in Canadian Exploration.


Harry Watson was born in England of a railroading family. As a young man he moved to Canada and got a job in Toronto at the Canadian National Railway’s Spadina Roundhouse. He worked there for 43 years, from 1923 until his retirement in 1966. Keeping ‘em rolling was what Harry did when he went to work. He also took photographs — hundreds of them — with his box camera. The record that resulted is a fascinating insider’s look at the history of Canadian railroading. In this, Toronto’s sesquicentennial year, Harry Watson’s photographs give us a rather different view of the Toronto of yesteryear. Lastly, the photographs are a record of Harry Watson himself.

The author of the book is Harry’s son Ron, a Scarborough city councillor. Ron sifted through boxes of his father’s negatives and albums of photographs. Approximately 200 black-and-white photographs are included here from that selection. The choice of photographs has been made with care and the captions are informative. The reproduction quality is generally excellent. Some of the photos are of things I’ve never seen before. There are water towers, bridges, the roundhouse, coaling stations, repairs, accidents, odd bits of equipment, and locomotives of all kinds. But most importantly there is plenty of steam. The railfan will be well pleased. The volume is essentially a picture book, but there are brief notes on the history of the Grand Trunk and Canadian National facilities at Spadina and anecdotes from the oldtimers. There are also maps of the rail yards and plans for the roadhouse and other structures. A brief bibliography is included.


Watson, Ron, “Keep 'em Rolling: The Story of Toronto's Spadina Roundhouse as Seen Through the Camera of Harry Watson 1923-1966,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 21, 2024,