Joffre Roundhouse (Canadian National) National Historic Site of Canada

Charny, Quebec
General view of the Joffre Roundhouse, showing the functioning central turntable, 2002. (© Parks Canada / Parcs Canada, 2002.)
Joffre Roundhouse
(© Parks Canada / Parcs Canada, 2002.)
Address : 2250 de la Rotonde Avenue, Charny, Quebec

Recognition Statute: Historic Sites and Monuments Act (R.S.C., 1985, c. H-4)
Designation Date: 1992-06-04
Dates:
  • 1880 to 1880 (Construction)
  • 1920 to 1921 (Significant)

Event, Person, Organization:
  • Intercolonial Railway  (Organization)
  • Canadian National Railway Company  (Organization)
  • Department of Railways and Canals  (Organization)
Other Name(s):
  • Joffre Roundhouse (Canadian National)  (Designation Name)
Research Report Number: 1992-SUA Feb, 2004-078

Plaque(s)


Existing plaque:  2250 de la Rotonde Avenue, Charny, Quebec

This is the only full-circle roundhouse still existing in Canada. It was built by the Intercolonial Railway in 1880 as a 24-stall roundhouse, and enlarged in 1920-1921 with a bigger turntable, a machine shop annex, and 15 new stalls to form a full-circle roundhouse. Forced hot air heating was a progressive feature of the enlarged structure. It was one of the busiest rail facilities in Quebec, and served a major marshalling yard and interchange for four Railways. Steam locomotives were serviced here. and then diesels until the early 1980s.

Approved Inscription:  Charny, Quebec

The only full-circle roundhouse still existing in Canada, this imposing structure was built in 1880 by the Intercolonial Railway, which connected New Brunswick and Nova Scotia with the rest of Canada. First constructed as a 24-stall engine house, it was enlarged around 1920 with a bigger turntable, a machine shop annex, and 15 new stalls to form a full-circle shed. At the heart of one of the busiest rail facilities in Quebec, which included a major marshalling yard and interchange for four railways, the Joffre Roundhouse served its original function for over a century.

Description of Historic Place

Joffre Roundhouse (Canadian National) National Historic Site of Canada is a massive railway engine repair facility situated in the Canadian National Railway Company yards in Charny, Quebec. Its hollow, circular form is reflective of its function as a railcar roundhouse. The official recognition refers to the building, its attached machine shop, and the east-end entry area.

Heritage Value

Joffre Roundhouse (Canadian National) was designated a national historic site of Canada in 1992 for: its size, its age and the significance of Joffre in terms of the Intercolonial Railway.

As part of the Intercolonial Railway (ICR), a railway designed to connect the colonies of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia to the rest of Canada, an essential provision for the maritime colonies’ entrance into Confederation, the Joffre Roundhouse (Canadian National) was the second busiest divisional points on the system. It was originally constructed as a 24-stall roundhouse to service ICR engines at the Charny depot in 1880. From 1920 to 1921, Canadian National Railway (CNR) added fifteen stalls to the earlier structure thereby creating a full circle, apart from one access opening. Its facilities also include a machine shop and a still-functioning turntable, both added between 1920 and 1921. The Joffre Roundhouse (Canadian National) continued to fulfill its original function until 1981, when the CNR moved all diesel maintenance in the province out of Charny.

Sources: Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, Minutes, June 1992, December 2004.

Character-Defining Elements

Features defining the heritage character of this site include: its hollow circular footprint with a rectangular machine shop appendage on one side; its high single-storey massing under a flat roof; its massive scale; its regular subdivision into bays with high, round headed openings; its classically-inspired decorative language evident in arched window openings, and a decorative cornice; its robust exterior materials including brick walls, original ashlar foundation, 1920-1921 concrete footings, and a tar and gravel roof; the high quality of its craftsmanship; the use of steel frame construction technology for the machine shop, with its fireproof brick walls, metal roof, concrete floor and steel multi-pane windows; its roughly finished utilitarian interior with its layout as a series of stalls with tracks and drop pits, a functioning central turntable, and a concrete pit and track; modification of bay lengths and openings to accommodate later engines; the functional layout of the machine shop with its inset tools; provisions for natural light in working areas; its site in the centre of a large railway yard; viewscapes to extensive track and other depot buildings, and the surrounding industrial area.