The Hanna roundhouse was constructed in 1913, a year after Canadian Northern Railway's Goose Lake Line from Saskatchewan to Calgary reached Hanna. At first only ten stalls were built, with another five added in 1919-1921. Operation of the roundhouse required about sixty men over a 24 hour period representing numerous different types of skilled labour.
Locomotives grew increasingly larger, and the roof was raised in 1943 on the original 10 stall portion of the roundhouse. By the 1950's, diesel engines were replacing locomotives. Diesels did not require the same maintenance as locomotives, and also were too large for roundhouses. As a result, by 1961, the Canadian National Railway (which had absorbed the Canadian Northern Railway in 1918), closed down the roundhouse. It was later used by a farm manufacturing firm, then a cattle auction market.
The original 10 stall roundhouse was constructed of poured concrete, with a felt and gravel roof. The walls were higher on the east (entrance) side than on the back.The later 1919 addition was built entirely of red brick, and was about 4' higher in the front than the original 10 stall segment. The additional stalls were 11' longer than the original 10, since locomotives (in particular, the 3600 series) were becoming considerably larger. The roundhouse appears to be built on a fairly standard plan, save for the differences in construction material.
The roundhouse is located adjacent to the Canadian National Railway line south of the town, Section 9, Range 14, Township 31, West of 4th. The open side of the semi-circular structure is oriented east.
The booking-in office was moved into town in the 1960's and used as a private residence.
Steam heating was employed in the roundhouse, generated by three stationary boilers located in the machine shop. This was a rectangular addition on the west side of the roundhouse. Also located in the machine shop was the air compressor, drill press, shapers, and two lathes. The air compressor provided power for the air jacks and for the turntable.
The roundhouse was usually at peak operation over weekends, when locomotives would be fully serviced and cleaned. At the most, the roundhouse required a crew of about 60 men over a 24 hour period (two twelve hour shifts a day). A variety of different professions were represented within the crew; machinists, boiler makers and washers, carpenters, blacksmiths, welders, coal dock workers, cinder pit workers, and hostlers. Work on the locomotives required a large supply of parts, which were kept in the nearby stores building.
The shop Foreman originally had an office where the men's washroom was in 1981. After the five stall addition was constructed, his office was moved to the back of stall 11, within the roundhouse. This was not always a reassuring location, as occasionally locomotives would be brought in too fast and jump their end blocks.
The change from steam locomotives to diesel engines spelled the downfall of most roundhouses, including Hanna's. Diesels did not require the same degree of maintenance as a locomotive, and additionally were too large for most roundhouses. Although diesels began to appear in Hanna as early as 1951, the roundhouses was in operation until 1961, at which point it was closed and crews laid off. Canadian National Railway apparently cleaned out the building, selling much of the metal (including locomotives) for scrap. A farm implement business, Hanna Manufacturing Ltd., leased the building from CNR in 1961. Twin 4 Auction, owned by Jim Armstrong and Elmer Fennel, bought the building in 1972. Cattle pens, an auction ring and stalls were added within the building. Balog Auction bought in 198?. Mr. V. F. purchased in 199?. Ms. K, L. purchased in 2009.
By 1943, locomotives had increased so much in size and height that it was necessary to raise the roof to provide adequate ventilation. This was a common occurrence for most roundhouses at this point in time. The new transom was added only to the original ten stall segment of the roundhouse and not to the five stall addition. Courses of red brick were added on top of the original concrete to bring the walls flush with the top of the transom. All levels of rooftop were covered in 5 ply felt, pitch and clean gravel.
The interior of the roundhouse was divided by a concrete wall every five stalls. An open passageway ran the entire length of the west wall. Each stall had an engine pit in which the machinist or boiler man could stand while working beneath the locomotive. Two portable air jacks were kept in the roundhouse and could be lowered into the pits to raise the locomotive if necessary. Lighting in the early years was by coal oil lanterns, hung on brackets on the wall. Poor lighting, combined with incredibly dense smoke and steam from the locomotives made the roundhouse a very dark place in which to work.
1913 - 10 stall roundhouse built.
In the earlies years of the roundhouse's operation, there existed a standard Third Class Canadian Northern Railway bunkhouse to the west of Stall 10, as well as two more bunkhouses to the southeast of the five stall addition. After 1942, only the Fireman's Bunkhouse to the southeast is represented on CNR plans.
A storm porch protected the entrance door on the southwest side of the roundhouse (Stall 13). A booking-in office was located nearby along Stall 13, to which the crews reported in for work. A large blackboard with each worker's name was located in here. This frame building was moved into town after the roundhouse ceased operation and incorporated in a private residence.
1919 - Additional 5 stalled constructed on the south end.
1943 - Roof raised on the original 10 stall segment.
1951 - Diesel locomotives began to appear in Hanna.
1954 - A 15' x 15' lunchroom was added on the west side in the corner abutment of the original ten stall and five stall addition. Originally the only entrance to this room was by way of the roundhouse itself.
1961 - Roundhouse closed and crews laid off. All material was removed. Rails from the turntable were torn up over the years, with the result that none remain leading into the building. Only two lines remained running to the turntable from the CNR yard. The tall chimneys were torn down, with the result that part of the adjacent machine roof was removed too. All smokestacks and most ventilators were removed.
1961 - After the roundhouse has ceased operation for locomotives, a water car being shunted to another spot in the yards was mistakenly bumped too hard by the engineer. The turntable, being in the exact position, with the doors open, enabled the car, traveling at 35 mph, to run straight through the end wall. Hanna Manufacturing converted the hold into a sliding door.
1961 - A door to the lunch room was added on the North side by the Hanna Manufacturing Company once they leased the building from CNR. Hanna Manufacturing was supported by many local interest manufacturing rock pickers and weeders for farm use. During this time, the support column at the engine door or Stall 15 was removed so that trucks could enter. This was later replace dd by a metal rod. Also a gas line was put in the building above the windows (Stalls 1-5)
1969 - Hanna Manufacturing Ltd. no longer utilized the building.
1969-1974 - Experienced much vandalism.
1974 - Converted into a cattle auction. Constructed a plywood wall between Stalls 7 and 8, and below the transom in front of the engine doors, creating a small show arena bounded by the original concrete fir wall between stalls 5 and 6. Bleachers were set up against the back wall and windows behind blocked up with plywood. Between the plywood addition and the engine doors (between Stalls 5 and 7) a large scale was installed. To secure the scale in place it was necessary to blast the concrete engine pit in Stall 7. Doorways were jackhammered through the concrete fire walls at this time as well. All engine pits were filled with dirt. Cattle pens were installed.
The machine shop was converted into a cafeteria and offices and a ladies lavatory was added. The former coal loading dock became the home for more cattle pens and loading ramps. The door formed by the runaway water car was used for bringing the cattle into the roundhouse. The building itself was painted white on the outside. Windows on the machine shop were filled in with plywood and new small ones cut into some of these.