Wabash 51 “Tillie”
Tillie,” as railway workers nicknamed the Wabash 51 after the cartoon character Tillie the Toiler, is a 43-ton diesel-electric locomotive. It was the first diesel-electric locomotive in St. Thomas as well as the first diesel-electric owned by the Wabash Railroad. The initial use of diesel-electrics was switching and shunting operations. This particular diesel-electric, the Wabash 51, was built in 1939 by General Electric of Erie, Pennsylvania.
The Wabash 51 worked the St. Thomas north yard from 1939-1961 when it was sold to Andrew Merrilees Limited. Several companies leased Tillie until 1967 when it was sold to the Atlas Steel Company of Quebec where it worked until 1994. Later that same year, the Elgin County Railway Museum was informed that the Wabash 51 was available. Tillie was purchased and trucked back to St. Thomas in 1994, just in time for the museum’s annual Railway Heritage Day.