Thomas William Cottrell was born on February 17th, 1896, and began his career on the railroad as a general labourer at the age of fifteen. Railroading ran through the family as his father was an engineer who sacrificed his life to the railroad. Cottrell soon rose up through the ranks to become a master mechanic, a position which he held for twenty years (1941 – 1961.) Cottrell is credited with having run an efficient shop with a non-smoking policy during that time.
During the First World War, Thomas was part of the Army’s Royal Canadian corps of engineers in England. Cottrell was at the centre of the St. Thomas industry in the MCR shops and was instrumental in getting the Wabash steam engines repaired in the St. Thomas shops. This was beneficial to the Wabash railroad as it saved them time sending the engines to the United States for repairs.

Thomas William Cottrell passed away in 1995 at the age of 99 years.