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Forth Junction Project
Railway Locomotives
of Central Alberta

 
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Forth Junction
Heritage Society


History of Motive Power Used by
the Railways of Central Alberta

 
Red Deer and Central Alberta witnessed the evolution of motive power with a wide range of locomotive styles and classes from steam to diesel over the past 120 years.

Steam Locomotives

Steam locomotives are identified mostly by wheel arrangement -- the number of wheels at the front (small), the drive wheels in the middle (large) and the trailing wheels (small). A 4-4-4 wheel arrangement would have 4 wheels (2 axles) at each of the three locations. Most of these wheel arrangements also had names (sometimes varying from railroad to railroad). The 4-4-4 was a CPR Jubilee.

4-4-0 locomotives meet at Innisfail 1890sThe earliest Canadian Pacific steam locomotives used on the Calgary-Edmonton line for both passenger and freight were variations of the American/Brown 4-4-0's during the 1980s and 1900s. Canadian National used them until well into the 1930s.

4-6-0 'Ten Wheeler' d10 locomotiveThe most common locomotive type stationed in Red Deer between the mid-1900s until the mid-1950s were the 4-6-0 "Ten-Wheeler" d10 class locomotives, built between 1884 and 1915. They were used primarily for local freights, branch-line freights and pushers out of the Red Deer River valley by Red Deer crews. Over 500 of this class of locomotive were purchased over time by the railway. In 1952, 7 d10s were assigned to CP Red Deer. This class of locomotive was also popular with both Canadian Northern and Grand Trunk Pacific with some being in service on Canadian National as late as 1958.

Introduced in 1906 and built until 1948, 4-6-2 Pacifics were the backbone of both the Canadian Pacific and Canadian National locomotive fleets with hundreds used across the country for both freight and passenger service. CP owned more than 400 of this type and were some of the last steam engines in operation in the late 1950s. This class was used on all three Calgary-Edmonton rail lines (CPR, GTP and CNorR).

Around 1929, Canadian Pacific introduced the 2-10-4 Selkirk, the largest steam locomotive to run in the British Commonwealth, primarily for mountain service. When the transcontinentals converted to diesel in the early 1950s, Selkirks found themselves on the Calgary-Red Deer fast freight service from around 1951 until 1957. They were so large that they couldn't be turned on the Red Deer turntable but had to use the wye to change direction. The last of the Selkirks is on display at Heritage Park in Calgary.
restored CPR 4-6-4 Hudson 2816 near Springbrook
On occasion, 4-6-4 semi-streamlined Royal Hudsons, used primarily for heavy cross-country passenger trains, were known to make their way on the Calgary-Edmonton line. The use of 'Royal' was sanctioned after a Hudson pulled the train for King George VI and Elizabeth during their transcontinental trip in 1939. Restored no. 2816 dubbed the 'CPR Empress' was re-acquired by Canadian Pacific and is used for excursion service. It has passed through Red Deer a few times in recent years. Another, no. 2860 was operated for several years by the Province of British Columbia for excursion service on the west coast.

restored 4-8-2 Mountain 6060 at Big ValleyCanadian National took delivery of 20 green and black Mountain 4-8-2 streamlined bullet-nosed steam locomotives in 1944, one of which, restored no. 6060, is currently used on the Stettler train excursions to Big Valley. Previous versions of the Mountain type were used on the CN main lines since 1930 and a few remained in service until 1960 on secondary lines.

Most steam locomotives were converted from coal to oil by 1951, effectively putting an end to the need for Brazeau (Nordegg) coal mines and to some extent the mines at Drumheller/East Coulee.

Passenger Steam Locomotives

The earliest passenger trains starting in 1890 and into the early 1900s were headed by 4-4-0 American locomotives. In the mid-1900s, they were replaced primarily by 4-6-2 Pacific locomotives that ran well into the early 1950s, although other types were also used.

Jubilee 4-4-4 3001 'The Chinook'Canadian Pacific introduced 'The Chinook' in 1936 on the Calgary-Edmonton line through Red Deer as a new 'high speed' passenger train. It was headed by 4-4-4 semi-streamlined Jubilee F2a class locomotive no. 3001, one of only five of this class ever built, designed specifically for fast inter-city passenger service. The train was one hour faster between the two cities than conventional passenger trains at the time, including
the daily 'Eskimo/Stampeder' trains and two other intercity trains, one of which was an over-nighter. Except during the war years when heavier locomotives were required, 'The Chinook' ran until 1955 when it was replaced by the Budd Dayliner.

Unfortunately, none of the F2a class survived the scrap yard but two of 20 F1a class of Jubilees (similar but significantly different) survived -- one currently at the Canadian Railway Museum in Quebec and one at Steamtown in Pennsylvania. F1a Jubilees were occasionally seen in Red Deer on their way to Edmonton where they ran the passenger line to Lloydminster.

Diesel Locomotives

Diesel locomotives were named differently than steam locomotives. Instead of by wheel arrangement, manufacturers used model numbers with letters designating purpose or some of other feature of the locomotive and usually a model number. Until recently, most diesel locomotives in western Canada were manufactured by General Motors Diesel. GMD GP (General Purpose) locomotives have 2 axles front and back (sometimes referred to as B-B) and were used almost everywhere. As larger locomotives were developed, they were used more for yard work. General Motors SD (Special Duty) locomotives have 3 axles front and back and replaced the GPs for yard work. The earliest diesels were switchers (S) and streamlined cab units used for both freight and passenger service. Early General Motors cab units were mostly 4-axle F units, sometimes followed by a P designating passenger service, and a few 6-axle E units.

The first CP diesel locomotive to visit Red Deer was in 1949, likely an S-2 or S-4, but diesels did not become the norm until the mid-1950s when they effectively brought an end to steam. Except for special occasions, the last CP steam locomotives had left Red Deer by 1959 and even then were rare. The last Canadian National steam locomotive was seen in Red Deer in 1955 when the CN station on 47 Avenue closed.

GP units at Red DeerAlthough Fairbanks Morse C-liners and Trainmasters occasionally moved CP trains from the early 1950s to the late 1960s between the two major cities, 4-axle General Motors Diesel FP7s, GP7s and GP9s became the most common diesel locomotives on the line from the mid-1950s well into the 1970s. Canadian National also heavily invested in these classes of locomotives but received a few early version F3s in 1948. In the mid-1960s second generation 4-axle units, mostly of the GP35 variety started replacing some of the earlier CP versions.

Alco/MLW C424 diesel freight locomotives were common from 1965 to the mid-1980s when western Canada became almost exclusively General Motors domain.

3,000 hp GMD 6-axle SD40 locomotives were introduced in 1966 and the SD40-2 in 1972 of which CP acquired 535 of the two types to become the main road work-horses for the next couple of decades, most equipped with dynamic brakes. In 1988, CP ordered 25 SD40-2Fs, commonly called 'red barns', a state-of-the-art modified version of the SD40 with a cowl style body, that were seen regularly on the C & E line. Canadian National had several SD40s but only 100 had dynamic brakes due to gentler grades through the mountains and later versions sported the cowl style noses introduced by CN.

Passenger Diesel Locomotives

Early diesel passenger locomotives were streamlined cab units referred to as F units, sometimes with the letter 'P' indicating it had a steam generator for heating passenger cars such as the GMD FP7.

Dayliners at InnisfailIn 1955, Budd RDC (Rail Diesel Car) 'Dayliners' (introduced in 1954) replaced the Jubilees on the CP line. Dayliners cut the travel time from Calgary to Edmonton to 3-1/2 hours compared to the five hour run of the Chinook.

Dayliners also ran on the Canadian National lines between Calgary and Edmonton starting in 1956. One ran on the former Grand Trunk Pacific line through Three Hills, Delburne, Mirror and Camrose and another ran on the former Canadian Northern line from Drumheller through Big Valley and Stettler to Camrose where the two were combined for the rest of the trip to Edmonton. The service was discontinued in stages between 1971 and 1981.

When VIA Rail took over all CP and CN passenger service in 1978, the Dayliners continued on the CP Calgary-Edmonton corridor until 1985 when the service was cancelled.

Several types of diesel motive power were used during the last 30 years of passenger service on the CP line including E8s in 1973 and almost any other type of locomotive that was available when the Dayliners were out of service or there was a particularly high demand, usually around Christmas.

In the early 1980s, Via Rail tested a new style of passenger train in the corridor called the LRC that was proposed for the Calgary-Edmonton run but ended up only being used in Eastern Canada.

Colour Schemes and Logos

Consolidation 41 Stettler
In 1968, a new action red 'pacman' colour scheme replaced the tuscan red and grey for CP that had been used since the first diesels went into production. On the Canadian National, it was 1961 that the railway introduced its new look with the 'wet noodle' logo, diagonal black and light grey stripes (on its road units -- yard units were black) and orange-red noses on its locomotives replacing the green and black livery of its earlier diesels.

Heritage Locomotives

The Alberta Prairie Steam Tours that run from Stettler to Big Valley have a Consolidation 2-8-0 steam locomotive similar to those run by CN from 1920 to 1960 and a Mountain 4-8-2 6060 that ran on CN from 1944 to around 1960. It also boasts several vintage passenger coaches and a caboose.

 

 

Trails, Transit, Trains
Trails and Trains Overview
Trains and Transit Overview

Milestones 1910-13
Calgary Edmonton Trail
Transit in Central Alberta
Red Deer Transit

Jubilee 3001 Chinook
Locomotives Central Alberta
Rise and Fall of Passenger Rail
 

The Railways of Central Alberta
Calgary & Edmonton Railway
C & E Railway at Red Deer
Alberta Central Railway
Canadian Northern Railway
Canadian Northern Western RR
Canadian National Railway in RD
Grand Trunk Pacific Central Alberta
Lacombe & Blindman Valley RR
Timetable Excerpts
 
Railway Stations of the Region
C & ER Combination Stations
Portable Stations
Red Deer CPR 1910 Station
Role of Railway Stations
Red Deer's 4 Stations
CPR Stations in Central Alberta
CNR Stations in Central Alberta
Multiple Station Communities
Station Plans

 
Bridges, Structures, Heritage
Rail Structures of Region
Central Alberta Rail Bridges

Mintlaw Trestle
Alberta's Railway Bridges
Western Canada Rail Bridges



 

 

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