The moment I saw the original picture used in this report, I knew exactly where to go to find the location where it was captured. I have passed it by many times over the last twenty years. Then, thinking about it more, I became worried that it would be hard to do a then and now post using it. Outside the rail line itself there was only one other landmark visible in the old photo, which I knew was now gone. Not really a good start. We know we’re right in respects to the location, it’s just there will be scant visual evidence to prove it. As professionals, we hope you’ll take our word for it though.
The original photo is from 1970 and ours is from March of this year. The only constant between the two is the CPR line. The bridge seen in the old photo, the only other feature of note in it, was dismantled many, many years ago.
The track seen in front is the CPR’s MacLeod Subdivision secondary line, built in the 1890s, that today connects Calgary with Lethbridge. Back then there was also a second line, now closed, which travelled to Fort MacLeod and a third sleepy line, also closed, that meandered across the prairies in an easterly direction with no particular destination in mind (or so it seems). Our location is just outside the huge Alyth Yards. The freight seen in our “now” photo was preforming some switching moves and we only saw the middle of it.
Seen over the CPR line is a bridge belonging to competitor CNR. That company was a minor player in Calgary in comparison to its rival. The line seen came in from the east side of town, crossed the CPR tracks here and terminated a short distance away, to the left, at a small yard. This line opened in 1914 and was built by the Canadian Northern Railway. That company, always financially strapped, was folded into the present day Canadian National system, along with some other failing lines, in the early 1920s.
The line mentioned above was slowly cut back over the years. In the late 1980s it terminated at some industries just out of view to the left of out photo (the old Riverside Iron Works/Dominion Bridge complex). That section was pulled up in the mid to late 1990s and the bridge removed at that time. Now the end of the CNR track is about a kilometre away. For the most part any traces of the old line have been obliterated, save for the section between the current end of track and the east approach of the bridge (yellow line in last image). The sloping bank seen on the left in our photo is where the west end of the structure was located.
Check out the train in the 1970 photo. It’s being lead by three Canadian Locomotive Company (CLC) model H16-44 engines. These were built under license from the Fairbanks Morse Company in the US. The first, #8609, was built in 1955 and wears the then new “action red” paint scheme introduced only a couple years earlier. The second engine, #8553, and the third, #8721, were built in 1955 and 1957 respectively. Both wear the old Tuscan red and grey scheme. The last engine was from a group that was the final order for FM designed engines placed by the CPR.
The three locomotives were retired in 1975, 1972 and 1975 respectively – 1975 was the final year for any CLC locomotives on the CPR and two made it to the end.
The Canadian Locomotive Company was this country’s oldest such factory and dates from the 1850s. Originally a builder of steam locomotives, the transition to diesel was a bit rocky for them. The FM designs were not well received, compared to rival makers, forcing that factory to close in the 1960s. During the stream era, its main competition was the Montreal Locomotive Works (MLW), in diesel times, it was MLW plus General Motors Diesel Division (GMDD, London Ontario). BTW, MLW closed in the 1980s, GMDD (then EMD) in 2012. Canada has no more locomotive builders.
The CPR never purchased huge quantities of CLC diesels, compared to other makes, but since they tended to congregate in one region (southern AB and BC) it seemed like there were many more than there actually was. Canada’s other major railway, the CNR, sampled these diesel as well but for both lines, these locos soon became orphans. It was clear they were less reliable than competing designs, and disliked by those who operated and maintained them (even so CPR managed to get 20 years out of most).
The CNR got rid of their CLC locomotives by the late 1960s. CPR however held on to theirs for a bit longer and went on to became the last major railway to used FM designed locomotives in North America. They sure got their money’s worth out of them and the last were not retired until 1975. By then the fleet was a rag-tag collection (across several models), beaten, with peeling paint and smoking badly, but still at work. Given they were some of the last of their type in service, they became celebrities with the train watching crowd and people from far and wide came to the area to photograph them. Pure CLC lash ups like seen in the old photo, were not that uncommon at the time.
One generally favourable trait of the H Series (and all FM locomotives) was their ability to pull – they could lug like no other.
Fairbanks Morse, who had a factory in Wisconsin, had no greater success in the US selling locomotives then it did in Canada. Sales were always low and most US railways that purchased them got rid of theirs early on.
The flat car loads of pipe seen in behind the locomotives are likely destined to some oil or gas related project in the southern half of the province.
In our now photo and starting from the left we see a number of cars that carry coiled steel, a couple boxcars and an empty centre-partition lumber car among others. The latter is the right most yellow car and is located approximately where the bridge was back then. That structure, by the way, is a combination thru-plate, deck-plate design with timber-bent ends. Note the old CNR slogan on its side: “Canadian National Railways, courtesy and service.”
The original image is copyright Doug Wingfield. Thanks Doug for allowing us to use it. If you have an old photo like this and would like us to revisit the spot seen in it to check out what things looks like today and then document it on this blog, by all means send it to us. Contact information can be found below.
To see some other railway themed then and now posts, go here…
Canadian Pacific Railway then and now – Cochrane Alberta.
Then and now overlooking Wayne Alberta.
Nelson then and now.
If you’d like to know more about what you’ve seen here, by all means contact us!
Date: March, 2014.
Location: Calgary, AB.