In this train themed then and now we position ourselves at the east end of the Canadian Pacific Railway’s huge Alyth Yards Calgary, in an attempt to duplicate a photo, sent to us by a reader, that dates from the 1980s and shows that very location. Not only were we able to match up the background nicely in our image, very well in fact, we were lucky enough to catch a train as it switched the yards, much like the one seen in the old photo. Now that’s how it done.
The CPR came though Calgary in the 1880s. The yards here were established some time shortly after, growing in size and importance over the years. With the advent of unit and dedicated trains (one commodity for one customer or destination), a fairly recent occurrence, the marshaling of cars is not as important today as it once was. None the less there is still a lot of switching to be done and in both photos we see that happening.
The CPR’s mainline seen here, after exiting the yard (eastbound) crosses the Bow River and parallels a canal for a while (right and off frame). A public pathway today today allows easy access to this vantage point, It was not in place when the ’80s photo was shot. There is a fence between you and the trains, so being tall helps if you want to see any of the action.
The person who sent us the old photo doesn’t know the exact date of it, but thinks it’s from the latter part of the 1980s. Looks about right to us.
The then photo is rather small in size and the locomotive number hard to read. We believe it’s #1635 however. This is a model GP9u made in the company shops (in nearby Ogden) and built atop an older locomotive, a General Motors Diesel, London Ontario, model GP9 (formerly CPR #8626) outshopped in the 1950s. Upgrades at the time were made to the electrical system and modifications to the car body.
The engine still exists and was in the mid-2000s rebuilt yet again, and modified so much that today it would be unrecognizable. It’s new life is as a demo unit for a line of “green” hybrid locomotives.
In our “now” photo we see CPR #2287. It’s an EMD (Muncie IN) model GP20C-eco, only a few months old, built using some salvaged parts from older locomotives (railways are always frugal). We were so busy taking photos that we failed to record the number of the second engine seen. We know by its appearance that it’s a General Motors Diesel model GP38-2, built in the 1980s. CPR has a lot of these and uses them in yard service such as this.
Besides the change to the CPR’s bridge in back – look at the side girders – and the arrangement of the tracks, the scene today is much as it was. The second much taller bridge seen far right belongs to the CNR and clearly stands in both photos. Many of the poles in the yard are still in place. Look for yourself.
We caught a bird mid-flight as did the other photographer and almost at the same place (top centre-ish).
The Bonnybrook train bridge partially collapsed during the spring 2013 floods and took until recently to be fully repaired. There is a link below that shows what it looked like just after that event. It made the news back then!
The then photo was sent to us by a fan of this website and comes from his family’s collection. Thanks, Jason, we appreciate you allowing us use of it (and would to have loved to know more, like who shot it). If you have an old photo like this that you’d like us to use in a then and now post, send it our way. Our contact page will help you along in regards to this.
Our now photo was composed in-camera and no cropping or shopping in post was done to help to line up the background. That’s how we roll, doing it right using the skills we’ve been given only and not taking the easy way out.
See what happened to the CPR’s Bow River (Bonnybrook) Bridge in 2013…
Collapsed Bonnybrook train bridge
More railway themed then and now posts here…
Crowsnest railyards then and now.
Canadian Pacific Railway then and now – Downtown West End Calgary.
Silver Steak movie then and now – walking the tracks.
If you wish more information on what you’ve seen here, by all means contact us!
Date: April, 2015.
Location: Calgary, AB.
Article sources: CPR company records and archives, CNR company archives, Canadian Trackside Guide, BIGDoer.com files and archives.
The location seen in these photos is publicly accessible.