The tiny locomotive documented here was constructed in 1963 by the Canadian Locomotive Company of Kingston Ontario. It was one of the last made by this long established firm, at that time in business for well over a century, and was the very final example produced for a Canadian customer. This makes it a very special subject.
Coming by way of Fort William/Port Arthur Ontario (now collectively called Thunder Bay) and later Yorkton Saskatchewan, its home today is the rolling foothills of west-central Alberta. The location is a real working ranch that doubles as outdoor orientated educational venue and youth camp. The group overseeing it all, Aspen Ranch Canada, has set up a loop of track and brought in a number of other rail cars, and recently, this locomotive.
It’s hoped that all this rolling stock will be incorporated into an exhibit of sorts, where children can learn about railway history and safety. There are no plans to have train excursions. For one liability insurance is just too costly.
Sitting outside the open engine shed, the locomotive is fully operational and fired up every now and then. Weighing in at 40 tons (mainline locomotives can weight many, many times that) it uses a hydraulic type set-up to power its two axles and not a diesel-electric drive as found in the majority of locomotives in North America. It was built to a Davenport Locomotive design (USA) which CLC acquired the rights to in the 1950s.
Originally built for the Searle Grain company, it switched that firm’s train-to-ship trans-loading elevator in Fort William Ontario – that town and Port Arthur next door, (they were side by side) would join to form Thunder Bay in 1970. The Searle elevator was later squired by the Saskatchewan Wheat Pool. In the 1980s the facility closed and the locomotive transferred to the Pool’s other elevator on the Port Arthur side of town, where it stayed until the mid-1990s. At times it was listed as out of service.
Soon after it was sold to the grain firm Parrish and Heimbecker, and worked that company’s big elevator in Yorkton Saskatchewan until around 2009 when it was donated to Aspen Ranch (and the actual owner’s, Little Creek Historical Society). It was trucked to the site, work that was donated.
Rebuilt by P&H shortly before they disposed of it, sadly the locomotive suffered an engine fire not long after it arrived at the ranch. The compressor, generator and starter were damaged at that time and all needed to be fixed. Painted in a bright red, the ghost logo of the previous owner can be seen on the back of the cab.
Based on photos found online showing the unit, sometime in the last decade or so, the diamond shaped builder’s plate, located on the radiator grill, has gone missing. These are quite collectible and I’d be willing to bet an overzealous train buff swiped it. How ever it went missing, it’s a shame it’s gone.
This author has a photo showing the locomotive just as it emerged from the factory. Beside the placement of the bell and the exhaust stack and muffler, which are not seen at all in the old image, it appears today, exterior wise anyway, much as built. We could not get a good look inside the cab.
The Canadian Locomotive Company was a long time builder, supplying motive power to Canada’s railways and many others around the world for decades. Founded in the 1850s, they lasted until the late 1960s.
They produced a range of mainline and industrial locomotives, of which this the latter. Steam ruled until the late 1940s when the company made the transition to diesel, a change over that in the end proved to be unsuccessful. By the 1960s the firm was making very few locomotives, and even then only small industrial ones at that, and had to survive manufacturing other things (mining and industrial equipment for example).
This little engine was one of two CLC made in 1963 (business was that slow) and was the very last they sold in Canada. They would go one to make twenty one more locomotives, all of them exported, mostly to India, producing the last one in 1968. The factory closed completely the following year.
From the early 1950s till it closed, the formerly independent company was owned by Fairbanks Morse in the US.
There were other firms in Canada that once made locomotives with CLC being both the oldest of any and the smallest in terms of output. In the hundred plus years they operated, they made just over three thousand locomotives – in contrast big US factories at their busiest could produce that many in a handful of years!
Also at Aspen Ranch, and only to be touched on briefly here, is an interesting mix of rail cars. These inside an old 1920s passenger car (ex-CNR), a menacing snow plow (ex-CNR 1930s – apparently it’s too high to pass through the Winnipeg train shed), a box car (ex-CPR 1960s), flat car (ex-CPR 1950s), ore car (ex-CPR 1950s), a caboose (ex-CPR 1970s) and a maintenance of way speeder. The passenger car and flat sit on an uncompleted siding, eventually to be connected to that loop mentioned earlier. That was I guess, they can run a train of sorts, for fun, and go round and round and round…and round…and (you get the idea).
The other cars and other railway memorabilia are static displayed nearby, or at other parts of the property.
Cow pastures surround the train area and while we shot, we were watched by many curious bovines. They surrounded us at times! We visited just after a wicked hailstorm, but were soon blessed with lovely blue skies. A big shout out to Mother Nature, the light was nice.
Thanks to Aspen Ranch and the Little Creek Historical Society who allowed us access everything seen in this report. To visit their website, go here…
If you wish more information on what you’ve seen here, by all means contact us!
Date: June, 2015.
Location: Near Sundre AB.
Article sources: Books: Constructed in Kingston and the Canadian Trackside Guide, CLC records at Queen’s University, Aspen Ranch staff (thanks Dante).
Aspen Ranch is private property and we were given permission to visit.