Aug 062015
Bear with light sabre
Canadian Pacific Railway then and now – Banff Park

Story and photos by Chris & Connie.

We’re deep inside gorgeous Banff National Park armed with an old photo showing a train. Our goal, find the spot where that image was captured – easy enough – and then shot a similar one for inclusion in this BIGDoer “then and now” post. To complete our project we’ll need a train to show, but we won’t have to wait long for that to happen. Just as we set our angle, a good sized one makes an appearance.

The old photo was sent in by a fan. Thanks Johannes. It’s from his collection but nothing is known about it otherwise, for example like who shot it.

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Seen in the old image is something rather interesting, not a normal passing freight, but a CPR promotional train that introduced a new company image. It traveled across the country with much fanfare in the fall of 1968 and was photographed extensively. I wonder if the person who shot the old image was hoping to catch it specifically or if it was purely by chance?

The train includes two Montreal Locomotive Works model C424 engines, made under license from the American Locomotive Company (Alco). The “C” stood for Century, in honour the parent firm’s centennial. Four indicates the number of axles, and twenty four represents the horsepower in hundreds.

The CPR owned fifty one of these locomotives, produced in the years 1963-1966. The CNR also had a good number of them. Not really suited for mountain territory, they were somewhat overpowered and hence a bit “slippery” and so would rarely be seen on the the CPR’s western lines. Real thoroughbreds, they’d often be used on fast freights, short and speedy “hotshots” back east where the grades were less challenging.

The two, #4239 and #4242, were built in 1965 and 1966 respectively and were retired in 1998 and 1997 respectively. One was not scrapped however, #4242, and instead was sold to a US railway to be used as a part’s source to keep others locomotives running. I understand it either still exists, all stripped down, or at least did so until recently. The other was cut up.

The Montreal Locomotive Works was founded in the early years of the twentieth century and closed in the 1980s (parent Alco shut down some years earlier).

This train contained one of each type of car the railway owned (I’d guess 8-12 different ones), all shiny and nicely painted up in the new company colours and logo.

For decades prior to the new image, the CPR’s colours were mainly red and gray (a very pleasing look). For the new one, locomotives were painted in a bright red, “action red”, as it was known, while cabooses were yellow. Each type of car had it’s own unique colour too. The new company logo was called a “multimark”, a moniker no doubt hatched in the mind of an ad-executive, and was a sideways facing pointed shape laid atop a half circle. Among train buff, starting in the 1980s, it known as known as the “Pac Man” logo. While CPR locomotives are still painted red, the multimark has not been used used for decades.

Seen in our photo is a passing double stack train, a long one, powered by a good number of General Electric (the largest locomotive manufacturing firm in the world) engines. The lead one is a model ES44AC (#8856) built in 2007 and the other an AC4400CW (#9652) made in 1997. As you can see the two models are visually very similar. The train had a couple more locomotives, which we didn’t bother recording the numbers or models of (all were GE however).

We saw a second train the hour or so we spent here. In the quieter moments between we read or day dreamed and sipped a good Riesling. Train spotting with a wine-buzz is a blast! I have a feeling we’re not normal in respects to how we participate in this endeavor.

This is one activity where we get to slow down. We’re always go-go-go and this affords us the opportunity to take a breather every now and then. A couple hours of doing very little and relaxing. We don’t do it enough.

The location here is along the Bow Valley Parkway a secondary road in the park. Mountains tower overhead (Mt Cory is the peak in back). The Bow River flows right behind our position and the backwater seen is an ox-bow lake made by that waterway. The track is the CPR’s busy east/west mainline built in the 1880s.

We line up our “now” shots in camera using a special grid-system technique we’ve come to master over the years. No post production work was done afterwards to help in that respect. We get it right, in-camera.

Most of the “then” photos used in this ongoing series are sent in by readers. Do you have an old image that shows something from long ago (train or street scene, an old building) that still exists in some form today that you think should be used like this, then just drop us a line. It can be an actual photo (we’ll return it) or a scan.

More train themed then and nows…
Trainspotting then and now – Calgary Alyth Yards.
Crowsnest railyards then and now.
Canadian Pacific Railway then and now – Cochrane Alberta.

If you wish more information on what you’ve seen here, by all means contact us!

Date: July, 2015.
Location: Banff Park, AB
Article sources: Canadian Trackside Guide, CPR archives.
We shot from public property.

CPR Banff Park

Some forty five years separate these images.

Bear with light sabre

Not a big fan of train graffiti but this bear with a light sabre made me chuckle.

Train spotting

This is how we train spot – a book for the quieter moments and wine.

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8 Comments on "Canadian Pacific Railway then and now – Banff Park"

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Gregory Kawelski
Gregory Kawelski

Good one! Real good!

Jon Marks
Jon Marks

Well done! I saw this on the Trains magazine fb page!


If you spend your time photographing trains, likelihood is, you are alone. Nice that you can tag team.

Jack Kwong
Jack Kwong

That’s a beautiful location! A box of Timbits to enjoy trackside is what I bring along.