Canadian Pacific Railway #4090 and #4469
Story and photos by Chris & Connie.
The Canadian Museum of Rail Travel in Cranbrook BC owns a huge collection of vintage train equipment. Founded in the 1970s, the organization has grown over the years and today occupies a huge tact of land on the far edge the community’s downtown core, just beside an active railway line. On display at one end of the property are two old diesel locomotives and a passenger station from well over a century ago, which all together is today’s subject matter.
Let’s first take a quick look at the station building. Constructed in the early 1900s in Elko BC, a town along the CPR’s Crowsnest line sixty some kilometres east, it was last used as a passenger depot in the 1960s. Afterwards it was re-purposed as a railway office before closing in the 1980s and being moved to it’s current location to be put on display.
Standing alongside one of the busiest streets in town, the station was completely renovated soon after the move, and for a period housed the museum’s reception centre and gift shop. The group quickly outgrew the small building.
A couple years back there was a suspicious fire at the Elko station but fast acting crews quickly doused the flames minimizing damage.
Speaking of fires, forests burning up around the province cast a thick and odd blue-ish haze over the landscape which accounts for that surreal almost murkiness seen in the photos.
Right beside the station are a pair of locomotives that once belonged to the CPR. Both date from the 1950s, and are models FA-2 and FB-2 respectively. Mechanically, the two are similar, only one lacks a cab meaning it can only act as a trailing unit. The CPR once owned twenty of the former and six of the latter, all built in the years 1951-1953.
In addition, the railway also rostered a good number of earlier FA-1/FB-1 (built 1949-1950) models along with a small number of passenger service FPA-2/FPB-2 units (built 1953). There is little difference visually between all the parallel model groups mentioned.
All of CPR’s FA-2/FB-2 series, these one included, were turned out by the Montreal Locomotive Works or MLW, a prolific builder of steam and later diesel engines, founded in the early 1900s and closed in the 1980s. Canada once had many locomotive makers over the years, now there are none. Much of the firm’s diesel output was built under license of the American Locomotive Company in the US. Alco, as it was called, went belly up in the late 1960s, leaving MLW to carry on for a time as an independent.
This style of locomotive, unlike those seen today, have a fully enclosed car-body. This sort of arrangement generally fell out of favour in the 1950s. With their smooth flowing lines, they’re stylish and scream speed, but from a maintenance and even a functionality standpoint, were less than ideal.
These locomotives lasted in CPR service until 1977. This pair was set aside as historically significant and sat for a good many years. I understand many mechanical parts were stripped off them and either replaced with ones in non-operational condition, there are many mismatched parts, or removed completely in the case of stuff on the inside. They were stored back in eastern Canada where most of the FA/FB FPA/FPB series locomotives once operated (they were comparative strangers in the west). Once at the museum they sat in primer paint for a time, but recently were done up in the CPR’s old school colours used in the 1950s. All nice and shiny, they make a striking pair.
The CPR’s southern mainline runs right behind the museum grounds. We catch a train powered by some of the CPR’s newest locomotives – well technically they’re rebuilt, but on such an extensive scale, that they’re in many ways considered new. These are EMD model SD30C-Eco units dating from 2013. They were sitting with a short, what looked to be, maintenance train in tow.
This stretch of track is a conduit for products heading to the US (bulk potash being one), via a connecting line that meets up with the border further east, and for materials heading to and from the huge smelter at Trail BC. In the past, the track used to travel all the way to the coast and was called the Kettle Valley/Crowsnest route. It sees a moderate number of trains per day.
The old Cranbrook train station, much changed over the years and housing railway offices today, stands not far from where we shot our photographs. The building is in fact midway between what we’ve shown here and the main museum complex a short distance away.
On display nearby…
Canadian Pacific Railway octagonal water tower
If you wish more information on what you’ve seen here, by all means contact us!
Date: August, 2015.
Location: Cranbrook, BC.
Article sources: Canadian Trackside Guides, Canadian Museum of Rail Travel Cranbrook.
Everything seen is publicly viewable.