This pair of cocooned locomotives call Nelson British Columbia home. It’s hoped they will eventually be put on display near the town’s restored railway station but for now are stored nearby on a siding, not publicly accessible and “under wraps”, awaiting the next move. Both date from the 1950s and while unseen under all those coverings, they are nicely painted up in Canadian Pacific Railway colours of the era. Seen nearby are a couple vintage transit buses, expats from Alberta which we’ll just touch on briefly.
In order to protect the units from weather, and vandals (who sadly have still made their mark), the units are kept tarped. The fellow whose job it is to check they’re still in place and the ropes taught invited us to take a look at the pair, and even volunteered to partially uncover one so we could have a quick peek before re-wrapping it tight. Wish we could see them in all their glory. Next time maybe!
The first unit is a model H16-66 (hood unit, sixteen hundred horse power, six axles, six traction motors), built by the Fairbanks Morse Company, Beloit Wisconsin in early 1958. This model combined brutish pulling power with the ability to tread easily on lighter rail. Among rail buffs the model is known as a “Baby Train Master” (or Trainmaster), unofficial, given it’s visual similarity to the larger, more powerful and officially named “Train Master”, aka model H24-66, produced around the same time.
This H16-66 was the second last built. The model’s run was 1951-1958 and about sixty were produced. Two survive.
While wearing Canadian Pacific Railway colours (a handsome paint job), the company never actually owned this locomotive, nor in fact any of this model. Still it’s close in appearance to ones they did roster, H16-44s and H24-66s built by FM’s licensee here, the Canadian Locomotive Company, Kingston Ontario. It’s #7009, which is within the CPR’s numbering block reserved for “demonstrator” locomotives (so the idea being the railway was testing this unit). No other Canadian Railways owned this model.
Before making its way north the unit worked for various industrial firms in the US. The original owner was the Aluminum Company of America who later sold it to Squaw Creek Coal (later Peabody Coal). Sometime in the late 1980s it was moved to a rail display and themed restaurant in High River Alberta (this author photographed it there long ago – go to end of this text for a link). Joining up with the other locomotive seen in this post (now under the same owner, the two are seemingly inseparable), it stayed there for many years. Later it was stored at the CPR shops in Ogden Calgary and painted as seen today.
The second unit is Canadian Locomotive Company, Fairbanks Morse USA designed, CPA16-4 (Cowl unit, passenger service, A=cab equipped, sixteen hundred horsepower, four powered axles) built in 1954. The CPR had a modest number of this model on the roster, along with similar “freight” versions and cabless “B units”, built between 1951-1954. Fact: many passenger locomotives also worked freights.
Always carrying the number #4104 it remained in service until 1975, one of two C-Liners (as they were called) still at work for the railway by that point. The CPR, by the way, was the last major carrier anywhere to operate FM designed units in quantity with many H Series and those couple C Series lasting into the summer of 1975.
The unit was set aside for a time. Was it because it was historically significant or just forgotten about, we don’t know. From the late 1970s to the late 1980s it was located at a railway museum in Edmonton.
Soon after it showed up in High River and later went to Ogden always tagging along with #7009. It was painted in the late 1990s to the current scheme (and may have been repainted since).
In the early 2010s, both #7009 and #4104 made their way to Nelson. Then they left, travelling all over BC and Alberta, for reasons unknown (a clerical routing error is suspected) before returning. Odd. Today they sit in a small weed-chocked yard within sight of their supposed new home.
Interestingly, they’re sitting very near the site of the former Nelson Shops, torn down many years ago, which was the maintenance base for CLC/FM locomotives in Southern BC (where most were based). Unit #4104 visited the shops many times while working in the area, old photos attest to that..
Both locomotives are privately owned by the same person, the reason they’ve stuck together so long. It’s planned they be put on display at the Railtown complex, built around the former CPR Nelson station nearby, but it’s not clear when they’ll make move. Calls/emails to the group behind it all have gone unanswered and their website says little in regards what they have in store for the pair. The owner didn’t return our calls either and even the fellow who invited us in wasn’t sure. Do you know? Please comment!
To the best of our knowledge both units are mechanically complete, or mostly so, but do not run. Not sure how much work would be needed to bring them back to life. I suspect a lot, and tons of money too.
Fairbanks Morse made locomotives from 1944-1963. The Canadian Locomotive Company did so from 185x-1968 (including thousands of steamers). In the 1950s they made FM designs for use in Canada.
The buses? The pair once worked for Medicine Hat Transit and date from the 1950s/early 1960s, ex-#741, and it’s thought #728. They’re TGH-3xxx series models from General Motors. Bus nuts casually refer to them “Old Looks”, simply as a way to distinguished them from the official New Look bus model from that same maker, which was built concurrently for a time.
These belong to a firm, Harvest Moon Promotions of Medicine Hat Alberta, who use (or used) the left most bus as a mobile Drive-in Theatre. The second it’s thought is a parts source to keep the first running. Not sure if they’re moved the operation to Nelson BC permanently, or if they’re just there temporarily. Perhaps they’ll chime in. We tired messaging them with no luck.
That run-in with the H16-66 in the 90s…
Fairbanks Morse H-16-66 Locomotive.
If you wish more information on what you’ve seen here, by all means contact us!
Date: June, 2016.
Location: Nelson, BC.
Article references and thanks: Canadian Trackside Guides, Book: Constructed in Kingston, RailRoadForums.com, Nelson Star, Ken Baker, Canadian Public Transit Discussion Board.
The locomotives (and buses) are on private property with no public access. BIGDoer.com visited with permission.