Visiting the Alberta Railway Museum near Edmonton is like dying and going to heaven for a train geek like me. Their collection is so extensive covering many different eras and railways and one day is hardly enough time to explore all the equipment on display.
This museum is located just north of Edmonton and sits along the CNR’s Waterways branch. This line formerly belonged to the Northern Alberta Railways until it was taken over by the current owner in the early 1980s. Heading north, the branch terminates at a spot near Ft McMurray, home of the always controversial oilsands (or tarsands to the haters).
There is a large yard and workshops here and some 75 pieces of railway equipment (according to the museum’s website). The shops are well equipment and are seemly able to handle all manner of repairs or restoration. The staff is comprised of volunteers and the grounds are open to the public on summer weekends only.
The jewel in the crown of this collection, at the time of out visit, was Bullet Nose Betty or Bullet-nosed Betty. This 4-8-2 (Whyte notation) is also known as a Mountain type. It was built by the Montreal Locomotive Works in 1944 and earned its nickname account of the conical shroud on the smoke box. I guess it could be considered some form of rudimentary streamlining. There were twenty locomotives in this class with three examples still existent. The other two are on Ontario. All were collectively known as Bullet Nose Betties, not just this one.
This locomotive was retired from service in 1959 and a couple years later was put on static display at the Jasper Alberta train station. Sometime in the early 1970s, CNR restored it to operating condition and used it to haul excursions. Later in 1980, during Alberta’s 75th provincial anniversary, it was donated to the province. Restored a second time it visited Expo 86 in Vancouver and spent time here at the Alberta Railway Museum.
It now currently resides in Stettler Alberta and is frequently used to pull Alberta Prairie Railway Tours trains (they have other locos there as well). This is a very powerful locomotive and would be used to haul heavy and fast freight or passenger trains. This engine has outlived its maker which closed in the 1980s.
The other shining star is CNR 9000, an EMD model F3. Built in 1948 this makes it an early example of a road locomotive purchased by the CNR. The paint job on this unit is amazing and it shone like the sun. Used mostly in western Canada,the engine was retried in the early 1970s. Built by the Electro-Motive Diesel company in the USA, a division of GM, this was a very popular model with over 1800 built in an number of variations. Later examples of the upgraded F7 and F9 models were sold to the CNR and were produced in Canada by the General Motors Diesel Division (GMD or GMDD) in London Ontario. This locomotive factory closed in 2012.
Also an EMD product is a model NW2 switcher, number 7944. This was a very popular model and one of he first successful mass-produced diesel designs. This one dates from 1946 when CNR was still experimenting in the new and exciting world of diesels. It was retired in 1976 after spending all its days working mundane yard jobs.
Another steam locomotive is CNR 1392. This is a smaller locomotive suitable for local freight or passenger trains. See how tiny lit looks compared to Bullet Nose Betty in the double header pictures. Known as a Ten Wheeler or 4-6-0 in the Whyte notation this example was built in 1913 by the Montreal Locomotive Works. Retried in the mid 1950s it was put on static display in Edmonton before being rescued in 1970 and brought to the museum.
This engine is quite a movie star having appeared in many films. Noteworthy of that is “Days of Heaven” by Terrence Malick. We have the privilege of working with this director (actually his costumer) in the making of the film “Tree of Life”. We used to have a modest sized clothing factory (Cameo Intimates Lingerie) and we supplied period lingerie to that movie shoot.
Also at the Alberta Railway Museum is an endless collection of old rail cars, far too many to document in this pass. Perhaps we’ll revisit the place to do a late follow up report. That gives us a good excuse to return.
At the time of our visit it was a special day or open house at the museum (but I can’t remember what) and as a result nearly every piece of equipment that could run was operating. They even let us inside all the locomotives. They ran a passenger train up and down the museum spur, alternating between 6060, 1392 and 9000 on runs. The spur here by the way used to head farther west to the Canadian Forces Base Edmonton, but is now cut back here at the museum.
I’d love to return to the museum and I’m actually surprised I haven’t yet. It’s such a wonderful place
These pictures were scanned from 35mm prints taken in 1997. The quality on some has deteriorated a bit (sorry).
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Date: September 1997.
Location: Alberta Railway Museum near Edmonton Alberta.