Today we’ll be looking at a vintage steam locomotive. Located in Stettler Alberta, this near century old machine, number #41, is still hard at work and is used to pull train loads of tourists down a scenic railway line. It belongs to the Alberta Prairie Railway Excursion company and is one of two engines in regular service. The other is a 1950s era diesel. We caught it basking in the sun, right next to a restored grain elevator. Perfect!
This locomotive was built in 1920 by the Baldwin Locomotive Works in the US for the Jonesboro, Lake City and Eastern Railroad of Mississippi and Arkansas. That railway, in the mid-1920s, was taken over by the St Louis-San Francisco Railway (aka the “Frisco”), who continued to use the engine until just after World War Two. It was then sold to the Mississippian Railway who operated it well into the 1960s, long after most other carriers had rid themselves of steam. .
In 1967 a railway club in Alabama acquired the locomotive and not longer after it was in the hands of a museum in the nearby state of Mississippi. In the late 1980s it made its way north to Stettler and has been there ever since.
When built the locomotive was given number #41. For most of it’s operational history however, it was #77. Once acquired by the APRE group, it was given back its original as-built road number.
This is a 2-8-0 in the Whtye notation system and is known as a Consolidation type. It has two guide or leading wheels and eight that are driven. It was powerful for its size yet could travel down light rail branch lines with ease. A general purpose style locomotive it was best suited for yeoman-type duties: local or branch line freights and yard work. It would not typically be used to pull passenger trains but could do so in a pinch, albeit at slower speeds – its low drivers meant it couldn’t fly like a true passenger locomotive.
The majority of 2-8-0s were built between the years 1890 and 1920 when they were made obsolete by larger more advanced locomotive designs that followed. Even so, most had long careers, a testament to their versatility. By Consolation standards #41 is fairly small.
The company who constructed this engine, Baldwin, at various times in its history was the largest locomotive manufacturer on the planet. Founded in the 1800s they went out of business in the 1950s. While they excelled at making stream locomotives, the transition to diesels did not go well for them. Baldwin did not typically supply engines to Canadian railways, domestic builders Canadian Locomotive Company and the Montreal Locomotive Works did so instead. This makes the engine a bit of an outsider, y’all (a shout out to its southern roots).
In the 1990s Connie and myself and our kids rode the APRE train from Stettler to Donalda (this line was later abandoned). Pulling our train was #41. The engine makes a brief appearance in the 1994 movie Legends of the Fall. I am certain it’s appeared in other films as well.
If you do a search online, one can find photos of #41/#77 in service at various times in its history. It’s interesting to see how it looked over the years. It’s not changed much!
Number #41 has is an identical sister engine that surprisingly still exists. Known as #40 (naturally) it’s in the US and is not currently operational.
You’ll notice two odd dimples on the front of the locomotive pilot. These are poling pockets – simply, in situations where a car needing to be moved on a parallel single ended siding that operationally was facing the wrong way, a push-pole would jammed between it and the locomotive which could then move it to the desired position. This dangerous and for the most part uncommon practise was outlawed a long time ago (1960s, I believe). You may still see older cars and locomotives so equipped, so keep an eye out for them.
The APRE trains operate May through December, with #41 being used mostly on peak summer weekends. The diesel takes over on slower days and for most late season runs. Occasionally a second steam locomotive, CNR #6060, will called into service. However it’s currently out of commission awaiting repairs and does not seem to be on the property. Bullet Nose Betty, as its known, is a real thoroughbred and is much larger, more modern and far more powerful then #41. It’s so big, it almost seems out of place.
We’ve only included a single picture of #41. This one turned out so well, it was all that was needed. Seen in behind is an old grain elevator which will be the subject of its own report at some point.
To see some other railway related posts, check out these links…
Locomotives of the Great Sandhills Railway.
Canadian Pacific Railway then and now – Cochrane Alberta.
East Coulee road/rail bridge.
If you wish more information on what you’ve seen here, by all means contact us!
Date: July, 2014.
Location: Stettler, AB.