May 092015
Locomotive being lifted

Aspen Crossing, near the village of Mossleigh and not terribly far from Calgary, is a family friendly fun and entertainment venue, with a campground, a fine restaurant and numerous railway themed attractions (and much more). This group has recently acquired a stretch of track which to run tour trains, a former CPR branch line disused for a some time, but with the rails still in place. It runs right behind their facility and with lots of hard work has came into their possession, to be “unabandoned” and put back into regular service.

In order to pull these trains the, they have acquired a locomotive. Join us as we document it being delivered…by truck!

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Our subject today is a Montreal Locomotive Works (MLW) model S3 built in early 1952. Originally owned by Canadian National Railways, it was one of several dozen of this model on their roster. These compact switchers toiled away in yards and worked industrial spurs, rarely venturing outside these environments. MLW started in the early 1900s, building steam engines, and closed in the mid-1980s. For most of their history they were affiliated with the American Locomotive Company (Alco) in the US.

A short ten or so years after being built, the locomotive was sold to the Manitoba Paper Company (later Pine Falls Paper) in Pine Falls Manitoba, northeast of Winnipeg, and was used to switch their expansive mill.

In the late 1990s it found work at the Prairie Dog Central, a tourist train operator based out of Winnipeg. You could say this was a warm up for its Aspen Crossing job. In the mid-2000s it found its way to Moose Jaw Saskatchewan, where it was used to switch cars at a Parrish and Heimbecker Company (P&H) grain terminal. At times it could be seen adorned with Saskatchewan Roughrider’s flags. Go Riders!

In 2015, it was sold to Aspen Crossing. How they came upon it is a rather interesting story. They were in the market, a search that wasn’t going that well, and happened to bump into a person visiting their venue that was connected to the P&H company mentioned earlier, who knew, coincidentally, that his firm had a surplus locomotive for sale, in running shape and looking for a job. Pure chance.

Interestingly, the elevators in Mossleigh, in the past, belonged to the same P&H firm. A second rather interesting connection.

Under CNR ownership and again today the locomotive carries the number #8454. At times in between it was numbered differently. Its outward appearance today, overall, is pretty much as built. Roller bearings on the wheels where added sometime in the last decade however. It carries a “fuel sipping” (a relative term) six cylinder “Alco“ diesel engine creating over 600hp.

The locomotive, over sixty years old and still hard at work, will be used to pull Aspen Crossing’s tour trains, compromised of several 1950s era passenger cars, an open air gondola and caboose. Trains will run every weekend during the summer, and other select days. There are two possible destinations, which they’ll alternate. One of those runs will take passengers past the grain elevators that will be the backdrop for many of the pictures seen here. Some outings will have specific themes – Ales to Rails IMMEDIATLY caught my attention.

Round trips will take several hours and speed will be a blazing 10mph (16kph). High speed rail this is not! Rather it’s all about the fun, relaxing and slowing things down, spending time with family and friends, the pure joy of train travel. Roll along, soak it up and loose one’s self in the moment as the prairies pass by.

Mossleigh’s grain elevators, by the way, will be the subject of their own report soon. We visited them a few years back, but an update is needed. Notice each has it’s own distinctive lean.

The railway line to be used by the tour trains was built around 1930. It”s today a stub ended branch, which once extended further. Aspen Crossing owns the eastern end, the CPR the west, which then connects to that firm’s Calgary-Lethbridge secondary line. That is why the locomotive was trucked – there were rail cars in the way, which CPR stores on their stretch of track and was unwilling to move (ahhhhh, the always caring and benevolent CPR). Aspen’s section of the line, surprisingly, is overall not in that bad of shape despite not being used for some time.

The locomotive was brought up from Lethbridge and was unloaded along a stretch of track in Mossleigh, the only suitable sized flat space that was close to Aspen Crossing (about a click away). This beast, small by locomotive standards but still a substantial load, was carried on a huge multi-wheeled low boy trailer pulled by a heavy duty tractor. Shadowing it were pilot trucks. The locomotive trucks or bogies rode separate, on two flat decks. Two heavy road-cranes were used for the lift. They had a tender truck that carried blocking and rigging. Add it all up, it took an army of vehicles to accomplish the move. And lots of skilled manpower too. An ambitious undertaking!

The heavy haul trucking firm that handled this move, CDI International of High River, is no stranger to this sort of load. In the past, they moved Aspen’s dining car, the passenger cars used in the tour trains and that little yellow locomotive.

The bogies were offloaded first and the locomotive gently placed atop them. Part way into the lift a wind storm moved in, but by then they were committed to the move, which ended up being competed with no problems, even in spite of mother nature’s attempt to thrown a wrench into things. This wind whipped up the dust making photography a big challenge however.

From the time everything arrived at the lift site till the locomotive was hauled away took perhaps a couple hours. It was handled smoothly and professionally.

Once on the rails, Aspen Crossing’s other locomotive, a General Electric built (late 1950s) industrial “critter” hauled this new member of the family back to their facility for some final work. This engine is rather small and not really suited to haul the passenger trains planned and instead is put to work doing other yeoman tasks. This author, in the 1970s, crossed paths with it many times. It worked at the the Manitoba Sugar Company plant (Winnipeg) back then, only blocks from where I lived at the time. I used to hang by the huge factory often, watching cars being switched about. Later it worked at a sugar plant in Taber Alberta before coming here only recently. It too, ironically, arrived by truck.

Read more about these excursion trains here…
Aspen Crossing – Celebrating our Railway Ties!

A BIG thanks to Jason and the rest of the Aspen Crossing team, who went out of their way to accommodate us. A great group, every one, we wish them the best of luck.

If you’re ever out that way, take the time to stop by even if you don’t take the train. The dining is wonderful, we’ve been a couple times, there is a greenhouse, gifts shop and place to park your motorhome or trailer, for a night, or longer. No RV, sleep in one of their cabins, made from a real caboose.

More railway themed posts…
A day with the Battle River Railway A great post!
Manyberries Alberta Railway Station.
Locomotives of the Great Sandhills Railway

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

Date: April, 2015.
Location: Mossleigh, AB.
Article sources: Jason @ Aspen Crossing, Canadian Trackside Guides, Parrish and Heimbecker records, Book: Furrows of time – a history of Arrowwood, Shouldice, Mossleigh and Farrow, 1883-1982.
All photos were taken with permission.

Mossleigh grain elevators

In the distance, the grain elevators that’ll be the backdrop for this event.

Locomotive truck

One of the locomotive’s trucks…on a truck.

Moving a locomotive

Aspen Crossing’s newest acquisition, almost home.

Mossleigh AB elevators

The cranes get in position.

Locomotive bogie

The first truck (bogie) is placed.

Swithing locomotive truck

Lining things up.

Locomotive on flatbed

The locomotive arrives.

Lifting a locomotive

The sky boils above us and soon a wind storm would blow in.

Lifting a locomotive

Getting ready to lift.

P&H locomotive

Parrish and Heimbecker (a grain firm) last owned this locomotive.

MLW S3 locomotive

They make it look easy.

MLW S3 swither

The wind starts to pick up, but they’re already committed.

Cranes lifting locomotive

Aspen Crossing also owns this smaller locomotive.

Cranes lifting a locomotive

This engine was built in the 1950s…

Montreal Locomotive Works S3

…And is a Montreal Locomotive Works model S3 switcher.

Locomotive being lifted

A gust whips up the dust.

Aspen Crossing locomotive

In a few weeks time, this locomotive will be pulling tour trains.

Two locomotives

The engine on left will be used to pull the new one back to Aspen Crossing.

Switching locomotive truck

Cables and hoses will get connected later.

Locomotive being moved

Almost there…

Heavy lifting

Despite of the wind, there were no problems with the lift.

MLW locomotive

This engine originally belonged to the CNR.

GE 45 ton

This small industrial locomotive is from the late 50s and was made by General Electric.

Parrish and Heimbecker

Parrish and Heimbecker once owned the elevator in back too.

Cranes and locomotive

The cranes pack up, their job done.

GE and MLW locomtives

Fetching the new arrival.

Two small locomotives

In no time, they’ll be on their way.

Coupling together

Coming together…

Aspen Crossing locomotives

Off they go…

Alco/MLW locomotive

Bye bye! For now.


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30 Comments on "Aspen Crossing’s new locomotive gets delivered"

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Steve Boyko

Nicely documented! That sky was a great backdrop to the activities.

danny krump
danny krump

Do you mind if I quote this article as long as I provide credit and sources back to your page? My blog is in the very same niche as yours and my users would definitely love reading about how the locomotive was moved. Please let me know if this ok with you. Thanks!

Jason Sailer
Jason Sailer

Great job recording the move Chris! I am glad I got to see it at the Kipp Yard by Lethbridge. I know when Jason said they were going to move it by truck, that it needed to be recorded! Will be good to see it move the cars on the tracks!


An S3 locomotive weighs 200,000 pounds.

A B See
A B See

With the Trucks, Traction Motors and gear and wheel sets removed and transported separately, as done, here, the locomotive weighs AL0T less than 200,000


Read various newspaper articles on the move and you guys covered it best. Better pictures, better article. Good job,

RailTown Media
RailTown Media

Wanna see a locomotive fly?

William Hackett
William Hackett

(via Facebook)
Good to hear this locomotive will run again!

Trains Magazine
Trains Magazine

Shared on Trains Magazine Twitter feed.

Pat Russell
Pat Russell

Train buffs around the world are loving this. Great post!

David Dray
David Dray

Trains magazine brought me here! Get job documenting the move.

Harold Lee
Harold Lee

Outstanding series! I saw this on the news. Fascinating for sure.

Phillip Jaygo
Phillip Jaygo

I rode through Mossleigh numerous occasions with the way freight crew. This was in 1968 and 1969. The line was pretty busy then.

Michelle Hollander
Michelle Hollander

My kid is crazy for trains and really enjoyed this post.

Kelly McDonald
Kelly McDonald

I see that Canadian Railway Observations reposted this article on their site without giving any credit. I only found you were the source after a google search. I wanted to see more pictures and was lead here. Good job.