Came this close – I mean a hair width is wide in comparison close – to calling this post “Bury me when I die at the Alberta Railway Museum”. Heck, I even hinted at it in a preview of this article. As a train buff I’d relish the opportunity spending all-eternity here with these historic locomotives and rail cars…not that I plan on passing anytime soon. I mean, hanging around with a bunch of stiffs in the cemetery or forever and a day in a place this fantastic? Seems like a no-brainer.
The Alberta Railway Museum is located just north of Edmonton, a place it’s called home since the early 1970s. We’re here on assignment to document the loading of a steam locomotive, #1392, onto a truck (oh, the irony) for delivery to Stettler to participate in an event in celebration of Canada’s birthday. We’ll post a link in a bit. The whole process takes time and in between things happening, we roam the museum shooting this and that, what ever catches our eye.
This is not a complete tour – this place is far too big to catch it all in one pass, heck even two passes, but I think you’ll get an idea what the place is about. Perhaps we’ll go back to show you more some day. Now enough of this talk, let’s take in the collection. This is one BIG post so prepare yourself!
1) CNR #1392, a fine old steamer in operating condition, built in the 1910s, and the locomotive that’s getting moved. This photos captures it in the still of the engine house, beforehand. It’s all quiet now – but it’ll get busy and chaotic later. Want to see the loading process? Go here: Canadian National Railways #1392. But first, finish reading this post.
2) CNR #6311 built in 1957, has just got a makeover. This locomotive is a GMD (General Motors Diesel Division, London Ontario) model FP9. In the late 1970s it started working for Via Rail, Canada’s national passenger network, was upgraded in the 1980s, before being retired in the 1990s. It’s privately owned and not part of the permanent museum collection.
3) Behind the boom of a huge rail crane, Northern Alberta Railways #302. The company operated a series of lines north out of Edmonton and was taken over by the CNR in the early 1980s. This is a GMD model GMD1 built in the late 1950s, and mostly roamed the NAR’s lighter-railed branch lines, a job it was well suited for. The CNR donated it to the museum a few years ago and repainted it in the old company colours. It carries the name “Chief Moostoos” after a First Nation’s leader.
4) The “news” is on the scene to document that steam locomotive move. Here we see a camera-person recording an interview off frame. Personal observation: these guys seemed to work hard at trying the patience of the museum people and the trucking firm doing the work.
5) Looking down the Museum’s Mainline. The track only goes for a short distance today but in the past continued on to a military base a few clicks to the east.
6) This old boxcar (CNR #509893) holds tools and equipment – it’s dates from 1930 and is sheathed in wood, one of he last of this kind made before they went to all steel. The firm that made it, National Steel Car, Hamilton Ontario, is still pumping out rail cars to this very day, and is the last such firm here in Canada. There used to be many.
7) Just before #1392 gets collected. In back, an old switch engine, CNR #7944, in the shop for some work. This is a model NW2, made by EMD (ElectroMotive Division – part of General Motors) in the US. Built in 1946, it was one of CNR’s first diesel switchers and came to the Museum in the 1970s. It’s in operating condition. EMD would later go on to open GMD in 1950, to better serve the Canadian Market.
8) Every turn there’s lots of equipment to see. Chief Moostoos in back.
9) Last minute preparations (greasing) to #1392. A second volunteer chats with Leo DeGroot (in the vest), a rail buff who’s here to make a video of the move. In back, a shiny “F Unit”.
10) Grand Trunk (US), #4520, a 1950s era EMD GP9. This railway was owned by the CNR. The GP9 was made in Canada too and in both countries was the most popular locomotive of the era. We got to visit with sister engine #4519, still hard at work in Southern BC. See: The Railway.
11) Leo’s rig ready to film the steamer being pulled from the shop.
12) This little locomotive, languishing away in the back-forty, once worked at a cement plant. It was built by General Electric in the US, in the 1950s. The firm still makes locomotives today, although not diminutive ones like this. If you saw a train today there’s a good chance it was being puled by a GE locomotive.
13) Northern Alberta Railways #73 – we’ll take a closer look at it soon.
14) Random stuff, this switch lock.
15) Bogie (truck) details on a locomotive. Details: brake shoe on left, brake cylinder top and that pipe coming in from the right, it’s a sander – the grit gets sprayed on the rails when additional traction is needed.
16) A small switcher that once worked in a local steel mill. It’s a GE product too, from the 1950s. It once worked in Ontario. In back, past the old baggage car, the steamer gets a push. It’ll head down the track in front, once it negotiates a troublesome switch – you really need to read: Canadian National Railways #1392.
17) Another FP9 from the 1950s, #6304, all bright and shiny like it just came from the factory. Much as #6311 mentioned earlier, it later worked for Via Rail before being acquired by that same private collector spoken of before. The museum has a sideline storing and restored old railway equipment. Got to make money where you can – still they’re horribly underfunded.
18) The collection is staggering. So much to see, so little time!
19) The little switch engine that pushed steamer #1392 to the loading area. Overnight rains have collected in this low lying area and will cause problems with the move. Check out that link a couple paragraphs above.
20) A view to the loading area. The steamer will soon be dragged onto a trailer using a ramp, power coming from a winch.
21) Canadian Railserve #7961, stored for its owner. This locomotive once worked in the US (Illinois Central) and was built in the early 1950s (EMD) as a GP7 – later it was ungraded to “GP8” standards. Railserve provides contract switching services using a rag-tag group of old locomotives. This one waits on a new job.
22) The steamer, all loaded up. Also seen Canadian Railserve locomotive #1561 (GP9, 1954, ex-CPR) and in back, the tail end of the passing Canadian National Railways freight. This line in the museum’s outside rail connection to the world and is branch that goes up to Fort McMurray (to the “Oilsands”) from Edmonton. Containers on straight flat cars are odd – usually they travel in well cars – and branch line containers doubly so. Trains are infrequent, we’re told by museum staff, so this is a lucky catch.
23) NAR #73. Built in the late 1920s by the Canadian Locomotive Company, Kingston Ontario, it’s been at the museum for a long time and is one of the earlier pieces in their collection. Word is the museum plans on doing some work on it soon. It is looking a little ragged.
24) An inside view. No creature comforts here – hot as Hades in summer, drafty in winter, dirty and noisy, rough riding and those long hours. Train crews back when were hardcore. Try and figure out what all those valves and levers do.
25) Randomness – cobwebs.
26) CNR #6514, another “F Unit” (FP9, GMD 1957). These were the archetypal passenger power in this country circa 1950s-1990s. This one also worked for Via Rail, before being finding a job at Ontario’s Algoma Central Railway pulling tour trains for a time.
27) The underside of an old passenger car. All that character.
28) The museum owns the old St Albert (a town not far away) NAR train station. A view from the platform.
29) Low numbered CNR #4, the one given the job of pushing the steamer around this day, dates from the mid-1950s. The railway had a half dozen of these tiny switchers which were the smallest on the roster. These did light duty jobs. The builder was GE (again) and most rail-types refer to the model as a 44ton (the Lafarge loco seen earlier looks similar but is a 50ton). From the 1960s to the early 2010s it worked at a pipe plant in Camrose, southeast of Edmonton.
30) Row after row of vintage equipment including a century old boxcar to the left. Ponder how many miles it travelled while in service?
31) This old wood passenger car is too far gone to save. No one we spoke with seemed to know its lineage.
32) The loading of #1392 is complete.
33) Agawa, a gem of a rail car and also owned by that private collector spoken of earlier (his name is Gary Southgate BTW, and seems to get much hate form the railway fraternity, unfairly in this author’s opinion). This century old car has had a series of owners over time. Most recently it worked for the Algoma Central in Ontario. What a opulent car, a real showpiece. Not sure Gary’s long term plans for it.
34) In stained glass, the former owner’s logo.
35) A stateroom. While in Algoma Central service, on Agawa Canyon Tour Trains, you could rent one of these. Ohh, those deep, rich woods. Unplanned selfie!
36) In comparison, this mundane coach. Pure function, plain and simple, a cattle car for people.
37) Something to haunt my dreams. A face…there’s a FACE!
38) Loaded up on Inter-Rail Transport’s trailer, the firm given the work, #1392 is ready for the road. The destination is Stettler Alberta and the Alberta Prairies Railway Tour line, where it’ll join another steamer (see: Alberta Prairie Railway Excursions #41) in celebration of Canada’s 150th. We did not get to see the over the road segment of the move or the unloading at the other end. The whole thing was to take one day, but rain and mud caused delays, so it ran long. And we had to be somewhere else.
39) Rust. After sitting out in the open for close to a century, you’d look a little rough too.
40) Photobomb by the BIGDoer-mobile – somehow it always manages to get in a shot. In back, steamer #1392 ready to go. But it won’t move until the following day.
41) A water tower used by steam locomotives. These could be found near everywhere in the old days. The octagonal building helped insulate the tank from the cold and if temperatures really plummeted, a coal stove could warm things up enough to keep it all from freezing. The ball on top indicates the level in the tank. Down low like that means it’s empty. In front, a CNR “Rule Instruction Car”.
42) Bombardier, of Ski-doo and Sea-Doo fame is also a big player in the transportation business, train stuff included. They rebuilt this loco (one of the F-Units seen) at some point. Locomotives can last almost forever if they get a thorough rebuilding every so often.
43) Three F-Units in one scene (backside view of one), including CNR #9000. This is an EMD model F3 built in 1948 (until GMD came online in 1950, Canadian production of GM locomotives came from the states) and was the first production road locomotive acquired by the railway. Retired in 1970, it’s been at the museum ever since. They call it their “signature” locomotive. It’s fully operational and is used on “passenger runs” here.
44) Number #9000 moves some cars about. It sounds sweet. To its right, the St Albert Depot.
45) CPR #5000, a GMD model GP30 built in 1963. Popular in the states only two were ever built for use in Canada (the other was CPR #5001). The styling was unique in railway circles and far less utilitarian than most locomotives. It was retired in the 1990s and has been here since the 2000s. It’s stored for the time being.
Hope this motivated you to visit the museum. You think the collection is stunning in these photos (and we got some good ones this day), it’s even better in person. Here’s their website: Alberta Railway Museum.
This post was underwritten in part by Team BIGDoer, who work tireless behind the scenes on jobs that then finance these articles, along donations and gifts from our readers. Thanks all. Want to help? There’s a link a few paragraphs above.
If you wish more information on what you’ve seen here, by all means contact us!
Date: June, 2017.
Location: Edmonton, AB.
Article references and thanks: Alberta Railway Museum and their volunteers and staff, Canadian Trackside Guides, Inter-Rail Transport Edmonton.
The Alberta Railway Museum is open to the public in the summer.