Diesel Locomotives on the Crow (1 of 5)

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Diesel1After the Second World War, railroad companies across North America decided to replace steam locomotives with more modern and efficient diesel locomotives. Diesels burned less fuel, were more easily maintained, did not need as many servicing facilities for water and fuel and could operate with smaller crews. The savings were substantial. The Canadian Pacific began the process of dieselization in earnest in the late 1940s and early 1950s.

Diesel 2Diesel locomotives, or more correctly diesel-electric locomotives, are powered by a diesel engine which drives a generator to produce electricity. The electricity is then used to run electric motors that drive the axles on the trucks of the locomotive. By the late 1940s and early 1950s, this form of locomotive was much more efficient than most steam locomotives then in use. Even the newest steam locomotives were hard pressed to out perform the diesels and by the late 1950s steam locomotives that were just a few years old were no longer competitive.

Diesel 3The CPR's priority was to replace steam locomotives with diesels on its mountain runs where the economic advantages of diesels were greatest. The mainline through the Rockies and Selkirks was dieselized in 1952-1953 and a program was started to dieselize the Kettle Valley and Kootenay Divisions, which included the entire Crowsnest Pass Route, in 1953. New diesel servicing facilities were built in 1953 at Nelson to maintain the diesels operating across the southern Interior of British Columbia and in southwestern Alberta. Heavy repairs were carried out at the CPR's large Alyth Shops at Calgary. Studies indicated that just 73 diesels could replace all 92 steam locomotives assigned to the Kettle Valley and Kootenay Divisions in 1950 and produce substantial annual savings for the company. For employees, dieselization was not greeted with the same enthusiasm because it meant the elimination of many jobs in maintenance shops, the fireman's position was made unnecessary and the number of train crews was reduced.

Diesel locomotives were ordered in 1953 from the three major manufacturers who were building locomotives in Canada at that time: General Motors; the Montreal Locomotive Works; and the Canadian Locomotive Company. The diesels were made largely to designs developed in the United States. General Motors had plants building their locomotives in Canada and the United States. Montreal Locomotive Works built American Locomotive Works (Alco-General Electric) designs and Canadian Locomotive Company built Fairbanks-Morse diesels.

Diesel 4At first diesels from all three manufacturers were used on the Crowsnest Pass Route but within a few years the company decided to concentrate its Fairbanks-Morse locomotives on the Canadian Pacific's Kettle Valley and Kootenay Divisions. These locomotives were of two general designs: streamlined "cab" locomotives usually used for passenger trains but were also assigned to freights (the Fairbanks-Morse engines were called "C-Liners" and were models CPA16-4 or CFA16-4 and CPB16-B or CFB16-B) and "road switchers" (model H16-44) with a more functional design and outside walkways. These engines were used on freights and in general service duties. All of these diesels could be run together in sets of two, three, four or more locomotives that were controlled by the engineer in the leading locomotive. In this way extra helper locomotives assigned to locations near heavy grades were no longer needed, as they had been with steam locomotives. On the steam engines, each locomotive required a separate crew of engineer and fireman. By 1955, steam had all but disappeared from the Crowsnest Route and across southern British Columbia.

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