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Destined to Die Young

By F.H. Howard

Up in Canada 102 new little Pacifics were on their way to creating a small power revolution when the diesel showed up

No railroad has contributed more toward the perfection of the steam locomotive in North America than the Canadian Pacific. Its progressive attitude has been especially apparent in boiler matter: The first superheater, the first nickel-steel barrel, and the world's largest collection of welded boilers all breathed steam in CPR cylinders.

Scarcely heard amid the blasting tramp of Jabelmann's million-pound Union Pacific Big Boy - and completely drowned out by the snarl of Dilworth's Electro-Motive diesels with their wrenching drawbar pull were the CPR's sideway steps into the neglected field of branch-line power. In 1938 some 20 dainty 4-4-4's had been born of the realization that big engines couldn't forever be downgraded to all duties and that the light locomotive deserved research in its own right. In the late winter of 1944 the final fruit of this philosophy opened her cylinder cocks and coughed wetly out of the road's Angus Shops into Montreal's frigid sunshine. No. 1200 was a Pacific, but smaller than any built since World War I, and the first of a line destined to die young, its promise broken by internal combustion and electric transmission. There were then some 2004-6-2's working the Canadian Pacific's many miles of branch lines and some of its main lines too. These were of two groups, differing only in driver and cylinder size, and were all at least 30 years old. The new Pacific maintained the same general dimensions, had an identical tube-sheet layout in fact, and with 70-inch drivers, was given the same tonnage rating. But from front, where a steel casting replaced an oaken pilot beam, to back, where a Pyle-National lamp replaced an oil lantern, she had bestowed on her every development deemed suited to her kind of railroading. There were literally scores of improvements, and their cataloging belongs to the locomotive Cyclopedia, but here are some of the outstanding devices applied for the first time to a standard locomotive of these proportions:

Roller bearings were specified for the engine truck for reliability and ease of maintenance, and likewise a mechanical lubricator.

A Signal Foam Meter and an ET brake schedule were in the design.

A front-end throttle - CPR precedent dictated that the rod should run neatly through the handrail - and its inseparable partner, the bottom slotted dry-pipe used for some years on this railroad instead of a steam dome, were applied.

The 1200's vestibule cab was sprayed with an asphaltic goo instead of lined with tongue and groove, and her tender carried a well-sprung 8000 gallons to replace the 5000-gallon tank dubbed 'bobtail' by CPR huggers.

She flaunted her air-operated chimes up on the base of her stack, and her stack was high beside her huge contemporaries: and her lines were as impeccable as her gold striping was modest. CPR's Tuscan glory was reserved for the spectacular big power.

In all her custom-made brilliance Canadian Pacific No. 1200 came out of Montreal in 1944 to become matriarch for along list of offspring. Twin sister G5a No 1201 helped with the trails for the Pacifics; but through no fault of theirs the 1200's careers were doomed. C.P.R.

She went West, a twin, No. 1201, stayed East, and trials were staged under all manner of operating conditions. Dynamometer engineers reported coal and water rates of great economy, so in due course 30 more were built by the Montreal Locomotive Works, 15 for each region - Nos. 1202 - 1231. Stokers were made retroactive and the new series, G5b, mounted Elesco exhaust steam injectors under the fireman's seatbox. Two of them had welded boilers, and completing the wheelbase was probably the simplest trailing truck ever devised: not a truck at all, but an axle carried in the rigid frame with overwide pedestals set at a backward angle so when the axle moved laterally on curves, the journals were displaced longitudinally, giving truck action.

Another 40 were duly procured in 1946 for distribution in the usual ration as operating officials clamored for more of a good thing. Montreal built Nos. 1232-1251; Canadian Locomotive delivered Nos. 1252-1271. Save for coaming around the top of the water compartment on the tender and relocated injector piping, sub-class 'c' engines were duplicates of their predecessors. Sixty-two new little Pacifics were now handling a great proportion of the local and branch-line trains to say nothing of Nos.1 and 2 between North Bay and Fort William Ont. - plus turns on helper, way freight and pickup runs. By their very employment they were denied the high mileage of bigger engines, but the G5's availability was more than adequate. Much of the postwar traffic surge was moved by this fine power.

Then in 1948, steam no longer dominant in their locomotive plans, CPR motive-power men closed off the G5 class with the final 30 (Nos, 1272-1301) from Canadian Locomotive, all assigned to the Central Time Zone. The third variation in water preheating was applied, a revised Elesco poling its vertical bundle through the smokebox. This required a water pump and a place had been left for all along, covered with a piece of boiler jacket. It was on the left, borne on a skillfully frame-mounted casting that relieved the boiler course of weight-carrying studs and balanced the air pump hanging similarly over the main driver on the right. You won't see many locomotives with an air pump on the right.

You won't see any locomotives like Nos. 1200-1301 at all as a matter of fact until you go up onto the Canadian Pacific. Everbody should travel on this great railroad before he dies; the engines that, although a little late, started a small power revolution. If you stray off the main line at all, chances are you'll have one on your train.

The 1201 pulls out of Windsor Station, Montreal, with train No. 29, a local for Vaudreuil. CPR

Copyright Kalmbach Publishing reprinted with permission. Trains February 1954.