A Ride on the LRC
(The LRC is in the news these days, with Amtrak's trains in service, Via's trains due to appear this fall, and some test runs already appearing in Ottawa (see news item this issue). Colin Churcher managed to get a ride on the original prototype v/hen it started running in 1971.)
I rode on the LRC train on one of the demonstration runs that were made between Montreal and Ottawa in September 71, this particular trip being from Ottawa over the Canadian Pacific line.
The steel grey train with its wedge-shaped front and low, clean lines immediately gives one the impression of comfort and speed. Obviously, here is something that is new and exciting. While talking to some of the large number of railwaymen gathered to examine the train, it became quite evident that, although it embodies some new techniques, many conventional railroad features have been retained. The Ottawa General Yard Foreman was looking over the new equipment with a practiced eye. He told me that the equipment would be familiar to railway staff in any yard in North America. This is a vary important point because the design of railway equipment has been an evolutionary one embodying successive improvements. The LRC contains much that is new, yet the designers have been careful to retain what is good from earlier railroad technology.
Once on our way, we were quickly able to appreciate the improvements that have been made to the riding qualities of the coach. At slow speeds, while travelling over switches, the banking mechanism does tend to exaggerate the movement but it also slows down the rolling so that the motion is quite pleasant. It is at higher speeds that the banking mechanism really comes into its own. The ride is good, particularly around curves at high speeds where the car is banked to overcome centrifugal force.
The designers of the vehicle have gone to great lengths to keep sound levels low. This is most successful and I found the ride not only smooth but very quiet. In some ways this is almost a disadvantage because with such a smooth, quiet ride it is difficult to gain an impression of our true speed.
The locomotive is another example of an adaptation of proven technology to today’s needs. The prime mover, the diesel generator set, is a standard product which has been in service in many locomotives on the Canadian Pacific system for a number of years. The locomotive has been adapted, for example, with a different gear ratio to allow high speeds, but the fact remains that it would be familiar to maintenance shop forces throughout the system.
The cab of the single ended locomotive was quiet, even at high speeds -a very pleasant departure from the normal locomotive cab which frequently has very high sound levels, Dick Ibert, the fireman on my trip, was able to call out the aspect of each signal we passed without the necessity of shouting (it occurred to me that the engineman's normal ability to lipread might become a thing of the past if these quiet cabs became universal). The control console is somewhat different from the standard North American locomotive, more like a desk stretched across the width of the locomotive. There is obviously some influence from Europe and Russia here. It does allow a clean grouping of the easily reached controls. One item that the engineman will have to get used to is the combined throttle and brake handle which replaces the two handles on the standard locomotive.
The view from the cab is good although the riding of the locomotive could have been better. On certain stretches of track the locomotive developed a horizontal motion that became quite unpleasant, even at relatively low speeds.
What are my impressions of the LRC? It looks new, exciting and fast. It is all of these things. At the sane time it seems to satisfy the railroad man who, by tradition, tends to be very conservative. What we have in the LRC is, in effect, new improvements to basic well-proven railroad technology. The LRC does not represent a technological breakthrough so much as a well thought out improvement to what already exists. I am sure that this fact will contribute greatly to the success of the train.
Bytown Railway Society, Branchline, May 1981.