Hudson Bay Trials

In searching for some files in the National Archives the other day I came across a reference to the testing of US Army locomotives on the CN line to Churchill, Manitoba. I called for the file and this is what I found.

The US Army wished to test some of their locomotives in severe cold weather conditions and felt that the Hudson Bay Railway would be as good as any. An agreement was concluded with Canadian National to carry out the tests. On December 18, 1952, an EMD-built 1600 hp road switcher, No. 1820, made its first run on train Nos. 503 and 504 between The Pas and Churchill. This testing continued until April 30, 1953 when the unit returned home.

During this period, No. 1820 worked 18,266 locomotive miles and, in the process, used 39,000 gallons of fuel at a total cost of $8,700. CN was well pleased with the test because the unit was provided in place of a steam locomotive which would have used 1,100 tons of coal at a cost of $16,500 - in other words total savings of some $7,000 by using the diesel. The US Army was also pleased with the results of the test although they had hoped for more weather lower than -30 degrees Fahrenheit!

An 85 foot hospital car was also provided and made several runs between The Pas and Churchill. It had originally been intended to test a 2-8-0 Lima, 1952 vintage, steaa locomotive at the same time. This was not done presumably because it was felt that the days of the steam locomotive, even though this was virtually brand new, were numbered.

As a follow up the US Army carried out two, further series of tests commencing January 1, 1954. This involved a 1600 hp diesel, No.  B-2041, equipped with a steam generator, on train Nos. 123 and 124 and two 400 hp freight units were used in yard service at The Pas with a few fill in trips to Sherridon.

The file is interesting but it leaves a number of questions? Do any photographs exist of the trials? What locomotives were used in the freight trials (possibly GE 44 tonners?). If anyone can provide further details I would be very grateful.

SOURCE: Public Archives of Canada, Record Group 12, vol. 2780, file 3572-21.

Bytown Railway Society, Branchline, January 1988.

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