Until recently the only General Electric (GE) locomotives operating in Canada were small industrial-type switchers. However with the advent of the North American Free Trade agreement Canadian National, British Columbia, Quebec North Shore and Labrador and Canadian Pacific Railways have begun to purchase GE locomotives for main line service (CN formerly had 45T and 70T switchers in branch line service in the 1950s and a few survived into the 1980s). CN and BCR have purchased locomotives with the more traditional DC traction motors but Canadian Pacific Railway has invested heavily in new technology in the form of AC traction motors (partly perhaps because of their steeper grades through the Rocky Mountains as compared to Canadian National's route). BC Rail has also purchased some second hand GE units from Santa Fe.
Three four axle 3600hp B36-7 were initially leased by Great Canadian Railtour Company from Santa Fe to haul their prestigous tour train the "Rocky Mountaineer" from Vancouver to Jasper and Calgary. These units were built in 1980 with the 16V-FDL16 engine and have a top speed of 65mph. During the winter the units were often leased to other Canadian railroads and seen in freight service.
three units were purchased by the British Columbia Railway from Santa
Fe along with thirteen others in 1995 and they are currently being
upgraded by BC Rail. Initially they retained their Santa Fe numbers
7484-7499 but as they are upgraded they are being renumbered into the
3601-3616 series, class GEF 36.
The Roberval & Saguenay Railway in Quebec operates five B23-S7 (Super 7) locomotives which were rebuilt on the frames of traded-in U23B units using 12V-7FDL12 engines
National was the first Canadian railroad to purchase main line GE
locomotives - 30 of the 4000hp Dash 8-40CM (C40-8M) units in 1990
(2400-2429), class EF-640a. These six axle units were fitted with a
"Draper Taper" full width carbody (designed by Mr Draper of CN),
dynamic brakes and a pacesetter (for slow speed control while loading
unit trains). The locomotives had a 16V-7FDL16 engine and a top speed
of 65mph although they were fitted with 73 mph gearing. Initially the
locomotives were based in Montreal and hauled Laser trains (express
freights) in Atlantic Canada, Quebec & Ontario. Now they are
based in Edmonton but sometimes still appear in Halifax.
Rail purchased 22 similar units in 1990 (4601-4622) and four more in
1993 (4623-4626) both class GEF 40. All these units are fitted with
universal Locotrol II which permits unmanned units in the middle of the
train to be controlled directly from the lead unit by radio control.
All the BC Rail units have been upgraded to 4400hp beginning in 1996.
The Quebec North Shore & Labrador (QNS&L) purchased three similar units (401-3) with Draper Taper and bell above the cab windows and these were built in 1994.
1992 Canadian National received an additional 25 units (2430-2454),
class EF-640b in the CN North America livery. They are similar to the
first batch but the bell is no longer above the front windows of the
cab but below the running board.
National also has a long term lease on 25 C40-8W (DASH 8-40CW) units
(LMS 715-739) from Locomotive Management Systems for the six winter
months of each year. These locomotives have only two rectangular front
windows and a nose which slopes down to the corners. They were built in
the US style with headlights above the front windows (where Canadian
locomotives usually have the bell) but they do have snowplows and ditch
lights although the latter are below the front platform.
1994 Canadian National purchased 23 six axle 4400hp Dash 9-44CWL units
again fitted with the 16V-7FDL16 engine (2500-2522), class EF-644a.
These did not have a full carbody apparently because of increased price
but are fitted with dynamic brakes and a pacesetter and again are
restricted to 65mph although they have 73 mph gearing. They too are
based at Edmonton, Alberta. Note the bell and number boards above the
four front cab windows. The nose slopes to the side but not to the
front as on LMS 718.
second batch of 60 locomotives (2523-2602) with only two front windows
and a nose sloping to the corners as in LMS 718, was delivered to CN in
late 1997 and early 1998. The number boards are above the front windows
and the bell is below the running board on the left side. The ditch
lights are above the running board.
Rail purchased 4 units (4641-4644) class GEF 44 as an add-on to
Canadian National's 1995 order. They are also fitted with universal
Locotrol II and can be used as lead or remote mid-train units. However
I was told that the crews and their union prefer not to have them in
the lead position because of the lack of exit doors from the cab. I
understand that modifications are to take place.
Rail, now Canadian Pacific Railway, has long been a purchaser of
General Motors GP38-2s and SD40-2s. In 1995 they switched suppliers to
General Electric and ordered the 4400hp AC4400CW with 16V-7FDL16 engine
with a top speed of 75mph. All units have AC traction motors and are
equipped for portable Locotrol equipment. They are class DRF-44 and
altogether 265 units have been delivered (CP 9500-9683 & SOO
General Electric manufactured B-B 44 ton, 70 ton, and 95 ton railroad switchers from 1940 to 1958 and a few of these units came to Canada.
Canadian National purchased 44 ton (44T) units in 1947 & 1956 and 70 ton (70T) units in 1950. They also purchased second hand a 44T and an 80T unit. The 70T units (26-43) were the last to be scrapped and some were used on light rural branch lines in Prince Edward Island until 1983.
Canadian Pacific did not purchase any GE switchers.
GE also manufactures a wide variety of industrial switchers and many small firms have purchased new and second hand units, several of which are still operating today. Photo of some of these are included in the home page on shortline and industrial railways in Nova Scotia (see index page).
The White Pass & Yukon Route runs north fron Skagway in Alaska through Bennett, British Columbia and Carcross, Yukon to Whitehorse. It was built in 1899 at the height of the gold rush and was temporarily closed in 1982 when the Cyprus Anvil mine at Faro shut down. The line is currently open from Skagway to Bennett but is being refurbished through to Whitehorse. More information at Boerries Burkhardt's WPYR pages or at the official WPYR page.
The line has eleven 84-86 ton 800-900hp GE "Shovel Nose" units built between 1954 and 1966.
Newfoundland also had 3 B-B 380hp 44 ton switchers purchased by the Newfoundland Railway in 1948 (#5000-2). These were transferred to CNR in 1949 and renumbered 775-7 in 1950. The units were sold to Costa Rica in October 1968. (Thanks to Peter J. Byrne for the information)
Canadian Trackside Guide published annually by the Bytown Railway Society, Ottawa
Extra 2200 South published quarterly by Iron Horse Publishers, Blaine, Washington.
Branchline - the magazine of the Bytown Railway Society, Ottawa
The Second Diesel Spotters Guide by Jerry A. Pinkepank, Kalmbach Publishers
Material present on this site copyright ©1998 - 2001, Pat and David Othen all rights reserved.
Last updated on 22 March 2001