A new era in railroading was witnessed by a large crowd as the first diesel powered passenger train pulled into the Canadian Pacific Railway station in Chapleau pulling westbound transcontinental train Number 3, the Chapleau Post reported.
The first diesel passenger train came through Chapleau on December 5th 1949, not January 9,1950 as I had reported earlier. Thanks to Ian Macdonald for the correction.
The Post described the diesel as a large three-unit blue and cream locomotive on loan from General Motors for test purposes in this "rugged terrain" that "purred in to the station and came to a smooth stop".
It was a 14-car passenger train with Wilfred Muske as the engineer and Raoul Comte as fireman from Cartier to Chapleau. Lawrence "Ton" Comte, has told me that his father had travelled to California for courses on the operation of diesel locomotives.
As permanent refuelling facilities had not been completed, the diesel was refuelled from a tank car on a siding.
The newspaper also reported that "veteran railwaymen were not entirely at home in the new locomotive. They felt it odd to be located in the nose of the locomotive with a clear view of the tracks ahead and at both sides.
"It was so quiet in the cab that the engineer, fireman and brakeman can talk normally without raising their voices".
While researching this article, it struck me that growing up in Chapleau in the !940s and 50s, it never dawned on me me that I lived in a part of Canada that William C. Van Horne,described as '200 miles of engineering impossibilities" because of rugged terrain between Cartier and Fort William, now Thunder Bay. My grandfather, Harry Morris, was a CPR conductor, and occasionally he would take me on a trip to Fort William or Toronto, depending which end he was working. What great experiences they were.
The November 2010 issue of CPR Tracks explains that the rugged 517 mile long Schreiber division was selected as a testing ground by the CPR for diesel locomotives.
It was part of this stretch to which Mr. Van Horne was referring.
The article notes that if the diesel locomotive could make it there, it could make it anywhere on the CPR line.
Initially, the article explains, the CPR was very cautious about the use of diesels preferring the dependability of steam locomotives. They let railroads in the United States work out the many engineering difficulties and complexities of the electrical system.
The CPR then assigned 58 diesels to the Schreiber division where there were also 77 steam locomoties working at the time.
Yard engine diesels were assigned to Schreiber, White river and Cartier, and in Chapleau it was Alco S-2 7044, and went there in 1949.
Ian Macdonald advised that CPR President Norris Crump was a fanatic advocate of diesel power and he really moved the process along much more quickly than was originally intended.
As an aside, it was a really historic moment in 1964 when J.M. "Bud" Park was the engineer on CPR Locomotive 5433 as it was pushed by the yard engine by engineer Earle Freeborn across the tracks on a specially built rail line from about the roundhouse area to its new home in Chapleau Centennial Park.
Mr. Crump attended a ceremony in Chapleau to mark its arrival in the park. Sam Chappise presented Mr. Crump with a rifle.
"I wonder if anyone could have imagined that the old fifty car freight trains would eventually transition to the container unit trains that are now more than two miles in length," Ian added. So do Ian!
ROBERT NIXON ON DOMINION DAY
Louise Cooper, the daughter of Winnie (Nixon) Rosseter, sent me the attached Nixon family photo from Dominion Day in Chapleau, circa 1918. Her grandfather Robert Nixon arrived in Chapleau from England in 1912, and worked for the CPR. All the best for the Canada (Dominion) Day weekend.
I extend special thanks to Doug Greig, Ian Macdonald, Reginald Fitzpatrick (the last Mayor of Franz), Brian Westhouse (an expert on the CPR and railways generally), and Louise Cooper for their assistance. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org