All Aboard! Exploring the Newfoundland Railway


Technology & Engines

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The Mikado Arrives

When Russell took over management of the Railway in 1923, its most powerful locomotives were the six 190-class engines which had been purchased from the Baldwin Locomotives Works, Pennsylvania, in 1920. It is one of those locomotives which remain on display in Corner Brook. Russell purchased four additional 190-class engines (two in 1926 and two in 1929) which were used on the main line until the 1000-class Mikados replaced them.

In 1930, the Newfoundland Railway received their first 1000 class 2-8-2 Mikado type locomotive, built by the American Locomotive Company. From 1930 to 1949, the Newfoundland Railway received 30 of these very efficient and stream-lined Mikado 2-8-2 type locomotives. The majority of these engines were converted from coal to oil burning in the 1940's. They were all scrapped by 1957 to be replaced by diesel powered engines.

The Age of Diesel

More and more larger locomotives were required to haul longer, heavier and faster freight and passenger trains. Following the First World War, steel began to replace wood as the primary construction material of railway cars, particularly passenger cars. Passenger cars during this period were heavily constructed, in order to provide both comfort and safety for the passengers.

At the beginning of WWII the Newfoundland Railway converted some of their steam engines to oil-burning units to adapt them better to the increased demand on the railway system. However, it was such increased demand that slowed any new developments. So this practice was deferred during the war years. The conversion from coal to oil resumed in 1947.

Newfoundland joins Confederation

The railway system itself continued to expand at a slower rate. With the entry of Newfoundland into Confederation in 1949, the province's railway line, The Newfoundland Railway, was transferred to the CNR. The 1,100 kilometre Newfoundland line was quite distinct from most railways in Canada, in that its track was narrow-gauge, or 1.067 metres (3'6") rather than the North American standard of 1.435 metres (4' 8").

One of the great changes the Canadian National Railways initiated in 1952 was a program to dieselize the Newfoundland Railway system. From 1953 to 1960, a total of 53 diesel electric locomotives built by General Motors Diesel made their way into the Newfoundland system.

The diesel engine in a locomotive is very much like the one in a big semi-trailer truck. Unlike a steam engine, a diesel engine does not usually drive the locomotive's wheels directly. Instead, it generates electricity, which then is used to turn the wheels. In the diesel engine, heavy diesel oil is injected into a cylinder of hot, compressed air. The fuel ignites, and the energy released pushes a piston, which drives the generator. The generator produces electricity, which drives a motor that turns the wheels. Several diesel locomotives supply the electric power to pull long trains.

A 4-6-0 locomotive blueprint.
Blue print for a 4-6-0 type locomotive used by the Reid Newfoundland Company. Railway Coastal Museum.
Steam engine #593 at the Train Museum outside on display in Corner Brook.
This 4-6-2 passenger express engine 593 was in service from 1922 to 1957. Formerly numbered 193 this steam engine was converted to oil in 1950 and is now on display the Railway Society of Newfoundland in Corner Brook. Wayne Greenland, 2006.
'Mikado' #1024 leaving St. John's.
The 30 'Mikado' locomotives numbered 1000-1029, were the workhorses of the Newfoundland Railway between 1930 and 1949. The steam engines were converted to oil-burning and renumbered 300 to 329 by 1950. They were all scrapped by 1957. A.R. Penney Collection.
Painting of the Mikado locomotive steaming through the Wreckhouse area.
The majority of the 1000-class locomotives were converted from coal to oil burning, but were scrapped in 1957 to be replaced by diesel electric. Railway Coastal Museum Collection. Artist W. Hancock.
900 class diesel engine blueprint.
Blueprint for a 900 class diesel locomotive, built 1952. Railway Coastal Museum.