Rail Engines - For the Love of Trains

Father’s Day weekend is fast approaching and if you’re familiar with us here at Aspen Crossing, you’ll know it’s the Trainiest Weekend of the Year!

For the Love of Trains

One of the first questions we usually get asked about our train is, “is it a steam train?” Now being that we LOVE trains, we wondered at that question? What difference does it make? The rail romance still embraces you regardless of how it runs. Seriously, it could be electric and we still would love it! So, with that ever-pressing question, we thought we’d train our thoughts on how steam and diesel came to be in the evolution of trains.

Water by Fire - Fading Twilight of Steam

“The basic principle on which the initial steam engines worked was “condensation of water vapor to create a vacuum”.

Rail transportation in the early 19th century powered by steam, opened up new markets, while connecting regions. The days of horse and buggy travel taking months to get across the country was truly revolutionized by the railways.

By the early 1960’s, steam trains were all but erased by what was deemed the more efficient, economical diesel trains.

Inefficiencies, costs, manual labour and health issues were all factors in the race with various patent seeking engineers and industrialists to find a better way to transport goods and passengers across the country.

A Steamy Rail Romance

One of our five senses are sound. For many of us, we come from a generation or have family that was a part of the steam rail romance era. For many of today’s generation, the steam engine is nothing more than a myth of a by-gone era. But for those that know and have heard the claim, it’s in the hiss of a steam locomotive, the sound you hear as it rumbles along the track. Clickity clack, clickety clack.

Our sense of sight combined with sound, gives an even greater sense of awe about these magnificent iron horses.

“The start with its first uncertain puff, then the rhythmic power growing heavier and heavier, quicker and quicker and quicker until the car wheels ticked the rail joints into new, strange lands.”

Internal Combustion - Introducing Adolf Diesel

However, by the early 1960’s, De-Steamification began replacing these mighty engines with its newer counterpart.

Thanks to the studies by Rudolf Diesel. By 1896, Diesel had fine tuned the internal combustion cylinder to provide 75% efficiency over steam.

It was a natural progression that the railroads moved towards a more economical way of transporting goods and passengers across the country. While it may have cut down manpower, it was said that a single steam engine could pull as much as 5 diesel engines combined. The mighty steam engine had a much stronger horse power. That’s why it earned its rightful name of, Iron Horse.

However, the costs and lack of efficiency just couldn’t compete with diesel.

What’s in a Name

We recently had a request to create a naming contest for our Engines. Both of which are diesel. While each of the rail cars pulled by our diesel engines are named after local hamlets/towns, both present and past; train Engines are historically named with their own unique number.

The numbering is all about classifications along with tracking maintenance. That’s the short answer, there is a much longer one, but suffice it to say, trains are named, engines are numbered.

The following is some basic information on the two engines we currently use for our train excursions aboard the Aspen Crossing Railway.

Engine 8454

Engine 8454

  • Arrived April 29, 2015

  • trucked for the last 75 miles, from Lethbridge, Alberta.

  • Nearly 200,000 pounds

  • A 1952 Alco S3

  • Built by Montreal Locomotive Works

  • Last owned by Parrish & Heimbecker at Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan.

Engine 1624

Engine 1624

  • Arrived March 19, 2016

  • Built by GMD as GP9 #8515 (1955). Rebuilt by CP as GP9u, chop-nosed and renumbered to #1624 (1986). Equipped with CANAC remote control 'beltpack' equipment. Mated with Slug #1020. Declared surplus (4/28/2015

When That Whistle Blows

When the Aspen Crossing Railway returns to the station after most of our excursions, the number of true train enthusiasts is made evident by the number of people of all ages.

Our engineers invite passengers of all ages to take a peek in the engineer’s room with the single goal of letting that engine whistle blow. The unmistakable sounds of a train whistle, thankfully is still with us all regardless of which generation we’re from. For many of us here at Aspen Crossing, you might say the rail romance is in the unmistakable sound of the train whistle. Short, long, or multiple “whistling off” that can be heard for miles, still seems to thrill most of us.

“There's something about the sound of a train that's very romantic and nostalgic and hopeful.” Paul Simon

So why not join us for a chance to begin a rail romance for the sheer love of trains! All Aboard . . . See you this Father's Day weekend!

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