The Canadian Locomotive Company

Transcribed from a newspaper clipping found in the Wilfrid MacDonald Coombe Collection. This collection consists of three albums of photos taken by Wilfrid Coombe of Kingston, Ontario. The albums plus several railroad artifacts were donated to the Central Frontenac Railway Heritage Society by his nephew Eldon Coombe.

The Canadian Locomotive Company, commonly referred to as CLC, was a Canadian manufacturer of railway locomotives located in Kingston, Ontario. Most of the early steam locomotives for the K&P were built at this facility when it was called the Canadian Locomotive and Engine Company Ltd. (CL&EC).

The Kingston Whig Standard


First Locomotive of Recent Order Is Undergoing Tests

Canadian Locomotive Plant Here Is Really Many Factories Under One Roof – Engine and Tender Weighs 609,500 Pounds – Other Engines Will Be Completed Later

Product of a Winter’s labour and representative of earning power restored to many a Kingston working man’s home, the first of five engines being built by the Canadian Locomotive Company for the Canadian National Railways is now on the tracks in the C.L.C. yard. True, there still some finishing touches necessary and the engine has to pass innumerable rigid tests before it will be accepted by the C.N.R., but already it has passed several such tests with flying colours.

“It is a splendid piece of mechanism and a credit to the Canadian Locomotive Works, a C.N.R. official told The Whig-Standard during one of the trial runs. The engine was being put through her paces and was performing in sterling fashion. Up and down the yard the engine snorted, now crawling, now gliding along at a fast clip, coming to an abrupt stop, backing up, and in every instance her performance was up to the highest expectation. This first public appearance of one of the locomotive quintuplets has been an unqualified success.

Bearing the number 3801, the engine is similar to the C.N.R. locomotive 3800 class built at the Point St. Charles shops, Montreal, in 1930. This type is designed for bad water districts in Western Canada. and the outstanding feature is the external dry pipe. The dry pipe is on top of the boiler, eliminating the dome, and extending forward to the superheater header.

A pipe leads from the back end of the dry pipe to supply saturated steam to the right hand turret in the cab. An auxiliary steampipe connects the superheater header with the left hand turret, for supplying superheated steam to the auxiliaries. There are any amount of new features on the engine but a mere recital of their virtues would mean little to the layman.

Engine Performed Perfectly

To the casual onlooker the most remarkable feature about the engine is that it runs so perfectly on its first trials. There are thousands of parts to such a huge engine and with a maze of cooper pipes disappearing into a mysterious interior and valves jutting out all over, it would seem that surely something must be in the wrong place and several adjustments would be necessary before the engine would respond to the human hand. Such however, was not the case. So much care and skillful workmanship had gone into the locomotive that it has behaved exactly as the local company officials knew it would.

To the reporter, who attended the trail runs, the most amazing thing about the engine was the ease with which it can be set in motion and stopped. Even such a comparatively simple piece of machinery as an automobile with it’s three speeds, foot pedals and the rest of the equipment appears more difficult. There is some slight difference between firing an engine and pouring gasoline into a tank, of course, but we won’t go into that.

Presuming that the locomotive is all steamed to move, the first step is to push forward the reverse lever similar to the hand brake on a car. Then the engineer slowly opens the throttle. The engine starts to move and the throttle is let out another notch and this is repeated until the engine is moving at the required speed.

To slow down the engine there is the brake handle which can be moved with the thumb and forefinger as high air pressure sets the massive brakes in operation. In driving a locomotive engine, there is no such thing as slapping on the brakes and coming to an immediate stop. The brakes are applied and then released and the procedure is repeated until the engine is slowed down enough to leave the brakes on.

Reporter Drives Engine

Just to illustrate that operating an engine is easier than might be expected, officials allowed The Whig Standard reporter to handle the controls. With some trepidation the reporter put his hand on the throttle and the snorting, steaming iron and steel monster started to move. Faster and faster the engine flew as the reporter let out another and still another notch in the throttle. It was the thrill of a life-time to be able such fine work set such a juggernaut in motion. After driving forward the equivalent of a couple of city blocks the reporter brought the engine to a stop, reversed and then backed up for the same distance.

Now, it is not to be gathered from the foregoing that driven an engine can be mastered In a few moments. Even in that brief moment that he had his hand on the controls the reporter was able to appreciate an engineer’s job. With valves and gauges on all sides registering what various unseen but all–important component parts of the machinery are doing, the engineer has a full time responsibility operating his locomotive and seeing everything is working as it should.

It is a good thing that the locomotive runs on tracks and that no steering is required for the engineer can see only what lies directly ahead of the right-hand side. All view to the left is cut off by the engine itself. And every time the locomotive approaches a crossing and the engineer perceives cars travelling toward him, he’s faced with a decision that may hold the fate of human life. Will the car try to race the engine to the crossing? Should he put on his brakes and to what degree? He has this responsibility to his passengers, his freight, the approaching cars and to his company. The fireman has much the same responsibility on the left-hand side of the cab. It is a job that calls for lightning decisions that must be accurate to the nth degree.

On the newer type of engines, of which 3801 is such a splendid example, the flreman has much easier and cleaner work than was the case formerly. The coal is automatically fed into the fire-box by a worm screw. Everything about the engine’s behavior is indicated by gauges on the back head in the cab. A pair of overalls would keep an immaculately dressed fireman in that condition from one end of his run to the other.

Weighs 300 Tons

The total weight of the engine itself and tender is 605,500 pounds or nearly 305 tons, the engine itself tips in at 337,200 pounds while the tender weighs 272,3000 pounds. The maximum tractive power of the engine is 56,200 pounds. The combined wheel-base of the engine is 76 feet, 3 ¾ inches and the engine stands 15 feet, three inches high while the tender boasts an extra inch and a half. The firebox is 120 1/8 by 84 ¼ inches.

One by one the other members of the locomotive quintuplets will be brought out into the yards for tests. At the present, they are in various stages of completion. The entire five were built like steps of stairs with the first being several weeks farther advanced than the second one and so on down the line.

The plant of the Canadian Locomotive Company is huge, covering many acres, and being infinitely more spacious than most people would believe. Inside it seems to be in a state of chaos upon casual inspection, with piles of iron and steel lying here, forms lying there, and odds and ends scattered here, there and everywhere. Actually, however, all is systematic and orderly and calculated to eliminate every possibility of waste of time and labor.

Every department is highly specialized. Each man has a specific duty to perform and the work clicks off like clock-work. Out of the apparently hopeless jumble of the shops comes finally a new shining steel locomotive, an amazing metamorphosis from the car-loads of steel and iron that went into the plant only a couple of months before.

A Whig-Standard reporter paid visits to the plant once a week during the winter and saw, step by step, the creation of a locomotive. Under his eyes he could see the engine definitely take shape until finally it was ready for its test. Nothing is left to chance. Every phase of the work is rigidly inspected not only by company officials but by C.N.R. men as well.

Blacksmith Shop

The first step in making a locomotive is taken in the blacksmith shop. Billets of steel, weighing many tons, form the raw material. These billets are placed in a huge furnace and heated to a tremendous degree. Then they are picked up by a crane and maneuvered into place by means of tongs which roughly resemble a pair of pliers. In fact, all lifting is done by means of cranes and chains, situated at strategic points all over the plant. There are huge cranes capable of lifting entire locomotives as easily as a man would pick up a rubber ball.

The billets are placed on the anvil of a large hammer weighing in the neighborhood of 35 tons. By repeated blows of the hammer the steel can be forged into the desired shape for the various driving and connecting rods. One man operates the hammer while others guide the steel. Levers permit the operator to work the hammer at any desired speed and to deliver anything from a light tap to a blow of many tons pressure. This massive hammer can be so controlled as to gently tap a delicate watch and do no harm. Turn on the pressure, of course, and the timepiece would be flattened thinner than leadfoil.

The hot steel can be cut into any desired shape under the hammer by the use or bars and blocks and the correct is gauged by means of forms. From the original blocks of steel there are now rough copies of the ultimate coupling or connecting e rod. The rods are subjected to an annealing heat and shipped to the machine shop where they are machined and begin to take on the appearance of the finished product.

On the machines they are milled and grooved. Precision and exact measurement is the slogan of the plant. A Swiss watchmaker could not take more care in his craftsmanship or derive more pleasure upon completion than do the C.L.C. workmen. Rarely are such rods spoiled. If they are spoiled, there is no alternative but to throw them away.

Syphons Are Important

Syphons form an important and integral part of the new engine turned out by the Kingston plant, which makes all used in Canada. The syphons are designed so as to intensify the water circulation. They are made from huge plates of steel of an inch in thickness and are of so intricate a design that it astonished the reporter that such fine work could be done with such coarse material. This is true of the entire locomotive, of course.

The shop where this work is done ls similar to a dress-making room, but the men work with heavy plates of steel instead of cloth. The pattern is chalked on the surface of the plates and cutting work is done with acetylene torches instead of scissors. The edges are smoothed up and holes for the bolts are drilled. The pieces are then placed in the syphon machine, which is one of two on the continent, the other being in Cleveland. One piece is bent into shape at a time, being balanced on a long tongue of the machine and doors weighing five tons each fall on the free ends.

About seven times this process is repeated and the piece now resembles a huge door hinge. Another machine flanges the piece and a sufficient number of stay-bolts are screwed into position to make the syphon hold its shape under pressure. The open ends and sides are welded together, the syphon is oiled and the remainder of the stay-bolts put into place and the job is ready for construction.

To get even a representative picture of each shop would tax the patience of the most gracious reader. For that matter, the work really has to be seen to be appreciated. To those who take a locomotive engine for granted such a trip through the plant would be a revelation.

Hydraulic Press

By means of the hydraulic press machine all work requiring flanging and the like is handled as easily as though it were made of tin instead or heavy steel. The machine is operated by water pumped from the lake which shoots through a maze of valves and winds up lifting a 30 ton accumulator which gives the necessary pressure. The piecework is brought from the furnaces along rollers and placed under the machine. A touch of the levers and the steel is pressed and flanged as desired.

Huge rollers, looking for all world like giant washing machine wringers, bend the heavy plate that makes the boiler. Although the massive plates are very heavy inanimate objects to handle, they can be bent and rolled to any desired shape or condition.

Not the least remarkable feature about the locomotive plant ls the pattern shop, five storeys high, and filled with a pattern and form for every part of every engine the company has built. These are catalogued and indexed so that it is an easy matter to replace parts on engines made years ago and now in service in the far corners of the Dominion.

The moulding shop or iron foundry deserves an article of its own, for here some of the most spectacular work is done. Cast iron parts of the engines are made here and it is a thrilling sight to see tons of molten metal being poured into the sand-packed forms.

Some idea of the size of the C.L.C. plant may be gathered from the fact that it takes 30 tons of coal a day to operate it in cold weather. It is a large factory containing a myriad of smaller factories, each self-contained. The main shops include the following: Blacksmith, iron foundry, brass foundry, hammer, boiler, tank, tender, tin shop, pipe, two machine shops, bolt, erection, booster department, carpenter, pattern tool electrical department, drawing room, maintenance department, power house, stores and yard.

Everything necessary for the locomotives is made right in the plant with the exception of steel castings, which come in rough and are machined and assembled here, and a few other comparatively minor items. Even the bolts are made in the plant.

When it is considered that engine 3801, now on the tracks, is one of the largest types of locomotives and there are four others like it almost completed, some idea of the scope or
the plant may be gained.