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Empress, C.P.R. 2816

Community, Historic Site or District

Perhaps the most beautiful operating steam locomotive in the world, Canadian Pacific Railway's Empress is a frequent visitor to the Crown of the Continent, where mountains and streams construct magnificent stages for the engine's dramatic performances.

C.P.R. Express tiptoes through the lupins in Fernie, B.C. – David Thomas

Puffs of cloud from the safety valves, chuff-chuffs from the stack, and throaty howls from the steam whistle bring back the glory days of railroading through the Crowsnest Pass. Gone, but not lamented, is the eruption of black smoke that used to blacken the skies when number 2816 burned coal. Today the rebuilt steamer boils its water with the same cleaner-burning liquid that powers the railway's modern diesel locomotives.

Sometimes a special occasion brings the Empress to the towns along the Crowsnest Line, between Lethbridge, Alberta, and Cranbrook, B.C. Other times she hauls a special excursion train carrying high-paying passengers from Vancouver to Calgary. Don't feel bad if you can't afford the $5,000 fare: the spectacle is best seen from various viewpoints along Highway 3.

Canadian Pacific currently does not plan to offer scheduled trips in 2009, but 2816 should be back in 2010, they say.

Historical Time Period:

CP's 2816 is a class H1b Hudson type locomotive built by Montreal Locomotive Works in December 1930. The CP Empress is now the only surviving H1b Hudson and is one of only a handful of preserved and operating CPR steam locomotives in North America.

Initially the locomotive ran westward out of Winnipeg to Calgary and eastward to Fort William, Ontario (now part of Thunder Bay). Locomotive 2816 then moved into service on the Windsor-to-Quebec City corridor. Its last assignment was at the front of a Montreal-Rigaud commuter train, making its final revenue run on May 26, 1960. Having logged more than two million miles in active service, 2816's fires were extinguished.

Today, after a complete three-year rebuild, 2816 is restored to the original specifications with external details from the 1940/50s.