The Royal Hudson

Royal Hudson
Royal Hudson

As part of New Westminster’s 150th celebration, the world famous Royal Hudson, an ex-Canadian Pacific steam locomotive, stopped at the New Westminster Quay to take passengers on a short excursion across the Fraser River to Cloverdale. Some of of the photos are online, and video of the engine arriving and departing New Westminster, as well as climbing the incline in North Surrey/North Delta will be available shortly.

The Royal Hudson will repeat its journey again on Sunday, May 3rd, starting at the New Westminster Quay. More information is available on the West Coast Railway Association website.

A background of the Royal Hudson 2860

Crown and Builders Plate
Crown and Builder’s Plate

Built in 1940 by the Montreal Locomotive Works, 2860 was the last batch of Hudsons to be ordered by the Canadian Pacific. The engine is classified as an H1-e Hudson; the H1 meaning it is a Hudson-type locomotive (four leading wheels, six driving wheels and four trailing wheels), while the e stood for the batch (the 2816 is an H1-b). 2860 was one of the few built as a Royal — the engine was not retrofitted after King George VI of England gave his approval for these brand of steam engines to display the title. Royal Hudsons are easily identifiable by their semi-streamlined appearance and crown emblems on the running boards.

The Royal Hudson worked Canadian Pacific’s British Columbia interior lines around Revelstoke before heading out to the prairies just as steam was being replaced with diesel. The 2860 sat out her later years with other Hudsons in the scrap yard, but remarkably was saved by group of steam enthusiasts. The engine was brought to Vancouver and spent a few more years idling in the Canadian Pacific shops on Drake Street.

It wasn’t until 1974 that the Province of British Columbia purchased 2860 for use as a tourist attraction during the summer months. The engine would pull a full passenger train up along the scenic Howe Sound to the town of Squamish and then make a return trip. The first season proved so successful, that it was continued the following year.

In 1999, the Royal Hudson was taken out of active service after encountering problems with the boiler. A replacement engine, ex-Canadian Pacific 3716, a Consolidation-type locomotive which was sometimes used with the 2860 during double-header trips, took over. Sadly, it wasn’t to last as 3716 also suffered from mechanical failure. Diesel engines would continue to pull the train, but it wasn’t the same without the 2860. And when BC Rail, the government owned railway, was sold to Canadian National, the excursions died as passenger service was cut due to budget shortfalls.

The West Coast Railway Association (WCRA) in Squamish, obtained the Royal Hudson with help from the local community and the city of Vancouver, to bring the locomotive to their museum. The engine was then repainted and touched up and put on static display. There was some good news, and after it was determined that the damage could be repaired, the WCRA began fund raising to cover the costs of boiler repair and reconstruction of the firebox.

In April 2007, after achieving a successful boiler certification by provincial inspectors, the Royal Hudson returned to life. In her first trip since 1999, the locomotive steamed down to White Rock, BC to celebrate the town’s anniversary. Since then, she has been the star attraction at the WCRA’s park.

I’m going to break out of story mode and explain why this steam engine means a lot to me. Ever since I was young, I’d loved trains, and as a birthday treat, my family would take us out to ride the Royal Hudson. Sometimes, we’d do this twice a year and it was real fun. If we didn’t get to ride the train, we’d drive up to Ambleside Park in West Vancouver and watch the 2860 roar past. As dangerous and stupid as this is, I used to put pennies on the track and wait for her to roll by and flatten them (it’s dangerous, don’t do it). They’d always be in strange shapes and very warm after.

Drive Gear
Drive Gear

I was lucky a few times after my parents spoke with the engineers to allow me to ride up in the cab when she would use the wye in Squamish. The Royal Hudson would steam into the town, and then back up along Loggers Lane. Then, the locomotive would uncouple and steam up to the wye just outside of the town and come back to fill up the tender and reconnect at the opposite end of the train. It was pretty exciting for me because the engineer would always let me sit in his seat and blow the whistle — which is probably the best steam whistle around. I loved looking at all the gauges, knobs and dials, and the noise of the reversing gear always made me shiver. Of course, because of the partially open firebox, the cab would always be very hot, so it confused me how people could spend so much time in such a hot place.

Tractive Effort 45,300 lbs
Adhesive Weight 194,000 lbs
Axle Load 65,000 lbs
Steam Pressure 275 psi
Cylinders 22 in x 30 in
Fuel (No. 6 Fuel Oil) 5,631 gal (4,689 imp gal)
Water 14,400 gal (12,000 imp gal)
Tractive Effort 45,300 lbs
Drive Wheels 75 in
Length 90 ft 10 in

Photos from the event are available on Gallery.

With thanks to the West Coast Railway Association

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