DPR 3003- record holder shown nearly brand new in 1936 at Viger station Montreal, the station closed in 1951 (Canadian Pacific Railway)

Canada History: Sept. 18, 1936 – The fastest steam locomotive

No sooner had man invented motive power, than the quest began for who could achieve the fastest speed, on land, in the air, and on water.

When it came to railways, Canada briefly was in world record speed territory.

In the mid-1930s, the Canadian Pacific Railway began exploring a new concept for a fast passenger train to revive interest in inter-city rail travel.

By 1935 the CPR had built air-conditioned four-car trains to be pulled by their new ‘lightweight’ 4-4-4 F2 locomotive series, numbered 3000 to 3004.

Two would operate on the Montreal-Quebec City run, two for the Toronto-Windsor run, and one on the Calgary-Edmonton service.

These were dubbed “Jubilee” class locomotives to denote 50 years of transcontinental passenger service by the CPR. A similar 4-4-4 series, slightly shorter with smaller drive wheels was also dubbed Jubilee, and built the next year were known as F1 and in the 2000 numerical series

These F2 3000 series Jubilee’s had big 80-inch drive wheels, were semi-streamlined and operated at an unusually high boiler pressure of 300 psi.

In July 1936, the first of the F2 Jubilees rolled out of the Montreal Locomotive Works, which would cease building engines during the war to become a builder of Ram tanks, and Sexton self-propelled gun.

F2 Jubilee 3003 showing Jubilee class livery (source unknown via fourthjunction)

It was on this date in 1936 (some sources say 1937) that number 3003 set a Canadian steam locomotive speed record while apparently on an air brake test run. While pulling the special four car train on the CPR Winchester run between Smith’s Falls Ont. and Montreal,  #3003 hit an officially recorded speed of 112.5 mph near St-Télésphore, Québec.

The engine’s high speed ability couldn’t save steam however. By the early 1950’s diesel, cheaper to operate, was clearly taking over. By the mid 1950’s, most steam loco’s had begun being replaced. Budd cars, self propelled passenger cars, also took their toll on the shorter intercity runs.

Apparently none of the 3000’s survive. It seems some confusion between Montreal and Calgary about which one was to preserve the last example meant that both surviving F2’s were scrapped in 1957.

Shiny new 3000 shown in 1936 said to be at the Montreal Locomotive Works, One of five of the F2 light fast 4-4-4 semi stramliners ( Glenbow Museum)

It is interesting to note that the locomotive speed record remained in Canada until 1974 when broken by a diesel engine and soon after by the somewhat short-lived and troubled “high-speed” turbo trains.

Even today it is rare that passenger trains in Canada reach 100 mph (160km/h) and only on a few limited stretches of track.

The fastest speed on record for a steam locomotive goes to Britain’s ‘Magnificent Mallard” a highly streamlined engine that briefly achieved 125.88 (202.5 km/h) on a slight downgrade in July of 1938.

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