Fonds CPD - CPR Steam Locomotive Drawing Collection

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CPR Steam Locomotive Drawing Collection

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CA ON00419 CPD

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Physical description

25,066 technical drawings and ca. 15.3 metres of textual records

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(1881 -)

Administrative history

The Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) was a private venture incorporated in 1881 for the purpose of constructing and operating a transcontinental railway within Canada. With considerable government assistance, the first transcontinental line was completed on November 7, 1885. Over the following decades the enterprise was very successful developing substantial interests in a wide range of fields including: transportation, immigration, settlement/colonization, exploitation of natural resources, maritime services, and tourism. By the early 20th century the Canadian Pacific Railway Company was the wealthiest and most influential corporate body in Canada.

Like many 19th century railways, Canadian Pacific was a vertically integrated organization that allowed management a high degree of control over all aspects of the company’s supply chain and business affairs. This was particularly important in the development and maintenance of steam locomotive and rolling stock fleets. Steam locomotives were designed to meet the diverse operating requirements of the company which by 1937 was operating close to 38,000 kilometres of track in most regions of Canada. At the same time, railway mechanical departments were under constant pressure to improve the efficiency of the locomotive fleet with respect to fuel consumption and maintenance. This demand for improved operation and efficiency was a constant in steam locomotive design throughout the period.

Under the supervision of the Chief of Motive Power, at headquarters in Montreal, the railway’s Mechanical Department provided engineering and technical expertise for locomotives, heavy equipment, and engineering issues related to other rolling stock. Typically, this involved the design of new locomotives for and technical improvements to the existing fleet. Canadian Pacific’s steam locomotive roster by the mid-1930s listed more than 3000 locomotives. The process of designing a locomotive started with the Chief Mechanical Engineer, who could also be known as the Locomotive Superintendent. In a lot of cases, these men originated from England where they had previous worked in the field. CPR had the following Chief Mechanical Engineers over the era of steam: Kennet W. Blackwell, 1881-1883; Francis Robert Fontaine Brown, 1883-1890; David Preston, 1890-1893; Roger Atkinson, 1893-1901; Edward Averett Williams, 1901-1903; Henry Hague Vaughn, 1904-1915, (A.W. Horsey, Chief Draughtsman); William E. Woodhouse,1915-1918; William Henry Winterrowd, 1918-1921; Charles Henry Temple, 1921-1928; and Henry Blaine Bowen, 1928-1949.

The Chief Mechanical Engineer would work in the drawing room with their assistants, draughtmen and tracers. Engineers and draughtsmen in 1937 numbered around 118, indicating the vast amount of staff within the department.

Custodial history

The collection was donated May 14, 1996 by Canadian Pacific Ltd to the Canada Science and Technology Museum under the guidance of curator of transportation David Monaghan.

Scope and content

The collection consists of technical records of CPR's Mechanical Department created as they built and maintained the railway’s steam fleet. Before the drawing process began, the Chief Mechanical Engineer would determine the locomotive’s amount of power output and the size of cylinders. The driving wheels and boiler pressure had to be designed together with the wheel arrangement to meet the specified weight and clearance restrictions. Once this was determined the drawing was produced on paper, then traced on linen. All drawings were done by hand using a triangle and compass. When completed, the drawing would be signed off by the chief mechanical engineer.

Original drawings never left the CPR headquarters in Montreal, instead a negative of the drawing would be sent to the various shops throughout Canada. There they would print as many Vandyke copies of the drawing needed. When an original drawing was determined to be invalid due to its subject being cancelled or redesigned, due to new standards or because it was subject to damage, it was superseded by a new drawing. The original drawing would have an S placed on it with a reference to the new drawing number. It was also evident if a drawing was a replacement for a superseded original because of a letter at the end of a drawing’s number, for instance drawing E-58-L-0325-B.

In 1907, 350 drawings were required to create the engine and tender, by 1928 it took 1100 drawings. This fact, and the increased number of staff, indicates the growth and importance of the Mechanical Engineering Department.

The collection is comprised of three series. Series CPD-1 consists of 25,066 technical drawings of CP steam locomotives. Series CPD-2 is a card index with circa 15 metres of cards. The Department used index cards to organize and track the drawings, including, for example, indicating which drawings had been superseded. Series CPD-3 consists of 27 booklets, a partial set of drawing lists issued for specific locomotive classes. CPR engineering and car department drawings are not included in the collection.

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Physical condition

Some drawings are fragile, especially the Van Dykes.

Immediate source of acquisition


In 1910 the CPR Motive Power Department created a standardized drawing designation system that was adopted throughout the company by 1916. The system is a alpha-numeric with identifiers that are comprised of five parts, such as, for example drawing B-28-L-522-A. The first letter (i.e. B) indicates the drawing size. The second part, a number, indicates the subject of the drawing. The third part, a letter, indicates one of thirteen classifications (subjects): B - Office and Shop Materials; C- Cars and Service Vehicles; D- Stationary Boilers; DL - Diesel Locomotives; E – Electric Parts; F – Maintenance of Ways Materials; H – Track Service Structures Buildings; J - Tender Frame; K – Furnaces and Forges; L – Steam Locomotives; MR – Maintenance and Operation Drawings; R – Cranes, Hoists, Transverses; S – Erecting; and T – Tools and Machines. The fourth part of the drawing identifier is a sequential number given for each successive drawing by group. The last part of the drawing identifier, a letter, indicates a revision. The drawings are physically organized in cabinet drawers or boxes by size, then in sequence by the other parts in the identifier.

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Finding aids

CPD-1 Technical Drawings are individually catalogued in Ingenium’s artifact cataloguing system. A list of CPD-3 class booklets and inventories by drawing designation are available upon request.

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General note

Related material: the Museum preserves the following CPR steam locomotives: CPR 926 (1967.0009); CPR 3100 Northern (1967.0005); and, CPR 1201 (1967.0007). It also has a model of the CPR 2851 Royal Hudson steam locomotive (1985.0588). The Science and Technology Railway (STR) Collection and the Aubrey Mattingly Collection have photographs of CP steam locomotives. These photographs have been digitized and are available on the Picturing the Past website or in Ingenium’s Digital Archives.

Physical description

The drawings are blueprints, Van Dykes, or are ink on tracing paper or linen.

Accompanying material

Accompanying material: CPD-2 Index cards are stored in their original wooden cabinets.

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Written by Marcia Mordfield, 2022-02. Draft French translation by A. Torrance, 2022-02. French editing by Céline Mongeau, Larocque Linguistic Services, 2022-03-30.

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