June 6, 1931 Railway Age Vol. 90 No. 23

One of the new six-hour trains enroute

Combining speed with efficiency

Canadian National finds economy in accelerating movement of trains

By C. F. Needham
Assistant to General Manager, Central Region, Canadian National Railways

A little more than a year ago, the Canadian National Railways put into operation a six-hour schedule in passenger train service over the 334 miles between the two largest cities in Canada-Montréal and Toronto. The former city has a population of over a million people and the latter about three-quarters of 3 million. These high speed trains have proved remarkably popular wifh the business men of the two large commercial communities as well as with the public generally, and since their inauguration they have been running with practically full loads daily.

They mark the culmination of many years' campaigns. During the past decade great strides have been made in speeding up and more efficiently handhg the traffic. This is exemplified particularly in the improved service in respect to both passenger and freight traffic on the C. N. R. between the two cities referred to.

The line of the C. N. R. between Montréal and Toronto, which is double-tracked, generally follows the shores of Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence river. The altitude of Montréal is 46 it. and of Toronto 254 ft. above sea level and there are no long and heavy grades; the distance between the two cities is 334 miles.

The schedule time and speeds of the fast passenger trains in 1920 and 1930, of which there were but two in each direction in the former year, as compared with three in the latter, are as follows:

Train No. 14 Train No. 16 Train No. 6
Year Total Time Station Stops Miles per Hour Total Time Station Stops Miles per Hour Total Time Station Stops Miles per Hour
Toronto to Montréal 1920 8'30" 14 39.29 8'30" 10 39.29 ... .. ....
1930 7'45" 13 43.10 7'46" 3 43.00 6'00" 4 55.66
Train Old No. 15
New No. 5
Train No. 17 Train No. 13
Year Total Time Station Stops Miles per Hour Total Time Station Stops Miles per Hour Total Time Station Stops Miles per Hour
Montréal to Toronto 1920 7'40" 11 43.57 8'30" 8 39.29 ... .. ....
1930 7'30" 10 44.53 7'46" 4 43.00 6'00" 4 55.66

Schedule deductions

The two new trains, No. 6 easthound and new No. 15 westbound, were put on in the spring of 1930 and cover the distance in six hours, or at an average speed of 55.66 m ph., this being a decrease of 1 min. 40 sec., or 22 per cent as compared with the fastest running time in 1920. Notwithstanding the shortening of the running time, improvement has been made in the "on-time" performance as compared with previous years, and the records for the latest month available indicate an average "on-time" performance of these trains of well over 90 per cent.

At the same time that the Canadian National put on the new six-hour trains between Toronto and Montréal, a service of 18 hr. 15 min. nas established between Montréal and Chicago, a distance of 848 miles, with an average speed of 46.5 m.p.h., with 16 stops. A reduction of six hours was also made in the running time of the fast transcontinental trains between Montréal and Vancouver, and of 3½ hr. between Toronto and Vancouver.

Freight train speeds

The freight trains have also speeded up, as shown by the following comparison of the schedules of the principal manifest freight trains in 1930 and 1923:

Train No. 495 Train No. 493 Train No. 2/496
Year Total Time Miles per Hour Total Time Miles per Hour Total Time Miles per Hour
Montréal to Toronto 1923 23'00" 14.52 26'15" 12.72 ... ....
1930 19'00" 17.57 20'45" 16.09 17'30" 19.08
Train No. 496 Train No. 492 No. 2/492
Year Total Time Miles per Hour Total Time Miles per Hour Total Time Miles per Hour
Toronto to Montréal 1923 24'00" 13.91 18'30" 18.05 ... ....
1930 17'30" 19.08 7'46" 43.00 17'30" 19.08

It will be observed that the fastest time from Toronto to Montréal, the direction of predominant traffic, shows an improvement of one hour, or 5.7 per cent. A comparison of the performance of these fast manifest trains for the years 1930 and 1923, is shown in the following table:

1930 1923 Increase %
Average speed 16.1 13.6 2.5 18.4
Gross Tons per Train 2,327 1,812 515 28.3
Gross Ton Miles Per Train Hour 37,376 24,573 12,803 52.1

The improvement in the manifest freight train performance is largely attributable to the improvement in motive power and in train loading. In 1923, these manifest trains carried an authorized tonnage reduction, as compared with dead freight train tonnage, of from 10 to 20 per cent; these reductions have gradually been discontinued, with the result that the manifest trains are now carrying the full tonnage rating of a dead-freight train, and the schedule is being maintained equally as well as in former years.

Motive power improvements

Notwithstanding the hcrease in train speed in both passenger and freight service and the heavier car equipments in the motive power, the extension of locomotive shows a decrease in both passenger and freight service. This, to a considerable extent, is the result of improvements in the motive power, the extension of locomotive runs and fewer train stops.

In 1920, he passenger trains referred to were handled by Pacific type locomotives; at the present time these passenger trains are being handled by Northern, Mountain and Hudson type locomotives, stoker-fired, equipped with improved types of superheaters, feed water heaters, thermic syphons, power and screw reverse, track sprinklers, Vanderbilt tender tanks and vestibule cabs. In addition the Hudson locomotives are equipped with boosters, and also with exhaust steam injectors in place of feed water heaters. The respective capacities of the locomotives referred to are as follows:

Type Dia. Driving Wheel Steam Pressure Tractive Effort Total Weight Capacity of Tender
Coal Water
Paclfic 69" 200 1b. 39,700 438,000 10 tons 7,500 gal.
Northern 73" 250 1b. 56,800 653,400 20 tons 11,500 gal.
Mountain 73" 250 lb. 50,000 627,100 20 tons 11,000 gal.
Hudson 80" 275 lb. 43,300 662,200 20 tons 14,000 gal.
(10,000 Booster)

The Northern type of locomotive is designed to handle heavy trains, either freight or passenger, at high speeds. The Mountain type is for heavy and fast passenger service. The Hudson type is designed specially for high speed passenger service, for use on the six- hour trains between Toronto and Montréal, and has no difficulty whatever in making the running time.

A recent dynamometer test of the Hudson type locomotive on trains No. 14 and 5, consisting of 10 cars, indicates that the draw bar pull at starting momentarily reached 40,000 lb., dropping to 22,000 lb. at 10 m.p.h., while the average throughoult the trip was 8,500 lb.; the maximunl speed attained was between 78 and 81 m.p.h. over a period of six minutes.

The large coal and water capacities enable these locomotives to make long runs without stops, and whereas 10 years ago the locomotives were changed on the passenger trains at two intermediate terminals between Toronto and Montréal, one locomotive now runs through, without enginehouse attention. These heavier locomotives are, of course, capable of starting the trains with much greater ease, thus adding to the comfort of the passengers and effecting economy in operation.

Similar improvements have taken place in respect to the locomotives handling the fast freight service. In 1920, these freight trains were handled by Mikado and fast freight Pacific type locomotives, whereas these trains are now practically all handled by the Northern type locomotives. A comparison of these types of locomotives follows:

Type Dia. Driving Wheel Steam Pressure Tractive Effort Total Weight Capacity of Tender
Coal Water
Mikado 63 in. 180 lb. 53,100 444,800 lb. 12 tons 7,500 gal.
Pacific 69 in. 185 lb. 33,750 378,000 lb. 10 tons 6,700 gal.
Northern 73 in. 250 lb. 56,800 652,400 lb. 20 tons 11,500 gal.

The Northern type locomotives are capable of handling heavy freight trains at high speed and making long runs without enginehouse attention, and are also equipped with the modern appliances, as hereinbefore described. The double-heading of freight trains in main line service has been discontinued as a result of the improvements in motive power.

Improved equipment

Important improvements have also taken place in the car equipment used on the fast passenger trains. In 1920, the cars were of steel underframe construction, with wooden upper structure, whereas the cars are now all steel, and many of them have thermostat heat con- trol. In 1920, some of the equipment was gas-lighted, whereas now the entire train is lighted by electricity. Chamberettes or single-room sleeping cars are now in service on these trains. The present day equipment has more comfortable furnishings and better appointments, and the decorative features have been greatly improved. An outstandirlg feature is that the observation cars on these trains are equipped with radio receiving sets in charge of a radio operator; in addition to a receiver head set being provided at each seat, there is a loud speaker in the car.

The day trains are unique in that they are equipped for train telephone service, it being possible for the passengers to have telephone conversation from the train while in motion with outside parties over the local or long distance Bell telephone system, by placing their order with the radio operator. Likewise, outside parties may establish telephone communication with any passenger on the train by placing orders with their telephone exchange, giving the name of the passenger and the number of the train on which traveling, in which case the radio operator arranges for the passenger to be paged. A booth with a standard telephone set is provided on the train for this service.

The freight car equipment that was in use 10 years ago was nearly all wood, but steel underframes were beginninq to come into use. The freight cars now being obtained have steel upper and under frames; im provements have also been made in the draft gears and trucks to permit of heavier loading and to withstand the additional strain due to heavier trains being handled and the higher speed at which the trains are operated.

There has been no material change in train dispatching methods, as telephone train dispatching was in use on this territory in 1920. However, considerable improvement has been made in the signal appliances. In 1920, automatic block signals were in use for only a short distance out of Montréal, whereas since that time the automatic block signal sysltem has been extended over the entire line between Montréal and Toronto. The installation of the automatic signal has, of course, been an important factor in the speeding up of trains, as well as adding to safety of operation.

Track conditions have also been greatly improved by the installation of heavier rails, hardwood ties and rock ballast. There have also been constructed con- siderable additional lengths of passing tracks, required, of course, by the longer freight trains being handled.

Efficiency of high speed

These increases in train speed were made only after a careful study of the advisability of adopting increased train speeds as a general policy. Efficiency is, in a mechanical sense, the relation between useful work or effect produced to the energy expended in producing it; and in our consideration, the effect to be produced is represented by the movement of a train at given speeds from one terminal to another and the energy that will be expended is represented by the coal consumption, that being the source of power in a coal burning locomotive.

The horse power developed by a locomotive at any particular time mav be expressed by the formula— R×M.P.H.÷375, where where R equals the total resistance of the train in pounds and M.P.H. the speed in miles per hour. As an example for passenger service, let us compare the horse powerrequired to move a train consisting of 8 cars of 75 tons each and a locomotive of 330 tons, or a total of 930 tons, at a speed of 60 m.p.h. and at 40 m.p.h. Tests that have been made indicate that the resistance per ton of a 75-ton car at a speed of 60 m.p.h. is 7.9 lb. and at 40 m.p.h., 5.8 lb., and assuming, for convenience, that the locomotive would have the same resistance per ton, also that the locomotive would be equally efficient at the two speeds, then, for a trip of 100 miles, we may calculate the total horse power required as follows:

At 60 m.p.h.: 930×7.9×60×100÷(375×60) = 14381959 H.P. Hrs.

at 40 m.p.h.: 930×5.8×40×100÷(375×60) = 1438 H.P. Hrs

Difference (increase 60 over 40 m.p.h.) 521 H.P. Hrs. or 36.2%.

The coal consumption would increase approximately in proportion to the horsepower hours, or, from the above calculation an increase of 36.2 per cent might be expected in the coal consumption resulting from an increase in speed from 40 to 60 m.p.h. There are, of course, a number of other factors which have a bearing on the total coal consumption. The quantity of coal is affected considerably by the train stops: again, the higher the speed, the more coal is consumed in making the stop. Less coal would be required in passenger service for steam heat during the heating season and for lighting, because of the shorter time occupied in making the trip. Then thcre is the quantity of coal used for prc- paring the locomotive for the trip and the quantity remaining in the fire at the end of the trip, which quantities would be about the same regardless of the speed.

The percentage increase in the total horsepower hours is directly proportional to the increase in the train resistance per ton (7.9 lb. for 60 m.p.h. and 5.8 lb. for 40 mp.h., an increase of 36.2 per cent in the example cited). Similarly, the increase in the total horsepower hours in freight service would be directly proportional to the increase in the train resistance per ton. For example, a train consisting of 50-ton cars would, as per tests made, have a resistance of 4.6 lb. per ton at 20 m.p.h. and 6.1 lb. per ton at 35 m.p.h., or an increase of 1.5 lb. or 32.6 per cent, which would also represent the percentage of increase in total horsepower hours and coal consumption.

In considering the increase in total horsepower hours as calculated above, resulting from increased speed as a basis for anticipated increase in coal consumption, it must be borne in mind that the resistance of a train is difficult to determine with accuracy. Conditions of lubrication, weather, equipment, etc., vary enormously. The forces necessary to ascend grades or produce acceleration can be computed accurately but the rolling resistance for various speeds differs in almost every test.


A summary of some of the advantages of increase in train speed, as offsetting the increase in the total coal consumption is as follows:

  1. The benefit to the traveling and shipping public by reduction in time of passengers and freight in transit.
  2. The possibility of meeting highway bus and truck competition.
  3. The meeting of competition of other railroads.
  4. The increased track capacity by making it possible to handle a great number of trains in a given time—a highly important factor where a sufficient volume of traffic is available to take advantage of the greater track capacity thus provided.
  5. The greater possible use per day that may be made of the equipment, owing to its being in service a shorter length of time in making a given movement, thereby reducing the number of units required, also tending to decrease the freight car per diem charges where car equipment is interchanged with other railways.
  6. The elimination of station stops and delays as a result of the close check-up made of the train service when higher speed is contemplated, thereby creating conditions which tend to make it possible with the modern locomotive equipment to extend locomotive runs with the attendant benefits of decreased fuel consumption, elimination of roundhouse attention at intermediate terminals and greater monthly mileage per locomotive.
  7. The decrease in overtime payments to engine and train crews, as in freight service.
  8. The benefit of the greater momentum of the train in negotiating gradients.
  9. The general speeding up of the whole "transportation machine".

Ref: Cornwall; Gananoque; Oshawa Subdivisions