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Railway History by Anthony Clegg

Self-Propelled Cars of the CNR

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Self-Propelled Cars of the CNR, Tony Clegg, 128 pp., 8 x 10.5, History, December 2005

ISBN: 1-897190-09-3 (paper) . . . $34.95


Critical Comment

Of particular interest were the text sections detailing early motor car development and the creation of home-built, streamlined, motor car D-1 in 1951 on the eve of the Budd Company’s RDC demonstration tours in Canada. The all-time equipment list was a key element of the presentation, providing a convenient source of unit-by- unit roster information for in-service, re-building, and disposal dates, to say nothing of the many re-numberings where the same numbers were used on more than one car. Finally, the coast-to-coast album of photographs (most of which are in color) showing these self-propelled cars in operation was nothing short of spectacular.

David J. Mrozek, The Michigan Railfan, March-April 2020



Self-Propelled Cars of the CNR

In the 19th century, steam-hauled trains had a virtual monopoly on transportation of passengers. After the 1914-1918 Great War, competition from highway vehicles, which had previously not troubled North American railroads to any considerable extent, began to provoke renewed interest in a more economical form of railway motive power, and a number of “rail buses” of varying designs were introduced. Tony Clegg, who wrote Canadian National Steam Power with Ray Corley, is the author of this book.

Self-Propelled Cars of the CNR details how, in November 1925, CNR’s new diesel-electric car No. 15820 completed its record-breaking run across the North American continent, from Montreal to Vancouver. The train established a new world’s record for endurance, economy, and sustained speed over such a distance. The book explains how this comparatively small self-propelled vehicle led to their wide-spread usage across the Canadian National system, and its rival, the Canadian Pacific Railway. The book describes how, despite the growing popularity of automobiles, and increasing availability of better roads, these new rail cars were successful in stemming the decline in rail passenger patronage, particularly on low-traffic branch lines. There were many types of these specialized vehicles that are fully described in the book, which contains interesting details on a very important part of Canada’s railway heritage, with over 200 photographs and illustrations, including many extremely rare photos in full colour.

About the Author

The late Anthony Clegg was born in Toronto and resided in St. Hilaire in the Montreal area. He began his career with Canadian National Railways in 1942, as a draftsman and cartographer. He was a long-time associate of the Canadian Railroad Historical Association and was for several years Editor of Canadian Rail magazine.

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