In the mid-1880s when the transcontinental line was completed the CPR relied on 4-4-0s locomotives for motive power. They owned over 400. However, they soon realized that the Big Hill east of Field required more power. In 1884 an order was placed for two 2-8-0 Consolidations numbers 312 and 313, which were delivered by the Baldwin Locomotive Works, originally located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and later in nearby Eddystone, Pennsylvania. Two more, numbers 314 and 315, followed in 1886.


Locomotive 314 was thrust into infamy in 1889 when heading a 14-car coal train down the Big Hill. Behind schedule Jack Spencer, the engineer, eased the braking to try and gain some time. By the time the train was approaching the third safety switch it was out of control. The switchman thought he heard the four short whistle blasts indicating the train was under control and threw the switch giving the train the main line. Moments later it derailed. The brakeman died instantly, the fireman, who lost both his legs, died a few hours later.


The CPR rebuilt and returned locomotive 314 to service. In 1894, while pushing an eastbound train uphill two miles east of Field the boiler exploded when the water level became too low.

"I was sitting on top of the second car in front of the engine that exploded. I heard a report but did not pay much attention to it. I thought it was a rockslide. I saw the dust on the mountain and said to my brakeman Crump, who was sitting beside me, it is going to strike our car, and I prepared to save myself if the car went over. When the dust cleared I saw the boiler rolling down the hill and it struck the car I was on and knocked it over. I jumped as it went over. I went at once to recover the bodies. Wheatley's body was found between 25 and 50 yards from the explosion below the track and Hunt's body from 150 to 250 yards off in the same direction." (Fred Johnson, conductor; West of the Great Divide)

This scene was recreated from a photo of the second incarnation of locomotive 314, on the turntable at Field in the early 1890’s: 


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Note the 45° beam used to hand turn the turntable, just visible in the lower right of the original photo. Some of those pictured may have been crew that lost their lives in the 1894 explosion.

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The locomotive was again rebuilt. In 1907 the CPR renumbered it to 1320 and reclassified it to Class L2c, then in 1912 changed the number to 3120. It was scrapped in 1917 after 31 years in service. The dome torn from the locomotive in the 1894 boiler explosion is on view at the Spiral Tunnel Viewpoint on the Trans Canada Highway.

Locomotives #314 and #315sit in front of the roundhouse at Field. 


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September 7, 2016

September 7, 2016

Locomotive #314