Bombardier HR616 locomotive, a diesel that does not have


The Bombardier HR616 locomotive sold only 20 units to a railroad, calling it Diesel That Didn’t.

Canadian National No. 2100 is a Bombardier HR616 locomotive, featuring cowl body and “Draper Taper” design. Note the large radiator grilles at the rear of the side. Canadian National Photo

In North America, when we think of road diesel locomotive builders, we usually think of visions from EMD, GE, Wabtec, Alco, Baldwin and Fairbanks-Morse. But there were others, including the Canadian Bombardier.

The rail transportation arm of the company, headquartered in Montreal, was at one time an active player in the rail, transit, and military sectors. It offered two models of freight locomotives in the 1980s based on older designs from Montreal Locomotive Works and American Locomotive Co.. In 1982, Canadian National opted for 20 HR616 units and incorporated them into the company’s extensive fleet of road locomotives.

The designation of the HR616 model – Alco-design 251 high-reliability, six-axle, 16-cylinder engine – reflected not only the technical specifications of the manufacturer, but also the attempt of the company’s marketing department to build confidence in the product.

Numbered 2100-2119, four units were voluntarily retained by the manufacturer, adorned with Bombardier stickers and used as demonstrators on the Canadian Pacific. After their tour — CP didn’t take the bait — they joined the rest of the CN fleet. As part of their cowl design, the units featured the “Draper Taper”, a long “pinched” cowl that provided greater rear visibility for the crew.

While Bombardier included all the latest features at the time, including a desk-style control console and an improved air filtration system, the units found themselves pitted against the EMD-designed SD40s and SD50s, and being a minority digital on the list, were too few in number to be taken as a serious contender. Being the first and only of their kind, the HR616s have never had a chance to shine. Without follow-up controls, there was no opportunity to fix unforeseen flaws in the design after years on the road.

The units, seamlessly integrated with the rest of the road fleet, lasted less than a normal road locomotive life. The Bombardier HR616 locomotive was primarily used on CN freight trains in Ontario. All were shelved in the late 1990s, stored in the Montreal area. Stripped of usable parts, none have been preserved.


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