Presentation of the Empress
Canadian Pacific 2816 The Empress: Canadian Pacific Railway president and CEO Rob Ritchie put the steam preservation world on his ears when, in 1998, he revealed the railroad’s plan to repatriate CP H1b Hudson No. 2816 from its longtime home at the National Park Service’s Steamtown Museum and to rebuild the 1930- vintage locomotive for mainline service. Impossible! Skeptics said. 2816 was a rusted abandoned hulk. Among the half-dozen CP steam locomotives acquired in 1963 by Nelson Blount’s Steamtown Foundation, 2816 languished unprotected or restored in outside storage in New England and Pennsylvania for some 35 years. Critical components were damaged or missing. The cabin was stripped of gauges and other accessories. The steel was rusted in too many places to count. Ritchie was resolved: 2816 was heading back to Canada and steaming back.
Back The Empress in Canada
The Hudson departed Scranton, Pennsylvania, for Calgary, Alberta, on September 12, 1998, on a special train designed by Tuscan & Gray CP FP7 #1400 with GP38-2 #3069 and St. Lawrence & Hudson GP9 #8216. It was then moved to BC Rail’s Steam Shop in North Vancouver, British Columbia, where Al Broadfoot and the BC Steam crew were engaged to rebuild 2816 from the rails.
This was not to be an ordinary overhaul. The locomotive was completely disassembled and every component, device, bushing and bearing reconditioned or replaced as 2816 was rebuilt to better than new standards for 21st mainline service of the century. Work that could not be done in-house was sent. The boiler went to Doyle McCormack in Portland, Oregon to be rebuilt and the conductors were shipped to the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Hundreds of smaller components that could not be rebuilt, ranging from crown and stem brasses to superheater manifold and return bends, were recreated by local foundries and fabrication shops. The locomotive received a completely new cab and was converted from coal to oil.
CP invested more than $2 million in the three-year rebuild, a process that was not without anguish, drama and extraordinary dedication. Although initial appraisals of 2816 were as accurate as possible and budgets were set accordingly, teardown revealed that the locomotive was in worse condition than expected. Time and money were running out and CP management was losing patience with this increasingly expensive undertaking. As the shop team struggled to keep up with the extra work, Bill Stetler was doing double duty. Stetler had come to know 2816 working as Doyle McCormack’s lead on his boiler rebuild, and had been brought to North Vancouver as CP’s new steam operations manager to handle the final reassembly of the overhaul in difficulty. Stetler worked logistical, strategic, and budgetary wonders not only to get the extra work done, but also to allay fears that the dream would be scuttled. When No. 2816 steamed out of the shop in August 2001 for the first time in over 40 years, Stetler was among the many unsung heroes who had made it possible. He would also be the official engineer of the locomotive and share alternate turns at the throttle with Doyle McCormack as the 70-year-old Hudson made a triumphant five-day start from Port Moody, British Columbia, to Calgary. .
Reward competent leadership
In the days leading up to his departure from the West Coast and after his arrival in Calgary, a number of CP executives noticed Stetler for his excellence and professionalism. From running a ride, to managing the budget, to meeting with the CEO, to being a firefighter or a locomotive engineer, and being able to coach and lead, the decision was made. that he would be the man to run the program.
Dubbed “The Empress,” a name steeped in Canadian Pacific history, locomotive #2816 quickly set about fulfilling Ritchie’s mandate to use the locomotive as an ambassador for community relations, charitable causes and educational, and to celebrate the proud history and heritage of the railway. . The Empress was duly assigned to work and benefit school trips to raise funds and awareness for the fight against hunger, and eventually worked a number of transcontinental tours.
The future of 2816
Still usable, the locomotive has kept a low profile in recent years and needs re-certification and other statutory work. Covid has also had a limiting influence. However, the Empress drew rave reviews from a global audience for its appearance – under steam – as part of the CP Holiday Train virtual performance in December 2020.
Although four examples of the famous CP Royal Hudsons have survived, 2816 is the only survivor of the 20 standard 4-6-4 H1a and H1b that preceded them. It is also the only running CP Hudson.