Self-Propelled Cars of the CNR

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I’ve mentioned this book a few times recently as I’ve shared the work on my CNR doodlebug. This is an excellent resource for anybody interested in the development of self-propelled cars in Canada.

I’ve been aware of self-propelled alternatives to traditional, locomotive-hauled passenger trains almost as long as I’ve been in the hobby. But for me they were always a footnote or a sidebar. Until I read this book, I did not appreciate the variety or the ubiquity of these vehicles on the CNR, its predecessors, and its subsidiaries.

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While I’d heard of gas electrics – and I’ve even owned several models, in various scales, over the years – the CNR experimented with a lot of other approaches. The most successful early cars were diesel electrics, which paved the way for later acquisitions of Budd RDCs. But I was surprised to learn that the CNR also rostered – at one time, anyway – rail buses, Brill model 55 cars, Evans Autorailers, and others. And this book introduced me to the Storage Battery Car: Think of an interurban, but with a rack of batteries under the floor instead of an overhead wire.

The greatest variety of self-propelled equipment was found on the CNR in the 1920s and 1930s. This is a period that relatively few hobbyists model: We favour the “steam-diesel transition era” or more modern settings. But having read this book, I have a new appreciation for just how interesting an earlier-era layout could be. Not that I’m going to rework Port Rowan, mind you. But the addition of a variety of self-propelled vehicles would certainly help one create a unique layout.

Meantime, this book has proven valuable to me as I work on my own doodlebug. I’m glad I grabbed a copy.

If you want to know more about Self-Propelled Cars of the CNR, click on the book cover (above) to visit the publisher’s website.

1 thought on “Self-Propelled Cars of the CNR

  1. Funny, one of my purchases at the Kitchener show this weekend was John Mills’ “Southern Ontario Branch Lines” DVD, which has a couple of brief clips of CN doodlebug 15832 (five digits?). It has a trailer, and the location is not named, though it’s in the Guelph segment. Green with black colours. There’s a nice looking CP one, too, at Guelph Junction.

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