The Bombardier/MLW (Montreal Locomotive Works) LRC locomotive is a type of high-speed diesel locomotive developed for high-speed rail on conventional freight train tracks, by means of tilting.
The locomotive is powered by a 3,700hp ALCO 251 turbocharged 4-stroke diesel engine, and is the last new type of locomotive in North America to be developed with this engine (as well as being one of the last official types or models of diesel locomotive to be built under the ALCO umbrella).
The tilting technology in the LRC was further improved after the initial teething problems with the LRC coaches, eventually forming the basis of the Acela Express trainsets, and numerous other Active-Tilt trains produced by Bombardier.
LRC is a bilingual acronym for Light, Rapid, Comfortable, or Leger, Rapide, Confortable (in French).
During the 1970s, CN (and its succesor to its passenger services; VIA Rail Canada) ran the UAC TurboTrain on the high-speed Corridor service between Toronto and Montreal. However, due to the rising price of fuel, and due to the fact that the TurboTrain was not fuel efficient, VIA sought a replacement for it.
At the same time, a consortium of Montreal Locomotive Works (a division of ALCO), and Dofasco Metals of Hamilton, ONT, Canada, were developing a tilting diesel-powered train that could be used on regular freight tracks at speeds up to 129mph using Active tilt. The Turbo, for comparison, used TALGO Passive tilt, which takes some time to respond to curves. The new LRC would use accelerometers to actively adjust tilt as the train rounds corners.
The locomotives used high-powered versions of ALCO's 251 engine, and the LRC would prove to be the last use of this engine in a new locomotive.
Bombardier purchased MLW in 1975, as part of its entry into the railroading market.
At the same time, Canadian National (CN) was considering a purchase of the LRC, but at the same time, the decline of passenger rail became a election issue. CN had continuously wanted to rid itself of passenger service, and raised the issue with the government. One of Pierre Trudeau's promises in 1974 was to create a nationwide passenger carrier, similar to Amtrak south of the border, that will take over CN and CP's passenger routes. Trudeau stuck with his promise, and in 1978, VIA Rail (formerly a division of CN's passenger service) became a separate crown corporation. VIA, after inheriting a number of 25 year old equipment from CN and CP, sought to reduce its reliance on the old stock (as well as solve the fuel-efficiency problem with the TurboTrain), and placed an order for 10 locomotives, as well as 50 matching coaches.
Amtrak tested the LRC for 2 years starting in 1977. It was operated on the Northeast and Illinois corridors. Amtrak decided not to purchase the trains and returned them. They were subsequently bought by VIA Rail as the LRC-1, and were used on the International route between Toronto and Chicago. The cars are currently stored at Montreal's VIA yard.
Entry into service with VIA RailEdit
VIA Rail put the initial order of LRCs in service. They replaced the TurboTrain, and began operating on the Quebec City-Windsor Corridor as express runs. Despite their 129mph rating, they were limited to 100mph in service.
A further 10 locomotives were ordered with the first VIA batch. Together, they make up the LRC-2 locomotives, and are numbered 6901-6920. The first locomotive arrived in 1981.
Another 10 locomotives were ordered in 1981, which arrived by 1982. They were 6921-6930.
The locomotives continued in service until 2000, when the last LRC locomotive was retired; their passenger cars, however, remain the backbone of VIA's regional fleet, although pulled by newer locomotives like the GE P42DC, which replaced the LRC locomotives in 2001.
The following are specifications for the Bombardier/MLW LRC locomotive:
- Length: 63ft 8 inches
- Width: 10ft 5 1/2 inches
- Height: 12ft 11 inches
- Weight: 256,000 lb
- Prime Mover: ALCO 16-251F, rated for 3700hp (2700hp in HEP mode)
- HEP: 2x250kW alternators driven by main engine.
Teething Issues Edit
The LRC locomotives were plagued with mechanical and technical problems and glitches. Common problems include the tilt system locking in the "tilt" position even after the train comes out of a curve, or the system would fail to operate entirely.
The locomotives themselves suffered mechanical problems often due to the old engine design. The bumping up of power on the 251 plagued the locomotive as much as the uprated EMD 645 doomed the SD50.
In 1984, all LRC equipment were pulled from service following a discovery of faulty axles. The axles could have resulted (and in some cases, did) result in broken wheels.
All locomotives were retired by the year 2000.
VIA Rail LRC #6921 is on permanent display at Exporail, on the outskirts of Montreal.
In addition, VIA Rail LRC 6917 has been purchased by the Toronto Railway Heritage Association (TRHA). Money has been set aside for a restoration of the exterior, and on May 5, 2014, 6917 was started up by the combined efforts of the TRHA, Rapido, VIA Rail, and ESU LokSound for the first time in 19 years.