Streamlined Locomotive

This article was originally written and submitted as part of a Canada 150 Project, the Innovation Storybook, to crowdsource stories of Canadian innovation with partners across Canada. The content has since been migrated to Ingenium’s Channel, a digital hub featuring curated content related to science, technology and innovation.

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In the 1930s, National Research Council of Canada engineering helped to launch a new generation of streamlined locomotives. A sleek design grew out of an NRC project to improve the efficiency of locomotives and prevent smoke from obscuring the engineer’s view from the cab.

Reduced visibility was a serious safety issue, so Canadian National Railways (CNR) turned to NRC for a solution. Engineers used NRC’s new wind tunnel to test existing locomotive models and experiment with alternate designs, resulting in a sleeker, more aerodynamic shape.

By 1936, CNR unveiled its new NRC-designed locomotive series with considerable fanfare. Its chief rival, the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR), soon had a similar locomotive in production. In 1939, the new CNR and CPRlocomotive designs were both chosen to pull the Royal train during a Canadian tour by King George VI and his wife, Queen Elizabeth. Later that year, the NRC-inspired CNR locomotive was featured at the World’s Fair in New York City.

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National Research Council Canada

The National Research Council Canada (NRC) is the Government of Canada's largest science and research organization.

The NRC partners with Canadian industry to take research impacts from the lab to the marketplace, where people can experience the benefits. This market-driven focus delivers innovation faster, enhances people's lives and addresses some of the world's most pressing problems. We are responsive, creative and uniquely placed to partner with Canadian industry, to invest in strategic R&D programming that will address critical issues for our future.