Bombardier/MLW LRC


The Bombardier LRC train sets consisted of a locomotive, powered by an ALCO prime mover, and a series of tilting passenger cars, utilized for navigating sharp turns on the Quebec-Windsor City corridor in Canada.

The LRC, an acronym for Light Rapid Comfortable, (French Léger, Rapide, et Confortable) was developed in the eighties. The Bombardier LRC train-sets were built to operate on the heavily traveled Quebec-Windsor City corridor, equipped with tiling mechanisms for high speed running on conventional freight tracks. Much of the tilting technology incorporated into the LRC has been derived from British Rail’s APT trains. Furthermore, the passenger cars operating on Amtrak’s Acela Express trains are directly derived from the LRC, as the Acela sets were also manufactured by Bombardier.

Background

The Quebec City-Windsor Corridor is one of the most traveled routes on the Via Rail system, connecting two of Canada’s major cities. With the feasibility of high speed rail quickly expanding worldwide, Via Rail sought to devise its own high speed train on the corridor. However, the tracks, owned by Canadian National for freight service, lacked the infrastructure on which to operate high speed passenger trains. Issues such as centrifugal force due to sharp turns, rail wear, and speed restrictions were just some of the shortcomings of the route.

While planning the route for the new service, the options brought forth were to either place speed restrictions on the curves along the route, or implement super-elevation, where the outer rail is higher than the inner rail, thus, counterbalancing centrifugal forces. Further options included the addition of an active tilt system, in which an active hydraulic tilting system allows the train to lean into the curve, thus, eliminating much of the centrifugal force.

Roger Puta

With the active tilt system deemed the best route, it was decided that a new train would be developed to incorporate the active tilt system on the over 350 mile route. The tilt system was derived from the Spanish Talgo sets, designed to work hydraulically.

The first attempt to operate high speed trains throughout this vital corridor was the construction of the UAC Turbotrain, built by aircraft manufacturer United Aircraft. The Turbotrain harnessed a Talgo tilt system which allowed the trains to operate at higher speeds throughout the corridor. However, although the Turbos were reliable, they lacked flexibility due to articulated bogies, making it difficult to modify the lengths of trains. Furthermore, if one of the cars encountered an issue, the entire train would have to pulled from service.

Upon realizing the Turbo’s shortcomings, a project for their replacement commenced. Aluminum and mining manufacturer Alcan, composed a passenger car design with a streamlined undercarriage in order to reduce drag. The new cars were also equipped with the active tilt system, and a new suspension system, allowing for a smooth ride for passengers.

Additionally, a high speed locomotive was developed to power the new trains, which was built by Bombardier and powered by an ALCO 16-251F prime mover, capable of speeds of up to 95 mph (153 kp/h). The LRC locomotives were extremely lightweight, which allowed for lesser fuel consumption and higher speeds. For the sake of aerodynamics, the locomotive was at a similar height as the passenger cars.

Much consideration was given to the development of the passenger car’s tilting system, as VIA Rail contracted steel company Dofasco to manufacture the bogies. Dofasco decided the easiest way to incorporate the active tilting system into the bogies was to implement it above them. Equipped with hydraulic arms, when a car reached a turn, it slid sideways, therefore, reducing the amount of tilt felt by the passengers, which allowed for an increasingly comfortable ride.

Roger Puta

Although the project was making significant advancements in the early seventies, the project was put on hold for a significant amount of time due to exhausted funds and and a strike. However, the project was revived in 1974, when Amtrak took interest in the LRC project in an effort to modernize their fleet of trains, and were tested throughout the northeastern portion of the system. The tests administered by Amtrak were considered to be a great success, as both the LRC’s high speed capability, and tilting mechanism worked well. Although testing was successful, Amtrak choose alternative options, and the LRC was returned to Alcan.

To adopt the LRC into revenue operation in Canada, a four phase plan was developed. The first phase would concern a prototype passenger car operating in revenue service on the corridor line, while the second phase increased the speed of the test. The third phase included operating the set between Toronto and Sarnia, which was a portion of the heavily traveled corridor route. With the introduction of LRC service, the Tempo service, hauled by an MLW RS18, was eventually phased out. Phase four of the testing included reaching high speeds on the Canadian mainline, which the LRC reached a speed of 129 mph (208 kp/h) in Quebec. With testing completed, and the train having proven its worth, production commenced.

Todd and Jack Humphrey

LRC production began in 1975, following a merger between Bombardier and MLW. The benefits of the LRC locomotive during testing were evident, as they proved significantly lighter than any other locomotive, and consumed far less fuel. However, as production continued the weight of the locomotive continued to increase exponentially, eventually negating the weight savings initially recorded in the Alcan developed locomotive. In fact, the weight increase was so prominent, it was believed that the corridor would incur premature track wear from the high speeds.

For nearly 15 years, Canadian National sought to eliminate their passenger services, which similar to the many passenger services in the U.S. years prior, were accruing significant losses for their operation. Thus, the Canadian versions of the LRC were delayed until the incorporation of Via Rail. However, Amtrak took interest in the LRC for testing along their Northeast Corridor. Amtrak leased 2 locomotives and 10 coaches, which was enough to make two trains, and utilized them in regular service on the section between New York and Boston, which encompassed various tight curves, and would lack electrification until the late 1990s.

Roger Puta

This Amtrak order was denoted the “LRC 1” order, and lasted in Amtrak service until the lease expired in 1982. Amtrak had the option to purchase the sets, however, decided to return them after the lease. However, the returned Amtrak sets were incompatible with the later Via Rail production runs, and could only be utilized together in certain instances.

After the incorporation of Via Rail, the first order of Canadian LRC’s were ordered, denoted the “LRC 2” order. This was an order of 20 locomotives, and 50 coaches. Via ordered a further order of 10 locomotives and 50 coaches, denoted the “LRC 3” order. The VIA Rail LRC’s entered service in 1981, and were immediately troublesome, as the tilting system failed to readjust itself after exiting a curve. However, these initial issues were rectified, and the fleet became the backbone of Via Rail’s intercity fleet on the corridor.

Todd and Jack Humphrey

Throughout the life of the LRC sets, the locomotives were retired after 15 years of service, however, the cars continue as the backbone of Via Rail’s corridor fleet, and are now hauled by either GE P42DC or GMD F40PH-2D locomotives. Due in part to a stimulus program, the passenger cars were refurbished in 2007, however, they also had their tilting system removed during the refurbishment. Furthermore, additionally renovated business cars provide passengers with a 2-1 configuration, with on board hot meal service.

Upon retirement, LRC locomotives 6917 and 6921 remain in preservation. 6917 is preserved at Via’s Toronto Maintenance Center, and was recently repainted by the team at Rapido Trains. 6921 resides in Montreal at the Canadian Railway Museum, and has been operational in recent years.

Technical

The LRC locomotive is powered by an ALCO 16-251F, and encompasses 3,700 horsepower, and 2,700 horsepower when HEP is operable. The LRC locomotive is designed for high speed operation, and can reach a maximum speed of 95 mph (153 kp/h), however, speeds close to 130 mph have been recorded during testing.

The LRC passenger cars were lightweight, weighing in at only 105,000 lbs, mainly due to their aluminum construction. The cars ride on Dofasco inside bearing trucks. The cars are 85 ft in length, 10 ft 5 1/2 in. in width, and 12 ft. 11 in. in height. In total, 100 LRC coaches were built for VIA, and 10 for Amtrak.

LRC Locomotive Technical
ManufacturerBombardier Transportation/Montreal Locomotive Works.
Date Built1980-1984
Total BuiltLRC 1: 2 locomotives, 10 coaches
LRC 2 20 locomotives, 50 coaches.
LRC 3: 10 locomotives, 50 coaches.
Wheel ConfigurationB-B
Length63 ft. 8 in.
Width10 ft. 5 1/2 in.
Height12 ft. 11 in.
Weight256,000 lbs
Prime Mover ALCO 16-251F
Max Speed95 mph (153 kp/h)
Horsepower 3,700 hp
2,700 hp (HEP)

Josef

Lifelong Rail Enthusiast and Owner of Worldwide Rails

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