INNISFAIL – For most of the morning of Tuesday, Oct. 17 tumbleweeds rolled quickly from the rail tracks and down Innisfail’s Main Street.
Innisfailian Linda Biggart laughed at the sight, noting she was at the tracks to see a true blast of the past.
“I am very excited because my grandparents used to live just by where the town office kind of is now. As kids we put out pennies on the track,” she said.
The rolling tumbleweeds gave the right feel for the growing crowd anxious to see the return of a beloved relic of the past.
The Canadian Pacific 2816 locomotive took a test run on Oct. 17 for its three-nation tour – Canada, United States and Mexico - scheduled for April 13, 2024, which marks the one year anniversary of the merger of the Canadian Pacific Kansas City (CPKC) railroads.
CPKC is calling the 2816 tri-nation journey the Final Spike Steam Tour that will make stops in Moose Jaw, Sask., Minot, N.D., St. Paul, Minn.; Bensenville, Ill.; Davenport, Iowa; Kansas City, Mo.; Shreveport, La.; Laredo, Tex.; and Mexico City.
The 2816 was built by the Montreal Locomotive Works in 1930, and for the next three decades had regular service before retiring in 1960. CP restored it in 2001 but it was put into storage until 2012.
But now the prized locomotive is back.
On Oct. 17, 2816 began its test run from Calgary to Airdrie, and through Carstairs, Didsbury, Olds, Bowden Innisfail and beyond.
In Innisfail, a growing crowd endured stiff cold autumn winds in high anticipation.
The 2816 was scheduled to leaved Calgary at 9:30 a.m. and hopefully roll through Innisfail sometime between 10:30 a.m. to noon.
But the 2816 was delayed by regularly scheduled freight trains along the way north, and after rolling past Olds and Bowden it did not reach Innisfail until 1:05 p.m.
The crowd at the Main Street track intersection saw the smoke billowing out of 2816 far into the southern distance.
Many gathered at an old loading dock just east of Main Street, getting their cameras and cellphones ready for the perfect shot.
Everyone had to be in perfect position. Not only did 2816 not stop in town it seemed to increase speed as it blasted through Innisfail’s downtown core.
The entire experience of Innisfailians seeing the famed 2816 lasted less than 30 seconds.
But few of the gathered enthusiasts minded.
“It has been a long time waiting and I guess it’s just a gift from the prairies growing up to just see this,” said Innisfailian Brad Watson. “I think it's just important from a historical perspective. We just don't want to completely obliterate the past.”