Portal to the Online Railway Photos of Canadian Archives
CNR Class U-4-a 4-8-4, Images and Data


Legget, pp. 166-167: «In the same tradition of appearance were the ten[sic] 6400s (4—8—4s) which represented the ultimate development of the Northern design. With streamlined bodies, designed after careful wind-tunnel tests conducted in the Ottawa laboratories of the National Research Council, and so displaying few of the usual North American accessories draped around the boilers, finished in green with careful lining. they were truly magnificent machines. No 6400 provided the CNR haulage for the Royal Train in 1939 and was latter exhibited at the World's Fair of that year in New York. They cost $150,000 each, a figure that is mentioned if only to indicate the large capital investment in steam locomotives that was so soon to disappear.»

Buck, pp. 169-170: «The CNR introduced streamlining to some of its locomotives as well. In 1936, five 4-8-4s, or Northerns, were constructed with full streamlining. The full cowling also incorporated smoke deflectors designed by the National Research Council of Canada to prevent smoke obscuring the engineer's vision. While a later order, delivered in 1936, also included roller bearings, full streamlining was not applied to subsequent locomotives, as it interfered with routine maintenance. The large streamlined Northerns were used to pull long, heavy passenger trains, and they were employed rarely in western Canada.»

MacKay and Perry, pp. 83 & 86: «CN produced Canada's first semi-streamlined locomotives, a development of the Northern type, designed in collaboration with the National Research Council. They had such innovations as a rounded nose, streamlined cowl and running board apron, but the louvres installed beside the stack to direct smoke away from the cab were of dubious value. This handsome series in green and gold passenger livery began regular service between Montreal and Toronto and also powered VIP trains. In 1939, with the royal coat of arms under its headlight, No, 6400 hauled the blue and silver royal train of twelve cars that carried King George VI and Queen Elizabeth for part of the four thousand miles on the final eastbound leg of a tour that aroused royalist and patriotic emotions unheard of today. Later that year one of these modernistic engines went on exhibition at the World's Fair in New York.»

Worth Press, p. 183: «Significantly the CNR was among the first railways in the world to adopt the 4—8—4 type which was known as the Northern in the USA, while the CNR patriotically refered to its 4—8—4's as Confederations in honour of the federal union of the Dominion of Canada. The CNR, along with its US subsidiary the Grand Trunk Western, ultimately operated the largest fleet of 4—8—4s in North America, consisting of more than two hundred locomotives.»

National Research Council Canada, pp. 90-91: « Examples of Work Completed in the Aeronautical Laboratories 1. Locomotive. At the request of the Canadian National Railways, an investigation was made resulting in the development of an exterior form, applicable to the existing 6100 type C.N.R. locomotives, having a much reduced air resistance (abour[sic] 25% reduction for the locomotive alone) and overcoming the hazard due to the "blinding" of the locomotive driver by smoke.»

Lotz and McKenzie, p.85: «Number 6400 was a very hot-looking 4-8-4 streamliner of the early 1940s[sic], complete with ride-smoothing 12-wheel tender.»

Such tenders were known as Vanderbilt tenders.

In this article, we present the class details and images in our collection and from various archives.


Sources: Hollingsworth , p.146 & Canadian Railroad Historical Association , p.46


6400 was the first streamlined locomotive in Canada., p.3-68. It also had the distinction of powering the 1939 Royal Train.

Builder's photo:

Newly off the assembly line:

The following image would have been impressive had the background been fully removed:

1939 Royal Train:

Buck, p. 171: «The CNR took charge of the royal train at Vancouver and used a variety of locomotives, mainly Mountains (4-8-2) and Northerns, to pull the train east. Although both King George and Queen Elizabeth spent time riding in the cabs of some of the CNR locomotives, none received the honour bestowed upon the one class of CPR Hudsons.»

The above right-hand-side painting would appear to have been preliminary concept art.

A version of the Royal Coat of Arms was mounted at the front of the engine whereas Canada's Coat of Arms appeared on the tender's side but with the crown element relocated to the front of the running-board skirting.

In regular service:

Retired 1967. Only one preserved, at the Canada Science and Technology Museum, Ottawa, Ontario. , p.3-68





Vanderbilt Tender


Morgan, p. 44: «Canadian National's U.S. subsidiary Grand Trunk Western reports to the I.C.C. [Wikipedia: Interstate Commerce Commission] and buys its power locally, but the parent's design influence was quite apparent in steam. Aside from the air-scoop smoke deflector, GTW's six U-4-b streamlined 4-8-4's were counterparts of CNR's U-4-a's.»

The class specifications are as follows:

Sources: Morgan , p.45 & Canadian Railroad Historical Association , p.46

The entries marked with a dagger symbol ( ) differ from those of Class U-4-a listed earlier, assuming of course that both data sets are correct. With the GTW engines built two years later, some modifications were perhaps introduced based on CN experiences during the intervening time. So there was more than just the air-scoops that differentiated the two classes. Regrettably, all GTW engines were eventually scrapped.


  1. Buck, G.H. (1997), From Summit to Sea: An Illustrated History of Railroads in British Columbia and Alberta, Fifth House Ltd., Calgary, ISBN 1-895618-94-0.
  2. Canadian Railroad Historical Association (2002), Canadian Rail, March-April, No. 487, ISSN 0008-4875.
  3. Hollingsworth, B. (1997), The Illustrated Encyclopedia of North American Locomotives: A historical directory of over 150 years of North American rail power, Salamander Books Ltd., London, UK, ISBN 0 86101 933 4.
  4. Legget, R.F. (1973), Railways of Canada, Douglas & McIntyre, Vancouver, B.C..
  5. Lotz, J. and McKenzie, K. (1994), Railways of Canada, W H Smith Publishers, Canada, ISBN 0-88665-479-3.
  6. MacKay, D. and Perry, L. (1994), Train Country: An Illustrated History of Canadian National Railways, Douglas & McIntyre, Vancouver/Toronto, Canada, ISBN 1-55054-153-6.
  7. Morgan, D.P., Editor (1975), Steam's Finest Hour, Sixth printing, Kalmbach Publishing Co., Milwaukee, Wisconsin, ISBN 0-89024-002-7.
  8. National Research Council Canada (1935), Organization and activities of the National Research Council, Ottawa, Canada. View full text (PDF, 11 MB)
  9. Roberts, E.W. and Stremes, D.P. (Editors) (1996), Canadian Trackside Guide 1996, Bytown Railway Society Inc., Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, ISBN 0829-3023.
  10. Wikipedia (2019), Tender (rail), last modified on 13 November 2019, at 16:29 (UTC).
  11. Worth Press (2013), The Golden Age of Canadian Railways, Worth Press Ltd., Bassingbourn, United Kingdom, ISBN 978 1 903025 19 2.

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