CN / VIA Rail's FPA4s:

Scattered to the Four Corners

The first MLW-built passenger cab units arrived in 1955; they were 1600-horsepower, four-axle FPA-2s, followed in 1958 by more powerful FPA/B-4s. These beauties graced various Canadian National passeger trains for more than two decades. It should be noted that the CNR was the only Class One carrier anywhere to purchase the FPA/FPB-4 (or DL-218/219) model. The new MLW cab and booster units featured a 251B series powerplant that produced 1800 horsepower. Delivered to the CN between October, 1958 and May, 1959, the FPA/B-4 production consisted of 34 cab units and 12 boosters. There were also two FPA-2s that were re-engined with the 251B prime mover. The entire fleet of MLW cabs was transferred to VIA Rail ownership on March 31, 1978.

VIA management chose an attractive, forward-looking image for itself. The new blue and yellow corporate attire nicely accentuated the powerful styling of the high-speed MLWs and suggested that train watching along the Montreal-Ottawa-Toronto-Windsor corridors was not likely to lose its excitement in the future.

However, the FPAs tenure would be cut short. The Canadian Ministry of Transportation declared that beginning 1 April 1989 only those locomotives equipped with RSC safety control equipment would be permitted on the point of VIA passenger trains. The government edict meant VIA’s fleet of MLW-built FPA/Bs would be delegated to the trailing position on trains, or even worse, retired. It would surely be the death knell for the four-axle cab units that had polished CN/VIA rails for more than three decades.

Fast forwarding to 2017, nearly a third of the 34 FPA-4 cab units that left the Montreal plant nearly 60 years ago still survive; many have starring roles on excursion lines, dinner trains, or at museums across the lower 48 states and in Canada. Trains Magazine once opined that the Canadian-built FPA4s were -- "living legends." You'll get no argument here. (R. Craig photo)

A Photo Review

VIA FPAs: 1977 to 1989

VIA 6775

John C. Benson photo

VIA 6758

Jim Koglin photo

VIA 6764 action

R. Craig photo

VIA 6860

Paul Hunnell photo

Second-Hand FPA4 Owners

Cuyahooga Valley Scenic / B&O 800

Frank Volkhart photo (Ray Sabo collection)

Cuyahooga Valley Scenic 6777

Matt Delsander photo

Cuyahooga Valley Scenic 6777

RCraig photo

Grand Canyon Rwy 6793

Vic Lines photo

Privately Owned

R. Craig photo

Monticello Rwy Musuem 6789


Napa Valley Wine Train

Gary Kluge Photo (R.Craig collection)

New York & Lake Erie 6758

Don Kurek, Jr. photo

Potomac Eagle 6793

Tom Keeping photo

Rwy Museum of New England 1390

Charles Maxim Photo

Rwy Museum of New England 3399

Charles Maxim Photo

Rwy Museum of New England 6786

Tim Darnell photo

Rwy Museum of New England 6867

Tim Darnell photo

Vintage Locomotive Inc. 6763

Paul Wester photo

Western Maryland Scenic 305

R. Craig photo

Reference sources:
  • Alco FA: Running in the Shadows published by Four Ways West,
  • MLW-built FPA4 roster at The Diesel Shop (October 2004)

"Rail" and "" websites were especially helpful here in identifying potential photographers and related images.We extend our thanks to these valuable resources. Thanks also to Michael Richmond who was very helpful in identifying and gaining permission to use many of the above photos.

Format by: R.Craig Revised: 29 January 2022 (New: 30 September 2017)

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