Canadian Pacific Railway’s ‘Support Our Troops’ Locomotives
by Adam Meeks
Editor: In November 2019, Canadian Pacific Railway (CP) unveiled five specially painted locomotives honouring the culture and history of the Canadian and US armed forces.1 Adam Meeks provides some of the background to the initiative.
The idea for the military units came about as part of a conversation with Keith Creel, CP’s President & CEO. We were discussing a proposal for CP’s heritage locomotive fleet, which was still in the ‘early idea’ phase at that point. As part of the presentation, one of our locomotive reliability engineers, Aivo Merimets, pitched the idea of adding on a unit with a “Support Our Troops” theme. Mr Creel liked the idea, as he is a US Army veteran himself. He told us to proceed with the idea but with one major difference – instead of one military locomotive, he wanted five. Aivo’s preliminary design was quite basic and was essentially just a CP System Red locomotive with a yellow ribbon motif augmenting the corporate logo. Once we were instructed to do five units though, it seemed like a shame to do five of the same basic design and we decided to get creative and do five unique designs. We formed a cross-functional design committee led by me and consisting of Aivo Merimets and Tom Lambrecht (Locomotive Mechanical), Rory Thompson (Learning, Development, and Military Relations) and two members of our communications team, Justyna Babski and Geminesse Johnson. The idea to base the locomotive designs on military equipment was mine, as were the original concepts. I reached out to representatives from the Canadian and American armed forces and worked closely with them to ensure that lettering and paint colours we wanted to use were accurate, and our committee worked together to refine the designs into the final versions that went on the locomotives. Tom and Aivo made sure we stayed within the realm of the possible in terms of what we could do with the units, Rory provided valuable insight from a military perspective, and Geminesse designed the special CP folded yellow ribbon logo that went on the locomotive noses. I spent six weeks in Kentucky working with the locomotive builder, supervising the paint process and ensuring that the finished product was faithful to our designs, then we unveiled all five units as part of CP’s annual Remembrance Day ceremony in 2019.
All five locomotives are still in service wearing their special tribute liveries, and to my knowledge we intend to leave them that way. We do our best to keep them clean, which is extraordinarily challenging as railroading is a gritty endeavor and the light-coloured units in particular show the road grime very quickly. We gave the Navy locomotive (CP 7022) a complete re-paint last year after the original paint began to show some heat damage.
CP has a long and storied history with the military, providing support to Canada’s armed forces since the 1880s and the United States military since the 1990s. The company has been ranked among Canada’s most military friendly employers and maintains a policy that allows active military members to take time away from work to fulfill their military duties with pay. CP also holds an annual “Spin For A Veteran” fundraiser with all monies raised going to support veterans in need.
A book about the military locomotives called Proud Colours2 has been published and describes in detail the design process and meaning behind each of the locomotives, as well as their relevance to CP. The book was previously available through our company store and was sold as a fundraiser item, with all proceeds going to the Homes for Heroes Foundation to support homeless veterans. The book’s first printing sold out completely in Canada, there are only a handful of copies left in the United States, and raised over $40,000.
CP 7020 wears North Atlantic Treaty Organization green, which the Canadian and US armies apply to fighting vehicles and equipment serving in temperate climates.
CP 7021 wears the sand colour that the Canadian and US armies apply to fighting vehicles and equipment serving in arid climates.
CP 7022 wears the grey, red and black colour pattern of modern Canadian and American warships.
CP 7023 wears a two-tone gray paint scheme designed after the livery applied to Canadian and American fighter jets.
CP 6644 wears the camouflage colours applied to Royal Canadian Air Force “Spitfire” fighter planes flown at the Allied invasion of Normandy, France, on June 6, 1944.
- Canadian Pacific honours Canadian, U.S. military with special locomotives
https://www.cpr.ca/en/media/canadian-pacific-honours-canadian-us-military-with-special-locomotives, accessed 14 January 2023
- Book Review: Proud Colours
Canadian Pacific Railway releases book to raise funds to help homeless Veterans
Adam Meeks is the Manager Heritage Services & Operations, Canadian Pacific Railway. This work is the sole opinion of the author and does not necessarily represent the views of Canadian Pacific Railway, the Canadian Department of National Defence, the Canadian Armed Forces, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police or the Royal United Services Institute of Nova Scotia. The author may be contacted by email at RUSI(NS).