Northern Alberta Railways Diesels: 1952-1980: Book Review

This is a review of the new book, “Northern Alberta Railways Diesels: 1952-1980” by Leslie S. Kozma. This is an exhaustively researched, well told book on the short history of diesel locomotives with the Northern Alberta Railways (NAR) between the end of steam and the absorption of the NAR by CN.

Author Kozma has clearly spent a great deal of time researching the history of the line and the locomotives. However, I believe the greatest value was gained by interviewing the people who used to work on the railway. Several NAR employees provided key information that wouldn’t be found elsewhere, including the author of the foreword, John R. Fraser, who was the Master Mechanic for the NAR at the time of amalgamation with CN.

This colourful 72 page book covers the entire span of diesels on the NAR, from the first studies for diesels in 1952, through the first diesels “on property” (GP9R 201 and 202, arriving at Dunvegan Yard in Edmonton on December 27, 1957) through the acquisition of more GP9s, GMD1s and eventually the four well known SD38-2 units. Invaluable detail on studies, correspondence and internal discussions is included. I really liked the discussions on the frequent power shortages on the NAR and the sometimes difficult relationship between the NAR and the joint owners, CN and the CPR.

The book is well illustrated with photos of the locomotives, both “on the road” with trains and in the yard with great detail on the equipment and paint schemes. The quality of the photography is excellent and the book’s print quality is also excellent.

My only small complaint is the quality of the book cover. My copy arrived with the spine crinkled a bit. It would have benefited from a stiffer cover or perhaps being shipped with a cardboard insert to prevent folding in transit.

This is a great book and I recommend it for anyone interested in learning more about what was once Canada’s third largest railway. Recommended.

You can order this book through the Alberta Railway Museum’s gift shop.

9 thoughts on “Northern Alberta Railways Diesels: 1952-1980: Book Review”

  1. Thanks for the review. The picture of the GMD1 is interesting as the NAR configured these to run short hood forward and also didn’t install spark arresters.

    • Thanks for your comment, Nigel! The book mentioned that the NAR paid extra to have the GMD1s come equipped for short hood forward operation. There was also a discussion about CN’s spark arrestors. So many details in this book.

  2. Got my copy today! I was a bit surprised by the cover, I was thinking it was going to be a different layout but It looks good otherwise. Am looking forward to reading it.

  3. For any of you that has this book, can you tell me if the name Jussila,John or Jack or Bill is in it.Jack is my dad, John is grandfather, Bill is Jacks brother

    • Hi Kelly, I did a quick skim through the book and I didn’t see that surname. This book is more about the locomotives and it doesn’t mention many people of the NAR in it.

  4. How do you buy this book ?
    I tried using this online form link above and filled out the required info but no one has ever got back to me.


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