Wednesday, October 28, 2009

CN Ballast Trains, Part 1

During the summer track maintenance season, CN operates ballast trains to distribute ballast along specific sections of trackage. These trains are usually followed by gangs with tamping and surfacing equipment. A follow-up post: Ballast Trains, Part 2 deals with the evolution of ballast trains. Ballast pits system-wide supply ballast to each region, although now with dedicated ballast trains, these pits can be located farther from where the ballast is needed. A fleet of open hoppers, CN 300000-300429 and CN 300806-301472 built in 1957-58, equipped with longitudinal discharge gates to distribute ballast along the rails. In 1985, 2037 backs its train into Queens 4 (above), and in June 1980, 4310-4307 prepare to haul a ballast train west out of Portage la Prairie, Manitoba:

Its cars were part of an 86-car ballast train which arrived in Portage on June 20 behind 9402-9482-tank car CN 80125-brown 300591-301214-300600-301351-orange 302460-302304-90178-90476-90362-302398-302306-302338-302362-302355-302262-302343-302119-302323-302370-302307-302291-302303-302595-90207-90024-302354-302349-90340-90034-90252-90190-302301-302371-302329-302274-302265-302103-302377-302311-302310-302358-302312-302319-302332-302397-302302-302588-302333-302317-302320-302107-302342-302580-302347-302250-302331-302361-302387-302399-302386-302315-302286-302305-302330-302583-302316-302344-brown 301157-300231-300641-300982-300847-300439-300633-300809-30133-301419-301326-300618-300334-300542-301365-301120-300372-301246-301334-caboose 79460. Before leaving town, the ballast train waited to meet VIA's 15-car eastbound Super Continental with 6509-6610-CN4106:

In September 1995, 4136-4129 headed a working ballast train, comprising a few flatcars of new ties and 29 ballast hoppers eastbound at Mi 184 Kingston Sub:

As the ballast train works uphill, VIA 6417 pulls 8619-4004 and 5 LRC cars downhill, blowing for the crossing at Mi 184. The blue cans of spikes are another sign of impending track work:

Sectionmen walk (or run) along the uneven shoulder of the ballast while they hand-crank the hopper gates to drop ballast. As each car empties, they crank open the hoppers on the next car. A favourite technique to loosen unco-operative ballast in the cars was to let the train's slack run in and out a couple of times.

Meeting a westbound freight behind 5379-5184, spreading has stopped temporarily. The sectionmen climb aboard the nearest ballast car ladder and ride to the next location. The train later tied up for the day in Queens track 1.

Partial consist of this train: CN 300768-301410-300010*-300098-300812-300889-301448*-300510*-300577*-300746-300764*-301065-300611-300369 and 15 more cars. (* denotes cars in original Canadian National block-lettering scheme, others wear the wet-noodle scheme)

Franklin Desjarlais recalls working on ballast trains out of Portage la Prairie in 1980. Staying on CN ballast gang 107 white fleet cars at Eighth Street with foreman Fred Hayden, Jordan spreader operator and eight labourers, and following 65-man sledding gang 106. Unloading 50 to 60 cars a day on CN's Gladstone Sub, foreman Hayden would call out on the radio, "Okay, 4411, shake them up!" and the labourers would run beside the cars and close the hopper doors with lining bars.
Running extra...
Voting in our Trackside Treasure favourite VIA era poll revealed major interest in two eras, 1976-81 (53%), and 2001-09 (23%). Thanks for voting, and I'll be sharing some boffo consists from the early CN to VIA transition years.
Speaking of stone ballast, The Temptations' signature Papa was a Rolling Stone begins with an awesome plucked bass part, and adds hi-hat cymbal, guitar, Wurlitzer electric piano, handclaps, horns and strings all on a single chord, B-flat minor.
Stone Phillips, former anchor of Dateline NBC, named his son Streeter. The Mainstreeter was a Northern Pacific streamliner, and another US railroad, the Chicago & Northwestern was famous for its "Pink Lady" ballast, produced by a ballast pit in Rock Springs, Wisconsin.


Zartok-35 said...

I didn't know the old block letter cars lasted so long.

Eric said...

Hi Elijah,
Yes, those cars had a long life. There'll be more of them in Part 2, along with the orange hoppers and big, bad Herzog. Stay tuned,