Saturday, February 21, 2009

VIA's Winnipeg to Saskatoon Nos.109/110, 1982

November 15, 1981 saw 15 VIA Rail routes cancelled, including the Halifax-Montreal Atlantic Limited, the Regina-Prince Albert RDC's Nos 680/683, and the Toronto-Vancouver Super Continental (above). From November 1981 to June 1984, VIA instituted a daily, pint-sized passenger train, VIA No 109 Winnipeg-Saskatoon, and VIA No 110 Saskatoon-Winnipeg. Scheduled to arrive in Portage la Prairie, Manitoba at noon, No 109's consist on June 11, 1982 was 6519 - 604 - 3215:
The diminutive, two-car (baggage car and cafe-coach) consist was the former CN Saskatoon-Regina RDC run over the Craik Subdivision, extended to Portage over CP trackage, thence CN into Winnipeg. On June 14, the train had as many locomotives as cars, 6520 - 6521 - 600 - 3226:

Other No 109 consists for the month:
June 16 6514 - 600 - 3226
June 18 6520 - 600 - 3226
June 21 6509 - 605 - 3222
June 22 6518 - 600 - 3226 - 9481
June 23 6514 - 605 - 3233 - 3222
June 24 6513 - 600 - 3226
On June 15, an ex-CN baggage car was in use: 6519 - 9652 - 3222. On June 15, No 110 (not pictured) was eastbound at 1810 with 6512 - 9652 - 3222. The regular engineer on No 109 was kind enough to pass along some of his train orders:

The trains' run over both of Canada's railways is reflected in the different clearances and train orders issued by CN and CP. The engineer offered me a cab ride as far as Brandon, returning the same afternoon on No 110. I should've taken him up on it! CP issued train orders to No 110 at Brandon:

VIA even marketed a Brandon Getaway to mark the Wheat City's centennial. "Travel relaxed and in comfort on VIA Rail's train service - arriving and leaving Brandon at convenient times. Shop and sightsee in this interesting city." The cover of the folder showed grain covered hoppers and stock cars in CP's yard:
Nos 109/110 truly qualified as a Model Railroader pike-size passenger train, which makes it easy to model. But bigger things were to come...the train would be upsized in 1984, and its run as the new Panorama extended west over CN to Edmonton. More to follow in the next post...

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Centuries in the Snow at Belleville, February 1988

A fresh snowfall on February 5, 1988 preceded my railfan trip to CN's Belleville yard. A westbound fast freight behind Centuries 2307-3236-2002 was at the classic limestone station at 1430, with a consist of COFC as well as general freight.

Starting to pull with the crew change completed, the train headed west into the low afternoon sun toward the Moira River bridge:

Cabooses were still in use, with 79885 on the tailend of this train:

Driving around to the north side of the yard, I pulled my '81 Chevette over to take a photo, and slid into a snow-drifted ditch. Thanks to an obliging householder across the street, I made a quick call to Quinte Towing, and I was soon on my way. Power at the yard office, at the east end of Belleville yard, was 7316 with 76545:

CN's welded rail plant was still in operation, with the gantry crane just visible behind yard goat 7305:

American crane 50483, idler flat 54495 and transfer caboose 76563 were parked by the roundhouse:
In the OCS yard, the Great Lakes region "White Fleet" boarding outfit trains were back for winter storage. The sectionmen already have the switches well dug-out after the snow:


Heavyweight ex-baggage car 73913 has lots its upper white stripe, and is now in maintenance service:

VIA was operating LRC's that day, with 6905 and 4 cars westbound, and 6925 and 5 cars eastbound. In early 1988, CN was leasing Bessemer & Lake Erie SD's:
February 11, 1842 WB: 2314-B&LE 643, CRDX, BN, CN, USLX grain empties, caboose 79511.
May 25, 1838 EB: 9418-4536-B&LE 829-B&LE 841-4110-2110, general freight, 79645.
Another down-at-the-heels ex-baggage car, 70740 is seen in Belleville in December, 2001, with most of its black stripe gone:


Saturday, February 7, 2009

CP interchanges with CN at Kingston, 1979


At the south end of CP Rail's Kingston Subdivision, running south from Tichborne to Kingston (ex-Kingston & Pembroke Railway, often called the "Kick & Push"), cars were interchanged with CN's Kingston Subdivision at Queens East. A tail track under the Division Street overpass, which used to lead downtown until 1974, and two double-ended tracks, KL90 and KL91, comprised the interchange. It was not uncommon to find a few interesting and colourful freight cars reposing here, waiting to be lifted by one of the two railways. Once in a while, it was possible to find a CP Rail unit and van switching the interchange:

Sometimes CP's train would be left on a runaround track south of Dalton Avenue, north of the interchange. But on February 3, 1979, RS-23 8045 has brought extended-cupola van 434557 right down to the interchange. The unit also switched Superior Propane and CP Express spurs, between the runaround track and the interchange.
On a grey April 16, 1979, 8030 was switching the interchange with end-cupola van 434064:

In April 1979, a view taken from the end of Rigney Street shows the Division Street overpass at right, and two tracks of cars including three CP boxcars, a CP covered gondola and flat car with an interesting load:
At the same time, CN GP-9 4561 and caboose 79595 appeared from Alcan, and headed through Queens East to the outer station yard on Montreal Street. Just to the right of 79595, the last car of CP's train can be seen on the runaround track:

Returning northwards at the Old Highway 38 crossing, just above Highway 401, the train is shaking the ground heading for Smiths Falls, via 35 miles of the Kingston Subdivision, thence 40 miles of the Belleville Subdivision:

An unusual load: JC Crane Rental crane, MG sports car and Chevy pickup truck. It's likely that the covered CP script gondola was loaded at Alcan in Kingston:

On a sunny July 16, 1979, 8043 and 434310 are arriving in town:

Working the interchange tracks, the typically smoky MLW is nosing up to a covered gondola:
Another gondola, CP 342828 (built 8-58) is waiting on the interchange in April, 1980. CP Express is the blue building in the left background:

My brother took a couple of photos here in 1982:
CP 8737 on a plow extra at the siding (above) and a view down the interchange with a CN Centuries-hauled slag train on Queens track 4. The CP link to the interchange is at right:
The last time I noted cars on the interchange was in September 1983, (though the interchange was likely still in use in 1985) with the last cars at CP Express in 1986. As CP was shedding itself of the Kingston Sub, CN switched the remaining two industries. A 1988 CN car control manual listed tracks KL21 and KL22 as "Superior Propane".
This 1998 photo of CN train No 307 shows the two interchange tracks and tail track to the left of engine 2402. The tail track was on a steep grade, up under the overpass. It was removed shortly thereafter, but only after once being used to hold a 30-car CN track gang's outfit cars in May, 1996.
Running extra...
Finally, another reference to that Cabooseless Operations display train in my November 14, 2008 blog post. Michael Shufelt, in the April 2008 BRS Branchline, photographed the special train on CP at Smiths Falls. It was on November 11, 1984, five days before I saw it at Kingston. Michael notes that the weather was too miserable to chase the train.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

CN Grain Boxcars

CN had 11,000 dedicated grain boxcars in its car fleet in 1965, 6,178 in 1981 and 3,660 in 1985. GMD-1's 1012 -1067 are hauling 20 of these toward Thunder Bay in 1985:

Major rehabilitation programs involving 2,000 cars in 1974, 3,000 in 1979 and 2,000 in 1980 were only expected to extend each boxcar's service life by five years. In other words, these cars were just about worn out. CN 427956 and 420566 still wear CNR's maple-leaf scheme in Winnipeg in 1986:


It was cheaper and easier for the railways to repair boxcars to use on lightweight branchlines than to upgrade the branchline infrastructure: roadbed, ties and rails to support heavier covered hopper cars. CN 428635, a 10-foot height car bears the government rehabilitation wheat sheaf logo:

CN 428806 has both the maple-leaf scheme and wheat sheaf logo:

CN not only sent loaded boxcars of grain to Vancouver and Thunder Bay as CP did, it also sent cars mostly from northern prairie elevators to the Arctic grain-shipping port of Churchill. This line was a political football continually passed around between governments, shippers, and farmers. Here are a couple of boxcars at Thunder Bay:

In 1986, while the future of the port was being debated, 339 of these "buffalo" boxcars with 8-foot doors were rehabilitated. The cost of $17,000 per car was equally split between the federal and Manitoba governments, so the cars were painted with the Manitoba and Canada logos. The cars were to be unloaded at Thunder Bay or Churchill. The same year, CN was unable to move 590,000 tonnes through the port with its own fleet, and had to borrow boxcars from CP Rail.

As late as 1994, CN was suspected of causing artificial shortages of Churchill-dedicated cars by squirreling them away on isolated sidings, as this newspaper advertisement from the Hudson Bay Route Association implies:

Average yearly shipments through the port from 1984 to 1994 were 379,000 tonnes, with a high of 621,000 tonnes in 1983. A dismal low of 50,000 tonnes was shipped through the port in 1988.

Change on the horizon: Portage Manitoba Pool elevator B has loaded three new Canadian Wheat Board covered hoppers in 1980. CNWX 395552, 396753, and 396491 and their fleetmates were built to replace boxcars rapidly leaving the grain shipping fleet by attrition.  By 1997, covered hoppers would finally be allowed to deliver shipments over the Churchill line.


The last boxcar shipments to Churchill were made in October 1996, with the fleet entering storage in December, followed by scrapping by Mandak Metals in Selkirk in 1996-1997. 
Running extra...
A movie review for New in Town, Renee Zellweger's latest, sums up the movie this way: "You can see every minute of New in Town coming at you like a train on a prairie horizon. And like the drive from Winnipeg to Regina, it feels a lot longer than it is." Talk about long movies, how about that 3-hour drag freight The Curious Case of Benjamin Button? At least Revolutionary Road, starring the winsome Kate Winslet featured some commuter trains taking Leonardo DiCaprio home to their house in Connecticut.
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A comment from photographer Chuck Bohi: "One of my 10,000 'Favorite' photos is of a CN train at Warroad, MN taking an eastbound grain train made up mostly of boxcars, including some wooden ones, in 1971. I also found a Wellsville, Addison, and Galeton wooden boxcar at the elevator at Cereal, AB in 1972. At Driver, SK, a wooden CN boxcar that dated from 1923 was on spot in 1972. The other boxcars at Driver's elevator were pretty old as well."

On CN this afternoon, 176 cars and 164 cars were on an eastbound and westbound respectively, at Kingston, each with two new units. Kind of reminds me of stories about the Rock Island and Milwaukee Road, just before they went bankrupt...although they were hauling unprofitable traffic with worn-out power, and running long trains was the only way to maybe come close to making a profit.