Sunday, April 26, 2009

CP's Colonsay Subdivision, 1986

CP's Colonsay Subdivision in Saskatchewan catches one's eye on a map due to its distinctively-named towns. Located almost dead-centre in Canada's prairie grain-growing region, I toured the line on a three-day exploration of 50 towns and their grain elevators in 1986.
Boxcars only: Although a new high-throughput elevator was built at Amazon after my visit, SWP No 225 was still loading outbound grain in boxcars when I was there.

At Simpson, more boxcars to load and four elevators:

A 1913 85-lb CPR splice plate belies the age of this subdivision, and its age is one reason tie gondolas were in many sidings. The line was being rehabilitated.

Unfortunately, the line no longer exists. It was transferred to CN ownership in 1987. A connection was built to the CN at Watrous, and the CP Colonsay Sub became CN's Imperial Sub. The red Pioneer and brown Sask Wheat Pool elevators made a colourful backdrop. Tie gons, a venerable wooden boxcar, and grain boxcars were at Imperial:


A low-profile CPR yard switchstand guards access to Imperial's elevator track. This view could just as easily represent 1976 or 1966:

At Stalwart, three elevators basked in the afternoon sun:

The sun also faded the ink on the shipping ticket attached to a pool boxcar of No 2 Red Wheat that was bound for Vancouver B.C.'s grain terminal:

More boxcars are spotted at Liberty. The lighting conditions are similar in many of these elevator shots, due to the north-south axis of the line. Elevator row at Stalwart looks somewhat similar to elevator row in Liberty:


The highway ran north-south too, and was probably one factor in the Colonsay Sub's eventual abandonment. No boxcars or pirates are visible at Penzance on this hot, dusty day:

Looking north at Penzance, CP Rail, script and stacked CPR schemes are visible on the grain boxcars spotted here:
At the south end of the line, Holdfast's three elevators are loading boxcars.


Looking north again, more boxcars are visible. I stopped in to the little store in Holdfast to buy a Mountain Dew and a Cherry Coke. The store clerk and another shopper helped me with directions as I headed for Davidson that night, then Rosetown the following night, before returning to Saskatoon and heading east on VIA Rail. This boxcar subdivision was abandoned by CN in 1999. I'm glad I was able to experience it on a sunny June day, thirteen years before its demise.
Running extra...
Another prolific blogger has been added to my Useful Collection of Railblogs. Robert McDonald's Oil-Electric has some interesting posts on Canadian railways and the Pacific Northwest rail scene.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

CN's Cataraqui Spur, from Mainline to Lakeshore


Branching off CN's Kingston Subdivision at Mi 178, the Cataraqui Spur extends 3 miles south to Lake Ontario. It serves the Invista (formerly DuPont) nylon plant on Front Road. In 1981, 3741 crossed Gardiners Road with 2 covered hoppers from DuPont and stops to lift a CN covered hopper from the team track. Current trackage is shown in red, and red dashes indicate trackage that has been removed. What does the "A" represent? That's the location of a Harvey's restaurant with a nice view of a very scenic part of the spur:

The trainman exits the cab and swings down to couple on to the car, then makes the joint onto the caboose. Beyond the train are the DuPont warehouse (left) and Weldwood lumber (right), two west-end CN customers that will be the subject of future posts profiling Kingston's rail-served industries:
Just ahead of 3741 is the mainline switch. In these photos, the team track and runaround were west of Gardiners Road. The Cat Spur and the double-track Kingston Sub mainline crossed Gardiners Road at level crossings. When the road was widened, and an underpass excavated under the mainline, the mainline switch was relocated east of the road. This is where the team track and runaround are now located. In June 1995, train No 590 with 4120 and 4121 is coming up the Cat Spur from Bath Road, approaching the new Tanner Drive subdivision crossing. At the lowest point in the photo is the first of three trestles on the spur.

Just beyond that trestle was a track, now pulled up, that served the heating plant at Collins Bay federal penitentiary, often referred to as "Cinderella's Castle" and plainly visible from the mainline. Rails lifted from the spur can still be seen near its original alignment, beside the Tim Horton's drive-thru at the Pioneer gas bar on Bath Road.

Just ahead is the Cat Spur mainline switch at Mi 178. Note the unofficial sign "Dupont Spurline - the little engine that could - slow moving train"

In April 1994, 4118 and 4128 head up the spur after switching DuPont, and cross the first trestle over some spring runoff:

The second trestle is the longest of the three, as the spur swings south, crosses the Little Cataraqui River and Bath Road. In January 1980, a diminutive train, consisting of equally diminutive engines 1298, 1310, a single covered hopper and caboose 79522 heads along the spur. Returning up the spur, after doing some switching in Kingston, the train headed west to Belleville with tank car UTLX 47999 and caboose 79651.


This trestle was the site of a derailment on October 13, 1995. 4141 and 4122 were pushing tank cars PROX 73189 - PROX 73710 - DOCX 23503 - covered hoppers CN 377758 - DUPX 38204 - tank car PROX 42112 - two other cars and a caboose when the train derailed at the west end of the trestle. The engines stayed put as hi-rail trucks, Quinte rental crane and Provost transport pumped out and rerailed the cars over the next three days:


This view, from the north side of the trestle, shows how close the cars may have been to going for a swim. The last three cars of the train had been hauled to DuPont by the plant's Trackmobile. Check out the postscript for more coverage, including Ron Barrett photos.



In August 1996, CN sent crane 50472 with its pile driver to add piles to the trestle. The crane's outfit train was based in the new team track, and the crane travelled east to the worksite each day. A puff of steam issues forth from the pile driver as it hammers into the soft mud below.

An M-420W such as 3561, shown here on the trestle with 4110 the same month, could occasionally be seen on the Cat Spur, heading south towards DuPont.

Part 2 will cover the remainder of the spur, south from Bath Road to Lake Ontario.
Running extra...
The most famous dog in the world now resides at the White House. "BO", the Portuguese water dog, shares its initials with its owner, Barack Obama. The Prime Minister of Great Britain, Gordon Brown could name his dog "GB". Our Stephen Harper could name his "SH".
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The context of how, where and why a train operates is often overlooked. I remember standing at Bayview Junction and watching a knot of railfans furiously photographing the power on a heavy train heading to Hamilton, then turning their backs on the rest of the train, which included some really interesting cars. Check out http://wvrr.ca/prototype.htm Dave Winter's prototype page, where he profiles Canadian rail operations that help him inject interest, realism and life into his modeled scenes.
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I'm pleased to add Byron Henderson's blog to my Useful Collection of Railblogs. Byron has some deep thoughts on layout design, and great taste, as he uses the same blogger template I do!

Saturday, April 4, 2009

CP's Loose Caboose

Heading west in the vestibule aboard VIA No 1 in 1985, we passed a somewhat unique CP van, the "loose caboose" in Niblock siding. CP 437188 was a regular CP van in most respects, but it housed a train order office complete with roof-mounted train order board. Used to control train movements on this double-track mainline, where no other station existed, it could be set out in any siding. The operator was out to give us an inspection as we passed. The location of the loose caboose is given in train order 855:
A few minutes later, we met a resurfacing gang at English River. They were refuelling their tamper, as they worked at tamping new ballast into the roadbed. We then met an eastbound with 3 units behind engine 5992. The gang's 25 boarding cars were in the clear at Martin.
Another mobile train order office was housed in boarding boxcar CP 412592, on the Ignace Sub:


RTCDave shared some of his experiences working as an operator in CP 437188:
"There was no light for inspections, just your lantern and the light from inside the van, which was a Coleman lantern. We used a "lunchbox" radio hooked up to the skate antenna on the roof, to communicate with the dispatcher in Winnipeg. The day guy opened up at around 0500 until noon, and I took over at noon until relieved before by the dispatcher. Usually before dark, as the gangs would return to the bunk cars which were situated across from us. The gang cars had a cook who would also make sure we got fed too. We could also raid the stores cars for supplies: bacon, eggs, bread and coffee. We always had the coffee pot on, and many of the trains would stop to pick up their 19Y orders and a cup of Kam Koffee."
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Running extra...
Did you know there's a Track Side liquor store in Medicine Hat, Alberta. If you're ever in Geneseo, Illinois, stop by Trackside Liquors. In Kingston we have a trackside Tim Horton's beside CN's right-of-way fence in Collins Bay, with the following sign taped to the drive-through speaker "In case of train, pull up to the window to place order".
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Our recent blog poll showed about 60% of respondents would like to see an occasional modelling post. Maybe my HO scale Winnipeg Terminals will make an appearance soon.