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)
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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.
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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.
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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. http://www.geology.wisc.edu/~maher/air/air14.htm

Sunday, October 18, 2009

VIA Corridor Consists 2001-2009

VIA train consists in the Quebec City-Windsor corridor represent equipment types seen on other intercity trains, and to some extent longer-distance trains. In the first of a series of posts on VIA's corridor consists in VIA's various eras, let's explore the most recent, and current era. In 2001, the purchase of Renaissance (UK Nightstar) cars had just been announced. General Electric P42DC's in the 900-series entered service, and all but one of VIA's last F-units, the 6300's, were retired. The last of the LRC locomotives were also retired, and coaches were LRC and HEP stainless-steel cars. Many corridor trains were 1 locomotive, 3-5 cars, with baggage car-equipped train Nos 57/60 arguably the most interesting trains to see.

March 9/01 No 64: 6419-3466-3332-3373-3323.
March 9/01 No 51 0535 WB: 6416-4113-4001-4115-6453-4122-Burton Manor-Evangeline Park.
March 10/01 No 60: 6417-6457-8622-8108-4002-8136-4009-4100-4116-4118-4114-4003.
July 18/01 No 67: 6921-3 LRC cars.
July 18/01 No 66: 6903-3 LRC cars.
July 18/01 No 68: 6428-4109-4106-4009.
August 4/01 No 60: 6418-8618-3365-4113-4111-4116-4110-4102-4007.

P42's roll out: 902 with 5 LRC cars on No 47 on June 9/02 (top)
901 leads a four-car No 65 viewed from the east leg of the Bath Spur, Mi 190 Kingston Sub on June 26/02:

June 9/02 No 66: 911-7 LRC cars-907.
June 9/02 No 67: 912-3471-3354-3304-3319-3369-3321-3320-3366-3316-3470-3456-917.
June 26/02 No 68: 6415-4118-4108-4005-3313.
July 19/02: 6408-3467-3372-3361-3370-3601-3464-905.

GE meets GE - VIA No 56 Eng 917 meets CN No 365 Eng 2671 at Belleville on August 15/03:

On a snowless December 22/02 CN No 363 was in emergency, delaying VIA trains. Nos 642 and 60 made simultaneous station stops at Kingston. No 60's second unit is CBC 50th anniversary unit 6403, one of the commercial paint schemes applied to VIA 6400's: Home Hardware, Telus, Spiderman, and Loto-Quebec:


Another two-unit No 60, likely due to the March break:
March 11/06: 6420-6406-8618-4009-4004-8101-4117-4111-4122-4114-4118-4109.
Most VIA corridor trains used LRC cars, but the HEP cars continue to be used for Nos 57, 60, 68 and 69. Operational variations include extra cars during peak periods, the use of lounge car Glenfraser on some trains, or J-trains consisting of two trainsets joined together, with only one crew as far as Brockville, such as Nos 52/40 and 648/668.
May 31/06 No 69: 6401-4005-4108-4120-4115.
May 31/06 No 68: 908-4002-4112-4119.
November 27/06 No 61: 902-3470-3455-3363-3304-3340-3315.
November 27/06 No 45: 914-3463-3368-3309-3311.
On a cloudy June 3/06, 6407 has an 8-car HEP consist in tow at Queens East:
Another No 57 consist October 14/07: 6415-8622-4002-4004-4121-4110-4101-4117-4120.
A mixed HEP/LRC consist on Family Day:
February 18/08 No 45: 6421-3460-3361-3354-3321-3367-4114-4111-4121-4004-4001-8621-919.
2009 saw the announcement of F40's, HEP and LRC fleet refurbishing, as VIA moves towards a sunny next era.
Running extra...
Michael Palin's Himalaya is the book I'm currently listening to. Michael's account of the departure of a steam train from Peshawar, Pakistan, "There is time to indulge the voyeuristic pleasure of railway travel. Surreptitious view of high walls, alleys and back gardens. Glimpses of life backstage. As the train passes it gives a look-at-me whistle. The animals run away from it. The children run towards it."
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Well that weird family with their errant balloon has had their 15 minutes of fame. Top story on Global, CNN and our local newscast. The balloon did resemble a jiffy-pop popcorn bag.
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An SNL fake ad once featured a vehicle air-bag that puffed up like jiffy-pop after a collision, so fresh popcorn was available for the driver while waiting for the tow truck.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Hotbox Detectors

When the distance between railway employees started to exceed the distance an axle takes to turn into a hotbox, it was time for Canada's railways to introduce some new technology. Longer and heavier trains, more and varied dangerous commodites, and greater concern for the economic, environmental and safety risks to neighbouring communities also contributed to the implementation of wayside hotbox detectors.

The development of wayside detectors meant that train crews bore even greater responsibility for the safe movement of their own trains. CP's detectors (MacGregor, Manitoba, top and Shannonville, Ontario, above) had wayside monitoring equipment connected to a large digital display board. The board displayed the location of the hotbox or other defect such as dragging equipment or sticking brakes, based on the train's axle count, counting forward from the tail-end of the train.
Tail-end crews read the display from the van or Park car, and if there was a defect, the type and side would be indicated by five lights mounted above and below the board. Top-left: defect on left side of train. Top-middle: multiple defects. Top-right: defect on right side of train. Bottom-left: dragging equipment. Bottom-middle: system operational, detector operating. The display readout was 11 inches deep, 30 inches high and 48 inches wide. Views of CP installations from aboard VIA's Canadian, Nipigon Sub (above) and Griswold, Manitoba:

By 1983, CP had installed 67 detectors in Ontario alone. Double-track segments of CP's network necessitated the placement of two detectors per site. On CP's double-track east of Winnipeg, Manitoba, here's a double-track detector installation at Mi 83.3 Keewatin Sub, near Molson:

CN's detectors didn't have display boards. In October 2001, crews installed a detector at Mi 179.6 Kingston Sub. A backhoe dug a hole, then there was shovelwork to be done. Even with all this technology, somebody still has to get down in the hole and dig:


The detector location is chosen based on track profile (relatively flat, not requiring braking near the installation), regular spacing across a subdivision, road access for the signal maintainer, and proximity to cities. Crews don't use the radio in the vicinity of the scanner, as they listen for the message : "CN detector Kingston [Sub] North [track] temperature [# degrees] C, speed [in mph], detector out." The message is transmitted by a short aerial placed atop the signal cabinet, and is only audible near the detector.
A simple "HBD<-- a="" are="" beside="" detector.="" detector="" div="" dragging="" equipment="" hotbox="" impactors="" located="" nearby="" new="" on="" parallel="" points="" pole="" rail:="" spray-painted="" telegraph="" the="" ties="" to="" way="" with="">
Nearby installations are at Mi 190 to the west and Mi 163 to the east(below).

Detector information is also transmitted to a remote detector operator (RTCMech in Edmonton) who communicates with the rail traffic controller, who in turn communicates with the train crew. When the detector at Mi 179 was installed and tested, the entire menu of message programming choices was given, including every CN subdivision, numbers etc.

Brian Schuff shared a photo of a CP detector, with a freight train led by 3127 about to pass:


Running extra...
The November 10, 1979 CP Rail derailment in Mississauga led to widespread hotbox detector installation. Hazel McCallion was mayor of Mississauga then, as she still is. Born in 1921, she doesn't actually have to campaign much anymore to be elected.
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Just finished listening to Words that Work by Frank Luntz. He introduces 21 words and phrases for the 21st century, suggesting "peace-of-mind" insteady of "security", government "investment" instead of "spending", but in an obvious oversight, didn't mention "quick and dirty" at all. Polls and pols, such as Tom DeLay and Newt Gingrich receive lots of attention, belying Frank's work environment.