Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Canadian Forces move by rail

Canada's railways are sometimes called upon to transport Canadian Forces (CF) military vehicles between major bases at Wainwright AB , Shilo MB, Borden ON, Valcartier QC, Gagetown NB and even Kingston. Armoured, mechanized infantry, artillery, engineer and signals units are transported for operations, exercises and embarkation overseas. This is in addition to British Army and Deutsches Heer military vehicles being transported to training bases at CFB Suffield, Alberta and CFB Shilo, Manitoba respectively. Railway and CF personnel work together to ensure vehicles are chocked and chained properly for movement, and transported safely and securely to their destinations. CN or Trailer Train (60-foot OTTX and HTTX) heavy equipment flatcars equipped with chain tie-downs are used in this service.
Major movements from CFB Kingston included Rendez-Vous 87 (RV87) at CFB Wainwright, one of the CF's biennial division-level manoeuvre exercises, since curtailed for budgetary reasons. CFB Kingston's 1st Canadian Signal Reginent (1 CSR) provided communications capability. Vehicle loading was shown in the above Kingston Whig-Standard news photo at Counter Street in 1987, and below in 1992 as the loaded train is assembled at Queens.
An April 1989 Whig photo of truck loading for RV89 at CFB Wainwright: 
By RV92, the unit's designation had been changed to 1st Canadian Division Headquarters and Signal Regiment (1 CDHSR) but plenty of vehicles, including new 5-tonne HLVW's were still needed. With the move to computers and increased use of technology, paper exercises would become more frequent. CN 5115-leased GATX 3702 were switching flatcars at Queens East on May 12, 1992:
In 1986, a westbound CN military movement passed through Portage la Prairie, Manitoba. The power was 5519-4243 and two more Geeps. M109 self-propelled and towed C1 105 mm howitzers (top photo and below):

M113 armoured personnel carriers and M548 ammo carriers:
M578 recovery vehicles and many of the other vehicles were emblazoned with red stars, perhaps representing Opposing Forces (OPFOR). One of the last trains moved out of Kingston on the CP line north was a military movement. Also, on June 5, 1986 an eastbound military movement through Kingston behind 9456-9531-4349-9196-5047 comprised 27 flatcars-9 auto racks-8 flat cars, cabooses 79563-79500-79682, with the 44 cars loaded with Jeeps, 5/4-ton trucks, ambulances and recovery vehicles. Miscellaneous CF vehicles were occasionally loaded at Kingston's Counter Street team track, such as this bucket truck, cable trailer, and other equipment on the evening of May 28, 1991:
Two Leopard tanks and two MLVW's were on CN train 335 at Kingston on October 4, 1997 billed to Wainwright:
At Walkley Yard in Ottawa on a chilly February 7, 1994 the cabbie slowed down so I could take a photo of three of over 2,800 LSVW trucks built by Western Star of Kelowna BC, with caboose 79374:
CN 9528-9556-4115 are hauling 70 cars of CF vehicles on May 23, 1997 eastbound through Kingston to Quebec or the Maritimes following Op Assistance, the Manitoba flood relief operation:

CN 5094 led a two-unit military train west through Kingston in this undated Tim Reid photo:
Today, Canadian units deploying to Afghanistan move by rail to Fort Irwin, California for workup training in a desert environment, sometimes accompanied by a privately-owned caboose or passenger car, used as a rider/escort car.

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Zartok-35 said...

Interesting stuff! Very interesting. I take it smaller mix-in shipments weren't as common as entire trains? I've seen miltary moves beofre, but that was about 9 years ago.

Oh, and I've been meaning to ask you: Did you ever pay much attention to the Intermodals of yester year? Would you be able to do a post about prominent canadian Intermodal shippers some time? That would be interesting; I've seen alot of neat looking trailers in old photographs I have found, and CN and CP have their own customized trailer flats!

Eric said...

Hi Elijah, I believe the size of the CF movement depends on the operational requirement, whether a unit moving for training or just a few vehicles crossing the country to another base.

The evolution of intermodal is interesting. BRS Branchline, CP Tracks and CN Lines have had some interesting articles on this topic. My faves would be Imperial Roadways, Alltrans and Caravan, before the near-complete switch to COFC. Well cars, kinda blah, except for the blue CN 5-paks which have now been scrapped and about which I'm working on a post.

Zartok-35 said...

I look forward to the blue car post. I always enjoyed the laser cars. I found a Walthers kit that made 5 of them.

Robert in Port Townsend said...

Good Grief Eric! Shots of military equipment moving by train! That is a definite no-no here in the land where we have a terrorist hiding behind every Bush (no pun intended!)

In fact, go to the BNSF site, find "Citizens for Rail Security" a nifty wallet card you present when you get rousted for taking pictures of trains.

Tenant #1 on this cleverly disguised way to gather data on citizens; Do not take photographs of military trains and equipment.

I'd send you a photo of my card, but I threw it away after my last unsatisfactory encounter with our BNSF man in town.

Eric said...

Still the True North Strong and Free here, Robert. After all, it's my tax dollar at work rolling down the tracks.

After 9/11, CFB Kingston was guarded, but now it's possible to drive on-base. Since our Forces are smaller, there are fewer military movements to photograph, and they're openly reported on Yahoogroups.

Sounds like American railfans have more to fear from the RR bulls and other peace officers than from terrorists?

Canadian Train Geek said...

Great post as usual, Eric. I have a CN Tracks dedicated to Rendezvous 82 (?) that was held at CFB Gagetown. They went into a lot of detail about CN's involvement with the equipment movement. It was very interesting reading. I thought I had written a blog post about it, but apparently I only thought about writing it. :)

Eric said...

Steve, it's not too late to write that post, and thanks for your kind comments. I know the US Army has/had specifically-tasked railroad units, and here's a blog about them: