Saturday, January 15, 2011

CN's Symington Yard, Part 1

CN's Symington yard in Winnipeg receives trains from Rivers Sub to the west, Sprague Sub to the east, and Redditt Sub to the south-east. A modern gravity classification (hump) yard completed in 1962, this major yard was named for the Honourable H.J. Symington, a former director of CNR for over 20 years. Symington's formidable size and modern layout replaced three older, smaller classification yards: Transcona, Fort Rouge and East Yards, as CN's centre of operations in Winnipeg.
Comprising 156 tracks, of which 62 were classification tracks, with a total length of 108 miles and standing capacity of 7,000 cars, Symington could handle 6,000 cars per day over 337 switches beneath 900 flood lights illuminationg 275 acres, the equivalent of 220 football fields. Employees numbered 700, some of whom worked in the 22-track diesel shop and the 24-car indoor car shop. In 1984, SD40's 5194-5051 frame 'C' Tower (top) and more than 14 units, including a VIA F-unit congregate at the west end of the diesel shop (below):
A 1978 visit to Symington revealed lots of 40-foot boxcars heading up the hump, pushed by yard switchers before descending the hump and being sent to the appropriate track while being slowed by the retarders. "CN SYMINGTON YARD SPEEDS YOUR FREIGHT", exhorts a large billboard visible from the Trans-Canada Highway:
Hump power sets were the workhorses of Symington, readily visible near the highway overpass. CN converted 200-series GP38-2m from 5536-5551, and 260-282 series HBU-4 hump units were built new by GMDL in 1978-1980. A hump set with 211-263-262-212 work an evening shift on August 28/79. Spot the photographer using his trusty Kodak Hawkeye, courtesy of the setting prairie sun:

On June 12, 1982 the same set trundles by as light engines, and 209-261-260-214 head up the hump lead:

Wearing stripes, 212 heads into the east receiving yard as a cut of freshly-painted woodchip cars, covered hoppers, and a caboose, likely from Transcona Shops nears the hump crest:
A visit to Symington always revealed interesting cars being humped. Shiny mechanical reefer CN 235242 and one-of-a-kind billboard car CN 283032 in 1979:
In 1984, lumber, poles and covered hoppers are a-humpin' as CN grain boxcars 428752-428762-424774-427271-427058-425345 wait in the foreground:
In June 1984, SD40's 5189-5193 lead a grain train east out of Symington. While CP was still doubling long trains over onto two tracks at their Winnipeg Yard, CN's much newer Symington allowed greater fluidity and efficiency that was a pleasure for a visiting eastern railfan to watch.


12 comments:

Zartok-35 said...

Oh boy, Black widow hump geeps! This post is quite enjoyable, let alone informative. The Saskatoon yard isn't quite this efficient for classifying frieght. Those are some very nice pictures, too! Those shiny fridge cars are always interesting.

Train Geek said...

Nice post about my favourite yard! It's interesting that the same GP38 / slug sets you saw 32 years ago are still working the yard.

A minor quibble, Symington receives trains from Rivers (W), Reddit (E), and Sprague (SE). The Letellier sub connects to the Rivers sub at Portage Junction (mile 2.6) and not directly to Symington. Taking my nit-picker hat off now...

Eric said...

Hi Elijah and Steve,
Yes, Saskatoon yard is flat (couldn't find enough earth to make a hump? :). Steve, no worries, thanks for the nit picked. All quibbles appreciated if it makes an accurate post. Can SD hump sets be far off?
Eric

Zartok-35 said...

I don't know why things are so very flat here, but for what we lack in height, we make up for in parasitic industry!

Train Geek said...

Who knows, we might see SD75s in yard duty soon enough!

Eric said...

Right Steve, anything is possible. The only thing stranger is lines of 40-foot ice reefers and other short cars in that Symington brochure. Now cars are bigger and heavier, so SD's could definitely be working the hump soon. Keep an eye out for us!
Thanks for your comment,
Eric

Anonymous said...

Saved some lives at the Bottom of The A side hump retarder back in 87 or 88 end of winter. Wouldn't do it again. If the same event would have played out again I would have grabbed Bryan and jumped and left the rest. The only one worth saving.
Unreported incident but the boys involved will remember
Note ... not the Mclean Fiasco That killed Brent Armbruster, Rest In Peace Brother. That incident was very near by but at the top of the a side group retarders.

Eric said...

Thanks for your comments about working Symington, A. Definitely a place where things can go wrong quickly.
Stay safe,
Eric

Anonymous said...

Its nice to see the old Symington yard.The Hump was the jewel in Winnipeg's railway history.The Diesel shop and the Car Shop were home to many a Pegger and the Boys from Transcona.Thanks for showing me my past.Take care "Mate",From an old Railroader watch the joint!

Eric said...

Hi A.,
Glad to hear that what I've posted resonates with a former CN'er. A jewel indeed, very visible and interesting to anyone driving in the vicinity. We made a point of visiting the yard any time we were in Winnipeg and had a few minutes.

Stay tuned for more Symington and more Winnipeg in future.

Thanks very much for your comments,
Eric

Anonymous said...

He was the swing that day for our crew. What a surprise to come back to work later on. You brought this back to me as I had been working at CN from 70's until retirement in early 2000's. I dont recall ever hearing about what happened with you guys. Many memories out at Symington Yard and on the road.

Eric said...

Thanks for this comment, A. Stay tuned for a post on Symington incidents...
Eric