Saturday, February 18, 2012

Coach yard switchers

Coach yard switchers assemble individual passenger cars into lightning-fast limiteds and streaking streamliners.  In the same way, freight yard switchers assemble freight trains from inidividual cars pulled from industries.  Without these little luggers, pullers and tuggers, no train would ever be able to leave a terminal.  Early in the VIA Rail era, Spadina coach yard served Toronto Union Station, in the shadow of the CN Tower.  Assembling drafts of coaches from the coach yard, moving them to the station, handling cars for repairs, turning consists on the balloon track around Spadina roundhouse, and a plethora of other unglamorous tasks were performed by a fleet of CN S-13 switchers that shared trackage and roundhouse stalls with GM and MLW cab units and roadswitchers in passenger service.  In March 1985 (above) while riding the Bathurst streetcar south to the Toronto train show at the CNE, I photographed three S-13's as they batted about Tempo cars, blue & yellow and stainless steel cars on the snow-covered Spadina tracks.

While waiting to head west on VIA No 1 to Portage la Prairie, Manitoba in June, 1980, CN 8514, 8517, 8518 and red-cabbed 8516, 8519 and 8521 were working Spadina.  I watched the action for much of the day, including 8518 passing under the Spadina Street bridge (above).  The Turbo, ONR Northlander and VIA cars in abundance occupy nearby tracks.  There was a much wider range of car types to be assembled into each train then: baggage, coach, club, cafe-bar-lounge, even sleepers, unlike today's Corridor LRC and HEP sets which often stay together for more than one cycle.  Consists are on a regular cycle now, operating between Corridor cities, sometimes for days in the same consist.  Returning to Toronto on June 23, I took what I labelled on the back of the print: a 'film-finisher' photo of 8521-8514 as we approached Union.  A VIA consist is visible on the balloon track, background right:
Just before the LRC entered service, another day spent at Spadina in August 1981 found 8517, red-cabbed 8513, 8515 and 8520 at work.  One of these units rousts six VIA cars toward Union as 8236 and 3113 pass by with two boxcars (below).  Balloon track diverges to right.  Did somebody say 'doodlebug'?
CN 8517 pulls ONR 1985 and its TEE Northlander consist west past the coach yard, for servicing before its next journey north (below).  At dusk, 8520 headed for Union, backing in what looked like the ONR Northland consist for its 2125 departure: ONR 412-ONR 842-Diamond Lake-5424-Manitou-9639.
While visiting Spadina roundhouse in June 1982, 8512 lingered in a stall while 8513, 8514 and 8516 burbled around.  Once the LRC era began, purpose-built maintenance centres at Montreal and Toronto were built by VIA to accommodate complete LRC trainsets indoors.  Locomotives stayed with cars, and switchers were not needed to trundle either to Central or Union station, respectively.  No longer beholden to CN or CP, VIA bought four second-hand switchers to perform shop switching.  Before VIA maintenance centres were built at Winnipeg, Vancouver and Halifax, CN yard switchers performed switching.  Most recently, VIA 6300 was used for station switching at Vancouver.  At Winnipeg Union station, CN steam generator-equipped 1900-series GMD-1's were used in cold weather, to keep steam-heated cars warm during switching, as consists were split or combined.  My brother photographed CN 1902, last photo in this post  on Winnipeg's Assiniboine River bridge in 1979.  During fair weather in 1978, CN 7224 switched our train just up from the East Yard coach yard:
In Sudbury and Capreol, CP and CN yard switchers respectively split the combined consists to and from Montreal and Toronto.  These switchers were not on duty only to switch passenger trains.  As Model Railroader often trumpeted, 'passenger trains can switch too', and sometimes yard engines were used to add and remove cars at outlying stations.  Later, with VIA reducing frequencies, connecting services and huge parts of its fleet in the 1981 and 1990 cuts, there were fewer cars and trains to build and take apart.  My brother also caught CP 7092 about to switch the Canadian at Sudbury in 1979 in this post.  In August 1978, CN 4569 trundled over from Capreol yard for 45 minutes of sandwiching the marker lamp-toting Montreal and Toronto sections together for the trip west:
Heading out of Toronto in June, 1980 CP Rail 6537 and 6538, still in maroon and grey, idle near our train  as the journey west begins.  These S-3's were in freight service, but illustrate the variety of switch jobs that existed when coach yards, industry support yards, and individual industries represented a lot of the railways' business in cities.
Running extra...

I'll be hosting a table at the Kingston Rail-0-Rama spring train show at the Ambassador Resort Hotel March 10 and 11.  I'll need lots of will power to remain in place at the table with my book, Trackside with VIA - The First 35 Years and some other goodies.  No wandering around and looking at all the train show treasure for sale and on display.  Well, maybe a little.

A recent trip to Toronto aboard VIA Nos 651 and 48 included a visit to Toronto Union's newly-opened Panorama Lounge.  There was lots of space, seating, and hot and cold beverages, perhaps not all passengers have found it yet.  I had to back-track upstairs from the departures area to find it, but it was well worth the trip.

My Whitney Houston story - after playing the last few chords of "The Greatest Love of All" at a wedding several years ago the videographer, who had a West Indies background, leaned over and said "Whitney Houston? Every song she touches turns to gold, mon".

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