Friday, April 13, 2012

CN's Montreal-Toronto RoadRailers

CN launched a Montreal-Toronto truck/train freight service in September 1999 to in the wake of the Ecorail experiment.  Departing weeknights at 2100, each train arrived at its destination city by 0500.  Utilizing Wabash-National Mark V RoadRailers, each 53-foot trailer had 110-inch interior height, 4000 cu ft capacity and a payload of 70,000 pounds. CN paid $12 million for 200 trailers plus 130 bogies.  When the service was extended to Chicago in 2000, up to 600 RoadRailers were in use.  The RoadRailer trailers did not need overhead cranes, and could be positioned by tractors on a paved siding.

Toronto's Malport terminal was located at 7675 Torbram Road in Mississauga, with Montreal's Taschereau terminal in the east yard at 8050 Cavendish Boulevard.  Trailers were even switched en route, for instance at Supply Chain Management in Cornwall, Ontario.  CN envisioned trains of up to 60 trailers.  Meanwhile, CP was preparing to launch its Montreal-Toronto Expressway service, utilizing 240 platforms built by National Steel Car. An ill-fated Ecorail cab ECO8005 and power units, photographed by Rich Stewart at Brockville, behind CN Eng 3501 on March 24, 1996:
I often heard trains 282 to Montreal and 283 to Toronto as they stopped opposite each other on CN's Kingston Sub.  The trains' crews would call each other via radio to give their locations and arrange a meet.  A series of TIBS squawks would signal the trains' stopping. Each crew would board the other's train, exchanging information on the night's operating conditions and parting words.  One crew would perform a pull-by inspection as the crews returned to their respective originating terminals, as stipulated in their collective agreement .  John Reay photographed No 183 running 12 hours late at Newcastle, Ontario behind CN Eng 2573 in January 2004 (top).

I can't comment on the trains' appearance or share photographs of them in operation - their nightly nocturnal migrations were past my bedtime.  Motive power was GP40-2(L)W's, SD40u's and finally SD70/75's.  It's possible that the diesel-powered RoadRailers followed the same route as the Ecorail train.  Note that in some of the following transmissions, Union Station and Don are mentioned:

Oct 27/99 No 283 Eng 9669 OS 2355.
Oct 28/99 No 283 Eng 9677 RoadRailer OS 0045 meet No 282 at Queens.
Oct 29/99 Crew change Mi 181 Kingston Sub.
Dec 12/99 Crew change at 0020 "Any trains ahead", did pullby.
Feb 2/00 No 282 Eng 9469 18 loads 3 empties, crew change at 0030.
June 29/00 No 282 Eng 9423 crew change Mi 182 at 0030.
June 30/00 No 282 OS 0030, No 283 OS 0100.
Sept 7/00 Crew change Ernestown at 2345.
Nov 21/00 "Ecorail died at Morrisburg (No 283) Good thing it's not an airplane.  One day they'll send that train out with one engine and those guys will feeze to death.  They don't give a s***"  No 283 to borrow an engine from No 368, not necessary as 283's engine restarted.
Nov 27/00 No 283 Eng 9670, No 282 had not left Don yet, so crew called Mac Yard for a new unit, won't make Belleville until 0400 or later.  No 283 carrying on west of Belleville.
Apr 8/01 No 183 OS 0030.
Oct 9/01 No 182 OS 0045 trouble with Eng ?6043.
Feb 20/03 Eng 183 Eng 5699.  No 182 just leaving Union Station.

In 2004, the trains ceased operation after a strike by railway clerks.

Running extra...

CN's train 499 rolled west the other night around 2200 hours.  This is likely the Herzog PLUS ballast train kicking off the spring trackwork season in southern Ontario.

I just finished listening to The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande.  The surgeon author explores the usefulness of checklists in aviation, engineering, and of Are we removing the left kidney?  That's right.  No, I said left.  Well, you get the idea.  A thought-provoking read about getting it right, with applications in many fields of endeavour.

JLo, Steven and Randy employ the save for Jessica Sanchez on American Idol.  Is this yet another example of American voter apathy I keep hearing about?  In a related story, since when did Lionel Richie go country?? His new CD entitled Tuskegee is gettting lots of play on air, man.


Adam Walker said...

Hi Eric,

Hey, I recognize that header photo!

This is an interesting look at CN's next attempt at the road/rail market. The lack of photographic evidence shows that using standard engines at least made this service a little more reliable than the EcoRail service. The fact that they were running down the Kingston sub and past Union Station is an interesting twist too, given the normal lack of freight in that corridor now.

A lucky railfan might have gotten a special treat on November 27th 2000, if they saw a single engine coming across the York or down the Bala to pull 282 from Don.


Eric said...

I think it's a great photo, Adam.

Compared to the transports that start rolling every night, the RoadRailer was a drop in the bucket in terms of total trailer traffic nightly. There was another train that ran past Union Station - CN train 275 handling auto racks from Oshawa to the US. I've seen that train thread its way past Union a couple of times - longer than even the longest GO train. This was before all trains had to use MacMillan Yard.

I agree about the lucky railfan on the Bala. I only had a half-mile to the tracks here, but I never seen to have made it there at midnight to see the RoadRailers.

Thanks for your comments,

jwc3o2 said...

& then there was CP's Iron Highway experiment that preceded its Expressway (see for a set of photos), from which i first saw one of the CN experiments run by on the opposite track near Port Hope.
anybody know what the powersource was on these things? those robot-monkeybar slugs they were running're behind monitor-rigged locomotives were puzzling indeed & CP wasn't very forthcoming with information other than referring to it as a "radical new technology".

Eric said...

Yes, I've been able to photograph the Iron Highway and the Expressway sets. The Expressway had a unique paint scheme on some CP SD's highlighting this service. Now, every time I pass a B-train on Highway 401, I think, gee I guess the trucking industry is going through its share of changes these days.

Thanks for your comments,