CN and CP operated sizeable fleets of piggyback trailers. Prior to containerization, piggyback or Trailer On Flat Car (TOFC) was an important transitional step between boxcars and intermodal technology developments, which in turn led to today's long trains of double-stacked containers. Initially, piggyback loading/unloading ramps were built at or near major yards. Tractors backed trailers on and drove them off strings of flat cars, a process called circus loading. Drawbacks: truck drivers had to have steady hands and nerves, flatcars needed siderails to guide the drivers through several cars, and cars had to be correctly marshalled to match the ramp at which they were to be unloaded. GP38-2(W) 5574 leads an eastbound freight approaching a level crossing near Rosetown, Saskatchewan in 1986 with CN TOFC on the head end (above).
CN operated 200-series express trains carrying TOFC, insulated boxcars, mechanical reefers and sometimes import autos. A three-unit express behind 9585-9625-9528 hoofs it east into Winnipeg in September 1985. Forty-foot CN, Inter-City, Alltrans Express and 20-foot Imperial Roadways 'Puptainer Service' trailers ride CN 64-foot flat cars equipped with two collapsible ACF trailer hitches.
Under Motor Carrier Plan 1, CN carried Class A motor common carriers ramp-to-ramp on a per-trailer charge. 5265-5237 hustle an express eastward on the Rivers Sub into Portage la Prairie the same month:
CP also assigned SD40-2's to intermodal trains. On June 5, 1986 at 1042 hours, three small-multimark units: 5989-5924-and just-outshopped ex-QNS&L 5407 zip past Manitoba Pool's Burnside elevator in 1986 with CP Rail, XTRA and Transamerica trailers and COFC ahead of van 434712:
Four units: 5608-5586-5646-4718 power TOFC and COFC through Thunder Bay, Ontario on June 12, 1980, seen from the vestibule of VIA 6-6-4 sleeper Green Lane. The platform-type trailer with removable sides and canvas top is carrying a load of steel.
Trailer Train made inroads into the railroad-owned flatcar fleet, supplying their free-running cars to a pool, such as unique two-axle TTUX 130061 with a Transamerica trailer on a CP westbound in Portage in 1986:
Trailers used in rail service had more robust construction, built with stronger landing gear, nose and lift points. But there was still the question of marshalling for unloading. CN switcher 8170 pushes a few loaded 89-foot piggyback flats north at Bayview Junction in May 1981:
Reversing through the plant, the yard goat then pulls the car west, then will push them back into Hamilton's CN Stuart Street yard on the third leg of the wye, so the trailers will be facing the correct way for the ramp:
Ahead of a yellow, insulated CP boxcar, a single-axle mechanical refrigeration temperature-controlled Reimer Express Lines trailer rides an eastbound behind CP 5994-4706 at Regina, Saskatchewan's station at 2048 hours in June 1982:
Twenty years later, a 45-foot Reimer Express Lines rides a drawbar-equipped twin 89-foot CN flatcar at Belleville, Ontario. Trailer lengths increased quickly and outgrew the cars they rode. As CN and CP endeavoured to play catch-up, longer intermodal cars followed.
Let it roll. Down the highway*. The competition rolls into the sunset, on the Trans-Canada Highway west of Winnipeg:
*Bachman-Turner Overdrive's 68 year-old Randy Bachman is being inducted into Canada's Walk of Fame in Toronto tonight. Having just done a cameo appearance in the Will Ferrell Campaign movie with bandmate Fred Turner, Randy will be embarking on a cross-Canada live tour next March. That means he'll be Takin' Care of Business.
BTO did Lookin' out for Number One: Every day is an endless train / You've got to ride it to the end of the line / Be a troubleshooter blow the bad luck away / And you will make it to your station on time. and The Guess Who did Bus Rider: Get up every morning / Get on the bus / Get up every morning with the rest of us / Places to go important people to meet / Better not get up or you might lose your seat. Coincidentally, I was just viewing The Guess Who Running Back Thru Canada concert DVD this week, recorded at the (former CN East Yard location) Shaw Park.
East Yard in Winnipeg was a great spot to see stored VIA equipment as well as moribund CN and CP equipment and other oddball oddities. Soon, you'll be able to read more about this in my upcoming second VIA book 'Ticket to Ride' and 'Switching En Route' sections.