Saturday, September 22, 2012

TOFC on CN and CP

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:
Running extra...

*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.


Canadian Train Geek said...

Great topic as usual, Eric. I was surprised to see TOFC still going on today, on Omnitrax from Thompson to Churchill.

I have seen the occasional TOFC on CN trains but they are very very rare around here. I know they are still somewhat common in the USA and I've seen them in Phoenix.

You have a couple of typos you might want to fix. "bilt" "foat"

Zartok-35 said...

I've been waiting for this one, so I'm a very happy man! These pictures are all great. Lots of "Hellcats", some "Kittens" at the top, and "Thundercows" too, in shot 4. That picture of the 688-series flatcar with pup trailers is great too. Now if only they had actual models of this stuff!

That picture from Rosetown is particularly wonderful! Considering the pair of GP38s(Yay a blackwidow!), that's probably train 316 from Calgary, equiped to tread 80-pound rail down in the Drumheller badlands. I recently broke down and joined just so I could look at Phil Mason's pictures on there. He has some nice old shots of trains on the Drumheller line. Do you have anymore pictures from out there? I'd love to see 'em!

An excellent post, this'll keep me going for awhile! Thankyou very much.

Eric said...

Hi Steve,

Thanks for your comments. TOFC is indeed an endangered species. CN No 148 used to run here on the Kingston Sub about half-and-half but now there are no trailers. No doubt easier for CN to load just containers.

Thanks also for the typos - nailed 'em. That's what I get for blogging with my Saturday morning coffee and news-(wife reading half of it to me)-paper.


Eric said...

Glad to hear you're glad too, Elijah. There are indeed some 'vintage' CN locomotives in those photos, smaller than today's behemoths.

Please keep track of the nicknames. I will be doing a post on them, and your input will be critical to its success.

Phil Mason does indeed have some good stuff. I'll try to find some to send you.

Thanks for your kind comments,

Anonymous said...

Dear Eric, From the city that penned Running Back from Saskatoon, hello from the I-Spy. As aways the blog sure looks GREAT, if I do say, what a treasure trove displayed from the collection. The TOFC in Portage in the 70 and 80s was a flash back to when CN and CP ran the hottest freights in the land from Mont or Tor to Vanc. CP 401 and 403 were the don t stop for anything trains and the sneak peek of CP 165000 or 35000 series Ins box of CP are a thing of the past. As I would like to add my hello to Randy Bachman to the Toronto walk of fame, as a solo writer and as member of BTO, but lets not forget to memtion the Chad Allen got the guys together, and the rest they say is history.

Bryan said...

Nice "retro" shots.

Here's something I discovered on the other side of the Atlantic. An example of Swiss-style TOFC is the HUPAC "Rolling Highway" service. Drivers park their entire rig on the train to travel through the Alps. Meanwhile they enjoy the ride from an attached passenger/sleeper car. (See YouTube for videos.)


Eric said...

Hi Brian and Bryan,
Thanks for your comments- those Swiss have a good idea there. BTO/Guess Who/Randy/Burton et al forever!

Zartok-35 said...

That two-axel car is a TTX "FrontRunner". Did you see anymore of those? Did CN run them too? I heard that they could be very dangerous to handle, and that some railroads insisted on reloading trailers onto different cars before shipping the loads.

Eric said...

Hi Elijah,

I'll have to check my notes...certainly that one was stopped right in front of me, which is probably I snapped it. Can't say that I remember seeing a lot of them. It does look kinda flimsy.

Bryan said...

Hey, is the current banner shot (a GO train in a Bayview-like setting) a model? It looks awesome.


Eric said...

Hi Bryan,

Good eye, but no and yes. That is at Bayview, but it's not a model.

The photo is re-done using tiltshift technology:

If you'd like to compare to the original photo I took, it's in my Bayview Then and Now post:

There are certain criteria to produce a really good tilt shift effect, such as tight focus on a central scene and horizontal lines in the photo. Fortunately, trains work really well for these. It's fun to do in spare time, and some amazing effects can be accomplished.

Thanks for your comment and as you know, my attention span is relatively short, so header photos change often.

Anonymous said...

The double hitch flats are I believe the 63 ft cars in the 687xxx or 689xxx series


Eric said...

Hi James,

Of course you are correct, and I'll make that correction. (I think I mis-typed 64 as 46).

Here's a great link to some of Andreas Keller's modelling of these cars:

and here's another link showing the Alltrans pup trailers in action:

Thanks very much for your comment,

Unknown said...


just saw one of these TOFC about at the beginning of 2020 on the CP tracks heading west towards Brighton, bit of a surprise, had not seen one in about 4 years or so