Thursday, September 14, 2017

McDonald's Restaurant Rolling Stock

One of North America's most diverse and most widely-dispersed rolling stock fleets did not turn a wheel. It was not interchanged. It was never inspected by a carman or even put in a consist. But it took on thousands of passengers. For an hour or two at a time. They ate hamburgers, blew out candles, and ate cake. They were at McDonald's restaurants in Charlottetown, Winnipeg, Bay Roberts, NL, Lasalle QC (ex-CP), Orillia ON, Stratford ON, Spokane, Tulsa, Waterford NY, Swanton OH, Stillwater OK, Elkton VA, Thayer MO, New Bedford MA, Crystal Lake IL, and Santa Monica, CA (the latter still with ACI tag!) and countless other untallied locations. Welland, ON hosted RMCX 001 - an ex-CN caboose with appropriate reporting marks. I posed witih our two kids on a trip to Niagara Falls and the Welland Canal in June, 1995 during a breakfast stop (top photo). This fleet began to form around 1978. Just in time for the bowl-cut generation, as this 1979 TV commercial shows.
Ottawa's St Laurent Boulevard location hosted one (above) as did McDonald's Bells Corners location. An ex-CN caboose in Cowansville, QC (below). Only the top and bottom photos are mine - the others are from online photo sites like Flickr. Actually the top photo was taken by my wife, with me and the two kids on the rear platform! Interestingly, while the ex-CN Welland caboose is shown in the 1995 Canadian Trackside Guide, it was not included in the 1989 version. A casual search of Ontario locations in that year's CTSG yielded ex-CN cabooses in Chatham, Collingwood, Georgetown, Kitchener, Leamington, Mississauga (2), Nepean, Orangeville and Owen Sound, with an ex-CP caboose in Hamilton. In the 2008 CTSG, none of those sites still had cabooses. Collingwood's and Owen Sound's were moved to nearby stations/museums.
Though McDonald's corporate department seems to have had a policy on placing these cars, there was no mandated paint scheme. Cars were taken from local railways, so car types also varied. Some had cupolas, while some did not, such as this Mount Holly, NJ ex-Conrail bay window:
With 37,000 locations worldwide, there is considerable variation in McDonald's restaurant design. For some time, McDonald's has been ditching the formica tables and cheap wood panelling, red-and-yellow 'cafeteria' look of its restaurants to make them appear more cafe-like, i.e. without those pivoting chairs on posts with hard backs! Ouch. The same is true for the cabooses! Composite construction in Boulder, CO:
Barstow Station in Barstow, CA actually gets reviewed on Tripadvisor and Yelp. It's one of the remaining railroady facilities with three (!) passenger cars and a red-and-yellow caboose plus blue Santa Fe boxcar:
 A stainless steel passenger car at Fall River, MA:
The current i'm lovin' it campaign began in 2003, and was one of 23 slogans that McDonald's has trumpeted in its advertising over the years.
 Bayland TX (above) El Paso TX (below)
This brightly-painted ex-CN caboose is no longer at the McDonald's restaurant on Lougheed in Vancouver (below). Party hats, the 'municipal' presence of Mayor McCheese and the delight of opening cheeseburger happy meals within the confines of a caboose would be memories in the making.
With the steady demise of party cars, many have found new homes in museums or with private owners. Some franchisees have taken the cars with them or moved them to friends' properties. Locally, the Thurlow Golf Centre, just north of Belleville on Towncentre Drive, just off North Front Street/Highway 62 still hosted a off-rails caboose in this June, 2015 Googlemaps street view: 
Interestingly, I wondered why this former DT&I 153/Grand Trunk Western caboose had arrived in Belleville yard back in September, 1997, in the company of CN ingot cars and ballast cars. The caboose may no longer be at the golf centre, which is now out of business.
After this post was published, Jeremy MacPherson kindly sent in this online auction site photo of an ex-CN caboose in Saint John NB that later served as a take-out in Quispamsis. Equipped with gingerbread and air-conditioning!

Running extra...

If you've seen Trackside Treasure's sidebar, you'll see my second of five blogs - it's Fast Food and Trains (FFAT for short). As we all know, if you're trainwatching, you're eating fast food (sorry, granola types if I'm superimposing my values on yours - chew on). This post would be equally at home on that blog.

The current McDonald's order-taking process has also seen a sea-change since the seventies. No more rows of queued customers standing before pimply-faced paper-hatted peons. Instead, it's one order taker (don't use the electronic kiosks - they're job-killers for a corporation that prides itself on promoting productive teen labour) and a pod of prospective partakers, standing around like penguins waiting for fish to be flung, as in the film Happy Feet.

Speaking of flightless birds, the Snowbirds definitely do not qualify. Note the arrowed Battery Park location )formerly Canadian Locomotive Co.) that was our ground-bound perch to see the peak of professionalism put forth by these error-free air demonstration aeronauts over Kingston last weekend:
CANADA 150 nose logo! Here over Kingston airport, with two spares on the apron:

Friday, September 8, 2017

CN Bagged Gondola Loads Halifax-Fort Saskatchewan

At Pier 9 of Halifax harbour, CN lifts gondolas loaded with bags of minerals that I'd heard variously described as nickel ore, mine tailings, ore concentrate, possibly nickel or zinc. Actually, it's from a relatively new nickel laterite mine, initiated in the 1950s and upgraded in 2001 in Moa, Cuba, though its west mine is nearly depleted. This may account for the use of the term 'tailings' by some. Ships carry the nickel from Moa Bay, Cuba to Halifax. Another similar mine is being developed in Ambatovy, Madagascar. The shipments from Cuba began around 1994, after Sherritt investment in the site was initiated in 1990.

Strict instructions are provided, at least in the days before Cuba and the US normalized relations: "DO NOT SHIP THROUGH USA". The bags are loaded in a row, above the cars' centre sill. Blue and red tags are readily visible trackside, though I haven't taken the opportunity to climb aboard and get close-up shots! (Hey, I've always wanted to 'catch-out' for a trip to Alberta). One or several cars at a time are picked up by the CN switcher and added to a Toronto-bound freight for furtherance on an Alberta-bound train. The bags' destination is Fort Saskatchewan, AB, to a 1952-built Sherritt metal refinery which produces nickel and cobalt. A satellite photo of the refinery shows gons with bagged loads outside a large covered building.
The mine in Moa now accounts for 95% of the refinery's nickel feedstock. With the collapse of the Soviet Union, the mine needed to find a new destination for its product. 

From Fort Saskatchewan, the finished product is shipped by container overseas, via the Port of Montreal.

The gondolas used when I first noticed this traffic were CN 65-foot gons, with a capacity of 3150 cu ft, i.e. series CN 157000-157299. CN 156387 with IC-style reporting marks was westbound on CN No 305 on May 21, 2007 (top photo). The red and blue tags on the top of each bag are just visible.
My Kingston Sub observations, with date, car number, CN train on, notes:

Jul 5/97 CN 156295 on No 307 dest Fort Saskatchewan
Oct 18/97 CN 157135-156015 dest Fort Saskatchewan on tailend of No 307
Apr 10/98 CN 156024-157070 plus five others with bagged loads on No 307
May 20/08 CN 157101 on CN No 309
July 5/08 CN 157079, ATW 400522-400488-400561 and eight others on No 305
Sep 14/08 ATW 400598-400566-400592 on No 321
March 27/2010 ATW and NKCR gondolas, no CN gondolas.

Eventually, whether due to age or capacity, the CN gons were replaced by new NSC-built ATW (Atlantic & Western) and Trinity-built NKCR (Nebraska, Kansas and Colorado Railnet) gondolas. ATW gondolas have a capacity of 3675 cu ft and a gross weight of 286,000 lbs.

Ron Visockis shared this overhead mid-train photo of CN No 305 with a large cut of bagged load gons, including ATW 400541 in the foreground, westbound through Belleville on March 9, 2016:
Here's NOKL 360087, one of a dozen black gondolas on CN No 305 at Kingston on March 12, 2017 including IC and ATW cars:
On September 10, 2017, CN No 305 had examples of two of the types of gondolas used in this service. ATW gons are prevalent, the IC gons less so:
 ATW 400494 (above) and 400572 (below):
 IC 3681 with tops of bags more visible:
John Richard kindly shared this overhead photo of some of the gons on CN No 305 at Moncton Gordon Yard on August 9, 2017: 
John also included an April, 2016 close-up photo of the bags, each apparently weighing about 1600 kg. UN 3077 is "environmentally hazardous substance, solid, not otherwise specified, not including waste" and applies to a wide variety of substances. Thanks, John!
Jakob Mueller also got (and kindly shared!) overhead views of the bagged loads at Halifax....
This was at the end of the CN gondola era, with the ATW cars looking quite new. Jakob's first encounter with the gons was in September, 2008 (above) and again in June, 2009 (below):
Lots o' links:
Running extra...
Kingston is fortunate to have some notable RCAF visitors this week for the CFB Kingston Family Fun Fest: the Snowbirds (above) and Captain Matthew Kutryk with the CF-18 Demo Team, flying CANADA 150 188734 still with its under-fuselage fool-me-once faux cockpit:
and it's proudly presented by VIA Rail Canada, with passengers through Kingston station reminded of the event by this dumpster shelter banner!
Watch for Trackside Treasure's upcoming September Sale. From my collection to yours?

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Red & White Crossbucks

Today, we take for granted the international red and white crossing warning signs that guard level crossings, alerting drivers and pedestrians to watch for approaching trains. The signs were still white with black lettering, protecting CN's Counter Street crossing in 1985 (top photo). The lettering in English was: Railway Crossing, or in French: Traverse de Chemin de Fer, as appropriate for the region. An April 1986 newspaper clipping spread the word of the impending changes:
Some history: on February 2, 1982, the Railway Transport Committee decided to implement crossing gate arms with red & white stripes. The committee determined that the red & white gate provide 'an improved degree of safety for the public to the alternate diagonal stripes of black & white required by para 16(g) of the Highway Crossing Protective Devices Regulations'. The new signs would also reflect more light after dark than the older version.

In mid-1985, the Railway Transport Committee notified railways under its jurisdiction that lettering on crossbucks may be replaced with one bearing no wording, red with white reflector tape and "two tracks" replaced with a stylized track symbol and number "2" above it. The ruling initially applied to 223 CN and 115 CP crossings. And with good reason - in that year, 58 Canadians were killed and another 336 injured in railway crossing accidents.

Transport Minister Don Mazankowski introduced the signs in South Edmonton, AB describing them as 'a new weapon in the war on railway crossing accidents'. Eventually to be installed on Canada's 31,308 level crossings. The nationwide replacement project was scheduled for completion by March 31, 1988. Moving from the West to the East, signs protecting Alberta's 4,300 and BC's 1,600 signs were to be completed by early-1986. Saskatchewan, with more crossings than another province (7,000), would be completed in 1986; Manitoba and Northern Ontario by April, 1987. The Canadian Transport Commission contributed more than $3.2 million for the purchase and installation of the new signage, with the unstated balance borne by the railways.

CN planned to cut down current 172-cm crossbucks to a length of 121-cm, re-drill holes and remount them at 90-degrees compared to the current 65-degree geometry. A mobile van, with two men recycling crossbucks that were not bent, warped, twisted or made of wood, would scrape off old decals, clean the metal and apply new decals. In January 1986, CN 9901 passes a red-and-white-striped gate, but black & white crossbuck prevailed, just west of Ernestown:
The Railway Transport Committee also extended requirements to Class 2 and shortline railways to replace crossbucks with the new international style. Included were DEVCO, Napierville Junction, Quebec North Shore & Labrador, C&O, Arnaud Railway, Essex Terminal and Conrail. Operation Lifesaver reminds us what to look for, while Transport Canada's current regulations are quite detailed


U.S. railway industry trade publication ads from 1949:                                            
Running extra...    

'Tis the Last Rose of Summer - the little ones prepare to tread the familiar path to the school door, we consider the daily walk to work and the fruits of our labour. Years of Labour Day weekend tradition ended with the manic voice of Jerry Lewis stilled, and we only have this version to remember that with hope in your heart,  you'll  never walk alone.
The last thistles of summer bloomed and butterflies swooped as eastbound CN potash train B730 passed slowly through Kingston on August 26.
The monochrome monotony of putty-coloured potash cars let me focus on majestic monarch butterly foliage-flitting (above) and pole-dancing (below) between the head-end, the DPU and the tail-end DPU!
Here's hoping you've had an enjoyable and relaxing summer. 
Watch for Trackside Treasure's upcoming September Sale - Eric.