Thursday, September 23, 2021

CN Derailment at Amherst View, September 2021


I was awake for a mere 20 minutes on Wednesday, September 22 and preparing for the arrival of our grandson for the day when the phone rang. It was my son notifying me of a CN derailment in Amherst View at the foot of the Loyalist Township water tower there. This sports field is the very site at which my railfanning career began, so I tuned into the online coverage right away. Many early-morning VIA trains never left their cities of origin and CN had freights staged on both sides of the derailment, which occurred around 0600. It's amazing how one car can bring the country's busiest line to a screeching halt. [My kingdom for a nail! - see below]
I nipped out and made my way to the site around 1140 during our grandson's nap. (Don't worry, his grandmother was at home keeping an eye on him!) Most of the local Twittersphere, alerted to the derailment around 0600 by the Ontario Provincial Police, was interested in which level crossings were blocked on their way to work. Coronation Boulevard, just to the east was blocked mainly for putting on hi-rail equipment, opened to traffic at 0830. I wanted to know more - train ID, circumstances, plans for clean-up and other nuts-and-bolts information! Trackside Treasure inquisitive minds need to know! This John Wilson photo was posted to Twitter:
The train was CN No 368, that left CN's Toronto MacMillan Yard for Montreal at 2300 hours on September 21. The train was 162 cars in length, and the rear part still remaining at the site, on the south track, was empty paper/lumber boxcars and centrebeam flat cars. This area is known for slack action and a see-saw profile. A train full of empties is a challenge here. I arrived at the sports field via Fairfield Boulevard, staying clear of the mass of CN vehicles on both sides of Coronation Boulevard!
Reports of a single derailed car did not mention that it was TBOX 660669. It was now considerably more perpendicular to the roadbed than in the Twitter photo! The east end had been rerailed, and news reports indicate it was loaded with tomato paste! Two excavators were working on its west end. The east-end drawbar was found an estimated three carlengths away, between the rails.
CN's road-rail crane (above) and Belleville road repair truck (below) were on the north and south tracks, respectively. Notice the new ties needed for the estimated 200 feet of torn-up track structure, dropped off by the local section forces from a boom-equipped hi-rail truck.
Steadying the TBOX with a hi-rail Railavator brought to Coronation Boulevard on a float truck, and pulling out parts of the running gear:

Progress was relatively swift. Foreman Brent was in charge of the site, and Signal Maintainer Leonard released the north crossing at Coronation Boulevard just to the east at 1230. CN No 518 was light power; CN 5783-8825 had come east from Belleville via Ernestown around 0920. They were ready to take the tail-end of the train west to Belleville yard. I believe the TBOX and its adjacent boxcar were set out in Millhaven. (The head-end had continued east toward its destination.) They coupled on, having waited a few carlengths west of the tail-end at Mile 183:
The above photo is taken from a well-worn path across the tracks in five seconds. 
The locomotives were NOT moving!

It was a busy day for the Rail Traffic Controller in Edmonton (No Problem!) and local section forces. Train movements through the site:

  • CN No 271, empty auto racks, halted near Queens at 0800, was recrewed and OS 1500 past the site. It reached Doncaster at 2200.
  • CN No 121, Halifax-Toronto intermodal, stopped near Leeds around 0900, OS 1600. Having left Turcot at 2200 on September 21, it reached BIT 24 hours later!
  • VIA No 40 was more or less on time, and was the first train through the site, heading east from Ernestown past No 518, after the north track was released at 1230.
  • VIA Nos 65 and 64 were through next.
  • CN No 731's westward progress was expedited due to its crew being short on time, 848 axles OS 1450. Interestingly, it passed Aldershot at 2115.
  • VIA No 42 was the first train through the south track. There was a 10 mph restriction on this track between Mi 183-182.
  • VIA No 47 was next on the north track.
  • CN No 120 with 624 axles, OS 1615. Nos 120/121 are normally nocturnal!
  • CN No 109 was making its way west at Kings around 1700.
  • CN No 377 and 376 were approaching, plus the regular evening VIA trains were on their way.
I can recall two other derailments in this area. In March, 1980 this train also derailed some boxcars at the sports field. On August 1, 2008 seven cars of corn derailed, east of the 1980 site. As my brother wryly noted, perhaps such slack-generated derailments have been occurring in this hog's-back profile since the days of the Grand Trunk Railway! Here is your humble blogger with a broken knuckle discovery nearby in spring, 1979. (L.C. Gagnon photo - his late afternoon shadow visible at left.) Also, note the clean and clear right-of-way with two white wooden whistle posts, mileboard on telegraph pole, and white concrete milepost visible in the distance:

Running extra...

I hope you voted and that your vote counted in Monday's election. Turnout was brisk despite Canadians generally grumbling about government. I found poll workers knowledgeable and helpful. And good news - I haven't heard about anyone storming our Parliament to overturn the results!

This unattributed saying "For Want of a Nail", looms large in terms of little things becoming Brobdingnagian: 
For want of a nail the shoe was lost;
For want of a shoe the horse was lost;
For want of a horse the battle was lost;
For the failure of battle the kingdom was lost—
All for the want of a horse-shoe nail.

Friday, September 17, 2021

Postscript: CN Auto-With-You Survey

CN's Auto-With-You service was operated from 1972 until the VIA era began in 1976. Between 1967 and 1972, CN had received requests from passengers to travel with their own automobiles, based on similar service in Europe. Another precedent was the Washington-Florida Auto-Train service initiated in 1971. CN's Super Continental blasts through Concord, ON in these undated photos kindly shared by John Wallington, with a 57-foot auto transporter in passenger colours bringing up the markers:
This post is actually a postscript to an earlier post on CN Car-Go-Rail and Auto-With-You services. Car-Go-Rail was not attractive to passengers because of its limited service and schedule, and the passengers were without their auto while it was in transit. CN experimented with Auto-With-You service on train Nos 3 and 4 between Toronto and Edmonton. There was daily service with six autos per train. The passengers travelled aboard the same train. Passengers delivered their auto four hours prior to departure, with the auto made available soon after arrival in Toronto or Edmonton. 
In this 1973 online auction site photo, CN 8516 has two 57-foot auto transporters at the loading area at the west end of Toronto Union Station, by the CN Express building:
CN commissioned a survey among Auto-With-You users, the results of which were published in September, 1972. Of the 192 questionnaires mailed to Canadian and American users of the service, 112 were returned, giving a 60% return rate. These were peak-season passengers, and the survey was returned in a pre-addressed, postage-paid envelope to encourage participation. Highlights of the survey results:
  • 90% of the respondents travelled by CN due to the service being provided. If it had not been available, two-thirds would have driven and 18% per cent would have flown or used the bus.
  • 29% said they would have rented a car otherwise
  • 80% were on vacation
  • 85% of the trips were one-way, only 15% were round-trips
  • 13% were moving to a new home
  • 5% said their employer paid the fare for them

What did passengers think about the service?
  • 50% were completedly satisfied, mentioning careful handling of their autos and courteous employees
  • 35% thought the service was expensive
  • 90% also booked sleeping car space, with the remainder only travelling in coach because sleeping car space was not available

Why did passengers use Auto-With-You?
  • 58% said it saved them the drive
  • 30% said it was faster than driving
  • 18% would not have driven that far

Unfavourable comments about Auto-With-You:
  • 13% experienced delays in car delivery
  • 4% reported damage to their auto
  • 9% said employees were not knowledgeable about the plan

Unfavourable comments about their trip aboard CN:
  • 7% thought CN needed dome cars, (like CP?!)
  • 3% said their sleeping accommodation was too cramped
  • 4% complained of insufficient ventilation
  • 3% mentioned train delays
  • 6% did not find the food satisfactory

What about the cost?
  • 54% said the cost of shipping their auto was reasonable, 35% said it was expensive
  • 68% said tickets were reasonable, 14% said they were expensive

What about the prospect of using open auto racks?
  • 50% would ship in an open auto rack, but only if CN were responsible for damages!
  • Of those who would not ship in open auto rack, 78% said their auto not be safe from inclement weather or vandalism
  • 13% said their auto would not be secure
  • 31% said their auto would get too dirty
These results give us contemporary reaction to CN's revolutionary service, perhaps pointing to some reasons why it was not continued!

Running extra...

I finished two books recently. Yep, got 'em both coloured. Seriously though, I actually read two books. A rare ramble into fiction for me, with a re-read of Nicholas Monsarrat's two-years-in-the-making The Cruel Sea, telling the story of a corvette (non-sports car corvette!). Also, Mission Thrift Store dollar purchase of Alec Ross' 1986 Coke Stop in Emo. These two make me want to stay on dry land, away from U-boats and rapids, respectively!

Kudos to author Ross for using the adjective "Brobdingnagian" at one point in his saga. His usage loomed large for me. In fact it was gigantic! Hugely impressive. 

Running extra...Extra Election Edition!

Riding home from Toronto to Kingston one evening during the Stephen Harper reign, an elderly couple with special needs was seated apart in the Business Class car. They spoke to the attendant who told them he'd see what he could do. Then, a passenger boarded at Oshawa and was seated behind me in the single seat row of 2+1 seating. Overhearing the seniors' plight, he quickly volunteered to switch seats, giving them two seats together. After they switched, the couple expressed their thanks and talked to the fellow as dinner service started. The Oshawa passenger volunteered that he was going to Ottawa. He was going there for a veterans' event. They clearly had no idea who he was. I recognized him as Erin O'Toole, the then-Minister of Veterans Affairs, though he didn't tell them that. As I disembarked at Kingston, I briefly told him 'thanks' for making those elderly folks' trip much more enjoyable. I don't care about your or my political stripe, but integrity is doing the right thing - especially when no-one is watching. (Well, I was.)

Speaking of gigantic, be sure to vote in this Monday's election. In fact, vote early and often. You can even bring your own pen or pencil! No crayons. Thousands of our forebears died to build and preserve Canada, and while it's eminently Canadian to sit and grouse about our government, not voting seems un-Canadian. This election will not be rigged. Please vote for the party of your choice. The results for PM may actually take until the AM, so be patient.

Thursday, September 9, 2021

CN's Montreal-Toronto Express Trains

Your eyes are not deceiving you - that is indeed passenger power on a freight train! A Grand Trunk Western Geep leads three other units, including an F9B on an early-morning hot piggyback train. This was likely an example of CN No 250/251 between Toronto and Montreal that often rated passenger power to maintain an overnight schedule - usually nocturnal and rarely photographed in the middle of the Kingston Sub! As express trains, 200-series trains could run five mph faster than freight trains, thought not exceed 65 mph. (Jakob Mueller has also added that this indeed was likely a No 251, and that it's the only photo he's seen - he's seen a lot - with GTW power east of Toronto. It's likely a surplus 4900 since Amtrak did not continue GTW passenger service after May 1, 1971.) Top photo by L.C. Gagnon, 1973.

My early-morning trainwatching usually started after the nocturnal passage of these hot trains. There was one day, however, on which I noted passenger units on an express train. Even to a neophyte railfan, this was something notable!
CN No 251 at Mimico on October 1, 1978 - online auction site photo (above). CN 6530 leads an F9B, two CN RS-18\s and a GP-9 and piggybacks.

Passenger train power was often prescribed for these trains, departing Montreal with power dispatched from Pointe St. Charles shops, where the only scheduled maintenance performed was on the units' electric equipment. All the diesel units were maintained at Montreal Yard. Rather than operate light engine movements between PSC and MY, units requiring scheduled maintenance were routed to Toronto to power No 250 which operated directly to Montreal Yard. Passenger units off inspection went to a train terminating at Bathurst Street/Mimico to go directly into service there. The planner at Spadina would line these units up on afternoon trains out of Toronto. Spadina roundhouse did not do the major inspections and heavy repairs. The Hanlan's Point switch job worked the Bathurst Street ramp, pulling cars for No 252, followed by crew sleep time, then waking up for No 251 when it was setting off just west of Bathurst Street, then spot the set off at the ramp. No 253 was also a symbol used for Montreal-Toronto trains. No 252 carried piggyback and Dofasco steel loads eastward from Hamilton. 

The trains were renumbered to Nos. 251/252 in the late 70's about the same time as all the express boxcar traffic vanished and they became just container and piggyback trains. They did continue to see VIA passenger power. As dedicated TOFC/COFC trains entered the CN schedule and downtown piggyback terminals closed, the 250-series trains stopped operating.

In the 1970's and early 1980's these express trains passed through Kingston around 2315 to 0030, usually with three units. The FP-9A's were very common in this service as were FPA4's, 3100-series RS-18's and 4100-series GP9's. A typical locomotive consist was one FP-9A, three F9B's, an FPB-4 and a GP-9 for power.

Freight forwarder traffic (higher priority carload or less-than-carload cargo, loaded at terminals near major yards) was often handled in 40-foot boxcars. Train length was usually no more than 50 cars - these were fast trains, not long trains. Early 20-foot containers crept in as the intermodal revolution took hold. These would have included 60-foot CN container cars holding three containers, and 46-foot piggyback flats. In the late 1960's, these trains could have handled CN passenger-scheme express boxcars and baggage cars.

Lots o' links:
Running extra...

A key Trackside Treasure blog partner, my brother Dave, has temporarily suspended work on his long-running Rolly Martin Country blog. Recently, blog partners Edd and Michael have also found a break to be helpful. The most constricting seven words in common usage have to be, "...because we've always done it that way..."

Trackside Treasure rolls on, but that doesn't mean that a sabbatical will never happen here. So far, it's only happened when I go on vacation. Those being so rare, I'm on a near-permanent staycation so stay tuned for more! When a pastime feels like a job, or life events take a front-seat, it's time to re-evaluate and re-shuffle. 

Having two grandsons again visiting, seeing their enthusiasm to see, hear and wave at every mode of transportation passing near our house is invigorating. Trains are 'Voo-voos!' and there is interest in seeing them, even when they can only be heard, due to houses being in the way. A defunct drive-thru serves as a portal to transportation interests:

Thursday, September 2, 2021

Vintage Railway Views of Portage la Prairie

Royal Train arriving at CN station, 1939.
My uncle recently had a photo of himself posted by a group member of the Portage la Prairie Memories Facebook page. He only knew it had been posted because someone pointed it out to him. In the photo, he's seated on a bench that's dedicated to his late wife, my aunt. Adam the Cat is by his side, and the photo was taken by his brother. Comments poured in, as they rightly should, for a couple so well-known and well-respected in the community. That got me poking around for Portage train photos in the same group. I did not push away from the laptop disappointed:
The Royal Couple returning to the Royal Train, 1939.

RCMP and open-car motorcade at the CN station, 1939.

Portage Pool 'C' fire, August 1976

Construction of the Skyline Bridge overpass. 1964
An 1888 bird's eye view of Portage

Delta Beach Hotel and turntable pit

Delta Beach turntable

Delta Beach pier and steamer

CNR 6043 powering the last steam-hauled passenger train in the West

Two aerial views of CN station and fuel dealers. Undated.

Tony's on Third St N.E. Undated.

Tom Sherrit B/A Fuels tank view. Undated.
CN passenger train and station, large crowd. Undated.

Princess Anne receiving line at CP station, 1982 - platform removed in 1978
Portage Cartage on Trenton Avenue. Undated.

Contemporary view of Portage Cartage warehouse.

Running extra...

That photo of Tony's (above) was taken in a very similar spot to a view I took in 1984. So, I matched up those two plus a current Googlemaps view for this retrospective: 

CN Montreal-Chicago intermodal train No 149 and Brockville-Prescott turn No 532 collided in the service track north of the mainline in Prescott on the morning of September 2. One employee with minor injuries, all sent to hospital for evaluation. Multiple cars and all locomotives derailed. Social media is alight, aflame and afoam with theories, causes, and 'insider' information. VIA trains were detoured Montreal-Ottawa-Toronto and the south track was reopened on September 3 around suppertime.

Here is Kingston's Third Crossing bridge over the Great Cataraqui River linking John Counter Boulevard on the west shore and Gore Road on the east shore:

Friday, August 27, 2021

Summertime at the Station, August 2021

At least once per season, I venture the two miles east to Kingston's VIA station. On August 19, I made that non-epic journey with additional motivation - the completed John Counter Boulevard overpass. Kingston's newest grade separation was finished in November, 2020 and the pandemic did not present a good opportunity for me to check it out - until now! Work on the Kingston station renewal had also been underway, as the completed and still-unused east parking lot shows (top photo). I parked in the only in-use parking lot (signage indicates a cell-phone/Uber lot) just west of the station and started walking towards the overpass. 
A new intersection allows traffic from the station and the three apartments buildings on Old Mill Road on John Counter Boulevard. The former Counter Street alignment is now a paved path along the current John Counter (above), over and south of the two-track CN Kingston Sub. Strangely, only the north track still has crossing timbers in place. This photo (below) is taken from the north embankment, looking west to the crossing. It's still in place to provide checked baggage truck service to the south track. If checked baggage service returns, that is. There was also a plan for a VIA access road off Princess Street, just south of the tracks. Charts and graphs!
This is the last completed grade separation within the city. Only Coronation Boulevard, Collins Bay Road and the Frontenac Secondary School pedestrian crossings still have whistle signs in the west end. Here is an image showing completed (O)verpasses, (L)evel crossings, (U)nderpass, and (P)edestrian crossings and the date of completion:
Interestingly, Kingston City Council is taking one more 'kick at the can' at a whistling ban in the city. This would involve studying the cost of fencing the right-of-way from Gardiners Road to Division Street to control trespassing. Also of interest, during my visit to the new overpass, VIA trains continued to whistle at the old Counter Street crossing, while freight trains did not seem to. This view from atop the overpass shows the parking now, expanded to the east end, painted and lit:
Speaking of trespassing, a dude and his dog (see tarp, below) were living alongside the fenced right-of-way under the overpass. This grade separation has been a multi-year project - one year elapsed while the limestone was allowed to settle into the swamp. The east side girders and interlocking for Queens West are shown in this view from the north side:
Having risked my life to cross the four traffic lanes, I snapped this picture on the south side of the right-of-way, looking east. To reduce construction costs, Council opted for a sidewalk only on the west side. A bike lane runs along the outside of the traffic lanes on both sides. Litter has already started to accumulate along the fence, with CN's access road between fence and tracks. Had CN seen fit to send a westbound along, it would appear here:
CN did, however, send an eastbound. Here's CN No 376 at 1021. CN 2319-5745 lead, with a surprise DPU...notice how the crossing gates are still activated. Platform-walkers were busy this morning, though the rain clouds were not, thankfully:
What passes for old power on CN these days, built in 1997 (below). CN's right-of-way brush control is non-existent:
CP 8827 seems to have made a wrong turn at made a run west from Montreal on CN No 377, now eastbound on 376, then to Halifax on CN No 120, and west to Toronto on CN No 321 trailing CP 8902 on August 27!
Scrap tie cars CN 56003 and BLE 50007 in this view still on the north side:
Taken from the south side, VIA No 643 arrived at 1038 behind 6409 with 5 LRC cars. The sidewalk is shown at right, with bollards indicating the bike lane and the proximity of traffic just evident. In centre distance, the intersection with Old Mill and station access, then the curve up to Princess Street. You know, the overpass Jason Shron is currently modelling on his KingstonSub layout.
Making my way down the north embankment during 643's station stop, the 'native species' planted along the embankment are in bloom, including sunflowers. No grass will be cut in the making of this overpass!
A visitor from Watertown, picking up a fare. Border-restriction much?
The usual lengthy Montreal-Chicago CN No 149 hit the station at 1055. CN 3857-3010 in the lead, also on the south track. VIA No 62/52, soon to appear, would make a north side station stop before heading back to the south at Queens West after No 149 passed.

Looking east (above) toward John Counter and west (below) toward Princess Street, likely two of the closest overpasses on the Kingston Sub!
These white boxes, from various container lines, contain temperature-controlled shipments, normally grouped around a CN generator container (far left) with plug logo on it:
VIA No 62/52: 901-3466-3338Future-3312Ren-3329F-6410-3458-3328R-3301R-3345R-3332R-6412 (below). The least car-filled photo I've ever taken at Kingston! Not sure about that large concrete block on the platform, though - it's not the only one. Between the two on-board personnel, a gap in the guardrail exists where one spot was taken up with a short platform in the past, now gone.
Continuing east under John Counter Boulevard, VIA 6412 bids Kingston goodbye:

Running extra...

We're having an election. Vote early and often! Some say, why an election now, while the corollary to that statement is...why not now? Democracy waits for no man, or woman. Clearly, the Prime Minister wants to reach the age of majority. Government.

I need to head back to the lake country again. Whizzing between Harrowsmith and Sydenham, the south side of Rutledge Road seems to host this former CP Service car, shown in this Flickr photo while still at Memory Junction in Brighton:

In the September issue of Our Lakes e-magazine, my third 'Rails and Lakes' article is coming down the track. Forget taking a Ride on the Reading, let's take a ride on the Kick & Push!