Friday, January 15, 2021

CN Lasers, Five-Paks and Double-Stacks

CN expanded its burgeoning intermodal service, from piggyback and containers to five-paks and double-stacks, in the 1980's and 1990's. Double-stacking technology sought to keep operating costs low, in line with inter-city trucking, with an eye to eventual expansion of double-stack service coast to coast. Early dedicated Laser containers rode on Trailer Train flat cars on CN No 232, in an October 1990 photo by Pierre Fournier (top photo).

CN opened its Brampton Intermodal Terminal in 1982. A new overnight Montreal-Toronto piggyback Laser service comprised one train each way, CN train  Nos 235/236. A CN press release, reported in January, 1983: 


In late 1984, CN re-geared 30 CN 9400's to 80 mph gearing for extension of the Montreal-Toronto Laser service to Chicago: 9401, 9402, 9404-05, 9407-13, 9415-16, 9420, 9422, 9430-34, 9437-39, 9441-43, 9445-48.

In September 1985 CN received 52 articulated five-paks from National Steel Car. Intended for Toronto-Chicago Laser trains through the St. Clair Tunnel, cars were on break-in runs between Montreal and Toronto for assessment. Car series CN 683200-683589 could handle ISO containers as well as an ACF trailer hitch, based on a Thrall Lo-Pac design. The cars had a tare weight of 175,000 pounds and an overall length of 240 feet. Interestingly, the cars were received with each well having a sequential car number. This was changed to match the industry standard of one car number and five lettered sub-units in 1995-96. My brother caught an eastbound with these cars at Kingston station in September, 1985:
Notice the variation in articulated trucks within, and drawbars connecting five-paks. 
(Three David J. Gagnon photos)
Some Laser observations at Kingston -  westbounds through around 1500, eastbounds around 1630, and another pair of trains crossing at Kingston around midnight:
  • September 10/85 1707 EB: 9402-9538 led about 10 five-paks such as CN 683281, 683303 and 683304, tailed by caboose 79644. 
  • September 24/85 1455 EB: 9593-9626 with 12 five-paks, mostly empties, sample cars CN 683280 and 683254, caboose 79346. (by L.C. Gagnon)
  • October 29/85 1612 WB: 9622-9518 was mostly empties, scooped by a westbound LRC climbing through 'drawbar hollow' at Mi 183 Kingston Sub (four photos below)
  • November 25/85 1523 WB: 9591-9436 hauling only five loads with caboose 79440 at Mi 182 Kingston Sub:
  • December 19/85 1437 WB: 9496-9516 only about 13 trailers, sample cars CN 683271, 683399, 683496, 683499 and caboose 79545 (by L.C. Gagnon).
Meanwhile, over at CP, double-stack container cars measuring 169 feet in length, carrying six 40-foot COFC leased from SP by Alberta government for a twelve-week evaluation. The government was studying the feasibility of an inland port/COFC system, according to CP Rail News, in September 1984.

In 1985-86, Montreal-Toronto service expanded to two trains each day each way, five days per week, adding a Chicago-Montreal 23-hour service once per day, CN train Nos 238/239. Originally, CN Laser train 239 departed Montreal at noon Monday-Friday, arriving Toronto 1930. Departing Toronto at 0030, Port Huron at 0515 arriving Chicago 1230.  Eastbound No 238 departed Chicago Monday-Saturday at 2100, Port Huron 0620, arriving Toronto 1125, departing Toronto Monday-Friday at 1330, arriving Montreal at 2100. Power was CN GP40-2L(W)'s between Montreal and Toronto, with GTW (ex-DT&I) GP40's also in use between Toronto and Chicago.  On-time performance would reach over 90% in 1986!

CN 9560 (on Moira River bridge, above) and 9566 (through the yard, below) leading Lasers westbound through Belleville in August, 1991. Three photos from online auction site.
At Cobourg, undated:


On September 28, 1986 CN No 207 had two five-paks on the head end, likely as a test. Rob Leachman photographed the train on the Salmon River bridge and reports that this was the only time he'd seen double-stacks on the National Transcontinental line from 1984-1990!

On November 28, 1987 CN tested a five-pak double-stack platform on CN train No 220 through western Canada, with a CN instrument car monitoring the movement pulled by two CN SD40's. At the time - CN had no plans to begin double-stack service!)

In February 1989, the first double-stack trains were loaded at Vancouver wharf for Toronto with service on a weekly basis: 5-Paks of Neptune Orient Lines and OOCL containers on CN. CP still opposed the use of COFC cars but arranged to lease 100 'spine cars' from CGTX and Alberta Intermodal Services. Container lines were dictating service levels - endeavouring to send entire shiploads of containers in a cross-continent land-bridge. New equipment in the early-90's were paving the way for domestic double-stack service.

Meanwhile, in the U.S., Conrail was planning two double-stack trains per week from New Jersey to Montreal, bypassing Halifax. The Port of Halifax was encouraging CN to start double-stack service to Halifax. This Guy Wicksall photo, posted to Facebook by Jered Slusser, shows Maersk five-pak MAEX 100053 on Conrail's Chicago mainline at Lyons, NY in April, 1990:
In spring, 1990 CN started two introductory double-stack services: Sea-Land train Tacoma to Brampton Intermodal Terminal via Buffalo/Fort Erie Conrail in 103 hours: Nos 252/253 and 254/255, possibly extending to Montreal.

CN ran a clearance test of the first double stack load (likely 9'6" vs. 8'6" CN Laser containers) out of Moncton over the Napadogan-Monk-Montmagny-Drummondville and St. Hyacinthe. The train hit one low hanging hydro line, knocking off one of the styrofoam test pieces positioned atop the containers. There was no spectacular light show, and the line didn't break. Kevin Day kindly shared the above account and photo of the test train across New Brunswick, on December 18, 1990:


In 1991, CN launched its first double-stack service for domestic freight between Moncton-Montreal-Toronto, as well as double-stacking of import-export containers between Halifax and Toronto. CN was converting its domestic intermodal fleet from trailers to containers, even combining domestic and import-export containers in the same train. To this point, CN had invested $45 million in the double-stack container program, including providing necessary clearances in the Moncton-Montreal-Toronto corridor. CN at the time had 500 domestic containers in double-stack service and would convert the remainder of its intermodal fleet to containers by 1995. 

CN was building CN 677-series red-painted five-pack well cars at its Transcona shops in Winnipeg in 1990-91. Able to haul trainers or double-stacked containers, each unit can carry 500 tons of goods, compared to 350 tons on equivalent piggyback cars. Each unit cost $375,000. The first 40 cars built in 1990 were for use in Western Canada, and double-stacks were operating there in 1991. Fifty more were produced by June, 1991 at a project cost of $18.8 million dollars. CN added another 130 five-paks, with 50 built at Transcona Shops for trailers or double-stacked containers, and 80 built at Trenton Works in Trenton, NS to carry double-stacked containers of import-export traffic moving through the port of Halifax, with these cars entering service in mid-1992. The latter were in the series CN 640400-640479, in service until 2008, renumbered in 1995 from their original numbers CN 640000-640379.

Early double-stack observations at Kingston:
  • September 4/92: 2218 EB 9597-9541-9510 half of the train was double-stacked, sample cars CN 640157, 640256 and sequentially-numbered 640120-640124.
  • March 15/93: Montreal Turcot yard - lots of double-stacks i.e. MAERSK
  • April 8/93: 2222 EB CN 5317-2003-2029 half of the train double-stacked.
CN 640472 is on a stopped CN No 104 at Kingston in January, 2000:
In summer 1992, CP initiated double-stack service between Montreal and Toronto after two years of testing. With increased use of double-stack trains in 1992, in the next five years COFC traffic grew to 80% of intermodal with TOFC dropping to a 20% stake.

Also in 1992, CN introduced American President Lines and GN/FNM trinational container service between Canada, the U.S. and Mexico, as well as its first refrigerated container service between Vancouver and Eastern Canada. Container power units connected to the refrigerated boxes could operate for seven days without refuelling. In 1993, Kleysen and Maritime-Ontario entered joint intermodal service with CN between Vancouver, Montreal, Halifax and into the U.S.

CN Laser containers ride Trailer-Train well cars like DTTX 25315 at Kingston's VIA station on April 24, 1993. Led by 9673-9631-9546:
In 1994, the Sarnia-Port Huron tunnel was enlarged to accommodate double-stack trains. CN placed a $34 million order with National Steel Car for 52 articulated low-deck flatcars for use with TOFC and 40-foot containers on their new Toronto-Chicago Laser trains. The low decks allow cars to travel through the Sarnia-Port Huron tunnel. Delivery of the cars was expected in spring-summer 1995. Notice the variation in graphics on the containers - some LASER lettering was all upper-case!
Lasers at Dawn - CN train No 101 heads west at Mi 184 Kingston Sub behind 5665-5058 at 0708 on July 31, 1997 (above) with CN North America map logos.

Thanks to Kevin Day and Rob Leachman for assistance with this post.

Lots of links:
Running extra...

Watch for upcoming Trackside Treasure posts on CBC's The National Dream, the Confederation Train, the Discovery Train, pandemic model railroading, CN's new trains 516/517, and if I'm so moved, tracking information on CN 640471 from the pre-9/11 public tracing era.

Speaking of 9/11, not only is a World Trade Center-size mass casualty event taking place every day in the U.S. due to the pandemic, but now the impending Inauguration is resulting in a Green Zone being constructed in Washington, D.C.! In God We Trust, Everyone Else We Monitor. 

Pithy-Sayings-R-Us. Here's the prominent, probably pathological pithy epithet portrayed to all passing pedestrians and perambulating passengers on their peregrinations on Princess Street during our graduation from community college: 

Friday, January 8, 2021

Postscript: Kingston's Canadian Locomotive Co.

In the previous post, we examined the history of Kingston's own Canadian Locomotive Company. There's just too much good material from the latter years of CLC to squeeze in, hence this postscript. Scans of various print advertisements, brochures and magazine articles comprise the collective in this CLC cornucopia. One-of-a-kind Trainmaster H24-66 CN 3000 in CLC's storage yard in July, 1955 (top - CNR photo) presented to CN in August. CP also accepted a Trainmaster, CP 8900, built in Beloit, WI presented to the railway in a Kingston ceremony in July.
July-August, 1955 Canadian Pacific Spanner employee magazine article

Two pages of another Spanner article, this one from 1945 profiling the long history of locomotive production in Kingston for Canadian Pacific:

A hint of CLC's reluctance to change - producing export steam locomotives well into the mid-fifties diesel age, as shown in this September, 1955 issue of TRAINS magazine

CLC 1953 C-Line troubleshooting manual:
Responses to my Dad's letters to CLC, during an era in which companies would respond to requests for information on their products.

This August, 1955 photograph from a Whig-Standard CLC retrospective article shows steam lifting CN 3000 and two other diesel successors at the CLC plant:
CLC advertisement, 1952:
CLC Opposed Piston production from November, 1964 TRAINS magazine (above and below from Rolly Martin Country)

Running extra...

Thoughts on topics discussed at this week's Associated Railroaders of Kingston Zoom meeting:
I'm looking forward to another Zoom meeting with the Toronto Railway Supper Club in February. Go to The Big Smoke without even leaving your basement! It sounds as if meal/meeting clubs have really caught on: Kingston, Toronto, Ottawa. I'm actually glad TRSC's is a Zoom meeting because in-person meetings normally held in Toronto look a lot different:

I just read that every twelve years, a blog should change its title. Here is my short list for consideration:
  • Wait Watchers
  • Slack Action
  • Gesticulating Wildly
  • Crunchy Cheesies
  • More Pulp
  • Globe Mail
  • All Abored
  • Licorice Allsorts
  • Where the Wheeled Things Are

Sunday, January 3, 2021

Kingston's Canadian Locomotive Company

Don McQueen and Bill Thomson's seminal book Constructed in Kingston - a History of the Canadian Locomotive Companies 1854-1968 was published by the Kingston Division of the Canadian Railroad Historical Association in 2000. This fine book is among the most complete treatments given to any Canadian railway subject - the definitive history of Kingston's Canadian Locomotive Company (CLC). When I recently set out to profile the historic railway scene of Kingston's waterfront for my own book, it was clear that CLC would be a key chapter.  Not only was I fortunate to have Don McQueen as a contributor, but I also wanted to complement, not duplicate Don and Bill's book. CP H16-44’s 8549-8550, fresh from the CLC plant, rest at CP’s North Street yard. Tank cars are visible in background at Imperial Oil’s warehouse. June 29, 1955. (Dave Stevens photo, Don McQueen collection)

Here is my capsule history of CLC. Photos are mostly from the Queen's University Archives, published in my book with permission.


In 1854, railway locomotive construction commenced along Ontario Street. The Ontario Foundry built five locomotives for the GTR in 1856 at Mississauga Point. By the year of Confederation, a full-page advertisement for the Canadian Engine and Machinery Company touted the company’s ability to produce locomotive, marine and fire engines. The plant would have more name changes and different owners, and more than 300 locomotives were built in the next few years. In the 1870’s, with the change from broad-gauge to standard-gauge, broad-gauge locomotives with inside connected cylinders which could not be converted, were replaced with new builds. By 1881, the plant was in the hands of well-known Kingstonians, until Scotland’s Dubs & Company took over its management in 1887, building more than 170 locomotives. Between 1887 and 1904, the plant was alone in Canadian locomotive manufacturing. Special Edition of Kingston's Daily British Whig profiling local businesses and their principals, 1909 (above).

Increased competition from the railways’ own Montreal locomotive shops – Canadian Pacific’s Delorimier and the GTR’s Pointe St Charles meant bankruptcy filing and liquidation by Dubs in 1900. The factory was closed for eight months while buyers were sought. Kingstonians purchased the operation for $60,000, reorganizing under the name The Canadian Locomotive Company (CLC) in February, 1901. Nearly 500 locomotives were produced in 11 years – as many as in the previous 50 years! William Harty would remain President until 1911.

CP’s first D10’s were completed in July, 1905. There would be 502 built, 68 at Kingston, including CP 1095 which is displayed opposite City Hall (above, with your humble blogger and siblings in August, 1969 - L.C. Gagnon photo). In June, 1911 the Jarvis group – Canadian and British bankers – added ‘Limited’ to CLC and 2,060 locomotives would be manufactured under that name. There was plant expansion in 1912, including a red-brick erecting shop along Ontario Street. Despite the name changes, generations of Kingstonians would come to call the growing lakefront plant simply “The Loco.” The long expanse of red brick of the 1914 erection shop facing Ontario Street house in-plant erection shop tracks that exited the plant between machine shops. March, 1970. (Queen’s University Archives, George Lilley Fonds, V25.5-38, 39, 41)


Europe was then on a war footing, and British financing was hard to secure. Imperial Russia saved the struggling plant with its order for 50 2-10-0 Decapods for the Trans-Siberian Railway. Delivered in 1915-1916 via New York and the newly-completed Panama Canal to Vladivostok, a total of 400 were produced, as were wartime shells and other munitions. Unfortunately, John “Jock” Harty contracted the Spanish Flu while in London during a business trip. Harty, board secretary before becoming President, was a well-known Queen’s University man, and the Queen’s hockey arena would later bear his name.

Employing 1,500 men, having quintupled its workforce in less than 20 years, the plant turned out Mountains, Northerns and Santa Fe types for Canadian National Railways, the GTR’s successor and one of CLC’s best customers. The Santa Fes in particular weighed 655,040 pounds, marking the first applications of Vanderbilt tenders in Canada. Considered the largest locomotives in the British Empire at the time, the Santa Fes would have been quite a sight to see as they made their way to the Outer Station and out onto the mainline. That same routing was taken by CN’s boxcab diesel 9000 on November 28, 1928. Matching unit 9001 was delivered on April 15, 1929 to be mated with the 9000. But locomotive orders were tied to railways’ profits and the between-war years’ Great Depression took an understandable toll. Except for some specialized heavy industry equipment such as ore classifiers, and industrial locomotives, CLC had no orders on the books between 1932 and 1936.


Another world war led to another surge in orders. On July 28, 1942 CP 2396 became the 2,000th locomotive produced by CLC. It was proudly but only temporarily painted and photographed with a commemorative crest on its tender and the number 2000 on its maroon-painted running boards (below). That year saw the plant’s highest sales volume in company history. 

Wartime production meant the addition of two more buildings to the site, and a 265-locomotive order for Indian State Railways. Begun in 1943 and extending for seven years, the CWD class 2-8-2’s were shipped in knocked-down form. That meant a boiler and firebox on one flat car, cab and tender on a second, drivers and cylinders on a third, all to be reassembled after their sea voyage to India. 

CLC’s war effort produced warship gun mounts for two-pounder “pom-pom” anti-aircraft guns and depth-charge throwers. A VE-Day victory parade float comprised a stationary firebox-boiler and dozens of plant workers aboard. Many of the workers were women, making up one-sixth of the plant’s wartime labour force. Aerial view of the plant, by now completely land-locked by Lake Ontario in foreground, the Kingston Shipyards at left and houses fronting the other side of Ontario Street up to King Street and downtown Kingston. September, 1948. (Queen's University Archives, George Lilley Fonds V25.6-6-9)


Concluding CLC’s G5 Pacific-type production for CP, G5d 1272 poses outside the plant. CP 1272-1301 were the last 30 of CP’s 100-locomotive G5 class. More were planned, but dieselization negated that planning. April 3, 1948. (Queen’s University Archives, George Lilley Fonds, V25.5-2-212):

The last steam locomotive built for a Canadian railway was CP 1301, delivered on August 20, 1948. Diesel-electric locomotives were the future, and with General Motors building a new plant in London in 1950, and Montreal Locomotive Works partnering with Alco-GE to produce their designs in Canada, CLC would need a major partner in order to compete. CN returned its first-delivered of 18 Whitcomb-built, CLC-finished 7800-series diesels in 1948, though production errors were traced to the U.S. and the units returned to the builder in Rochelle, Illinois. Undelivered 7800’s lined Ontario Street trackage near the plant before their return. CLC believed it was ready for the steam-to-diesel transition period which Canadian railways were approaching, and that the company was alert and ready to adapt its output to meet their requirements. Whitcomb-built CN 75-ton 7800-series switchers are stored in the shadow of the CLC plant along Ontario Street. Not accepted by CN, their CN logos were papered over before return to the U.S. 1948. (Queen’s University Archives, George Lilley Fonds, V25.5-2)

Those CN switchers are on a storage track that ran from William Street to Gore Street along the factory wall. Another storage track ran along the opposite side of Ontario Street from Gore Street ending at Lower Union Street. The fenced lot enclosing this track was used for storage of completed locomotives or materials by CLC.


The plant was sold to Fairbanks Morse in the plant’s centenary year of 1950, after CLC President W.J. Langston reached out to FM and successfully negotiated rights to all FM designs and their opposed-piston engine. American Robert Morse, Jr. became President. The plant had to be modernized. Foundry shops, blacksmith forges, steam hammers and boiler shops with riveters dating to steam days were obsolete. The last steam engine built in Kingston, indeed anywhere in Canada, was one of 120 built for Indian State Railways in 1955-56 with the final one was completed in September, 1956. India's High Commissioner, President of the Canadian Commercial Corporation and other officials pose with the first of the Indian locomotives, produced and shipped under the Colombo Plan on March 18, 1955. (Queen's University Archives, George Lilley Fonds, V25.5-36-149-1, degraded negative):

CLC would build 325 diesels between 1946 and 1968. Industrial equipment product lines were also offered such as Akins classifiers for mining, General American evaporators for pulp and paper, high-capacity kilns for metallurgy, and horizontal filters for sewage plants. CLC held exclusive Canadian rights to manufacture General American, Conkey and Louisville industrial equipment.

A red-letter day for CLC dawned on August 1, 1951. CLC had 1,000 employees with an annual payroll of $2.5 million at the time. A huge crowd assembled around City Hall and Ontario Street for Diesel Day, as the new CLC/FM line premiered. CLC C-Liners 7005-7006, actually CP 4064-4065 re-lettered for CLC, sat on CP trackage for cab tours. (Vintage Kingston Facebook group photo - above).

Steam still handled diesels, as diminutive D4’s dragged new CP diesels over the former K&P line to Tichborne. To heed bridge weight restrictions, a few freight cars separated the heavy diesels, and at Tichborne they were switched out for furtherance to Montreal via Smiths Falls, with the tiny steam train continuing on its way to Renfrew! In steam days, locomotives were always built north-facing with cabs at the south end of the erecting bays. In the case of freight diesels, this was radiator-end north. While many CLC-built steam locomotives lasted 40 years, CN’s CLC diesels lasted only a quarter as long. Officials pose with newly-built CN 8704, now coupled to the head-end of an eastbound freight train at the Outer Station on its way to Montreal for acceptance testing by CN. The train’s locomotive was likely temporarily removed for this publicity photo. May, 1952. (Queen’s University Archives, George Lilley Fonds, V25.5-30-262-30)

A harbinger was CN 3000, later renumbered 2900. Built at FM’s Beloit, Wisconsin plant, the demonstrator, along with CP 8900, were shipped to CLC. When CLC’s Vice-President of Manufacturing handed over the unit’s throttle handle to CN’s J. Ernest Kerr on August 19, 1955, neither of them could know it would be scrapped a mere 11 years later. CP would order 21 of the long units. CP 8900 was received by CP Vice-President D.S. Thomson on July 12. Inconsistent performance by CLC’s led to few repeat orders. CN H24-66 3000, built and shipped north from Fairbanks Morse’s Beloit, WI plant is inspected by officials while on dual-gauge track across from City Hall. August 19, 1955 (Dave Stevens photo, Don McQueen collection)


Only seven small locomotives left the plant between 1961 and 1966. In 1965, Fairbanks Morse (Canada) Limited lettering replaced CLC’s on the plant’s wall. Despite production of export diesels for India in 1967, the last locomotive to leave the plant was Calcutta Port Commissioners’ D61 on July 12, 1968. Reorganization in 1968, labour unrest, strike votes, accusations of sabotage and a “runaway” plant switcher up the branchline to an eventual collision with boxcars at Elliott Avenue soured relations between plant management. Nearing the end of an era, workers picket CLC near Ontario and Gore Streets. Former Saskatchewan premier Tommy Douglas visited the strikers to lend his support. May 2, 1969. (Queen’s University Archives, George Lilley Fonds, V25.5-47-196)

In February, 1969 President C.F. Morris was replaced by C. Zillis in St. Johnsbury, VT. Zillis never travelled north to visit the plant. At the time of an April 11 strike vote, CLC workers contended they were making 60 cents an hour less than their counterparts at Alcan or DuPont. The strike affected 120 workers. No agreement was reached on the company’s ultimatum and operations ceased as of July 1, 1969. The last product of the plant, a marine engine, was loaded on to a Halifax-bound flatcar on June 27. 

(Above) CLC in twilight: the plant is quiet as Fairbanks Morse letters have replaced CLC lettering on the fa├žade facing Ontario Street. March, 1970 (Queen’s University Archives, George Lilley Fonds, V25.5-38, 39, 41). 

William Teron purchased original CLC water lots 25 through 29 and the Swift dock at the edge of CLC’s property. When the Ottawa developer’s plans fell through, it was left to the city to purchase the plant and have it demolished by Alpha Demolition Co. in early 1971. (Two photos taken in January, 1971 kindly shared by Leonard Poole). A CN gondola waits to be loaded with scrap (below):

CLC was typical of the smokestack industries that were at one time Kingston's future. We are now generations away from any visible semblance of the plant's existence, or from memories of those who laboured there. 

Running extra...

The post that easily gets the most spam comments is the one describing CN's Auto-With-You and Car-Go-Rail services. Commenters with unusual names who try to interest readers in their car services: renting cars, servicing cars, stacking cars, storing cars.

The Kingston Whig-Standard has been posting a weekly History As We Saw It compilation of pages from various decades published in that week. I enjoy finding vintage ads like this one, published at the onset of the Great Depression:
Re-imagining the header. With the advent of a new year, I'm transitioning away from my usual Impact font to a spaced Trebuchet blog title. It started as a mistake (I make those!) (Allot!) but I like the modern, updated feel of it. I trust you do, too. Sometimes, the header photo will extend 'below the fold'. This was the first, but not the last blogheader in which the Trebuchet appeared: