Saturday, December 27, 2008

New Year's Greetings

This is undoubtedly a season of peace and goodwill, which pervades our greetings to each other in our daily activities. On the street, in stores, at work, while clearing our driveways and even among the railroaders that have to work while we're enjoying our holiday gatherings.

Passing freights: Look good on this side, best wishes for the new year...Hope your problems clear up and have a Merry Christmas...We tried to change off but we're going into Toronto, Merry Christmas...Gentlemen, Merry Christmas to all of you.

Rail traffic controllers: It's been a pleasure working with you today...Happy New Year if I'm not talking to you before then, but I'm here every night.

Even with peace and goodwill, there's still time for a bit of complaining: Call 1-888-xxx-xxxx to control your destiny. You don't want to work 148 and you don't want to take a cab home.

Happy New Year! Here's hoping 2009 will be a year of hard but satisfying work and many rewards. Thanks for checking out my blog. Keep checking back in the new year. I've got lots of good stuff coming down the track.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Railroaders and the Rules of the Road

Not only is railway work hazardous, round-the-clock-and unpredictable, it's also subject to the adherence to numbers books of rules such as General Operating Instructions, Engine and Train Handling Instructions and Safety Rules. I've included excerpts of these with photos I've taken of crews doing their thing. Above is some light maintenance being performed on CPR 1201's smokebox at Steam Expo in Vancouver, 1986. "Floors, walkways, steps and handrails must be kept free from oil and grease."

Head-end crew about to board CP 4741's vertical steps, carrying grips and radios at Smiths Falls, May 1987. "Face object, use both hands, have secure handholds and firm footing when climbing on or off locomotive, car or other objects."

CP 5730 entering CP's Port Coquitlam yard, 1986. Two crew members watch from the unit as another throws the switch ahead. "After a switch has been turned, the points must be examined and the target or light observed to know that the switch is properly lined."

Crewman of a CP freight inspecting the north side of VIA No 1 as it clears the station platform at Kenora, May 1986. "There should be men on both sides of the track to visually check the train as it goes by."

CN and CP crews making their lifts on the same afternoon at Portage la Prairie, September 1985. "When coupling cars, speed of four miles per hour at time of coupling must not be exceeded to avoid damage to equipment and lading."

CN trainman protecting Counter Street crossing in Kingston before the local enters Alcan plant, 1985. "Protection must be provided by a member of the crew fom a point on the ground at the crossing, until the crossing is fully occupied."

Joining the conductor aboard the rear platform for the uphill backup move into the plant. "Boarding or alighting from moving locomotives or cars must be done only at a slow rate of speed, making allowance for visibility, weather and ground conditions."

VIA 6651 is added as 6308 and 6614 are refuelled prior to the trip westward into the mountains, Calgary 1986. "Diesel units must not be moved without first notifying all persons who may be working under or about them."

CN's fuel truck is refuelling VIA units as crews catch up on the news, Jasper 1986. "When practicable, send trucks to passenger platform before trains arrive to prevent trucking through passengers."
Rail Change Out unit workers face our passing CN Railiners. They can't clear the south track the RCO is on due to the length of this unit. Kingston Sub, June 1980. "When doing any work on the track, as soon as the headlight of a train is observed, stand well clear of the track, and warn all workers to do the same."

A CP speeder crew clears for VIA No 1 at Gravel siding, northern Ontario, 1986. "Remind the foreman whan a train is due. The foreman should encourage the active participation of all his men in train line-up information."

Running Extra...
Even though Christmas vacation is here, there are lots of people who have to work at this time of year. Railroaders and others. Stay safe, enjoy what you can of this special season, and all the best in 2009. For a last minute stocking stuffer, how about CP 411740, and no, it's not a model. The CP website refers to it as a vintage coach car, not the first car CP has used until it becomes it maximizing the assets:

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Christmas Consists 1976-1985

Elvis sang "I'll have a blue Christmas..." How about a VIA blue-and-yellow Christmas? Bing Crosby sang "I'm dreaming of a white Christmas..." Why not a CN black-and-white Christmas?

Extra Christmas ridership usually means that every available car is out of the coach yard carrying passengers homewards and generating revenue. This can lead to some weird Christmas consists. Stormy winter weather, unforeseen delays and heavy passenger loads can make operations unpredictable. Here are some Christmas consists from CN's Kingston Sub, in the CN and VIA eras, each year from 1976 to 1985. Merry Christmas and here's hoping you find some treasure under your tree.

December 24, 1976 1230 E: CN 3101 - 6633 - 9657 - 5394 - 5217 - 5413 - 5423 - 3034 - 5643. Here's 5394 with the early VIA:CN markings:
December 24, 1976 2027 E: (All CN markings) 6537 - 6859 - 3126 - 3109 - 9654 - 5627 - 5589 - 753 - 5584 - 5534 - 4886 - 5588 - 5638 - 5635 - 5471 - 5533 - 2512.
December 26, 1977 1224 E: (Partial consist) 6533 - 3107 - SGU - silver coach (probably one of the ex-Reading Crusader cars that seemed to appear around Christmastime)
December 26, 1977 1302 E: (Partial consist) 6776 - 6871 - VIA 6775 - VIA 9600 - VIA York Club (VIA paint is starting to appear)
December 29, 1978 1330 W (Partial consist) VIA 6516 - VIA 6637 - VIA 6539 - CN University Club - CN 425
December 26, 1979 1545 E (Partial consist) Here's a weird one. VIA even borrowed CP Rail and Ontario Northland coaches for the Christmas rush this year. VIA 6539 - VIA 6621 - CN 5208 - CP 108 - ONR 836. The photo is taken late on a dreary December day, and is mainly presented to show it really happened:

December 27, 1979 1243 W: (All VIA now except as noted) 6761 - 6870 - CN 3112 - CN 5382 - CN 5181 - CN 5491 - 2504 - 5455- Mount Royal Club - Warpath River - 4888 - 5574 - 3032 - 9663.
Here's a photo taken the same day of an eastbound Rapido with 6788 - 6624 - CN 3126 and CN baggage car 9604:

December 30, 1979 1546 E: (Partial consist) Another dreary day and another weird one - 6523 - 6635 - CN 304 (silver) - CN 5620 - 5292 - 9483 - Muskoka. This Christmas, VIA was running Toronto - Montreal through trains replacing the normal Toronto-Kingston RDC's:

December 26, 1980 2038 W: CN 4520 - CN 4561 - CN 4560 (stripes) - CN 3118 (stripes) - 15423 - 15473 - 9631 - 5443 - 5449 - 5531 - 2513 - 5298 - 5302 - Empire Club - 3030 - 5652 - 5399 - 5301 - 9632.
December 19, 1981 1203 E: (The Canadian running between Toronto and Montreal, with extra coaches) 6764 - 6619 - 6630 - 612 - Club de la Garnison - 5595 - 5511 - 5654 - 2513 - 5449 - 3215 - 116 - 104 - 507 - 5733 - Chateau Cadillac - Chateau Rouville - Riding Mountain Park.
Here's Club St-Denis, one of the few cars remaining in CN paint, December 1981 - note the steam, stepbox and markers:
Of course lots of passengers means lots of baggage. Here's skis and other items being loaded aboard baggage car 9662:

January 4, 1982 1541 E: 6786 - 6629 - 6521 - CN 3126 - 9603 - Laurier Club - 5726 - 5447 - 5494 - 2503 - 5618 - 5495 - 5558 - 5610 - 2505 - 5634 - 5640 - 5635 - 5517. Here's 6521 MU'd in the middle of that four-unit locomotive consist:

December 28, 1982 1146 E: (The Canadian, again with more coaches than usual) 6532 - 6612 - CN 3118 - 612 - Club de la Garnison - 5545 - 3223 - 5455 - 5519 - 5443 - 3213 - 5627 - 107 - 503 - 5720 - Chateau Varennes - Chateau Brule - Banff Park.

January 8, 1983 1143 W: 6760 - 6870 - CN 15476 - CN 9657 - 5446 - 3037 - 3232 - 5519 - Club de la Garnison. SGU 15476 has a small VIA decal before its number:

December 23, 1983 1551 E: 6786 - 6634 - 5590 - 3219 - 5588 - 5532 - 5750 - 5483 - 5500 - 2503 - 5725 - Chateau Laval
December 21, 1984 1225 W: 6782 - 6865 - York Club - 108 - 5545 - 5486 - 2510 - 5494 - 5562 - 5574 - 3211.
December 21, 1985 1203 E: CN 4362 - 6624 - Tweedsmuir Park (running backwards) - 612 - Boulevard Club - 3210 - 5495 - 5541 - 759 - 117 - 3200 - Chateau Laval - business car 95:

Maybe some CN bigwig was heading home for Christmas, or maybe going to a Habs game in Montreal with some customers...

December 30, 1985 1455 W: 6783 - 6780 - Empire Club - 5516 - 3209 - 5468 - 2503 - 115 - 3237 - 105 - 3231 - 5610.
Running extra...
Looking for a gift that gives enjoyment all year long? I've been fortunate to receive the Bytown Railway Society Branchline - Canada's Rail News Magazine for several years now (thanks D&S!). Each month it brings a wealth of information, photos, recollections and data for the discerning rail aficianado. Check it out at:

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Postscript: CN and VIA's Winnipeg to Churchill Trains

Looking for more Churchill train photos, I found several of Thompson to Winnipeg Train No 90, at Portage la Prairie, Manitoba. Here's one from 1978:

CN 6501 has three cars in tow as it stops in Portage la Prairie on August 16.

Checking VIA schedules of the time shows why I snapped lots of No. 90 photos. It departed Thompson on the afternoon of the previous day, and was due into Winnipeg Union Station around 1100. So it was a prime target each day for an easy morning sun shot. The times of Churchill trains Nos. 92 and 93, with their more interesting consists, were a bit more difficult, with 92 OS'ing around 0530, and No 93 around 1900. I'm guessing CN and VIA used passenger power on the shorter Nos 90/91 because there was not as much head-end traffic to lug around, and start and stop at each station along the line. Often, the same 6500's shown here would appear on the Super Continental out of Winnipeg within the next day or two.

On a cloudy morning on August 22, 1979, No 90 pulls into Portage behind F7Au 9151 - CN 15484 - 9637 - 5545 - 5619:

On June 16, 1980, it's VIA - 6501 - 15489 - 9672 - 5623 - 5625:

The operator is hooping up orders on a rainy June 20, 1980. The consist today is 6506 - 15489 - 9634 - 5545 - 5619:

Two days before the next shot, No. 90's consist was 6511 - CN 15453 - CN 9640 - and VIA 5545 - 5625 - 9669. The welders are out in the grass at West Tower, as the sun glints off 6506's nose on Aug. 28,1981. Consist was 6506 - 15492 - 9660 - 5623 - 5619:

Here's a shot of No 93, which we paced westward into Portage on the Trans-Canada in May, 1984. Although there's no head-end traffic, there is an E-series sleeper on the tail-end. 6302 - 6303 - SGU - 9663 - 3244 - 5618 - 762 - Enterprise:

Here's a couple of Final F-Foto Freebies to Finally Finish, showingthe 9100's in freight service. On August 23, 1979, 9150 - 9154 have just pulled up across from Portage station on the yard lead:

In 1984, 9153 - 9150 - 79827 prepare to head west out of Portage on a caboose hop:

Running Extra...
The CP Holiday trains are crossing the U.S. and Canada. A co-worker was lucky enough to see one Holiday train on the Tunkhannock Viaduct in Nicholson, Pennsylvania. While not able to see it up-close, it would be an awesome sight. Remember the reason that CP has raised $3.56 million dollars for since the trains began - collecting food and donations for those least able to feed their families. Having seen the train at Belleville two years ago, it lights up the night and the spirits of those who see its colourful passage, with a cause worthy of our support.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

CN and VIA's Winnipeg to Churchill trains

The passenger trains operated by CN then VIA, between Winnipeg and Churchill have always been interesting due to the variety of head-end traffic handled between the remote communities on the line to Hudson Bay. On July 3, 1976 the eastbound train from Churchill was stopped at Portage: CN 9154-9152-15491-633112-11119-11064-222626-8063-9642-3030-5467-5587-5595-1338-Great Slave Lake-Edwardsville-Thunder Bay-Terra Nova River-Greenridge - Bedford in VIA blue & yellow (L.C. Gagnon top photo).

Having seen a few of the trains, and collected consists since, I was interested to hear from Mark Perry, CN engineer in Dauphin, on this topic. Researching the CN F7Au's and the transition from CN express reefers, through boxcars, CN mechanical reefers and COFC and TOFC flatcars, I was able to summarize some information and create a timeline. Here's an old photo, from a March, 1971 National Geographic School Bulletin article on Manitoba's Train to Tundra, showing 2 CN GP-9's pulling CN head-end and passenger cars, in both the black-and-white and earlier olive-and-green paint schemes.
The locomotives used on these trains included GP-9's, some with Flexicoil trucks, but after CN rebuilt some of its 9100-series F7's, these units predominated. Initially, they wore CN's passenger scheme, but later received a full red nose, yellow frame stripe and freight stripes. Here are some power consists, from a variety of sources:

1970: 9060-3617-9088
1971: 2 GP9's
1972: 2 F's
1976: 9154-9152
1977: 9154-4271
1978: 91xx-4303
1979: 9151-91xx, 9155-9152
1980: 9154-91xx, 9153-4117, 9151-9153
1981: 9150-9154, 9155-9152
1982: 9152-9151
1985: 9168-91xx, 9163-9158

When CN rebuilt some FP9's into the 6300-6304 FP9ARM's in 1984-85, these replaced the 9150's, such as No 93 with engines VIA 6304-6300 on August 19, 1984.

Photographed from the mosquito-infested embankment above CN's East Yard in Winnipeg, 9163, 9158 and steam generator unit 15484 arrive from Symington Yard to power VIA No 93 to Churchill, on a warm September night in 1985, around 2000 hours:
The head-end traffic was handled in a variety of former CN boxcars and reefers, some left over from the steam era, until containers and later highway trailers were carried on the Churchill trains. The following observations show the evolution of the cars in use into the 1980's:

Through boxcars, 40-foot with sliding doors:
1976: 11119, 11064
1977: 11148
1980: 11077
1981 and later: not in evidence

Express reefers, 40-foot with plug doors:
1976: 10621, 10657, 10673
1979: black/white, olive/black
1982 and later: not in evidence

CN 2226xx-series reefers:
1970: 222601, 222619, 222608, 222603, 222624
1976: 222626
1977: 222620, 222614
1978: 222620
1979: 222617
1980: 222620, 222619, 222609, 222600
1981: 222618, 222604, 222626
1982: 222600

COFC 89-foot flats with 3 ISO containers:
1967: 633084
1976: 633122

TOFC flats:
1985 in use

In August 1981, the northbound train to Churchill passed Gladstone's Manitoba Pool elevator, then made a station stop:
Head-end traffic on this August night was handled in two CN reefers, as the use of the older cars was waning. The consist: 9150 - 9154 - 15450 - 222602 - 222604 - 9621 - 5440 - 3032 - 5574 - Palliser - Eldorado - Terra Nova River (CN) - Cape Race - Glace Bay (CN)- Mount Resplendent.

Here's an interesting comment from Mark about working with the CN reefers:
"I hated working with those reefers. In the summer of 1982, I was a trainman on Nos. 94-95 between Thompson and Gillam. By that time most of the reefers were in captive service between Thompson and Churchill. There were no carman stationed in Thompson so the train crew had to do up the steam conduits between the cars after picking them up from the express shed - a very dirty and hard job to do. Can you imagine what a blue VIA uniform looked like after doing up the steam conduits on 6 reefers between the SGU and the baggage cars, crouching underneath cars, wrestling with those conduits, kneeling on oily and watery tracks?"

I'm always on the lookout for more passenger consists that operated on the Churchill line.
Running Extra...

For all your Canadian passenger car modelling needs, be sure to check out the Rapido Trains website at
I had the chance to meet Jason and Dan, and although they take their production of quality Canadian prototype models very seriously, they seem to be having a lot of fun at the same time.
Ted Rafuse, of Steampower Publishing is looking for text and photographic material to use in a book under consideration, on the Kingston & Pembroke Railway. See

Friday, November 14, 2008

Cabooseless Operations Display Train, November 1984

Cabooseless train operations, like many developments in railroading, were adopted in the U.S. many years before Canada. This photo of a Conrail freight train near Utica, New York in autumn 1984, shows the Flashing Rear End Device, or End of Train Unit, on the rear coupler of a Chicabo & North Western boxcar: Federal labour arbitrator Dalton Larson granted CN and CP their request to operate cabooseless trains on July 19, 1988. Back in 1984, a letter to the editor of the Globe & Mail, with a photo of CN transfer caboose 76629, lamented what would become inevitable: "We are in jeopardy of losing a fundamental concept of railed transport: every train has a caboose. It's the one solid form of punctuation in a clanking, rattling sometimes violent rolling statement of freight"
In 1984, CN and CP first applied for cabooseless operation. A display train with an unusually varied consist backed into Kingston's Montreal Street station on a cold November 16, 1984. The train included two cabooses, but neither brought up the end of the train. It would be interesting to know where else this train was on display...please add a comment if you have more information. CN 9403, CP gondola 337457, UTLX tank car 83909, CGTX tank car 29454:
CP newsprint car 85338:
CN boxcar 410105, VIA steam generator unit 15485:
VIA official cars Coureur de Bois and Pierre de la Verendrye:
ONR baggage car 414:
CP van 434425:
CP boarding boxcar 404382, CN caboose 79681:
VIA theatre car Sir Sandford Fleming:
June 1, 1990 marked the commencement of Canadian cabooseless operations. The first cabooseless CN train I saw was this eastbound approaching Kingston on June 11, behind brand-new GE's 2409-2408. Within a month, these new units would make crew familiarization trips to Edmonton and Vancouver. The last car on this train carrying the ETU was CSXT 247567, a covered hopper. Throughout 1990, trains with cabooses were in the majority, but by 1991, cabooseless trains dominated.
Many CN cabooses were still in use after commencement of cabooseless operations:
1990: 79470, 79453, 79534, 79524, 79542, 79559, 79584, 79615, 79631
1991: 79420, 79575, 79693, 79632, 79678, 79620, 79768, 79797, 79766

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Postscript: CN Train No 805 on the Rivers Sub, June 1978

Just came across a CN switch list from June 14, 1978 from Portage la Prairie. It lists some grain boxcars to be lifted from two of Portage's elevators:

Pool B Track RG37 East End

CN 485285
CN 479271
CN 425470
CN 421644

U.G.G. Track RG54 East End

Car numbers unreadable, but there were four cars to lift.

All eight cars were billed to Thunder Bay, Ontario

Pool B, later destroyed by fire, was a unique elevator because it was served by both CN and CP.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

CN's Lewvan Subdivision, September 1985

Late September, 1985 found two things on the ground in southern Saskatchewan - snowflakes and dead grasshoppers. Despite the poor crop, CN was shipping grain off the Lewvan Subdivision, running southeast from Regina towards Weyburn. I arrived in Regina by VIA around 0300, then rented a car and headed out to record some trackside treasure. I visited Cedoux, Colfax, Lewvan, Estlin, Gray and Rowatt. Unfortunately it was a weekend and no grain pickup trains were running. Lots of 40-foot boxcars and some cylindrical covered hoppers were on the elevator tracks. I'll include some interesting post content from a recent YahooGroups discussion on the Lewvan Sub. My first stop Saturday afternoon was Cedoux...two elevators and one lonely tree. CN boxcars with six-foot Superior and Youngstown doors and wet-noodle and maple leaf logos awaited loading.
"The Lewvan has many wonderful memories for me. I discovered it on a very hot July day in 1970 when many of the depots and elevators were still there. It was so hot that my wife was refilling our thermos with water at every town. The towns still had businesses then and were at least somewhat viable. I eventually got to chase it a couple of times and enjoyed that very much. I wish I had started 10 years sooner, but I'm glad for what I got." Chuck Bohi The elevators at Colfax were lettered for Sask Pool, Searle and Federal. CN still thought enough of traffic on the Lewvan Sub that they stationed a speeder here for the section forces. The town's houses, church and garage were of wooden construction and looked like they had stubbornly faced many harsh prairie summers and winters.
Namesake town of the subdivision sported a Pioneer elevator with two annexes, as well as two Parrish & Heimbecker elevators. The nearest one included an old tractor and grain truck parked
behind it. Some low cloud made for moody photography and foreshadowed the demise of the line only a few years later, after being one of the last strongholds of GMD-1's.
"Lewvan [Sub] was there 8 years ago - the southernmost portion overgrown with weeds, but at least as far as Estlin & Riceton had been sprayed so the rails were visible, albeit coloured brown. The sub. was still listed on the employee timetables as late as August, 2001. "
Peter Lacey
Late Sunday morning, after an overnight stop in Weyburn, I visited Estlin, the town with the most colourful elevators: two Pioneer and one Cargill. A tilted wooden whistle post indicated the road I was on. Due to the cold and wet, I preferred to stay inside my warm rented Chrysler Fifth Avenue to keep the upholstery clean, and shoot with the telephoto lens!
With the option of visiting Riceton or running out of gas, I only got as far as Gray, where the store was open but the gas pumps were not. Covered hoppers, though likely not fully-loaded were spotted here. I coasted into Regina and found Petro-Canada open. This was one of CN's subdivisions notoriously listed in the employees' timetable as "Only units in series 1000-1076 permitted."
"I scanned some slides yesterday of the last run of the A1A's down to Talmage in 1999. I was kept in the loop as to when the train was going to run and made a hasty decision on a Friday afternoon to fly out to Regina to document the Sunday move. The train spotted about a dozen cars at Rowatt before heading to Talmage."
Jeff Robertson
Just south of Regina, Rowatt was my last stop. Next door to the Sask Pool elevator was a new Cargill, with exposed elevating leg, one wooden and two steel bins. Before long, concrete elevators would take over, the light rail subdivisions would be pulled up, wooden elevators would tumble, and the boxcars would be scrapped.