Friday, April 30, 2010

Springtime at Mile 179

Spring is here in the form of a bright, cloudless morning. My son says "Dad, if you're going trainwatching in the morning, you can take my new camera". The coffee cup says It's going to be a good day. The elements seem to be in alignment to discover some early Saturday morning trackside treasure. At 0621, the tailend of CN intermodal train 106 is on the north track heading into the sunrise behind brand-new 8887-2309:

These cattails are silhouetted in the early morning light, growing between rail and road. Nearby Bath Road makes it easy to drive to these photo locations in the area of Mile 179 Kingston Sub.

Train 309 with 2257-2202 running "wrong main" is framed by a telegraph pole at 0637, hauling several Central Soya covered hoppers, CN 89-foot flatcars of rail, Portbec lumber, and 40 empty trilevels on the tail-end:
There's time for a few sips of coffee and a read-through of this morning's newspaper before the morning VIA train to Toronto trundles west at a leisurely 46 mph, behind 919 at 0656. At 0725 it's No 368 behind 2532-IC 1003, with empty paper cars, empty flats and former Alcan covered gons for the smelter at Arvida, plus WC, IC and B&LE gons and hoppers loaded with scrap ties.
The private crossing where I'm standing used to lead to three houses located on the north side of the Kingston Sub. In an effort to reduce the number of unsignalled crossings, as well as to make way for a new housing development, the crossing was closed after the houses gave their all to train Kingston Fire & Rescue volunteers. Heading into the sun:
That's just the way I roll - CN 49258 is loaded with new axles for a car shop somewhere in Quebec. Later, 89-foot wheel car CN 48990 will be going the other way on No 371 with axles, on the next westbound. To paraphrase Marvin, "ain't nothing like the wheel thing, baby".
Car may fall over. Warning. Avoid tipping accident. Instructions - Chargement. Dire bilingual warnings are stencilled on the bulkheads of these 73-foot centre-beam cars as they head east for more wooden wares.
The rails are silent for 10 minutes. Red-winged blackbirds "chaak" and traffic on Bath Road picks up as citizens load their trailers with accumulated winter detritus for disposal, stop by the drive-thru at Country Style, or head out to No Frills for a few groceries. The heavy ballast and welded rail here under the Bayridge Drive overpass look pretty good in the low, glinting sunlight.

Train 369 behind 5761-9530-9576 at 0738 is next. It's unusual to find a GP40-2L in road service these days, much less two of them. These two units had just headed east on train 368, and were now online and earning their keep. Aluminum loads, hydrogen peroxide tankcars likely lifted at Brockville, Arbec, Abitibi and Kruger lumber, loaded paper cars and CN "Rail the Environmental Mode" covered hopper 382022 follow.
Fourteen minutes later, train 371 behind 5777-5682 hauls 10 Ontario Northland covered gons, All-Joist and Nordic lumber, 10 chlorine tankcars, three CSX hoppers, and a healthy string of PPGX covered hoppers, returning for another load of salt from Goderich:

VIA makes another appearance in the form of No 40/52. P42 914 leads 40's LRC cars over the small culvert at Mi 178.8:
918 is sandwiched between LRC and Renaissance equipment:
Bringing up the rear is the Renaissance equipment of No 52:

It was a good day, as predicted by the coffee cup. My son's Sony did a pretty good job, considering it was operating on auto mode, as was I this early in the morning. At least three more freights passed after I headed home. It's like eating donuts...there's always one more, but ya gotta stop sometime.

Running extra...

CN has bought 35 surplus standard-cab ex-UP exx-CNW C41-8's, to be numbered in the CN 2100-series, formerly assigned to Draper Tapers. Also, 60 ex-BNSF C40-8W's which were lease returns. Power-hungry? Economic upswing? "Gee. No, GE."

Locomotives are somewhat interesting, but rolling stock like those leftover B&LE and IC hoppers? That's way more interesting. Bessemer logos, plus IC cars formerly in Nova Scotia gypsum service, now stencilled with the CN website address. Maybe no longer fit for interchange service, CN is maximizing the assets to haul scrap ties.

A tie-in...(why knot?) I bought a few classic tie clips at last week's bluegrass concert. Monroe Crossing dressed in vintage-30's garb, and sold CD's and classic ties and clips at their sales table. Their Silver Dollar City all-request live CD is a great listen. Patsy Cline meets the Soggy Bottom Boys.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

A day at Kingston, November 1985

November 25, 1985: A cold but sunny day, ideal for railfanning in the vicinity of Kingston's VIA station. At 0941, 6919-3474-3313-3396, VIA train 40 accelerates eastward from its station stop. Right on 40's block is the eastbound roadswitcher out of Belleville, at 0953 behind 4486 with four boxcars, two gons and a bulkhead flat of lumber ahead of caboose 79792. They'd later return westward at 1153 with only two cars.
At 1014, VIA train 60 is pulling in with a nine-car, two-locomotive LRC consist: 6916-3339-3365-3317-3371-3346-3363-3353-3315-3465-6914:
The trainman hits the ground to line a switch. 3744, three CN boxcars and caboose 79438 are arriving in track KL29 off Queens track 4 at 1110. Twenty minutes later, with 79438 in the lead, 3744 will push seven covered gons across Counter Street and up the hill into the Alcan aluminum plant property.
At 1122, a five-car VIA train 61 is westbound: 6920-3356-3332-3359-3311-3458. After a McDonald's lunch break, a scruffy 6502 hauls 3249-5468 as diminutive VIA train 44, accelerating eastward at 1247:
6502 has barely cleared Queens East when a westbound hotshot freight appears with 5284-5037-2333 (smokin'), and boxcars, COFC, TOFC and autoracks in tow:
Before this train finishes passing, 4486 backs eastward on the south track with empty adipic acid covered hoppers after switching the DuPont nylon plant located at the south end of the Cataraqui Spur:
Long and short LRC train consists: VIA train 63 at 1344 westbound 6920-3371-3351-3338-3349-3327-3343-3336-3368-3308-3467-6915, and VIA train 62 at 1325 eastbound 6905-3361-3374-3347-3354-3373-3468-6930. 6788 hauls a short VIA train 43 west at 1359: deadhead 4887-5616-3214:
The last train of the day was a mostly empty westbound Laser, an underwhelming five loads and caboose 79440 at 1523. 9591 and 9436 are on the last note of their 14(l) as they cross Coronation Boulevard crossing in Amherstview near Mi 182 Kingston Sub:
A week later I was off to Montreal on VIA. Some sightings:
Brockville CN 9555-9495
Regis CN 1368
Coteau CN 4013
Dorval CP 4228 with 8 cars
Turcot CN 3735-4424, 9463-9618
Montreal CN 7156, 7151, 7168, 8519, 1298, 4422, VIA 6762
Montreal Harbour NHB 8405
Taschereau Yard CN 2100-2322-5036-79309
Dorval CP 5000-5564-5544-5912, 4569-4561-4500-8760-434581

Running Extra...

Attended a great bluegrass concert tonight featuring Monroe Crossing, a five-member bluegrass group out of Minnesota, about whom one reviewer remarked "I dare ANYONE to watch Monroe Crossing and not get happy." Missed the Orange Blossom Special, but did hear a CN freight whistling during the guitar intro to one of their songs.

The Orange Blossom Special operated over the Seaboard Air Line from Richmond to Miami. Airline service to Europe was disrupted this week by the Mount Scruinneveribodiupp volcano in Iceland, with ash clouds reaching as far west as Newfoundland, disrupting travel plans for Juno Awards performers including Michael Buble' and Bryan Adams.

Reading FOB Doc - A Doctor on the Front Lines in Afghanistan, by Captain Ray Wiss, MD. A gritty tale of medical miracles performed by Canadian medics on the dusty plains of the Panjwayi.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Postscript: Alberta and Saskatchewan Cylindrical Grain Cars

The Alberta and Saskatchewan governments made sure their citizens, specifically farmers, knew that their tax dollars were being invested to improve grain transportation. The paint scheme wasn't exactly as shown, but there was lots of detail and statistics given in the above newspaper advertisement in 1981. SKPX 625099 wasn't quite the first car of the series of cars for use on CP, but this newspaper photo was published to acquaint farmers with the cars they'd soon be seeing spotted for loading at their local elevator:
The cars were in use in the August 1981, with the following cars seen going through Portage la Prairie, Manitoba on both major railways:

CP Eastbound 5954-4551-5970-134 grain loads-434373
ALPX 628221, 628489, 628314, 628032, 628477, 628368
SKPX 625179, 625272, 625189, 625102, 625040, 625129, 625117

CP Westbound 5914-112 grain etys-434631
ALPX 628176, 628490, 628086, 628070, 628357
SKPX 625101, 625131, 625164

CN Eastbound 1354-1353-1369-91 grain loads-79621
ALNX 396444, 396278, 396312, 396249, 396231, 396106, 396093
SKNX 397389, 397049, 397078, 397338, 397374, 397228, 397226, 397126

CN Westbound 9543-9650-7005-110 grain etys-79369
ALNX 396178, 396037
SKNX 397331, 397013, 397134, 397465, 397069, 397061, 397318

The introduction of the Alberta and Saskatchewan cars tipped the balance in favour of covered hoppers in the Canadian dedicated grain fleet. Boxcar numbers continued to drop, while tonnage increased. These cars also continued the trend away from railway-owned cars to private owner cars, a trend which continues today. In 1988, statistics on the use of the cars also made the papers, including cycle times, loading locations, grains shipped and destinations:
Manitoba had its own seldom-mentioned covered hoppers. In 1980, the provincial government chartered American Pullman-Standard lease hoppers, with a provincial coat-of-arms on red or green steel, welded to each side. It's rare to find a picture or discussion of these cars anywhere, although the Manitoba/Canada Buffalo boxcars for grain shipping to Churchill and Thunder Bay are better-known and photographed.

Running extra...
Listening to Village of the Small Houses by Ian Ferguson, an off-beat account of growing up poor in Canada's far north. Ian's treatment of the Peace River ferry crossing at freeze-up is hilarious. A fast-moving river, the Peace was a mile wide in many places.
Privatization has come to CN in a big way, with Herzog doing track monitoring and tie removal along the Kingston Sub. With 3,000-4,000 ties per load, and two units working some nights, there is quite a mountain of ties at the top of the Cat Spur right now. CN trains 492 and 493 are another Herzog-run operation currently plying the rails here, haulin' and slingin' ballast along CN's southern Ontario lines.
. is a great source of Canadian rail industry information, and be sure to check out their bulletin board, news and forum sections.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Canada's Cylindrical Grain Cars

Cylindrical grain cars are one of Canada's best-known contributions to the North American railcar network. Over 19,000 government covered hoppers, built by Hawker-Siddeley, National Steel Car and Marine Industries have been carrying Canadian grain on rails since 1972. Their design was unpopular with US railroads, who preferred 4650 cu ft cars, the 4550 cu ft teardrop/cylindrical design without a flat roofline remained conspicuously Canadian. This post shows the cars largely as delivered. SKNX 397003 blt 3-81, CNWX 106705 blt 1-76, and ALNX 396068 blt 2-81 wobble west through Portage la Prairie, Manitoba in August 1981 (above).
The brightest paint schemes adorning the cars belonged to the Canadian Wheat Board, Saskatchewan Grain Car Corporation and the province of Alberta. Assigned to CN or CP, as denoted by an 'N' or 'P' in their reporting marks, the cars stayed on their home rails for loading. SKPX 625001 is the second of 523 Saskatchewan cars assigned to CP which were not restricted to Saskatchewan, but roamed western Canada. Only six months old, it's been spotted for loading in Gladstone, Manitoba (above). ALNX 396115, one of 477 Alberta cars assigned to CN, is loaded at Portage Pool 'B' the same month:
Later subjugated by a huge 'Alberta' logo, the Heritage Fund logo comprised a stylized (some say swastika-like) HF with the map of Alberta blended with a gold (representing oil money) shadow. UPDATE - as of August 2015, apparently only one car retains this original scheme - that's out of all the blue cars in the ALNX and ALPX fleets - ALNX 396029! Spotted by my aunt and uncle, the first ALNX cars only a few days old and on their first trip west from NSC:
CNWX 107078-107097's aluminum and yellow glint in the gloaming at Portage in July 1976. These smaller-capacity 4100 cu ft cars, intended for use on lightweight branchlines, made them early targets for scrapping, and over 200 of 2,424-car fleet met this fate in Thunder Bay in March 2008 alone.
Four years later, the aluminum has dulled and darkened. The trough hatches and tank design visible on this CWB car and CNWX 108139 were characteristic of the cylindrical cars.
Shiny CNWX 396410 whizzes westbound on a winter rail grain unit train at Kingston in March, 1980. Still on jointed rail, the Kingston Sub will soon be relaid with the welded rail visible in the foreground. This simpler, centred single wheat sheaf Canadian Wheat Board scheme debuted in 1979, and this car is about two months old:
CNWX 395582-396753-396491 have been loaded at Portage Pool 'B' on June 20, 1980. A farmer departs the drive shed in his now-empty GMC grain truck, and CN will soon lift these six month-old cars for their trip to port.
Built in 1979, Hawker-Siddeley CNWX 396774's truck springs are compressed and its Wheat Board ticket is nailed to the tack board beneath the reporting marks. Departing CN's Symington Yard in Winnipeg in 1984, this car is likely heading for Thunder Bay:
CPWX 603751 blt 10-77, graffiti-free and ACI-labelled is spotted at Westbourne, Manitoba in 1984:
Unlike the CWB and silver-yellow scheme, this brown-yellow scheme was applied to CNWX and CPWX cars, as was the red Canada scheme. CPWx 607644 is also at Westbourne, coupled to a CP script International of Maine Division boxcar:Nearly new and empty CNWX 109710-109612-109736 are less than a year old, wending their way into Symington. Billed to Winnipeg when returning from eastern Canada, empties are thence routed for loading across CN's western lines. Sometimes termed the Trudeau or Coke-can scheme, the red cars wear a dual wheat sheaf scheme. Built dates of some other cars seen in 1984: CNWX 109222 blt 9-82, 109518 blt 11-82, 109664 blt 9-83, 109923 blt 10-83, CPWX 606947 blt 9-82, 607049 blt 8-83, 607168 blt 9-83 and 607257 blt 10-83.
Red cars stand out behind 1201 on Vancouver's waterfront in 1986. Alberta and Saskatchewan cars have become faded from baking in the Prairie sun and begrimed from being dragged through drizzly mountain passes. Today these cars still carry Canada's golden grain harvest, albeit without the -WX suffixes in their reporting marks, having been returned to the control of CN and CP, and unceremoniously mixed with non-cylindrical IC and SOO covered hoppers of various designs.