Friday, August 27, 2010

Rail Changeout Unit: New rail for Old

Tamper/Canron's Rail Changeout Unit was a $2 million, 221-foot long, 170-ton beast used to replace jointed rail with welded rail in the early 1980's. Based on the P-811 concrete tie replacement machine, CN operated 505-51 and one other RCO, while CP had RCU 5001-01. The RCO and accompanying track machines were spotted for the weekend at Kings, Mi 162 Kingston Sub in April, 1985. The first section power car rides on the old jointed rail (above), and the second cantilevered section support six work stations suspended above the ties. The unspiked jointed rail is moved aside for the tieplate magnets pickup rollers , spike hole plugger, and sweeper:

The welded rail is threaded in after the adzers prepare new tie surfaces and creosote is sprayed onto the new surface:

The plate dropper deposits new tie plates via lower conveyer from one of the supply gondolas, which also receive the old tie plates via upper conveyors:

The third section rolls on the new welded rail, which is lightly spiked to hold the gauge:

The upper and lower conveyors handle tieplates from the orange, formerly brown supply gondolas following the RCO. Track machines work ahead and behind, including Speed Swings, spike pullers, rail heater, spikers and speeders in the years before hi-rail trucks.

On May 4, the RCO is being pulled east through Queens at Mi 175 after a day's work, by 1329 and caboose, along with its flat car for supplies, former baggage car now workshop 70783, and conveyor-equipped gondolas such as 90576 and 90625:

Once tucked away in the former Hanley spur, just off the mainline, a crane operator will go to work removing old tie plates and dropping into other waiting gondola cars. The RCO train also included 4 to 6 more gons, another caboose and two tank cars of fuel.

On a drizzly day in May, the RCO is working near Mi 179, pushing a flatcar ahead of it upon which four sectionmen throw spikes after they've been pulled. 1329 and caboose 'shadow' the RCO at far right:
A foreman talks on the radio while he monitors the tie preparation, threading out of the old rail and threading in of the new rail:

Working at 1500 to 2000 feet per hour, the RCO's crew of 100 could replace up to three miles of rail a day, surely one of the biggest production gangs of its day. Now that wholesale installation of welded rail is complete, short lengths of welded rail are replaced by regional steel gangs as needed. At least one of the CN power units is operating independently as propulsion for CN's TEST train. Most of the RCO was cut up at Transcona after being contracted by Harsco to Metro North in New York possibly in the 1990s.

Here's a link to a nice selection of RCO photos from CN's Halton Sub in 1982.

Running extra...

A round trip to Toronto one week ago aboard VIA train 651 (the coffee was hot) and train 48 (the Sleeman cold and the pretzels fresh). Scooped a westbound CP freight at Brighton with pure SD40-2 power consist: 5765-5773 Dual Flags scheme-6020. Gondola THB 2674 tagged along with numerous CP gons in the train.

Schnabel car CEBX 800 finally departed Toronto for Kansas with a gigantic Hooper Welding load aboard CN train 915 Eng 5528. Walter Pfefferle posted some excellent stills of the consist here, and Crazeejay posted a video of the train in sumacs at Strathroy here. Schnabel, loosely translated from German to English is "frickin' humongous".

Make sure to visit my brother's new Tumblr site Selling Canada (see link in sidebar) for Canadian history you never knew. Jack Granatstein asked Who Killed Canadian History? in his 1998 book title. Well, Dave is definitely applying the paddles and attempting to resuscitate it.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Postscript: Trackside Treasure Second Anniversary

Thanks to everyone who tried rail-ly hard to track down the correct answer to Trackside Treasure's second anniversary contest skill-testing question. Elijah from Saskatchewan sent in the first correct answer and associated research, and wins the prize pack. Pictured above: Canron's Rail Change Out unit (RCO). Congratulations, Elijah!

Honourable mentions go to: Robert from Washington-Canion/Tie Cranes, Bryan from California, with the most possible (and most hilariously arrived-at) answers, and even my sister, who by osmosis has apparently amassed a surprising amount of railway knowledge, allowing her to come up with the right answer. Sis, I'm no nepotist, but this one's for you: a CP blog. (Spoiler alert: it's not the same CP you might expect me to link to.)

Watch for an upcoming post on the RCO. Indeed a clever collection of readers and guessers. Weld Done!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Trackside Treasure Second Anniversary

Two years ago, I gathered together photos and notes I'd taken over the previous 32 years and called them Trackside Treasure. Alliterative, yes. A catchy title, maybe, but has this blog proven to be interesting and informative? As a reader, I'll let you be the judge.

Looking back retrospectively from the Skyline toward the Park car over the past two years, we can also look forward from the locomotive cab to see the track ahead for this little corner of cyberspace.

Over 40 readers and searchers visit each day. Your comments contribute to what I've posted and keep the blog interactive. Posts have been picked up by,,, Rapido Trains' Telegraph newsletter, and even, a model railroad forum in Germany. Blog and web partners Steve, Robert, John, Scott, Dave, Matt, Chris, Byron and Jason link to my blog and vice versa. In nearly 100 posts, I've found the reminiscing, research, writing, scanning and template design for Trackside Treasure engrossing and enlivening.
Any chance I'll run out of material? That'll be a frosty Friday in February . There are dozens of potential posts percolating, with new ones being hatched hourly. I know there are better photographers and writers out there, but I'm going to continue unearthing the story of Canadian railroading as I've seen it play out in front of my camera lens and coach window.
And now to our annual contest. To win the somewhat-coveted Trackside Treasure prize pack, the first correct answer by email to mile179kingstonATyahooDOTca, or as a comment to this post wins. The question? In six easy steps:

1. The first three letters of the named train in the first photo.
2. The second initial of the Canadian-designed passenger train in the second photo.
3. The first two letters of the the reporting marks of the railway shown in the third photo.
4. Add them all together to make a six-letter word.
5. Take the fourth, first and fifth letters from the word in step 4 to form a three-letter word.
6. The correct answer is a nine-letter, two-word name of a piece of CN maintenance equipment to be featured in an upcoming post.

Good luck and as always, thanks for stopping by,

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Vestibule View of Calgary, 1986

VIA No 1 has arrived at Calgary's Palliser Square station. At 1730, a third unit is being added before the train enters the foothills of the Rockies. Ex-CP 6651 is getting lots of attention from the white hats at the station. 6308-6614 have been fuelled and all three will soon head west on this overcast afternoon in May 1986. I was able to document our progress past Ogden Shops, Alyth Yard and into beautiful downtown Cowtown from an open Dutch door.
Painted on the end of the Power House: "Even one accident is too many". The Air Brake Shop is sans slogan, and the Locomotive Department tells us "Think, don't take chances". Brightly-painted safety slogan tank cars, three SD's, one switcher and black Conrail GP38 7764 wait outside. Named after I.G. Ogden, a Vice-President of Finance, the complex includes a car shop where dump cars, gons, coal cars, vans and a well-ventilated grain car congregate:
The CN overpass at Ogden Road marks the entrance to the west end of the Ogden Shops complex. As we roll by, 1526 will soon drag those cars in, once the brakie lines the switch and radios the engineer to start pulling.
Vans 437047-437309-437012-437162-437022-437046-437166-437045-437149 are classic CPR end-cupola wooden wonders:
Alyth is named after its namesake village in Perthshire, Scotland. As we pass the east end of the yard, it opens out to the north, with three yard jobs including 1507-1506 and 1503-1525 near the Pulldown Control Tower. A crew walks into the yard, and three tracks over, a cut of covered hoppers comes into view.
Western Co-operative Fertilizers WCFX 4566:
The yard is busy, with heavy equipment for export to Russia, tank cars, yard job, grain cars and wooden and steel end-cupola yard vans visible from the vestibule:
The Calgary skyline, including the 627-foot Calgary Tower looms over another small yard. The tower marks the location of the VIA station and the Palliser Hotel, and our one hour servicing stop.
Back in the vestibule west of Calgary, the snow-capped mountains approach faster than the summer solstice, but it's still light as we enter the mountains. To quote Van Horne, "If we can't export the scenery, we will import the tourists". What better way to be imported than with the wind whipping past an open vestibule?
Running extra...
Gananoque's train show this past weekend allowed me to double the size of my S-3 fleet for my HO scale Vancouver Wharves layout. 6516 in script now joins CP Rail 6528 at the 'N' Yard switcher track. Also a matched set of Patrick C. Dorin volumes on CN and CP for a low, low train show price to add to my railway library.

Gan once had a flourishing industrial waterfront, served by CNR. Unfortunately, even the last customer, Gananoque Steel Forgings has closed and the track that ran south from the Kingston Sub at Gananoque Jct. and underneath Highway 401 was removed some years ago. (That's "Gan-an-OCK-way", by the way.)

Monty Python: Almost the Truth (Lawyer's Cut) on Bravo! Canada this week. Behind-the-scenes details last night about The Life of Brian. The unflappable Michael Palin gives the most reasoned and balanced account of the difficulties of making a parody that parallels history, about a wished-for Messiah.