Friday, November 12, 2010

Ten-Hundreds: CN's GMD-1's

My first encounter with the decidedly Canadian GMD-1 was in the summer of 1976. All night long, the big-trucked brutes dragged transfers of grain boxcars behind the Thunder Bay Holiday Inn in which we were staying, blowing exhaust through their spark arrestors into the night sky. It's oh-dark-thirty and they're barely visible through the 12-inch square bathroom window, but they're RIGHT THERE: 1904, 1913, 1907, 1908, and 1914.
In successive trips to Manitoba and Saskatchewan, I saw braces of GMD-1's in action, still moving grain, but in daylight and at speed. Forget the 1900's, those steam generator-equipped, four-wheeled Flexicoil-trucked passenger units. Nevermind the Northern Alberta's five, which due to CP's influence operated short-hood forward, and were obtained by CN in the 1981 acquisition of NAR. Not yet time for the rebuilt 1100's, 1400's and 1600's - those latter-day, new and improved GMD-1's. On May 16, 1980 at Portage la Prairie, Manitoba, 1076 basks in the morning sunshine (top). Back in 1976, 1074-1068 face the setting sun at Portage (above).
These were the original, as-built ten-hundreds - turned out by GMDL in 1958-60, ninety-six in number - purely Canadian. Described variously as ugly, ungainly, light-footed and lightweight, or a cross between an NW5 and an SW1200RS. 1070-1076-1071 plod past Portage station on August 17, 1978 (above), and 1017-1005 are at speed at West Tower in August, 1981:
Shrouding a 1200-horsepower, V-12 567C with a nominal axle loading of 40,000 pounds per axle, these unique units tiptoed, toiled and travelled CN's lightweight Western branchlines. The ones with equipment restrictions definitively described in CN employee timetables as "Only units in series 1000-1076 permitted": the majority of subdivisions in CN's 1979 Saskatchewan Division, and five subdivisions in southern Manitoba in 1984, then only Saskatchewan's Lewvan Sub in 1998.
Debuting in CN's olive-green scheme, the units spent much of their life in the 'black widow' all-black. With a couple of exceptions - 1063 was still green in 1980. Olive 1052 and 1025 switch Portage in August, 1978.
Known for their out-and-back branchline turns, here 1052-1065 have a few new cylindrical grain cars ahead of 79853 to spot in Portage on August 26, 1981 before heading west:
Returning two days later with a 26-car train of loaded grain boxcars and 79545, resplendent in the red cab paint the GMD-1's later received:
The following summer, 1052 was still hard at it, with the last of 18 axles clumping of the West Tower diamond behing 1026 and 1057, with 97 grain empties and caboose 79617 on June 18, 1982.
Another similar grain turn behind 1067-1012 arrives in CN's Portage yard with 15 grain cars on September 18, 1985:
Heading west light power, they return a couple of days later with 1012 in the lead at Eighth Street hauling boxcars:
Tying onto the cars they dropped earlier in the yard, the duo prepares to head east to Winnipeg.
Saskatoon's diesel shop on an overcast June day in 1986 finds GMD-1's slumbering by the shop. 1080 is ex-NAR.
CN engineer Mark Perry from Winnipeg remembers,
"The GMD-1's were a favourite of mine to photograph. But to work on them was another story entirely. They bounced a lot at any speed and rode like a rough old mule. If it was raining, or there was grain dust or fresh green weeds on the tracks, they could hardly pull themselves, let alone their train. I spent a lot of time riding on the front footboards, pouring sand from a bag onto the rails ahead of the unit. They smoked quite a bit, and the smoke seemed to end up in the cab, choking the crew. But they did the job they were built to do."


Canadian Train Geek said...

I love GMD1s... such a uniquely Canadian locomotive. I was pretty excited back in 2004 when CN 1423 spent a week in Saint John before heading to the Windsor & Hantsport. I've seen the 1400s in Regina and Winnipeg but I have never laid eyes on a 10-hundred. Thanks for posting those great photos.

Robert in Port Townsend said...

Someone at GMD must have had a heck of a hangover when he sketched out the GMD-1!

Saving weight was an obsession, as demonstrated between the road service and passenger versions.

The initial 5 orders (GR-12m, s, t, w, and z) A1A Flexicoil truck, carried a small 1,000 gallon (Imperial) fuel tank. The A1A layout also helped spread the weight.

The B-B (GRG-12n) Flexicoil version had a dinky 750 gallon (Imperial) fuel tank to counter the close to six tons of water (1,225 gallons (Imperial) of water, at roughly 10 pounds per gallon) for the vapor steam generator, housed in the short nose, required for passenger service.

All featured the unique Spark Sentry rotary spark arrestor.

Good show, Eric.

Eric said...

Hi Steve and Robert, and thanks for your kind comments and additional information. Completely unique units, and as Mark reminded me, still working in Cuba. Also, one near here at Casco in Prescott, although when we were there in the summer, all we saw were stationary corn syrup tank cars. 1900 was the Winnipeg station switcher for years.


Zartok-35 said...

YIKE! I'm late!
A wonderful post, Eric. I love it! Thats a fine picture of the homefront you have in there, too!
The GMD-1s didn't haul too many long trains, did they?

Eric said...

Never too late with Trackside Treasure's relaxed posting schedule, thanks Elijah. Due to the nature of their branchline work, the trains would be somewhat shorter, but those grain drags in T Bay weren't.

Anonymous said...

Look up Casco GMD1 on You Tube for some good vids of these uniquely Canadian engines switching a really cool twisty spur line

Eric said...

Thanks A., I've been to Cardinal and have seen that line...runs right through backyards and all. Very unusual in today's railroading world.
Thanks for your comment,

Unknown said...

Unfortunately the Ingredion (formerly CASCO) GMD-1 (1105) is now broken (the generator axle I'm told). The Ingredion markings on the hood have been painted over so I'm not sure of its future. I love the uniqueness of these locomotives.

Eric said...

Thanks for your comment, James. I've not been lucky enough to see the Ingredion unit working in Cardinal. Tim Hayman posted some photos of the unit along with HLCX 1445 here:

Oil stains on hood, not looking good.

Mike Lisowski said...

I wonder if the units heading west from Portage in the photos were heading to Neepawa via Petrel jct? Can't think of any other lines west of Portage in 1981 or later that would need GMD-1's. According to retired CN employee, the Carberry sub North of Petrel Jct was closed because of the condition of the bridge just South of Neepawa. Just not sure of the date. CN had received permission from Canadian Transportation Commision to close that stretch of line and get to Neepawa via CP as early as 1977.
Can anyone confirm?
Just got my N scale GMD-1's from Rapido Trains. Beautiful models!

Eric said...

In retrospect, Mike, I should have pestered the operator at Porage for more information at the time!

I am glad that I was able to photograph and experience these units in grain service, and also glad you're enjoying Jason's products in scale.

Thanks for your comment!

PhatWoodZ said...

we used to have 4 in Regina. Now down to one :(

Eric said...

And now we have one working out of Belleville, ON too. 1437!
Thanks for your comment,

Dave SC said...

The shortline Oregon Pacific Railroad in Portland acquired a GMD-1 (ex-CN 1413) in 2009 as their prime mover. On Saturdays they use it to pull their public excursion trains and you can even ride in the cab, like I did last weekend. The operator really liked the GMD-1, said it was better insulated, so a lot quieter and warmer (great in winter, but hot in summer) than the American-built locomotives he's run.

Eric said...

Thanks for that additional information, Dave. An interesting post would be the disposition of GMD-1's and their next lives!