Saturday, October 23, 2010

An Afternoon on the Millhaven Spur, 1997

December 21, 1997 found me at the Celanese plant on CN's Millhaven Spur, climbing into the cab of former LV/CR SW-8m 78, an A.A. Merrilees industrial locomotive operated by Cando Contracting. I was invited and accompanied by Corey, a Celanese plant operator at the time. Once in the engine, we headed north from the plant with Cando crewmen Al and Nigel and several cars. The route, not to scale and omitting the full length of our route beyond the runaround track on the spur, is shown below with other all-time Millhaven Spur trackage:
Engine 78 paused in the curve (above) before starting to kick the cars it brought north into CN's lift/setout tracks KN03, KN04, KN05 (at right, below), and the storage-in-transit yard (at left, below). Both Al and Nigel wisely reminded us not to disembark on the north side of the covered hopper cars shown, as it was directly adjacent to CN's double-track Kingston Sub.

The covered hoppers were a mix of AMCX empties for lifting, and UNPX/CELX loads, either for lifting or storage until sold. The CHiP resin pellets in the loaded cars were processed by being melted, poured into molds, inflated with pressurized hot air to form 2-litre pop bottles, at plastics plants. In 1997, CHiP pop bottle resin was selling for 52 cents per pound, making a fully-loaded 199,000 pound capacity car's cargo worth $100,000!
Inbound ethylene glycol tank cars from Alberta were stored on the shortest north yard track:
As the sun dropped from the late-December sky, the crew continued past the tank cars to record the car numbers of all cars in the north yard. This task was usually done on Sundays. Corey is standing alongside the new yard, built only two years before:
The car numbers could either be gathered by the crew from inside the cab, or for the adventurous, by walking the roofwalks. CN's main line can be seen at left:

Then it was time for us guest engineers to take the throttle - fortunately for the safety of all concerned, this was limited to the long north-south tangent. From idle to notches 1, 2 and finally 8, I then stopped well short of the Taylor-Kidd Boulevard crossing using the engine brake. In the deepening darkness, we stopped at the resin tracks: loading at right, TA-unloading at left. A third track out of sight to left received "green-belt" AMCX covered hoppers. The Celanese Trackmobile, Corey's usual job, is just visible by its red lights:
Then it was down to the glycol tracks to place a couple of cars and record the numbers of those already placed for unloading. It's a safe bet that engine 78 was tucked in for the night at the shop soon after our tour ended. Disembarking marked the end of a great two-hour exposure to the nitty-gritty of car movements on the Millhaven Spur.
Running extra:

Just finished listening to Does this Clutter make my Butt Look Fat? by Peter Walsh. Interesting facts: Boeing has increased the assumed weight of each passenger by 20%, portion sizes have tripled in the last 25 years, and average waistline has increased by over 4 inches in less than 10 years. Want fries with that?

Celine Dion had twins. Do you call that a double-C.D. set? Her Titanic song left me with a sinking feeling. Did you hear about the ship load of yo-yo's that sank in Vancouver harbour? It sank fourteen times.

A derailment on CN near Cornwall this past week caused delays in CN and VIA traffic, and Ottawa-Montreal-Toronto VIA detours. On to Ottawa! Whether you want to go or not. An upcoming post will detail CP detours over CN's Kingston Sub, plus the derailment of empty flat cars for a military movement from Kingston to Wainwright in 1987.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Canadian Forces move by rail

Canada's railways are sometimes called upon to transport Canadian Forces (CF) military vehicles between major bases at Wainwright AB , Shilo MB, Borden ON, Valcartier QC, Gagetown NB and even Kingston. Armoured, mechanized infantry, artillery, engineer and signals units are transported for operations, exercises and embarkation overseas. This is in addition to British Army and Deutsches Heer military vehicles being transported to training bases at CFB Suffield, Alberta and CFB Shilo, Manitoba respectively. Railway and CF personnel work together to ensure vehicles are chocked and chained properly for movement, and transported safely and securely to their destinations. CN or Trailer Train (60-foot OTTX and HTTX) heavy equipment flatcars equipped with chain tie-downs are used in this service.
Major movements from CFB Kingston included Rendez-Vous 87 (RV87) at CFB Wainwright, one of the CF's biennial division-level manoeuvre exercises, since curtailed for budgetary reasons. CFB Kingston's 1st Canadian Signal Reginent (1 CSR) provided communications capability. Vehicle loading was shown in the above Kingston Whig-Standard news photo at Counter Street in 1987, and below in 1992 as the loaded train is assembled at Queens.
An April 1989 Whig photo of truck loading for RV89 at CFB Wainwright: 
By RV92, the unit's designation had been changed to 1st Canadian Division Headquarters and Signal Regiment (1 CDHSR) but plenty of vehicles, including new 5-tonne HLVW's were still needed. With the move to computers and increased use of technology, paper exercises would become more frequent. CN 5115-leased GATX 3702 were switching flatcars at Queens East on May 12, 1992:
In 1986, a westbound CN military movement passed through Portage la Prairie, Manitoba. The power was 5519-4243 and two more Geeps. M109 self-propelled and towed C1 105 mm howitzers (top photo and below):

M113 armoured personnel carriers and M548 ammo carriers:
M578 recovery vehicles and many of the other vehicles were emblazoned with red stars, perhaps representing Opposing Forces (OPFOR). One of the last trains moved out of Kingston on the CP line north was a military movement. Also, on June 5, 1986 an eastbound military movement through Kingston behind 9456-9531-4349-9196-5047 comprised 27 flatcars-9 auto racks-8 flat cars, cabooses 79563-79500-79682, with the 44 cars loaded with Jeeps, 5/4-ton trucks, ambulances and recovery vehicles. Miscellaneous CF vehicles were occasionally loaded at Kingston's Counter Street team track, such as this bucket truck, cable trailer, and other equipment on the evening of May 28, 1991:
Two Leopard tanks and two MLVW's were on CN train 335 at Kingston on October 4, 1997 billed to Wainwright:
At Walkley Yard in Ottawa on a chilly February 7, 1994 the cabbie slowed down so I could take a photo of three of over 2,800 LSVW trucks built by Western Star of Kelowna BC, with caboose 79374:
CN 9528-9556-4115 are hauling 70 cars of CF vehicles on May 23, 1997 eastbound through Kingston to Quebec or the Maritimes following Op Assistance, the Manitoba flood relief operation:

CN 5094 led a two-unit military train west through Kingston in this undated Tim Reid photo:
Today, Canadian units deploying to Afghanistan move by rail to Fort Irwin, California for workup training in a desert environment, sometimes accompanied by a privately-owned caboose or passenger car, used as a rider/escort car.

Running extra...

Check out this new blog. I've been considering this VIA Rail book project for some time now, and it's time to get it rolling. The blog tells the story, and will be the single source for updates on this book project. I'll include it in my right sidebar for easy access. If you're a VIAphile of any era of VIA, this book will interest you!