Saturday, February 25, 2012

CN's Oakland Subdivision

Running north from Delta Junction off CN's Gladstone Sub at Portage la Prairie, Manitoba, CN's Oakland Subdivision ran north, west, then north again 53 miles to Amaranth.  GMD-1's gingerly trod on 60-pound rail to serve online elevators.  At Oakland Mi 9.1 the line veered west (above - in grove of trees) to avoid Lake Manitoba.  Originally the site of two Manitoba Pool elevators, I photographed the remaining 2,520-tonne capacity elevator on track DA10 in 1986:
The angular routing of the Oakland Sub at Oakland is visible at top right of the following topographic map.  I also visited Macdonald, and the Hutterite hog farm located in the former British Commonwealth Air Training Plan airfield there, with control tower still visible.
This 1984 grain lines map shows the jog at Oakland, with the dashes denoting the line as subject to CTC review.  Each of the four elevators on the Oakland Sub were shipping between 7,500 and 15,000 tonnes per year, or between 125 and 250 60-tonne boxcar loads.  It's likely that some of the boxcar-hauling grain trains that I observed at Portage la Prairie pulled by GMD-1's were serving the Oakland Sub.
Six miles to the north at Longburn, the remaining 1,350-tonne capacity Pool C elevator was loading boxcars in June, 1984.  The larger, 1955-built Longburn elevator had been moved to Macdonald in 1965, and it closed December 31, 1988 and was moved again to the Fourschau farm at Bloom, Manitoba west of Portage on the Trans-Canada Highway, and topped with a grain dryer and two former covered hopper cars to boot (see photo below).
In the November 1985 Trains magazine Canada issue, this elevator was being switched when photographed by Greg McDonnell.  He wrote, "CN Work Extra 1071 spots empty grain boxes at the Longburn Pool Co. (sic - he thought the annex pipe blocked lettering) elevator."
Interestingly, the larger Longburn elevator survives into 2017, still visible to passengers on VIA's Canadian (Nelson Braun photo):
The station signboard is visible in foreground:
The shed doors were open, but no-one was around as I photographed the elevator from the sunny side, showing some of the previous elevator company lettering under the peeling paint:
Spilled grain on the annex roof, the spindly pipe support arrangement, dangling hydro wires, weatherbeaten boards and 6-foot Superior door boxcar:
At Mi 39 of the Oakland Sub, Langruth's 3,430-tonne capacity elevator was moved to the new installation at Westroc on CP's Minnedosa Sub, 26 km south on Highway 16 in late 1983.  Amaranth once hosted a 2,210-tonne capacity elevator at Mi 53.4  Gypsum deposits were still thought to hold promise for the line's continued existence, though abandonment had been proposed since 1981.  CN claimed that expenditures of $16,882,000 would be needed to upgrade the line to 263,000-pound car capacity.  The Hall Commission on Grain Transportation recommended linking the Oakland Sub to CP's Minnedosa Sub.  Instead, CN was given permission by the Canadian Transport Commission to abandon trackage between Mi. 1.0 and Mi 10.0  on August 31, 1984.  It was reopened briefly in October 1984 for overflow shipments to the Oakland elevator after MPE's disastrous Portage 'B' elevator fire, Portage's second.  The elevators on the line were considered to be in poor condition by MPE, with a new concrete elevator about to open at Tucker.  The last boxcar loads left in April 1986 shortly before my visit, with operating authority finally suspended on April 30, 1986.
Purchased from MPE in 1988 by nine local farmers, the Oakland elevator went up in flames on September 24, 1988.  Smoke was visible skyward as far away as Portage.
Running extra...Manitoba Pool Elevators calendar sale:
Manitoba Pool Elevators issued calendars with each month's page featuring an full-colour aerial photo of an MPE shipping point: elevator(s), town and occasionally a train!  I have a few calendars for sale - contact me by email if you're interested in fine views of these elevators, many of which are no longer in existence.  Years still available from photo above: 1987, 1988, 1989, 1995, 1996.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Coach yard switchers

Coach yard switchers assemble individual passenger cars into lightning-fast limiteds and streaking streamliners.  In the same way, freight yard switchers assemble freight trains from inidividual cars pulled from industries.  Without these little luggers, pullers and tuggers, no train would ever be able to leave a terminal.  Early in the VIA Rail era, Spadina coach yard served Toronto Union Station, in the shadow of the CN Tower.  Assembling drafts of coaches from the coach yard, moving them to the station, handling cars for repairs, turning consists on the balloon track around Spadina roundhouse, and a plethora of other unglamorous tasks were performed by a fleet of CN S-13 switchers that shared trackage and roundhouse stalls with GM and MLW cab units and roadswitchers in passenger service.  In March 1985 (above) while riding the Bathurst streetcar south to the Toronto train show at the CNE, I photographed three S-13's as they batted about Tempo cars, blue & yellow and stainless steel cars on the snow-covered Spadina tracks.

While waiting to head west on VIA No 1 to Portage la Prairie, Manitoba in June, 1980, CN 8514, 8517, 8518 and red-cabbed 8516, 8519 and 8521 were working Spadina.  I watched the action for much of the day, including 8518 passing under the Spadina Street bridge (above).  The Turbo, ONR Northlander and VIA cars in abundance occupy nearby tracks.  There was a much wider range of car types to be assembled into each train then: baggage, coach, club, cafe-bar-lounge, even sleepers, unlike today's Corridor LRC and HEP sets which often stay together for more than one cycle.  Consists are on a regular cycle now, operating between Corridor cities, sometimes for days in the same consist.  Returning to Toronto on June 23, I took what I labelled on the back of the print: a 'film-finisher' photo of 8521-8514 as we approached Union.  A VIA consist is visible on the balloon track, background right:
Just before the LRC entered service, another day spent at Spadina in August 1981 found 8517, red-cabbed 8513, 8515 and 8520 at work.  One of these units rousts six VIA cars toward Union as 8236 and 3113 pass by with two boxcars (below).  Balloon track diverges to right.  Did somebody say 'doodlebug'?
CN 8517 pulls ONR 1985 and its TEE Northlander consist west past the coach yard, for servicing before its next journey north (below).  At dusk, 8520 headed for Union, backing in what looked like the ONR Northland consist for its 2125 departure: ONR 412-ONR 842-Diamond Lake-5424-Manitou-9639.
While visiting Spadina roundhouse in June 1982, 8512 lingered in a stall while 8513, 8514 and 8516 burbled around.  Once the LRC era began, purpose-built maintenance centres at Montreal and Toronto were built by VIA to accommodate complete LRC trainsets indoors.  Locomotives stayed with cars, and switchers were not needed to trundle either to Central or Union station, respectively.  No longer beholden to CN or CP, VIA bought four second-hand switchers to perform shop switching.  Before VIA maintenance centres were built at Winnipeg, Vancouver and Halifax, CN yard switchers performed switching.  Most recently, VIA 6300 was used for station switching at Vancouver.  At Winnipeg Union station, CN steam generator-equipped 1900-series GMD-1's were used in cold weather, to keep steam-heated cars warm during switching, as consists were split or combined.  My brother photographed CN 1902, last photo in this post  on Winnipeg's Assiniboine River bridge in 1979.  During fair weather in 1978, CN 7224 switched our train just up from the East Yard coach yard:
In Sudbury and Capreol, CP and CN yard switchers respectively split the combined consists to and from Montreal and Toronto.  These switchers were not on duty only to switch passenger trains.  As Model Railroader often trumpeted, 'passenger trains can switch too', and sometimes yard engines were used to add and remove cars at outlying stations.  Later, with VIA reducing frequencies, connecting services and huge parts of its fleet in the 1981 and 1990 cuts, there were fewer cars and trains to build and take apart.  My brother also caught CP 7092 about to switch the Canadian at Sudbury in 1979 in this post.  In August 1978, CN 4569 trundled over from Capreol yard for 45 minutes of sandwiching the marker lamp-toting Montreal and Toronto sections together for the trip west:
Heading out of Toronto in June, 1980 CP Rail 6537 and 6538, still in maroon and grey, idle near our train  as the journey west begins.  These S-3's were in freight service, but illustrate the variety of switch jobs that existed when coach yards, industry support yards, and individual industries represented a lot of the railways' business in cities.
Running extra...

I'll be hosting a table at the Kingston Rail-0-Rama spring train show at the Ambassador Resort Hotel March 10 and 11.  I'll need lots of will power to remain in place at the table with my book, Trackside with VIA - The First 35 Years and some other goodies.  No wandering around and looking at all the train show treasure for sale and on display.  Well, maybe a little.

A recent trip to Toronto aboard VIA Nos 651 and 48 included a visit to Toronto Union's newly-opened Panorama Lounge.  There was lots of space, seating, and hot and cold beverages, perhaps not all passengers have found it yet.  I had to back-track upstairs from the departures area to find it, but it was well worth the trip.

My Whitney Houston story - after playing the last few chords of "The Greatest Love of All" at a wedding several years ago the videographer, who had a West Indies background, leaned over and said "Whitney Houston? Every song she touches turns to gold, mon".

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Postscript: Leased Locomotives on CN 1994-1998

Here's a listing of leased-power consists that I observed in addition to those in the previous post.  All locomotives CN unless otherwise noted.  CN 5350-NRE 878 eastbound with auto racks at Kingston station, on a drizzly May 28, 1995 (above)  

May 14/93 6001-NRE 882-5031 on No 397
Sept 19/93 9665-EMD 795
Jan 15/94 9607-EMD 772 intermodal
May 7/94 9649-EMD 790 on No 361
July 1/94 5341-HATX 902-3529
July 10/94 9421-5323-EMD 775
July 26/94 9669-HATX 906-9316-9596
Mar 9/95 CNNA 9550-NRE 870-5xxx-2104
Mar 9/95 LMS 727-CNNA 5342

Mar 14/95 9312-EMD 775 intermodal
Mar 28/95 5353-LMS 719-5347 on No 145
Apr 13/95 9671-EMD 784-CNNA 9623-9450
Apr 13/95 9449-exUP 6096-LMS 717 on No 365
May 10/95 5310-EMD 201 (grey/wine scheme)-4100-CNNA 5368
May 29/95 CNNA 5328-CNNA 5319-CNNA 5338-EMD 813
June 15/95 CNNA 6008-EMD 772-GATX 3702
July 26/95 5349-MPI 9010
Feb 20/97 3571-LMS 737

Apr 24/97 5299-EMD 6419
Oct 5/97 9403-EMD 195-5512
Jan 31/98 5290-EMD 195 on No 364
Feb 28/98 EMD 197 at Belleville shop track
Mar 28/98 5414-LMS 735-5041
Apr 11/98 5438-LMS 728 on No 362
Apr 26/98 CNNA 2449-LMS 724 on No 330
May 14/98 9520-LMS 724-9417-5385
Thanks to Rich Stewart for additional train numbers above and for adding this power consist...a doozie:
May 14/98 5335-LMS 718-LMS 735-LMS 724-GO 535-GO 536

Running extra...
David Othen of Dartmouth, Nova Scotia has just released his new book CN & VIA Passenger Trains in Nova Scotia 1972-2012.  The book is divided into two sections, highlighting both the history and geography of Nova Scotia's rail passenger operations.  Preview the book for free here.  David's book is illustrated with 130+ photos, and is his sixth book on railways of the Atlantic Canada.

Speaking of railway books, I'm listening to Michael Palin's New Europe.  In his trademark wry, engaging style, Michael's accented account of his travels and travails throughout post-Soviet Europe are entertaining.  Riding a remote 26-mile mountain logging line from Maramures-Viseu de Jos behind a 1954-built tank engine, Michael opines, "One of the pleasures of the railway is the chance to snoop into people's back gardens."  By contrast, on a Lviv-Yalta airline flight, he mentions a joyless stewardess "who distributes snacks as if passing out live grenades".

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Leased Locomotives on CN 1994-1998

In the mid- to late-1990's, both CN and CP were power-hungry, at times leasing hundreds of locomotives from leasing companies and other railways to haul increased traffic resulting from an unexpected economic turn-around.  Soon after, both railways would embark on major revitalization programs for their locomotive fleets, thus reducing the average locomotive age.  By buying new instead of remanufacturing in-house, CN planned to replace 543 units with 394 in the next 15 years.  CN also used power from GT, DWP, CR and NS. One of the earliest- and longest-leased units was GATX 3702 (ex-B&O), repaying horsepower hours owed to CN by St. Lawrence & Atlantic, switching flat cars on May 12, 1992:
Conrail purchased 60 C40-8W's built in 1994 for joint leasing service with General Electric Locomotive Management Services (LMS).  Each year, LMS 700-739 spent six-and-a-half months on CR and five-and-a-half months on Canadian National, on a lease that was set to expire in the year 2012.  At the Conrail split, the lease arrangement was terminated and all units were sub-leased through Conrail Corporation (CRCX) with LMS 700-714 to CSX and 715-739 to NS.  This arrangement was then terminated again in 2001 and re-written, allocating LMS 700-711 to CSX, LMS 712-727 to NS and LMS 728-739 to CN, the latter units since renumbered to CN/IC 2455-2466, with the CN logo on the long hood and IC sub-lettering and large numbers on the cab side.  My sister spotted CN/IC 2463 on a CN intermodal train during the Christmas break, with LMS initials still visible on the nose.  The second order of C40-8W's arrived in the standard Conrail Quality scheme.  In the summer of 1997, Conrail transferred 740-759 from lease service to the regular fleet and renumbered them 6266-6285 respectively.  
My first LMS sighting: CNNA 5379-LMS 734-LMS 722 on a westbound intermodal train at Queens February 12, 1995 (below).  Locomotive consists including these interesting leased locomotives can be found here. At the time, CN's North America scheme was being applied to large numbers of locomotives but only a handful of freight cars.  All photos in this post taken at Kingston, Ontario except as noted.
In a power consist between a CNNA unit and a GP9RM heading to Toronto for servicing: CNNA 9508-LMS 738-CN 7221 on May 11, 1995 at 1638:
LMS units also led CN freights.  LMS 734-CN 5530 eastbound at Mi 179 Kingston Sub on April 21, 1996:
LMS 718-LMS 738-CN 5604 same direction and location on May 5, 1996:
CN 5414-LMS 735-CN 5041 are powering CN train No 361 on March 28, 1998:
Other fleets were leased by CN throughout 1994:
-EMD 200, 201 (ex-GO Transit)
-EMD Leasing GP38-2 763, 772, 775, 790, 794, 795, 800, 806, 813 (ex-CR) maintained at Battle Creek, Michigan, May 1994 off-lease by late 1995
-Helm Leasing SD45-2 900-910 (ex-CSX) May 1994 off lease by mid-1995
-NRE SD40 869, 870, 872, 882, 886, 889, 892 (ex-C&NW) December 1994
-LMSX C40-8W 715-739 seasonal lease, November 1994 most off-lease by 1995, some still in use until 2001
EMD Leasing SD40 400-432, November 1994 off lease May 1995, to CR lines
-Morrison-Knudsen SD40-2 (ex-SP) 9000-9010, 1995
EMD Leasing GP38-2 (ex-Conrail) trails CN 2100 at Belleville, Ontario March 16, 1995 with its Conrail 'can-opener' logo showing (above).  Ex-CNW National Railway Equipment SD40's weren't the most photogenic.  Between CN 94xx and CR 6662, NRE 878 with silver truck sideframes on January 21, 1998:
Another three lease fleets were added in 1997:
-EMDX Locomotive Leasing Partners SD40 6403, 6407, 6410, 6419, 6420, 6426, 6427 (ex-CR)February 1997
-EMDX Locomotive Leasing Partners GP40 182, 187, 193, 195-197 (ex-MKT and Soo) September 1997
-Helm Leasing GP40 425-429 (ex-CSX) November 1997.
Locomotive Leasing Partners EMDX 196 is between CN 5376 and  CNNA 6416 on CN train No 390 on October 14, 1997 (above) and CN 9633-CNNA 9657-EMDX 195 on CN train No 335 February 1, 1998:
Helm Leasing GP40 (ex-CSX) 427 trails CN 9673-CNNA 9404 on a 103-car CN train No 369 on January 17, 1998:
Running extra...

Progress Rail, formerly Electro-Motive has closed in London.  Once upon a time, General Motors Diesel Division (GMDD) would respond by mail to young railfans with glossy 8x10's of CN GP40-2L(W)'s and CP SD40-2's.  Now owned by Caterpillar, it's all about shifting production out of Canada.

Progress Rail's last passenger locomotives produced for the Canadian market were F59PHI's for Montreal's AMT in 2000.

The LMS units are sometimes confused with locomotives of the London, Midland and Scottish Railway in England, yet I haven't referred to them as LMSX in this post because only 'LMS' is visible on the locomotives. I also refrained from using their nickname, "llamas".  Bad pun time I go railfanning, alpaca lunch and make a day of it!