Saturday, April 28, 2012

Freight Train Haiku

CN No 308 engines 2297-8845
Recently, while doing some fair-weather railfanning with a cup of coffee at our nearby McDonald's, I took a series of digital photographs of CN train No 308.  We rail enthusiasts often retrospectively regret not preserving commonplace elements of a given era's rail scene, and my train of thought led to a blog post depicting an average CN freight train.  Simple caption information seemed uninteresting.  So it occurred to me...freight train prose.  Well, what is the most under-utilized  style of prose that I could use?  Then it dawned on me - of course, freight train haiku!  My first attempt to include the locomotive numbers resulted in a Haiku faux-pas, neglecting the 5-7-5 syllable count.  
CN motive power
2-2-9-7, 8-8-4
5-extra number
(practice my boy, practice)
GTW 138430
Saskatchewan grand
truck western grain eastward ho!
this ain't Michigan
OLNX 224028
O, NaOH!
UN eighteen twenty-four
a caustic cargo
GATX 75405
We're cookin' with gas
 barbecue season beckons
burgs and dogs await
BNSF 728993
Huge rolling canvas
graffiti job not finished
a tagger thwarted
NS 114577
Utility poles
linemen climbing skyward, for
now horizontal 
CNA 412732
Middle child short
Will I be a hi-cube soon?
On a paper route
Mid-train engine 8877
DPU to you
every pull involves a push
bringing up the rear
GLNX 8182
Albino tank car
propane mainly on the train
stands out in a crowd
AIMX 1114
Hauling tons of scrap
American Iron Steel 
giant grey trash can
TTGX 851645
UP autorack
Building America scheme
graffiti says SCRAM
TTGX 160598
Van Horne would be proud
transcontinental travel
CP rack on track
WC 37434
West Fraser lumber
cheesehead from the western woods
Dairy State of mind
CABX 470563
Cabot carbon black
  packed powdery particles
 soon getting tired
CN 414204
Carrying the TIBS
transmitting all's well back here
last becoming first

'Arigatou' for reading this far.  Seems I'm not the first to combine trains and haiku.  A Trains magazine forum did just that, eventually dissolving into haiku critics, limerick lovers, and a discussion of syllable counts versus various steam engine wheel arrangements.

Running extra...

As always, I welcome your comments on this post or any other, anytime.  Perhaps you'd like to get into the spirit of things and if commenting, express some or all of your comment in the form of haiku, that is a 5-7-5 syllable count.  Off-colour limericks also welcome.

Speaking of humour, I just finished listening to Steve Martin's Pure Drivel.  I would call it pure hilarity - I don't think I've laughed so much on the way to and from work as I did listening to Steve's at-times sarcastic narration.  From the chapter "Suggested Book Topics": Visions of melancholy from a fast-moving train.  Now some foreign writer is rushing to his keyboard ready to pound on it like Horowitz."  From the chapter "How I Joined Mensa: The Dictionary is a perfect example of over-alphabetization with its harsh rules and every little word neatly in place.  I prefer a softer, more fuzzy alphabetizing scheme that allows the mind to float free and happen over a word."

Steve really is a master of the written word, and is also known for his humorous Twitter account.  Some lyrics from his classic bluegrass number Calico Train:  Sorrow and strain, they can both long remain / They can take you and leave you alone and in pain / But freedom's in sight, it's a road in the night / It's lit by the light of the Calico Train.  

Saturday, April 21, 2012

CP's Carberry Subdivision east of Portage

CP's Carberry Subdivision between east of Portage la Prairie was a double-tracked line, funnelling the northerly Minnedosa Sub and the southerly Carberry Sub from Brandon into Winnipeg.  Today, only portions of the east end of the subdivision are double-tracked: from Tucker to 6 miles east of High Bluff, and Makwa at Mileage 11 into Winnipeg.  In 1984, I drove along the subdivision to photograph the online grain elevators. Several established grain shipping points were located on this portion of the Carberry Sub, starting with Portage la Prairie's Manitoba Pool and United Grain Growers elevators, then east to High Bluff, Poplar Point, Marquette, Meadows and Bergen (red line, centre of map):

Meadows at Mileage 22 was the site of an N.M. Paterson & Sons elevator.  The 100,000-bushel metal-clad annex was built in 1979, adding to the volume of the main wooden elevator that was built in 1948.  During my visit, a few cars were being loaded, including cylindrical hoppers from the federal and Saskatchewan governments.
A single CP grain boxcar, unusual in that it was lettered for CP's International of Maine Division, was kicked by after the agent noticed there was nothing to nail the grain doors to:
Today, Meadows' elevator is losing its metal covering, as shown in Steve Boyko's recent photos.  July 2017 update: Meadows elevator was demolished on July 18, 2017. The CP main line has also been reduced to single track.  During my visit, the elevator was open for business, fronted by double track, and a small station (top photo).
Marquette at Mi 29 also has a Paterson elevator still standing.  When I photographed the elevator, it was one of approximately 15 buildings in Marquette. Mark Perry documented the beginning of the demolition of the Marquette elevator in September 2013.
Both the Meadows and Marquette elevators have been recently photographed using some unusual effects.  The east end of the elevator property included a fertilizer distribution set-up.
Poplar Point at Mi 40 was also the site of a Manitoba Pool Elevators and annex, still in use until at least 1990.
No cars were spotted at Poplar Point, and a drizzle was starting to soak me as I drove around the elevator to photograph it from various angles.  CP had a white ATCO-type building trackside and a more traditional station just down the track.  Over the years, the annex had settled relative to the elevator:

High Bluff's MPE elevator at Mi 49 closed on July 31, 1986 just after MPE opened its new Tucker elevator, a scant four miles to the west.  High Bluff used to boast four grain elevators, with the remaining elevator built in 1934 by the Reliance Grain Co.  It had a long, low annex added in 1940 to hold the wartime harvest, and was purchased by MPE in 1947.
A view that is today called panoramic, but in the eighties was called 'Scotch-taped-together' shows four cars spotted at the elevator.
Tucker's continuous-pour, high-throughput concrete elevator was being built in 1985, then opened in 1986.  At this stage, the pour was complete and the machinery to go atop the elevator was being assembled on the ground below.
I built a model of the elevator, complete with the rooftop piping and extended drive shed. The article appeared in the August-September 1995 issue of Canadian Railway Modeller magazine. Bergen's elevator lasted until Thanksgiving 1987.  Afterwards, MPE built another concrete elevator at Rosser.  

Not having seen these elevators switched, I'm left to wonder what assignment out of Winnipeg did the honours.  I don't imagine it was a road freight, although these did stop in Portage during my visits there to swap blocks.  And I doubt Portage-based S-3 6569 ventured out of the yard that far.  I'm thinking a couple of Geeps, perhaps nocturnally, maybe even continuing on west of Portage on the Carberry Sub.  This territory will also be featured in an upcoming post.

Running extra...

Recently, I announced that my second book on VIA Rail is in the works, with a few copies of the first still available.  I'm having as much fun working on this book as I did the first.  Although it will be a companion volume, I decided against using the title Trackside with VIA - Cross-Canada Companion, since that sounds like a guide for foreign tourists.  Though the book will be all-encompassing, I also discarded the title Trackside with VIA - Viapalooza.  

I notice vehicle licence plates at stoplights.   As Ontario's four-letter, three-number plates advance through the letter B, I thought, wouldn't it be cool to buy new plates for my Chevy Cavalier when BNML 002 is reached?  Nearly impossible to predict when and where, and I couldn't see myself driving to Timmins to buy the plates if they were distributed there.  Gave up on the idea.  Imagine my surprise when BNPL 002 drove up beside me on Bath Road the other day. So close and yet so far.

Lots o' links!  This link-rich post contains about ten links to other posts or sites.  Until Blogger drives users to their soon-to-be-released format, there's no comprehensive list of posts in my sidebar, and this is one way for readers to encounter other pre-existing posts in an Easter-egg or "Aha!" fashion.  It's like going word to word in the dictionary, discovering other words as you go.  That reminds me - what's another word for thesaurus?

Friday, April 13, 2012

CN's Montreal-Toronto RoadRailers

CN launched a Montreal-Toronto truck/train freight service in September 1999 to in the wake of the Ecorail experiment.  Departing weeknights at 2100, each train arrived at its destination city by 0500.  Utilizing Wabash-National Mark V RoadRailers, each 53-foot trailer had 110-inch interior height, 4000 cu ft capacity and a payload of 70,000 pounds. CN paid $12 million for 200 trailers plus 130 bogies.  When the service was extended to Chicago in 2000, up to 600 RoadRailers were in use.  The RoadRailer trailers did not need overhead cranes, and could be positioned by tractors on a paved siding.

Toronto's Malport terminal was located at 7675 Torbram Road in Mississauga, with Montreal's Taschereau terminal in the east yard at 8050 Cavendish Boulevard.  Trailers were even switched en route, for instance at Supply Chain Management in Cornwall, Ontario.  CN envisioned trains of up to 60 trailers.  Meanwhile, CP was preparing to launch its Montreal-Toronto Expressway service, utilizing 240 platforms built by National Steel Car. An ill-fated Ecorail cab ECO8005 and power units, photographed by Rich Stewart at Brockville, behind CN Eng 3501 on March 24, 1996:
I often heard trains 282 to Montreal and 283 to Toronto as they stopped opposite each other on CN's Kingston Sub.  The trains' crews would call each other via radio to give their locations and arrange a meet.  A series of TIBS squawks would signal the trains' stopping. Each crew would board the other's train, exchanging information on the night's operating conditions and parting words.  One crew would perform a pull-by inspection as the crews returned to their respective originating terminals, as stipulated in their collective agreement .  John Reay photographed No 183 running 12 hours late at Newcastle, Ontario behind CN Eng 2573 in January 2004 (top).

I can't comment on the trains' appearance or share photographs of them in operation - their nightly nocturnal migrations were past my bedtime.  Motive power was GP40-2(L)W's, SD40u's and finally SD70/75's.  It's possible that the diesel-powered RoadRailers followed the same route as the Ecorail train.  Note that in some of the following transmissions, Union Station and Don are mentioned:

Oct 27/99 No 283 Eng 9669 OS 2355.
Oct 28/99 No 283 Eng 9677 RoadRailer OS 0045 meet No 282 at Queens.
Oct 29/99 Crew change Mi 181 Kingston Sub.
Dec 12/99 Crew change at 0020 "Any trains ahead", did pullby.
Feb 2/00 No 282 Eng 9469 18 loads 3 empties, crew change at 0030.
June 29/00 No 282 Eng 9423 crew change Mi 182 at 0030.
June 30/00 No 282 OS 0030, No 283 OS 0100.
Sept 7/00 Crew change Ernestown at 2345.
Nov 21/00 "Ecorail died at Morrisburg (No 283) Good thing it's not an airplane.  One day they'll send that train out with one engine and those guys will feeze to death.  They don't give a s***"  No 283 to borrow an engine from No 368, not necessary as 283's engine restarted.
Nov 27/00 No 283 Eng 9670, No 282 had not left Don yet, so crew called Mac Yard for a new unit, won't make Belleville until 0400 or later.  No 283 carrying on west of Belleville.
Apr 8/01 No 183 OS 0030.
Oct 9/01 No 182 OS 0045 trouble with Eng ?6043.
Feb 20/03 Eng 183 Eng 5699.  No 182 just leaving Union Station.

In 2004, the trains ceased operation after a strike by railway clerks.

Running extra...

CN's train 499 rolled west the other night around 2200 hours.  This is likely the Herzog PLUS ballast train kicking off the spring trackwork season in southern Ontario.

I just finished listening to The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande.  The surgeon author explores the usefulness of checklists in aviation, engineering, and of Are we removing the left kidney?  That's right.  No, I said left.  Well, you get the idea.  A thought-provoking read about getting it right, with applications in many fields of endeavour.

JLo, Steven and Randy employ the save for Jessica Sanchez on American Idol.  Is this yet another example of American voter apathy I keep hearing about?  In a related story, since when did Lionel Richie go country?? His new CD entitled Tuskegee is gettting lots of play on air, man.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

CN's Ecorail

Ecorail was a RoadRailer-like technology developed in Quebec for use on light-density branchlines.  An early version of 'distributed power', the Ecorail control cab and power cubes were designed to be distributed throughout the 'convoy' of trailers and bogies, although this rarely happened and the power cubes were usually marshalled with the locomotive.  The system did not use locomotives nor traditional freight cars. The control cab housed a crew area, generator and equipment controlling the bogies by radio. Initially tested in Quebec in 1993 as Maritime-Ontario-Quebec (MOQ) at a cost of $1.5 million, with eight trailers on bogies, a certificate of fitness application was submitted in October 1989. Here's ECO8003 at Brockville, Ontario in 1996, Rich Stewart photos (above and below):
An application for running rights on CN from Boucherville to Brampton and Detroit, and Chicoutimi to Dorval and Moncton was made in May 1990.  CN opposed MOQ for not divulging financial statements and lack of suitable equipment, in the face of some 'political' pressure.  Public hearings before the National Transportation Agency were scheduled for September 1991.  MOQ became Ecorail and later became a CN subsidiary.  Meanwhile, in May 1991 CP initiated Toronto-Detroit RoadRailer service, the first non-Norfolk Southern RoadRailer.
The Ecorail power units are being inspected at CN's MacMillan Yard in Toronto in September, 1997 (Jim Parker photos)
Another Jim Parker photo. Undated, but perhaps that's a GO Transit coach at right.

CN did not grant Ecorail open access, instead CN initiated its own five-times weekly Drummondville-Toronto service in 1995, operating between CN's Malport Yard in Mississauga and the Transport et Entreposage Bourret terminal in Drummondville. The Ecorail locomotive was apparently scary to ride in, prone to lots of bouncing around.  An agreement with the Canacian Council of Railway Operating Unions representing engineers and conductors was signed. Unsafe, unreliable and generally unsatisfactory, the odd-looking (LRC-like?) Ecorail locomotive was often pulled by a lone GP9.  The associated CN jobs were salaried until a locomotive began pulling the consist, then CN was forced to pay crews based on mileage. CN 4128 drags ECO8003 through the snow at Newtonville, Ontario in March 1996, Gary Zuters photo (above).  John Reay photographed CN 4018 hauling Ecorail at Newtonville in 1995 (below).  Daytime appearances of the usually nocturnal train indicate mechanical reliability problems.
CN 7021, on an Ecorail train with 9429 and 12 trailers, was notably destroyed in a May 6, 1997 derailment at Mi 34.5 of CN's Kingston Sub, near Coteau.  Designed to be environmentally friendly (hence the Eco- prefix), the Ecorail cab unit and power cubes were intended to replace CN's locomotives, with just enough horsepower to pull the trailers.  
A single M420, GP38-2 or GP40-2 could also be found hauling the Ecorail consist.  Rich Stewart photos show CN 3501 eastbound at Brockville in March 24, 1996 (above), and CN 9449 westbound on March 26, 1996 (below):
In 1998, the eastern terminus moved from Drummondville to Val Royal.  Train length rarelly exceeded 25 Bourret Transport trailers bearing ECOZ reporting marks.  To avoid having to turn the power units in Toronto, a circuitous route was followed.  Westbound via the Kingston, York and Halton Subs to Malport via the south service track at Goreway.  Eastbound, trains headed west from Malport on the Halton Sub, south and east on the Halton-Weston connecting track at Halwest, then Weston Sub, Toronto Terminals Railway trackage at Union Station, then east on the Kingston Sub.

CN saw the Ecorail concept as too fragile, not capable of generating enough profit, not operateing as intended, increasingly out-of-place in the rapidly-growing double-stacked container craze.  Jim Mumford photo of Ecorail bogies:
The service ceased around 1997.  Control cabs ECO8003 and ECO8004 and power cubes ECO9004-9008 were quietly scrapped and have since faded into obscurity.  CN RoadRailers took over in 1999.

Many thanks to Jim Parker, Rich Stewart and John Reay for providing their photos, and sharing those of Jim Mumford and Gary Zuters expressly for use in this post.  Their photos serve to document this elusive, ghostly, nocturnal service in photographic form that I was personally unable to.

Running extra...

Just finished listening to Focus on the Good Stuff - The Power of Appreciation by Mike Robbins. A very sensible, un-Oprah-like take on adopting an attitude of gratitude.  I really appreciated what Mike had to say.

As I write this, CN No 305 is dropping a bad order tri-deck into the Cataraqui Spur.  CN No 368 had slowed to assist a little earlier, its consist including 7 former CP bulkhead flat cars in the 317xxx-series now with ATW reporting marks, carrying sheet steel.

Watch for diva songstress Jessica Sanchez to win this season of American Idol.  She may have a run for her money from filet-o-soul Joshua Ledet and the oddly-named Phillip Phillips. Reminds of the even more oddly-named candidate Tarquin Fim Bim Lim Bim Wim Bim Bus-Stop F'Tang F'Tang Ole Biscuit Barrel made famous in Monty Python's Election Night Special sketch, originally from the Live at Drury Lane LP.