Thursday, January 10, 2013

Ice Storm Hits CN's Kingston Sub, 1998

In early January 1998, a severe ice storm descended on eastern Ontario and western Quebec, centred on the St Lawrence River valley, centred between Kingston and Sherbrooke, Quebec, stretching north to Ottawa.  The storm resulted in heavy freezing rain and resulting ice accumulation from Wednesday, January 7 to Saturday, January 10. Widespread debilitating effects on the affected area: transportation links, agriculture, municipal services, damage to trees and homes, power lines and resulting power outages. Losing power for several hours, we broke out the emergency supplies and gathered around our fireplace. Our trees with their icy impedimenta genuflected groundward outside fifteen years ago - though they all survived:
CN's Kingston Sub was impassable from January 8 until the morning of January 10.  VIA Rail service was cancelled east of Toronto.  Some details give an indication of how the ice affected operations:

On January 10 at 1715, the RTC gave CN No 131 a Form 564 to pass a signal at Queens. At 1800, another train headed by CN engine 5752 also received a '564' at Queens.  At 1830, the RTC was attempting to call CN engine 9442. At 2130, the RTC instructed the crew aboard CN engine 5298 at Queens, to secure their train and take a different train, No 395 west from Brockville into the clear. At 2150, No 364 found an incorrect signal near Mi 179.  The RTC noted that 'half the railway was single-tracked'.  Directed to take Track 4 at Queens 'for quite a while', the RTC asked the crew to look at the train on Track 3 to see if a crew was still onboard! The crew of No 364 was calling a foreman on track patrol to ask if there were any downed hydro wires at Queens.  The foreman hadn't seen any since coming on duty at Mileage 194.

At midnight January 11, the RTC told a nearby train that there was no control of the south track, all trains would be using the north track, with No 395 now just past Mallorytown.  No 363 Eng 9482 was 564'd through Queens, and asked to check on a possible defective crossing at Counter Street.  Later that trainless day, the RTC 564'd No 147 Eng 5295 through Queens East, asked them to couple on to a train parked on Track 1, 'knock the ice off it' and call back when ready to pull.  On January 13, light engines GTW 6204-CN 5642 were heading east.  
An interesting manoeuvre on  January 17 stemmed from 98-car No 335 with engines 5729-9437 (above), the trailing unit likely dead, calling the RTC at 1305 with the following ominous message: "We can't make it over the first hill west of Queens.  We're 900 tons overloaded, and there's six trains behind us.  No 369 is at Mallorytown, with three units and 7700 tons. I've been on duty since oh-seven-thirty."
At 1400, the RTC gave No 369 a Form 567 on the north track between Queens and Ernestown.  At 1425, No 369 with 9673-CNNA 9404-HATX 427 hauling lots of Quebec lumber (above) slowly pulled past the Kingston station, coupling onto the tailend of No 335 well beyond the Princess Street overpass (below). No 335's tail end is visible under the third platform light. Coupled together, both trains left WITHOUT DELAY and were soon marching uphill.
By the time No 335's headend reached the top of the hill west of the station (top photo) at Mileage 178, the trains had been separated, with No 369 then slowing for the intermediate signal at Mileage 179.6.

Ottawa's Bruce Chapman was working out of Toronto for CP's Eastern Operating Unit that January, 1998. Entering Toronto Union Station's room 320, having arrived in Toronto aboard the last VIA train out of Ottawa, Bruce shares his experience:

"All hell was breaking loose. VIA had lost all power on their CTC panel east of Napanee and wanted to run their trains on the CP Winchester/Belleville Subs from the crossover at Brighton through to Dorval. We had hardly any trains running at the time east of Toronto after the New Year's holiday, so arrangements were made to get pilots ready at Dorval and Brighton. 

However, then CP's CTC went out from Tichborne to Smiths Falls. So then the plan was to run the trains in fleets in each direction, and now the Winchester Subdivision ABS started failing due to lack of hydro. No problem - we'd run them against the current of traffic so they had no block signals to contend with, just fleet them and arrange the odd meets. 

But now the crossing signals were all failing due to no hydro, so CP ordered generators at crossings to cover this...but the yahoos in the area would come up and steal the generators to provide their own power!Plus with no power, there was no way to get fuel to the generators as the gas stations now had no power! So everyone threw in the towel and decided to wait it out. VIA got themselves sorted out a couple of days later, but the CP Brockville Sub had no hydro, and VIA was hollering at our officials in Toronto to get something going, maybe MBS or some such, but the bureaucracy at Toronto Union wasn't budging until someone from Ottawa told them to get moving, and they did.

This was an unpredictable time on CN's Kingston Sub, with the ice storm adding danger and unpredictability to an interesting mix of trains.  New SD75's were mated with older CN Geeps.  Conrail, leased and other run-through units proliferated, as did CN family units. VIA was all-HEP, with F40PH-2's and LRC locomotives hauling stainless steel and LRC cars.

January 17:
1255 CN No 317: 9542-9544-5923-Conrail 6663-5145 and 98 cars:
1325 VIA No 42: 6431-3471-3342-3344-3319-3309-6402:
1440 VIA No 60: 6403-4105-4121-4106-4116-4112-4002-8620:
1505 CN No 705 to Lennox Generating Station: CN 9406-CP 5675.
1520 VIA No 61: 6413-baggage-6 coaches.
(Above photos at Kingston station by L.C. Gagnon)
January 18:
1530 CN switcher backing to DuPont: 4141-4032-5 cars-CN caboose 79473R
On January 21, all trains were using north track, with four CN trucks and section men replacing a rail on the south track at Mi 178.5
Canadian Forces 400 Squadron/427 Squadron operational headquarters was established at Kingston's Norman Rogers Airport to provide helicopter support during the storm recovery as needed.  The Air Force ensign was flying proudly, with a field kitchen at left and plinthed World War 2 Harvard at right (above).  Two Griffon helicopters landed carrying Prime Minister Jean Chretien, Chief of Defence Staff Maurice Baril, and other government ministers and members of Parliament.  "Hello dere, young man!" glad-handed Chretien to my son on his way through the terminal accompanied by RCMP and OPP security on the way to his waiting Challenger jet.
Running extra...

Memorable Ice Storm images of CN 3502-3508 hauled onto the main street in Boucherville, Quebec to provide power for emergency services are commemmorated 15 years later, albeit with  C-C trucks.

CN engineer Mark Perry has started his 365 Project, in which he'll post a photo a day, whatever gets in front of his SLR lens or cell phone camera.  Mark has posted some captivating, kaleidoscopic images so far ranging including cabs to cats, and trucks to towers.  I have the distinct impression this is going to be one to watch...check in daily, it's found in the UCOR (Useful Collection of Railblogs) First Section in my sidebar.

Rapido Trains' majordomo Jason Shron has given the highball to his website, found in the ETU (Excellent Train URLs) also in my sidebar. You'll find Jason's chronicle of coach mockup of VIA 5647, and look ahead to the genesis of his HO scale model railway portraying CN's Kingston Sub. Click Refresh to watch the header photo change!


Bryan said...

Ice Storm '98, ah, the memories!

Living near the Hub, we had our power back within 24 hours, but I remember it stretched out for at least a week in the some of the outlying areas. But you know you're a true railfan when it's 20 below, no heat or electricity, closed roads, and think: no work today? Sweet. Get the scanner and camera, I'm going trackside!

Some other rail-related tidbits I recall from the time:

I think CN donated a unit or two to be used purely as emergency electrical power generators in the city of Montreal. (I have no idea which units; I'll leave that up to an aforementioned "true railfan" to check out!)

I spent the week taking refuge in Ottawa, but I went by bus. I'm glad I did: friends of mine had a trip to Waterloo from there planned via VIA that week. One of my friends told me that they had to flag every crossing on the way. I have no idea which train or how long it took, but he said it was brutal. (They may have also had more than "a few pops" along the way to pass the time...)


Eric said...

Hi Bryan,

See CN 3502-3508 in Running Extra section. Apparently the rail-->road caused damage to their gearboxes as well as the road surface.

When it comes to railfanning, desperate times call for desperate measures!

I have one other post in mind where 'Kingston Sub pushers' were in use on the hill at Mi 178.

Jason Shron's proposed layout will reach Kingston and Brockville, although the focus will be Spadina.

Hanley Spur/Outer Station/Queens all in the Trackside Treasure queue now...soon for your viewing pleasure.

Thanks for your comments and memories,

Bryan said...

Oops, my bad. I didn't realize that Boucherville and Montreal were the same place/story.

Aaaand now I'm going to be up for another hour checking out Jason Shron's website...thanks for the link.


Eric said...

Another hour or more, Bryan! I call it a Hobbit-type journey to Middle Earth, for more than one reason. There is a looooot of material there to read that Jason has has put on his site. I'm looking forward to his rants and more additions.


Bryan said...

Wow! I love that header shot with the switcher in front of Kingston city hall. What's the story behind that one?

Eric said...

Glad you like that header photo, Bryan. My dad took the photo in August 1963 on a family visit to Kingston. My brother, born just over six years before it was taken, scanned the slide to disc. The photo will also appear in the next post in the series, when posted by me, who would be born seven months after the photo was taken!