Wednesday, March 19, 2014

VIA 6651-6653: Three Survivors

VIA Rail received five F9B's from CP Rail. These B units were renumbered at Montreal's St-Luc Shops in February 1979 - VIA 1961-1965, ex-CP 4473-75 and 4477-4478 respectively. Originally, these F9B's wore maroon & grey then CP Rail Action Red, and were used on Canadian Pacific's Canadian and Dominion. When the Dominion came off, they were renumbered from CP passenger series 1900's into the freight series 4470's in the summer months of 1971.  

Purchased by VIA for $5,000-$7,000 each on September 28, 1978 - three were real survivors. Well into the late 1980's these three units were still in active service with VIA Rail, before reaching their out-of-service dates in January-March 1990. Interestingly, CN would only allow the ex-CP units to be renumbered into their 6600-series, reserved for B-units after modifications were made to bring the units up to CN standards. At Calgary in May 1986 (above), 6651 is added to two ex-CN units on my train, to power No 1 through the mountains. Those Action Red portholes and winterization hatch give away her CP Rail heritage. Here's an online auction site photo of VIA 6651 on May 24, 1983:
6651 (ex-1962) was released from Ogden Shops January 21, 1983, max. speed 89 mph. Repainted with CP-style numerals, but not rebuilt, retaining only one steam generator from its CP days.
VIA's Canadian at Winnipeg in March, 1982 had 1962 in its power consist (photo immediately above and all below by Brian Schuff at Winnipeg unless otherwise noted). Interestingly, 1962 caught fire on CP's Laggan Sub on July 7, 1982, then was shopped at CP's Calgary Ogden shops in October. At Winnipeg in wintertime:
Eastbound at Portage la Prairie: "Dude, where's my baggage car?":
VIA 6651 is now preserved in Cranbrook BC, in 'original CP condition'. 6651 was still operating on the Canadian in 1985, 1986 and 1987, latterly with 6404, shortly thereafter assigned Toronto. Besides 6651 on my train in 1986 (top photo) my only other observation of 6651 was in September 1985 - 6651 was between 6312 and 6616 on No 1 at Vancouver. An online photo dated June, 1988 shows 6651 at Mimico, with red paint visible on portholes and roofline. Another online photo shows 6651 operating behind VIA 6773 at Windsor in March, 1989. 
That same year, 6651 was retired and stored in Toronto, seen here at Mimico on October 11, 1993 (above - Trackside Treasure collection):
6652 (ex-1963) was released from CN Pointe St Charles December 16, 1981. Operating on the Canadian in 1984-1986, I observed her twice in Portage la Prairie in June 1984, and on No 9 at Parry Sound, ON in June 1986. Other photos show CN 9161-6652 at Thompson, MB in September, 1986 before 6652 was stored in Toronto in 1987.  Operating in the corridor in 1987-1988, the unit was overhauled in June 1988 (according to a Facebook photo posted by Pierre Fournier) losing its tall winterization hatch.  I observed 6652 on the overnight Cavalier at Kingston on March 5, 1987 behind 6408 (this was my first F40 sighting). Then in 1989, 6652 was operating on the Canadian and in the Corridor.  With two steam generators installed at PSC, 6652 was the last of the three units to operate.  Stored at Vancouver, the unit deadheaded from Vancouver to Winnipeg with two sisters, behind 2 6400's, languishing at the Winnipeg Maintenance Centre until being scrapped by General Scrap in Winnipeg on October 17, 1993.

6653 (ex 1964) released from CN Pointe St Charles May 14, 1981.  Here she is as 1964 in August, 1979 at Calgary (Brian Schuff collection):
6653 was operating on the Canadian from 1981-1984, and I observed her in August, 1981 and again in June, 1984 (strangely unphotographed) at Portage la Prairie, MB. Later operating with CN F7A's out of Winnipeg in 1986, in the Corridor in Feb.1987, on the Canadian in Vancouver in March 1987, then the Corridor before being stored in Toronto later in 1987, where she remained for several years. One online photo dated April, 1988 shows 6653 up against a Mimico bumping post, coupled to an SGU, with red paint showing through above the roofline. At Mimico on April 2, 1989 (Trackside Treasure collection):
In October 1988, the unit was reportedly being cannibalized. Two photos at Winnipeg, in the company of former CP and CN units:
Like 6652, this unit contained two steam generators.
Another online auction site photo shows 6653 in September, 1981:
Interestingly, the other two non-rebuilt F9B's were stored in Montreal by 1984, scrapped in September of that year. All five ex-CP F9B's had VIA numbers reserved for them, though 6650 and 6654 were never used (1961 and 1965 respectively). Though CP 4473 was one of the first locomotives to be repainted in VIA yellow & blue, becoming VIA 1931 on December 12, 1978, it was only for six days! Due to a predicted numbering conflict, she was quickly renumbered again at Angus on December 18, 1978!

Watch for an upcoming post on ex-CP F-units that were upgraded to CN standards receiving these upgrades: 
  • MU receptacle on the front of all A units
  • 74V power trainline (to enable use with CN steam generator units). 
  • Houston automatic fuel cutoff (in addition to the Buckeye system used by CP)
  • Regear unit 4066 to 4069, 4473 to 4475, 4477, 4478. (subsequently not done except 4473.)
  • Apply CN cooling water fill. CN used a nipple style verses CP's "Chicago" bayonet-type-coupling.
  • Upgrade 567B engines to 567BC standards.
  • Repaint.
This Ron Wilbanks photo posted to Facebook shows VIA 6773-6651 at Windsor, ON in snowy March, 1989:
Thanks to Chris Cullen of North Vancouver BC for providing additional information. Also, thanks for Rapido Trains for waiting to release their F9B's until I got this post ready for publication. Talk about timing, eh?

Running extra...

Charles Cooper's Railway Pages are a great source of information. Some of my favourite pages on Charles' site: Research and Writing a BookWhat's New in Publications now listing all three of my books on VIA Rail (scroll) and his Excellent and extensive links list. Lots-o-links!

Dave Winter's Winter Valley Regional Railway site recently included two photos from the 1980's on his Proto-File page. Interestingly, I was able to find complete consists in my Trackside with VIA - The First 35 Years book that match 6785's train at Belleville:
What are the chances that I observed and recorded the consists of these trains, within an hour and 50 miles of where Dave photographed them, 31 years ago? Apparently pretty good. Thanks to Dave for posting these photos and allowing readers like me to chip in with some additional information!


MrDan said...

Interesting article Eric. You should probably mention somewhere that unlike CN's F9B's equipped with two steam gennies, CP's were only equipped with a single Vapor Clarkson OK-4625. Any dual SGs found on them were likely a CN PSC retrofit when rebuilt.

As well, you left out the most fun one: CP F9B 4476, which didn't go to VIA because it had its SG removed, so in its place CP sent RS10 8558. Probably done as some sort of a sick joke, as CN complained it was an obsolete unit, they had retired all their 244-engined units years ago, it must be kept on CP, etc etc

Eric said...

Thanks, Dan. If I get up enough steam, I'll certainly dig deeper with your lead in mind. I was fortunate to photograph VIA 8558 at on VIA No 2 at Portage la Prairie MB on August 22, 1979.

Though I definitely do not consider myself a locomotive expert or even loco nut, I appreciate the input of someone who is!

Great to hear from you,

Eric said...

OK, Dan, I've added the info about the SG's originating with CP and CN. Apparently, CP 4476's SG was removed and replaced with a block of cement! What an inglorious replacement!

Also, 8558 is one of the very cool things about the pre-1981 early-VIA era circus trains!

Thanks again,

Allison said...

In this latest post, there's a color photo of CP Rail 1964. That's significant (to me!), because that's also the year that my little brother, author of this blog, Eric Douglas Gagnon, was born! In fact, he was born on March 21, 1964…50 years ago today!!

Happy Milestone Birthday to my amazingly talented, fun-loving, highly competent, imaginative..train-watching baby bro' !!!
(hope that's not to sentimental for a railway blog!)

Allison said...

…oops…I mean not toooo sentimental for a railway blog!
(didn't have my glasses on..!)

Eric said...

Ooooooh, I see. I put the 'mental' back in sentimental. As in journey.

Thanks for your kind comments on this most auspicious occasion. Even Tim Hortons is getting in on the festivities, "Since/Depuis 1964" on their packaging.

'Twas a good year to be born, or to be a donut!

Allison said...

This is too funny! Maybe they would design a donut just for you…after all, Timmy's and Trackside are concepts that go together! ;-)

Eric said...

And Tims recently held such a donut design contest. If I discuss it further, it'll be on mt Fast Food and Trains blog, recenly-tiled:


Robert in Port Townsend said...

Great series of photos, Eric. I am struck by the size of the winterization hatches. For those who are not familiar with their function, their purpose is similar to adjustable radiator shutters on class 8 trucks; to optimize radiator efficiency by controlling ambient air passing over the core. Or something that ...

Eric said...

Thanks for your kind comments, Robert.

In a word, huge. Or tall. Those CP winterization hatches positively towered. By contrast, the western, low-numbered, CN F's had those wide ones that were equally big if not tall. (see 6606's in the 6th photo in this post)

Were CP winterization hatches ever found on CN F9B's? Only in HO scale. Check the 5:06 mark of this video:

At least Rapido Trains can admit the very occasional oops.

Chris Lyon said...

Love this article Eric. Great photos.

Eric said...

Thanks, Chris. The photos are certainly retro, and Brian Schuff of Winnipeg was there trackside in the early VIA era to record it all. I hope his early material will soon be available, perhaps online.