Friday, June 24, 2022

CN's Glenavon Subdivision, 1985

I arrived in Regina, SK aboard VIA No 1 around 0430 on September 28, 1985 after passing through flurries near Broadview. I stayed in the station as long as I could (0500) then walked with all my luggage to find the Tilden rental car office at about 0520, and waited until 8 am in 0-degree Fahrenheit weather, doing jumping-jacks to stay warm. I ate my breakfast and read, all inside the doorway of such-and-such law firm! FINALLY at 8, the Tilden clerk showed up, and guess what, they didn’t have my reservation. Did I have time to wait for a car to be driven over from the airport? Of course I said 'No!', so he had to give me a Chrysler Fifth Avenue (silver) that was there, at the same rate ($10.95 a day plus 15 cents a kilometre). I could not settle into the plush, blue upholstery behind the wood-panelled dash fast enough. Before the agent changed his mind, I was driving away. This was going to be a sweet ride!

It took me 30 km of driving to find my way out of  Regina, but I finally got on the correct road. My somewhat arbitrarily-chosen route on this portion of the trip was Regina to Weyburn along CN's Glenavon Sub from Davin to Montmartre, then CP's Tyvan Sub from Francis to Fillmore and the south end of the Lewvan Sub. Overnighting at Weyburn, I'd return to Regina the next day along CP's Portal Sub and the north end of the CN Lewvan Sub, departing Regina on VIA No 2 at 2315 that night. I've previously-published posts on railfanning Regina and CN's Lewvan Sub elevators, the latter published way back in 2008! Let's not rush into things - fourteen years later and you're finally seeing the Rest of the Story!

Where was I?  Davin (confoundingly lettered Adair - more in this postscript post) was my first elevator in snow - top) because apparently 'S' is for Saskatchewan, September, and in this Saskatchewan September, Snow! I stopped at each town on my pre-selected route to get elevator pictures, but didn’t see any trains on these branchlines. 
Davin was at Mi. 69.9 of the Glenavon Sub, and Vibank at Mi 62.0. 
Odessa at Mi. 54.0. Not only a place in Saskatchewan, and a coastal city in Ukraine, but also a village six miles north of where we lived and where our high school was located.
It had not been a good crop year. Dry growing conditions and a locust infestation bit into crop yields. 
The residual snow was starting to melt as the morning went on!
Montmartre at Mi 38.1:

As much as I understood Cargill to be an American ag firm making inroads in Canada and painting elevators bright green, that's my favourite colour so I kind of liked seeing them!

After this, it was on to CP's Tyvan Sub between Francis and Fillmore, then the CN Lewvan Sub from Cedoux to Lewvan. CN's Lewvan Subdivision was one of those that rated the following notation in the employees' timetable: "Only units in series 1000-1076 permitted." It was one of the last to host A1A-A1A-trucked GMD-1's. For posterity, a view of your humble blogger with his by-then-muddy Fifth Avenue. This was in the era before selfies. One had to prop one's SLR up on a providentially-placed fencepost and activate the timer! There was so little civilization around me at this point - this could have been a proof-of-life photo!

A Googlemaps image of the scene at Davin today:

Running extra...

Canada Day is fast approaching. As we celebrate so many other movements and initiatives, this annual national birthday party brings us back to where it all began - our home and for one or many generations, native land. Of course, Trackside Treasure will be marking the day! And shortly thereafter, Independence Day!

Meanwhile, south of the border, the January 6th hearings have provided enlightenment as to just what a country is, what democracy is, and how both can disappear very quickly. I am now up to date on my viewing, with the hearings not resuming until July. A little breather for...more evidence to come forward.

Jon Batiste is taking a leave as musical director of the Late Show with Stephen Colbert, spending time with his wife Suleika, diagnosed with a recurrence of leukemia. Louis Cato, guitarist, is ably filling in and leading the show's house band, Stay Human . CBS' Jim Axelrod inerviewed Jon for CBS Sunday Morning back in March:

Friday, June 17, 2022

Two Pivotal Years for VIA: 1983 and 1992

Throughout VIA's history, inertial forces were at work through times of stability as well as times of change. Two pivotal years in which many major changes to VIA's fleet and its operations occurred were 1983 and 1992. Interestingly, two years prior to each, VIA had suffered major service cuts. Your humble blogger captures the moment at Kingston in July, 1982 (all three photos - L.C. Gagnon).

In its infancy, VIA had struggled to maintain service and equipment. It was more than apparent that improvements were required. A hodge-podge fleet of conventional cars meant that small classes of cars led to less interchangeability and to maintenance challenges. After the 1981 cuts, fewer cars were required, and many such cars were taken out of service for disposition, including ex-Reading Crusader cars, 400-series dinettes, Falls and River sleepers, Sceneramics, Cape-series sleeper-lounges, older coaches, some baggages and baggage-dorms and other oddities!
Evening eastbound at Amherstview, complete with ex-Reading Crusader car, January 1, 1980 

Conversion to Head End Power (HEP) was still some years away, but it was already apparent that steam-heated, 30 year-old equipment in the harsh Canadian climate was affecting reliability and schedule-keeping. A major $1 million program to improve steam heating on VIA's long-distance fleet was announced. Steam pipes were fitted with new insulation, steam control valves checked and replaced, and cars' steam-heating systems rigorously inspected and repaired. VIA expressed interest in obtaining double-deck cars for transcontinental service!
Teething troubles continued with the new LRC fleet. In December, the 50-car coach fleet was removed from service after a bearing failure near Grafton, ON. In the ensuing inspection and repair period, conventional cars pulled by CN GMD-1's, LRC locomotives paired with B-units and CN Geeps with SGU's covered LRC schedules. Fortunately, LRC locomotives were cleared for higher-speed operation, from 75 mph to a new maximum speed of 95 mph.

VIA's ex-CN Tempo fleet was upgraded, with all 25 cars cycling through Montreal's Pointe St Charles shops to change voltage from 575V to 480V, thus making the cars compatible with LRC locomotives. As a result, CN RS-18m's 3150-3155 entered storage. By summer, these units were taken from storage in Toronto for stripping in Montreal and Moncton, NB.

With the retirement of the ex-CN Turbos in October, 1982, the "Turbo Bay" maintenance tracks under Montreal's Central Station were now available. Nineteen Montreal-based RDC's, including three still maintained at CP's Glen Yard, plus CN electrics and MU cars moved in.

Servicing of conventional cars, RDC's and locomotives carried out by CP at the Glen and Calgary's Alyth would be done by CN at Pointe St Charles and Winnipeg's Transcona shops, with major servicing centralized at Halifax, Montreal, Toronto, Winnipeg and Vancouver.

The LRC fleet had utilized GO Transit's Willowbrook facility and its drop pits, but was now maintained at Can-Car facilities in Lachine, QC while new VIA shops in Montreal were under construction. 

Change to the nature and use of VIA's aging F-unit fleet was undertaken, with new locomotives still at least three years away. CP agreed that non-dynamic brake-equipped F-units could operate on the Canadian in mountain territory: ex-CN F's and eight rebuilt ex-CP F's worked west of Winnipeg through to Vancouver. CP no longer serviced F-units at Alyth in Calgary, and would no longer perform steam generator repairs to its 45-unit steam generator-equipped fleet. Unrebuilt 1400-series F's were stored by CP at Montreal's St Luc yard, Medicine Hat, AB and Calgary, the latter as back-up for the Calgary-Edmonton RDC service. VIA announced plans to remanufacture 15 ex-CN FP9's to FP9ARM's, with the first unit emerging in December.

Plans were made to move servicing of ex-CP Canadian stainless steel cars at Spadina from the Glen, and Montreal passenger were consolidated at Central Station as CP continued to withdraw from the passenger business. 
VIA No 1 station stop at Chapleau - July, 1983 

As in 1983, operational changes in 1992 also resulted from major cuts to VIA made two years earlier. The rolling stock fleet was in a state of flux. The HEP conversion program, begun in 1988, bore fruit with converted cars entering service in 1990. By 1992, all five trainsets required for the triweekly Canadian were HEP-equipped, with the Skeena, Chaleur and Ocean following later in the year. In all, 70% of the fleet would be HEP-equipped by May, 1992. Second-hand coaches from American railroads were also to be part of this HEP1 program, and approval was granted for planning the HEP2 program. 
VIA 9479 at Mimico in October, 1992 (Trackside Treasure collection)

With frequencies reduced, more older cars continued to leave the property. First-generation locomotives, too, with 6506 and 6514 running out their last miles. Fewer LRC locomotives were needed, with 10 in service with 20 others stored. Dangerously disruptive LRC coach axle breakages hailed the beginning of VIA's Operation Axle in March. Fortunately, enough conventional blue & yellow cars were still on hand to fill replacement consists. There was good news, too. With a leaner fleet came various service enhancements. LRC car interiors were refurbished, with backward-facing seats removed. At-seat cart service was introduced in the Corridor. An additional frequency was introduced between Toronto-Ottawa-Montreal!
A new station was announced for Ste-Foy, QC. Montreal-Toronto express trains Nos 166/167 were heralded, with a 4-hour, 10-minute schedule. By the end of 1992, a 3-hour, 59-minute trip was planned. In Western Canada, Silver & Blue touring class was launched.
The winter of 1983-84 would be a media disaster for VIA, with reliability problems finally leading to new power and the search for new rolling stock. The Canadian Transportation Commission launched an investigation in May, 1984 (above). The aftermath of pivotal changes that VIA experienced in 1992 would lead to the imminent end of steam-heated VIA trains. 

Running extra...

Rapido Trains Inc. just announced their intention to produce the CN GP9RM mother and slug sets. Within 24 hours, social media lit up with brass, Kaslo and other GP9RM's for sale. It's The Rapido Effect! Once it's announced, all previous versions go up for sale so their owners can now afford the better, more expensive Rapido product. Happens every time! I have to wonder though, seeing the price for the used paid, what the modeller paid for the brass pair new (one of only 25 produced, apparently).

I don't really know what to make of the perplexing panoply of today's model railway scene. Never in history has so much variety been provided to so many at so high a price. I've written about it before, and though I'd rather model than talk about modelling, we are definitely living in a Golden Age. In which you have to have lots of disposable Gold to play with!
Another week, another Indigo burgeoning bargain section to peruse and plunder! Ottawa's IKEA loomed on the horizon but my feeble feet beat retreat to the nearby Pinecrest bookbarn. Why, Kingston Indigo, why can't you host a bargain section? Don't you know your humble blogger likes bargains? Ottawa came through with a short stack that I'll write more about once I complete the books.*

(*I've already got two of them completely coloured-in!)

Friday, June 10, 2022

Pop-up Post: CN No 372, June 2022

Some retail therapy took us to Belleville on Saturday, June 4. A long intermodal train was in the yard, with an SBU on the west end but no power. At the yard office was local power CN North America map-schemed 9639, 7038 and GT 6224. By the time I reached the east end of the yard, an eastbound was lit up and sure enough, a headlight was visible to the west. The Elmwood Street crossing has become a regular crew change point. A pull-off  and walkway are used by Belleville cabbies to drop off and pick up CN crews. Slowly, at 1015, an unusual nose became visible. This pop-up post portrays the proceeding portentious period:

The outbound crew waits trackside (above) and meets the inbound crew:
Ready for departure, notice the GE smoke:
At the crossing:
Some shop labourer washed the unit. Well, at least the logo part!

VIA eastbound at 1025 approaching from the west on the near track: VIA No 62/52 led by 6411-five cars-911 (Love the way)-three HEP2 and one LRC car.
CRDX (ex-KCS) 312383:
Former Chicago Central scrap tie car in the CN website scheme:
AIMX 19221-19163 scrap gons:
DPU 8912 meets Conrail Quality:
Another VIA! Westbound VIA No 61 approached from behind me with 919L-five LRC cars-6410 trailing on the middle track at 1030, several minutes late:
CTTX 695101 with some unique graffiti as it's about to enter the Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory!
With the tail-end past, it was time to head over to the Quinte Mall Chapters ($). Unlike our Kingston Indigo ($$$), it still retains a clearance section!

Running extra...

While I usually aim for a three-out-of-three day (a nap, a walk, a beer) and normally only hit a 1 or a 2, this day we hit a trifecta on the drive-thru three-out-of-three day. It's great to stop at a drive-thru for each and every meal once in a while!

Retail pro-tip: if shopping at Belleville's Taste of Country, walk back to the rambling farmhouse's westernmost end first. Browse bric-a-brac, 'No Cussin No Fussin' signage and faux Coke thermometers before grabbing a cart and hitting the grocery and frozen food specials. There's no sense pushing your groaning grocery cart of fresh-baked muffins, $3 apple fritters and cherry bread, frozen pizzas and pepperettes and giant 5-lb. bags of frozen french fries through increasingly narrow and maze-like aisles!

Belleville;s Quinte Mall Chapters was a cornucopia of dollar-or-two (grand)children's books and an inexpensive eldorado of $10 and under historical non-fiction  I can read about Panzerfaustian fall of the Reichstag and meet my Waterloo, all while leafing through Kalmbach's Modelrailoading Ultimate Guide 2022 and its portrayal of the sheer operational terror of a nolix!

Friday, June 3, 2022

AIMX and Other Scrap Gondolas

As scrap metal prices increase and recycled metals are increasingly used in steel-making, the last few years have seen a plethora of gondolas being pressed into scrap service. Due to their large capacity and obsolescence for carrying coal, they seem to be naturals for scrap metal service, especially for smaller recyclers. But growth in the industry has also led to new cars specifically built for scrap-hauling. This post includes three recyclers whose cars are often seen here on CN's Kingston Sub.


Despite its name, American Iron and Metal (AIM) was founded by Canadian Peter Black in 1936, on Notre-Dame Street East in Montreal. Using scrap metal in steel-making requires 60% less energy, and scrap shipping seems to ebb and flow depending on price, availability and good ol' fashioned supply and demand.. With major operations in Montreal and Hamilton, AIM has 90 sites worldwide. AIM operates a fleet of 2,400 grey or black gondolas in scrap metal service using reporting marks AIMX. AIMX cars can often be seen here in groups of 2 to 10. My first sightings were of the four-digit cars in late-2011. A general description of the AIMX car series:

  • Their earliest cars were grey, in the AIMX 800- and 1100-series, capacity of 6400 cubic feet, 66 feet in length, built 2011.
  • Black 68xx and 69xx-series, capacity 6740 cu.ft., 60', built 2006, in service 2014.
  • Grey AIMX 14000-15000-series were built at Hamilton's National Steel Car in 2014, 6400 cu.ft., 52'.
  • Black 19000-21000 series are lower, with the AIM logo, 6000 cu.ft., 64', built 2019+.
Top photo - AIMX 15208 and 15252 are eastbound through Kingston on CN No 368 on August 14, 2016. Loaded AIMX 15441 on CN No 376 March 16, 2019:

My observations 2011 to present showing date, car number, CN train car was on, remarks or colours:
  • Dec 5/11 AIMX 1126 on CN No 376 
  • Apr 4/12 AIMX 158x, 6942 (black) on 376
  • Apr 6/12 AIMX 1112 (grey), 6898 (black) on 308
  • Sep 19/12 AIMX 1165, 1167, 1141, 1156, 1175, 1179 on 377
  • Aug 24/13 AIMX 1170, 1164, 1179
  • Sep 22/14 AIMX 14062
  • Jun 13/15 AIMX 14006, 14137 on 376
  • May 27/16 AIMX 11481, 15176, 15330 on 377
  • Aug 14/16 AIMX 15208, 15252
  • Dec 20/16 AIMX 15048, 14092, 15280 on 376
  • Mar 28/18 AIMX 14011, 15018 on 377
  • May 15/18 AIMX 15198, 15412 on 377
  • Jul 13/18 AIMX 15089, 15303 on 377
  • Mar 15/19 AIMX 15149, 14168 on 376
  • Mar 16/19 AIMX 15441 on 376, loaded
  • Apr 12/19 AIMX 15321, 15340 on 373
  • May 17/19 AIMX 1180, 14169, 15219 on 376
  • Jul 20/19 AIMX 15037, 15358 on 376
  • Aug 14/19 AIMX 14163, 15317 on 377
  • Oct 10/19 AIMX 10169, 10153 on 368, new black cars with AIM logo
  • Nov 2/19 AIMX 1122, 1136, 15199, 15429 on 368
  • Jan 2/20 AIMX 14012, 14074 on 376 
  • June 22/20 AIMX 20184 (black); 15345, 15233, 15051 (grey) on 518
  • Jun 29/20 AIMX 20005, 20014, 20142 (all black) 
  • Jul 27/20 AIMX 20044, 20179, 20240 (all black)
  • Feb 4/21 AIMX 15088 on 376: 
  • Mar 14 2021 AIMX 19391 (black) :
  • Feb 5/22 AIMX 20200 and 20246 (black); 15014, 15084 (grey); 19133 (short black) on 376
  • Jun 4/22 AIMX 19221 and 19163 on CN 372:
  • AUGUST 2022 UPDATE: New series AIMX 23046, 23049 grey 6400 cu.ft. NSC-built with AIM logo in black reported.
  • October 7, 2023: A new series of short black cars - AIMX 22197 on CN No 368:

Combined Metal Industries calls itself 'the leaders in scrap-metal recycling in Toronto' and they 'take this scrap seriously'! They've been in business for 20+ years and their cars wear reporting marks CMBX. These are among the most common scrap-haulers set out at KIMCO Steel Sales on Kingston's John Counter Boulevard. Their yards are located in Toronto and Cambridge. Their 2000- and 8000-series cars were built new in 2019. 
  • Mar 25/20 CMBX 2263 (ex-Sultran); 197929 and 197843 (ex-CN); 100099, 100199 (black, likely former David J Joseph-owned) on 518
  • Sep 2/20 CMBX 8023 (black) on 518
  • Mar 3/21 CMBX 2022, 2043 and 8140 (black); 197914 (ex-CN)
  • Mar 10/21 CMBX 2002 (ex-Sultran); 197043 (ex-CN) on 518 (above)
  • Sep 29/21 CMBX 197921 (ex-CN)
  • Nov 15/21 CMBX 197842, 197893, 197921 (ex-CN); 2141, 7092 (black) on 518


EAMX 426-473 are former UNPX 102xxx-series and WPSX 2xx-3xx-series bathtub gondolas subsequently lettered for Sullivan Scrap, Holyoke MA. Giant white lettering on black background is certainly eye-catching!

  • Aug 21/16 EAMX 455
  • Oct 15/16 EAMX 454, 471 on CN No 368 'Sullivan'. (above)
  • Feb 17/17 EAMX 454, 447 on 376 'Sullivan'

Triple M has 27 operations across all of North America. My first sighting of Triple M's fleet: TLPX 2264 (elongated logo), 2210 (compact logo) on likely CN No 369 on October 17 in Belleville (image courtesy Railstream, LLC)


IMR/RMI is a joint venture formed in October, 2020 between ArcelorMittal and Triple M Metal to supply ArcelorMittal's steel mills or Triple M's aluminum customers, among others. IMRX 2312 below on October 17, 2022 in Belleville (image courtesty Railstream, LLC). Looking brand new in April 2022 series 2283-2347

previous post on the Quebec scrap-hauler fleets of Metrobec and Legault Metals.

Running extra...

Canadian Pacific thought so much of its telegram business at Christmas in 1920 that they issued special full-colour Seasons Greetings telegram forms. I came across one at the Queen's University Archives this week:

Telegram for Premier Doug Ford. You're re-elected, DOFO! We voted because of FOMO.
Meanwhile, another constitutional democracy continues to flourish in the UK where Queen Elizabeth II is celebrating her Platinum Jubilee this weekend! Senior royals were there though the most senior was unable to attend.