Friday, June 9, 2023

CN 'Zero is Possible' Safety Train

Back on May 20, I heard rumblings of a CN executive train movement from Toronto to Montreal. Called the CEO Retirement special, the special was to traverse the CN Kingston Sub on Friday, June 9.

Metrolinx internal messaging stated that CN was 'looking to bring CEO train with retirees across our network' on June 9. On that day, the train was to 'depart Mac Yard via York 2 or York 3 with the engine on the head end [sic] and take the Newmarket Sub to Union Station via the south connecting track at Snider. From here the engine and consist will depart Union and head eastward up the GO Kingston and onto CN's Kingston Subdivision to Montreal.'

But then Metrolinx denied CN their movement, so passengers were loaded at the CN Brampton Intermodal Terminal Friday morning and an all-CN route taken toward Montreal on June 9. 

This June 6 article from Centralia reveals CN's Zero is Possible Safety Week train!

CN photos posted to social media showing the Zero is Possible train at a CN facility in the U.S.


Wabtec-rebuilt CN 3309 (ex-2598 C44-9W rebuilt into a AC44C6M) led 6 business cars: 

  • CN 1710/Fraser Spirit - HEP car
  • IC 800210/Baton Rouge - sleeper
  • CN 1059/Tawaw - lounge/kitchen
  • IC 101314/Champlain - dining car
  • CN 119/Ocean View? or Jasper? - new to CN full-length dome
  • IC 800653/Sandford Fleming -theatre/inspection car
Two additional CN business cars were considered for the train, but not used:
  • CN 99/American Spirit - dome car
  • IC 800413/Great Lakes - bedroom/observation

The 'jungle telegraph' became enlivened as railfans jockeyed for facts and scheduled times. Levels of secrecy were either debated or guarded closely! The last time I observed the CN executive train was a deadhead move east on CN No 120 on May 20, 2019. Photos in this post show the cars in the slightly less-trainsettish olive and black. This black, white and red is positively Tycoish! Oh well, we will take what we're given and not going around asking, "Well, where my Executive E-units at?".

Tentative schedule posted by a rail enthusiast:
Tuesday June 6 Centralia, IL 0645 to Champaign, IL for a meeting there. 
1000 Champaign, IL to Battle Creek, MI for a meeting there
1700 Battle Creek to Sarnia, ON and layup.

**ACTUAL Tuesday, June 6th
Centrailia, IL dep after 07:30
Champaign, IL arr for meeting 10:30
Champaign, IL dep 11:35 to 1140
Griffith, IN 13:55 Crew Change in the Yard
Griffith, IN at 14:21
Battle Creek AR at 17:45 for 1hr meeting
Charlotte, MI at 19:45
Tied down in Flint at 21:15
Here's a video!

Tentative schedule posted by a rail enthusiast:
Wednesday June 7 0645 Sarnia to London for a meeting at 1000 then one more meeting in Brantford or Aldershot. 1645 to MacMillan Yard.

***ACTUAL, Wednesday, June 7th
Flint, MI departed at 0715 Wed. for Port Huron and Canada. Sarnia: 
Sarnia arr 1000, dep 1045 after entraining passengers and replacing SBU.
London 1210-1320
Bayview Jct 1445.
Toronto MacMillan Yard arrived 1700 Wed. 
Here's a video!

Although one rail enthusiast posted a notice that the crew was called at 0414 on June 8, the train stayed in Toronto all day Thursday. Friday's run to Montreal may extend east, perhaps to Halifax.


I was looking and listening for updates all Thursday (in case that was the day of the move east as rumoured, but no) and Friday (actual). The first OS was CN P624 departing Toronto around 0600, nearing the Kingston Sub from York Sub around 0800, a third OS arriving and departing Belleville after entraining some passengers 1000-1015, then Kingston 1100, Brockville 1150 and Coteau 1320 and Central Station 1430. There the train was apparently wyed prior to backing in to the station.

There are a couple of ways that railfans have been preserving this movement for posterity. The obvious one is video. The other is roster shots of the cars, or even scenic shots. The train is uncolourful in terms of paint schemes but quite varied in car types. I decided to try both video and still photos. I wanted a non-ground angle to capture the seldom-scene tops of the cars, so I decided on the Bayridge Drive overpass. 

Parking at the end of the overpass, I walked up around 1040, deploying my digital camera on tripod astride the sidewalk railing to capture video, and using my iPhone in burst mode for still shots for this post. I heard two whistles to the west (Coronation Boulevard near Mi 182 and Collins Bay Road at Mi 180) just prior to 1100. The special hove into view and I started filming. Their 34 axles went over the Mi 179.6 detector at 60 mph.
Here is my youtube video link and here are the photos of each car in the consist, as listed above:
Another way to photograph the Sandford Fleming theatre inspection car is from the tail-end, to see just who's viewing the receding track. Well, that would have meant a mad dash across up to five lanes of traffic, so I stayed put, and these cloud-bedecked grainy zoomed iPhone image are what I ended up with:
Look, ma, no traffic! (above) but check out those rain-laden clouds (no rain for at least an hour afterward, but it came) and the grab shot over the railings (below)
Thanks to Jordan McCallum, Jesse McLaughlin, Malcolm Peakman and others for additional information with this post.

After arrival at Montreal's Central Station for what some termed 'an awards ceremony' at CN headquarters, 3309 and the cars trailed Saturday's CN No 149 west to Toronto, thence Homewood, IL on Sunday's CN No 149.


At 1500 on Thursday, June 8, VIA No 42 led by 6456 had four LRC coaches in its consist trailed by Panorama car 1722 and deadhead coach 8139. This is the second move of a Panorama car, with VIA 1720 having been conveyed east on the same train on May 20, 2023. The third such car obtained from BC Rail, VIA 1721 has been at VIA's Montreal Maintenance Centre since pre-pandemic times.
BC Rail purchased three single-level ‘Ultradome’ cars 1703-1705 from Colorado Railcar, for use on its Vancouver-Prince George Whistler Northwind service in 2001. Built on three ex-CN baggage car underframes, the cars were under construction for the Florida Fun Train when it was shuttered. These cars were purchased by VIA in 2003, for use on the Skeena. The former BC Rail single-level dome cars were used on VIA’s Edmonton-Jasper Snow Train Express, retaining their later BC Rail numbers 1720-1722 but not their distinctly British Columbia names: Coast, Cariboo and Chilcotin respectively.  

At 0545 on Wednesday, June 7, this eastbound empty tractor-trailer crossed the Highway 401 median and ended up on the tracks at approx. Mi 63 CN Kingston Sub. (Photo kindly shared by Jeremy McCabe - below). VIA train Nos 60, 61, 62 and 63 were rerouted via Ottawa, incurring 1-2 hour delays. The driver was treated for very minor injuries, and the tracks cleared by the afternoon.
A drone photo showing the path the errant truck took across the median, dropping onto the tracks before potentially veering into the eastbound traffic lanes.

Running extra...

Watch for an upcoming post on the final report on VIA HEP fleet testing. This report was conveyed from VIA and its engineering firm to Transport Canada as required by last October's ministerial order. It will take me awhile to go through all 76 pages with my fine-tooth comb. I'll also include a timeline of the whole buffer-car era because it is an important and destructive phase in VIA's chequered history!


Tom Box said...

Although it wasn't mentioned in news reports or VIA's tweets, VIA #65(Jun 7) also detoured via Ottawa. See and note the missing time at Cornwall and the long delay between Dorval and Kingston. #67 and #64 were the first VIA trains through Cornwall that day.

Michael said...

You're not kidding about those business cars. The paint scheme is quite... unexciting. The old olive green would have been a better choice, but I suppose that is a sentimentalist's point of view, which has no place in today's CN!

Eric May said...

The 1961 black and grey paint scheme would look a lot better as it would conceal the windows. I thought "Zero is possible" was referring to the operating ratio...

Eric said...

Thanks for that additional information, Tom. I saw a photo taken at Fallowfield showing the same No 62/52 J-train we normally see at Kingston that is un-J'ed in Brockville.

Michael and Eric, that paint scheme, eh!? Let's not forget the CN untilted wafers near the vestibules/car ends. Regardless, the cars were described by those trackside as 'spotless'!

Thanks for your comments,

Anonymous said...

I have to agree the paint scheme is underwhelming considering the heritage liveries of both companies. The Illinois Central passenger scheme would look great as well.

I wonder what's up with the two sets of split windows on the full dome?

Thanks for posting these interesting photos, Eric! :)


Eric said...

My pleasure, Chris. CN has given us so many executive fleet paint schemes at which to throw darts. The olive/black and the later large car name lettering(!), red/white and as you noted, the nice Illinois Central!

Might those be safety access/exits in the split windows?

Thanks for your comment,

Madeline said...

Great article as always. just wanted to add that CN 119 was Amtrak's Ocean View Super Dome.

Eric said...

Thanks for the kind comments and additional information, Madeline. Granted, I didn't go into the lineage of the CN business fleet for the context of this post. I haven't yet seen CN refer to it y any designation other than its number. It's pretty new to them, though!


Tom Box said...

Yes, the split dome windows are the emergency exits. Here's an interior view. You can see a split window on the left, with red handles at the top to pull out the rubber gasket and allow you to remove the glass. My last Amtrak trip was on that car, on the Adirondack in 2018.