Thursday, November 30, 2023

Kingston Invista Adds Two New Tracks

It was back in late-2001 that a new spur for tank cars was built at the east end of the Kingston Invista plant. Previously, the cars were spotted by CN between the plant buildings. Then, in late-2015 a parallel spur was added for yet more tank cars. Now, in late-2023, two new tracks are being added. This aerial image was made and shared by someone familiar with plant operations:
The two new tracks are shown in red. The one labelled "New nylon and AA storage spur" will hold covered hoppers with inbound adipic acid and outbound product. The other track to the east, labelled "Twin existing HMD line" will be for inbound tank cars of hexamethylene diamine. I'll refer to them as Nylon and HMD tracks for the purpose of this post, and until they receive an official CN track designation! Note how both new tracks start off the switching lead at top of image. The 2015-added HMD track had a switch off the first HMD track. Both HMD tracks can now be switched for their full length off the switching lead

This project has been slow, and largely unphotographed. Rails were brought in on four CN flatcars and piled on the site. Large quantities of new ties had been on site since 2022. In late summer, piles of crushed rock arrived, and heavy equipment was slowly working on the new tracks. During the summer of 2023, bulldozers on site worked to remove top soil and add subroadbed stone.
An excavator working on the HMD track (above). Heavy equipment and rock piles, with roller working on HMD track (below - both photos taken September 8, 2023).
Here is a new, long turnout, with associated track hardware dropped off along King Street for the new Nylon track, September 24, 2023 photos:

October 1, 2023 views:
View of the switching lead, looking west from the east plant entrance road crossing. The switch for the HMD track awaits installation at right. Ballast for the HMD track can be seen at left.

The second HMD track ballast is in, with new fencing extending to the east plant entrance road.

The end of the new Nylon track closest to the plant. This still seemed like a lot of expense with switch and rail for only a few carlengths. However, that expense is probably offset by ease in switching and making the outbound Nylon loads easier to store until CN lifts them. But wait - it will come to be two-ended in the near future - read on!
The rails and tracks are in place, with more rail stacked nearby.
Heavy equipment parked in the Invista plant parking lot.
Heading back east, the view towards Front Road showing the new HMD track ballast.
Gotta move those crossing signals soon!
Groups of partially assembled ties inspected by avian track inspectors!
In 'episode three' of an Invista video on the Kingston plant, this aerial screenshot shows the construction:
By October 15, the Nylon spur switch had been installed, though not the HMD switch. The Nylon track's rail and ties are in place, just not ballasted and tamped in fully. The HMD track looks largely the same as above. Then, by October 28 the second HMD track is bolted together and on the ballast, looking like Atlas HO-scale flextrack!
A tamper is sitting on another piece of bolted-together track inside the fenced HMD compound:
The new piece of track has been laid alongside the existing curve of the easternmost HMD track (below). Presumably, that switch will be removed and both tracks will be full-length all the way to the switching lead along Front Road.
The new Nylon track progress shows an excavator in the middle of a mountain of ballast:
A pair of ballast buggies and a tamper:
The new track and ballast added to its neighbour:
Formerly a spur, a switch has been installed closest to the plant so all tracks are two-ended. 
Big changes in two weeks - November 12, late afternoon. Both HMD tracks are complete and connected. Crossing paved though not a fancy crossing like the first track. The crossing work would have been a challenge since this it is on the only access road to the main plant parking lot.
The new track with outbound load INVX 38605 on the next track over, which also seems to have received some new ballast and surfacing. The ballast buggies are off-track and only spare rails are lying around. It will be interesting to see what ends up on the new track. Certainly, its switch off the lead, east of the existing switches, makes for a very long track.
Looking north on the HMD tracks. New ballast surfaced.

Looking west from the access road off Front Road. Lots of vehicle tire tracks on the grass at right, new drainage at left. Looking very model railroady with the new HMD switch diverging onto the lead, with straight-in access to the new HMD track. A close-up view with the new tracks labelled:
And just like that, one week later, both tracks had cars on them!

December 30 Update: small yellow signs have been installed beside all the switches. I need to re-visit and confirm whether there's a KM29. Tank cars were only spotted on KM28, AA loads on KM33, and outbound loads SRLX 45190-45133 and INVX 38617 were on KM31.

An earlier addition - a Whig clipping from July 29, 1977:

Running extra...

Be sure to check out the new Blog of the Month-ish. It's great to have Jim Lowe so high in the right sidebar-ish. Now shh, I'm reading the head-end of this section!
The VIA Historical Association is raising money for the restoration of VIA 6539. Though we know the public faces of the VHA and Rapido Trains Inc., there is also a long line of lesser-known shadow researchers and enthusiasts who never seek nor find the limelight. Your humble blogger may be one of them. Or he may not.
What, the F? Yes, that's right, 6539 became 6304. And this piggy-bank better be ready to hold 250K 'cause that's what it's going to cost. The restoration is intended to coincide with the VHA's 50th anniversary train in 2028! Which will be 30 years before the last spike is driven on Jason Shron's KingstonSub layout. He freely admits it's a long-term project. Hey, ya can't rush quality!

Since you're still following the tale (on the reading trail) of this post, I considered the tail-end of this section to piggyback on the trailer video for the 6539 project. It would be great to include it here after the piggy-bank. Hey, that would make it a piggyback piggy-bank trailer trail tail tale!

Thursday, November 23, 2023

Trackside Treasure's 'Just Four' Video

Two of the clearest-thinking fine model railroaders I know are Chris Mears and James Hilton. Their cross-ocean mind meld is figuratively as deep as the ocean, relatively rendering my thoughts on trains merely puddle-worthy. But that doesn't stop me! Undeterred and undaunted by convention, I wade into the water which I'm not afraid to muddy with a chorus of controversial cross-currents, smatterings of stone-skippingly superficial scattered thoughts, and alarmingly anachronistic admonitions about model railroading that not only don't stand the test of time, but are counter-cultural not to mention clock-stoppingly atonal to the alliterative alternatives in conventional thinking, and which may in fact result in me making an assonance of myself.

Notwithstanding the above, unfettered, let's push onwards to Chris' The Shove and James' Modelling Workbench. Both these gentlemen are fellow bloggers discussing specific items in their layout collections. If I understand their thoughts correctly, it was a 'what if?' scenario. What if....from my whole collection be it large or small, what would I keep if I could keep Just Four. 

Ones to watch! Here is the link to James' Just Four and Chris' The Beating Heart and Four Engines and his just-published 2r2. (The actual title of the latter is longer and I was dismal at math. Or as the kids say these days, "The math just ain't mathin' for me!") Chris deftly weaves the stories of his power into the power of his layout and how he chooses to structure his collection.

Never one to shy away from standing on the shoulders of giants like a grinning garden gnome gone Newtonesque with irridescent Isaac eyes, I decided to consider this theme and try to make something, anything, meaningful to it that I could. If I could. And I couldn't, so of course I deflected into my own deadhead headroom of deliberation, thinking how could I possibly make a celebratory contribution of my own. Having been to many marriage ceremonies, including my own as well as that of my wife, I decided to hackingly hijack a hackneyed term, "Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, and Something Blue". Though I was not wedded nor even welded to this theme!

Rather than laboriously looking at my collection to find 'those four' I settled on 'this four' and applied the above mainly matrimonial maxim to wonder what they meant to my collection. Which era of my modelling career? Which iteration of my layout? Which fellow modeller did they represent? Why the heck did I still have them in the collection? We won't address the issue of why my collection is closer to 444 than 4!

So I made a video entitled Just Four. Here's the YouTube link. My grandson was visiting and except for one tiny cough, he kept silent as he played away at the HO-scale emergency scene he was crafting for those four minutes. And, I added another 'those four more' just for fun!
Then I watched the video back and I realized an omission or three in my narration. I needed to say more about the 'who' not just the 'what' of three of the items:

  • The mainly-black Maine Central 44-tonner
  • The Tangent Scale Models Manitoba covered hopper
  • The cardboard Baltimore & Ohio boxcar.
All three were given to me, two magnanimously by mail and one by inertial inheritance, and all have been blogged about. None other than Chris Mears sent me the 44-tonner and it found a prominent place in my first front porch layout. Bob Fallowfield found that the Manitoba car was not a keystone of his prototype. The B&O car is one my Dad built and represented a much earlier paradigm in the panoply of  model railroading and the pantheon of model railroaders. I came to have each of the items in my collection for a reason. In my Dad's case, he noticed my obvious interest in taking our home layout in an operational direction, vintage rolling stock and all. The other two were engendered by genuine generalized generosity!

I am proud to not only be a bottom-feeder in the model railway ecosystem, scouring the under-table 'underworld' of trainshows for deals and relics, but also loudly and ludditely planting my flag in the 1980's model railroading world, and proudly inflating then thereafter pricking the balloons that bring greater visibility or just hot air as they rise above the everyday horizon of our benchworks and backdrops - way, way, up in the consciousness and controversiality of those who inhabit the modelrailosphere.

So this is my Just Four. Hope you like it, and enjoy the four minutes watch time as much as I enjoyed the four minutes' execution time that I put into it!

Reading Extra...

That's right, you read it correctly. No sooner was I finishing writing about James and Chris than a couple (and some couplers from another fellow modeller!) of their collaborative compendia made it to my mail slot for extra reading. 
James' two books Small Layout Design Handbook and The Art of Railway Modelling made for an enjoyable afternoon read as I enjoyed a cold beverage and peanuts while pecking away at page after page of layout modelling ingredients and results. Chris' name is not merely there, it's because he's written and inspired many of the ideas and layouts on these pages. As I'd glimpsed online, James has an engaging way of adding insight, illustration and ingenuity into his layout planning and detail-driven modelling. Actual thought! Not just let's add another track here and here annnnnnd here!
I asked my good wife to snap a photo of the after-the-unboxing moment. Just One.
After thoroughly enjoying James' first book, I was still alarmingly awake and alert as I picked up a copy of Model Railroader. I was immediately hit between the eyes with a 16x22-foot HO layout that photographed well, but I was floored by the associated trackplan and the presence of a giant yard of perfectly parallel yard tracks and the presence of only three industrial spurs on the whole layout. After studying James' prudent use of space, this seemed like an HO scale version of uncontrolled urban sprawl and inefficient land use planning! Spaghetti bowl? This was more like All You Can Eat Pasta - and the second bowl is always smaller for a reason. Pasta is prologue, as they say.

Final words from James: "I do hope you enjoy them - my heart is in the first sections of both, the plans more a vehicle to encourage sales and hence put the ‘word’ in front of more eyes. My hope is it encourages a change in how we talk about this wonderful hobby of ours!"

Thanks to James and Chris for leaving a trail of breadcrumbs out of the coniferous cornucopia of confusion in today's model railway forest. We would all be wise to follow!

Friday, November 17, 2023

Postscript: CN Nos 318 and 45 Collide at Ernestown - December 20, 1974

In this postscript to my initial post, I'll be profiling the derailment clean-up, the state of the wrecked equipment and a brief epilogue. Having profiled the December 20, 1974 Ernestown collision between eastbound CN freight train 318 and westbound CN passenger train No 45, I received photos taken at the scene from two fellow rail enthusiasts to include in this postscript. From the investigation report I read, I have included a timeline of the clean-up plus photos taken by CN as part of documenting the railway's investigative process. I've also included contemporaneous press accounts from our local newspaper. Some details and facts have been excluded from the initial post, and they will not be included in this post either, for reasons I summarize at the end of this post.


Thirty-five cars of No 318's train were removed from the tail-end at 0150 December 21 westward to Belleville. The two box cars near the head-end were moved clear of the tracks by the Toronto auxiliary in the darkness. The second gondola was rerailed at 0830 and removed also by the Auxiliary. Then, econd engine 9466 was started and used to push the two gondolas west at walking speed to the business track on the south side, opposite Ernestown station. The intense search for 318's engineer continued with the mobile crane coming forward at 0945 but unable to move 9487. The Toronto auxiliary returned at 1045 on the north track. The Montreal auxiliary in the service track, and the mobile crane on the south track were able to reposition 9487, and the body was finally found at 1100, still at the controls, though the head-end trainman had jumped clear. Then, 9487 was positioned south of the south track at 1200.

The south main track was clear by 1730 on December 21 and had a slow order of 15 mph applied. The north track was clear by 1750 though non-existent for about 90 feet east of the estimated point of impact, rebuilt and returned to service by 0115 December 22. CN 6860 had been moved clear of the north track by both auxiliaries at 1710 and 6792 at 1740. Both auxiliaries cleared for the night in the service track by 2100. 

On Sunday, December 22 a work extra called at Belleville brought gondolas and flat cars east, and at 0700 on Sunday the 22nd and both auxiliaries were in service at first light to place the cleared wreckage onto these cars in the service track for removal from the site. At 1045 CN 291140 was retrucked on the north track and moved to the service track. CN 6792 was rolled onto the north track at 1700 and lifted onto flat car CN 665410 at 1810. When trains were passing, much time was spent cleaning up scrap along the right-of-way and 'trimming' (torching off debris from) the wrecked equipment enabling safe movement.

On Monday, December 23 both auxiliaries returned to the south track to lift equipment onto the service track. At 0815, 6860 was lifted from north of the north track, its 'B' end onto a temporary truck and moved to the service track at 1005. At 1150, lead unit 9487 was lifted from south of the south track and placed on flat car CN 665370.  Boxcar CN 432000 was left north of the north track, for subsequent removal. The work extra returned to Belleville at 1630. The Montreal auxiliary departed east to Montreal taking with it 6792 and 9487 on their flatcars, 9466, CN gondolas 143439 and 143194 (both with engine trucks), 143168 with scrap, CN 291140 and both CBQ gondolas from 318. The Toronto auxiliary departed westward at 1920 on the 23rd.

Both units underwent extensive further mechanical inspection at CN's Pointe St Charles shops in Montreal. This inspection would reveal evidence of heavy braking on the passenger units, though none on the freight units. Extensive investigation of the controls: throttle, braking, deadman's pedal and overspeed controls as well as miscellaneous cab contents were catalogued. Leading units of 318 and 45  had damage loss estimated at $350,000 and 250,000 respectively. Their respective trailing units were able to be towed, with damage estimated at $1,000 and 40,000. 


The first five following photos have been kindly shared by John Mayell. They show Montreal Auxiliary crane 50028, Toronto hi-rail mobile crane RC60471 and section crews moving both trains' locomotives on December 21, in order to quickly clear the double-track mainline for train movements. Perhaps cutting the steel of 9487's cab-side:
Notice the south-to-north signal wires down over the site, likely pulled down by 9487 rearing up at the point of collision.
No 45's baggage car is visible at right, with part of 9487's engineer's side cab being lifted clear, perhaps having been torched off to find the engineer's body:
Neither auxiliary had a CN wet-noodle logo on its flanks as applied in later years.
The next five photos, taken by the late Bob Hunter, were kindly shared by his son Paul Hunter. Paul remembers being at the site. These photos also show the line-clearing operations, and I believe are all taken from south of the mainline, from the same side and around the same time as John's. This would have been during daylight hours on December 21, marking the transition between RC60471 and the Toronto Auxiliary working the west end of the wreck. The line was clear of both trains' equipment by suppertime.
Note the three month-old unit's numberboard propped up in the snow (above)  at the fenceline, centre.  Wood blocking for cranes' outriggers is stacked ready for use.
Toronto road-rail crane RC60471 on the south track, and Montreal Auxiliary crane in the service track reposition 9487 in the search for the engineman's body.  Linemen work on restoring the signal wires that coincidentally crossed from south to north directly above the wreck. No 45's cars are visible on the north track behind it:

The Toronto auxiliary on the north track, replacing Toronto hi-rail mobile crane RC60471 for the lifting of the locomotives:
Two photos by Robbin Rekiel published in the January-February 1975 issue of the Upper Canada Railway Society Newsletter. Both photos were likely taken on December 23. With traffic cleared for the lift, Toronto auxiliary at left and Montreal Auxiliary CN 50028 at right both work to lift CN 9487 onto its flat car positioned on the service track at 1150 on Monday, December 23:
CN  6792 already on flat car CN 665410 on an unknown spur, likely the service track. This lift had been made at 1810 on December 22:

Photos taken at CN's Pointe St Charles shops in Montreal show the extent of the damage caused by tremendous forces of physics exerted at Ernestown that night. CN 6792 and 9487 sit side-by-side on flat cars:
Side views showing the bending of the frame behind the cab of CN 9487. I've seen no photos of 9487's long hood, presuming it was removed separately in a gondola car or flat car.
 Untarped black & white views:

The relatively light damage to 318's trailing unit:
CN 6860 from both ends, its 'B' end resting on temporary auxiliary truck.  Some reports say 6860 was scrapped, but it most definitely returned to service and received VIA paint on July 8, 1980.

CN 6792, various views from both sides:


As a matter of public record of that time, a selection of Kingston Whig-Standard newspaper clippings are included below. These clippings cover contemporaneous reporting on the December derailment's immediate aftermath, a January 1975 CTC report, the March 1975 inquest and subsequent crew reinstatements (as always, click the image to enlarge for reading). You'll find several factual errors in the Whig's reporting of the events surrounding the collision, and in its coverage of the four-day inquest. For some of these printed inaccuracies, the Whig-Standard subsequently published corrections. The inquest's jury's returned with 12 recommendations, some of which took years to become industry practice, while others never have. 
The inquest held in Napanee - March 11-15, 1975
Reinstatements, March 25, 1975

With mechanical and signal causes ruled out, the tragic and controversial nature of the human-based causes of this derailment has revealed a lot of latent memories and potent feelings from former railroaders. Not only was there an in-depth CN investigation that I was privileged to have read, but also a coroner's inquest held in March, 1975. 

Cultural and workplace issues of 1970's railroading are clearly much different than today. Some current workplace measures were not in place then: in-cab cameras, voice recordings, site surveillance cameras, advanced train monitoring technology and signal and communication technology, employee assistance programs, access to medical leaves, and concern for work/life balance for crews. Cultural factors from the seventies have disappeared: generational differences, length of careers, pre-railway experiences, substance use and labour-management relations, In fact, many of the positive changes were made at the behest of railway unions. Conversely, negative changes were brought about by railway management to monitor employees and their railway operations for safety and other reasons.

As a well-known local incident, I did not have to share very much in advance of publishing my initial post before a spectrum of reaction quickly came my way. This includes coworkers and relatives of the train crews. As a rail enthusiast and not a current or former railway employee, I can appreciate but not fully identify with the railway work culture. Regardless, I respect railroading and those who devote their lives to it on either side of the labour/management divide. It provides them with a living and it has provided me with a lifetime full of trackside treasure as a railfan, photographer, passenger and blogger. That's why I have and will continue to steer clear of any editorializing, fault-finding, innuendo or salacious details that have been associated with this incident.

What 21st century workplace is recognizable compared to its 1974 iteration?  I have been fortunate to have several former Belleville railroaders reach out and add their experiences. Some of the crewmen involved were war veterans, railroaders whose careers began in the days of steam, and whose decades of experience were never questioned by younger, newer employees. Some of the railroaders that I was in touch with knew all the employees involved personally, to the extent that they were not only workmates and mentors, but also family friends. That's the reason I'm not publishing all - out of respect for those men and those who knew them. As one succintly put it, after the collision, "The Belleville terminal changed that day."

In the investigation, each side had their points to prove and agenda to advance. The crewmen were represented by the United Transportation Union, and the railway had testimony from its local officials and legal counsel. While the union did its best to stand up for its members, the railway had an obligation to investigate, find fault, and remedy or discipline anyone involved in a rule violation or other conduct while on duty. 

All I can really say in summary is that this incident shows that railroading is a job, a career, a workplace and a culture unlike any other.

My thanks to Paul Hunter and John Mayell for their assistance with this post.
A streaking CN passenger train near Ernestown in autumn, 1973 (above - L.C. Gagnon photo). This one with two similar MLW's plus a roadswitcher in the locomotive consist: