Thursday, February 29, 2024

CN 9900's

New "Draper Taper" CN 9900's were operating on CN freights in late-January and early-February, 1986. On January 30, 1986 at 1435 CN 9901-9900-9525 were heading west, just west of Ernestown at Bath (top three photos). 

Confusingly known alternatively as SD50AF and/or SD60F's (class GF-638a in CN nomenclature, GMDD order C448) these four locomotives were considered demonstrator SD60F units with the then-new 710 prime mover instead of the 645 used on the SD50-series. Their GMDD builder's plates were stamped SD50AF. 

Think of them as SD50 on the outside, SD60 on the inside! The rest of the class, built as GMDD order C480, were sixty SD60F's numbered 5504-5563. These first four have number boards and triangularly-arranged class lights above the front cab windows. The others built beginning in February of 1989 had nose-mounted number boards and linear class lights. CN's SD60F's with their microprocessor-improved reliability were in class GF-638b and GF638c, (CN's 5400-series SD50F's were in classes GF-636a and GF-636b). CN's motive power department's model number is shown as SD50AF/SD60F:
The four 9900's were renumbered into the 5500 series circa 1988, thereby displacing earlier 5500's into the 7500-series, faster than Archimedes' bathtub!

On March 11, 1986, CN 9903-9900-5282 are working hard leading CN No 397 west through the S-curve at Mi 183 Kingston Sub:
Railfans love to hypothesize about these units. Some have suggested that while numbered as 9900's, the four units were actually on lease from GMDD before being later absorbed and renumbered as CN 5500's. Were they experimental, test-bed prototypes, pre-production locomotives or demonstrators, various terms used to described them? 

CN 5500-5501 went to the DMV&W; 5502-5503 were sold for scrapping by K&K Recycling. The rest of this class of units was retired by CN circa 2017. Pastorally-posed GMDD builder's photo image of CN 9900: 

Lots o' links:
Running extra...

This is Feb24 OOF (One-Off February) fifth and last Post OO5. You may have noticed that each post during the month centred on an event or a piece of equipment that was unique, happened only once, or was a one-off, too. Now it's Leap Day, February 29th - that too is too unique! You'll also note something unique and unusual that every blog post title in this OOF has in common, too. If you think you know what that thing is that's too unique and too unusual, you might be a prize-winner! Simply reply with your guess, in five or fewer words, via email to or comment on this post. The contest closed March 2 at 2:22 p.m. The winner will be randomly chosen from all entries received and announced in the next post. Thanks for playing!

Thursday, February 22, 2024

Schnabel HEPX 200 Retires

From a passing GO train, I photographed load-less Hydro One (formerly Ontario Hydro) Schnabel car HEPX 200 and accompanying caboose HEPX (ex-CN) 79640 at CN's parallel Oshawa yard in October, 2012. The unique Schnabel often rested at Pickering on CN track W317, occasionally visible on the southward lead while I was aboard VIA Rail. This (top photo) was my most recent sighting of the soon-to-be-retired car. It was repainted from yellow/orange Ontario Hydro to overall orange Hydro One between 2001 and 2003, likely due to the splitting of Ontario Hydro into Hydro One and Ontario Power Generation.

Eleven years earlier, Ontario Hydro Schnabel car HEPX 200 and caboose HEPX 79640, a D-9R dimensional movement symbolled CN No 423 behind CN 9445 and five idler gondolas requiring daylight movements only, are on track KL30 off the Queens South Service Track.  An Ontario Hydro pickup truck is idling near the tail-end. Having overnighted east of Brockville on January 14, 2001 then reaching Kingston at 1820 on January 15, No 423 later continued west at noon as one of the few westbound freights this January 16 morning, arriving at the Ontario Hydro Lennox Generating Station on CN's Bath Spur at 1330. CN No 310 had derailed at Mallorytown, meaning all eastbound VIA trains had to be wyed at Queens then head west, like VIA Enterprise No 50. Its passengers have been bussed east: 6428-4121-Chateau Radisson-Yoho Park - the consist's markers visible at right on the south service track.  One of my few visits to the north side of Queens, and not crossing any tracks, this 0700 one rated a visit from a passing Kingston Police constable.  
Nearly impossible to fit in one frame, I resorted to some close-ups. The main load supports are near the end of the car, with inboard support seen here at right (below). Loads could be shifted 12 inches vertically and 14 inches horizontally if required, with a width of 10'8" and a height of 14'8". Note stencilling 'RETURN CAR WHEN EMPTY TO ONTARIO HYDRO PICKERING ONTARIO CN DELIVERY'.
With a load limit of one million pounds, HEPX 200's gross weight on rails was rated as 1,466,000 pounds.  

Thanks to my brother Dave for passing along this link showing the impending retirement of Schnabel car HEPX 200. Built in May, 1974 I can only guess that it's reaching its 50-year AAR interchange age limit. In the video, the suggestion is that due to technology, the old Schnabel, its load-adjustment equipment along with its four man crew, and caboose are no longer required. It looks like HEPX 201 just takes its load and goes with it, as the transformer it carries can not form 'part of the car' structure as it is on HEPX 200. 
  • HEPX 200 was 121 feet long when empty, up to 132 feet loaded, with two four-wheel and two six-wheel trucks at each end, a total of twenty 33-inch wheels on each side, built by National Steel Car.
  • HEPX 201 is 146 feet long, with four four-wheel trucks at each end with 36-inch wheels, built by Kasgro in November, 2020. The unique car is 9 feet wide and has a 40-foot long deck, and a load limit of 806,000 pounds. Its first load was a transformer travelling from Quebec to Nanticoke, ON in May, 2021. On a maiden trip on February 20, seen heading eastward at Belleville (image courtesy Railstream, LLC):
Hearing the odd throb of a GP-9 at 1745 from our house on April 11, 1998 we headed out to the Bath area, based on scanner information from my brother. We got there in time to see the unique yellow caboose in the Lennox transformer yard, but Dave transcribed the entire consist of the transformer move to the Lennox Generating Station at 1809:
  • CN 7202
  • CN orange ballast gondola 90430
  • CN renumbered for company service 'tank hoppers' 53398-53395-53399, often used as idlers on CN dimensional moves
  • HEPX 200 with transformer
  • HEPX 79640
After the above sighting, I was able to use CN's public car tracing function to track HEPX 200's movements from April 11, 1998 through February 7, 2001. Empty movements were on manifest freights like 332, 380 and 382 through London east to Toronto, 366 east to Montreal, 395 to Sarnia, and Don turns 527 and 548 to Pickering:
  • Apr 30/98-Jul 9/98 Stored empty at Pickering.
  • Jul 11/98 - Placed loaded at Courtright/Sarnia CSX and still there Nov 2/98 (reportedly arrived behind CN 9591 with 4 covered hoppers).
  • Nov 22/98-Apr 19/99 Stored empty at Pickering track W317.
  • Apr 28/99 - Placed empty at Courtright/Sarnia CSX.
  • May 7/99 - Placed loaded on GEXR track XY01 at Guelph.
  • May 20/99-Jun 17/99 Stored empty at Pickering.
  • June 19/99 - Interchanged to RailinkHH at Hamilton.
  • June 25/99 - Placed loaded on GEXR at Guelph.
  • Jul 15/99-Nov 9/99 Stored empty at Pickering.
  • Nov 12/99 - Placed empty on GEXR at Guelph.
  • Nov 26/99 - Placed loaded on RailinkHH at Hamilton.
  • Dec 3/99 - Feb 4/00 Stored empty on GEXR at Guelph.
  • Feb 13/00 - Placed loaded at Courtright/Sarnia CSX.
  • Feb 25/00-Mar 31/00 Stored empty at Pickering.
  • Apr 10/00 - Loaded at Guelph GEXR track XY01 to Courtright/Sarnia CSXT.
  • Apr 18/00-Nov 23/00 Stored empty on GEXR at Guelph.
  • Dec 28/00 - Placed empty at Montreal Wharf track SE52.
  • Jan 16/01 - Placed loaded on Bath Spur track KN23.
  • Jan 24/01-Feb 7/01 Stored empty at Pickering track W317.
CN track W317 is at the end of the Pickering lead that leaves the CN Kingston Sub near the Pickering Town Centre and ends near Montgomery Park Road, across from the Pickering Nuclear Generating Station. There's a large Hydro One transformer and equipment yard there with several CN spurs (below). 
The 2024 Google imagery shows two depressed-centre flat cars surrounded by transformers (enlarged red box) though these don't appear to be HEPX cars. 
HEPX 200, with yellow transformer at Bayview Junction in 1979 (online auction site photo):

Lots o' links:

This is Feb24 OOF (One-Off February) second-last Post OO4. Each post during the month will centre on an event or a piece of equipment that was unique, happened only once, or was a one-off, too. And who knows what I'll come up with for Leap Day, February 29th, too!? You'll also note something unique and unusual that every blog post title in this OOF has in common, too. I still smell a contest!

Running extra...

If you're tracking the delivery and implementation of the transformative new Corridor sets, check these links...this past week saw the introduction of a second Siemens set through Kingston as well as the delivery of VIA's 13th Siemens set. Unlucky 13? After the set was unusually stashed at the TMC, adjacent equipment from VIA No 78 derailed upright at TMC early on February 21: VIA 905-4007-4103-4111-8100.

Speaking of transformers, digital photography has sure changed prototype and layout photography. For this week's Tail End Tuesday, I snapped 80 digital photos of co-located CN and CP cabooses, all in 20 minutes on my Kingston's Hanley Spur layout. Whether it's iPhone layout photography, disco at the club, or a war movie, it's always good advice to "Get Down!" for best results.
CN crossing Rideau Street (above), CP approaching Cataraqui Street (below) and the 'race' (last photo).

Thursday, February 15, 2024

VIA's Unique 8558

The VIAriety of locomotive consists, especially in the early VIA era is eye-catchingly interesting. And one of the best examples of these consist collaborative copains was ex-CP RS-10 8558. At Calgary on May 13, 1980 consider this cornucopia of compadres in a Cowtown consist: VIA 1802-CP 8465-VIA 8558-VIA 1800 (Two top photos - Fred Clark). 

Then there was one of my early-era VIA highlights...a nearly-three-hour-late No 2 arriving at Portage on August 22, 1979 behind 1409-8558-CP 8519. Did I know at the time that it was the singular RS-10 that CP sold to VIA? I'm not sure I really appreciated the rarity of what I was seeing, and photographing, at that time!

WHY 8558?

There are various theories as to why 8558 ended up with VIA. It was, after all, VIA's only roadswitcher, so why would there be just one? These are the two leading theories, both predicated on a particular number of units in the agreed-to transaction involving CP and VIA:
  • It was a replacement locomotive for a wrecked cab unit
  • It was a replacement for a CP F9B that lost its steam generator

On September 28, 1978, as CP inexorably transferred its remaining passenger operations to VIA Rail Canada, 25 F-units and 2 E-units were sold to VIA for $5,000 to $7,000 each. F9B 4476 was in rough shape and even lacked a steam generator – not purchased. In July of 1977, CP 1408 had been wrecked near Savanne, Ontario - not available. To fulfill the agreed-to number of locomotives in the sale to VIA, steam generator-equipped 8558 went to VIA instead. It was among the first ex-CP units destined for a minty new VIA blue & yellow paint job, along with 1405, 1410, 1414, 1418, and 1931. Not popular with CN due its outdated wiring, outmoded equipment and general obsolescence, CN asked that the 1956-built 8558 be kept on CP lines.

As the late Bruce Chapman wrote to me, I still have in my collection of junque a snotogram from the CNR to the president of VIA saying that, "8558 must be confined to CP Rail, as it is an obsolete unit, outdated wiring and mechanics; that style we retired years ago by us." Or as I put it in my second book on VIA Rail, not popular with CN due its outdated wiring, outmoded equipment and general obsolescence, so CN asked that 8558 be kept on CP lines.

CP 8558, being an RS-10, had a 244 prime mover, for which there was no support on CN lines. CN had phased out their 244-powered fleet many years earlier.  CP's MP&CE department listed all of the RS-10's (8462-8482, 8558-8600 and 8824) all powered by the 12-244. 

WHERE 8558?

CP 8558 received VIA paint over its CP Rail Action Red on December 22, 1978. It saw service on the Canadian between Montreal/Toronto and Calgary in the VIA era. VIA's E-8's, without dynamic brakes, were kept east of Calgary by CP. CP's (and VIA's) RS-10's  also tended to stay east of Calgary (east of Winnipeg in the CP era), but were known to run-through to Vancouver in the VIA era, as by then CP was getting low on steam generator-equipped units. What may have been 8558's only documented trip to Vancouver was its arrival on November 13, 1979 between cab units 1409 and 1404. Other RS-10's like CP 8572 in 1980, and 8576 and 8579 in 1981, also made rare appearances on the West Coast.

Riding VIA No 2 east from Vancouver in 1979, my brother train had 8558 second in the locomotive consist! Dave shared the photo shot on a curve (below) and based on the schedule in his post, it appears he snapped our unique unit east of Calgary:
VIA 8558 made at least one trip east on the Atlantic Limited, seen here at Westmount with CP's Glen Yard switcher on October 3, 1979 (Bruce Chapman photo):   
And who says it couldn't lead? Along with two other RS-10's, this going-away photo from the Bruce Chapman collection shows its yellow nose heading No 1 at Carleton Place, undated:
VIA 8558 suffered a crankshaft failure near Kenora, ON on May 31, 1981 and was scrapped on August 24, 1981.


I've come across several photos of VIA 8558 in service. It is rare to see a photo featuring its short hood, as most photographers preferred to feature the big, bright yellow nose. It's interesting to note that the short hood end was painted black, just as the 'B' end of cab units were also painted. Eagle-eyed diesel posters can notice the different end number-board numerals on the yellow end over time. Also, it was virtually impossible to find it photographed while leading.

Photos below from online auction site unless otherwise noted. Other photos taken by Fred Clark, Bruce Chapman and Bill Grandin used with permission.

North of Toronto, 1979 1432-8558:
Ottawa, August 23/79 1409-8558-CP 8467 (Bruce Chapman photo):
Winnipeg, Aug 16/79 (Bill Grandin photo via James Parker):
Calgary, July 21/79 black-end, sharing ready tracks with VIA 1402:
Portage la Prairie eastbound, July 28/79 1406-8558-1423:
Portage la Prairie heading back westbound the next day, July 28/79:
St Luc Montreal, 1979
John Street Toronto, February 10/79 (Bill Grandin photo):
Undated Bill Grandin photo showing CP-painted 1406-8558-1899 likely interchanging from CN to CP at  Manson, MB on a cloudy day:
Deadheading on a CP Rail freight at Oshawa, undated:
Sudbury, 1980:
Alyth Calgary, 1981:

Lots o' links, mostly photos I don't have permission to post, plus a video:
This is Feb24 OOF (One-Off February) Post OO3. Each post during the month will centre on an event or a piece of equipment that was unique, happened only once, or was a one-off. And who knows what I'll come up with for Leap Day, February 29th!? You'll also note something unique and unusual that every blog post title in this OOF has in common. I still smell a contest!

Running extra...

National Model Railroad Association British Region 'Roundhouse' publisher Peter Bowen kindly send me a complimentary copy of the January-February issue including this article on my Kingston's Hanley Spur HO scale home layout. Peter patiently waited eight months while I worked on three Zoom presenations on the Hanley Spur, before I finally sent the article 'overseas' in June. I'm proud to share the issue with Tom Klimoski and his very cool Georgia Northeastern HO scale home layout, very similar in its dimensions and focus on prototypical operation.
Another reading opportunity: The Walrus article (illustration above) about a trip on the Canadian, written by a comped travelling author. (At first I read comped like biped. At least that's how it was typed. Did I really read what I thought I read? But I was misled, not like tiled.) Anyway (!) I'm not sure there was ever much romance there to diminish, but the article plainly lays out the Three-Class Canadian as it is.

Thursday, February 8, 2024

CN 2338 - CN's last Century of the Last Century

Century M-636 2338 was the second-last member of CN's class MF-36b, built in 1971 by Montreal Locomotive Works.  Spending much of their careers between Toronto and Halifax, once CN closed its Moncton diesel shop, 2338's next maintenance base moved to Toronto. 

It was a Grand Trunk Western blue unit that caught my eye near Mi 179 Kingston Sub on March 9, 1997 -  eastbound elephant-style 9471-2338-GTW 5916-2115. At this point, M-636 2338 has been un-re-retired and is still earning its keep (top photo). CN was power-short throughout the latter half of the 1990's, leasing lots of locomotives. CN was awaiting the arrival of the 5600's - I observed 5600-5603 on September 1, 1995, with many more in early-1996.  

At the end of their careers, the Centuries were relegated to trailing status only, with all Centuries except 2338 off CN's roster by the end of 1997. Some of my latter Century sightings:

  • Nov 12/91 2043-2310-2325 last observed Century leader westbound (WB) through Kingston
  • Jun 18/94 5350-2338 EB
  • Nov 4/94 9508-2031 WB
  • Dec 13/94 3502-2038 WB
  • Mar 14/95 5100-2314 EB
  • May 11/95 9592-2028 EB and 3517-2338-3553 WB
  • Jun 4/95 5359-2028-3528-2437 WB
  • Mar 9/97 9471-2338-GTW 5916-2115 (top photo)
  • Jul 5/97 9426-2338-7301 on CN No 307 (departed Moncton Gordon Yard with 3533-2338-9426-9307-7301)

Now, follow along if you can through the venerable 2338's end-is-near career years: 

  • retired June 4, 1996
  • un-retired June 20, 1996
  • stored serviceable July 3, 1996
  • retired August 19, 1996 for the second time
  • un-re-retired September 20, 1996 and then...
  • retired January 23, 1998 for the third time!  

In 1997, at least through August 22, 2338 operated as far west as Saskatoon and as far east as Halifax - the last true MLW still operating on either CN or CP! 

It was then stored for possible preservation at CN's Pointe St-Charles shops during 1998-1999. In September, 1999 CN 2338 was moved from Montreal to Toronto, and in November of 1999 it was prepared and outfitted as an emergency Y2K power source for Macmillan Yard Diesel Shop, Toronto. It was wired up and its prime mover idling on the night of December 31, 1999 but its output was never required.  

After 2000 the unit sat at MacMillan Yard till roughly 2010, stored serviceable though retired. In 2007, it was sitting with CN 7316. Stripped of some parts, possibly including traction motors donated to a GE unit - apparently CN's C40-8M's used similar Dofasco trucks. Sold to the Western New York & Pennsylvania RR (WNYP), the CN logos on both hood ends replaced with spray-painted RRPX letters, also spray-painted on the cab sides beneath the road number. 

On November 9, 2010 CN moved 2338 on train No A421, in tow as the fourth unit and billed to the WNYP.

LR Myers posted this foreboding foto of foment moment to Minnesota Commercial Railway's social media on December 27, 2023 in  Olean, NY. Spotted between two doors-open units, 2338 has perhaps reached its final resting place.

Lots o' links (well, just one link this time but it's really cool):

  • CN 2338, spray-painted with RRPX reporting marks with the NEW ES44DC 2338 (photo taken by Paul Giannico)
This is Feb24 OOF (One-Off February) Post OO2. Each post during the month will centre on an event or a piece of equipment that was unique, happened only once or was a one-off. And who knows what I'll come up with for Leap Day, February 29th!? You'll also note something unique and unusual that every blog post title in this OOF has in common. I smell a contest!

Running extra...

Essayist Maria Popova wrote, “Literature is the original Internet – every footnote, every citation, every allusion is essentially a hyperlink to another text, to another mind.” 

I got word this week that in The Globe and Mail's John Ibbitson's recent book "The Duel: Diefenbaker, Pearson and the Making of Modern Canada" that the second footnote in the whole book links to this blog. Due to sleuthing out the story of Dief (The Chief)'s 1979 funeral train, I have had a few inquiries, including one from Saskatoon's Diefenbaker Canada Centre. This one was a surprise. Thanks to faithful Trackside Treasure reader Ian Smith for the heads-up! Can you spot the tiny [2]?
Travis Kelce and Taylor Swift are sure to provide at least one historical (hopefully not offensive) footnote during this Sunday's Super Bowl. Well, maybe they'll just usher in a conspiracy theory or two. I personally sense a connection with the Lehigh Valley RR, with the Anthracite Road's initials worked into the game's numeric moniker. I...I...I'll be watching it from ma home, at least Half of the Time. Go Chiefs! (Hey, if the Chiefs are in the Super Bowl, does that make them the Super Chiefs?) 

Thursday, February 1, 2024

Waiting for CNR 6060 at Collins Bay, 1976

On May 14, 1977 CNR 6060 was heading a fantrip from Montreal to Toronto. We went out to Collins Bay, four miles west of Kingston's VIA station and two miles east of our home in Amherstview, plunking ourselves between the [future] grocery store [now flea market] and the postal station to await its passage. My brother, my Dad and I were there from 0930 to 1315, catching the six trains shown in this post (L.C. Gagnon photos). The venerable Mountain Type was likely on its way to Toronto prior to the summer excursion season that was to begin June 25. At 1034, CN 3114-4509 led a westbound freight with caboose 79594 (top photo). I often didn't bother to record Turbo times and numbers, but the CN logo was firmly in place on the nose of this [likely eastbound]:
At 1212, VIA 6763V (V=VIA paint and still a novelty) also bore the red CN nose logo it received with its first VIA paint (60-degree yellow nose slant) on December 10, 1976 trailed by 6865V (below). This location would give us a long view of the fantrip approaching from the east along Bath Road toward Collins Bay, but it put us on the shadow-side.
Following 13 minutes behind the passenger train, CN 5051-3129 hustled an eastbound freight with ballast cars on the head-end:
Another 18 minutes later at 1253, a westbound VIA train behind 6531-6617V-6520 crossed Hillview Road crossing, still double-whistling for the Collins Bay Road crossing. The proximity of both crossings to each other, the limited sight-lines and pending construction of Bayridge Drive overpass led to the former's closure in December 1995. Your humble blogger stands at left, preserving data for this post, perhaps not knowing it wouldn't be published in print form until 34 years hence or in this post for another 46 years!
At 1314, 6540V-6871 lead this eastbound VIA past the back of Beckers in the Collins Bay plaza:
Shortly thereafter, the speedster star of the show appeared, smoking sufficiently. There were problems on this trip that not only delayed it at Belleville but also leading to a detour making it six hours late into Toronto.
Our '76 topaz VW Beetle also waited patiently with us (above).

This is Feb24 OOF (One-Off February) Post OO1. Each post during the month will centre on an event or a piece of equipment that was unique, happened only once or was a one-off. And who knows what I'll come up with for Leap Day, February 29th!?

Running extra...

Folks, I spend so many, many hours each week tippy-tippy typing up my plethora of prolific posts on railway subjects of today and yesteryear into a snow-topped evergreen Eldorado, a tree-lined treasure trove of trivia, an overstuffed bespoke comfy couch of Canadiana, some would say a fact-jammed cilantro special sauce slathered over my beefy baconator everything-burger of bedazzlement with all the fixin's, carefully crafting each one into a meringue-topped, comme-ci comme-ca cornucopia collage, a chef's kiss of a pastry pastiche panoply (sprinkled with photos to sweeten and enrich your day) with a curated, finely-crafted je-ne-sais-quoi quanlity of ooey-gooey goodness that Trackside Treasure has become known for...

...but sometimes, sometimes, I let my stray thoughts devolve down, down to this spiralling bottom section of clap-trap conundrums, mashed-up morsels of meaningless media scrapings, papier-mâché pieces of non-sequitur subjects, scandal-laced stories from the worlds of infotainment and prominent politicos, where washed-up what's-its of wonderment wallow among the dangerously sharp shards of stories I sweep into a rusty dustpan with an old Oral-B toothbrush with frayed bristles seemingly chewed by a squirrel, before I grind them up with a mortar and pestle found in a decommissioned, police-taped meth lab, filtering them through a sweat-stained Adidas sports sock, before smearing them with my now-bleeding, bandaged hands across a cinder-block wall of meaningless mediocrity then spray-painting them chartreuse with an sputtering aerosol can of unintelligibility that is my segment known as...Running Extra.

[My ISP has just notified me that due to the rambling nature of my Colbert-esque intro, I've run out of bandwidth and the real information I was going to present here will have to follow in the next post.]