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 Not popular with CN due its outdated wiring, outmoded equipment and general obsolescence, CN asked that the 1956-built 8558 be kept on CP lines.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from the CNR to the president of VIA saying that, "8558 must be confined to CP Rail, as it is an obsolete unit, outdated wiring and mechanics; that style we retired years ago by us." Or as I put it in my second book on VIA Rail, not popular with CN due its outdated wiring, outmoded equipment and general obsolescence, so CN asked that 8558 be kept on CP lines.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.


Michael said...

8558 was certainly not going to win any beauty competitions, that's for sure. I like the shot near Carleton Place. It's interesting to think the Canadian once made its way through this town, which now has no tracks at all. One thing I find odd. I'd like to know who made the decision as to why the short hood on 8558 wouldn't be painted yellow, as it was closer to the cab. I'd be interested to know why the decision was made to paint the back part of the long hood with the yellow.

Eric May said...

Thanks for including the photos of the short hood end in black. While the long hood end is the front on RS-10's, I've always thought that a narrow band of yellow on each end would have looked better.

Eric said...

Thanks, Michael and Eric for your thoughtful comments.

The yellow nose matches long-hood-forward operation based on the 'F' on VIA 8558's under frame. The black short hood end matches the F-unit VIA scheme. The early experiments with yellow pilots showed how much crud was kicked up and coated the low fronts of F-units, and while 8558's anticlimber might have deflected some, I think the Rear end would not have tolerated yellow paint well.

Either way, very unique unit as was my one and only trip IIRC through Carleton Place, as I usually returned east from Manitoba through Toronto, was an overcast early morning OS 0650 September 6, 1981!


Chris said...

Note also that the photo North of Toronto with the CN SGU, also includes a 2200 coach in Via service. Also the photo at Calgary posed beside 1402, that's a CP F7B behind 1402. One should almost never utter the words "a railway never did"!

Eric said...

You're absolutely right, Chris. VIA's early years - the Rainbow Era as I call it - are my favourite era with much more VIAriety than today. And those 2200-series coaches were a big part of that!

Thanks for your comment,