Friday, 29 June 2018


SW1200RS’s Nos. 1213 (GMD 1956) and 1326 (GMD 1958) are shown basking in the sun just outside of the lower city Bayfront located diesel shop. Once part of a 192 member fleet, No. 1213 would be retired in 6/1994, No. 1326 1/1996. Note the 8100 series MLW S-4 switcher indoors.
Lightweight GP9 No. 4385 (GMD 10/1957) was built as No. 4133. Renumbered in 1984, the unit would be transformed by PSC into GP9RM No. 7072 in 1992 and off the roster in 2007. Shown coupled to No. 4385 is GP40-2L(W) No. 9416 (GMD 4/1974); still in service.

Thursday, 17 May 2018

CN at Rymal Pt. 7: Motive Power Part 3

CN GP9 No. 4118 was delivered by GMD London to the railway in September of 1957. To clear the number series for the ongoing GP9RM program the unit was renumbered to 4384 in 1984. In 1993 the veteran locomotive would be remanufactured into GPRM No. 7273 by AMF Technotransport (by this time CN had sold off the Pointe St. Charles (PSC) facility), among the last units to be modified. Incredibly, at age sixty-one, No. 7273 is still active! In a very respectable 1973 'Zebra' scheme, No. 4118 is shown switching Shaw Pipe Protection on May 25th 1984. Note the longitudinal, centrally positioned low volume fuel tank.

By the early 1980’s the era of the GMD SW1200RS trundling along the former H&NW right of way in pairs or triplets was all but over. Motive power deployment along the line became a fairly predictable pattern of veteran GP9’s in various states of dress and detail. Most were decorated in the 1973 ‘Zebra’ scheme, albeit in contrasting condition; from recently repainted to desperately needing to be repainted. CN’s lack of interest in the appearance of their GP9 fleet at the time was understandable given the concurrent remanufacturing plan. Launched in 1981, CN’s massive Pointe St. Charles based GP9RM refurbishment program would ultimately recycle some four hundred ‘Geeps’ into a mixture of road switchers, yard switchers and slugs. Nevertheless, even with the inherent uniformity, there was the occasional motive power surprise. Despite their Montreal and points east operating base, the odd MLW product would show up. As well, locomotives being repositioned or ferried for maintenance work would on rare occurrence be included in the consist. Overall, it was a thoroughly fascinating but all too brief an epoch.
CN GP9 No. 4125 was built in late 1957 by GMD London. Similar to sister 4118, the unit was renumbered, becoming 4380 in 1984 and subsequently remanufactured in 1991 by PSC into GP9RM No. 7021. Unfortunately, No. 7021 would be involved in a collision at Coteau Du Lac on 9/5/1997, deemed unrepairable, and subsequently removed from the roster.
CN GP9 No. 4212 was manufactured by GMD London in June of 1957 as No. 4594. In 1993 AMF Technotransport would transform the unit into slug No. 272 adding some eighteen years of service. No. 4212 is shown switching Shaw Pipe Protection on May 6th 1984. Note the lightweight trucks and small volume longitudinal geometry fuel tank.
CN GP9 No. 4566 was delivered from GMD London in November of 1957. Similar to virtually all of the sisterhood, No. 4566 would succumb to the remanufacturing program in emerging as GP9RM No. 7049 in 1992. By this time the former Pointe St. Charles facility would be renamed ‘Atelier Montreal Facility’ or simply ‘AMF’. No. 4566 is shown switching Penn Lumber on April 26, 1984. Note the five year old Union Railroad of Oregon offset double door FMC boxcar.
CN GP9 No. 4569 was supplied to Canadian National by GMD London in November of 1957. Unlike most remanufactured GP9’s, No. 4569 would lose her prime mover during remanufacture. She emerge from PSC in 1990 as ‘booster unit’ (slug) No. 245 and is still active. No. 4569 is shown switching Shaw Pipe Protection on May 6, 1984. Note SW9 No. 7000 (GMD 1952) dead in tow. According to the Branchline CTG No. 7000 was removed from service in 1984 and is most likely shown either on the way to a dismantler or perhaps a  new owner.
CN RS18 No. 3702 was constructed by Montreal Locomotive Works (MLW) in June of 1958. Unlike colleagues resident on Canadian Pacific, there would be no large scale refurbishment program for the Alco sired flock. Six (3150 – 3155) were converted in 1968 for high speed Tempo service in Southwestern Ontario while a total of thirty-eight (1750 – 1787) were modified with A-1-A trucks and de-rated to 1,400 HP for light rail duties in the Maritimes. While deploying a classic 251 turbo lag plume, No. 3702 is shown switching Shaw Pipe Protection on May 30th 1984. Note the light weight style MLW trucks. Sadly, in just four years at age 30, No. 3702 would depart the roster in 1988.

Sunday, 18 March 2018

CN at Rymal Pt. 6: Motive Power Part 2

CN GP9 No. 4130 was constructed by GMD London in October of 1957. In order to clear the number sequence for the GP9RM program the unit would become No. 4383 in 1984, and subsequently be remanufactured into ‘booster unit’ (slug) No. 237 by CN Pte. St. Charles (PSC) in 1988. Following several years of faithful yard and transfer service, the tractive effort assister would be removed from the roster in 2005. No. 4130 is shown switching Shaw Pipe Protection (see CN at Rymal Pt. 4) on June 7th 1984. Set up to run long hood forward, No. 4130 has traveled as designed north from Caledonia to service the facility mid day. Shaw Pipe at the time was in the midst of a large scale production order. While inbound uncoated pipe was received from local suppliers by transport truck, most finished product was shipped out by flat car. With only one relatively short siding an extra move was required during this frenzied period in order to keep the operation fluid. Earlier in the morning the daily wayfreight dispatched from Stuart St. Yard in Hamilton would have also made a pit stop to switch out loads.

While the 1960’s and 1970’s were the preserve of CN’s ubiquitous SW1200RS, motive power along the former H&NW over the following years until abandonment primarily consisted of Dick Dilworth’s seemingly omnipresent GP9. The transition is entirely logical. Throughout the middle to late 1970’s CN took delivery of several hundred GMD wide cab GP/SD40-2’s, displacing older/lower HP locomotives from mainline and higher priority manifest service. Despite relatively low traffic volume along the H&NW, the right of way and track structure were well maintained and could easily handle the nominally larger road units. Thus, tonnage that on occasion required three end cabs could easily be conveyed by a pair of ‘Geeps’. Often, as shown, a single GP9 was sufficient.
While interchange traffic continued to diminish, there were a couple of ‘Last Hurrah’s’ for the line. As noted above, the local pipe coating enterprise landed a sizeable contract related to a major Western Canada pipeline project. Probably much better known was the movement of cast steel slabs from Stelco’s newly commissioned Lake Erie Works to their Hilton Works based rolling mills in lower Hamilton. Unfortunately, due to the Stone Church bridge transport truck incident in 1987, the Rymal segment of this trip was rather short lived – see CN Rymal Pt. 2.

No. 4521 was built 12/1956 by GMD London. In 1985 the veteran unit would enter the Pte. St. Charles remanufacturing facility and subsequently emerge as GPRM No. 7007. In 2011 the unit would be sold to Motive Power Resources ( becoming MVPX 7007. CN 4521 is shown switching the CO-OP siding in June of 1979.

CN 4521 together with sister 4560 is shown on a caboose hop southbound just about to duck under the White Church Road overpass (just east of the hamlet of Mt. Hope). Unfortunately I did not date my early material; best guess is spring of 1980 or 1981.
CN GP9 No. 4523 was delivered from GMD London in December of 1956. Note the lack of dynamic brakes, a consequence of wreck repair employing a replacement GP7 long hood assembly. In 1990 No. 4523 would be remanufactured into booster unit No. 263 and is still on the roster. Nos. 4523/4521 are shown crossing Limeridge Road E on Hamilton Mountain in an undated photo; guessing spring of 1981.
Similar to No. 4523 above, No. 4524 (GMD London 12/1956) has been subject to GP7 long hood replacement, most likely also due to wreck repair. CN had long ago disabled the dynamic brakes in their GP9 fleet and in most cases the hardware remained in place. Similar to the sisterhood, No. 4524 would be included in the PSC GP9RM program and renumbered to 7028. While still on the roster, No. 7028 has been out of service for a couple of years. Coupled to No. 4125, No. 4524 is shown north of Highway 53 (Rymal Road), switching Shaw Pipe Protection on May 30th 1984.
CN GP9 Nos. 4528 and 4519 were delivered by GMD London in December of 1956. While both would be transformed by PSC into GPRM’s, only No. 4135 (1991 phoenix of 4528) is still on the roster. In 1985 No. 4519 would emerge as GP9RM No. 7006 and stay on the roster until 2000. In the photo above the duo is shown southbound diagonally crossing Nebo Road. Love that Firebird rag top! Again, more of my early undated material; most likely taken in the spring of 1981.
In 1991 No. 4560 (GMD London 11/1957) would become GP9RM No. 7055. Still toiling away for Canadian National, the venerable unit is shown some four decades earlier on the caboose hop previously shown from above. In this view Nos. 4560 and 4521 are heading south out of Hamilton about to cross Twenty Side Road. Aside from the engineer’s all weather window the GP9 is virtually as delivered. The building in the background on the left is the former Hannon public school, now the home of the IBEW Local 105 Training Center.

Monday, 5 March 2018

Copetown Show 2018

This past weekend, my dad, brother, and I attended the annual train show at Copetown, ON, known for being more of a showcase of modeling talent than of the more common flea-market type. This year was no different, with many models displayed by local modelers, an operating S-scale layout, and several photo and model scenery vendors. The weather was perfect with clear blue skies, so we turned up early in order to take in some railfanning before the show, though CN was a bit less cooperative than desired with only CN 385 making an appearance (photo angles a bit less than desirable). Still, it was a great chance to talk with old friends and make some new ones. I'll let the photos do the talking...


The operating S-scale layout took me back to the days of bringing a step-stool in order to be able to see the action!

Stephen Nichol displayed some very nice weathered CN locos, though my favourite is easily the OSR RS-18u.

Roger Chrysler displayed some of his outstanding Grand River Railway/Lake Erie & Northern models.
To me the Rapido table was the highlight of the show, with plenty of eye candy on display. The second group of 3800 CF hoppers have recently arrived at the Rapido headquarters, with the SW1200RS's about 3-4 weeks away.

Both my dad and I are eagerly waiting the arrival of the SW1200RS's.

CN 385 grinds up the last mile of the hill to Copetown with 12,000' of train and four screaming engines on the head end.

Friday, 19 January 2018

CN at Rymal Part 5 - 1970's Motive Power

Above: CN SW1200RS No. 1265 was delivered to the railway by GMD London in 1957. Nos. 1265 and 1213 have paused their early evening northward journey to switch either Shaw Pipe Protection or Penn Lumber. Unfortunately, in my early railfanning days I did not take notes or consistently record the date. Best guess is that this shot was taken in the spring of 1977 or 1978 using my trusty Russian made Zenit E fully manual SLR (external light meter) camera. As shown, pretty good optics from the Helios 58 mm lens on the bargain basement priced camera (scanned image from colour print film). See CN LINES SIG (CNRHA) Vol. 1 No. 1 for detailed information on CN’s SW1200RS’s.
This time we’ll take a look at the type of diesel power deployed by Canadian National to the south out of Hamilton. By the mid 1970’s motive power assignment along the former H & NW right of way was typical of most Canadian National branch line operations of the day; the ubiquitous SW1200RS. Most likely the pattern would have been the same in the 1960’s early post steam era. Unfortunately, I have yet to come across any photos of this period to confirm that this was in fact the case. As previously mentioned, the late steam era was wonderfully documented in Ian Wilson’s fabulous chronicle ‘Steam Echoes of Hamilton’.
Scheduled operation throughout the 1970’s was daily except Saturday. On rare occasion an extra would be sent out on the weekend, guessing due to traffic demand or other unusual circumstance. After reporting for duty at CN’s Stuart Street Yard in the early morning the crew would assemble their train, depart eastward, and swing off the Hamilton-Niagara mainline to do some street running in the lower city along Ferguson Avenue. After clattering across the T, H & B line at its base the train would conquer the Niagara Escarpment, zip through Rymal, and run south west to near the shore of Lake Erie. Depending upon the amount of switching/interchange activity at the south end terminus, the crew would normally transit back through Rymal in the opposite direction in the early evening. Remarkably, up until the delivery of PSC vans (caboose) and their immediate deployment to mainline traffic, all trains were trailed by CN’s well maintained wooden vans. Power wise, the normal compliment was two units, back to back as shown, so as to not have to worry about reversing the consist to return home. However, it was not uncommon for the amount of tonnage to require a third unit, still arranged so that there was always a long hood at each end. Traffic was always much heavier southbound and on occasion, the northward move would be light power. Apparently when the lack of tonnage permitted, crews of MU’d SW1200RS’s would idle the lead unit (or all but one trailing unit) so as to provide a quieter ride. Not sure if it was the practice on this line?
Above: No. 1204 was delivered to the railway by GMD in March of 1956. Despite being the lowest numbered SW1200RS, No. 1204 was not the class unit. No. 1222, built as No. 1593 seven months prior to No. 1204 (built as No. 1575) was the first pint-sized road switcher produced by GMD London. See production totals below. Aside from a couple of low volume home road remanufacturing programs, the SW1200RS’s were not subject to much in the way of extended service life. Unfortunately, they did not prove to be overly popular on the second hand locomotive market either. No. 1204 would leave the roster in 1990.
Above: CN SW1200RS No. 1208 was completed by GMD in February of 1956. Note the white extra flags above the front end number boards and ACI label on the frame just ahead of the cab. Following twenty-eight years of service No. 1208 would leave the roster in 1984.
Above: No. 1213 was also delivered by GMD in 1956. The unit is shown decorated in the third (of four) SW1200RS paint schemes (1973) while No. 1265 is sporting the second (1961). With production concluding in 1960, all SW1200RS’s would have initially been delivered in the classic olive green and gold dress. Note that the engineer has been treated to an all-weather window. Aside from the addition of full length handrails and top mounted radiator covers, the units were virtually unaltered throughout their lengthy careers. Disposition wise, No. 1213 would be retired at age thirty-eight in 1994 while No. 1265 would be removed from service in 1991; age thirty-four.
Above: Incredibly, the above pan shot was taken by my sister using a Kodak Brownie Hawkeye camera! Guessing the date to be 1975 or 1976, No. 1233 is shown delivering the CP bulkhead flat car to Penn Lumber. Also constructed in 1956, No. 1233 would be stricken from the roster in 1990.
Above: Nos. 1265 and 1213 have crossed Hwy 53 (now known as Garner Road) to perform their switching duties. Note the style of end platform steps employed by GMD. Compared to their EMD counterpart, the London factory favoured vertical geometry vs. stepped.
CNR SW1200RS production by General Motors Diesel Division in London Ontario
Former Nos.
1204 - 1221
1575 - 1592
1220/1221 renumbered to 425/426 in 1979
1222 - 1226
1593 - 1597
Renumbered to 1504 - 1508 in 1957
1227 - 1247


1248 - 1268


1271 - 1288


1289 - 1304

1295 trnsf to AMF in 1994. Renum AMF 01
1305 - 1337


1338 - 1357


1358- 1397



Thursday, 28 December 2017

Throwback Thursday - 23 Year's Difference at Paris, ON

CN GP40 #9306 leads train #411 westbound through Paris, Ontario, on May 19, 1994, with C630M #2038 and M636 #2322 assisting. Reg Button photo, author's collection.
Tonight's Throwback Thursday goes back to May 1994, where we find CN GP40 #9306 leading Toronto-Sarnia freight #411 through scenic Paris, Ontario. The train is westbound in the late afternoon, having just crossed the large bridge over the scenic Grand river (out of sight, in the middle of the S-curve through which the train is visible), passing the location of the long-demolished Paris train station. Assisting are C630M #2038 and M636 #2322, all three engines in a somewhat run-down rendition of CN's 'zebra stripe' paint scheme. Privatization of the crown corporation is a little over a year away, and the big MLW's wouldn't last much longer either. The lead unit survives today, however, unlike many of the other 15 CN GP40's (CN 9302-9317); once common in southern Ontario (sometimes referred to as "tunnel pullers", a remnant of their assignment to Sarnia-Port Huron tunnel duty), the lead unit would end up spending more time in southern Ontario than most other CN GP40's. After sale to RailAmerica, the engine became RLK 4096, and would be assigned to the Goderich-Exeter Railway for a number of years. Currently, the unit is still in Ontario, now serving on sister-road Ottawa Valley Railink. 

Fast-forward 23.5 years and we find CN SD70M-2 #8953 at the same location with train #397. The view is largely the same, though a bit more closed-in and obstructed by the growth of the trees. An old CN trailer is an interesting addition to the scene, perhaps forgotten by whatever company department left it there (I doubt the accountants will even notice if it is still on the company balance sheet). The former location of the Paris railway station is now a stores area for company MOW material, and seems to be fostering the growth of some annoying foliage (at least from the photographer's perspective!). Photo taken on 12/17/2017.

Fast-forward 23 and a half years, and we again find a westbound passing the John Street overpass with an EMD in the lead. This time the train is #397 and SD70M-2 #8953 is assisted by ES44DC #2300 and IC SD70 #1029. The intervening years have brought a merger with Illinois Central, privatization, droves of (in my opinion, rather bland) GE's, but Paris is still a great location to watch trains, be it from the John Street overpass, the bridge over the Grand River, or Paris Junction, just west of this location. To paraphrase the Dos Equis spokesman, "stay trackside, my friends!" 


Sunday, 24 December 2017

ALL IN A DAY’S WORK (On the Railway)

Despite their homogenous appearance, none of the above units were originally built for CN. Heritage as follows; CN 2185 (GE Dash 8-40CW, ex BNSF 847, nee ATSF 847, built 10/29), CN 2100 (GE Dash 8-40C, ex UP 9065, nee CNW 8553, built 8/91), CN 5423 (EMD SD60 ex GMTX 9060/EMDX 9060, nee OWY 9060, built 11/86). Note the fresher paint on No. 5423.
Canadian National long haul train M38531 (M385) is a daily mixed freight from Toronto MacMillan (Mac) Yard to Flat Rock, Michigan. Departure is early morning and the train often works yards along the route, depending upon demand and on line traffic congestion. Recently the normal workaday routine of M385 was interrupted; story line as follows.

Motive power assigned this day were six axle units CN 2195/2100/5423. Arriving at Aldershot Yard in Burlington the crew brought the train to a stop to assess over heating issues on trailing SD60 No. 5423. All modern units have on board diagnostic capabilities and built in safeguards were preventing the unit from loading (pulling). Electing not to swap out the faltering EMD and further to some ad hoc ‘McGyvering’, the crew managed to get the unit to load and set off to do battle with the nine mile climb that marks the beginning of CN’s Dundas subdivision. At 173 cars, some 11,553 feet of train, the struggle would be mighty; ten MPH overall would be a monumental achievement. This in fact would represent almost an hour of very hard pulling. Regrettably, No. 5423’s overheating gremblins returned, neutering the unit, making the SD60 unable to contribute to the task at hand. Just prior to reaching the half way point at mile four, No. 5423 shut down, bringing forward progress of the more than two mile long consist to a halt. Fortunately, Aldershot local train L55131 (L551) had not departed the yard, making available the assigned motive power; GP9RM’s, Nos. 4125 & 7068. The veteran duo would save the day, pushing M385 past the crest of the Niagara Escarpment (near Copetown), all the way to Brantford. What about L551’s assignment for the day? Delayed, and most likely performed by a different crew. The rescue crew would probably be short of hours to needed to carry out the local switching assignment. Same story for M385; depending upon their start time at Mac Yard, the crew may have run out of hours prior to crossing the border into the US at Sarnia. What about CN 5423? Most likely set out in Sarnia, the unit returned to Mac Yard for proper attention. By the end of the week the repaired unit had ventured as far afield as Moncton, New Brunswick.
At 3,800 HP the SD60 packs more than double the horsepower of the units sent to rescue M385; the two GP9RM’s combined total 3,600 HP. Of note, No. 4125 (age 62) is twice the age of No. 5423 (age 31). Doubtful that No. 5423 will be around 31 years from now!
Heritage of the GP9RM’s as follows; CN 4125 (GMD GP9, ex No. 4406, nee No. 1730, built 2/55), CN 7068 (GMD GP9, ex No. 4323, built 5/59).