Sunday, 19 July 2020

CN Stuart Street Yard - GMD SW1200RS Road Switchers

The story of CN’s gnarly looking 1200/1300 series SW1200RS locomotive is well known. Between 1955 and 1960 GMD London would deliver some one hundred and ninety-two of the diminutive road switchers which were deployed system wide. They could be found in all manner of service from singular industrial switching to MU’d mainline manifest freights. The Hamilton based gaggle would initially serve in their intended over the road role; mainline transfers, out of yard deliveries and the well-known daily way freight along the former H&NW line south to Port Dover. For decades the compliment of purpose built MLW S-4’s performed most of the switching duties associated with the steel city’s vast lake front industrial base. In time, as the MLW’s were retired, the SW1200RS’s would increasingly assume the switching activities in and around the Stuart Street yard. Unlike their similarly shaped MLW S-4 counterparts who were not as fortunate, the 1200/1300’s were subject to life extending rebuilds and upgrades, making them commonplace for some forty plus years. While their existence on Canadian National has all but evaporated, a couple soldier on. Incredibly, No. 7304 (built in August of 1960 as No. 1390) continues to toil away at the nearby Parkdale steel distribution center. While not as popular on the aftermarket scene as their larger cousin GP9RM’s, there are numerous SW1200RS’s in the employ of short lines, industrial operations and contract leasing and contract switching companies. Considerable time will pass before they become nothing but museum pieces. 
No. 1208 was constructed by GMD as No. 1579 early in 1956. Renumbered in mid 1956 the unit is shown in the Allan Fleming ‘wet noodle’ origin 1961 scheme. Aside from paint, changes since delivery include the application of robust spark arresters, full length walkway platform handrails and ACI labels. No. 1208 would depart the roster in 1984. 
No. 1364 was delivered from GMD in April of 1960. Counting from the original olive green/yellow delivery dress, No. 1364 is dressed in the fourth version scheme whereas  Note the shorter height of the smoke arrester stacks.
While GMD became famous for their production volume of the SW1200RS north of the border, it was actually parent EMD that pioneered the model. According to the authoritative chronicle ‘Canadian National Railways Diesel Locomotives Volume Two’ Grand Trunk Western took delivery of four units (Nos. 1505 – 1508) a few months prior to parent Canadian National. GMD would enhance the design somewhat by increasing the fuel capacity and adding large, easy to see number boards on both ends. No. 1366 was delivered from GMD in April of 1960 and is shown wearing the final paint scheme applied to the pint sized road units.

No. 1387 was delivered by GMD to CN in July of 1960. In 1999 the veteran unit was reassigned as a shop switcher and renumbered CS03. Declared surplus two years later the London graduate was sold to Larry’s Truck and Electric (LTE) and renumbered 1213.

No. 7309 was originally constructed in June of 1960 as CN 1378. In 1987 CN’s Pointe St. Charles facility embarked upon a life extension rebuild program of the SW1200’s. Basically in kind, the rebuild included 645 power assemblies, improved cab amenities and relocation of the horn cluster from the cab front to a position adjacent to the bell. Note that the exhaust stacks were returned to as delivered geometry. Acknowledging that they remained of relatively low HP, CN capped the rebuild program at eighteen units; Nos. 7300 – 7317. Following her employment with CN No. 7309 was sold to LTE in 2009 becoming LTEX 1212 and subsequently LTEX 1231.

Sunday, 10 May 2020

CN Rymal Pt. 14 Line Side Structures

With week day way freight service and as required Saturday extras, the former H&NW (CN Hagersville Subdivision) branchline was maintained to Class 2 standards; Maximum 25 MPH (freight). Deferred maintenance and neglect would not be associated with the track work that remained active well into the late 1980’s. Like any right of way, all grade crossings needed some form of protection; a look at the Rymal Road (Highway No. 53) intersection as follows.
View is looking northeast from the points of the Shaw Pipe Protection siding lead. In the distance, crossing protection devices from left to right; cross arms with flashing lights, instrument cabinet (on ground), and nearer instrument case (on cement pole). Nearer shown also; switch stand and 25 MPH speed limit sign. Also in the distance ‘DO NOT TRESPASS’ sign; adjacent to instrument cabinet. Notice the freshly augmented ballast. 

This modest little structure is an SS 5A instrument case. The small locked box on the side near the top is used for testing the crossing by the section men. Related to security, it required a different key compared to the main case
Like all CN lineside cabinets, it was painted standard silver.

Note the electrical connection to the hydro pole in the background.
This box mounted on a concrete post is an SS 19 instrument case. Items housed inside the enclosure included batteries, relays, and rectifiers; all used in conjunction with the approach for crossing protection. 
Batteries would serve in the event of a power failure or if there was no hydro line and no electrical service otherwise available. Without hydro service a primary battery would be used; usually lasting for up to one year depending on traffic volume. Likewise, the SS 19 was painted silver.
The 'DO NOT TRESPASS’ sign is severely weather beaten and would appear to offer rather limited authority.
The target (painted red) on the switch stand is marked ‘HA 20’; Hagersville Subdivision, Zone HA, Shaw Pipe (Hamilton Car Control).
Note the 7.12 printed on the lower back of the arm. This indicates 7.12 miles from the start of the Hagersville Subdivision off the Oakville Subdivision (located in lower Hamilton north of Barton Street near Ferguson Ave.).

Crossing protection flasher mast at Rymal Road (Hwy 53). The cross arms (cross bucks) have recently been changed from B&W ‘RAIL_WAY CROSSING’ to reflective red and white. 

Saturday, 25 January 2020

CN Stuart Street Yard – MLW S-4 Switchers

Associated with the vast adjoining industrial base, for many years CN’s Hamilton Ontario Stuart Street Yard complex was home to a sizeable switcher fleet, mostly comprised of locomotives constructed by Montreal Locomotive Works (MLW). Resident familiar unit into the mid 1980’s was the S-4. Among the more popular of switcher models to be produced by Alco/MLW, CN’s S-4’s were supplied from 1951 through to 1957. As is well known, MLW’s production mimicked that of parent Alco; for S-4’s this included a McIntosh and Seymour model 539 prime mover along with Canadian General Electric (CGE) traction motors and electrical gear. Initially, from 1949 until 1962, MLW contracted the manufacture of the 539 prime mover to Dominion Engineering Work (DEW) prior to bringing production in house. CGE hardware came from Peterborough Ontario. Unlike previous S-1 through S-3 switcher production, both Alco and MLW would modify the carbody, albeit not in the same fashion. Starting with the S-1, the low height switcher hood featured the Otto Kuhler design elements of soft bevels and generously curved edges. During S-4 production, most likely to improve fabrication, the carbody was modified to include tighter round corners along the length and overlapping ends (Alco)/feathered edge ends (MLW). MLW took the modification one step further by changing access door louvers to carbody filters. In total, almost 1,000 S-4’s would emerge from Schenectady and Montreal (second only to the S-2). See for additional information.
CN S-4 No. 8164 was delivered from MLW in August of 1956. Shown in the 1961 so called ‘Wet Noodle’ paint scheme the tidy end cab unit would have initially been painted switcher standard black/yellow trim and continue to serve her owner long enough to receive the 1973 orange cab/yellow frame stripe decoration. Note the ACI label beside the second stanchion.
No. 8165 was received by CN in August of 1956. As mentioned, MLW would alter the carbody construction over the lengthy production run replacing access door louvers with rectangular filters; note the parallel openings below the stack adjacent to the ‘C’. Welded construction would also be incorporated. Note also the tapered top box immediately ahead of the cab on the running board. The small enclosure housed modified piping associated with the braking system upgrade from 14 EL (as built) to 6 SL.
CN 8169 departed builder MLW in September of 1956. A scene depicting classic 1970’s railroading; single door 40 ft. boxcars along with a 52’ – 8” combination door boxcar. None of this equipment is still around; the nominal fifty-ton capacity forty footers would be all but gone by the mid 1980’s while the marginally longer cousin probably held on until the early 2000’s. Note the freshly ballasted track. Used at the time by GO Transit to access the CN James Street Station, in time GO would relocate to the CP/TH&B Hunter St. facility.
The fate of No. 8169? Online photos show the venerable unit stored out of service in 1986, still at Stuart Street.  Note the Dofasco containers at the intermodal facility in the background.

Sunday, 29 December 2019

CN Rymal Pt. 13: Freight Cars Part 3 - Boxcars

It’s fascinating to reflect upon how indispensable the commonplace boxcar once was. The rudimentary shoebox on wheels once carried a myriad of items that are now conveyed by dedicated purpose freight cars including automobiles (bi/tri-level autoracks), grain (covered hopper cars), and lumber (bulkhead/centerbeam flat cars). Historically, the only commodity not routinely shipped in a boxcar was liquids, although livestock like boxcars were once used to ship barrels of crude oil in 1860’s Pennsylvania.
The former H&NW line would of course witness the passage of a variety of boxcar types over the years, both for on line customers and as part of through/bridge traffic. The included selection of boxcar geometries, sorted by age, are all of so called ‘double-sheathed’ structure; inside post side construction/steel outer side sheets/wood interior lining in between the posts. A generational phenomenon, this was the conventional form of boxcar construction over the build period which stretches from the early 1940’s to the mid 1970’s. Like all freight cars, boxcars are subject to AAR Mechanical Designation. Boxcars are ‘X’ Type; the following types are depicted (from
XL: Loader Equipped Box Car. Similar in design to "XM", with steel perforated side walls or equipped with interior side rails for securement of certain types of lading and/or permanently attached movable bulkheads
XM: Boxcar. A house car for general service and especially for lading requiring protection from the weather and equipped with side or side and end doors
XP: Boxcar similar in design to "XM", but which is specially equipped for a specific commodity loading and not suitable for general commodity loading
CN 583793 (XM) was a forty-foot-long boxcar originally constructed by Canadian Car and Foundry (CCF) (lot 1498) as single door (6 ft.) CN 481023 in March of 1943. It was converted to the configuration shown in December of 1969. Note that both the roof walk-less boxcar and trailing flat car are still equipped with friction bearing trucks. Remarkably, friction bearing trucks were not prohibited from interchange until January 1, 1994. Most likely, both the double-door boxcar and empty flatcar were involved in the delivery of wood products to Penn Lumber (see CN Rymal Pt. 4).
CN 575203 (XM) was a forty-foot-long single door boxcar built by CCF (lot 1822) in October of 1948 as CN 528045. It was converted in 1967; 6 ft. door to 9 ft. door. The roof walk removal/shortened ladder modification most likely occurred at a later date. A 1966 rule change eliminated high mounted hand brakes and roof walks on new boxcars. Removal of roof walks and shortening of ladders on existing cars was phased in over time.
CNA 794312 (XL) was built by Pullman-Standard (lot 9470) in June of 1970 by Pullman-Standard at their Michigan City plant. Originally GTW 309000 - 309261 series, it was renumbered between 1974 and 1982. The ‘CNA’ reporting mark denotes US manufacture/international/US domestic service. Guessing that bridge traffic movement explains its inclusion in the consist.
CN 557420 (XP) was a 52’-8” long combination door boxcar constructed by National Steel Car (NSC) (lot P.6340) in January of 1973. By AAR Office Manual Rule 88, unless Rebuilt or qualified to EXS (EXtended Service) status, this car would have been removed from interchange prior to the end of 2013 (forty year rule). Freight cars manufactured after July 1st, 1974 are eligible to continue in service for fifty years. In conjunction with the EXPO 86 ‘World Exposition on Transportation and Communication’ held in Vancouver, BC, CN decorated several pieces of equipment.
See for additional information on the specially decorated boxcars.
CN 557498 (XP) was constructed by NSC (lot P.6720) in March of 1974.

Saturday, 30 November 2019

CN Stuart Street Diesel Shop – Sanding Operations

Tucked in behind the pint-sized diesel shop at the Stuart Street Yard was a structure common to most locomotive servicing facilities; a tall, somewhat spindly appearing sand tower.
Traction sand has been a component of railroading ever since the creation of the steel wheel on steel rail combination. Given the inherent low level of contact friction and minute contact area, augmentation of steel on steel traction is essential. Grip for initial movement, smooth acceleration and controlled braking are all dependent to some degree upon proper sanding. Sanding also helps to maintain traction and motion on greasy rail conditions caused by moisture, oil or fallen leaves. Traction sand must be fine, uniform grain, free from contaminants, and most importantly, dry. First generation F units and switchers were typically equipped with four sand fill/hoppers located more or less above each truck side frame. Dick Dilworth’s legendary ‘Geeps’ had a single sand fill located in the prow of each high nose, with internal piping down to each side. Most modern locomotives are similarly configured, although so called ‘safety cab’ locomotives have two fill hatches either side of their wide nose. Delivery of sand to the rail head is accomplished via flexible rubber hoses and nozzles secured to the ends of each truck side frame.
CN SW1200RM 7106 was originally constructed by GMD London as SW1200RS 1257 in January of 1957. Remanufactured in 1987 at Pointe St. Charles, No. 7106 would be included in the sale of all eight SW1200RM’s to Canac in February of 2000. The unorthodox looking unit would subsequently be acquired by Savage Rail Services as their SVGX 7106.
CN SW1200RS’s 1311 (GMD 1958) and 1338 (GMD 1959) along with an unidentified sister in the background gather around the shop.  No. 1311 would depart the roster in 1994 to Ohio Central while No. 1338 would hang on until 1998 prior to being sold to Canac. Note that the sand tower distribution booms span tracks on either side. Note also the flexible hoses that permit sanding on both sides of the locomotive – a necessity as most locomotives are equipped with sand hoppers positioned directly above the truck side frame on either side. Most sand towers are painted silver so as to reflect rather than attract heat which could lead to condensation within the hopper.
Details at the top of the hopper included piping and venting fittings along with a ladder and safety railings for maintenance. A flood light, out of sight on the opposite side, facilitated around the clock operations. Note the power line on the right hand side. Filling of the hopper is accomplished using the small diameter vertical pipe leading from a sealed storage bin to the top of the structure and compressed air. Topping up of locomotive sand boxes is simply a matter of gravity. Absence of internal moisture is vital to the entire sanding operation.
Blomberg Type ‘M’ rear truck on GP40-2L(W) No. 9468 (GMD 7/1974)

The compact two-stall diesel shop structure, constructed in February of 1964, remained relatively unchanged over the years. Updates included additional lighting positioned along the roof top at the rear, and, perhaps due to misadventure, new roll-up doors on more than one occasion. Note the lightning rod on the left hand roof top corner of the building; no doubt a requirement related to the fuel storage tanks at the front and side of the building and out of sight to the left hand side of the structure. Sadly, most of the noticeable change towards the end was due to lack of maintenance and neglect.
CN SW1200 7033 was constructed by GMD London in 1957. In 1985, in order to clear the number series, the entire remaining group of switchers (7020 – 7034) were renumbered to 7720 – 7734. All would be off the roster by 1990. Note the small, horizontal diesel fuel supply tank on the right. Tucked in behind No. 7033 is MLW S-4 No. 8166.

Saturday, 3 August 2019

CN Rymal Pt. 12: Caboose Variety Part 1

Like most secondary operations, the former H&NW line would be home to CN’s well maintained wooden caboose long after modern steel end of train cabins had been introduced. Time did eventually catch up with the legendary wooden vans (van; ‘Canadian’ for caboose) and starting in the mid 1970’s they began to be supplanted by steel bodied successors. While it’s possible that a Hawker Siddeley Transport (HST) built caboose did traverse the line, it was the well-known Pointe St. Charles (PSC) that singularly plied the line until the end of service in 1993.
Details of the PSC caboose are well-known; between 1970 and 1977 CN’s Montreal based repair/rebuild facility would transform some five hundred and forty eight 1937 built 472000 series forty-foot boxcars into very well appointed crew cabins (CN 79350 – 79897). Exterior features included;
·        Welded cupola with upward tilted end windows equipped with windshield wipers
·        Large carbody end picture windows equipped with windshield wipers
·        Large carbody side picture windows
·        Red/green marker lights on roof end
·        Clear end sill mounted backup lights
·       Axle driven generators and battery boxes
Above: CN 79444 was a member of the first group to be constructed in 1970. Note the horizontal ductwork running parallel to the roof placing the smoke stacks against the faces of the cupola. The concept was to provide the crew with unobstructed vision. Unfortunately, the offset geometry did not draft well and later construction placed the smoke stacks directly above the oil fire heaters. No. 79444 would be transformed into International Service caboose No. 78100 in 1982 and receive a yellow painted cupola. Still on CN’s equipment roster; today CN 78100 is most likely a ‘rider car’.
Above: CN 79796 was delivered from PSC in 1975. Propelled by GP9 Nos. 4521 and 4560, opposite to its intended deployment, the orange and black cabin is shown leading a caboose hop southward from Rymal in the early 1980’s. Despite having the opportunity to conduct a run around on the CO-OP siding, the crew has elected to save time and return to home base earlier in the evening. CN 79796 would remain on the roster until June of 1995.
Above: CN79825 would emerge from PSC in October of 1975 and remains active today. Given their origin, the PSC cabooses combined contrasting construction methodologies; riveted carbody sides from 1937 and all welded roof/cupola assemblies from the 1970’s. Note the reconfigured smoke jack assembly; a segment of rectangular ductwork positioned at a right angle places the smoke jack centrally on the roof. The opposite side smoke jack is positioned directly above the space heater. CN GP9RM No. 4107 (ex 4123; GMD 9/1957) will lead the consist south on this mid-summer evening.
Above: CN 79866 was constructed in 1977. Based on a guess of a spring 1978 photo date the shiny orange and black crew cabin is but a few months old. Note the positioning of the smoke jacks and the air vent directly below the ‘6’, not included in prior construction (see CN 79444 above). Sadly, CN 79866 was destroyed in a rear end collision on the Dundas subdivision on May 4th, 1984. CN GP9 No. 4513 was also destroyed ( Tragically, a crew member in CN 79866 suffered a severe leg injury.
Above: CN 79869 was also delivered from PSC in 1977. Application of the large carbody picture windows was noteworthy; their size was unprecedented, certainly in wooden caboose construction, and contrasted with US small window practice which acknowledged security and vandalism concerns. As with the cupola windows, the carbody end windows were tilted up slightly to reduce glare. CN 79869 was renumbered to CN 77018 in 1995 and would remain active as the Kamloops Auxiliary caboose and finally as the ‘Western Canada Engineering Work Car’ until 2006.

Saturday, 25 May 2019

CN Rymal Pt. 11: Freight Cars Part 2 - Shaw Pipe Protection

In addition to the double ended siding at Rymal, two other spur tracks served local area industries; Penn Lumber and Shaw Pipe Protection – see Rymal Part 4 ( While the Rymal Station stop trackwork dated from the 1870’s inauguration of passenger service, most likely the additional sidings were constructed in the late 1950’s as the diminutive local  industrial base expanded. This month’s installment will focus on railway operations related to Shaw Pipe Protection.
Hamilton was and is known as the ‘Steel Capitol of Canada’; both the Steel Company of Canada (Stelco) and Dominion Foundries and Steel (Dofasco) once operated major facilities on the lakefront. Today, only AcelorMittal, owner through acquisition of Dofasco, continues to produce steel. Operations at the recently renamed back to Stelco instalation are currently limited to finishing (galvanizing) and coking.
In its prime, Stelco had several affiliated area operations including Stelpipe located in nearby Welland. While the facility manufactured a variety of pipe geometries, their staple was oil & gas pipe intended for major pipeline construction projects. Underground pipe requires a protective coating, a process performed by Shaw Pipe Protection. Formed in 1958, Shaw Pipe Protection Limited would initially establish coating facilities in Hamilton and Toronto. Proximity to pipe supply together with rail access combined to make the local hamlet of Hannon an ideal location for the Shaw facility. A thriving enterprise for some thirty years, the level of activity would ebb, and flow as major pipeline construction projects were launched and completed. In 1984 Shaw secured a major supply contract related to a large-scale pipeline construction project in western Canada. Due to limited siding capacity it became necessary to switch the Shaw siding twice a day; in the morning by the daily way freight, in the afternoon by an ‘Extra’ job dispatched from the south. ‘Extra’ weekend switching was also required. Following the lifting of rails in 1993 activity at the Shaw plant began to decline significantly. A further blow was dealt in 2005 when Stelpipe was sold off as part of Stelco’s insolvency. Lack of rail access together with potentially unstable pipe supply resulted in Shaw having virtually no opportunity to participate in major pipeline construction contracts. As a result the facility was essentially doomed; overall operations would cease around 2007. Several years ago the entire infrastructure was razed and the vacant land remains a brownfield site. While no development has subsequently taken place on the former Shaw property it appears that the process of soil remediation is nearing completion. Still a global enterprise, information on what Shaw became part of, go to Additional information on the history and development of the Shaw corporation can be found within the obituary of founder Leslie Earl Shaw;
Above: CN 667407 is a 62 ft. flatcar built by National Steel Car (NSC) in 1974 as part of series CN 667275 – 667410. The payload consists of 24-inch pipe protected by a 2-Layer Polyethylene Coating known as ‘Yellow Jacket®’. Yellow Jacket® consists of a continuous sheath of high-density polyethylene cross-head extruded over a rubberized asphalt adhesive. Introduced over half a century ago the protective layer can withstand routine handling and allows for field bending in temperatures as low as -30°C. Note the adjacent CN gondola loaded with pipe to be coated.
Above: CN 668238 is an 89 ft. flatcar built by Hawker Siddeley Transportation (HST) as part of a three hundred car lot (CN 668000 – 668299) in December of 1975. Compared to the payload above, the pipe appears to have received some type of asphalt or perhaps rubber-based coating. For pipe protective coating alternatives, go to;
Above: CN 557353 is a 52’ – 8” combination door boxcar built by National Steel Car (NSC) in January of 1973 as part of series CN 557300 – 557439. Most likely this car is being used to bring in raw materials related to the coating process; blast grit media, plastic pellets (bagged), etc. Despite only being eleven years old, the car appears to have been recently repainted.
Above: CP 341485 is a 52 ft. low side gondola built by Eastern Car Company in 1954 as part of five hundred car build lot (CP 341000 – 341499). Note the converted friction bearing trucks on both this car and the coupled CP gondola. Given the mandated AAR maximum service life of forty years (cars built prior to 7/1/1974), CP 341485 would only be eligible to continue in service for another decade. Due to the proximity of Stelpipe in nearby Welland, a greater amount of pipe was delivered to Shaw by transport truck rather than flatcar or gondola. Local trucking company ‘Tallman Transport’ maintained a service contract with Stelpipe for several decades.