Thursday 18 December 2014

Throwback Thursday #3 - CN 7025 Switching at Rymal in May 1993

CN 7025 has come north from Caledonia for some switching at Rymal near the end of the line - literally and figuratively - in 1993. Norm Conway photo, author's collection.

Today’s Throwback Thursday is a little close to home – in fact, only a couple of miles from my house. Here is a shot of CN GP9Rm #7025 (one of my favourite geeps) switching the Rymal Spur at Rymal in July 1993. In addition to a passing track at the co-op north of Rymal road (Highway 53 to Hamiltonians), two spurs south of the highway served a lumber dealer and Shaw Pipe. The local here is switching either of the latter industries, although it is probable that it is Shaw Pipe, based on the number of cars in the view. Shaw pipe applied specialized coatings to pipe and shipped a lot of out by rail, until rail service ended on the spur. In addition to the Stelco Steel train, the line at one time hosted a through local based out of Hamilton, commonly operating with a set of SW1200RS’s. Shaw had only a single spur with capacity for only a few cars at a time, so during large contracts switching was handled twice a day, by both the local as well as another operating north from Caledonia.

I say spur, although the track was once the Hagersville subdivision on CN (the original one, though the present day Hagersville sub starts at Brantford, not Hamilton). A few run-ins between trucks and the bridge over Stone Church Road  sounded the death knell for the line as a through route. It's steep mountain climb, risky street running, light traffic base and it's existence as essentially duplicate trackage finally conspired against it. The final time damaged the bridge to the point it was condemned, and placed on the track next to where the overpass stood, about a mile south of the Rymal station sign. From this point on, the line existed briefly as the Rymal  spur originating in Caledonia and served on an as-needed basis by a local likely stationed at Caledonia or Brantford. Which brings us to our subject photo – a rare one at that; the line was seldom photographed once the Hamilton-Nanticoke Stelco Steel train was routed via the Dundas sub to Brantford and from there down the new Hagersville sub to its’ lakeside destination. Alas, a few carloads a week to Shaw Pipe and the odd car to the lumberyard proved insufficient to maintain the spur and it was abandoned in 1993 and the rails taken up not long after. 


Saturday 13 December 2014

Keith's HO Rolling Stock Trays

If you’re like me, a lot of the time the excitement of getting a new piece of rolling stock overwhelms the wisdom to keep the box that it came in; hence, a yard full of rolling stock, and three boxes! Or sometimes at a show, you buy a car from a vendor that has rolling stock for without its’ original box – then what?

Today we have a guest author with the answer: my dad, Keith. Here’s his article about rolling stock storage trays made from pop can trays. Also, a shout-out to any OSHOME members who read this – you know who you are!


Photo 1: All filled up and ready to go. I prefer boxes with handle holes (I glue the flap back on the inside). The 24 x 355 ml pop can trays are ideally sized in that they fit inside standard 5000-sheet computer paper boxes.

Photo 2: Due to the dividers, rolling stock is protected from damage when the trays are stacked.

Photo 3: Spacing of the dividers can be varied to accommodate taller rolling stock.

Photo 4: Shorter cars can be coupled to help restrict movement. Probably should do so!

Photo 5: Orientation of the dividers can be altered. I line the bottom of the tray with thin foam sheet - typically included in ‘easy to assemble’ type furniture packing - using contact cement.

Assembly of the trays is not at all complicated, but here are a couple of helpful hints. Cut intermediate strips from straight as possible cardboard, with the corrugations lengthwise, exactly 2” wide. Make sure you have a flat, solid surface to begin assembly on. Use stacked pieces of 1 x 3 pine wood to space, align and keep the ribs perpendicular with a couple of dabs of white glue along the base – try not to secure the 1 x 3’s! (use 1 x 2’s or whatever width necessary to achieve the desired spacing) Once all of the ribs have been ‘tacked’ in place I use a couple of long woodworking clamps and 1 x 3’s to gently compress the ends perpendicular to the ribs. Once everything is tacked, I run a small bead of glue along the entire base length of the ribs on both sides and ends. A further benefit of having the trays for us is that we can pre-fill them with sale items to quickly deploy at the various shows and flea markets we participate in. Clean up at the end of the show is also improved.

Thursday 11 December 2014

Throwback Thursday #2 - DRGW #3071 at Minturn, CO July 1968

DRGW GP40 #3071 pauses at Minturn, CO in July 1968. John W. Maxwell photo, author's collection.

One hobby of mine is collecting and trading 35mm photographic slides of trains and railroad equipment. Last year, I acquired a small part of the photographic collection of John W. Maxwell, a photographer well-known among the narrow gauge community in the western United States. From the information I could gather, John was a mechanical engineer who was employed by Union Pacific in Colorado. I believe he lived in Denver, although that is only a guess based upon where the bulk of the photos were taken. John was popular among narrow gauge enthusiasts for his extensive photography of narrow gauge equipment and for making highly accurate scale drawings of narrow gauge rolling stock and equipment. John took photos for over 60 years, and from what I can find on the internet, the location of the bulk of his photographic and drawings collection remains a mystery. But instead of dwelling on where the collection went, let’s enjoy the view he captured in the photo above.

We’re at Minturn, Colorado in July 1968 – the sanding tower in the photo easily recognizable to any fan of The Mainline Through the Rockies. In this view we find one-and-a-half year old GP40 #3071 leading an eastbound that has stopped at the yard.  Minturn is located on the west side of the infamous Tennessee Pass, and is a town long associated – and closely tied to – the railroad. It was here that nearly all eastbound trains stopped and had helpers added to the train in order to overcome the 3% grades further up the pass. Though the train is eastbound, the tracks here run almost north-south allowing for good lighting of eastbounds almost all day long; it appears to be perhaps late morning at this click of the shutter. By this point in time, the 26 SD45’s are all on the property, but the railroad is still largely dominated by turbocharged four-axle locomotives, as evidenced by the consist of this train as well as the power in the distance. It would be another six years before the tunnel motors synonymous with the DRGW in its’ later years would show up, and we’re still not quite into EMD’s Dash-2 era yet
. We can safely surmise that the three GP30’s and a unit hidden by the shed are a helper set that perhaps will cut in partway back in this train, or another eastbound later in the day. Between the two lashups are no less than four (!) GP30’s along with an equal number of GP40’s or GP35’s. What a sound it must have been to hear this train leave town!

The lead unit, DRGW 3071 would go onto have a long and interesting history (most information from Don Strack’s Utah Rails site). It was the third of twelve GP40’s delivered to the Rio Grande in early 1967, and one of many high-horsepower four axle units that the railroad owned. The unit was converted into a trailing-only unit (“B-unit”) in 1972 with the removal of the radio, cab seats and other lead-required equipment; 24 other GP40’s and a number of GP30’s and GP35’s were similarly modified in an effort to reduce operating costs. The engine remained in this condition for many years and into the Southern Pacific era, when it was returned to a lead-capable unit. Eight years after the Rio Grande – Southern Pacific merger in 1988, the engine became part of the massive Union Pacific system in 1996. Under UP ownership, the engine left home rails and travelled far from its’ Tennessee Pass rails in the photo above. Photos on the internet reveal it travelled at least as far as Houston, TX and North Little Rock, AR. Ownership by UP lasted only five years, and in May 2001 the engine was retired after 34 years of service. A sale the next year to National Railway Equipment the following year took the engine to Silvis, IL, where the unit became a donor for one of the NRE’s many rebuild programs. Eventually, this unit was rebuilt by NRE, emerging as BNSF 2013 in late 2006 or early 2007. No longer a GP40, the locomotive is now mechanically a GP38-2, including a 16-645E non-turbocharged prime mover, oil-bath air filter box, new electrical gear, and just two radiator fans (the middle one was removed in the rebuild). A testament to EMD design, the engine should be around for many more years to come, having outlived its’ original owner and even Tennessee Pass itself.

 I am grateful to John Maxwell for taking the time and effort to record this scene on film – in future posts I will share more of the slides acquired from his collection.

‘Til next time,



Thursday 4 December 2014

Throwback Thursday #1 - Stelco Steel Train at Waterford, ON

B&O GP38 #4806 leads the southbound empty Stelco steel train over the CASO at Waterford, ON in the summer of 1983. Uncredited slide, author's collection.

My sister tells me that a lot of radio stations these days are doing “throwback Thursdays” wherein they play golden oldies hits from bygone years, and suggested I try it as a theme for my blog. I like the idea and dug through my slide archives for some interesting material to use for this and future throwback Thursday photo discussions.

For the first one, I thought I’d select a rather oddball shot: here we have B&O GP38 #4806 leading a train over a large bridge. Where are we – somewhere on the Chessie near Lousiville? In the Kentucky coal fields? On the ex-Pere Marquette in Michigan? Nope, we are in Waterford, Ontario, in the heart of southern Ontario’s agricultural belt stretching between Windsor and Fort Erie. But the sharp-eyed observer will realize that Chessie had trackage rights on the CASO (NYC/PC/CR) mainline under the bridge, not over it. So what we have here is Chessie system power on a TH&B freight on a CP bridge. Clear as mud?

Let’s give the scene some context: In 1980, Stelco completed its’ massive new greenfield steel mill at Nanticoke, ON, on the shores of Lake Erie (known as Lake Erie Works, LEW for short). Stelco’s other facility, in Hamilton, was equipped with sophisticated rolling equipment that could apply several finishing treatment processes to coiled steel. Given the proximity of one mill to the other, transferring slabs from Lake Erie Works to Hamilton (Hilton Works) made economic sense when Hilton Works was short on steelmaking capacity, or LEW has excess. Thus, a shuttle train (known simply as the “steel train”) was established to move newly-cast slabs from LEW to Hilton works. The train was a joint venture between the TH&B and CN, operating in 10-week blocks on a 60/40 ratio between CN and TH&B. I’ll discuss CN’s routing in a later post, but suffice to say it was a fair bit simpler than the TH&B route.

Which brings us back to our topic photo. The west end of the TH&B reached as far as Waterford, connecting to part-owner road NYC (later PC/CR) not far from where the photographer was standing. CP, co-owner of TH&B until a buyout of the CR portion in 1987, still owned the old Lake Erie & Northern former electric line that once ran from Port Dover to Brantford and was in fact basically parallel to the TH&B line at Waterford. To permit operation of the steel train, a connecting track was built to link the two branchlines into a through route for the steel train, providing almost daily service on what was otherwise a lonely piece of railroad. Hence, under TH&B routing, a circuitous route from Hamilton took the steel train west to Brantford and then south to Waterford where it jumped to the old LE&N tracks which crossed over the CASO on the large bridge in the photo. From here, the train continued south to Simcoe; CP still did not have a complete route to LEW among its’ subsidiary lines, so a deal was struck to utilize trackage rights over the east-west  CN Cayuga sub (“air line”) between Simcoe and Jarvis. At Jarvis, the train made a move to connect to CN’s north-south  Hagersville sub for the final few miles to the steel mill.

We can approximate the date as June or July 1983 (uncredited slide, no date given) since an agreement struck in 1984 allowed the train to operate between Waterford and Hagersville over the better-maintained CASO (and from Hagersville to LEW over CN trackage rights). This allowed the abandonment of the remaining lightly travelled LE&N trackage south of Brantford; the abandonment of the TH&B’s west end was only a couple years away, when a landslide at Cainsville in 1989 gave the line its' death knell. 

But we still haven’t answered why Chessie power was on the train this day. As a small road, TH&B’s limited roster was often insufficient to handle the volume of freight it generated, particularly when a unit acid or phosphate rock train could purloin any spare units from the Chatham street shops and keep them occupied for hours. The road had a long history of borrowing engines from its’ co-owners, particularly towards the end of its’ independence. To railfans, this was often a treat as it would bring locomotive types to the area not otherwise seen in Canada. Thus, in 1983, a number of Chessie system units were found on TH&B trains, perhaps officially leased by the road, or as run-through power supplied by the parent roads. Either way, it added a splash of colour to the already interesting operation. Increasing CP influence in the 1980's also contributed CP units to the TH&B motive power pool, often MLW products such as RS18's and C424's. 

Postscript: Sadly, almost nothing remains today of this scene today. The steel train stopped running in its’ last rendition in late 2008 after the economic recession and other economies of scale no longer justified operation of the train. Likewise, abandonment and the wrecking crew eventually came calling for the CASO, the TH&B’s west end, the LE&N track, and the CN Cayuga sub. What little remains from this scene is in fact the bridge itself: it remains as part of a hiking trail.

So here you have it: Chessie System power in Waterford, ON, on a TH&B train on LE&N tracks hauling CN flatcars – how’s that for interesting?!