Friday 23 January 2015

F-Unit Friday: Wabash #667 at Canfield Jct. in April 1964

Wabash 667 leads a westbound freight on the CN Cayuga sub as it crosses the CN Dunnville sub at Canfield Jct in April 1964. The CASO mainline is behind the photographer. Uncredited slide, author's collection.

I was going to post this as a Throwback Thursday but it seems the day got away from me yesterday, so here is a slightly delayed “golden oldie” photo discussion.

It’s April 1964, and we’re at Canfield Jct (Ontario), a railroad location roughly fifteen miles east of Hagersville. In this view, we see Wabash F7A #667 leading a freight westbound on the CN’s Cayuga Subdivision over the diamond that intersects the CN’s Dunnville subdivision.

It’s April 1964, and the four F7A’s leading this train have just passed their thirteenth birthday, having graduated GMD London between December 1950 and March 1951. The engines were delivered as part of an order for 20 F7A’s, along with a single GP7 and three SW8’s. Tax and duty laws made it economically prohibitive at the time (recall, long before the days of Free Trade) to import US-built locomotives for Canadian use. The protective tariffs in fact contributed a significant portion of GMD’s early business as US roads with Canadian operations dieselized with Canadian-built locomotives (NYC, C&O, Wabash for example). Hence, these units seldom spent much time outside the country, at most wandering to Detroit or Buffalo to exchange cars with US roads. The lead unit, WAB 667 was now on her second number, having been delivered as WAB 1158A, and would go on to become N&W 3667. Distinctive features on the Canadian-built F’s included passenger-style pilots, square-top winterization hatches, double headlights (not often seen on Canadian F’s), and classy chrome-outlined number boards. About six months after this image was captured, in October 1964, the N&W leased the Wabash from the majority owner, the Pennsylvania Railroad, eventually gaining full control by 1970. After a repaint into N&W blue, the F’s continued to serve in their intended capacity for a number of years before being supplanted by second-generation power and ultimately met the scrapper’s torch.

If you’re looking for Canfield Junction on a map, you probably won’t ever find it, but it was synonymous with area railfans as a popular railfanning destination since it offered a diversity of railroading long since absent from operations in southern Ontario. Not only did two of CN’s own line cross here, but the CASO’s (Michigan Central/New York Central) double track mainline from Fort Erie to Windsor paralleled the CN Cayuga sub and also crossed the Dunville sub here. One could observe trains from four railroads: the CN, Wabah, NYC, and C&O (which had trackage rights on the CASO east of St. Thomas). Not only did this mean paint schemes not native to Canada, but also locomotive models such as the C&O’s U25B’s or NYC C430’s. Sadly though, time was not kind to Canfield Jct, with all three lines ultimately being abandoned. The Dunnville and Cayuga subdivisions, even though they crossed here, were effectively parallel to not only each other, but in principle the CN’s much busier Grimsby sub which runs east out of Hamilton to Niagara Falls (Clifton). Over time, as locally-originated carload traffic dried up, the lines no longer hosted through freights and became the domain of daily or as-needed locals before finally meeting abandonment in the 1980’s as all traffic was shifted to the Grimsby and Stamford subdivisions to move between Fort Erie and Hamilton. Similarly, through traffic dried up on the CASO, and never having much on-line traffic, was reduced to only a handful of trains per day by the late 1970’s. Deferred maintenance and reduced traffic in the Penn Central era eventually meant that the double track line once fit for 80 mph passenger trains (or higher) was reduced to operation over only the north track, and at greatly reduced speeds. As bridge line traffic dried up, or was shifted to an all-US routing, C&O (later CSX) became the dominant user of the line, but even that did not last as the line was sold to CN & CP in the early 1990’s. Not really intended for through use however, the line’s primary value was in the cross-border connections at each end of the line. That meant that most of what was left in between was already duplicate trackage, and of little value. Abandonment came, and like the CN’s own lines through Canfield, track removal left little but scarred earth to remember the better days at Canfield.

But what was the Wabash doing on CN in the first place? The Midwestern US road desired to reach Buffalo, NY, a jump-off point for traffic heading for New England and the northeast US. Arriving somewhat late to the ‘bridge line through Canada’ game, a deal was struck with CN to exercise trackage rights from Windsor to Fort Erie by way of the Chatham, Paynes, and Cayuga subdivisions (among others), informally known as the “air line”. The deal proved mutually lucrative, as CN gained utilization – hence, revenue – on an otherwise not very busy line, and the N&W gained high-value automotive traffic from the Ford plant in St. Thomas (Talbotville). After the abandonment of the Air Line, Wabash’s successors N&W and eventually Norfolk Southern were granted trackage rights over the CN Talbot, Dundas, Grimsby, and Stamford subdivisions pursuant to the original trackage rights deal signed in 1897.The end of this operation came, however, on December 30, 2006, as the 109 years of Wabash trackage rights expired, and present owner NS elected not to renew them. But at least we have numerous images from railfan outings to imaging what it must have been like back in the day at Canfield.

‘Til next time,


Sunday 11 January 2015

Winter Layout Work Update (Part 1)

CN 1906 pulls the first loads out of the recently-installed storage tracks in front of the Stelco (Walthers) rolling mill. Looks like they will soon  have plenty more loads to pull!
A few days spent working on the layout over the Christmas break yielded some significant progress on the layout, namely completing the trackage on the spur on the left (east) side of the layout. More industries to go and switch now!

The basic benchwork was already in place, including a sheet of plywood cut to fit in the available space; all that remained was to secure the sub-roadbed in place. It was decided to use the two “high-line” switches already in place to access the spur rather than run a new branch off of the existing yard lead. This meant that the spur would be at a higher elevation than previously planned – this allows a more eye-level view of activity on the spur, rather than a more eye-in-the-sky view. This also helps to blend the high line into the rest of the layout, rather than it creating a “stair case” illusion and seem to arbitrarily rise out of the rest of the layout. A total of seven supports were cut from spare 1x3” stock to elevate the plywood about four inches. Since the two high line switches were at slightly different elevations due to the grade that they are on, the elevation of the plywood sheet was set to split the difference between the two. Three supports were fastened to the benchwork lengthwise along the plywood and four were installed transversely – this stabilized the plywood and makes it resistant to any bumps or jolts on the rest of the layout’s benchwork. As this particular piece of plywood had been stored for a number of years, one end of the sheet (south end) had developed a significant warp (curl) that required a 2x4” attached transversely to the bottom to help straighten it out (2x4 was planed to be perfectly straight). The last step in preparing the plywood was to cut a hatch approximately 16” square into the middle; this not only allows access in the event of a derailment or electrical glitch, but will help with scenic-ing the layout as well. The seven risers (supports) were first screwed to the bottom of the plywood at pre-marked and measured locations. Once all were in place, the plywood was positioned at the appropriate height and the risers clamped in place while pilot holes were drilled and screws put in place. The sub-roadbed between the two switches on the high line consists of a segment of plywood approximately six inches wide; a tapered “bridge” piece was placed between this existing sub-roadbed and the newly installed plywood. Surprisingly, very little adjustment was needed to align the three pieces of plywood, and only some slight planing and sanding was required to smooth the transition from the high line grade to the level plywood surface.
Two CN locals are seen operating at the same time - CN 4775 is returning from spotting cars at Casco (near the bridge, out of sight at lower right), while CN 1906 lifts cars from the rolling mil (south face of building and part of the roof not yet re-installed). Scenery material will disguise the change in elevation between the high line spurs and the main line at bottom. The access hatch can be seen at right.

Once the plywood was installed, it was full speed ahead with the trackwork for the new spur (actually two spurs that cross at a diamond, but referred to as the spur for clarity). The facing high line switches each feed one of two tracks that meet at a 90° crossing. The track on the spur is mostly code 83, a mix of Atlas, Shiniohara, and Peco. The north end of the spur consists of a Walthers rolling mill (to be featured in a later post) that was cut back to three segments (from original four) and another track next to the rolling mill that will serve as a bulk fuel dealer. Two tracks will go into the mill building itself, and another two storage tracks were laid next to the building to hold the loads for pickup. The rails have not yet been installed in the building, as the channels in the floor are intended for a cars' wheel flanges, not actual rails. Hence the gap is too narrow to lay rail (gauge is too tight), but that will soon be corrected. These tracks cross over the access hatch on three sides – each crossing was secured with extra spikes to ensure the alignment remains intact.

The CN local lifts loads out of the Stelco rolling mill. Looks like there are some loads to be shipped out of hte team track soon as well. The lumber yard will be located at far right (behind the team track). The Digitrax auto-reverser is being wired up at lower left.

To power the new spur, a new track bus was run under the previously-unpowered high line and feeders installed between the rails and the bus wires. Since the high line circles around and forms a reversing loop with what is essentially the tail of the south yard lead (better-sounding name TBD), a Digitrax auto-reverser was purchased. Mark made quick work wiring up, so now we can run trains in a continuous loop up and around the high line.

After lifting cars from Stelco, two empty cars are lifted from the bulk fuel dealer. Extra track is stored temporarily at left. Note the high-tech temporary end of track device!

Prior to completing the spur, there were only two industries already in place on the layout, the grain elevator and the spur near the bridge (at least for now, “Casco”). The addition of four new industries to switch will now provide at least enough work for two jobs: a yard job to handle the sorting of the cars and blocking of mainline freights, as well as switch the grain elevator and Casco, and a second job to go and switch the spur. With increased traffic on the layout, this will soon provide the opportunity to implement and learn about track clearances, car card systems, and how to develop a natural “flow” to operations between multiple operators. Can’t wait!

Lifting cars from the Stelco storage tracks at right; soon more empties will be spotted inside the building.

Stay tuned for part II of the layout update sometime later in the week…

Thanks for looking,


Thursday 8 January 2015

Throwback Thursday #5: Grand River Railway #228 and Lake Erie & Northern #337 at Galt in May 1959

GRR 228 and LE&N 337 make a move through the yard at Galt, ON in May 1959. Uncredited slide, author's collection.

The subject of today’s Throwback Thursday is one of the oldest images in my collection, dating back almost 66 years to 1959. Though me and all things electric generally don’t get along well, I do have a soft spot for the former Canadian Pacific Electric Lines that once ran out of Preston, ON (in modern-day Cambridge). That is, the old Grand River Railway and the Lake Erie & Northern Railway which combined to span between Port Dover and Waterloo by way of Simcoe, Brantford, Paris and Galt, which is where today’s image was taken.

We’re standing in Galt, ON on what appears to be a fine spring day in May 1959. Though we don’t know who the photographer is (uncredited slide), we can reasonably assume he was having a pretty good railfanning day when he snapped this frame. Looking southeast from a location near Samuelson Street & #8 highway, CPEL motors GRR 228 and LE&N 337 seem to be making a reverse move towards the camera, judging by the presence of the crew member on the rear platform of the 228. Both motors were 1921 home-builts, products of Preston Car and Coach. Interestingly, though the two railways were separate on paper, they operated as one subsequent to a consolidation in 1937 but maintained separate reporting marks and numbering schemes for equipment (even numbers for GRR equipment and odd for LE&N, except for LE&N 230, 232, and 234, which were secondhand acquisitions). These two motors served faithfully for their owner for forty years, until the end of electrified operations came on October 1, 1961. Replaced by a handful of SW8’s and SW1200RS’s, the two motors were sold in 1963 to the Iowa Terminal Railway and shipped to Mason City, IA. The two motors became ITR #81 and #82 (ex-LE&N 337 and GRR 228 respectively).   ITR 82 was never repainted or saw active service, and was scrapped in 1968; ITR 81 held on a bit longer, meeting the torch in 1973.

Aside from the CPEL motors in the shot, a number of other features in the background are also of interest. It would appear that CP was doing trackwork in the area at the time the photo was taken, judging by the MOW-service four-axle wooden passenger car behind the motors. Also giving credence to this theory are a pile of untreated ties and spare switch stands at lower right. The long-removed water tower used to supply the Orr’s Lake helper stationed here can also be seen in the background. Seems odd seeing a water tower next to catenary, doesn't it?

While these two motors that once served the electric lines have long since met their demise, the line that they are on (now known as the CP's Waterloo Subdivision) continues to be an important part of the Canadian Pacific system in Southern Ontario. A Toyota automobile assembly plant built in the mid 1980’s a few miles down the line near Hagey provides a substantial amount of high-value traffic to the rail line. Who would have thought when this photo was taken that instead of facing abandonment like most of the rest of the former CPEL, this line would not only survive but thrive?! Trilevels of Toyota Camry’s and Matrix’s are indeed a long way from the days of steeplecabs and interurban service.

Thanks for looking,


Thursday 1 January 2015

Throwback Friday #4 - CN #1349 at Thorold in July 1995

CN 1349 heads southward down Pine Street on the Fonthill Spur on July 17, 1995. Reg Button photo, author's collection.

Today’s Throwback Thursday (or as it turns out, now Throwback Friday) features one of the more interesting aspects of railroading: street running. Often mutually unpopular to the local municipality and the railroad, street running is increasingly hard to find. I find that to be a shame, since street running often yields details not otherwise captured in our day-to-day photography, such as the latest model year of a car in the photo, a popular local establishment’s sign, or even fashion trends of people captured in the frame. With that in mind, let’s get to our subject photo.

It’s July 17, 1995, and we find CN SW1200RS #1349 leading two cars up the middle of Pine Street in Thorold, ON. It appears that train #549 has been sent to lift two boxcars from the industry in the background – the Fraser Inc paper mill (now Book Depot). The short train is now heading south down the Fonthill Spur, riding up the small hills that pose little challenge to automobiles and trucks but an interesting challenge to the train. Fraser Inc’s facility was featured in Trevor Marshall’s post (here) on his Achievable Layouts blog and provides many more interesting photos of the plant. At one time it appeared to be quite the industry, handling both outgoing paper loads as well as tank cars of chemicals and hopper cars of additives used in the paper making process. Today, however, the business as well as the street running required to serve the industry are gone, and Pine street is a bit less interesting (to me at least). Street running is not gone altogether from the area though, as CN successor Trillium Railway still uses a small piece of track down the middle of Townline Road to serve Interlake Paper. They even have a CN-painted MLW S-13, required due to sharp curvature on the line. Interestingly, CN 1349 must have liked paper mills as it would go on to be CANX (Canac) 1349, one of the plant switchers at Marathon Pulp in Marathon, ON until the plant closed in 2008. One other interesting aspect of the photo is that it appears Pine Street is in the middle of getting a makeover, judging by the cement truck and dump truck – as the small time capsule of an image has recorded for posterity.