Thursday 11 June 2015

Throwback Thursday - VIA FPA-4 at Spadina

VIA FPA-4 sits in quiet repose near the old coaling tower at the Spadina Ave locomotive servicing facility. Undated Kodak negative from author's collection (likely early 1980's); photographer unknown. 

Today's Throwback Thursday takes us to a place that for years provided Canadian railfans with plenty of action, and was synonymous with passenger train operations in Canada's largest city - Spadina shops, located just west of Toronto Union Station. A boon to anyone interested in passenger operations - back when the passenger trains were more than four cars long - Spadina was the hub of passenger operations for Canadian National, and later crown corporation VIA Rail in the Greater Toronto-Hamilton area. One could often find all sorts of neat things laying over at the yard - RDC's, Tempo engines, the Turbo Train, and more - much of it MLW-powered, much to my liking. A city overpass lent its' name to the area and provided railfans a convenient means of getting overhead shots of the facility. It seemed the roundhouse was always chock-full of idle power laying over between runs, and was known to be railfan-friendly; at one time, all it took was signing a release and having the basic sense not to doing anything stupid and one could roam the area and take photos of whatever one pleased. Alas, those days are long gone, much like Spadina as we knew it - the roundhouse demolished and passenger train servicing operations - vastly scaled-down - moved a few miles further west to a new VIA terminal at Mimico, adjacent to GO Transit's Willowbrook facility. The land where the roundhouse once stood is now dominate by the Roger's Center (baseball stadium) and rows of high-end glass-encased condo towers. A far cry from a greasy railway yard, Spadina no longer has much of a railfan connection. But what of VIA 6763? It's fate proved somewhat more favourable. Having been built as CN 6763 by MLW in December 1958, the engine was cascaded to VIA ownership in the 1978 formation of the national passenger carrier. Continuing to haul passengers up until retirement in May 1995. A series of ownerships brought the unit to become part of the Delaware-Lackawanna fleet, and the engine is now part of a lineup of other Alco-MLW products serving as a parts source for the roads' other Schenectady-built locomotives. Time will tell if the unit will ever run again, but no doubt a deadline is much better than having been turned into razor blades... 

'Til next time,

Thursday 4 June 2015

Throwback Thursday #16 - Union Pacific C630 #2905 in July-1971

UP 2905 leads an unlikely consist on a sunny day in July 1971 (location unknown). Bob Gottier photo, author's collection.
Today’s Throwback Thursday takes us back 44 years to July 1971. We’re trackside on the UP, in the middle of the road’s “bigger is better” motive power era. We observe an unwieldy consist of UP 2905-632-43 (C630, U25B, U50B), moving about a yard. Though there is no location given on this slide, we can still imagine what it must have been like to be trackside and watch this consist go by – what a jaw-dropper this must have been!  
Throughout the 1960’s (and earlier) Union Pacific experimented in its’ quest for the best motive power with several locomotive models unique to the road (or that saw limited application elsewhere) such as the DD35A, U50C, Alco C-855, and ultimately the DDA40X’s (“Centennials”). In this search for superior motive power, the road tested products from each of the three major builders (EMD, GE, and ALCo), in a head-to-head evaluation. Knowing that large-scale replacement of first-generation motive power was not far off, this would be a critical step in wisely selecting future locomotives – not only important (and expensive) assets from an accounting perspective, but crucial to ensuring the high quality of service the road is known for. Ten ALCo C630’s were purchased in October 1966, UP 2900-2909. These would ultimately be the last ALCo’s purchased by the road, and evidently were not held in high regard by mechanical forces, departing the active roster in November 1973 after nine years of service. A sale to DMIR February 1974 sent the 2905 northward, and even further so after a resale to Canadian Ore hauler Cartier in April 1974. Extant until at least 1986, the unit’s demise is likely lost to history. The trailing unit, UP 43, represents the most apparent example of the “bigger is better” mentality - inspired by Motive Power and Machinery director David S. Neuhart - in this image. Built using the trucks and span bolsters from traded-in General Electric jet turbine power locomotives (another uniquely UP design) the unit was effectively two U25B’s on one very large frame. Built in August 1964 the unit survived just ten years, retired in January 1974 and traded to GE. By this time, the usefulness of medium-horsepower six-axle locomotives was becoming clear, as well as the virtues of an easy-to-maintain locomotive. Comparatively high maintenance, many of the distinct double-diesels were soon vanquished from UP’s roster; the last, the DDA40X’s, surviving until 1983. Perhaps the most interesting unit, in my opinion anyhow, is UP 632, the middle unit in the consist. Build by GE in May 1962, it is in fact the oldest unit of the group. Though UP had a penchant for purchasing used demonstrator locomotives from the various builders, this was indeed a production-built hi-nose U25B, the only ones so constructed except for the demo units. One of 16 U25B’s on the roster, the 632 was actually somewhat more unique than the others: in April 1969, the locomotive was rebuilt with a 12-cylinder engine and new alternator, and used as a testbed for the upcoming U50C’s. Eventually repowered with a 16-cylinder engine, the locomotive was wrecked and retired in 1972. A 1974 sale to Rock Island took the unit to Silvis, IL, where it sat while being used as a parts donor to another wrecked U25B. In 1978 the remains were rebuilt into a slug and numbered to Rock Island 283. Following the demise of the Rock in 1981, the slug was sold to Chrome Locomotive in that year and presumably scrapped.
In addition to the locomotives, there is also plenty other to see in this photo, including the yard speaker (remember those?), the old Ford pickup, the UP aircraft wing car in the background, and some other high/wide loads. I think it’s pretty safe to assume the photographer had a pretty good day trackside!
‘Til next time,