Sunday 22 November 2015

Long-Overdue Layout Update, Fall 2015

Recent motive power acquisitions pause for inspection prior to entering service (CP 5936, CP 5701, and BNSF 5869). Eventually, a fascia will cover the expose edge of the foam and the benchwork.

Well it looks like it’s been quite a while since I have posted a layout update, so time for a much-delayed progress report on the work complete on the layout in the last few months.

The photo above shows three recent acquisitions that the Motive Power Department has purchased. The local fall train show circuit here in southern Ontario has yielded quite a few interesting finds over the last few shows. Among those items that came home with me from the shows are CP 5936, and CP 5701, two dummy Athearn Blue-Box SD40-2’s that have been heavily modified with the addition of many detail parts and custom paint jobs. Though the grades on the layout are somewhat steep, two powered units can easily handle almost any train run (and even a single Kato AC4400CW can handle at least 30 cars), so these two dummy units are an easy and inexpensive way to bulk up a consist without drawing extra power from the DCC system or worrying about consisting issues. The third unit is BNSF 5869 (see photo below), an Athearn Genesis ES44AC; both CN and CP have been running a lot of foreign power through southern Ontario this year, with quite a few BNSF units making an appearance (mostly over the winter months when traffic levels were higher). For a while, CN had a habit of borrowing BNSF power for the oil trains that were interchanged at Chicago and delivered to a refinery in Montreal. When Athearn released the second run of these units a month or so ago, it was too cool to pass up.

BNSF 5869, an Athearn Genesis ES44AC, will serve as run-through power on both CN and CP freights. Recently-completed scenery work can be seen behind the unit.

The photo above also shows some of the recent progress that the scenery gang has made. The area between the upper industrial area and the lower mainline, adjacent to the bridge, was filled in using the plaster cloth and newspaper method, and then sceniced with paint, ground foam, shrubs and other brush. I think it turned out alright, but still want to add some more fine details such as weeds, etc. Compare to the photo below – quite a difference 21 years makes!

The bridge scene, as it looked in July 1994. Photo by my Dad, Keith, during construction of the layout. 

On the other (west) side of the bridge, scenery crews are also making progress near the grain elevator site. Again, the plaster cloth method was used in combination with pink urethane foam sheets. The foam sheets are great for covering the large areas in the benchwork but I’ve found concealing the joints between vertical layers to be a bit of a problem. That’s where sculptamold and creative fauna arrangements come in handy!

Scenery crews are making progress on the west side of the bridge. The majority of the scenery here was done with Woodland Scenics products, but the trees are from Bachman (rather impressive, in my opinion). 

The grain elevator tracks are full of cars to be loaded during the fall grain rush. One of the next tasks I hope to accomplish is to complete detailing this scene with clearing of the debris from the scene and construction of a Walthers grain elevator kit (which will stand where the ground foam bottles sit in the above photo). 

Over at the grain elevator, the fall grain rush is in full swing, with both loading tracks chock and block with cars to be loaded. One of the next things I’m hoping to accomplish is the assembly of a Walthers grain elevator kit (the prairie style one). Though not strictly prototypical for southern Ontario, I think the prairie style is more distinctly Canadian, and more interesting to look at than some bland concrete structure. It will also lend more credibility to the scene when we take my equipment off the layout and swap it for Mark’s steam-era rolling stock. In general, the structures on the layout are intended to be era-non-specific, as each of my dad, brother, and myself model different time periods. Thus simply exchanging the rolling stock on the layout should be the main task in converting from one time period to another (it’s a lot easier than retrofitting a De Lorean!)

The steel mill's rolling mill looks to be in full production with both unfinished slabs and finished or semi-finished coils being shipped. The void at right may be used to add an EAF building to handle incoming scrap, instead of its' intended function as a team track.

Down at the steel mill, production is in full swing (unlike 1:1 scale mills), with contemplation being given to adding another structure. Presently, the rolling mill is in place and keeps a switch job from the yard busy exchanging empties for loads. We’re thinking of maybe adding another smaller (half) building and using it to accept loads of scrap. Presently, the track next to this location is earmarked as a team track, but feels out of place, wedged between the steel mill area and the lumberyard. Adding a second building would also provide a neat visual effect when taking photos, being able to shoot between two buildings would give the impression of the steel mill area being larger than it is by blocking out the background clutter when taking a photo.

Scenery work is slowly progressing around the layout. Hopefully soon the "islands" of scenicked space will merge together into a completely finished layout!

The photo below shows work that has also been completed on the lumberyard scene. Intended to be a general-purpose retail establishment, the lumberyard has capacity to hold two cars. The delivery track has been painted, ballasted, and the lumberyard covered with dirt/gravel, with wood blocks implanted before the glue had set. Stacks of wood, simulating plywood and 2x4’s will be stacked on top of these blocks.

CN GMD-1 #1906 spots the first load at the new lumberyard for delivery. Mark did an excellent job custom- fabricating the load and tie-downs (individual pieces of wood held together with black straps). The blocks in the ground will eventually hold other piles of wood to be kept in inventory. 

I’m hoping to keep up the progress over the Christmas break, with several tasks on the to-do list, including:
  • ·         Assemble and install the grain elevator building and grain bins
  • ·         Complete some locomotive projects, including GEXR 3856 (it’s been “almost done” for about a year!)
  • ·         Implement, or at least plan out a car card system to be incorporated into operating sessions
  • ·         Install Tortoise switch machines on the north end of the yard so switching can be done more easily from that end of the yard
  • ·         Complete the diesel shop
  • ·         Continue with scenery, and ballast the remaining areas of the track that haven’t been ballasted yet
  • ·         Explore options for backdrops

To quote Andy Sperandeo (RIP Andy),

So long,

-          Peter.

Thursday 19 November 2015

Throwback Thursday #23 - CN GP9 #4508 at Barrie, ON in the Late 1970's

CN GP9 #4508 brings a short wayfreight southward past the Barrie, ON station on a summer's day in the late 1970's. There's just something about the boys sitting on the baggage cart that add an element of timelessness to the photo. Photographer unknown, scan from 35MM Kodak negative from author's collection. 

Tonight’s Throwback Thursday takes us to Barrie, ON, about fourty years ago (the image was scanned from a negative, so actual date is unknown, but we can approximate it to somewhere around 1975-1982). In my opinion, if there was ever an image that captured the essence of railroading in Canada in the late 1970’s or early 1980’s, this shot comes close. There may not be a 52’ bulkhead flatcar in the consist or a VIA consist with “blueline coaches”, but a lot of the other elements that make this a classic CN shot are present: GP9, M420W, 3800 CF cylindrical hopper, Hawker Siddely van, and even a well-maintained passenger station. Each symbols in some way of Canadian railroading at the time, they combine to form a neat little scene that to me is a lot more than just a train in front of a station. The engines, both Canadian-built, CN 4508 and an unidentified MLW M420W exemplify the road’s two paint schemes at the time, the “wet noodle” and “zebra stripe”. A product of a 1961 corporate re-branding, the red, black, and white scheme has endured in some form for over 50 years to the road’s present image (though in my mind, the pinnacle of CN’s motive power aesthetics were achieved in the SD50F). Along with the GP38-2W’s, the M420W’s were the first units delivered with the zebra stripe paint scheme in 1973. A couple of 40’ refer cars trail the locomotives, as well as a 3800 CF cylindrical hopper, also built in Canada by National Steel Car in Hamilton, ON. A popular size with Canadian roads, similar cars were owned by CP, TH&B, Procor, and others. No doubt an HO model would bring a smile to many modelers faces as it is a rather involved kitbash project. Bringing up the markers is a Hawker Siddely CN wide-vision caboose; though it’s difficult to see, the CN noodle centred underneath the cupola point to a Hawker-built van in the CN 79200-79349 series, built 1967, rather than one of the more common Point Ste. Charles cabooses rebuilt at the roads’ Montreal shop from retired 40’boxcars. These cabooses featured vertical cupola faces (instead of slanted), different smoke jack locations, and different battery and equipment box locations than there PSC counterparts. Eric Gagnon has an excellent post about the CN caboose fleet on his Trackside treasure blog here. Some elements of the photo go beyond simply a nice photo from the late 1970’s: the baggage cart, a timeless fixture at many Canadian stations for years, stands at the ready, along with a couple of children who are probably in their 50’s by now! Equally as interesting are the “tickets and information” and “baggage checked here” signs hanging from the station; present day VIA service (which does not include Barrie) is a far cry from the days of simply walking up to the station and buying a ticket for a train operating that day. Other interesting elements: ornate woodworking and windows on the station waiting room, news stand, pay phone (when was the last time you saw one of those?), station sign listing daily departures, and the semaphores (!).

Not much of the scene remains today. CN 4508 would go onto become CN 4024 after emerging from the GP9 rebuild program undertaken at the Point Ste. Charles shops in the 1980’s and 1990’s. Eventually CN 4024 was retired and after languishing at Homewood, IL, the engine was sold to National Railway Equipment where it was likely scrapped or used in a genset conversion. CN’s M420W fleet was off the roster by the late 1990’s, renumbered to the 3500’s as they were transferred to branch line service (and to make way for new GE C44-9WL’s that showed up on the roster in late 1994. The ancient reefers are certainly long gone, in all likelihood falling to the scrapper’s torch, with the same fate probably claiming the hopper and van (though there are a number of 3800 CF hoppers still in service, though not likely many with CN). Barrie now has Monday-Friday commuter service provided by GO Transit, though the station (which still stands) is not used for passenger traffic. Actually, it’s not even Barrie anymore: GO Transit calls it ‘’Allandale Waterfront GO” station. One would in fact be hard-pressed to recognize the station building these days, as it has been considerably re-worked, with new red and tan paint covering the old white-painted wood in the image above. The tracks in the foreground on which the train is resting (once part of the Newmarket subdivision) have also been removed after abandonment in 1996.

A Google satellite image reveals that the station building still stands, though the tracks on the north side have been removed. The new GO Allandale Waterfront station extends south of the original station building.  
New paint and a clay tile have given the station a completely new look. Despite the effort, it has reportedly sat vacant since 2011. Image from Google Streetview.

But for now, we can reflect back to the late 1970’s when the sun was shining and CN was still running trains through Barrie. And it even looks like I managed to complete this while it’s still Thursday!

‘Til next time,


Tuesday 17 November 2015

RIP Tracks and Bad Order Cars

A new #2 wheelset is indicative that GACX 469523 has been to a RIP track recently. Also note the repositioned reflective striping and the A-end draft key has been painted, both of which likely occurred at the same time as the wheelset was replaced. 

The December 2015 issue of Model Railroader has an interesting article on railrcar repair by Matt Snell. I’d been meaning to write this for a while, so I thought I’d take this opportunity to expand on some of what matt wrote about. My summer occupation for the past number of years has been working in the Fleet department at one of Canada’s largest private railcar owners (I’ll let you do the math on that). One of my primary responsibilities was reviewing, understanding, and to some extent, auditing railcar repair bills, both from home shops as well as those received from the railroads for running repairs made in normal operation of a railcar. As a modeller, I found much of the information, practices, and procedures fascinating but generally unknown to many other modellers. We often tend to focus on locomotives or operations as higher-profile elements of the hobby (anyone else have about one locomotive for every five freight cars on their layout?), but it seems to me that there aren’t many “freight car guys” out there. You know who you are, rivet-counters! I thought I’d try and explain some of what goes into the repair of modern freight cars and how it can relate to model railroad operations.


Any railroad in North America participating in interchange (i.e. almost every one except for QNS&L, isolated railroads not connected to any other, or private passenger carriers) must comply with the Association of American Railroad (AAR) Manual of Interchange rules. Set out in the rulebook (actually comprised of an office manual and a field manual) are lists of correct procedures that ensures safe and fair treatment of a car if repaired by someone other than the car owner. Approved parts, procedures, and correct repairs are covered in rules that apply to specific parts or procedures. For example, rule 36 covers roller bearings, and rule 41 covers wheels. When a railcar, private or railway-owned, operates in interchange it almost certainly travels over multiple railroads, and thus can be expected to be repaired at almost any point in its’ journey. When I say repaired, this may be from damage (e.g. collision), or from normal wear and tear on consumable items like brake shoes and wheelsets (wheelset covers the axle, bearings, and wheels, grouped together for billing purposes). Thus, a standard set of rules is needed to ensure that repairs are made correctly to the car, regardless of where they are performed. In general, except in the event of a derailment (or for some specialty cars including tank cars), a railroad will usually elect to repair a defective car themselves rather than go through the hassle of contacting the car owner and coordinating for movement to the owner’s home or contract shop. Nothing would ever move if every time there was a high-impact wheelset the car was sent to home shop (nor, in most cases, would it be safe to do so). Thus, for certain job codes, blanket approval is provided under the interchange rules for railroads to conduct specific repairs without prior approval from the car owner. In most instances, for example, a high-impact wheel is changed and the car owner billed at the end of the month (all AAR billing is done once a month, at accounting period month-end).

Types of Repairs

The interchange rules cover a wide variety of possible repairs to railcars of many types. Some repairs are common to all types (such as replacement of wheelsets), while others are specific to a car type (e.g. repairing a door on a boxcar). Some defects are detected automatically such as high-impact wheels, where tread defects result in high impact forces when the defect (a small deviation from roundness) collides with the rail surface, resulting in the distinctive sound every time the defective wheel rotates. Automated Wheel Impact Load Detectors (WILD) use sophisticated strain gauges placed on the rail to measure train forces and identify high-impact cars. By knowing the axle number within a train consist, the detection equipment can identify the axle’s position within a train and match it to a certain wheel on a railcar based on reading its’ automatic equipment identification (AEI) tags, which are RFID transponders located on opposite corners of a railcar (2 per car). When a high impact alert is generated, it is reported through Railinc, the AAR’s electronic data interface with car owners, and monitored until it exceeds allowable limits. When that occurs, the car is flagged in a railroad’s computer system for replacement of the wheelset with the defective wheel. Similar processes occur for hotbox detection (thermal scanners, acoustic detection equipment). Another potential defect is an air brake test; every railcar must have a five-year brake test conducted, which is them reported in UMLER (Universal Mechanical Language and Equipment Register, a Railinc online tool for railcar data management). If a car exceeds five years without a brake test, it will be bad ordered to the railroad’s nearest shop track, and the brake test conducted. Similar to WILD detectors, truck hunting detectors can sense excessive lateral loads in the rails, an indicator that a truck on a railcar is “hunting”. That is, as the truck components wear, alignment between the bolster and sideframes weakens, allowing the wheels to oscillate from side to side instead of tracking a straight path. This condition is known cause derailments, particularly on long, light cars such as flatcars and gons. A truck hunting alert will usually trigger a trip to a repair track or home shop to tear down the truck(s) and replace any worn components (such as friction wedges).

Other defects are noted upon inspection. For example, when a train is assembled at a yard, a carman will observe a roll-by inspection, or drive the length of the train and look for defects. These can include things like: dragging equipment (air hoses), thin wheels, defective safety appliances (handrails), defective reflective striping, or loose or shifted loads. Still other defects are noticed by operating crews, such as: defective coupler cut levers, broken knuckles, or air brake problems (e.g. defective air brake valves).

UTCX 49270 and another loaded plastic pellet hopper sit on one of the RIP tracks at the west end of CN's yard in London, ON. Likely the result of a minor derailment, plastic pellets have flowed out of each car due to broken/cracked pneumatic discharge outlets on the gates, a common problem even in a minor derailment because they nozzles are so low to the rail. This repair would likely result in a trip to a home shop (once sent to customer and emptied), since railroads generally don't repair plastic pellet hopper gates. Storage of some spare wheelsets can be seen at lower left. 

Repairing Those Defects

After reading the above section, it may seem like there are a lot of things that can go wrong with a railcar; that is generally true, but a railcar is not likely to have multiple defects at the same time (though, for example, while brake testing a car, the carman might also notice other defects such as a cracked coupler body). Likewise, the frequency with which a car may require repairs (except perhaps, for brake shoes) is usually very low. Unless required due to collision or derailment, a car may run thousands of miles without any major repairs. But when a car does need to be repaired, where does it go? Generally, the nearest place capable of repairing it. Most larger yards on Class 1 railroads incorporate some form of a repair-in-place (RIP) track where minor/quick repairs can be made with minimal delay in transit, especially important for loaded cars. A typical RIP track will usually have somewhere that the car can be jacked up (to replace wheelsets or truck components), and may be located adjacent to a building used by carmen to store parts or for office space. Sometimes, a RIP track may have its’ own car mover (e.g. Trackmobile) to avoid tying up other yard engines. Some shortlines that do not have capacity to conduct repairs may have an arrangement in place for a nearby Class 1 to conduct repairs.

If a railroad determines that a repair is beyond the scope of what they can handle, such as derailment damage or specialized repairs on tank cars, hopper cars, or other specialty equipment, they can contact the car owner and request disposition to a home shop (operated by the car owner, such as a leasing company), or a third-party repair shop designated by the car owner (assuming car is safe to move on it’s own wheels). If a car is damaged heavily, either from a wreck, or through typical operation (such as a broken sill), and the car is not safe to move on own wheels, the railroad can settle with the car owner for depreciated value (I think I’ll do a future post on this, as this is a lot of what I worked on during my tenure at my summer employer).

At left, the RIP track at CP's Quebec Street yard in London is pretty full today. Looks like the carmen will have their work cut out for them! The building at centre is used to store MOW supplies and spare parts. Note the concrete pad for jacking a car just above the power line. 

Bad Order Cars and the Model Railroader
This is all interesting prototype information (to me, anyhow), but how does this relate to model railroad operations? Have you ever been switching in a yard and you can’t make a joint because one car has a broken coupler? (Recall those lousy plastic couplers Walthers used for years?!) While we may not be able to implement automated defect detection on a model railroad (but wouldn’t that be cool?) we can still interact with bad order cars. Similar to above, if you find a car with a missing coupler spring, bad order it to the RIP track. If you don’t have one on your layout or yard, perhaps park the car on a lightly used spur or siding where the carman can come on-site and repair it. Another common problem with model railcars is tight (or loose) trucks, leading to derailments or excessive (unprototypical) rocking and rolling while in motion. Dragging coupler trip pins are another reason your yard crew could send a car to the RIP track. There are many other reasons I’m sure, and these are just a few. An alternative that I have seen modeled is to randomly bad order a car during an operating session. This mainly applies to modern layouts where one has modeled a WILD or hotbox detector, but in theory, anyone can spot a wheelset with a thin rim or that is high impact (for steam-era modelers, repacking the journal waste would be a common bad order reason). For even more realism, Boulder Creek Engineering has developed an HO scale defect detector remarkably similar to prototype railroads’ defect detectors ( . One can program the automated voice messages, defect types (hotboxes, dragging equipment, etc), and defect probability. The system uses optical sensors to count axles and will playback other data as well (temperature, speed, etc). I think it’s a pretty neat way to add some realism, especially for your operating crew whose train gets caught by the detector with a defect!

Presently, I have two cars on the RIP track, which is adjacent to the yard (the diesel shop will be located on tracks at lower right). CMO 21277, an Athearn RTR Trinity 5161 CF hopper is bad ordered for a missing B-end hopper gate (fell off in box), while PROX 43931 needs a new A-end coupler spring, a common defect with the McHenry scale-head couplers. Once complete, a pad to jack cars and some spare parts will be added to the RIP track.

A typical RIP track doesn’t need much to be set up as such. The primary consideration is a safe place to jack a car, such as a concrete pad or wooden planks to create a relatively flat surface. Likewise, crane(s), forklifts, and spare components such as wheelsets can also be placed near the RIP track for added realism. And if you have the space, one might place a carman’s office nearby, or have the carman work out of the yard office if a separate building isn’t possible.

I think that’s enough for now,
‘Til next time,

-        Peter.

Thursday 12 November 2015

Throwback Thursday (err, Friday!) #22 - CN Stuart Street Yard Over the Years, by Keith MacCauley

I started this post when it was Thursday, but the night seemed to get away from me, so maybe we'll call this a "flashback Friday" instead... Anyway, tonight's post features another article by my dad, Keith. It's one that I had been wanting to write for a long time, but he beat me to it! I hope to expand on it in the future, though I don't have any set time frame for doing so - one of those "someday" projects. Over to you now Keith.

- Peter.

Classic 1970's Canadian railroading in the Steel City: MLW switcher, tank cars with a "flying P" logo on them, and lots of cars with friction bearing trucks.
In the above photo, we find CN S-4 8169 (MLW 9/1956) shown sorting a quartet of tank cars at the Bay Street end of the Hamilton-located Stuart Street Yard. Nose-coupled to the veteran switcher are a trio of non-insulated 20,000 gallon (US) tank cars along with an underframe style tank car emblazoned ‘AIR LIQUIDE’. The scene is a wonderful synopsis of ‘traditional’ railroading (technically in Canada it would be ‘railwaying’, but this sounds silly!): flat switching, end cab switchers, forty foot boxcars, and of course, cabooses (or ‘vans’ in Canada). Note the cupola on the second car on the rip track.

In just over three years Canadian National would embark upon a mammoth upgrade/rebuild program on its vast GP9 fleet at their Pointe St. Charles facility that would ultimately eschew the likes of 8169 and brethren. CN 8169 would soldier on long enough to receive updated 1973 decoration with an all-orange cab (, but would be set aside out of service in the early 1980’s. Seemingly, except for maintenance, the old girl never wandered away from Hamilton, prior to her demise.
The non-insulated tank cars are nominal 70-ton capacity (220,000 lbs total Gross Rail Load) most likely constructed in the late 1960’s/early 1970’s. Tank cars of this size and style (so called ‘non-pressure’, non-insulated equipped with hinged & bolted manway cover and bottom outlet valve) would primarily have been deployed in gasoline and diesel fuel-, or other similar-density flammable liquid service. Similar to the S-4, bigger and better technology in the form of 30,000 gallon/100 ton (263,000 lbs total Gross Rail Load) capacity would usurp their duties and eventually render them obsolete, though not as rapidly.

Note the track parts along the path beside the occupied track and materials stacked to the right of the rip track and the collection of maintenance structures in the background. Shortly, the City of Hamilton would embark upon a bay front revitalization initiative and change the surrounding landscape forever.

Stay tuned for future instalments; see below for some plot spoilers!

- Keith.

Fast-forward nearly 40 years: the MLW's, and in fact the CN itself are nearly gone from Stuart Street, replaced instead by EMD's owned by RailAmerica, and operated by the Southern Onrario Railway. Shortly RailAmerica would be acquired by Genesee & Wyoming, bringing a wave of orange and yellow paint to the shortline. 
RLK 4001 was originally constructed by EMD in August of 1959 as Southern Pacific No. 5872. Renumbered to 3708 in 1965, the built as low nose unit would be conveyed to the Central Western Railway and then onto the Lakeland and Waterways Railway, enterprises both located in the province of Alberta. Leaving Western Canada in 2002, the well-travelled locomotive has spent the last decade on the Goderich-Exeter Railway prior to arriving in Hamilton on the Southern Ontario Railway.

Thursday 5 November 2015

Throwback Thursday #21 - GO Transit #507 & #512 at Toronto, ON C.1979

A cloudy day finds GO GP40TC #507 and F40PH #512 between runs parked near the Spadina coach yards. Scan from an uncredited 35MM Kodak negative from author's collection, circa 1979.
Tonight’s Throwback Thursday takes us back nearly 40 years, to the heart of Toronto passenger operations, Spadina coach yards (or, across the tracks from them as it were). We’re standing on Front Street, looking more/less southwest, and find GO Transit GP40TC #507 and F40PH #512 parked in between the morning and afternoon commuted rushes. Both GMD products, #507 was built in 1967 as the highest-numbered of the eight GP40TC's built specifically for GO's Toronto commuter (hence the "TC") service that began a year later. Noteworthy for early incorporation of diesel HEP systems, the units were constructed on SD40 frames to accommodate a Detroit Diesel engine to supply hotel power to the train. Other unique features include the short pug nose, front GO sign on the handrails (which even lasted well into Amtrak ownership), snow shields and small fuel tank. By this point was on its’ third number, after being built as CN 607 (engines were built prior to commencement of GO operations, and ran on CN for a number of months in a muted black and orange paint scheme before being repainted to GO Transit colours), the engine was then renumbered to GO 607, then to 9807 in 1970, and the onto 507 in 1975. F40PH #512 was a 1978 graduate of GMD, lasting its’ entire ten year career with GO under the same number. Interestingly, both units were sold to Amtrak, with #507 becoming AMTK 199 in 1988, and upon retirement in 1988 (supplanted by the first order of F59PH’s) GO #512 became AMTK 412 in 1990. Rebuilt in 1991, with the addition of dynamic brakes (GO F40’s were the only such units built without dynamic brakes) and an air conditioner, AMTK 412 survived until retirement and subsequent scrapping in March 2000. Interestingly, despite being eleven years older, AMTK 199 survives on the present Amtrak roster, albeit in a modified form. Now GP38H-3 #527, and despite the removal of the middle radiator fan and the engine’s turbocharger, the locomotive still retains much of its' 1967 appearance; it’s even been painted in Amtrak’s latest silver and dark blue paint scheme! The engine is now a terminal switcher assigned to Philadelphia, along the passenger carrier’s Northeast Corridor – a long way from hauling Toronto commuters!

Aside from the engines, there’s plenty to look at in this photo. Aside from the GO equipment, there is plenty to look at for the passenger rail enthusiast, including VIA Blueline equipment, Tempo cars, and even a VIA-painted Turbo train consist (!). A ubiquitous CN S-13 switcher, #8517, looks to be paused in between moves handling the hundreds of passenger cars moved about the terminal each day. Another thing I like about the photo is the great number of billboards in the background – Molson, Toyota, Dodge/Plymouth, Tip Top Tailors, MTV Cable 4 and more; I wonder what happened to them all? They seemed to be all over the place back then, but have long since disappeared from the area; I always thought they provided a neat little time capsule in photos to see what was being advertised at the time (when was the last time you say a Plymouth or a Marlboro being advertised?). A bit more subtle, note the cranes behind the GO equipment and the wood fencing at left – it would appear that construction of the “fly-under” is well under way (note safety fencing at left). Construction of the fly-under allowed GO and VIA trains to navigate from one side of Union Station's numerous tracks to the other without having to pass through a myriad of difficult-to-maintain crossovers (such as double-slip switches). As VIA’s Turbos were retired in 1982, this image is likely from the very late 1970’s or early 1980’s (construction of the fly-under did coincide with VIA Turbo operation).

A Google Maps satellite shot of the same area as the subject photo. Note that high-price high-rises now dominate the area where the coach yards now stood. The fly-under can be seen at middle-right. Out of view at right is the Skydome, which stands roughly where the Spadina roundhouse was once located. 

'Til next time,