Thursday 28 December 2017

Throwback Thursday - 23 Year's Difference at Paris, ON

CN GP40 #9306 leads train #411 westbound through Paris, Ontario, on May 19, 1994, with C630M #2038 and M636 #2322 assisting. Reg Button photo, author's collection.
Tonight's Throwback Thursday goes back to May 1994, where we find CN GP40 #9306 leading Toronto-Sarnia freight #411 through scenic Paris, Ontario. The train is westbound in the late afternoon, having just crossed the large bridge over the scenic Grand river (out of sight, in the middle of the S-curve through which the train is visible), passing the location of the long-demolished Paris train station. Assisting are C630M #2038 and M636 #2322, all three engines in a somewhat run-down rendition of CN's 'zebra stripe' paint scheme. Privatization of the crown corporation is a little over a year away, and the big MLW's wouldn't last much longer either. The lead unit survives today, however, unlike many of the other 15 CN GP40's (CN 9302-9317); once common in southern Ontario (sometimes referred to as "tunnel pullers", a remnant of their assignment to Sarnia-Port Huron tunnel duty), the lead unit would end up spending more time in southern Ontario than most other CN GP40's. After sale to RailAmerica, the engine became RLK 4096, and would be assigned to the Goderich-Exeter Railway for a number of years. Currently, the unit is still in Ontario, now serving on sister-road Ottawa Valley Railink. 

Fast-forward 23.5 years and we find CN SD70M-2 #8953 at the same location with train #397. The view is largely the same, though a bit more closed-in and obstructed by the growth of the trees. An old CN trailer is an interesting addition to the scene, perhaps forgotten by whatever company department left it there (I doubt the accountants will even notice if it is still on the company balance sheet). The former location of the Paris railway station is now a stores area for company MOW material, and seems to be fostering the growth of some annoying foliage (at least from the photographer's perspective!). Photo taken on 12/17/2017.

Fast-forward 23 and a half years, and we again find a westbound passing the John Street overpass with an EMD in the lead. This time the train is #397 and SD70M-2 #8953 is assisted by ES44DC #2300 and IC SD70 #1029. The intervening years have brought a merger with Illinois Central, privatization, droves of (in my opinion, rather bland) GE's, but Paris is still a great location to watch trains, be it from the John Street overpass, the bridge over the Grand River, or Paris Junction, just west of this location. To paraphrase the Dos Equis spokesman, "stay trackside, my friends!" 


Sunday 24 December 2017

ALL IN A DAY’S WORK (On the Railway)

Despite their homogenous appearance, none of the above units were originally built for CN. Heritage as follows; CN 2185 (GE Dash 8-40CW, ex BNSF 847, nee ATSF 847, built 10/29), CN 2100 (GE Dash 8-40C, ex UP 9065, nee CNW 8553, built 8/91), CN 5423 (EMD SD60 ex GMTX 9060/EMDX 9060, nee OWY 9060, built 11/86). Note the fresher paint on No. 5423.
Canadian National long haul train M38531 (M385) is a daily mixed freight from Toronto MacMillan (Mac) Yard to Flat Rock, Michigan. Departure is early morning and the train often works yards along the route, depending upon demand and on line traffic congestion. Recently the normal workaday routine of M385 was interrupted; story line as follows.

Motive power assigned this day were six axle units CN 2195/2100/5423. Arriving at Aldershot Yard in Burlington the crew brought the train to a stop to assess over heating issues on trailing SD60 No. 5423. All modern units have on board diagnostic capabilities and built in safeguards were preventing the unit from loading (pulling). Electing not to swap out the faltering EMD and further to some ad hoc ‘McGyvering’, the crew managed to get the unit to load and set off to do battle with the nine mile climb that marks the beginning of CN’s Dundas subdivision. At 173 cars, some 11,553 feet of train, the struggle would be mighty; ten MPH overall would be a monumental achievement. This in fact would represent almost an hour of very hard pulling. Regrettably, No. 5423’s overheating gremblins returned, neutering the unit, making the SD60 unable to contribute to the task at hand. Just prior to reaching the half way point at mile four, No. 5423 shut down, bringing forward progress of the more than two mile long consist to a halt. Fortunately, Aldershot local train L55131 (L551) had not departed the yard, making available the assigned motive power; GP9RM’s, Nos. 4125 & 7068. The veteran duo would save the day, pushing M385 past the crest of the Niagara Escarpment (near Copetown), all the way to Brantford. What about L551’s assignment for the day? Delayed, and most likely performed by a different crew. The rescue crew would probably be short of hours to needed to carry out the local switching assignment. Same story for M385; depending upon their start time at Mac Yard, the crew may have run out of hours prior to crossing the border into the US at Sarnia. What about CN 5423? Most likely set out in Sarnia, the unit returned to Mac Yard for proper attention. By the end of the week the repaired unit had ventured as far afield as Moncton, New Brunswick.
At 3,800 HP the SD60 packs more than double the horsepower of the units sent to rescue M385; the two GP9RM’s combined total 3,600 HP. Of note, No. 4125 (age 62) is twice the age of No. 5423 (age 31). Doubtful that No. 5423 will be around 31 years from now!
Heritage of the GP9RM’s as follows; CN 4125 (GMD GP9, ex No. 4406, nee No. 1730, built 2/55), CN 7068 (GMD GP9, ex No. 4323, built 5/59).