Saturday 25 August 2018

CN Stuart Street Locomotive Shop

Above: A snowless Super Bowl Sunday finds the diminutive facility chock full of equipment; a couple of Pointe St. Charles vans, a trio of SW1200RS’s, a GP9 and at least one GP40-2L (W) in the distance. GP9 No. 4533 (GMD 1/1957) would be transformed by PSC into GP9RM No. 7032 in 1991 and remarkably is still active. CN caboose No. 79616 was constructed by PSC in 1973 from a CN 472000 series boxcar and by 1997 would be converted into a ‘Rider Car’. For the record, the San Francisco 49ers defeated the Denver Broncos 55 – 10 in Super Bowl XXIV at the Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans.

The CN diesel running repair facility located on the south edge of the Stuart Street yard complex was a pocket sized instalment with all of the required elements compressed onto the property. The diesel shop was a modern, relatively small, heavily windowed structure with two tracks; both equipped with drop pits. The building was sized to accommodate four switcher units or a pair of longer locomotives as needed. Companion service items positioned on the west side of the shop included fuel storage tanks, a sand tower, and an outdoor inspection station equipped with access platforms and grating/spill containment.

Constructed in the early 1960’s following the demise of steam, the facility would have hosted a wide spectrum of motive power through the years. According to ‘IN MY OWN WORDS’ in the July 2018 issue of Trains Magazine the selection of motive power resident in the mid 1960’s was that of an locomotive enthusiast’s dream;  FM C-Liners, MLW S-3/S-4’s, FPA-4’s as well as GMD F9’s, GP9’s, GMD1’s and SW1200RS’s. Occurrence of the passenger units at the time was related to CN’s Hamilton to Toronto commuter service obligation; GO Transit Corporation was on the cusp of formation. The commuter locomotives and MLW switchers were assigned to Stuart Street and thus would have received their regulatory ninety-two day inspections in-house. The GP9’s and SW1200RS’s would have been maintained at their respective home base(s) and only received attention at Stuart Street as required. Aside from minor updates; additional exterior lighting, etc., and routine maintenance; new roll up doors and replacement windows for example, the diesel shop remained relatively unchanged for the better part of half a century.

Over the years access to the facility, in my case outdoors only - typically on weekends, was very open with virtually no security about. Staff when encountered was friendly and for the most part mostly unengaging. On occasion, a CN Police vehicle would drive through the grounds looking for anything that might be out of the ordinary or of interest. Interactions were always friendly happenstances. I only wish I had made more sojourns to shop during these seemingly more innocent times.

On December 15th 1997 CN would enter into a long term lease agreement of the Stuart Street Yard facility with RaiLink Southern Ontario. RaiLink was acquired by Rail America in 2000 who in turn would become part of short line goliath Genesee and Wyoming Corporation in 2012. Changes to the diesel shop began to unfold following CN’s departure. Virtually all of the external appliances were razed; gone in relatively short order were the sand tower, fuel storage tanks and inspection track accessories. Importance of the location as a diesel service facility would continue to diminish as the tenant years passed. In 2013 the Metrolinx commuter agency announced an agreement with CN that would result in the property being re-purposed for expanded GO Train service to Hamilton at a new station to be known as ‘Harbour West’. By September of 2014 no evidence of the former ‘running repair’ facility remained.

Above: The remaining days clearly numbered, the diesel shop at Stuart Street is showing the effects of reduced maintenance. Note also that the overhead inspection lights have been removed and openings in the attached cement block administration structure have either been reduced in size or eliminated altogether. Sadly, the once bustling facility was almost reduced to an abandoned property in its final years.