Old Soldiers

CP_8448

CP # 8448 leads the Espanola Turn through Nairn Ont. in the summer of 1973. In reality; this is a Van Hobbies brass model rebuilt with a Kato RS-3 drive. It is equipped with an ESU LokSound decoder with a 12-cylinder 244 diesel sound file.

Years after most other major North American railways purged their rosters of 244-powered ALCO diesels, CP Rail continued to employ a good-sized fleet of them throughout the ‘70s. Mainly due to chronic motive power shortages, and maybe a little by their corporate desire to milk locomotives for every mile they could to ensure their return on investment; the CPR would continue to operate 244-powered units until 1982.

In this light we find a pair of old soldiers in charge of the Espanola Turn on the CP Webbwood Sub, continuing to battle friction and gravity in defiance of the scrapper’s torch.

CP #8448, built by MLW in 1954, is noteworthy for being the second-last RS-3 to wear maroon and gray paint. She would eventually receive a new coat of Action Red in 1975, only to be retired the following year due to a major mechanical failure.

RS-10 #8464 fared a little better. Rolling out of MLW later the same year as sister #8448, she would persevere to the end of the decade. It should be noted that regardless of the differences in exterior appearance, the RS-10 is mechanically the same as an RS-3.

The model 244-diesel prime mover may have been plagued with reliability issues and earned a notorious reputation as a maintenance hog, but they endure at the time-warp known at the WRMRC – CP Sudbury Division layout. Here the 1970s never ended, and the burbling sounds of 244 diesels continue to echo throughout the Sudbury Basin.

That ’70s Rent-A-Wreck Fleet

Leased B&O F7A #4487 shares company with a CP RS-18 by the roundhouse at Quebec St Yard in London ON on an April morning in 1972 – John Brown Photo

Since our club’s layout models the CP Rail Sudbury Division in the 1970s, you might come to the conclusion that all the WRMRC’s trains would be powered by CP locomotives. Well, with the exception of the CN and INCO lines that we tie into, of course. So if you visit us for an operating session or an open house and spot a foreign road diesel (i.e. not owned by the railroad on which it is running) you may wonder, “What’s up with that? Are they goofing around? Are they pooling with other railways?”

Well, our gang does its share of goofing around; model railroading is supposed to be fun after all. But we try to minimize silliness on public tours.

Locomotive pooling, defined as competing railroads sharing their diesels for seamless operation between properties, had been going on in the US since the 1960s. The pioneers of power pooling were the NYC + CB&Q, and the Pennsy + UP who started the practice to get their hot freight though Chicago without taking days to interchange. But power pooling was not common in Canada until more recent times, mainly due to the fact that our nation’s two major railways were already transcons who didn’t need to share power, and free trade with the US was many years in the future yet.

However, in the years since the CPR retired their last steam engines in the late ’50s, they have experienced traffic peaks that outstripped their motive power capacity. Sometimes these peaks lasted for many years. That’s when Canadian Pacific needed to beg, borrow, and – in some cases – steal.

Welcome to the world of motive power shortages and locomotive leasing.

The CPR was leasing for most of the ’70s, but the height of it occurred in the first half of the decade. This was due to a motive power shortage stemming from the late 1960s when the Canadian government inked large contracts to export grain to the USSR and China. Additionally, Canadian Pacific began operating long unit coal trains to the newly opened Roberts Bank Superport in BC. Finally, the first generation of diesels (those that directly replaced steam) were getting tired and in need of rebuild, or outright retirement and replacement. This combination of events created a chronic locomotive shortage for CP Rail that lasted well into the mid ’70s. At its peak between 1972-73, the CPR had over 100 locomotives on lease.

CP4047_BO4517_BLE725A_London_27Mar73

A great example of the CPR rainbow lease fleet of the early ’70s, CP FA-2 #4047 leads B&O F7A #4517 and B&LE F7A #725A on a westbound freight through Quebec St Yard in London ON on 27 April 1973 – photographer unknown

As one could imagine, leasing over a hundred locomotives from multiple sources created a serious rainbow fleet. All those colours were mixing with the CPR’s own diesels which, by the way, was going through a corporate image change itself. If anyone wonders why the WRMRC chose such a seemingly unusual modelling era like the ’70s, this was an attractive reason for choosing it.

This rainbow leasing fleet offers a bumper crop of ‘Rent-A-Wrecks’ for us to model. And yes, many of them really were wrecks. The fleet of B&O F-units leased from parent Chessie System between 1972-73 provides a good example. Chessie had these classic cab units in storage prior to leasing. A number of them never made it past Windsor because the CPR judged them to be unroadworthy and sent them back to Detroit. Of the 20 or so that were leased, many were promptly scrapped by Chessie after being returned. They were literally running their last miles on the CPR.

If direct leasing wasn’t enough, the CPR was also known to… umm… “borrow” power. CP Rail did operate a pair of pooled freight trains between Toronto, ON and Buffalo, NY in partnership with the TH&B and Penn Central known as ‘The Kinnear’. During the dark days of the Penn Central era, the TH&B and PC power that lingered around Agincourt Yard over the weekends could end up on any turn jobs out of Toronto, so long as the units were returned by Sunday night. Borrowing TH&B power like this was OK, given the fact that TH&B was partially owned by the CPR. But Penn Central diesels? The bankrupt PC was in such disarray they never checked the odometers of their units to notice the added mileage. It was not until Conrail took over that anyone looked and began billing the CPR for the added mileage. The practice stopped soon after.

The upshot for us is that a Saturday #955 could show up in Sudbury with pooled PC and TH&B locomotives during those times. Train 955 “the MacTier Bullet” (employee sarcasm) was a turn job running from Toronto to Sudbury, returning back Sunday morning as a 50-series 4th class all-stops local. For that matter GO Transit locomotives (properly leased) could also show up on weekends in the later half of the decade.

Without getting into specific road numbers, the following is a list of known leased or pooled locomotives that could be spotted on CP Rail trains in Ontario during the 1970s:

  • 1970-71 – Chicago Great Western F7A & F7B units (owned by CNW but still in CGW colours),
  • 1970-75 – Bessemer & Lake Erie F7A & F7B units,
  • 1970-75 – Precision National ALCO RS-27 units (#901 and 902),
  • 1970-74 – Boston & Maine F7A & F7B, GP9 and RS-3 units,
  • 1970-71 – Illinois Central ALCO C-636 units,
  • 1970-71 – Bessemer & Lake Erie ALCO RSD-15 units,
  • 1970-73 – Lake Superior & Ispeming GE U23C units (winter only),
  • 1970 & 1973 – Duluth, Missabi & Iron Range SD9 units,
  • 1971-75 – Precision National / Bellequip GP7 & GP9 units (ex Quebec North Shore & Labrador),
  • 1971-75 – Bangor & Aroostock GP7, GP9 & GP38 units,
  • 1972-73 – Precision National GP7 units (ex-FEC),
  • 1972-75 – Precision National GP10 units (rebuilt ‘Paducah Geeps’),
  • 1972-73 – Baltimore & Ohio F7A & F7B units,
  • 1973-75 – Pittsburg & Lake Erie GE U28B units,
  • 1973-75 – United Railway Supply ALCO RS-3 units (#101-103 – former Reading),
  • 1976-77 – Chessie System (C&O) GP30 & GP35 units (pooled power),
  • 1978-80 – GO Transit GP40TC, GP40-2(W) & F40PH units (leased on weekends only),
  • 1978-80 – Algoma Central GP7 units,
  • 1979-80 – Chessie System (B&O/C&O) GP30 & GP35 units (leased),
  • 1979-80 – Norfolk & Western SD40 units,
  • 1970-77 – Pooled ‘Kinnear’ power (TH&B or Penn Central/Conrail units, misc. models)
PNC3419_SmithsFalls_04Mar72

PNC GP10 #3419, a full Paducah Geep rebuild by Illinois Central Gulf for Precision National, rests in the back tracks at Smiths Falls ON on 04 March 1972 – Bruce Chapman photo

Many of these individual leaser fleets have interesting stories themselves, and will be the subject of future blog posts. Stay tuned for more episodes of “That ’70s Rent-a-Wreck Fleet”.

CSI (Canadian Switcher Investigation): Sudbury – Episode 7091

In the railfan photographic archeology and forensics field, there is a dedicated group of crazies attempting to uncover the repaint dates of CP Rail diesels that operated in the Sudbury ON area during the 1970’s. These are their stories…

S-2 #7091 rests by the Sudbury roundhouse on 15 Aug 1986, only days away from official retirement and eventual sale to INCO as their #204. D. W. Hately photo from www.mountainrailway.com

Aside from our gang at the WRMRC, and the remaining local railfans who lived in the Sudbury area back in the 1970’s, few people know of the legend of CP #7091. This was one of four MLW-built S-2 switchers the CPR assigned to Sudbury yard from dieselization until the early 1980’s, all grouped in the early-7090 number series. They were all specially equipped with passenger buffers for passenger car switching (necessary for shunting cars off ‘The Dominion’ and later ‘The Canadian’ within the Sudbury terminal) so the group never strayed far from home over those decades.

The “legend” so-to-speak, was that the Sudbury shops personnel (who not only performed car repairs, rebuilding and repainting, but also local diesel running repairs and repaints) continued to repaint the 7091 in maroon and gray script well into the 1970’s, and they avoided sending the unit to Angus for any heavy repairs, knowing the unit would probably return wearing Action Red.

Over the years of collecting photos for our club archives, we quickly concluded this local legend of the 7091 was no legend. This was fact. Any 1970-75 era photos we found of the 7091 revealed a unit in relatively good looking maroon and gray script paint. For those unaware, the old scheme tended to weather poorly. So the pics were showing the Sudbury shops were indeed pampering the venerable old gal.

The plan worked for many years, but inevitably all good things must come to an end. One day a CPR big-wig from Montreal showed up at the division headquarters and, as the legend goes, saw a freshly painted maroon and gray 7091 working the west yard lead. And that was the end of that.

The investigation (and frustration) began after I first studied this photo of CP 7092 in Sudbury dated 09 August 1975.

 photo CP7092_Sudbury_09Aug77_zpsa3ekkyce.jpg

Photographer unknown – Sudbury ON – 09 Aug 1975

Notice at the very right edge of the photo, coupled in front of the 7092, is a maroon & gray script painted MLW switcher which we can safely conclude is the 7091. All the other Sudbury MLW switchers were Action Red by this time, and had been for many years by then. Nothing unusual about it, or so I thought, until I reviewed some other photos in the hopes of nailing down exactly when the 7091 was repainted.

Here is a Jim Parker photo of 7091 dated October 1974.

http://www.rr-fallenflags.org/cp/cp7091jpb.jpg

Jim Parker photo – Fallen Flags website

OK it’s unquestionably Sudbury because that old white icehouse was a definitive landmark. The icehouse was razed sometime by the end of 1974, so it’s feasible this photo was taken while the structure was possibly days away from demolition. Also we have a photo labeled from 1975, so it obviously would have been in this scheme the year prior.

Now here is another photo by the Sudbury shops building with the date identified by the photographer as 05 November 1975.

 photo cp7091_05Nov75_zpscij5buti.jpg

William Slim photo – from OK the PK

This is pretty late into the Action Red era. Back then, railway image was still a big deal and the CPR was aggressive in repainting things into the current image. Also, notice the scheme is getting a little worn here unlike the fresher look in that 1974 photo. So all is still well, and we can assume the 7091 lasted like this into 1976 possibly.

Now here is where the mystery begins, this shot of 7091 was posted in rrpicturearchives.net and the author wrote it was taken on Canada Day in 1977.

CP 7091 in old CP colors

Jack Smith photo – rrpicturearchives.net

Holy cow! 1977 and (never mind the colour shift in this reproduction) the paint is really fresh! Boy those guys in the Sudbury shops had guts keeping 7091 looking like this.

Problem is I eventually found that this date has to be bogus. The author probably took it on the 1st of July, but it can’t be 1977. That’s because here is a photo of the 7091 in action red candy stripes in a shot dated July 1978.

 photo CP7091_Sudbury_July1978_zpsiohktrjf.jpg

Photographer unknown – Sudbury ON – July 1978

So what’s the big deal? That was 1977 and this is 1978. So it must have been painted sometime in between right?

Well no. The 5″ ‘Candy Stripe’ scheme lasted until the fall of 1976, and was then replaced by the 8″ wide-stripe scheme. So that shot of 7091 could not have been taken in 1977, since this unit wore narrow stripe paint. It had to have been repainted sometime before 1976.

The ongoing mystery here is we still do not have a definite date as to when 7091 was finally repainted into action red. However, we have found enough photographs of her online listed as 1975 to conclude it probably lasted that long.

But at least we have learned at few things:

· We are reasonably certain the repaint happened some time between late autumn 1975 and June 1976 (when CP adopted the 8” wide stripe scheme).
· The Sudbury shops did indeed keep 7091 in good shape, as the legend went.
· You can’t totally trust the internet. That should seem obvious. But even in railway modeling, try to find as many sources of information as possible.

So in conclusion our club needs two models of the 7091, one each wearing different schemes. The script unit operates in sessions representing 1970-75, and the candy stripe unit for 1976-79. No wonder prototype modeling wasn’t very common prior to the internet age. How could anyone figure this stuff out before?

And so ends another file from the WRMRC’s Sudbury:CSI team…Canadian Switcher Investigation