Thursday, August 15, 2013

Canadian Pacific Railway Sees the Light on the Portal and Weyburn Subdivisions

A CPR train on the Portal Sub.

The CPR has seen the light—the light of signals, that is, on its Portal and Weyburn Subs.

The ex-Soo line, which runs from Glenwood Junction near Minneapolis, MN to Portal, ND, at the Canadian border, and then on to the railway’s transcontinental mainline at Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, is the CPR’s busy connection between Vancouver, B.C. and Chicago.

Until now, it was also one of the busiest dark (unsignalled) lines in North America. And it was the inspiration for my CP Rail Manitoba & Minnesota Sub. layout.

This year the railway will add signals and convert the line to Centralized Traffic Control. This means that trains will no longer operate on the Subs. using track warrants, communicated to crews via radio.

It also means that switches will no longer be hand-thrown. Right now, when trains meet crews need to manually line switches in and out of sidings. When the improvements are completed, switches will be thrown remotely by dispatchers.

The improvements will add capacity and speed up operations on the line, which cuts through the heart of North Dakota’s Bakken oil field.

Although the M & M Sub. is located in Manitoba and Minnesota, I was inspired by a visit to the Portal and Weyburn Subs. in 2003 to also make the layout dark. As on the prototype, trains proceed by warrant from the dispatcher, and operators manually throw switches.

(The decision was also influenced by finances, and by my own technical abilities, or inabilities, in this area.)

Fortunately for me, the M & M Sub. is permanently frozen in the  early 1990s—no need to add signals and remote control switches. So unlike the prototype, my layout will never see the light.

Photo above by Steven M. Welch.

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