Sunday, June 28, 2015

First and Last Operating Steam Locomotives in Manitoba

6043 in Assiniboine Park

The first and last steam locomotives to operate in regular scheduled service in Manitoba can be found today in Winnipeg—separated by about 12 kilometres and 84 years. 

The first one is the Countess of Dufferin, which was barged to Winnipeg down the Red River from the U.S. in 1877.

The wood-burning steamer was built by the Baldwin Locomotive Works in Philadelphia in 1872 for the Northern Pacific Railway.

After service in Manitoba, it worked in a B.C. in a lumberyard. In 1909 it was returned to Winnipeg and put on display in front of the old CPR station in the city’s downtown. 

In 1993 it was moved to its current home at the Winnipeg Railway Museum.

The last one is CNR U-1-d Mountain-type 4-8-2 #6043, which is on display in the city’s Assiniboine Park.

Built in in 1929 at Kingston, Ont. by the Canadian Locomotive Works, it made the last scheduled steam-led run in Canada on April 25, 1960 from The Pas to Winnipeg.

6043 under steam in the 1950s. 

It ran once more, on June 22, 1961, pulling an excursion between Brandon and Winnipeg.

Now it is on display, a testament to a different time. Too bad it isn't also inside the museum, beside the Countess.

Maybe one day . . . .


Click here to see a home video of the last excursion run. Photo of 6043 under steam from Bikelover2's Flickr page. 

There is still one operating steam locomotive in Manitoba (in excursion service): The Prairie Dog Central.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Summer Trip on VIA #2 from Saskatoon to Winnipeg

I had to be in the Saskatoon area for business this month. I needed to fly there to make my meeting on time, but I had time to come back the best way possible: By train.

VIA #2 was late coming to Saskatoon, so I caught a bit of traffic and some switching while I waited.

When you travel by train, you're reminded that we live in a big country. You can see for miles on the prairies.

You also get to see things you can't see from the highway, like this abandoned grain elevator.

I was in the third car from the front, in coach. There were 21 cars in the train that day.

Darting between the signals.

Sunset from the dome car.

Late arrival in Winnipeg.

So that's four train trips this year so far for me. I hope I can do at least one more.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Golf, Trains and the U.S. Open

Golfers and railfans alike are talking about one of the unusual features of the Chambers Bay golf course in Washington—host to this year’s U.S. open—the trains that run besides the 16th and 17th holes.

The BNSF line between Seattle and Portland hosts about 60 trains a day, including Amtrak. Half of those run between 8 AM and 8 PM, when play is occurring.

Prior to the tournament the U.S. Golf Association discussed whether it should ask BNSF to alter its schedules during play to lessen the distraction. The decision was no.

BNSF did ask its engineers to not blow their horns during the open—something they often do at other times when people are on the course.

Seeing the trains roll by made me wonder if there are other golf courses around the world with train tracks nearby. Apparently, there are a few, as the photos below show.

Adelaide, Australia 

La Crosse, Wisconsin 

Royal Colombo, Sri Lanka

Saturday, June 13, 2015

"Drive" a Train in Vancouver

Best seat on the train.

OK, it’s not technically a train—it’s the Skytrain, Vancouver's driverless rapid transit system. 

And you aren’t driving it; but you can pretend if you’re lucky enough to get a front seat, you’re sitting in front of the window with a great view. 

View from the front window.

I was in Vancouver recently and had a chance to take the Skytrain. They fully-automated system has 68.7 kilometres (42.7 miles of track, much of it elevated.

I was on the Millenium Line because I wanted to go from downtown to Central Hobbies, Vancouver’s best all-trains hobby shop.

Central Hobbies is easy to see from the station.

The store is located very near to the Renfrew Station, and right beside the line leading to Vancouver’s Pacific Station. The line hosts trains from CN, VIA Rail and Amtrak, and the Rocky Mountaineer.

Two Skytrain lines and the CN mainline
intersect at the Renfrew station.

No trip to Vancouver is complete without a trip to the harbourfront, where you can not only see the ships—including cruise ships—but also trains from the West Coast Express, which serves people in the outlying communities.

During the day, the trainsets are parked along the harbourfront, beside the CPR intermodal and grain hopper storage yard.

There are many good reasons to visit Vancouver; sitting in the "driver’s" seat on the Skytrain might be among the best. 

Thursday, June 11, 2015

End of the Line Coming for Government of Canada "Trudeau Hoppers"

In the 1970s, Canada had a problem—an obsolete grain car fleet prevented it from winning or fulfilling international grain sales.

In response, the Canadian government, together with the provinces of Saskatchewan and Alberta and the Canadian Wheat Board, ordered 12,400 cylindrical hoppers in 1980 to move grain from Canada to port and then to market.

Today, 35 years later, over 8,400 of these cars—colloquially called “Trudeau hoppers,” after the name of the Prime Minister at the time they were ordered—are still in service.

That will begin to change in just over a decade.

According to the recently-released Government of Canada Hopper Car Fleet Annual Report, the fleet of government-owned grain hopper cars will shrink to half its current size in the next 11 years. The cars will be almost completely eliminated in 20 years.

According to the report, about 3,400 cars will be scrapped in 2026 or 2027 and most of the rest will be retired between 2032 and 2035.

This will bring an end to a colourful, conspicuous and unique aspect of Canadian railroading.

Over the past number of decades, these cars have been rolling advertisements for the country of Canada—especially the ones with the large word “Canada” on the sides—and for the provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan.

The lives of these cars were extended through an operating agreement in 2007 with CN and the CPR to refurbishing and upgrade the cars. This extended their service life the maximum of 50 years.

The government provides the cars to CN and the CPR at no cost to move prairie grain to export terminals on the west coast, and the ports of Churchill and Thunder Bay.

In return, the railways manage, maintain, and operate the cars on a day-to-day basis and are required to ensure sufficient car supply to meet the transportation needs of shippers.

Considering how ubiquitous these cars are, especially on the prairies, it's hard to imagine a time when they will be gone. But just like forty-foot boxcars and steam locomotives, the day is coming when people will say: "Remember when . . . ?"

Photos on this page from Canadian Freight Car Gallery. 

Sunday, June 7, 2015

CPR Script Lettering in 2015: A Rare Catch

What are the chances of finding a piece of rolling stock on the CPR in 2015 in script lettering? But I did, today, in Winnipeg at the downtown yard when I spotted #381702 in a westbound consist.

The car in question was built in 1966 by National Steel Car. The script version of the railway's name was introduced in 1963, and replaced in 1968 by the Multi-Mark.

So, two things. First, this is a very old car. Second, it's an old car that was never repainted.

A quick web search indicates that this car has also been seen in B.C., Alberta and Ontario.

For the M & M Sub., which is set in the early 1990s, having a few cars in script is not unusual. But anyone modelling today's railroading would be hard-pressed to explain having one on their layout.

Unless it's pressure unloading car #381702, of course.

Also while at the yard, I took the photos below, just for the heck of it.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

More Photos of a Great Canadian Lone Wolf Layout

My friend Ronald Grandmaison was in town from New Brunswick. After running some trains on the M & M Sub., we went over to my friend Walter's layout--aka the "lone wolf."

I know that Ronald was impressed by Walter's work, as am I whenever I visit. And to think he has achieved this much progress in just seven years! (With help from his brother.)

What makes Walter's layout even more special is that many of the structures are scratchbuilt, or made from fine scale kits--the ones I would never attempt to build.

So whenever I go there I find that he's added something new, or changed something. And I always take a few photos of his great model railroad.

Walter still has a ways to go, but the results so far are great--as Ronald will attest.

Click here and here to see other photos and information about the layout.