Friday, March 26, 2010

Tim Time: RTC TJB signs off

CN Rail Traffic Controller TJ Ball spent the evening of March 3 controlling train movements over the Kingston Sub. Tim's authoritative, laconic, no-nonsense manner kept the trains moving. Following are some examples, from 2000 to 2009, of how he did it. As Tim says, "For the people who work on the track or those who put in a lot of time near it, it should be easy to understand."

SAYINGS
Too big a train to be screwing around with.

A whack of trains, everything's screwed up.

Indifference is becoming a major ally.

367, the Queens East plant just went for a crap

366 facing an approach signal at Mi 179 asks "Are you going to be holding us at Queens?"
Just a minute and I'll pound the snot out of it.

9500 foot freight at Belleville...bigger and better? Well bigger anyway.

(Above) 5329-5372 haul a 140-car No 301 uphill out of Trenton, Aug 24/00.
4143-4107 with a 3-car No 590 at Mi 184, 0825 May 29/04:
SPEED UP!
I'll check with the war room re: 301. VIA No 67, you'll go to the south track at Ernestown and open 'er up.

519, let's rock and roll, there's a parade heading west. Hallelujah, let's get you out of town before something else goes wrong.

364, you're not exactly a barn burner.

519, put some hustle in your bustle. That 20 minute move at Millhaven isn't working, and you're holding up the parade

No 308's power backing into Queens East after setting out a bad-order car, June 24/01:
THE SYSTEM
The westbounds Montreal sends us all have 9 hours left and work everywhere.

You've got a 50 mph car, 320? Everyone who deals with this has gone home.

I don't know what the midnight shift does around here sometimes

Brandt unit pulling a short work train at Kingston station, Mar 27/99:
FOREMEN
RG17, are you having some difficulty? Did you want to let me in on it? So, what about about the guy behind you doing 95? Next time let me know sooner. Now hurry up and get the hell out of the way.

Foreman B with Brandt Roadrailer trying to haul cars in snowstorm:
Are you making a career out of getting to Ernestown? So in an hour, you made it a grand total of 2 miles? Take that junk, dump it in the Norcom spur, call it a night and get off my main line. Give it a chance to cool its wheels off.

Foreman B at Queens:
Are we making some progress against the brush? That should be entertaining.

Railgrinder RG306, No 307 and No 308 converge at Queens, June 24/01:
SAYS HERE...
We've got problems with the scanner, so you'll have to do a pullby or go 15 miles per hour to the next scanner. Sorry, but that's the policy. I can't do much for you.

Foreman W, I don't believe in double dipping (Rule 42 plus TOP) You've got a Rule 42, so get out there, put up your flags and get to work. When you need to take the flags down in the morning, I'll give you a TOP then.

4100 leads No 590 uphill on the Cataraqui Spur, May 7/02:
SOUNDS LIKE NO
519, if I do what you're suggesting, what do we do with 66 and 320? Yeah right, we tried that trick once before.

590, I've got 306 waiting at Marysville for that move to transpire, plus I've got 148 who's going to be up his butt shortly when he leaves Belleville, and I can't tie all that up for you.

To Foreman G at 1900:
You're not going anywhere near the mainline until 2100. It doesn't bother me any. You're the guys standing out there watching trains go by.

5294-9562 lead an eastbound out of the setting sun at Mi 190, July 21/95:
SUGGESTIONS
519, let me ponder that for a minute. I liked it better when you didn't do Napanee first.

305 wants to book rest:
Oh why don't you wait till the Desk B guy gets in? He has bugger all to do all night.

Piece of scrap wood overhanging flat car struck VIA 64:
Better get a car number, "someone" will be wanting to know about this.

Tie on rails struck by 106, to following train:
Have an eye in case the little darlin's come back to admire their handiwork.

Road-rail crane RC10771 takes to the rails at Kingston station, 1986:
STORIES
No 148, would you please perform an emergency test for me please? Yeah, I learned that on the Caramat Sub a long time ago.

376 reports cows south of the south track at Mi 158, asking "Tim how do you like your steak?":
Medium well.

To retiring crew member on 301:
Congratulations to your mate. Wish I was doing the same.

On March 4, Tim became a Retired Traffic Controller. All the best - those who retire seem to enjoy it!
Running extra...
Listening to The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom. "Father took the train to Amsterdam to get the time from the naval observatory. The trip took only half an hour but it was a wonderful ride: first the old, wedged buildings of Haarlem, then the flat, Dutch farmland stretching to the horizon, at last Amsterdam with its bewilderment of strange streets and canals."

Night-time CN crews at work around Kingston this week included a Herzog tie train and railgrinder. Surely a sign of spring: trackwork season.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Vestibule View of Thunder Bay, 1986

The vestibule of Sherwood Manor aboard VIA No 1 offered a great view of CN and CP operations in Thunder Bay. I was heading to SteamExpo, a featured event at transportation-themed Expo86 in Vancouver. The consist of No 1: 6513-6628-616-609-118-3200-504-Egerton-Thompson Manor-Sherwood Manor-Emerald-Abbott Manor-Hearne Manor-Naiscoot River-Strathcona Park. CP's tie program had left behind piles of tie segments along the Nipigon Sub (above).

An interesting mix of grain cars on CN's Kinghorn Sub, which we were now paralleling: brown and yellow, silver and yellow, red Canada, even a boxcar and slab-side hopper:
Other signs of Thunder Bay's grain trans-shipment role were the drydock and Canada Steamship Lines self-unloader at Port Arthur:
CN GMD-1's 1910-1913 straddle a stream as they drill grain cars for the nearby Sask Pool and Pioneer Grain terminal elevators:
There's lots of spilled grain around the tracks as we pass CP Angus Shops van 434345 and two chop-nose GP-9's. My camera's f-stop is open, as most of these south-facing shots are taken into the morning sun. Grain boxcars galore on the next track over:
More grain terminals, the CN ore dock and Mount McKay loom in the distance. Log cars are relieved of their wooden cargoes in the foreground:
We pass low-profile yard switchstands and crossovers in Port Arthur. The VIA/CP station is ahead in Fort William. Leanin' way out, to include part of the VIA logo on this Manor car, where once was bolted a Canadian Pacific beaver emblem.
SOO 76481 is a harbinger of CPs much closer connection with the Soo Line which occurred in 1990. It stood out amongst all those Canada-built cylindrical covered hoppers:
CP 1532-1576 pause beside our train between switching moves. The trainman appears to be walking back to line a switch. Thunder Bay seemed to be crawling with switching assignments.

A freshly-painted SW1200RS 8114 sits in the sun. Maple leaf moment...Canadian Tire plastic bag is in use in the cab. Behind 8114 are 8128-1560.

Yet another switcher, 1242 chants in the clear as we meet an eastbound freight behind 6001-5009. Time to temporarily head-in.
The coaches are being watered and our train steams while awaiting its departure time from Thunder Bay Station. Unfortunately, lead unit 6513 would later die near Dryden. Fortunately, our train was helped into Winnipeg by CP SD40-2 5982.
Running extra...
Finished listening to Public Enemies by Bryan Burrough, a wide-ranging tale of the US crime wave of 1933-34, when Tommy guns were the weapon of choice. Bonnie didn't shoot much, leaving most of it to Clyde.

Clyde Yard in Cicero is a former CB&Q yard in Cook County, Illinois. In their movie, the Blues Brothers rush to the Cook County Assessor's office to pay the property taxes for the penguin's orphanage.

I took in Kingston's train show yesterday. Bought over 60 Railroad Model Craftsman magazines, then took in the annual Concert in Scarlets by Royal Military College's bands. Both events involved RMC and involved lots of training.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Postscript: Alcan Gondolas at Kingston

CN 188000-188435 are covered gondola cars used by Alcan for shipping aluminum coils. Loaded at Arvida's continuous cast operation, the coils are covered while still warm. The covers are heavily-insulated, mainly for wintertime, when ambient temperature on the trip can change from -30C to 20C. Moisture from the temperature change would stain the aluminum and cannot be removed, and since the 5-7 coils are valued at $35,000 each, that can be a costly mistake. Today, the coils are shipped by rail to Indianapolis, then trucked 70 miles to Terre Haute for further rolling. Upon arrival, the coils are still warm. CN later added more cars to the fleet.

In March, 1995, at least two of the cars were spotted on Kingston's Aluminum Spur (above). The cars may have been in Arvida-Kingston service for awhile. A photo on the Canadian Science and Technology Museum website shows coils being unloaded at Kingston: http://imagescn.technomuses.ca/railways/index_choice.cfm?id=60&photoid=31845547

The cars had CN and Alcan logos on their covers. I've yet to add the CN logos to my HO-scale gondola's covers. When Alcan Rolled Products was spun off to Novelis in 2004, the Alcan logos were painted out. A one-day trace of the gondola fleet in the late 1990's:
Arvida, Roberval & Saguenay: 188400, 188402, 188403, 188405, 188416, 188424, 188427, 188429, 188433, 188434.
Garneau Yard: 188401, 188431.
Montreal Taschereau Yard on train 364: 188407, 188411, 188414, 188415, 188417, 188418, 188420, 188425, 188432.
Oshawa on train 369: 188404, 188406, 188413, 188419, 188426, 188428.
Flint, Michigan on train 216: 188410.
Chicago, Indiana Harbor Belt: 188409, 188412, 188421, 188422, 188423.

In the 1960's, CN and CP were competing for Alcan's business in Kingston. Alcan was one of CP's major customers here, and much of the rolled aluminum was sent to Wilkinson in British Columbia. CN sent the rolls in tarped gondolas, but the tarps had to be rolled up and shipped back - a troublesome process. CP developed two-section steel lids which provided better protection from the elements. This probably explains the presence of that covered CP gon in an earlier post on Kingston's CN-CP interchange.

Thanks to Ian Stronach for sharing information on Alcan. An HO modeller, Ian's Montreal Terminals is a professional-looking operation.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

CN's Kingston Aluminum Spur

Located in Kingston's north end, the Aluminum Company of Canada (Alcan) plant in Kingston was a major industrial customer, and as such received service from CN. A wye branching off the south siding at Queens, the spur entered the plant property and served each mill, via at least nine tracks within the plant property. Although rail shipments dwindled over the years, and the much-smaller operation has been sold by Alcan and is now truck-served, it was still possible in 1985 to find CN doing some switching.
The trainman is working the caboose's air whistle as the cut of covered gons approaches Lappan's Lane crossing. The two switchstands are for the team track and wye switch. Pulling back on the tele lens as caboose 79438 nears the crossing, the team track is visible at left, with the PUC propane track and switch at right:
After unlocking the plant gate and flagging the Counter Street crossing,
it's time to re-board the caboose,
as 3744 accelerates the short train uphill into the plant property through the opened gate. Note "Alcan Industrial Site" sign on the perimeter fence:
Cars spotted at Alcan track KL14, aluminum rolls in, empties billed to Arvida, Quebec:
GBSR covered gondolas CN 188001, 190734, 190733, 190929, 190722, 190719, 190900, 190926, 190901, 190927, 190651. Ingot loads in from Montreal: 40-foot boxcars 575435, 576906, 560791, 568915, 562153, 561009, 540911. After the Alcan spur was terminated at Counter Street, in August 1997, Cold Mill No.2 was trucked over and welded onto heavy-duty flatcar QTTX 131049 for Valleyfield, Quebec, thence by Jumboship to Santos, and finally Pindamonhangaba, Brazil. The KIMCO Steel yard is in background. The team track was incorporated into their property and fenced in 2001.
Team track KL05, with its prominent "CN Team Track" sign along Counter Street, was the loading site of 1 Canadian Signal Regiment vehicles in spring 1987, for a distant exercise. The tarped truck (centre) is ascending the loading ramp and will soon be chocked and chained for transport. The well-ballasted Alcan spur is still visible to right of the ambulance:
Permanent Concrete's ready-mix plant, visible above the tarped truck, was located along the west leg of the wye and once had rail service via track KL01. In 1985, CN's Rail Changeout gang stored a plethora of equipment on the west leg overnight.
In December 1991, one Procor and one CGTX propane tank car were spotted on track KL03 for unloading. Wye tail track (Alcan spur) switch is visible in foreground:
CN 4526 is switching on the wye with a PGE 50-foot lumber boxcar in tow, December 1981:
On a snowy March 14, 2001, chop-nosed Geeps 4124 and 7080 are setting out WCTR 17044, a gondola of steel for KIMCO, on the team track.
In a future post, I'll highlight the wide variety of cars spotted on the Team Track, plus some of the switching moves made at Queens.
Running extra...
Just finished Martin Lindstrom's Buy-ology: Truth and lies about Why we Buy. All about neuro-marketing, his research peers into the brains of buyers and their buying decisions. Why would anyone buy McDonald's Filet-o-Fish? Discuss.
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Just for the halibut, week's Throne Speech included a fish story: changing the words to our national anthem...again. Oh my cod, what a red herring. Net gain, zero.
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To reduce break-aparts, CN is experimenting with slower speeds over profile-crazy portions of the Kingston Sub. Railfans, rejoice! View your favourite overtonnage, overlength drag freights 40% slower.