Friday, January 28, 2011

CN Logo Turns 50

The longevity of the CN logo is unparalleled on the modern rail scene. Painted on everything from boxcabs to boxcars, it's been affectionately called the "Lazy Three" (turn it 90 degrees counter-clockwise) or the "Wet Noodle". It's outlasted the Conrail can-opener, Penn Central's mating worms, the Frisco coonskin, CP's multimark, and the Chessie cat. CN's need for a progressive logo emerged at the end of the steam era and the advent of the swinging sixties.
Intended to revitalize an organization perceived as backward and anachronistic, and to evoke an image of technological advancement and customer focus, the new logo was launched exactly fifty years ago, in January 1961. CN's head of public relations, Dick Wright commissioned New York designer James Valkus to completely overhaul the corporate image. Said Valkus, "You don't want a trademark program - you want a corporate design program." Central to the program was a suitable logo. A Canadian graphic designer, Allan Fleming sketched the logo image on the proverbial cocktail napkin, while waiting for takeoff on the tarmac in New York. It's seen on a boxcab at Central Station in 1985** (top) and engine 9601 in Portage la Prairie, Manitoba in 1982** (above).
No more wafer, no more maple leaf, no more 'R' n CNR. Not specifically identifying a railway, the mechanical, almost austere look of the program would make CN look both mechanized and marvelously efficient. Fleming examined sources ranging from the Christian cross to the Egyptian ankh symbol, deriving from them a line of singular thickness which symbolized movement of people and goods from one point to another. Like a carload of wheels heading for the shop at Garneau, Quebec seen at Kingston on train 364 in May 2001 **(above).
Lorne Perry, head of CN's corporate design program, said "The scale and variety of equipment and facilities made CN something of a designer's dream". The logo could be applied to trucking and marine assets, stations and signage, stationery and sugar packets, menus and machinery. Rolling stock reporting marks were incorporated into a block, with bilingual "CANADIAN/CANADIEN NATIONAL" applied to alternating car sides. Wags suggested that since both sides of a car couldn't be seen at once, perhaps shop forces applied more English than French, or vice versa depending on the province in which the car was painted!
Primary colours and bold but understated lettering were applied liberally to visible exterior surfaces, and passenger car interiors. Even the taggers stopped short of covering the logo on CNIS 417107, first car on train 306 at Queens East in May, 2000* (above). As a designer, Allan Fleming is best remembered as creator of CN's logo. Three years afterwards, he became art director for Maclean's magazine, then vice-president and director of creative services at MacLaren Advertising, and later, chief designer at University of Toronto Press.
In 1960, Fleming stated, "I think this symbol will last for 50 years at least. I don't think it will need any revision, simply becuase it is designed with the future in mind. Its very simplicity guarantees its durability." Applied on a white patch, the logo makes itself visible on the cab corner of welded rail car CN 44283 at Napanee in 2005*:
For such an iconic symbol, I've seen very little acknowledgement of its golden anniversary. It's been painted on the flanks and noses of SW's, F's, GP's, SD's and ES44DC's, plus products of GMDL, EMD MLW, GE, CC&F, NSC, H-S and stencilled and sprayed at Pointe St Charles, Transcona and Woodcrest. Like the Canadian flag, it's easily sketched by schoolkids, and is a purely Canadian symbol readily identified with our great nation. CN 7316 and transfer caboose 76545 at Belleville in February 1988*** and 1379 and 40-foot boxcar 541381 at the same spot in 1987** show the logo looking good in a smorgasbord of seasons:

If you're seeing stars in this post, they're an indication of the number of CN logos you can find in the photo accompanying the starred caption. Here's a four **** photo, a hi-rail welding truck parked between the office and a grounded trailer, behind the classic limestone station in Napanee, Ontario in 2000:
Running extra...
An advertisement local accounting firm features one of their accountants posing on the platform at Kingston's VIA station. The ad has been running in the Kingston Whig-Standard, and appeared below an accompanying news story of a CN mechanical problem at the pictured location earlier this week:
It reminded me of the Monty Python's Flying Circus sketch in which an accountant complained how dull, how dreadfully dull his job was. He wanted to retrain as a lion tamer. Roaring out of Queens 4, gunning for the Cat Spur is this RS18-powered wayfreight in 1985. It's about to cross the Counter Street crossing and through the station platforms in a cloud of 'Alco' smoke. There's no accounting for taste, is there?


Saturday, January 22, 2011

CN's Symington Yard, Part 2

CN's Symington Division Manual describes hump movements: "Hump foreman will check hump list against car numbers and set up routes for cars or cuts in accordance with track assignments on hump list. 'C' Tower clerk will be notified of any errors. The pin puller will uncouple cars singly or in cuts not to exceed two cars, as directed by hump foreman."

In 1986, a hump set rests at the crest of the man-made hill, as another set pushes tank cars and gondolas loaded with pulpwood up-and-over(top). British Columbia Railway boxcars and bulkhead flats pass through eastbound. Hump set 7511-271-280-7522 is providing the power. These 7500's were renumbered from 211 and 222.
The other hump set included 7509-7514:
'Black widow' SD40 5200 and 5066 enter the yard from the Sprague Sub in June, 1984. A mix of grain cars stretches across mid-photo, parallel to Plessis Road as humping continues below gathering storm clouds:

Driving along the Trans-Canada Highway overpass over hump leads CX-1 and CX-2, hump set 210-264-271-205 push cars of lumber up the hump as the grain train continues into the yard. No fewer than four cabooses can be seen on the tailend of trains in the west receiving yard:

CN hogger Mark Perry did what any intrepid Manitoban would do when looking for a new railfanning spot on a bright winter's day. He headed up the stairs of 'C' Tower on a chilly December afternoon.
December 28, 2010 at 1430: It felt about 25 degrees colder than at ground level. Mark says he was dressed for it, as he squeezed off these remarkable shots. A commanding view of the hump leads and an intermodal train at left:
A view across the classification tracks as crews clear away snow. Note four of CN's red air-repeater boxcars on the last foreground track:
This photo of Symington from the Canadian Science and Technology Museum's CN Images of Canada gallery (Image #3558) reveals the following cars visible on the first 21 tracks in the photo. My estimate of the photo date, while not given, is 1973 due to the presence of CNWX covered hoppers in the brown-and-yellow scheme. Anyone modelling early-70's Manitoba could use this to give a prototype CN car mix in that era:

CN Boxcars 40':

6-foot sliding door-17
6-foot sliding door Maple Leaf-16
8-foot sliding door-18
8-foot plug door-3
double sliding door-3
wooden-7

CN Boxcars 50': Combination door-4

CN Insulated Boxcars: 40'-3; 50'-1

Other Boxcars: CP-3; MEC-2; PC-1; B&O-1; Other-4

CN Silver Reefers: 40'-4; 50'-4

Covered Hoppers: CNWX-2; other-5

Gondolas: CN-7; BN-1

Hoppers: CN-6

Flatcars: 3

Auto Racks: 6

Bulkhead Flats: 2

TOFC: 1

Tank Cars:NATX-1; Other-7
In the 1980's, run-through and unit trains, with the construction of four new bypass tracks, means less humping and classification. Symington was handling 18,000 cars per week - that's over 100 cars per hour. With a daily population of 3,800 cars, and 75 trains handled: 33 from within a 200-mile radius and 42 off the Rivers, Sprague and Redditt Subs, Symington was still a busy spot. Here's a post describing a grain setout train in 1978 on the Rivers Sub.

Running extra...

Foreman Doug Smith and a Holland welding unit working from Queens on the Kingston Sub these cold winter nights on a Rule 42. Good ol' duct tape used to secure the yellow-over-red flags at Kingston's VIA station.

Rapido Trains released their first freight car, a 37-foot General American meat reefer. It's a good-looking car, Rapido's first foray into the US prototype market. Hopefully this release will meat its sales targets, because there's a lot at steak. Hey, what's the wurst that can happen?

Some tasty chops this week on American Idol's season premiere. Of course I'm referring to the music. Oh, and there's also J Lo. She is a seasoned performer, as is Steven Tyler, formerly of Aerosmith. Randy 'Dawg' Jackson has not got a better offer yet, so he's back. Great background shots of ship and barge traffic passing by the Idol audition room in New Orleans.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

CN's Symington Yard, Part 1

CN's Symington yard in Winnipeg receives trains from Rivers Sub to the west, Sprague Sub to the east, and Redditt Sub to the south-east. A modern gravity classification (hump) yard completed in 1962, this major yard was named for the Honourable H.J. Symington, a former director of CNR for over 20 years. Symington's formidable size and modern layout replaced three older, smaller classification yards: Transcona, Fort Rouge and East Yards, as CN's centre of operations in Winnipeg.
Comprising 156 tracks, of which 62 were classification tracks, with a total length of 108 miles and standing capacity of 7,000 cars, Symington could handle 6,000 cars per day over 337 switches beneath 900 flood lights illuminationg 275 acres, the equivalent of 220 football fields. Employees numbered 700, some of whom worked in the 22-track diesel shop and the 24-car indoor car shop. In 1984, SD40's 5194-5051 frame 'C' Tower (top) and more than 14 units, including a VIA F-unit congregate at the west end of the diesel shop (below):
A 1978 visit to Symington revealed lots of 40-foot boxcars heading up the hump, pushed by yard switchers before descending the hump and being sent to the appropriate track while being slowed by the retarders. "CN SYMINGTON YARD SPEEDS YOUR FREIGHT", exhorts a large billboard visible from the Trans-Canada Highway:
Hump power sets were the workhorses of Symington, readily visible near the highway overpass. CN converted 200-series GP38-2m from 5536-5551, and 260-282 series HBU-4 hump units were built new by GMDL in 1978-1980. A hump set with 211-263-262-212 work an evening shift on August 28/79. Spot the photographer using his trusty Kodak Hawkeye, courtesy of the setting prairie sun:

On June 12, 1982 the same set trundles by as light engines, and 209-261-260-214 head up the hump lead:

Wearing stripes, 212 heads into the east receiving yard as a cut of freshly-painted woodchip cars, covered hoppers, and a caboose, likely from Transcona Shops nears the hump crest:
A visit to Symington always revealed interesting cars being humped. Shiny mechanical reefer CN 235242 and one-of-a-kind billboard car CN 283032 in 1979:
In 1984, lumber, poles and covered hoppers are a-humpin' as CN grain boxcars 428752-428762-424774-427271-427058-425345 wait in the foreground:
In June 1984, SD40's 5189-5193 lead a grain train east out of Symington. While CP was still doubling long trains over onto two tracks at their Winnipeg Yard, CN's much newer Symington allowed greater fluidity and efficiency that was a pleasure for a visiting eastern railfan to watch.


Sunday, January 9, 2011

CWR Trains on the Kingston Sub, 2008

A caboose in CN's Belleville Yard on September 2, 2008 was an unusual sight. It was in use as a rider car on Continuous Welded Rail (CWR) train 900 Eng 8841. The air on the train was pumping, so its departure eastward looked imminent. Caboose 79707 had been hit by spraybomb-toting taggers since I'd seen it previously in Napanee on another work train in 1998.
We paced the train out of the yard at about 25 mph with its heavy load of rail from Transcona in Winnipeg:
Anytime I'd been to the Salmon River bridge, just east of Shannonville, there'd been no trains to photograph. This slow-moving CWR train provided the perfect opportunity. Set up under the spreading limbs of trees along the riverside, the train eventually made its tortoise-like arrival, crossing the venerable limestone and girder bridge:

Caboose 79707 and fuel boxcar 73115 cross the bridge, with its handrails added for head-end crews to walk a train, once cabooseless operations began in 1990:
Easily outpaced again, the train passed us again at Wyman's Road crossing in Marysville, Mi 209 Kingston Sub:

A frigid November 22, 2008 found another train 900, this time with Eng 5707 operating east of Napanee on the Kingston Sub. Caboose 79707 and fuel car 73115 were again on the tail-end. Stopping at the top of the hill at Mi 178, one string of CWR was winched off the uppermost deck, sounding like a Star Wars light-sabre duel in the chill air.
Once the rail was secured, 5707 started backing the train up, reaching about 15 mph as the rail slithered off the train and onto the south side of the south track. This sounded like thirteen laughing witches on Hallowe'en night!
A foreman walked the catwalk, checking the progress of the CWR string, while the rest of the unloading crew huddled in the cab of CN 44297 behind the engine.
Train 900 then departed east to its next drop with 79707 bringing up the rear:
Back in 1980, jointed rail was replaced with CWR on the Kingston Sub. The Canron Rail Change Out (RCO) did the honours. The RCO is unique because in the cantilevered centre section of the unit, the new CWR is threaded onto the ties, the old rail is pushed aside and in that brief moment, no rail remains on the ties. In 2008, as only segments of rail are replaced, so the CWR dropped on this day will be replaced by a steel gang with hi-rail cranes and track machines in the spring.
RCO and its support train resting for the night near Mi 178 in June 1980 (above). This was the same location as the November 2008 train, before the Cataraqui Spur switch was relocated east of Gardiners Road. Note CN Chevy Nova and crew bus.

Running Extra...

Yesterday we enjoyed a coffee and McMuffin in the McDonald's built near the location of the 1980 photo above. CN 590 slowly headed east between two 7000's, with tank cars and covered hoppers for Invista and a car of steel for Kimco. Gee, watching that CWR train would've been warmer inside, but I'd miss the awesome sound effects.

CBS series Undercover Boss is profiling linen company UniFirst's CEO Ron Croatti. As he heads out on the road, he leaves behind his wife and model railway. How much rolling stock can a CEO buy? A lot, based on the intro to the episode. Now, just why is the whistle of that BNSF GE sounding like a steam engine?


Monday, January 3, 2011

WC 201178 Rides the Rails

NSC-built WC 201178 was set out on CN's Counter Street team track in Kingston, Ontario in February 1998. Think of the miles this car has travelled over the years. Formerly Algoma Central Railway 1178, one of a fleet of gons built in 1966-67 for the Sault Ste Marie-based 'Route of the Black Bear', the car is 61 feet long, with a 5 foot interior height and capacity of 2900 cu ft.
Waiting for its I-beams to be unloaded, I was able to photograph the car and its heavy load. This wouldn't be possible today, as the unloading area is now behind chain-link fence, and CN access across Lappan's Lane is guarded by a gate. The team track has hosted some interesting cars over the years.
Built with end bulkheads to contain loads like steel or pulpwood and to prevent end-to-end shifting, these gons are arguably ACR's most recognizable cars. ACR was absorbed first by Wisconsin Central, then CN, and such mergers usually lead to freight car rationalization. There are a few still ex-AC gons running the rails, such as AC 11183. Tracing further movements for the year-and-a-half following my 1998 sighting, WC 201178's ensuing trips were likely all steel loads from Algoma Steel in the Sault.
Sault Ste Marie - St Augustin QC
Sault Ste Marie - St Augustin QC
Sault Ste Marie - Laprairie QC
Sault Ste Marie - Port Robinson ON: Welland Iron & Metal
Sault Ste Marie - Winnipeg MB: CP Rail
Sault Ste Marie - Toronto ON: MacMillan Yard
Sault Ste Marie - Quebec City QC: Joffre Yard
Sault Ste Marie - Port Robinson ON: Welland Iron & Metal
Sault Ste Marie - Brampton ON
Sault Ste Marie - Toronto ON: MacMillan Yard
Sault Ste Marie - Edmonton AB: Clover Bar Yard

Running Extra...

The Christmas holidays are a fine time to blog. This post has been hibernating since Christmas 2008, so it's about time it gets posted. Also a fine time to watch the 2011 Rose Bowl Parade while snacking on fruitcake and other leftover goodies. Best band: The United States Marine Corps West Coast Composite Band. Runner-up band: All-Birdville Band from Texas playing the Guess Who's "American Woman".

Share the Land: Hearing Bob Costas call Sid 'the Kid' Crosby the all-North American player at the New Year's Day outdoor NHL Winter Classic at Heinz Field! Bob dude, time to ketchup on your geography, he's from Canada. Undun..not..Laughing: Twitter-inspired patter from CNN's Anderson Cooper and D-lister Kathy Griffin followed by "New York, New York". A fine song in its own right, but what happened to "Auld Lang Syne" by the late great Guy Lombardo and his Royal Canadians ?

Happy 2011 to Trackside Treasure's growing readership! My New Year's resolution: to pack my small corner of cyberspace with more useful, unusual, unique and unprecedented material on Canadian railroading. That's one resolution I can stick to.