Friday, November 20, 2009

Iron Horse Roundup- O Canada Edition: Week of November 16-22

(Cor VanSteenis)

Canadian National announced that it intends to file for abandonment with Transport Canada of it's Drumheller Subdivision, roughly 178 miles of trackage between Lyalta, AB (just east of Calgary) and Oyen, AB (just west of the Saskatchewan border), this week. Up until earlier this year, this was part of the CN's Calgary, AB-Saskatoon, SK line that snaked through eastern Alberta's badlands. Canadian National announced that they intended to discontinue through service and locals would only operate as far as Lyalta from the west or Oyen to the east. A consortium of online communities and shippers is lobbying to purchase the line if CN's abandonment is approved.

Also, one of the communities along the Drumheller Subdivision is home to an abandoned-but-intact 10-stall Canadian National roundhouse. The roundhouse in NHL Hall-of-Famer Lanny MacDonald's hometown of Hanna, AB dates back to 1913 and had additional stalls added in 1929. CN abandoned the structure in 1961 and it occasionally saw use as an auction house. Now the historic structure is in the running for a grant of up to C$250,000 for restoration. I encourage NENESB! readers to go over there and read a more detailed history of the Hanna Roundhouse courtesy of the Hanna Roundhouse Restoration project and if they're so inclined, go ahead and vote as well (registration is required- but you can vote more than once).

(Rocky Mountain Rail Society)

Of course, as soon as I heard about CN's pending abandonment of the Drumheller subdivision, I couldn't help but wonder how this beauty would look hauling visitors and railway enthusiasts through Alberta's badlands behind some vintage coaches- maybe even using the roundhouse at Hanna as a turning point.

The beauty in question shown here is former Canadian National 4-8-4 Mountain class #6060, built by the Montreal Locomotive works in 1944 and nicknamed Bullet-nosed Betty or Spirit of Alberta. She is kept in good running order by the Rocky Mountain Rail Society and will often see service hauling excursion trains over Alberta Prairie Railway's Stettler-Big Valley, AB line.

The RMRS and East Central Railway Society recently announced that they had secured funding to restore the previously abandoned tracks between Stettler and Donalda, AB- a distance of roughly 20 miles. This will effectively double the operating trackage for the Alberta Prairie and RMRS out of Stettler.

(Cal Murray/

Saskatchewan's Last Mountain Railway started up operations on the former Canadian National line between Davidson and Lumsden, SK- a total of 108km. The Last Mountain will also be leasing an additional 27km of trackage from CN between Lumsden and Regina, SK where the shortline will connect with both the Canadian National and Canadian Pacific railways. Power for the line is a pair of General Electric B23-7s. This would be at least the second shortline to start up operations in Saskatchewan this year- the Great Sandhills Railway began operating the former Canadian Pacific Empress subdivision in June 2009.

The Quebec, North Shore & Labrador Railway has placed four of their rebuilt SD40-3s up for sale. They are listed as being in running condition, although it has not been specified whether or not they're still on QNS&L property. The QNS&L is an isolated mining railway that serves various iron ore mines in northeastern Quebec and Labrador- they have no rail connections with the rest of the North American continent.

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