Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Today's Train of Thought- Canadian Club, July 2, 2014

In [slightly belated] honor of Canada Day today's Train of Thought takes us north of the border to Ontario for something of a throwback that is distinctly Canadian.

The GMD 1 was manufactured by Canada's GM subsidiary starting in the late 1950s and initially found only two buyers- the Canadian National and the Northern Alberta Railways [which was absorbed into the CN system in 1981- NANESB!]. Unlike the ALCo, MLW or EMD end-cab switchers of the time, the GMD1's slightly off-center cab and overall body style was more reminiscent of the ALCo RS1 than any EMD product. The uniquely Canadian units spent much of their service life toiling away on isolated prairie branchlines in Manitoba and Saskatchewan, hauling grain over rail too light for most other locomotive types on the CN roster at the time.

Beginning in the late 1990s, the Canadian National underwent privatization and began divesting themselves of some of the marginal prairie branchlines while acquiring American Class 1 or regional lines such as the Illinois Central or Wisconsin Central. While Canadian National began retiring and selling off a number of the 1200 HP GMD 1's as switchers for quarries, grain elevators and even Cuba's national railways.

Still, a number of the distinctive GMD roadswitchers not only remained on the CN roster, but were put into service systemwide as yard switchers or powering local freights after the prairie lines had been largely abandoned or sold off.

Here, contributor Ryan Gaynor- aka LocalRailfan- caught Canadian National GMD 1 #1444 out on the mainline in Dundas, Ontario on July 6th, 2012. Here, the #1444 and CN GP38-2W #4776 are seen pushing hard on the rear of Toledo, OH to Toronto mainifest freight, Train 385.

The head end power [a CN C44-9W, C40-8 and GP9R] was having a difficult time ascending the Niagara Escarpment on the line between Niagara Falls and Toronto and the #1444 and wide-cab GP38 were summoned from nearby Aldershot Yard to assist the heavy manifest freight up the grade. Fortunately, LocalRailfan has video evidence of this CN freight's epic struggle against gravity on his YouTube channel.

Not only is the power [both head-end and tail-end- NANESB!] increasingly rare and unique, so are manned helpers on Class 1 lines such as the CN. Lately, railroads prefer to tackle difficult terrain using strategically distributed power (DPUs) that can be controlled from the lead units

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