Monday, February 12, 2018

SOO LINE Grain Hoppers

SOO 74362, Chaplin, SK, August 2010
I was chatting with Donald Klippert in mid-January and he mentioned that he saw a white SOO gondola. We talked about the white SOO LINE paint scheme being a favourite of ours and then we got onto the SOO grain hoppers.

I started digging through my photo collection and it turns out I have quite a few photos of them. I usually make a point of photographing a SOO car when I see one. So, without further ado, here are some SOO grain hoppers.

I've seen two basic kinds of SOO LINE grain hoppers - the flat sided ones with the external vertical ribs, and the hoppers with the somewhat rounded sides. A third kind of SOO hopper is a rounded hopper in plain grey, but they aren't lettered "SOO LINE". Here's all three in one photo:
Three SOOs in one - Winnipeg, MB, August 2017
SOO 74521, SOO 118655 and SOO 75113 in Virden, MB, April 2016

Rounded Sides

SOO 74229, Banff, AB, August 2010 with the wheat sheaf and big black SOO LINE

SOO 74453 with heavy weathering and graffiti, Winnipeg, September 2016

SOO 74154, Field, BC, June 2016
The car below has the "Colormark" logo on it. According to this Trains thread, cars were colour coded based on the loading features for the freight cars. Apparently they stopped doing this on hoppers around 1974.
ICE 50833, Burdett, AB, October 2015 with "Colormark" and smaller green SOO LINE
Some of the "Colormark" cars don't seem to have a wheat sheaf (like this one or this one or this one). I wonder if they ever had a sheaf, or if it has just faded over the years.

There are two number series for the round-side ACF Centerflow cars - the 74xxx and 76xxx cars. The 74xxx cars have a larger "SOO LINE" near the top of the car, while the 76xxx cars have a smaller "SOO LINE" vertically centered.

In general they all seem to have had the gold wheat sheaf... with one exception below.
SOO 76553, Winnipeg, MB, May 2014
SOO 76414, Field, BC, June 2016
Really weathered SOO 76534, Winnipeg, MB, July 2016
Cleanish SOO, no sheaf, Winnipeg, MB, December 2003

Flat Sides

SOO 75307, Binscarth, MB, April 2016
The flat sided SOO LINE hoppers seem to be in the 75xxx number series, with some in the higher 74xxx series (SOO 74582, SOO 74718, SOO 74953). They all seem to have the wheat sheaf, without exception.

SOO 7x1x4 (faded), Winnipeg, MB, September 2016

SOO 75350, Winnipeg, MB, August 2017
SOO 75458, Calgary, AB, October 2013
SOO 75529, Grande Pointe, MB, April 2016
SOO 75606, Grande Pointe, MB, April 2016
I invite you to click through to SOO 74289 to see a really different SOO LINE paint scheme.

That's all the SOO LINE hopper photos I have! I hope these can provide some reference for freight car enthusiasts and modelers.

I'll leave you with this flat-sided SOO hopper - not a SOO LINE, though - land locked in Solsgirth, Manitoba.

No wheels - no problem!

Further Reading

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Saturday, February 03, 2018

The Revelstoke Railway Museum

CP 5468 in the Revelstoke Railway Museum
My wife and I visited the Revelstoke Railway Museum last September... on my birthday, in fact. It had been on my "bucket list" and a visit here was a key piece of my big birthday trip.

We visited the inside of the museum first - featuring steam locomotive CP 5468 and CPR business car #4 - and then toured the outdoor rolling stock before returning to the inside and the gift shop.

CP 5468

Overhead view of CP 5468
The star of the show is CP 5468, a 2-8-2 Mikado steam locomotive. The museum's main building is practically built around this locomotive, with lots of room around it for viewing plus a second level "balcony" so you can see it from any angle.

CP 5468 was built in 1948 by the Montreal Locomotive Works (MLW). The locomotive weighs 124 tons (without tender). This beast is 89' long and is 15' 6" high at the smokestack.

This locomotive was displayed at the Canadian Railway Museum (Exporail) in Delson, Quebec from 1963 to 1992. It came to Revelstoke in 1993 and is, I believe, still owned by Exporail.

I guess, technically, it is owned by the Canadian Railroad Historical Association (CRHA), which owns and operates Exporail.

Speaking of the CRHA, the Revelstoke Railway Museum was founded by the Selkirk Division of the CRHA. The Division was formed in 1986 and looked at Revelstoke as a home for a museum because of its rich railway history and proximity to Craigellachie, where the "last spike" was driven on the CPR.

With the support of the city, who donated the land, and local businesses, who donated material and time, the volunteers of the CRHA worked to build the museum.

Two volunteers, Ernie Ottewell and Fred Olsson, went to Delson to prepare CP 5468 for travel to Revelstoke. It left on September 29, 1991 but developed an issue with a rear wheel that forced the locomotive to stay in Ontario over the winter.

Construction started on the main building in 1992 and opened to the public in 1993. CP 5468 arrived and was cleaned and polished up for display as the centerpiece of the collection.

But there's plenty more to see beyond the steam engine!

Business Car #4

Business car #4
CPR business car #4 is on display beside the steam engine. This car is partially restored inside with a nice set of table settings.

This car was built in 1931, I believe, and went through several name changes and makeovers. It spent 10 years as the "River Humber" before being refitted as "Cape Humber" in 1941, then "Cape Ray" in 1946, and Official Business Car #4 in 1963 before being retired in October 1992.

Railways sure like to squeeze the last bit of use out of everything!

I'm not sure what this car is being restored back to... it started as a buffet-solarium lounge car, which is quite different than what it is now.

Up Top

Upper level of the Revelstoke Railway Museum
The upper level of the museum is a mezzanine floor, basically a balcony that goes around the building. It gives a lot of great views of the top of the steam locomotive, and there are displays along the walls and in the aisle. You can see several station signs and many photos on the wall in my photo above.

One end of the second level features a model train layout operated by the Revelstoke Model Railway Club.
Part of the Revelstoke Model Railway layout
This railway depicts portions of the CP Revelstoke subdivision, with an emphasis on the portion from Revelstoke east to Rogers Pass.

The Outside Collection

Outside the Revelstoke Railway Museum
There is a large collection of rolling stock on the south side of the museum. These cars are either maintenance-of-way (MOW) or freight cars, plus one diesel locomotive - CP 5500.

Snow plow CP 401027 in Revelstoke, BC

Track 1

One track has caboose CP 437477, flat car CP 421237, service car CP 404116, flanger CP 400573, Jordan spreader CP 402811, and plow CP 401027. You can go inside CP 401027, which is nice if a bit spartan.
Inside snow plow CP 401027

Track 2

Outside braced box car CP 184254
The second track is short and only has 3 cars - an unnumbered steel box car, beautifully restored outside braced wooden boxcar CP 184254, and a newly painted but unnumbered baggage car.
Baggage car in Revelstoke

Track 3

Freight cars at the Revelstoke Railway Museum
The third (back) track has a collection of freight cars, with a double track snow plow on one end and a diesel locomotive at the other. Multimarks abound!

The double track plow, CP 400823, is quite interesting. These are pretty rare in comparison to the more common wedge plow.
Double track plow CP 400823 in Revelstoke
These plows were designed to deposit all plowed snow only on one side. This allowed them to plow double track (two parallel tracks) and sidings, without dumping half the snow on the adjacent rails.

I don't know how well they really worked. If you were plowing double track with only one plow, you'd have to plow one track, dumping the snow onto the other track; then back up and do the other track. Like most plows, this has an extendable "wing" to help direct the snow farther away from the plowed track, so maybe they could avoid putting too much snow on the adjacent track.

Behind the plow is a graffiti covered boxcar with a very small door - not sure why - with CP script under the graffit. Next is CP tank car 400126, followed by steel boxcar CP 401607 proudly bearing a multimark, then coal car CP 353119 and this car, a former steam generator car converted to a robot car.

Steam generator / robot car in Revelstoke
I've never seen a CP steam generator car. These cars contained steam boilers (with water tanks) to provide steam for heating passenger cars.

With the advent of electric heat on board trains, they became obsolete and were retired or repurposed. This one was indeed repurposed into a "robot car".

Robot cars held the radio equipment that allowed the engineer in the lead locomotive to remotely control other locomotives farther back in the train. No special equipment was required in the other locomotives - they were connected to the adjacent robot car, which looked like another locomotive to them and was able to control them with the "MU" (multiple-unit) cabling standard on almost all locomotives.

Today the radio equipment is built into most locomotives and robot cars aren't required.

CP 5500

CP 5500
Locomotive CP 5500 is an important piece of the collection, in my opinion. This locomotive is an SD40, built by General Motors' Diesel Division (GMD) in London, Ontario. This unit was the first SD40 built by GMD, in 1966.

The SD40, and later model SD40-2, was the most common diesel locomotive on Canadian Pacific for many years. In the past ten or fifteen years, they have been displaced by more modern power and many of these locomotives have been retired or rebuilt into "ECO" units. There are only a few SD40-2 units still operating on CP today.

DRF-30A2 = Diesel Road Freight - 3000 horsepower
CP 5500 was rebuilt to SD40-2 specifications during its lifetime. It was retired in 2001 and donated by CP to the museum on August 17, 2007. The museum intends to repaint it to its original paint scheme, maroon and grey with "script" lettering.

Good old Dofasco trucks
There are lots of SD40-2 units working industrial jobs at grain elevators and other locations, but they will dwindle in number over the years. I'm glad the museum has this unit.

I liked this high-rail truck!
CP Rail System - high-rail truck

Interpretive Displays

Interpretive displays
I've been a total railfan and focused on the rolling stock first. There are a lot of interpretive displays in the museum, and they are very professional and well done. The displays are focused on the area around Revelstoke, as they should be.

I really liked this "drumhead" display, showing some of the signs displayed at the ends of CP passenger trains.

Diesel Simulator

Diesel simulator
Another of the many highlights of the museum is the diesel simulator. For a toonie ($2), you can drive a locomotive through the Rockies using a real locomotive control stand.

This was a lot of fun. The screens show the "view" and you can apply brakes or throttle as indicated to take your train out on the main line, and take a short drive before bringing it to a safe stop.
Keep your eyes on the road, man!
Well worth two bucks.

Gift Shop

The museum has a well-stocked gift shop. I bought a few BRMNA books.

I really enjoyed our visit to the Revelstoke Railway Museum. This is a first class facility and well worth a few hours.
Outside the Revelstoke Railway Museum
I visited this museum during my 50th birthday tour... read on!

See Also

Monday, January 29, 2018

Two VIAs By Night

VIA Rail's Canadian has been notoriously late this winter. At times VIA 1 (westbound) or VIA 2 (eastbound) has been well over 12 hours late and sometimes more than 24 hours late. Today's VIA 1 and VIA 2 were no exception.


VIA 2 was almost 24 hours late today. It was supposed to arrive at Union Station downtown Sunday (yesterday) at 8:45 PM and leave at 10:30 PM.

I was downtown this Monday evening and noted VIA 2 at the station at 6:30 PM. I don't know when it arrived but that was almost 24 hours late.

I parked at the Forks and at 6:35 PM I noted two VIA locomotives zooming east past the station toward the head end of their train. I'm not sure what they were doing but I have a theory.

They were not so late earlier this morning, but they lost a lot of time. Maybe there was a problem with one or both locomotives and they had to swap them out at the Winnipeg Maintenance Centre. Regardless, VIA 6458 and 6454 ran to the switch, then reversed in toward the station. The odd thing was that they didn't immediately couple onto their train.

I just had my iPhone 6 with me so that was my best camera!

I walked around, trying to find an angle to see the two locomotives from VIA 2. The CN track is higher than the land around it so it's hard to find a spot where you aren't looking up a hill at the trains.

I found a spot where I could scramble up a snow-covered hill to get close to level with the tracks. There's a fence here, so I held my phone up to the fence with the lens between the wires.
VIA 6454 (closer) and 6458 in downtown Winnipeg at night
VIA 6454 still has its full "CANADA 150" wrap.

They sat there for a long time... or at least what seemed like a long time. It was pretty cold outside (-22C or -8F) and my fingers and toes were feeling it as I waited for them to couple up.

After 15 minutes, I decided to give up and find some warmth. As I walked under the overpass I spotted VIA 1 rounding the bend by the Shaw baseball park by the Red River.

VIA 1 Arrives

They paused before the overpass over William Stephenson Way (named after the famous spy who was one inspiration for James Bond, born in Winnipeg). I ran down to photograph them there.

In the photo below, notice the signals at the extreme left of the photo. That's probably why they stopped there.
VIA 6409 in Winnipeg
Note former "CANADA 150" locomotive VIA 6437 trailing. This locomotive still has the giant yellow VIA wrap but the red "CANADA 150" has been removed... at least everything but the "15"...
VIA 6437 in Winnipeg
They started to head into the station tracks as VIA 1's two locomotives finally backed toward their train. Maybe they lingered there for the crew to help line the switches?

VIA 1 arriving in Winnipeg - quite late
I walked under the York Avenue overpass to photograph them from the north side of the tracks.

VIA 1 and VIA 2 Meet

I wanted to get the two trains meeting, with the Museum of Human Rights behind as the background.. that would have been magic.

Yes, it sure would have.

Too bad my phone's battery died in the cold.


I'll just have to tell you what happened. VIA 2's locomotives backed onto the baggage car until it bumped, but they didn't couple. VIA 1 pulled up to overlap VIA 2's locomotives slightly, and one of the crew dismounted to line a switch to go into the station one track north of VIA 2.

It looked like a very tight squeeze to me, down on the road below, but I'm sure there was more clearance between the two trains than I saw. Regardless, VIA 1 pulled into the station very gingerly. No scraping noises!


I had had enough of the cold and headed inside to warm my extremities and charge my phone.

As I walked away, I heard a "ding, ding, ding" of an engine bell. I turned and saw CCGX 4206 and CEMR 4002 - of the Central Manitoba Railway - running light to the east, exercising their running rights over CN as they returned to their yard in North Transcona.

VIA 2 left shortly after 7 PM, apparently as soon as they could after VIA 1 got in.

VIA 1 at the Station

Once my phone's battery charged up over 50%, I went over to photograph VIA 1 at the station.
VIA 1 at the Winnipeg, Manitoba station
That was it for me. I left the downtown at 8 PM and I saw on VIA's tracking site that VIA 1 left at 9:30 PM, only 9.5 hours late... so far.

I hope VIA can find a way to get the Canadian closer to schedule. The cold is not helping but I think it's CN's congestion that is really hurting VIA. I'm not sure what the short term solution for that is.

PS I caught a late VIA 1 two weeks ago at the station, also in bitter cold... I think the photo below is slightly better than tonight's. Better spotting by the crew for photography ;)
VIA 6459 and 6437 in Winnipeg, January 15, 2018
I wish I had managed to photograph the two trains at the Winnipeg station together - a very rare occurrence - but at least I saw it.

See Also

Friday, January 26, 2018

Book Review: Railways of New Brunswick

Railways of New Brunswick
by Dan Soucoup
I've wanted to read Dan Soucoup's Railways of New Brunswick for some time now.

As you may know, I lived in New Brunswick for many years and had a deep interest in the railroads of the province. For many years, the most authoritative book on the topic was the book (with the same name, Railways of New Brunswick) by David Nason. I was looking forward to another perspective on New Brunswick's rich railway history.

This book starts with a brief overview of the history of railways in New Brunswick, followed by a capsule summary of the major railways that existed prior to the great mergers into CN and CP and subsequent abandonments.

The majority of the book features a series of historic photos, each with about a page of text either explaining the photo or inspired by the photo. An example would be page 44, with a photo of the Intercolonial Railway station in Moncton around 1900. The text below it talks about the design and construction of the station.

Some of the photos are familiar to students of New Brunswick railway history, as most of the photos came from the Provincial Archives. For example, the photo at left (not from Soucoup's book, his reproduction is better) is an often-reproduced photo of a priest at the Bathurst train station.

The text under the photo in Soucoup's book talks about the criminal William Gagnier and a gunfight among the railway cars in the yard in 1914.

The book is a good read but I wouldn't call it a scholarly work. The list of sources in the back shows a list of town history books like Historic St. Andrews by Ronald Rees, the excellent Cinders and Saltwater by Shirley Woods, and even Railways of New Brunswick by David Nason. So this book is built on secondary sources, which is fine for reading but it's not an academic history book.

I was very frustrated by the number of typographical errors in the book. This book needed an editor. There aren't any misspelled words; I'm sure it passed the spell checker but there are a lot of errors. A few examples might help illustrate this. On page 163 the author talks about the end of the Valley Railway due to the opening of the Mactaquac Dam in 1867.. it was opened in 1967. More egregious were sentences like this: "it wasn't so much that Nova Scotia won but that Britain got its' way" and a passage that meant to say "under siege" but read "under seize". Maybe most people wouldn't notice these, but my proofreader's eye picked quite a few out.

This book would have benefited from more maps. There is one historical map at the start of the book but there aren't any others. A few maps showing the major railways like the Intercolonial Railway and the New Brunswick Railway would have been beneficial.

I enjoyed reading this book for the most part. It's an easy read and the pictures are quite varied and interesting, with good illustrative text under them. The typos in the book were a distraction, but in general I would recommend this book as a good introduction to New Brunswick's great railway history.

Buy Railways of New Brunswick

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