Sunday, August 21, 2016

CN 1501, Finally

RDC CN 1501
Like other railways, CN inspects its track and roadbed regularly. It does this with a combination of manual and automatic methods, such as visual inspection by foremen and inspection vehicles like Sperry rail vehicles and CN's TEST train. One vehicle I was aware of, but had never seen, was CN 1501, an RDC (Rail Diesel Car) converted to a Self-Propelled Track Geometry Car.

CN 1501 was originally a CN RDC-1, labelled D-108, built in 1958 for passenger service. As an RDC-1 it had coach seats only. All RDCs, except for the RDC-5/9, have two diesel engines driving the wheels, so they are self-propelled and have operator controls at each end.

D-108 was renumbered to CN 6108 in March 1969, then became VIA 6108 in March 1978. I'm not sure when CN acquired it from VIA but it was rebuilt into a rail test vehicle and was in service as CN 15016 in 2010. I heard it was fairly quickly renumbered to CN 1501 when it was realized that CN's dispatching software only accepted four digits for a locomotive number.

Anyway, back on July 27 2016, I heard on RailsMBSK that 1501 was in Symington yard, ready to go east on the Sprague subdivision. Since I only live about 15 minutes away from Symington, and happened to have some time, I decided to run over and see if I could grab 1501 before it got away. It's been in Winnipeg before but I was always either out of town or unable to go see it.

When I was approaching the Sprague sub, I saw a freight train coming into Symington off the Sprague. I made a guess that 1501 had already left, so I headed east on the Trans-Canada Highway.

The highway parallels the Sprague sub for at least 25km so it's a good area to chase. I was hoping to overtake the RDC before Ste. Anne where the railway diverges from the highway.

As I approached the first siding, Lorette, I saw headlights from a westbound train. I pulled over to photograph CN 2874 and 2852 running elephant-style with a mixed manifest.
CN 2874 and 2852 near Winnipeg
After grabbing the head end shot, I hit the road again. As I approached Lorette, I saw this:
CN 1501 in the Lorette siding
Score!

CN 1501 was in the siding, crawling toward the west siding switch. I snapped a few photos as it passed.
RDC CN 1501
There was a hi-rail pickup truck pulled over on the highway shoulder, and the CN foreman gave me a wave as I walked past - thanks!

They pulled through the signals and out onto the mainline, blowing the horn for the Station Road crossing as they went.
Red-nosed CN 1501
CN 1501 tested more than 25,000 miles of track in 2013. It gets around! If you search online for photos of 1501, you'll see it everywhere on CN's system.

CN 1501, and partner rail car CN 15008 (not self propelled), both collect rail profile data at one foot intervals. The kind of data they collect is the gauge of the track (distance between the parallel rails), superelevation, curvature, alignment, surface, and wear data. Here's an example, taken from a CN presentation at a 2014 Heavy Haul Seminar (PDF).
Example rail profile data, from CN
The raw data is processed through Holland's Rangecam software to produce various reports. This can result in immediate slow orders being issued to CN for any serious defects, and reports are used in planning maintenance for coming weeks and months.

Rail defect cars are known for leaving a trail of slow orders behind them! It's good, because they are finding issues that can be corrected before a serious accident occurs.

After CN 1501 was on the main line, the RTC lined the switch for the main and 1501 took off. I took a little video with my phone. The engineer gave me a nice toot on the horn as they passed!


I chased them down to the other end of the Lorette siding and grabbed this iPhone shot of them passing the work crew at the east end of the siding.
CN 1501 approaching the signals at Lorette's east end
So, finally, I caught CN 1501. One more off my list!
CN 1501 departing
See also:



8 comments:

BW Bandy said...

There is nothing like the thrill of the hunt.

Steve Boyko said...

You have that right! Some of my best train memories are from chases and unexpected discoveries.

Michael said...

It's always worthwhile when you earn your first shots of something elusive. This is a rare sighting. Nice work.

Karl A. said...

Cool catch! I should use this as motivation to finish my model of the 1501.

Steve Boyko said...

Thanks Michael!

Steve Boyko said...

I look forward to seeing it on your blog, Karl! :)

Taylor Woolston said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Taylor Woolston said...

I actually shot pictures of CN 1501 on the west leg of Portage Junction back in May 2014, but I didn't even know until today! I forgot about it, but good thing the images were safe!