trainspotting (blog)

Once upon an S3

An absolute treasure: Waterloo Central 6593 at Waterloo station with its excursion train.

I spent time with a couple old friends the other day in Waterloo. Following a delightful pub lunch with my friend Mike, I dropped by the Waterloo Central station for a visit with former Canadian Pacific S3 No. 6593. I've known Mike since I was about 14, and CP 6593 — the youngest of the three of us — for almost as long. In fact, my first photographs of CP 6593 were taken in Montreal on a trip Mike and I made in his new MGB in the summer of 1969.

Cruising the backstreets of Montreal in Mike’s blue MG, we happened upon CP 6593 and S2 7012 at the small industrial yard in Cote St. Paul. The S2 was notable for having one as-built Blunt truck and one AAR Type A truck; No. 6593 was just one of the seemingly ever-present maroon-and-grey S-series switchers that abounded in the Montreal Terminals. In retrospect, I’m surprised that I expended a precious frame of Plus-X on a run-of-the-mill S3, but so very pleased that I did.

(Would that I’d spent another frame of Plus-X on the MG, a wonderful car that Mike had picked up at the factory in Abingdon, Oxfordshire; driven around England and Europe, and had shipped home. If I recall correctly, the car had arrived from overseas just in time for out trip, and still carried its UK plates when we set out for Montreal.)

CP 6593 at Cote St. Paul Yard in Montreal, Quebec, September 1, 1969. Just one of the ever-present maroon-and-grey S-series switchers that abounded in the Montreal Terminals. 

I encountered CP 6593 on subsequent visits to Montreal: switching passenger cars at the Glen, and peering from the shop at St. Luc while I concentrated on FA1 4019 leading an FB1 and leased B&M RS3. But I didn’t frame the S3 in the viewfinder again until January 1975 in North Bay, Ontario, on another trip with Mike. We’d come north in search of FAs and other 244-powered rarities, but the 6593, fresh from overhaul and glistening in newly applied CP Rail action red in the late-day sun, was just too pretty to resist.

Fresh from overhaul, CP 6593 glistens on the shop track at North Bay, Ontario, on January 11, 1975.

A Quebecer by birth and assignment since its delivery from the Montreal Locomotive Works on August 16, 1957, CP 6593 moved to Ontario about 1977 and was sent to the yard at Quebec Street in London. Assignment of an Alco switcher to Quebec Street broke with a longstanding CP tradition. London, home of MLW’s archrival General Motors Diesel, was customarily the domain of locally built 6700-series GMD SW8s. For whatever reason, 6593 took up residence in London, and remained there for several years.

On a cold December ’77 afternoon, I watched the little S3 put on one of its most impressive performances. In the wake of a massive blizzard, the 20-year-old MLW was put to work plowing the yard. The throaty call of a normally aspirated McIntosh & Seymour 539 cut the frigid air as 6593 shouted and shoved for all its worth to advance the ancient wooden-cab spreader through axle-deep snow. Six hundred and sixty horsepower never sounded so good.

Six hundred and sixty horsepower never sounded so good. Plowing the yard at Quebec Street in London, Ontario, CP 6593 shoves a vintage spreader through axle-deep snow on December 12, 1977.

Work at Quebec Street was hardly glamorous, but on a regular basis, London yard engines were called to GMD to pick up new locomotives for delivery to CP or other customers. There was something particularly satisfying about watching Montreal-built 6593 strolling past the back gates of GMD and venturing deep into the opposing team’s home turf.

November 15, 1983 was one of those days. I stood in the back lot behind GMD and watched 6593 come rattling and churbling through the back gate. A roll-up door of the main building opened and the little S3 wandered right in. Moments later, the aging MLW emerged towing brand new British Columbia Railway GF6C electric No. 6001 and EMD’s stainless steel test car.

Deep in the opposing team's turf, CP 6593 emerges from GMD London with brand new British Columbia GF6C electric No. 6001 on November 15, 1983. No one would have thought the little S3 would outlast not only the electric, but the GMD plant as well.

I followed the entourage back to Quebec Street where railroaders and CP and GMD people enthusiastically examined the brightly painted electric: the latest in locomotive technology, the face of the future bound for BC Rail’s new Tumbler Ridge electrification. No one paid any mind to the humble S3. And no one would have thought for a moment that the little MLW switcher would outlast the husky 6,000-hp electric and the factory that produced it.

But that’s exactly what happened.

CP 6593 finished out its career assigned to John Street roundhouse in Toronto, hanging on to become the last active 539-powered locomotive in the CP fleet. Still serviceable, the S3 was retired on October 29, 1986 and donated to the National Research Council for use at its test facility in Ottawa. It served there until being replaced by an ex-Lehigh Valley SW8 in 2010.

The Southern Ontario Locomotive Restoration Society purchased the S3 in 2012 and moved it to its shop in St. Jacobs where it was repaired and returned to service hauling Waterloo Central excursion trains between Waterloo and Elmira.

BC Rail’s celebrated Tumbler Ridge electrification was de-energized in 2001 and the GF6C electrics — save for No. 6001 preserved as a museum piece — were cut up for scrap. Caterpillar closed the GMD plant in 2012, ending 62 years of locomotive production at the London facility.

And little 6593 rolls on.

The 1957-vintage S3 is in remarkable condition inside and out, and SOLRS hopes to restore the locomotive to CP maroon and grey as time and finances permit.

A long way from our first encounter at Cote St. Paul, 6593 is an absolute treasure.

A long way from Cote St. Paul, 6593 on Waterloo Central.

CP class plate.

McIntosh & Seymour 539 engine

Builder's plate, 539 engine built by Dominion Engineering.

Can-Car truck and CP plate listing rebuilds at Angus shop.