Part 1: Tracking the Trains Ten-hundred
Thirty years ago today, August 23, 1984, most of the family was relaxing at the Dressel cottage on Pinawa Bay northwest of Winnipeg, Manitoba. I was on a mission for Trains magazine editor David P. Morgan.
On our drive to Manitoba a few days earlier, we'd stopped in Milwaukee to visit D.P.M. at the old Kalmbach offices at 1027 North 7th Street. In the course of our visit, the conversation turned to the topic of CN 1027, the Winnipeg-assigned A1A-A1A GMD1 that shared its road number with the magazine's famed street address. Morgan was looking for an appropriate photo of the CN GMD1 to head the Running Extra section of the magazine.
The recent renumbering of the L&N GP30 that had headed the magazine section for years had left CN 1027 as the only locomotive in the United States and Canada to to carry the magic number. The photograph needed to be black & white and the locomotive had to be carrying white extra flags. I accepted the assignment.
So thirty years ago today, having gathered intelligence that CN 1027 was on a work train on the Hartney Sub, I set out from Pinawa in search of the Trains Ten-hundred. A late-afternoon grain peddler ordered from Symington (Winnipeg) with three Ten-hundreds and grain empties for the Miami and Hartney Subdivisions later in the day would provide a perfect companion to work my way west.
I picked up the Miami/Hartney grain peddler right out of Symington and followed him south on the Letllier Sub and west on the Miami. In the process, I made one of my favourite images of prairie railroading. This one: The grain harvest is in full swing on a family farm near Ste. Agathe, Manitoba, as Ten-hundreds 1011, 1051, and 1054 amble past with grain empties for elevators along the Miami and Hartney Subs.
Oh, and I got the shot for D.P.M. It's a long story, told long ago in April 1985 Trains.
Part 2: A long way from Margaret
It was a spur-of-the-moment decision. Driving home from Montreal with friends Jim Brown and Doug Philips on a September 2009 afternoon, we decided to call in at Cardinal, Ont. Taking a flyer, we hoped to get a glimpse of CASCO 1105, the ex-CN GMD1 employed at the old Canada Starch works. A long shot, but certainly worth a short detour.
I've always had affection for GMD1s, whether the B-B, boiler-equipped CNR 1900s of my youth, or the A1A-A1A CNR Ten-hundreds that spent most of their lives working Prairie grain branches. CASCO 1105, delivered from London on August 29, 1958 as CN 1005, is, or was, one of the latter. She acquired her current road number along with Type B Flexicoils as part of a 1985 rebuild at Transcona. Retired in 1997, she languished in the back lot of NRE's Capreol, Ontario, shop until being dispatched to Cardinal in 2007.
We located the 1105, decked out in solid grey with CASCO logos, well out of reach beyond the fence of the riverfront plant that once employed CN's pioneer CLC-Westinghouse box cab No. 77.
Since the 1957-58 relocation of the CNR main line due to flooding for the hydro dam at International Rapids and the creation of the St. Lawrence Seaway, Canada Starch has operated a short but steep and twisting spur that runs through the streets, backyards, and wood lots between its riverside works and the interchange with the "new" CN main line. The odds of seeing No. 1105 out on the road — something that happens just a few times a week — were long at best.
There was no activity around the locomotive, but the engine was running. Playing the odds, we chose to stick around.
The payoff came quickly. Within moments, the plant gate opened and No. 1105 strolled out onto the street.
Riding the front platform to flag a couple crossings in town, the conductor told us what we wanted to hear. "We're going to the interchange to pick up six cars," she offered. We were up for the chase, but unprepared for the upcoming performance, a bell-ringing, 567-straining, wheel-slipping, hill-doubling, street-running spectacle packed into just 1.2 miles of seemingly nondescript industrial trackage.
Doubling the hill? With a six-car train? I was taken aback when No. 1105 rounded the curve at Bridge Street with just half her train. After all, we'd just witnessed an impressive display as the old girl lugged all six loads up the grade from the interchange. Ten-hundreds were never much for hill climbing, but certainly No. 1105 — especially refitted with new B-B shoes — could handle six loaded tanks on the visibly steep climb to the summit near St. Paul's Anglican church. The engineer’s wisdom became quickly apparent as the little train lost momentum. The requirement to flag the Dundas Street grade crossing and the complications of temporarily inoperative sanders didn't help matters any. The grey GMD1 lost her footing and stalled in the middle of the street.
I stared down at the motionless wheels, wondering what might happen next. Triple the hill? Reverse downgrade and take another run? Before I could process the options, the sound of a gently revving 567 interrupted my thoughts and the wheels began to turn ever so slowly: A slip and a turn, a slip and a turn, a slip and a turn. Remarkably, the engineer got his little train back on the move.
The second half of the double was just about as dramatic, with the train slowing to a nearly imperceptible crawl. But no stall.
Our interlude in Cardinal consumed just less than 90 minutes. Time well spent. Why, even Philips seemed impressed!
So what's all this have to do with Margaret, anyway?
Just this. Twenty-five years earlier, on that mission from Morgan to track down CN 1027, I spent a memorable night at Margaret, Manitoba, in the company of three Ten-hundreds, an owl and a grain peddler. CN 1027, the lead unit on the work train stole the limelight, as recorded in “Tracking the Trains Ten-hundred,” in April 1985 Trains and subsequently illustrated in the pages of Passing Trains and Wheat Kings. But the middle unit on that ballast train was none other than CN 1005.
Long may she run.