November 28, 1977. The roundhouse foreman at Stratford has been keeping a tight reign on the two F7s he's wrangled for snowplow duty, but he's finally permitted them to make a trip on train 550, the weekday turn to Goderich. Appropriately enough, it's snowing when 9178, 9179 and GP9 4525 tie onto 550's train in the yard. There's an inch or two on the ground by the time they pump air and pause at the station for orders. Extra 9178 West is heading straight into a lake-effect snow squall. So is the clown in the red VW.
It's a difficult chase. The road conditions are bad and getting worse. The track is good. The timetabled speed limit for the Goderich Sub is 35 mph, but the crew knows what the track is really good for and the needle on the big CP Speed Recorder in the cab of the 9178 is well into the rich side of 35 for mile after mile after mile.
The closer we get to Goderich, the deeper the snow gets. The backroads are drifting in. Snow flies over the hood as the little VW punches its way through. It's tough going, but manageable. Until somewhere east of Goderich.
I should have surrendered and turned back at the sight of the long, deep drift across the road. Hindsight is particularly useless when you're headlight deep in hard-packed snow. So too, are the shovel and stack of tie plates stashed in the trunk for situations like this. Shit happens.
So does the luck of the Irish. I was still assessing the rather grim situation when a county plow — a great big Goderich-built Champion grader — came slogging up the road. The driver will help me out if I have a tow chain.
"How's this?" I wish I had more than a mental image of the look on his face when the massive tow chain from a retired CN RSC13 appeared from the trunk of the little car.
I was mobile within minutes. Shit happens.