1000th GMD Unit to CP Rail
Many years later, in January 2008, one of the locomotives of the batch was painted in CPR maroon and grey to assist in the Vancouver 150th anniversary celebrations.
Friday, June 6, 1986, was a special day for General Motors Diesel in London, Ontario, the company was celebrating the delivery of the 1000th diesel locomotive to be delivered by GMD to CP Rail, and I was invited to attend.
I took the overnight train from Ottawa to Toronto which arrived on time. From there VIA Train 81, with Amtrak equipment, contrived to lose an hour on the two hour journey to London. It was a combined CN and VIA screw up which has continued my recent record of not being able to find a train that can run to time.
I was met at the station by our friend Keith Zerebecki and taken directly to the GM plant. Keith might have wondered what it was that I was muttering - it was something about VIA not being capable of organizing a pub crawl in a brewery (or words to that effect).
After an excellent light lunch, I and the other invited guests were taken outside to a large marquee to join the rest of the GM staff who had had lunch under canvas. There were a number of speeches and then the great moment arrived. On signal, not one but four bright red, brand-new, CP GP38-2 locomotives (3124, 3126, 3127, and 3128) with bells ringing appeared, two from around the end of the building and another two out of the plant itself. They all got stopped without running through a switch or hitting each other and then were shut down. It was quite an experience, especially since the four engines had sounded so quiet. The rest of the ceremonies, which included a short speech by Ontario Premier David Peterson, were carried out with 3126 as a back drop, the sound system punctuated by the occasional pop from the air system.
The most interesting part of the proceedings was the way in which GM involved its workers in the ceremony. The chairman of the union local made a short speech and everyone gave Russ Allison, President of CP Rail, a huge ovation, bearing in mind that he was the customer. The message was quite clear - please buy some more. This was echoed by a local country and western star who sang a reworked version of the Canadian Pacific song - reworked to hint that another order would be very welcome!
The guests were then taken for a ride in one of the locomotives. Somehow, by hanging back and letting everyone else get away, I was able to run 3126 up and down the demonstration track. It was a very smooth performer with a very quiet prime mover, and a joy to run. One strange thing was that there is no deadman's pedal - this has been replaced by a vigilance device that is capable of deciding whether the engineer is still alive. I obviously passed the test as 3126 didn't shut down on me!
What about the future? After the completion of the order for CP Rail (3086-3135), GM will be completing some locomotives for Africa. Then comes 20 F40PH-2 units for VIA Rail, the first of which was slowly taking shape on the shop floor. With another order for 20 SD50F's from CN, plus 20 units for GO Transit, this will keep the plant going well into 1987. CP has yet to place a further order, but it can only be a. matter of time. What is interesting is what will it be? It seems quite likely that CP will opt for the high horesepower state-of-the-art SD60, but time will tell. As well, don't be surprised if you see a different cab configuration.
Somebody said that the ceremony should have been to mark the end of a long line of the GP 'dash-two' series of locomotives. If this proves to be the case, it will mark the end of a very successful line of reliable locomotives. Let's wish GM every success with the new product.
There's only one problem. GM haven't yet found a way to make their locomotives smoke like the MLW units!
Keep trying GM! Congratulations.
Bytown Railway Society, Branchline, July/August 1986.