ON THE COVER CP Rail RS-18u 1813
(ex-8756) and RS-18 (8796) lead the
"Hilton Mine Turn" westward across the Quyon River on July 21, 1986.
The bridge, at mileage 31.26 of CP's Waltham Subdivision, had been out
of service for over a year due to structural problems with the concrete
piers. Repairs were completed in June 1986. Weather-beaten concrete
footings from an earlier bridge are visible to the left. Photograph by
It's almost Noon as I arrive at Walkley Yard. If everything turns out
as planned, I will be spending the remainder of the day aboard a rock
train (the Hilton Mine Turn) on CP Rail's Waltham Subdivision.
Action on my scanner indicates that No. 85, the connecting freight
train from Montreal, is in the area.
As I enter the yard office, I greet the Terminal Supervisor and fill
out the necessary clearance forms.
"Has No. 85 arrived at Gatineau?"
"No, not yet. They hit a cow three miles east of there and have been
I am not surprised. Cattle and trains have enjoyed a close relationship
over the years. Too bad cows can't read timetables. Sure hope this
isn't a sign of things to come.
The crew for the mine job is from Smiths Falls and arrive shortly after
I do. Their questions directed at the Supervisor are much like mine and
his responses bring only a few grumbles. I guess this is nothing new
for them. Much to my delight, I recognize the engineman and the
conductor. The head end brakeman is relatively new to the road and will
be making his first trip "up the line", as they say in the "Pontiac".
After an exchange of pleasantries with the Conductor, including his
approval to ride with him in the van, I do my best to stay out of
everyone's way. The last thing I want to do is to make a nuisance of
Outside of the yard office and next to the diesel shop sits RS-18u No.
1820, patiently awaiting sister engines 1807 and 8796 (RS-18) off Train
85. The three units will be used for the Mine Turn which today, with 51
hoppers, 2 box cars, and the van, is the biggest of the year. I learn
that the box cars are carrying supplies for the section gang and have
been billed to the mine.
It's almost 14:00 when No. 85 finally backs into the yard. An agitated
conductor steps down and is greeted by the Supervisor. In broken
English, he takes out his frustration on the official who handles the
situation quite calmly and says very little. The Skipper's condition
doesn't improve a great deal when he's informed that return train No.
86 can't leave for Montreal until the mine train returns from Hilton
which in all likelihood won't be until well past midnight.
The idea of a long layover in Ottawa, especially on a weekend, doesn't
sit well and he stomps off to talk to the Montreal dispatcher,
muttering something about booking off and taking the bus home.
I approach the Supervisor and I'm told that the gentleman in question,
"tends to get a little worked up." Ah, the joys of railroading.
Needless to say, the cow has had nearly as much impact on the front of
Locomotive 1807 as the conductor's impatience.
After a crew change, the three units are mu'ed and our train ia
assembled. Two of the hoppers brought in from Montreal have doors
jammed open. Unsuitable for loading, they are cut out. With things
progressing quickly now, I return to the yard office to pick up my gear
and check to make sure that I have my signed release form in case any
unexpected railway officials happen along.
As I enter the yard office, the telephone rings. It's Hilton Mines
wondering if a train will be coming up. With a few calming sentences,
the Supervisor assures the other end that things are starting to roll.
By 14:30, we're just about ready to leave. The conductor walks the
train, making his Number 1 brake test, while I board van No. 434529, my
home for the next ten hours.
Suddenly we lurch ahead. After a few car lengths, however, we come to
an abrupt stop. I peer out around a corner of the van and see the
conductor standing nearby. I'm told that another car has to be set out
before we leave.
Finally, at 15:00, our train is rolling under the Bank Street bridge. I
stow my belongings and prepare to climb up into the cupola, taking the
time to ask the conductor which side he prefers to sit on. Let's face
it, its his train!
With his choice made, we both settle in. We pick up speed, and clatter
over the Ellwood Diamond (junction with the CN Beachburg Subdivision)
and head for the Ottawa River and the Quebec side.
A milestone in my life is reached as we rumble across the Ottawa River
and swing around the south leg of the wye at Wamo (Junction of the
Lachute and Waltham Subdivisions). This is the first time in 25 years
that I have ridden on the Waltham Sub. Considering all of the
abandonments that have taken place locally over the past few years, I
find it surprising that the opportunity still exists in 1986. Even more
amazing is the fact that it can be accomplished aboard a fifty car
freight. I savour the moment.
Along Brunet Boulevard in Hull, traffic comes to a stop at the several
grade crossings. In front of an apartment building, people are standing
around enjoying the sunshine and wave as we pass. It feels strange to
be the focus of their attention. Normally I'd be down there with them.
Dutifully I return their greetings, considering it my unofficial
"I wonder what it is about trains that makes people want to wave?", I
ask the conductor. He replies that he prefers it that way as opposed to
those who like to throw things. Fortunately, he continues, only a small
percentage are inclined in that direction. The conversation remains on
this subject until we're past the Champlain Bridge.
Out along Lucerne Boulevard, better known as the Lower Aylmer Road (nee
the Hull Electric Railway), we pick up speed and I'm cautioned to keep
my head and arms well inside the cupola window as we pass through a
narrow corridor of trees. It is easy to get scratched and cut by the
many branches if caution is not employed. It will be this way until we
are past Breckenridge.
Soon we roll through Aylmer, under an increasingly cloudy sky. Once
again many of the locals extend their greetings. As we highball out of
town, our speed accelerates to the permissible maximum of 25 mph and
our van rocks back and forth. This certainly isn't CWR, but it's not
bad, all things considered. Dune duFresne, you'd love this ride. Given
your opinions of the Waltham Subdivision, the pike must still be like
the good old days.
Now in cottage country, the line climbs and dips, respecting the
topography of the east shoreline of the Ottawa River. As a kid, I
recall riding on the passenger train from Campbell's Bay to Ottawa and
looking out over the river. Today, the river is for the most part
hidden from view by the thick vegetation that has grown up over the
past twenty-five years.
At mileage 15, we encounter a slow order, the first of three, and crawl
across the creek at Breckenridge. I wonder how much tonnage that the
little timber trestle has seen over the years.
After passing the section shed opposite the former station site, the
track sweeps around a wide curve that has often provided an excellent
camera location for railfans. The sky is becoming increasingly dark and
lightning can be seen in the distance.
At Parker, a pelting cold rain makes any further photography
impossible. The conductor tells me than an old wood sleeping car that
used to be located on the south side of the tracks in an adjacent barn
yard has been removed. Does any one know its fate?
Before long the Quyon mile board appears on the north side of the
train. Soon we cross the Quyon River on a newly refurbished bridge and
wind our way up to Wyman and the spur into the mine.
On August 26, 1986 work extra
1832, with engines 1832, 8784 and 1813, begins to slow down because of
a slow order up ahead as it approaches the former station site of
"Lusk". The location is about a half mile east of the Luskville
dragstrip. This is typical of the terrain through which the
Waltham sub. passes as it follows the Ottawa River. Photo by Ray
Radio chatter between the head end and the conductor is becoming more
frequent and the head end brakeman is reminded that he must detrain to
throw the switch that will take us to the mine spur. By now the rain
has nearly stopped, making his task considerably easier.
We creep down the spur and come to a stop, shortly after 17:00,
approximately two hours after leaving Walkley Yard. CP Air would have
had me half-way to Calgary in the same amount of time.
Much of the track that still exists
at Hilton Mines is visible in this
August 29, 1986 photograph. Rail access to the mine is gained from the
upper left corner. Note the 30-ton Plymouth locomotive which previously
was operated by Francon at Franceschini Pit, 15 miles west along the
now-abandoned portion of the Waltham Subdivision. Photo by Ray Farand.
While the crew spots a cut of hoppers for loading, I check out some
camera angles. With the rain over, photography is again possible.
Not many photographs are taken
of the Hilton Mine operations. This close-up of some of the equipment
which is used catches CP engines 8032, 8027 and 8758 with some of the
loaded cars of ballast. The many high hills of ballast material
offer a good vantage point for taking pictures. Ray Farand took
this photo on August 29, 1986.
Two huge front end loaders do their job very well and by 21:30,
forty-eight cars are filled with rock. The train is pulled up from the
loading area and backed down onto the van. I have permission to ride up
front in the 1820 as far as Wyman so that I can enjoy the action as we
double the hill coming out of the mine. As I climb aboard the lead
unit, darkness is fast approaching and our engine's headlights carve
through the evening mist that is beginning to appear above the roadbed.
Three diesel units strain as the slack is taken up in our train and the
first twenty-four loads start to inch forward. Before long, we are
moving at a decent pace with not even a single wheel slip. Conditions
and equipment appear to be working in harmony as the engineer tells the
head end brakeman that he thinks there should be no problem in making
it out, even though the toughest part of the climb is still ahead of
us. As we cross a high wooden trestle near Highway 148, wet rails are
encountered and our engines begin to vibrate as the engineer calls on
more and more of the 5400 available horses. Moments later, we start
blowing for the highway crossing. The sound in the cab is overwhelming
as the three MLWs in notch 8 work flat out to conquer the grade.
With the highway behind us, we begin to lose speed. I look back to see
thick plumes of diesel exhaust which are visible against the headlights
of the automobiles which have been detained at the crossing by our
train. The hogger is working the throttle and sanders with a skill that
demonstrates that he knows his craft well.
Ten cars over the crossing, our speed dips suddenly to a crawl and I
feel our engine lose its feet. The hogger catches it quickly and we
continue forward. Again we slip, but a steady pair of hands keeps us on
the move. Twenty cars over the crossing, I detect a slight increase in
momentum. Soon progress becomes easier and the engineman is jubilant.
"We've got her now", he exclaims. It's a short ride to Wyman where we
stop and set out the cut of cars. We then drift back down to the mine
for the balance of the hopper cars and the van. This time, there are no
wet rails and the sand we laid down earlier means that the climb is
easier. The second ascent finished, we cross old Highway 8 where I
detrain and, in the glow of the flashing red lights, wait for the van
to appear out of the darkness. The sound of the engines fades in the
distance and only the clanging of the bell and the steel wheels rolling
by disturbs the still of the night. All of the excitement has left me
It's not long before we put our train back together. After our brake
test is completed, the conductor takes a final look around and we climb
on board the van. I hear him speak into his radio, "Highball 1807,
Inside the van, we share a coffee and briefly discuss the operation at
the mine. I am told that varying conditions and the state of the motive
power can make the ascent out of there somewhat challenging. The
situation is so variable that "heads up railroading" is always required.
With our coffees finished, the interior lights are turned off and we
maintain our watchful vigil in the cupola. Ahead in the night, I can
see the headlights of our lead unit piercing the darkness. The gentle
rocking motion of our van and the sound of the wheels on the rail
joints is an experience that can never be had riding in a car on an
asphalt highway. It is a very satisfying moment, indeed.
CP 4200, 1813 and 8765 pass
through Breckenridge, Quebec on April 22, 1983. At the time the
ballast train would proceed to Walkley Yard with the loaded cars and
then continue its journey to Montreal on the M&O sub.
Starting this year the trip to Montreal is via the Lachute sub.
Photo by Earl Roberts.
The conversation between the conductor and I flows easily now in this
relaxed atmosphere and I get the feeling that my presence is
appreciated. A conductor's life must get lonely at times on those long
mainline hauls with communication only possible by radio.
The next hour is spent discussing ETU's, winter railroading, and MBS.
All too soon, we have passed through Aylmer and are approaching the
The Gatineau station is called and we ask the operator there to phone
the CN dispatcher (our radio doesn't have a CN channel) so that we can
get the light to proceed to Walkley Yard. By the time we arrive at
Wamo, everything is set and we swing south over the Prince of Wales
Bridge. The view of the downtown Ottawa skyline by night is impressive.
Seeing it from where I'm sitting is an added bonus.
As we approach Walkley diamond, we're met with a stop indication. The
plan is for us to cross over to Presswood (Junction of the Prescott and
Ellwood Subdivisions) and back into the yard. I note the time to be
23:40. It appears that CN Freight 214 is blocking our path. We sit and
wait for 45 minutes before our way is clear to proceed. Encountering no
further delays, the conductor and I step off the van at 00:25, almost
ten hours after boarding. Funny, it doesn't seem like it's been that
I wish to extend my sincere thanks to those CP Rail employees who made
this trip possible, and to the crew of Work Extra 1807. Gentlemen, you
made my day!
Branchline, October 1986, page 3.