Thursday 8 January
Train No. 30 Ottawa to Montreal
Locomotives 6540 (A unit) and 6632 (B unit)
The temperature was about 5ºF when I climbed aboard No. 6540 and introduced myself to engineer Tom Miller and secondman Red Pulford. After their initial surprise at having a visitor the crew were very friendly and only too pleased to answer my many questions. One of the hazards of Canadian railroading I soon learned was when I climbed into the cab. I had taken off one of my gloves to climb up the ladder and the metal was so cold that I "burnt" my hand.
You are a long way above the ground on these locomotives. This is accentuated by the fact that most platforms are low, Montreal CNR being an exception. One of the great things is that there is a third seat on the locomotive, originally for the brakeman. I found it much better than having to stand. The layout is quite familiar except that there is a lot of room in the cab. The engineer sits on the right hand side of the engine and has the brake, throttle, whistle and radio within easy reach. The secondman has very little on his side, just the steam separator blow down button and a water fountain. All passenger trains have an air whistle connection by which the conductor can communicate with the engineer. This is a piercing whistle which one just cannot ignore.
Our clearance and train orders contained nothing of interest except for a couple of speed restrictions. The signal to start (highball) came from the conductor via the communicating whistle at 0741. We proceeded slowly through the outskirts of Ottawa using frequently the bell which must be rung instead of the whistle within city limits. Diverging right at M&O Junction, where the CPR branches left, we began to pick up speed. We soon reached 80 mph and eventually 85 mph (although the speed limit, I believe, was 80 mph). Just after passing Vars we had an alarm bell ring. Red Pulford went back and found that one of the steam generators had overheated in the stack and had to be shut back. This left us with two out of the three steam generators functioning but these were adequate to maintain the steam pressure at 200 lbs/sq. in. The generators are not shut right down when not required but are left with enough steam being produced to prevent them from freezing up.
We observed the 50 mph temporary slow order over the bridge at Casselman and Tom explained how permanent slow orders are posted. A diamond shaped sign is used, normally with two speeds shown - the upper one is for passenger and the lower one for freight trains. The beginning of the restriction is shown by a yellow reflectorized marker while the end is marked by a green marker.
The track is very well maintained, some of the curves are tight yet superelevation is such that 70 mph is possible. There is some long welded rail on this section. I noticed that the crew always looked back on curves to make sure the train was alright. Much of the time all they can see is snow blowing up. The second man always responded to the engineer calling out the signal aspect.
The approach signal at Glen Robertson was at yellow and as we were approaching the dispatcher called on the radio to tell us that he was having problems with the track circuits. Signal 144 at Glen Robertson was at red and we received authority from the dispatcher to pass it at danger under rule 264. Having made sure that the switch was safe, we proceeded at restricted speed to the next signal. The sun was just coming up and made a fine sight through the mist but it made the signals hard to pick out. The next signal was also at danger so we stopped and proceeded at restricted speed. Calling the dispatcher was difficult because of interference and we finally had to change channels. The dispatcher told us to go into the siding at De Beaujeu to pass train 31. We had to stop and open the switch manually to get into the siding, the rear end brakeman closed the switch after we were safely inside. We passed 31 while running through the siding. 31 was also in trouble and needed a 264 order to proceed.
We crossed the diamond with the CPR at De Beaujeu and after a couple of approach limited signals we passed Coteau where we joined the double track main line into Montreal. We were put over on to the southern most track at Coteau East via the 45 mph crossover. This line is signaled for two way working.
Dorion was passed at 35 mph, the slow order here is over a crossing where a school bus was hit by a train a year or two ago. Dorval was reached almost 30 minutes late but some time was picked up by good station work.
The approach to Montreal is slow and tortuous. The signals do not tell the engineer which route he will be taking - just how fast he can go. We eventually arrived in Montreal Central station which is dark and grim. No. 30 brings in a fair amount of mail and I was surprised to see a man with a shotgun on guard. Having said goodbye to Tom and Red it was with some trepidation that I walked back from the locomotive, past the guard to the exit.
I traveled back from Montreal on the Super Continental CNR train no. 1. Train no. 2 had been retimed so that it was not necessary to meet it on the single track and we therefore ran as an extra train with white flags. It was dark as we left and there was quite a lot of snow falling. The headlight picks out the snowflakes and when traveling at 90 mph the snow flying past gives a great impression of speed. Approaching trains can be seen a long way off. This is a bit disturbing on single line. We watched one freight approach and take the siding. The headlight went out when the freight was in the clear. We got the road and went through at full speed.