Here’s an uncommon find, not one but count ’em, two, old GE Dash 8-40CM locomotives belonging to Canadian National Railways, found along a Saskatchewan secondary line. For someone who resides in the Canadian Pacific Railway-centric world of Southern Alberta, which the company almost monopolizes, seeing that “other” railway is a real treat. That we captured some some of the most oddball front line motive power on the roster, makes it doubly so.
The location here is Kindersley Saskatchewan, where the CNR’s Rosetown and Oyen Subdivisions join. This century old line runs from Saskatoon Saskatchewan to Oyen Alberta. Until recently, less than ten years ago, it continued all the way to Calgary Alberta. Main commodities hauled today include grain, naturally, plus petroleum products and stuff like that.
Trains run sporadically on this stretch of track, perhaps a couple/few times a week. Locomotives are often older and typically ragged, worn-out in appearance and rarely ever show-room clean. A crew member we bumped into while shooting, who asked to remain anonymous, sneered at these very units, surprising us with a expletive filled rant describing any engines assigned to the line, these ones very much included, as pure junk. And you thought truck drivers and sailors had the market cornered when it comes to four letter words!
Both of these locomotives, #2405 and #2419 date from 1990 and come from the firm General Electric (Erie Pennsylvania), a long time builder and one the largest such firms on the globe. Recall, they’re a model Dash 8-40CM, alternately Dash 8-40M. Only purchased by a few Canadian Railways, about eighty of this model were ever made (years 1990-1994). CN originally owned fifty five (No #2400-#2454), but later acquired some twenty plus more second hand, numbered in the #4600s, from another line it purchased. Together these comprise about four percent of the total roster, which amounts to some nineteen hundred units.
Unlike typical locomotives they have a full-width cowl body verses one with a narrow hood and exposed walkways. While this helps keep snow accumulations down, surprisingly a problem, rearward visibility (our new friend complained sometimes they have to run them long distances backwards) and even how maintenance is handled, is all severely hampered. These units ride on bogies salvaged from older 1970s built locomotives. That aside and the otherwise different body lines, they’re very similar mechanically to the much more common Dash 8-40C and Dash 8-40CW locomotives found in the US.
These units seem to run system wide, but tend to be most common on secondary lines, like this one, or pulling lesser priority trains on main tracks. Still, they seem to be considered “front line” motive power. Or mostly so. Most of the time, they are not in the lead position however.
Researching this post, it’s clear these Dash 8-40CMs are NOT popular with CNR people, both those that operate them, like the fellow we ran into, and those that keep them running. The crew this day got two! Being old, reliability is also an growing issue. Interestingly, both wear original paint.
The two groups of three multi-coloured lights just above the number boards are special markers, a system no longer used that indicated what sort of train, in regards to “class” the locomotive was pulling. They are usually removed or disconnected. Oddly one in green, on the lead locomotive was lit.
Both units have a bit of a sag to them, most noticeable on the yellow frame rail. I guess this is common within the class.
It’s safe to say these locomotives and their kin, are in their twilight years. They fairly old, odd, and unloved. Data from a few years ago, the most recent we could find, lists all units built still in service. Regardless, I’d fully expect retirement is not far away for these unwanted step children, if that process hasn’t started already. For those that know them, I bet it’ll be “good riddance!”
The two locomotives were idling away between assignments. The lead unit seemed to be running a bit rough, the engine inside often surging almost violently for a second or two, then quickly stumbling to the point of almost stalling before recovering. A plume of dark smoke would emit from the exhaust each time this happened. By the way, locomotives are often kept running even when parked for a day or two. There’s numerous reasons for this, too many to go into here.
Kindersley is located about three quarters of the way down the line mentioned. Home to something close to five thousand people, it was founded with the coming of the railway (the pre-CNR Canadian Northern) just over a century ago. Canadian National Railways uses it as a crew rest point and has a bunkhouse here, since a run can’t make it from Saskatoon and back in a single shift.
If you wish more information on what you’ve seen here, by all means contact us!
Date: June, 2016.
Location: Kindersley, SK.
Article references: Canadian Trackside Guides, TheDieselShop.us, Canadian National Railways archives.
BIGDoer.com shot from public property.