The locomotive seen here, CPR 9005, is known as a “Red Barn” and while to the uninitiated it looks like any other engine out there, it’s unique and fascinating in a number of ways. It’s rare in that it was made with non-standard body style (called a cowl), and it was one of only small number so built for the CPR; plus it was one of the very last of a long series of locomotives built.
Known officially as a model SD40-2F, this locomotive was built by General Motors of Canada (known as GMD or GMDD, closed in 2012) at their plant in London Ontario and was one of twenty five of that series constructed in 1988/89. They were numbered 9000-9024. Now languishing in the dead lines at Ogden shops in Calgary, this unit was only recently retried, in mid December to be exact. Other members of the class have or will see a similar fate, while the best of the bunch will continue to soldier on for the time being.
What makes it stand out is that it was built with a full cowl body. For a time this arrangement was quite popular in Canada with other carriers, but only sampled once by the CPR. When compared with a typical hood unit, the cowl style handles snowy conditions better. For a time, starting in the early 1980s all the way to the early 1990s all the Canadian National Railways new locomotives, those built by the Montreal Locomotive Works (aka Bombardier, the originator of the design), and those from GMD and GE, were all built in this form. Other smaller Canadian carriers, BC Rail for one, also rostered cowl units, but in this case from General Electric.
CPR however seemed quite content with the standard hood units except for this one order. In the end, there were some severe limitations to the design and it eventually it fell out of favour. The tapered side was hard to see out when backing the unit up, it made maintenance more challenging and the initial cost to purchase was higher.
This style of locomotive was never sold to a US railway, although CPR’s could be seen travelling in there.
What is this SD40 series anyway? Only one of he most popular range of locomotives ever built. Introduced in the mid 1960s, thousands were made until the line was superseded by other models in the 1980s. Built by the Electro-Motive Division of General Motors in the USA and also by its Canadian counterpart (GMD that we spoke of earlier), CPR owned hundreds of these. In fact they had such a love affair with them that they continued to order the model well into the 1980s, long after other North American railways moved on to other more modern designs. Every train on the CPR system in the 1980s and into the 2000s seem to have an SD40 series in its consist.
Given their small numbers when compared to their standard SD40-2 brethren, these unique engines really seemed to get around and one can find countless pictures online showing 9005 on trains in nearly every corner of North America.
This series of locomotives were know, to train geeks anyway, as “Red Barns” or “Big Red Barns”, a name which becomes very obvious when viewing the units from the side. Their huge slabs bodies remind one of the namesake farm building. The taper in the back is known as a “Draper Taper”, so named after the CNR employee who designed it. While the design worked well on paper it had those limitations spoken of earlier, and because of this seemed quite unpopular with both crews and maintenance workers alike.
There was a second SD40-2F coupled to 9005, but the angle and some rail cars in front prevented me from seeing the number.
Also sharing the Ogden shop tracks was CPR’s holiday train. Two box cars could be seen peeking out behind a shop building. Others cars from that train set were hidden due to the angle.
Concurrent with the retirement of this SD40-2F is the closing of the Ogden shops. A long time landmark in the area and once a major employer, it is being phased out and on my visit work was being done to tear down some of the buildings on the north side of the complex (the freight car repair building). How long before the rest falls is unknown, but it will be interesting to see what what happens.
Update: June 2013. All the SD40-2Fs retired so far, including 9005, have been sent to a contract shop for rebuilding into something called an SD30C-ECO. Some components from the old units, frame and trucks for example, will be reused, and a new efficient engine and electrical system installed (and perhaps a new non-cowl body too).
In spite of retirements, many locomotives from this class continue to operate. It’s assumed any major failure will sideline a unit and so it’d be safe to say that all are working on borrowed time. Will all of this series be fodder for rebuilding?
Update: October 2013. We caught an SD40-2F in service, and in the lead position no less. The locomotive, #9008, was heading east and was photographed passing through Cranbrook BC. This is the first one we’ve seen since our January encounter with #9005. A picture is included below…
If you wish more information on these locomotives, by all means contact us!
Date: January 2013.
Location: CPR Ogden Shops, Calgary Alberta.