Dec 122017
Cat Bottom Dumps

We’re easily distracted. We’re out on a road trip going where ever (we put a lot of miles behind us as you know), see something we like and have to stop and take a few snaps. It happens all the time, trust me, and is simply the way we function. Pad the schedule cause we know they’re will be a distraction or two along the way. Accept it, work with it, embrace it, and most importantly, enjoy it. We’re always discovering.

And so it happened this very day. We’re headed out to a gig, we’re taking the back roads, and sure enough we see stuff of interest – we have many and they’re strange and varied – with trains and big machinery being some of the most popular subjects. So of course we have to stop and gawk.

Big Yellow Beasts: how do we ever get to where we’re going? By Chris Doering and Connie Biggart. (BIGDoer/Synd)

On a cool April morn, blue skies and wispy clouds above, things seen along the way…

First a passing CNR train. Just a couple switchers out collecting and dropping off cars to various industrial concerns in the east edge of Calgary, the backdrop a large power station. The last car is for carrying wood poles and the like, while the other two are used to haul metal coils. The top lifts off allowing access to the interior.

Scroll down for photos and to comment.

The locomotive in front is of particular interest and is one of the oldest the railway owns (a General Motors “GMD1” from the late 1950s). Don’t expect it, and the few others of this model still hard at work for CNR, will last much longer. The railway sure got their money’s worth out of them! This model was designed to be used on light rail branchlines (those are all gone) but today typically they can be found patrolling industrial spurs and switching yards.

Photograph them while you can.

The second locomotive is a bit more modern, a General Motors GP38-2 from the 1970s.

And a second stop (do we ever get to where we’re going?), some giant earth moving machinery along a side road. Neatly lined up, these “bottom dumps” presumably await their next assignment. They’re used by a Calgary firm (Contour Earth Moving – hey guys we’d love to photograph these at work) for site preparation and the like or any job where a lot of material has to be moved from A to B.

Powering the rig is a Caterpillar 773x series tractor (modified from a straight dump). They of course are painted in standard Caterpillar yellow. The driver sits way up there, at nose-bleed heights, and has a good three hundred and sixty degree view of the area around the rig.

According to the maker, these trucks produce some six hundred horsepower and change from a twelve cylinder engine and have a top speed of perhaps sixty clicks. In the configuration seen they can carry well over a hundred tones of material, which is unloaded via a series of doors on the underside of the trailer. They can move a lot of material. And move it fast. No doubt they’re something to see in action.

These trucks dates from the 1990s and 2000s. The 773 series is still being made today, in upgraded form. Caterpillar, in fact, makes a whole series of off-road and mining trucks of similar appearance, some of them many times the size of the ones looked at here. They’re a juggernaut in the industry.

And the road calls. Snap off a couple last shots, jump in the car, speed away, a little diversion behind us. Told you, we’re easily distracted.

Supersized earth moving equipment!
Draglines and Shovels – Reynolds Alberta Museum.
Diplomat Mine Site.
Bigfoot and Brutus (from afar).

If you need any more information on what we talked about here, by all means contact us!

Date of adventure: April, 2017.
Location: Calgary and area.

CNR Railway Calgary

On the way to where ever, this short train working industrial sidings.

Cat Bottom Dumps

Stop right there…big machinery!

Caterpillar Bottom Dumps

The massive machines belong to a Calgary earth moving firm.

Cat Bottom Dump Trucks

They’re parked along a back road, presumably awaiting their next assignment.

Cat 773E

In familiar Caterpillar yellow.

Cat 773E Truck

The 773 series is usually a straight dump, but here is configured as a tractor.

Cat 773 Bottom Dump

Those blues and yellows!

Road Building Bottom Dump

These beasts are used on site preparation jobs.

Off Road Bottom Dump

There’s a good number of them here.

Caterpillar Bottom Dump Trucks

Class photo…


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8 Comments on "Big Yellow Beasts"

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Lee Spaulding
Lee Spaulding

Nice trucks!

tim swaren
tim swaren

Those Caterpillar bottom dumps are very similar to some trucks I saw a few years ago working on the Hwy 63 twinning project. They were owned by a contractor in Fort McMurray.

Jimbo Jones
Jimbo Jones

There are a lot more solidly built and easier to fix than some of the new stuff from Cat.


Nice catch of the GMD1 – to help give some context, these were upgraded in the 90’s when the shortlines were turfed and adapted for switching. So now they call them the GMD1u. Not sure how long they’ll be around but I wouldn’t be surprised if it is years still. My understanding is that they are simple and easy to work with/on and the switching crews all prefer them over newer engines.
I hope they last anyway. Hands down my favourite engine!