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Canadian National's Thornton Yard Visits

by Elizabeth Guenzler

Port Mann townsite was created in 1911 in the municipality of Surrey, British Columbia. It was to adjoin the new railway yard and roundhouse forming the terminus of the trans-national rail line operated by Canadian Northern Railway. It was named for Donald Mann, a partner in the building of the Canadian Northern Railway. The yard was built in 1916 on tracks acquired from the New Westminster Southern (Great Northern) in 1891. Formerly named Port Mann Yard, it was renamed to honour Sir Henry Thornton, the first president of the Canadian National Railways, at a time when CNR amalgamated all the smaller railways across Canada, except the Canadian Pacific Railway, into a government agency.

For a period of about ten years, I would visit the Burnaby / New Westminster / Surrey and Coquitlam areas of the Lower Mainland in conjunction with the twice-yearly model railway shows held in Burnaby, or when the occasion arose. After signing a release and donning hard hat and steel-toed boots, my friends and I were allowed to take some photographs.

CN YBU-4 2052, ex. CN 451, nee CN GP9 72052. This is one of seven yard booster units with power for traction motors taken from GP9s. Photographed November 14th, 1999.

CN GP9 slug 2632 (nee CN GP9 4523) two years later on Remembrance Day 2001.

An across-the-yard view on November 14th, 1999.

CN GMD1 1420 (nee CN 1058) was found on March 23rd, 2003.

On November 12th, 2000, I was able to catch CN GMD1 1422 (nee 1076) inside the shops being worked on.

July 5th, 2002 found CN C40-8 2423 and SD75 5740 with different liveries on the grounds.

CN SD40 5223 caught on a gloomy November 14th, 1999.

It was a slightly sunnier day when CN SD40 5232 was captured on March 23rd, 2003.

CN SD40-2W 5277 beside the brick shop building on July 5th, 2002.

Yard scene from the entrance area on November 14th, 1999.

Taken over the fence, CN SD50F 5431 and SD60F 55312 were seen on July 5th, 2002.

CN SD50F 5420 on November 14th, 1999.

I had not seen this model before so also caught 5520.

CN SD70I 5613 was found here on March 15th, 2003.

CN SD75 5741 was sitting by itself on November 12th, 2000.

While here, 5741 moved to where GCFX SD40-3 6035 (nee CN SD40 5156 - an Alstom unit) was parked.

I was quite partial to the 'map scheme' and caught SD40-2 60062 (nee CN SD40 5134) with CN SD75 5741 in front of the shops on July 5th, 2002.

A close-up of CN SD40-2 60062 (nee CN SD40 5134).

GEC Alsthom (later Alstom) re-built several CN SD40s into SD40-3s. Here is 6035 (nee SD40 5156) on November 12th, 2000.

GCFX SD40-3 6035 (nee CN SD40 5156) and SD40-3 6079 (nee CN SD40 5149) on adjacent tracks.

GCFX SD40-3 6061 (nee CN SD40 5237) and its mate were found in another area of the yard this day.

Mid-November 1999 found several GP9s on the property. Here is 70012 (nee CN 4478).

A trio of CN GP9s.

Here is 70052 (nee CN 4485), 70072 (nee CN 4561) and 70132 (nee CN 4575).

CN GP9 70102 (nee CN 4327) was also found.

The unmistakeable brick and red building of Thornton Yard with CN GP9 70462 (nee CN 4282).

CN GP9 70122 (nee CN 4501) with a dot between the second and third numbers which I had not seen on any other engine.

General scene of Thornton Yard as seen from the footbridge on November 14th, 1999.

Side view of CN GP9 7055 (nee CN 4560).

Wide view of the rather empty yard taken from the footbridge.

CN SW1200 7304, nee CN 1390 was found on July 5th, 2002.

General yard view with CN scale test car.

Kansas City Southern AC4400CW 2045 was a surprise visitor here on July 5th, 2002.

The highlight of a visit on March 15th 2003 was Alberta Railnet C30-7 1003 (ex. LRCX 8120 1999, nee ATSF 8120) and B23-7 1011 (ex. Norfolk Southern 3974 1999, nee Southern 3974).

Duluth, Winnipeg and Pacific SD40 5903 was found here by the late Michael Coles in August 1992. Michael was an acquaintance of mine who lived in the Vancouver area and had albums of Canadian and American Class 1, shortline and tourist trains for sale at the twice-yearly model railway shows in Burnaby. I always came away with several photographs of interest to augment my collection. The majority of the rest of the photographs here are from his collection.

A CN Test Car was photographed by the late Michael Coles on May 8th 2003.

LORAM Railgrinder RG15, ex. SP bi-level coach LMIX 512 was photographed at Thornton Yard by Marc Simpson in September 1999.

This is my favourite Canadian National livery. The late Michael Coles captured this handsome CN E9A 102 (ex. BN 9903, exx. Metra 9903, exxx. BN 9940, nee CB&Q E8A 9940A) on August 12th 2002.

Looking resplendent in its livery, CN 1058 "Gatineau" (ex. CN 946, exx. CN 992 "Bonaventure6" 1967, nee CN 12-1 sleeper 1546 "New Westminster" 1921) was at Thornton Yard on June 2 nd, 2003. Photograph by the late Michael Coles.

Between 2003 and 2004, the black, green and gold was repainted into a red and cream livery. While quite smart, it did not have the same 'look' for me. Here is outside platform car "Louis Joliet", ex. 994 1979 nee CN 212 1969, which carried the name "Grand Trunk" from 1969 to 1977.

On a rainy November 12th, 2005, CN E9A 102 (ex. BN 9940, exx. Metra 9940, nee CB&Q E8A 9940) was photographed by Bob Alkire.

The Illinois Central E units looked excellent when the late Michael Coles photographed them at Thornton Yard on September 13th, 2001.

I wished I had been able to see this and the other passenger cars in person. But alas, I was at work on August 14th, 2005 and knew nothing of them being in Surrey. American Orient Express observation/lounge 800321 "New York" (ex. AEE obs. "New York" 1994, exx. Sandy Creek Corporation 6639 "Sandy Creek", exxx. New York Central 10634 "Sandy Creek", nee NYC buffet/parlour/observation 10571 "Sandy Creek"), courtesy the late Michael Coles.

On September 10th, 1996, the late Michael Coles captured BNSF 3 "Red River" (ex. BN 3 1983, exx. BN "Red River" 1970, exxx. GN business car A1 1957), nee GN tourist-sleeper 1010 1948). It had been a 14-section car serving on the Empire Builder and was rebuilt in 1939 into a six-section double bedroom.

Algoma Central FP9A 1404, previously seen and photographed as AC 1756 in late 2003 and early 2004 at Southern Railway of B.C.'s Trapp Yard, was caught on October 6th by the late Michael Coles. It was re-numbered to 1404 after purchase by the West Coast Railway Association. Ex. AC 1756, exx. VIA 6553 1980, exxx. VIA 1404, exxx. CP 1404 1954, nee CP 4103 1953.

Only the corner of the slug belies the era of this photograph. A trio of F units were at Thornton Yard on May 6th, 2005, which Michael Coles thankfully captured on film.

To round out this Thornton Yard retrospective is Livingston Rebuild Centre (LRCX) C30-7 8104 (ex. BNSF 5147, nee ATSF 8104) and LRCX C30-7 9522 (ex. BNSF 5232, exx. ATSF 8710, nee ATSF 9522) which the late Michael Coles photographed on April 16th, 2002.

LRCX C30-7 8152 (ex. BNSF 5195, nee ATSF 8152) by the late Michael Coles on September 21st , 2003.

Chris Guenzler was aboard the Rocky Mountaineer on April 20th, 2001 and caught this and the following images as he passed through Thornton Yard.

CN GMD1 1412 (nee CN 1042) beside the shops.

CN E9A 102 and E9A 103.

One of the Alstom SD40-3's and the E9s in a general yard scene.

A Thorton Yard scene taken from the Rocky Mountaineer.

Thornton Yard was always 'hit or miss' when I visited. Sometimes there were plenty of locomotives there and other times, it was nearly empty. But whichever the case, I enjoyed my visits and it was nice to be taken there initially, then able to take a couple of my friends there over the years.