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Enemy Attack?

By The Late J.H.Jackson, C.P.R.

Residents of West Toronto were disturbed by strange sounds late in the night many years ago. In fact, it was during World War II and what with all the news about bombings etc. people were alarmed by the whistling and thunderous booms which they heard that night. Distressed citizens awoke from their sleep and contacted the police for news of the enemy attack. But, the police were equally baffled and could do nothing but reassure them that no attack had been mounted.

The following night brought the shrill whistling screams and distant booms again, and again the alarmed residents alerted the authorities who were still just as baffled by the claims that Toronto was under attack. Finally, citizens and police set about searching for the source of the frightening sounds. What was uncovered was not the whistle and explosion of bombs being dropped on the city, but just the men in the C.P.R. yards switching freight cars like they did every night. Except for one thing: the familiar sounds of the chugging steam locomotives had been partially replaced by the new and unfamiliar sounds of diesel locomotives! Un-noticed in the normal daytime din, the quiet of night unmasked the ominous sounds.

The ALCO S-2 diesel engines were equipped with a turbocharger, and when the engineer worked the loco- motive hard enough to kick cars down the track, the turbocharger gave off a shrill whistle that trailed off as it died down, only to be followed by the "boom" of freight cars coupling with each other as the consists were being marshalled. Hence the distant sound of "exploding bombs"! Residents were relieved to know that no enemy attack was under way and soon the throbbing and whistling sounds of the diesel became as familiar as that of the chugging steam engines.

NOTE: The last of these diesels, built in 1944, were only retired in 1985 after many years of faithful and around-the-clock service to the nation's economy.


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