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Older Memories of Drake Street Roundhouse in Vancouver

Andy Cassidy

It was March of 1973 and I was near the end of my tenure as a labourer. This day I was working with two other fine fellows, Cosmo (Can’t recall his last name), and Pat Scorda. Both of these gents have passed on now. CP 1403 (one of two units, the other I didn’t take a photo of), sits on the service track in front of the old oil house. These are the best quality shots of all that I took with this camera, a little Kodak Instamatic. The rest go downhill from here.

The Labourers were the hardest worked group of guys in those days. We all worked under the watchful eye of the Labour Foreman, Angie (Angelo) Grafos. He was a real task master! If you were one minute late either leaving early for a break or returning from one he was all over you. When the passenger units arrived on the shop track, the labourers hustled out ASAP! We’d each grab a burlap sack of rags and a broom stick, climb into the units and start wiping down the engine. In most cases the engines were covered with oil, and it was all over the floor of the engine compartment. Sometimes it was so bad we needed two sacks of rags. The top deck seals leaked profusely on the old B engines that were in these units. The B series of engine is long gone from CP now. (Thank Goodness!) The new top deck covers have a seal configuration that’s much better. Some days the oil would be ½” thick all over the floor of these units. Also, because they’d just come in off the road, the inside of the carbody was stinking hot! Especially in the summer. We didn’t mind it so much in the winter though, as it was a nice break to get in from the cold.

Some people can’t stand the noise units make. I, on the other hand loved the sound (and still do), of the engines up close. So one of my favourite things while wiping the engine down was when Alec Watt, the Assistant Locomotive Foreman at the time, would come out and load test the units. He’d get in the big chair and the Electrician would isolate each unit in succession. Alec would then load the unit that was on-line back and forth to check the loading, dynamic brake, and see if there were any wheel slip problems. With the relatively short track length, he’d load the unit in throttle #8 and also apply the independent brakes. I just loved when the unit really loaded up hard. Being a mechanical sort, I discovered the Layshaft! One day I decided to give the engine a boost when Alec was doing his load testing. So when it was at full load I gave it a shove in further. Well, next thing you know the engine overspeed tripped and the bells were ringing as the unit shut down. Of course, I didn’t know what had happened at that time, so I just went on with my wiping duties. A Machinist and Alec came in to check things over and reset the tripped overspeed. Then they are all scratching their heads trying to figure out why it tripped. I didn’t say a word!

After wiping down all the innards, we’d then get to the washing of the exteriors. And when that was done we had to clean both the front and rear cabs. I swear we were the only ones to ever do this, as every cab I ever cleaned was just black inside. We had to get all the cab paint looking clean with no streaks, plus the glass. Grafos would then do his inspection, and if it wasn’t to his liking you had to keep on it till it was! Actually, I got along pretty well with him, whereas quite a few others didn’t.

These next two shots (along with a number of others to come), were taken from the roof of the Roundhouse. I should have taken a lot more from up there. With a better camera of course! Again I must apologize for the grainy pictures. In any event, these two shots are the start of a number of events to come, and I was lucky there was such a wide variety of power on hand in the shots. You’ll see the rest later.

Where to begin? First off, anybody who happens to know what Drake Street looked like in the past will see right away a massive number of changes. Primarily the removal of the entire steam related infrastructure as you may have seen in older photos. At this time all that’s left is bare minimum to service the local yard fleet of Baldwins and Alcos, plus the Passenger units and their backup units, primarily GP9’s in the 8500 series as they were equipped with steam generators required if needed in passenger service.

So in the first picture you see the Baldwin CP 7069 in nice script lettered Tuscan, Grey, and Yellow, sitting on the turntable being moved out of the roundhouse. In the background on the South service track is the CP 5538 in Action Red Multimark, and over on the stub track is the CP 3716 in storage. You can also see the Diamond crossings on the Wye. The stub track the 3716 is sitting on also crossed over in the past. Some spare locomotive wheels adorn the small stub tracks. Why the SD40, CP 5538 is there will be discussed later.

In the second shot the 7069 has been turned and lined to the North service track. I’m quite sure that’s Johnny Dipalma switching for Angie Grafos in the cab. Now you see our standby GP9 (CP 8515), over behind the Oil House. The spot on the North service track beside the 5538 is where we did all the routine servicing of the passenger and transfer units. Watering, oil, washing, etc. At the far left of the photo is the Engineers locker and booking in room adjoined to the Locomotive Foreman’s office next to the car beside the building. That was my office later on. Mouse infested place. Anybody remember Egburt…? Down past the oil house are the lube tanks. The fuelling and sanding took place farther east up by that yellow box car. If you look closely you can see the sand tower there. That was fed by sand from the Sand House over to the right of the single fuel tank and two tank cars in the top middle. One tank car was Diesel Fuel, and the other was a spare “Bunker C” car that we used for fuel in the Powerhouse.

The Sand House is a place I should have taken more pictures of, and is worthy of note here. To most people sand is sand, big deal. Well there’s more to locomotive sand than meets the eye. Sand needs to be dry and of the proper size consistency to flow in a locomotive sanding system. On my second day working at this place, I was given the task of working the sand car. Sure, what’s that all about I wondered. Well, about four of us Labourers head up to the Sand House. I was under the wing of fellow Labourer Albert Derdowski. There was an OCS gondola car full of sand sitting beside the Sand House. What do we do here I said. Albert barked out “We shovel ALL the sand into the sand house.” You’ve got to be kidding I’m thinking! There’s a lot of sand in this car! And it’s all wet to boot! At least 30 tons worth, maybe more. So we shovelled sand ALL day and got it transferred in to the sand house. Well that’s just the start of it.

The next day I’m up at the sand house with Albert and he’s going to show me the ropes on drying and transferring sand to the sand tower. All that sand we shovelled the day before now was going to be dried and blown up to the tower. Not all at once though. This was a one man job because it takes time to dry wet sand. The sand house had a Drum Dryer. This is where I wished I had pictures. Imagine about five 35 gallon drums end to end at an angle of about 25 degrees or so that rotates slowly on rollers. At the high end of the drum you shovel in the sand. Not too fast! At the bottom end of the rotating drum is a section made of fine mesh screen. This separates the fine sand from the coarse stuff that’s waste. Also at the bottom end is a burner that shoots a good size flame up the barrel. Very similar to the kind of burner that used to be in oil furnaces in most houses years ago. That was fed by diesel fuel we had to put in a drum outside the Sand House.

So the first thing we do is go to the fuel stand with empty 5 gallon containers and fill them with diesel fuel and fill the 45 gallon drum outside the sand house. Once that’s done, we blow the pipes. ?? The dried sand we produce goes into an underground tank that is connected to the top of the sand tower by a two inch pipe. To get the sand in the tank to the tower, we have to blow it up with compressed air that is supplied by the shop air compressor. But before we start we need to ensure the tank and pipes are clear. This is the most important and dangerous part of the job here! The top of the sand transfer tank has a pipe extending up to the base of the sand dryer. We have a pipe cap with a handle welded on it we screw onto the open pipe. Knock tight with a hammer, and then turn on the air. If you can hear it blowing through the pipe and exhaust at the sand tower we are good to go! We’ve cleared out any residual sand and moisture that might be in the tank and line. Shut off the air and remove the cap.

Okay, so now we put a large funnel in the pipe to the sand transfer tank so the dry sand can go in, and put a bucket at the end of the drum screen to collect the large stuff that is waste. When that fills up we toss it out the door. Now we light the burner and turn on the drum roller (with a switch on the wall. That’s the easy part.) We are good to go!

So now Albert shows me how to pace myself in the shovelling in of wet sand. “Not too fast now or wet sand will get in the transfer tank”. We don’t want that because the compressed air will not push the sand up to the top of the tower if it the slightest bit wet! So we shovel sand slowly into the top of the drum and I get the hang of it. (Of course Albert had to show me how to use a shovel! At first I had sand flying all over the place. “Just take a bit and let it lift off the shovel into the chute”. Okay, I got it…).

So we fill the transfer tank and shut everything down. “Okay, now we blow it up”. Right… We take the funnel out and cap the line. Air valve is opened up, and sure enough you can hear the sand bumping through the 2” underground pipe and up the side of the sand tower. In a minute or so, the transfer tank empties and the pipes on the side of the sand tower are banging away like they are going to come apart, then a great cloud of sand dust emerges from the vent at the top of the tower. “Okay we are done that load”, Albert says. On to the next one.

So now I’m doing it on my own. All’s well as far as I’m concerned. I fill the transfer tank, put on the cap, and open the air valve. Thump thump, and that’s it! What’s going on? Well, I was too hasty shovelling and the sand was moist in the tank. When I turned on the air, it just got major constipation. Now What!? Here is the REAL Dangerous part!

First, we leave the air on and go for coffee hoping that in 15 minutes or so it will clear itself. No such luck. The 100 PSI air is now trapped in the tank. To relieve the pressure, we have to remove that cap! With hammer in hand Albert slowly backs off the cap. Once it is turned a revolution or so we now step outside the door. There is a long 2X4 sitting there. He grabs it and opens the door just enough to slide in the stick, and uses it to hit the handle on the pipe cap to rotate it off. POW! The cap blows off like Mount St. Helens! Now I know why we don’t want to bung this thing up. Holy Shit Man! If a guy were to be in that building when he took that cap off he’d be killed for sure. (Now I look back and wonder why they didn’t have a manual relieve valve in place to bleed off the air if this happened. Safety wasn’t a big thing in those days). Now we call the B&B Plumbers to come over and clear the line. They aren’t too happy about it.

Well I learned how to dry sand properly in the end, and found it to be one of the best jobs. It was an easy pace all day and nobody was bugging you. I didn’t mind the unloading of the gondola after that either. Put your brain in neutral and just coast along… Those were the days.

To finish off, we used to have a Labourer who was real jumpy. I won’t mention names. He was a real gentleman, but very excitable and could be unsafe. One day he was drying sand and plugged the tank. Fortunately for him, I came by just as he was half an inch away from removing that cap with a hammer in hand and his face almost directly over it. STOP I Yelled! If it had come off…, well I don’t like to think what I would have found if I’d shown up 5 seconds later. I was shaking!

Again on the roof of the old Roundhouse. I picked a good day for my trek up there as there was a lot of action happening in that time frame. In these shots The Canadian (#1), had arrived at the Depot on the North East side of downtown. The locomotives were cut off and brought by the crew through the Dunsmuir Tunnel to the Roundhouse Shop Track. However, first they turned the power on the Wye for us. Some days we did it ourselves, but other days when the crew felt generous, they did it for us. In this case you see the CP 1408 & 1411 coming down the south leg of the wye, stop past the switch, then proceed around the wye in front of the roundhouse.

In the first photo you can see the iconic Sun Tower with its faux-patina green steel dome standing almost in line with where the south portal to the Dunsmuir Tunnel is. A bit closer is the North end of the old Cambie Street Bridge that heads off screen to the right. The cleared lot to the right is the near future location of our first Intermodal Container Terminal. Look how small it is! Out of view, but about in line with the road on the right past the Cambie Street Bridge is our Piggyback Terminal. It was quite something to see the drivers load and unload the trailers off the cars there. Kept us electricians busy repairing Stonco Flood Lamp Sockets the Carmen relied on to do their hitches.

If you look very closely along the track next to the CP 1408-1411 up past the Sand House, you will see the CP 7067 pulling all the coaches from #1 through the Wash Rack. Normally it took more time for a yard crew to bring the coaches from the Depot through the tunnel over to the Coach Yard. But this day they were right behind the passenger units. (I think the train was late arriving). After washing the coaches they would turn the train and park it in the Coach Yard for servicing. You’ll see some of that later.

I’ve added an old B&W shot of the Wash Rack that my dad had in his album. Not sure when he took it, but it’s nice to see the beaver crests on the Budd built cars. The wash rack worked well most days as I recall, but it was an environmentalist’s nightmare! All the wash water including the waste Oakite Detergent (The stuff would take your skin off), was just flushed into False Creek. That, along with all the other waste generated by CP and other local businesses. No wonder no fish live there!

To finish off the first shot, there is a Baldwin switcher in the old colours sitting up by the fuel tank, but I didn’t get the number of it. These were great units. They’d out-pull any Geep of the day. When you opened up the throttle on these babies, man you knew it! Throw you right off the steps if you weren’t prepared for it! I always remember this one day we had to go visit Tommy Elliot the Maintainer out at Port Coquitlam to deliver supplies. It was break time and all the yard crews were in the Yard Office playing cards and such. Tommy’s shack was right by the Shop Track and all the units were parked there. I forget the hogger's names now, but one fellow who was a real nice guy as I recall comes out after the break and after a short laugh fest with us jumps on his unit, one of the Baldwin switchers. Normally the Baldwins lost their feet pretty easily due to their power and lack of a quality wheel slip system. But this day the unit had full traction and the hogger opened the throttle full off the shop track. These engines maxed out at around 650 RPM or so, and I’m telling you, each cylinder was firing like a cannon in rapid succession! The whole shack was shaking. I’ll never forget that. Just raw power! Totally bullet proof engines.

In the second photo I’m looking right down on top of the CP 1411. I’m standing on the south portion of the roundhouse roof where CP Transport ran their truck repair operation. You can see a number of their trucks sitting in the muck south-ish from the track that runs over to the Coach Yard. In the background you can see some log booms sitting in False Creek awaiting their turn in a nearby lumber mill. I’m sure all the Yuppies who live in the current high priced condos around False Creek would be horrified to see it like it was then. In many ways I like it better the way it was there. Check out the Dynamic Brake grid blower just behind the cab on the roof of the CP 1411. Something the CN folks didn’t have the benefit of. Also to note are the icicle breakers on the roof of both units.

Moving onto the third photo, well this was the only way to get everything in at times with a Kodak Instamatic 50 Camera with 126 cartridge film. It’s actually one of my favourite shots from this whole set of pictures. Here again you can see a number of locomotives on hand. CP 1411-1408 (GMD FP9A’s), being turned on the wye. CP 5538 (GMD SD40), and CP 7069 (Baldwin DS4-4-1000) behind it. Behind the oil house is CP 8515 (GMD GP9), and on the stub track is the CP 3716 (MLW 2-8-0 Consolidation), waiting to come back to life in a few years. Finally, standing tall in the middle of the photo is the “W” on the Eiffel like tower atop of the original Woodwards building. They knocked it down in 2006 and built a new Woodward Condo development there. The tower and the “W” were saved, rebuilt, and reinstalled later.

These are the last five shots I have from the roof of the old Drake Street Roundhouse. I should have taken more from different angles. Oh well, it was film then, and we didn’t snap like today with digital. Now that I think back, I could have snapped tons of film, but all my pay cheque went into my car back then. Where’s that now…?

In the first shot the passenger units, CP 1408-1411 have been turned on the Wye and delivered to the North Service Track in front of the Oil House. CP 8515 still sits in wait on the north side of the building, and the CP 5538 and CP 7069 sit patiently on the South Service Track just East of the crossing. The CP 3716 is asleep on the stub, with the CP 7067 pulling The Canadian (#1) through the Wash Rack. The 7067 is sporting a new Action Red Multimark paint job.

Although it’s not obvious looking at the photos, looking at them from an Environmental point of view a lot has changed over the years. In a nut shell, all runoff and drain lines at the place just went through a crude oil/water separator (that was rarely serviced), and then dumped out into False Creek. I remember one day somebody dumped a crankcase full of oil into a pit in the Roundhouse, and the next day all the boats in the new Marina in False Creek were floating in an oil blanket. Everybody was hitting the panic button over that one. Like I said, all the wash water from the yard and in the shop went to the drink. The shop fuel tank sits within a miniscule berm that would never contain any kind of spill. Fuel oil at the fuel stand was frequently spilled without consequence. (Although it was nothing like they did at the old Coquitlam Roundhouse, where we frequently worked in a SEA of diesel fuel from all the overflows). When we cleaned out all the sludge from between the rails on the service tacks, we just dumped it on the ground east of that fuel tank. There was a mountain of it there! Those yellow and brown drums at the corner of the Oil House contained Active Chemical Industrial Detergent that was full of Caustic. We also had a steel tote of this stuff on the other side of the building, and also one in the Roundhouse. Sometimes the valve at the bottom would get left open and leak all the detergent out. No Oil/Water separator in the world can deal with that, so out the False Creek it went! If you wanted the hull cleaned on your boat, you just floated around False Creek for the day and all the debris was eaten right off! (Well, that’s an exaggeration.) If all that wasn’t bad enough, we used Sodium Dichromate in the cooling systems of the locomotives. This stuff is no longer used due to Heavy Metal contamination if spilled. We used to sprinkle the stuff on the ground around the Foreman’s shack to kill the weeds every year! Did a good job.

After the passenger train was run through the wash rack, the crew backed up and brought it into the Centre Yard as seen in the 2nd photo. This day one of the Business Cars was on board. Van Horne maybe.

The yard engine would drop off the train west of the Wye switch and come back up through the Coach Yard around the Wye in front of the Turn Table, as seen in the 3rd shot. (above) Once they tied onto the Park Car, they pulled the train around the Wye and into the Coach Yard, as seen in the last two shots. (below) I can still hear the cars going over the two crossings. “Click Clack Click Clack”, and a quick repeat with the truck on the next car. Then a lull as the car passed over till the next set of trucks went through. Finally ending with a single truck crossing over. Those crossings were flexing like Arnold's biceps when they went through. Especially with the units.

You will recall I mentioned the SD40, CP 5538, was sitting on the south service track for a reason to be mentioned later. Well these photos are of the CP 5534 in the same spot, and for the same reason, and were taken in November when it was dark and rainy out. So the picture quality is downright lousy. I’m showing this set first because it gives a comprehensive overview of what was being done as opposed to the couple of shots I have of the CP 5538. I’ll show those later.

So what’s happening? Well, occasionally a locomotive would loose a Traction Motor due to overheating en route. Sometimes they would “Bird Nest”. Than means that the windings in the motor would come loose and get caught up in the rotating armature. That would pull all the wire out of the armature and field coils resulting in seizing up the motor and skidding the wheelset. When you looked at the motor from the outside there would be wire all stuffed in the ventilation openings of the motor that looked like a birds nest. Thus the name. In any event, this would mean the Boilermakers and Machinists would be called out on location and have to cut the motor pinion gear with a torch to enable the wheelset to turn freely. Sometimes the wheel would be so badly skidded the Boilermakers would have to build up the flat spot on the wheel by welding it in and grinding it as smooth as possible so it could make it to a repair terminal. (We don’t weld wheels anymore. They are just replaced on line by the Car Shop staff with their mobile crane). So both the 5538, 5534, and a few others had this happen and needed proper repairs before being allowed back into service.

The Coquitlam Roundhouse at that time only had Servicing Staff on hand and could not deal with this kind of problem. So they would forward the units to Drake Street for us to do the required repair. As I mentioned before, our normal power consisted of yard units and passenger units with a few GP’s on hand as backup. These are all four axle units and if this kind of problem arose we’d simply put it in the Barn on pit #11 and jack the unit up with the four Whiting 35 Ton electric jacks. Then we’d pull out the truck and move it to pit #12 and replace the wheel and motor assembly as required, after which we’d reinstall the truck under the unit.

The problem with an SD40 in this situation is twofold. First, it’s too heavy to lift with the jacks we had on hand. Second, it’s too long and wouldn’t fit the jacking foundations nor clear the door in the roundhouse. So what do we do? No problem!

At that time we had the CP 414330 100 ton Industrial Brownhoist Steam Crane on hand. So the Carmen would be enlisted to get the crane set up on the south side of the Wye. Once in place, blocked, and steamed up, we’d move the SD40 up to the crossing in position for a lift. The Carmen would hook up the spreader bar and hook the cables to the lifting lugs of the locomotive. In the mean time the shop Mechanical staff would disconnect air lines, safety chains, clips, sand hoses, etc from the truck so the unit could be lifted free of it. Wait a minute, forgot one thing. The Traction Motor Cables!

Normally this would not be of any special interest, but I bring it up due to the story told by the gentleman who was assigned to disconnect them. That was one of my fellow apprentices at the time, Bill Seeley. He’s still on the active payroll at CP. Anyhow, Bill was assigned to climb under the unit and disconnect the four traction motor cables on each of the three motors. Safety not being what it is today, they just lifted the unit up a bit to allow Bill access. There was no blocking applied between the truck and locomotive as we would do now in this situation. Bill never gave it much thought until when squeezed into position the locomotive started to sway above him! He was howling like mad figuring the unit would come down and crush him. That didn’t happen thank heavens, but he was some shook up nonetheless.

That task out of the way, the Carmen lifted the unit up clear of the truck. Then Angie Grafos brought the CP 8004 off the turntable up close to the CP 5534 on the other side of the crossing. The ground crew hooked cables between the 8004 and the truck under the 5534 so Angie could pull it out and onto the turntable. Once there they turned the table to line up with pit #12 and put the truck inside so they could replace the motor and wheelset. Later they reversed the whole procedure and sent the SD40’s on their merry ways.


In the last set we saw the CP 5534 being lifted by the local Steam Crane CP 414330. Although those shots were taken in November of 1973, I showed those first because they gave a complete overview of the task at hand. That being the removal of a truck from an SD40 so repairs could be made to one of the Traction Moto/Wheel Combos. Back to April 1973 and here we have a couple of shots of the CP 5538 being lifted in the same manor, and for the same reason. However, at this time I was under the watchful eye of Labour Foreman “Angie Grafos”, and couldn’t be hanging around taking pictures when there was other work to be done. Consequently, I only got the two attached shots of this lift. Too bad, because the lighting was 100% better, and so are the shots from the old Instamatic!


In addition to those shots, attached are pictures of two GP9’s that were kicking around. CP 8515 was a steam generator equipped GP9 that was backup power to #2, The Canadian, if required. Note the air reservoir on the roof of the unit. Normally they are down at the fuel tank level, but on units with steam generators the space is needed for the water tank.

The high short nose housed the Steam Generator. I always felt sorry for the passenger crews running these things as opposed to the A-Units because of the cab conditions. There is limited leg room for the Engineer. The 25 Watt radio was in a holder up in the centre of the front wall of the cab. I don’t know how many times I bashed my head against that bloody thing! Plus it was a hassle lifting the radios in and out of that spot. When the steam generator was running the cab was frequently gassy, and that was a common complaint. The door seals were frequently out of place or missing so the cab was drafty at track speed, and in those days there were no baseboard heaters, only the two engine fed hot water heaters. If the engine was running cold due to stuck cooling fans, the cab would be cold as well. Then throw in the fact that the engines in those 8500’s used to vibrate the fillings out of your teeth in the #2 throttle position… Well, I think the crews appreciated the comforts of the A-Units that had a great view, lots of leg room, a not very drafty cab, and the steam generator in the back with the engine! (Same thing applied to the long-hood forward MLW RS-10 units with the SG in the short hood behind the crew).

Besides the stinky steam generator there was the Camp Stool Toilets that used to be installed in the short nose, right beside the Steam Gen! Imagine sitting there with the unit going track speed, ice cold draft air whistling around you, along with stinky hot exhaust fumes from the SG! You wouldn’t be reading the paper there, that’s for sure. LOL!!

The CP 8632 sitting halfway in Pit #8 was not typical for Drake Street in that it was not steam generator equipped. It may have been in from Coquitlam for wheel or traction motor repair. All other repairs to GM units were done at Alyth in Calgary. We had virtually no spare parts for GM units in our stores, and nobody had any expertise in troubleshooting or repairing them. Somehow though, we managed to get them out working day to day.


The Pyle National steam dynamos on steam engines were a 32 volt generator with about 500 watts of available power. The diesels had a 64 volt system initially, based on the eight 8 volt batteries, but the headlamps were resistored down to 32 volts to match the standard lamps used on steam locomotives. I forget how many watts they were, but they weren’t that bright. The auxiliary generator on a diesel unit puts out 74 volts to charge the batteries effectively, so now they dropped the 64 volt lamps and all are pretty much 72 volt now. Headlights started being converted to sealed beams from the original medium base screw-in lamps with the giant reflector behind. Because the headlight system was 32 volt, they used two 250 Watt 32 Volt sealed beam lamps. They were much better. When ditch lights came into being, they didn’t use any existing wiring, so they went with 350 Watt 74 Volt sealed beam lamps. This obviously caused a problem with guys using the wrong lamps in either the headlight or ditch light positions. The result being either instantly blown ditch lights, or dim headlights. Then the railways started standardizing the headlamps to 74 volts by changing things around. There are still a number of units floating around with 32 volt headlight systems, and they are usually stencilled as such so no mistake is made. But guys still do… Today, when all four 350 Watt Halogen lamps are burning at the head end of a unit there is a LOT of light thrown.”

Back to the old days. When I was working the 16-24 shift at Drake Street, we’d see the power for #2 out daily. Normally I would ride the power down to the Depot and have the machinist drive down in the truck and pick me up after the train left. On the way to the depot we would go through the “dark” Dunsmuir Tunnel. Once we rounded the first curve and straightened out, the engineer would stop so I could adjust the headlight for him. Frequently the lamps’ beam would be too high, right or left. So I would go in the nose of the A-Unit and adjust the lamp position in the housing by means of adjustment screws. Making the required adjustments, the engineer would give me the okay once the beam was pointing straight ahead and down towards the track. Even with the bulb in the proper position, the light was not very bright. Occasionally I’d have to adjust the headlamp on a GP9, but not nearly as frequently as the A-Units. In any event, those single 32 volt screw-in lamps were hopeless.

The advent of Sealed Beam lamps didn’t resolve all the issues though, as the headlamps frequently developed “Beam Shift” from the filament in the lamp drooping down like a wet noodle when the lamp was left on dim. That’s because the filament gets rubbery at a low glow and the weight of it pulls it down. The result is the beam of light shines upwards into the sky because of the misalignment with the reflector behind. This problem can only be resolved by changing the bulb. The new Halogen bulbs don’t have the same degree of this problem as far as I know.

Final note. The steam crane CP 414330 is currently part of the West Coast Railway Association collection in Squamish BC. The CP 8515 was rebuilt in the mid 80’s to CP 1624 which is currently (12/2011) assigned to Coquitlam Shop as part of the 1624-1020 Mother/Daughter set. The CP 8632 was rebuilt as well and renumbered CP 1536 and currently resides in Moose Jaw.

SRS 402 (ex NYNH&H 19) rebuilt from a Mack FCD (#1010 1954) railbus one of two acquired in 1958.
One of 10 built for the New Haven. 402 was retired following a fire in the Detroit River Tunnel in 1985.

Again from April 1973. Here we had the Sperry Rail Service Car 402 pay us a visit. All they were doing was turning the car on the wye and filling up the fuel tank. The Sperry cars were not total strangers to us as they used to tie up over the Christmas / New Years holidays in the roundhouse if they happened to be working the area at that time. Earlier I sent a shot of the SRS 138 sitting in Pit #5 over Christmas 1980.

Sorry for the poor quality of the shots, but again it’s the cheap camera and the lighting working against me. In the second shot the car is on the south leg of the wye and you can see a construction crew laying pavement where our first Container Loading Facility would exist. On my previous rooftop shots of this area you may recall is was just a muck hole. Well, the ground wasn’t very solid there, and whoever planned out this facility obviously didn’t do any Geotechnical work. So after they got it all nicely paved over they brought in the new Fantuzzi Lift Truck for lifting the cans on and off railcars. These things are pretty big, and on the first lift the machine sank right through the pavement into the fill below! Somebody had some Splainin to do…


In the last shot the SRS 402 is on the shop fuel track getting gassed up. Alec Watt was the Locomotive Foreman in the jacket on the left. Pat Scorda is on the far right doing the fuelling honours. I think Angie Grafos is the gent facing away between Alec and Pat, and the guy with the bib coveralls is one of the crew on the SRS 402.

On this nice sunny day in October 1973 I got a few shots in the parking area of the old Baggage-Express cars CP 401467 and 401468 sitting on the Stores Track. I’m not sure if at this time they were being used by the Stores Dept. or the Maintenance Of Way as tool/supply cars. In any event, sorry for the obstructed view here. For some reason my car was in the way of some great shots… (1968 Road Runner. Angie Grafos said it sounded like a Fairbanks rolling in…) LOL!

401467 eventually wound up at the Three Valley Gap Motel near Revelstoke.

Three Valley Gap Heritage Ghost Town and Transportion Museum

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