Continental commodiity hauler

FTLComm - Tisdale - Thursday, May 7, 2009

The results of the intense consolidation of rail lines and the development of inland terminals have religated the role of Canada and American railways to little more than bulk carriers. The railway companies see their profits in terms of moving large trains.

In this part of Saskatchewan we do not not normally see the kind of trains that flow along Canada's two main lines but today this CP grain block crept along the line south of Tisdale at a jogger's pace. More than a mile long the four unit powered train was made up mostly of loaded grain hopper cars with


mix of six or so blocks of chemical cars. This was a heavy train and the very reason steam power disappeared.

With a steam powered train pulled traditional box cars which move a fraction of the load in a hopper car a single steam unit and crew could handle about sixty cars. With diesel electric units a crrew of two can easily march across the prairie with a load of two miles strung out behind them. In the mountains the sidings are limited and the length has to be scaled back.

As I watched that train drag itself along the line this morning I was thinking about the whole process of running a long train of that type. The locomotive engineer actually loads up the air system to run with some brakes on all the time to keep the train taught and reduce push and pull on small inclines. When a train stops and then resumes moving you rarely hear the crack, crack, crack that used to accompany such an action as each coupling slaped as the load came on it car after car. That's because the brakes are on and kept on during a stop and then only eased up when the thing gets moving again.

Timothy W. Shire

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Editor : Timothy W. Shire
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