Thursday, 9 March 2017

Operation Lifesaver Special Visits CN London Depot

This Gord Taylor image of Oct. 20, 1992 features an Operation Lifesaver train parked in front of the London, Ontario CN tower.
Throwback Thursday
Commentary by Peter Mumby, with Photo by Gord Taylor.

On Tuesday, October 1992, an Operation Lifesaver special train visited London, Ontario.  It put in appearances at both CP Quebec St yard and the CN depot.  Gord followed it around, taking photos in various locations, but the image above seemed to tell the best story.  Motive power consisted of CN 9669, CP 6034, and GO 543.  What was unique was the assortment of units gathered together;  individually, each locomotive was fairly standard power of the time for its particular owner.  CN GP 40-2W 9669, class GF-430c (GMD, 1973) was ex-GO 701, exx-GO 9809.  278 units, CN 9400-9677, had originally been acquired, with 10 units, 9668-9677 (ex-GO 700-702, 704-710) joining the roster in 1991.  CP SD40-2 6034 belonged to class DRF-30v, produced by GMD in 1982/83.  CP's original SD40-2 units included 5565-6080.  Units 5629-5658 came from EMD; the balance emerged from GMD.  Add to this a sizeable collection of used SD40-2s in the 5400 series, plus the 9000-9024 series SD40-2F "red barns" of 1988, and it is easy to see why most CP trains of the day were hauled by this type of power.  GO 543 was an F59PH-2, a member of class GCE-430h, produced by GMD in 1989/90.

Accompanying the three units were Go coach 2304, A Via steam-heated coach, and two CN business cars, Coureur des Bois and Sandford Fleming.  The CN cars were painted in the then-standard Via blue and yellow.  The entire train was parked in front of the 1960s-era CN business tower.  The Via passenger station was located in the lower floor, although by this date many of the upper floors were unoccupied. The milepost mounted on the train shed opposite the GO unit indicated MP 78.2 of the Dundas Subdivision/MP 0 of the Strathroy Subdivision.  Visible trackage included three station tracks, two mainline tracks, and the several tracks of Charlie yard.  The track curving off to the front right side of the frame led through a parking lot, across a busy city street, and into Labatt's Brewery.

So, out of what we see in this 1992 photo, what is gone, and what remains in 2017?  The station and mainline trackage remains, but the entire Charlie yard has disappeared and Labatt's product travels exclusively by truck.  The CN tower was imploded on Feb 04, 2001.  In its place now stands a much more compact Via structure.  The GO coach is still standard equipment, but most of the rest of the train is now outmoded.  Most of CN's 9600s are now off the roster; 9669 was retired in the summer of 2007.  CP now operates only about 15 of their SD40-2s, although many others are still stored unserviceable.  GO 543 was sold to Amtrack in 2011.

Sadly, the photographer, Gord Taylor, is also no longer with us.  I was present on the day in question, taking a standard front three quarter view to showcase the equipment.  Gord, however, was the one who took a few steps back and took in the "bigger picture."


  1. Wow! Only 15 sd40-2's still operating??? I remember when that was about all you ever saw on the cp...oh yeah, that was almost 30 years ago now...

    1. Hi Mike:
      Did the time fly by that fast...hard to believe...George

  2. What a great picture and your correct the scene sure has changed today. The current VIA station is actually a small addtiton that was added to the 1960's CN station that you can see to the right of the tower in the photo. When they imploded the tower it became the parking lot for the "new" station. I remember the crowd when they imploded the tower. That was sure a big spectacle for London!