Thursday 29 March 2018

Throwback Thursday: Chasing Winter Away

CN 9165 shows off its snow shields and windshield screens at Rectory St in London, on December 21, 1986.  Note that the windshield covers are labelled L and R.
By Peter Mumby

By the time late March rolls around, I think most of us are really ready to chase winter away.  Back in the 1980s, CN still found it necessary to maintain snow plowing equipment in London, Ontario as part of its winter weather contingency plan.  Busy main lines did not require plowing, so if a plow train departed London yard, it was generally headed north up the Exeter Subdivision.  Such a train would usually consist of the plow, two units, and the trailing van.  The old F units, with their streamlined car bodies, were ideally suited for this service.  Snow would not accumulate on their sides, and the inward-opening doors meant the crews could easily exit in case the plow got stuck in a drift.  I think this is a big part of the reason the 9100s were assigned to London long after they disappeared from other regions.  GP9s and RS18s also performed on plow trains, although their walkways often ended up plugged with snow.  Their outward-opening doors also must have periodically presented inconveniences.  CN experimented with roof-mounted appliances designed to minimize the amount of flying snow that got sucked in to the rooftop fans.  The accompanying photos illustrate these snow shields, which were removable for normal summertime service.

With the abandonment of the south end of the Exeter Sub and the transfer of the north end to the Goderich Exeter Railway, CN has exited the branch line business in our area.  Gone are the plows, and gone are the first generation units that pushed them.  However, Southwestern Ontario fans can still chase winter plow trains on GEXR and Ontario Southland, so all is not lost.  As a bonus, OSR still operates F units on its plow trains!

CN 4528 illustrates the snow shield treatment on a road switcher.  Like the other two photos, this shot was taken in the Rectory St shop area in London, On.  Both 4528 (Feb 15) and 9177 (Dec 21) were photographed in 1987.

This rear view of CN 9177 provides a second look at the temporary covers over the fans and a portion of the side grills.  In case you were curious, yes, the rear end of the F units was painted red in this scheme!

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