By Peter Mumby.
CN HR616 number 2111 is heading a westbound freight past the London Via station on March 11, 1988.
last week's post I made a brief reference to ditch lights being in use
on CP during the late 1980s. This got me wondering about how CN was
applying ditch lights to their motive power in the same general era.
the 1980s CN had actually been making use of ditch lights for many
years, although this application was restricted to the mountainous
regions of Alberta and British Columbia. Furthermore, these ditch
lights were portable, and were plugged onto locomotives as they headed
into the mountains, then removed as trains left Edmonton on their way
east again. CN HR616 number 2111, featured in today's photo, was one of
20 MF-32a class locomotives built in 1982, and it is apparent that
these units were not equipped with ditch lights as-built. CN re-manufactured a group of GP9 locomotives in the 4000 series during
1981-84, and these came without the lights. Units 4100-4116 of 1984
similarly lacked ditch lights, although by 1987 they were being
retrofitted. Later units in this series, 4117-4143, rebuilt in
1989-1991, all came out of the shop equipped with the appliances. The
5400-series SD50F locomotives, built by GMD from 1985 to 1987, were also
fully equipped upon delivery. 1985, then, would appear to be a
watershed year as far as ditch light application was concerned.
2111, as shown above, was photographed on March 11, 1988. I have
photos of other units of this class dating to 1992 which show that ditch
lights had been installed by then, so presumably the process of
retrofitting these appliances to the existing fleet was spread out over a
few years. As for the modeller, then, it seems as if the 1985-1990 era
would allow for a bit of variety as far as running locomotives with or
without ditch lights was concerned.