Saturday, 3 November 2012

Gaspesie - First Diesels and the Railliner

Most are unaware that the Gaspe was used by CN for the better part of the twentieth century as a testing ground for new equipment.  Although PEI was the first province to fully dieselize, the first diesels were tested on the Gaspe in the fall of 1951.  A year prior, CN ordered fifteen H10-64 locomotives from the Canadian Locomotive Company, a subsidary of Fairbanks-Morse.  7600 through 7614 were delivered the next fall and exclusively assigned to the Gaspe.  I don't think I have to comment on the result of the testing..

There is actually a photo of my grandfather which I must make a copy of, where he is peeking out of the cab of 7600 in the siding at Point a la Croix.  He always spoke very negatively of the early diesels however, as did most people.
"The Fairbanks-Morse engines were junk," he would say, "they were always breaking down from electrical problems that we [the head end crew] didn't know how to fix like we did with the steam engines. The 1800 HP MLW's [RS-18] were a much better engine, they were real workhorses, if you started with four on the head end of a freight in Matapedia you were lucky to have two still running past New Carlisle, but yet the two worked on.   The 3000 and 3600 HP [C630M and M636] to follow were great pullers and the 5300's [SD40-2W] were a great, heavy engine." - L.K. Main
To him, the later MLW's and first/second generation GMDD's were great engines, but nothing compared to the steam engines for him.

The first "railliners" or Budd Rail Diesel Cars were tested on the coast as well.  These self propelled passenger cars would run in consists usually ranging from one to three cars.  A good example is shown here, in a post by Steve Boyko.  My grandfather actually drove these for the better part of two years.
"Those railliners were a scary thing, you would ride with one hand on the throttle and the other on the door handle.  There was no crew protection." - L.K. Main
I have yet to see a photo of a frontal collision, but I would imagine that it would not end well for the crew as track speed for the railliners varied between 10 and 45 miles per hours.  After VIA Rail was created in the late 1970's, they were passed on to VIA who continued to run them daily as train 621/622 up until the VIA cuts of 1983.  Gramps never worked for VIA so he was taken off the passenger trains presumably in 1979.

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