CP commuter consists – first hand

The 800’s, introduced in 1953, replaced open platform wooden coaches*, some of which I’d seen in Lambton later, awaiting conversion to service cars. When I began to use the line In 1965, the 800’s were then 12 years old, slightly older than some of the RDC’s used on occasional trains (where you could indulge in baggage compartment riding). Still used too at that time were 40 to 50 year-old ex-mainline coaches. These survived until the early 1970’s and would sometimes be mixed in with 800’s. The new gallery cars retired them in 1970, around which time the RDC trains seemed to become longer. I frequently came home to Pointe Claire on a nine or ten-car RDC train.

There were also a couple of experiments. For a while in 1969 we had a full-length smoker, 1700, at the end of train 270 each morning. It had been built for Calgary to Edmonton service between 4-4-4’s. There was a short period when a bar car was attached to the end of one of the afternoon trains, but it didn’t last long.

Motive power was always a steady diet of FP7A’s as now, with help from RS18’s and E8’s such as 1802. I would have hoped that with today’s new cars would come locomotives with about a thousand more horsepower to allow a faster schedule.

Those paragraphs are ones that railfanning legend Robert Sandusky shared in 1989. I enjoy reading his work and these kinds of first hand experiences really help illustrate the types of trains and operations one would have seen if railfanning CP’s Lakeshore trains in and out of Montreal during this time.

Those RDC’s eh? I never doubted the many credible resources that spoke of how CP used RDC’s in commuter service but I’m really starting to buy in to it now. I have seen pictures of these massive RDC consists but had always assumed they were exceptions and not rules. In terms of attempting to translate the prototype into a convincing model I had assumed I’d need some RDC’s but wouldn’t typically need to consider their operation in much beyond perhaps a three car train. Looks like I was wrong. I have a couple of the old Con-Cor RDC1’s with the Roco drives in N scale. I consider these some of the finest operating models I’ve seen in N. I’ve seen the Kato model but never bought one. Looks like I should scramble and pick up a few while I still can.

I’m really excited to see a new question stemming from Mr. Sandusky’s reminisence above. He mentions heavyweight coaches that were still appearing in commuter service. I bought a pair of those really amazing N scale Micro-trains coaches last fall and want to buy a few more. I wonder how close they could be to the ones CP was using? I’ve compared the window and details to the ones that CN was using on their Montreal lines and they compare favourably so I’m hoping to strike it as lucky with CP. There really aren’t any decent photos of this car on the Microtrains website so here’s a link to M.B.Klein’s:

RDC’s on the Island: A new (to me) tiny detail

The legend of CN’s attempts or interest (depending on who is telling the story!) in trying to employ Budd RDC’s on Prince Edward Island is something that generates a lot of discussion. I’ve read a lot of different reasons and perspectives on “why” they weren’t suitable for use on PEI but this afternoon I found a new one in an article on the CN’s operations on PEI. Rather than try to paraphrase the article, I figured I’ll just quote from the article itself:

At one time, presumably in the 1950’s, consideration was given to introducing RDC (“Railiner”) service on the Island. However it was quickly discovered that the units would not fit on the ferries (too high with the roof exhaust) so that idea was dropped. If it had been possible, likely the convention trains would have been replaced while the mixed trains would have remained unchanged due to light patronage.

(I don’t know what the author is referring to when he refers to “convention trains”)

The above paragraph is from Canadian Rail’s issue number 346 for November 1980. The most common reasons I’d heard for not introducing the RDC’s was (a) the pilots kept hanging up on the ferry aprons making loading and unloading the cars for through service to Moncton and the world difficult and (b) that the nature of the RDC’s direct drive from the motor to the trucks meant that they would have struggled with the Island’s tight curves and grades. Of course, even in the 1950’s, CN themselves were already busily putting together some business cases to justify ending rail service altogether on the Island so no doubt it didn’t take much to disuade them from exploring this idea further.

That said, the picture Bruce Ballantyne paints in his article sounds a whole like what was going on over in Nova Scotia on the Dominion Atlantic where mainline passenger trains were handled by RDC’s and Truro mixed trains number 21 and 22 were mixed trains. It sure looked nice on the DAR and would have been equally picturesque here on PEI.