Thursday, July 4, 2013

Cabooses on the CSX Sarnia Sub

CSX Transportation's Sarnia Subdivision was a fascinating anomaly in the 1990s for a number of reasons, including its continuing use of Chessie System painted GP38s well past the creation of CSX. This sub also hosted a B&O painted GP38 for a few years in the early 1990s and had no signalling equipment for much of its Chatham-Sarnia line. Another strange quirk that characterized this line was the use of Chessie System-painted cabooses into the early to mid 1990s, including a bay-window caboose.

Of course, a number of  railways continued to use cabooses into the early 1990s, so I am not suggesting that this sub was the last surviving rail line to use these cars. However, I am guessing that it was among one of the last lines to use them. In the area where I watched trains, CN had long since stopped using its trademark red cabooses by the early 1990s in and around Sarnia, including its branch line that passed by Corunna's eastern town limits.

The most commonly used type of crew car on the CSX Sarnia line was top-mounted cupola style car like C&O 103144. I likely snapped this photo in the summer of 1992, although this photo was not dated. I missed the head-end of this train, but I arrived in time to catch a few interesting cars and this caboose. You will notice that it's hitched to an autorack, which was a common site on this subdivision up until the mid-1990s when this traffic began to disappear. I mention this because it makes the cupola on the caboose useless when you can't see anything beyond the next car in the consist. However, by the 1990s, the cupola was obviously not a key component of this car.

I did a little research online to see whatever happened to this car and found nothing. Unfortunately, Chessie's history is hard to track online, especially when it comes to this forgotten subdivision. 
The above photo was taken in a new subdivision, which gave me a new vantage point to watch trains on this line. Before this subdivision was built, the area was forest near the edge of town.

The photo below was taken in the spring of 1991 at the St. Clair Boulevard grade crossing on the outer southern edge of the town. This bay window crew car is, to my knowledge, still on this sub and in Port Huron, Michigan as a shoving car or safety cab, depending on what term you prefer. You can see what the car looks like now in this photo from I prefer to remember it as it was back in the spring of '91, when it was still in use as a crew car. What a beauty!

This was the shot I took as it approached the crossing at the tail end of a manifest freight. The bay window car is hitched to an ex-Louisville & Nashville hi-cube box car, which likely carried auto parts. This was another common site on this line in the 1990s until this traffic largely dried up. 
I am looking forward to visiting family in the Sarnia area later this summer. I am hoping to catch a train on the sub, although I doubt I'll see the variety that I saw back in the day.


Eric said...

Nice post and photos, Michael. We stopped in Staunton VA on our way to Myrtle Beach SC, and found some ex-Chessie equipment there, including a couple of cabooses and a couple of boxcars, plus the old water plug from steam days.

I blogged cabooseless trains:

including a combined 'display' train.


Eric said...

And some cool C&O material just posted here by Chris van der Heide, Michael:


Michael said...

Great catch, Eric. Thanks!