Thursday, March 10, 2016

All American Diesel in Canada

In Spring 1991, I sometimes would hop on my bike and race to the nearby CSX tracks when I heard a train approaching my hometown. One morning, I caught a huge four-diesel mixed freight, which was one of the better catches I have ever had.

Fast forward a few decades.

A great surprise awaited me the other day when I visited the Chesapeake & Ohio Canadian Division Facebook group. It turns out, one of the photos I took that spring day had much more historic significance than I had imagined.

This is a shot of GP38-2 2002, repatched for CSX but previously bearing the B&O markings on the side of its hood. This unit, which was originally B&O 3802, was like any other GP38 that were used almost exclusively on this rail line between Sarnia and Chatham in the 1990s.

But this unit, it turns out, has been preserved at the Baltimore & Ohio museum in Baltimore, Maryland because it is historically significant. There was a reminder stenciled onto the side of this unit, which read "Do Not Dismantle. On release from service, hold for shipment to B&O Museum via Locust Point, Baltimore."

The stencil was applied in 1992, which meant my photo was taken the year before the locomotive was officially tabbed for the museum. But the question is, why was this unit designated to be saved?

Upon reading about this unit's story on the museum's website, I was surprised to read that this locomotive was dubbed the All American Diesel by Trains Magazine in 1982. At the time it was chosen, this locomotive was already in Chessie paint. It turns out, despite the patch being applied to this unit in 1992, this locomotive wasn't retired from service until 2000. Not a bad return for a diesel manufactured in 1967.

You can see lots of photos of this unit and the patch at the C&O Canadian Facebook group (see link above), which I have found to be a fascinating treasure trove of photos and information about a largely forgotten rail network in Southwestern Ontario. You can also see what this unit looks like fully restored today on the B&O Museum's 3802 Flikr page.

What makes this even better for me was I caught this unit on a train with four diesels. This was the one and only time I ever saw four units leading a train on this line. Usually, CSX ran two geeps together, with the long hoods connected together.

This has always been one of my favourite railway photos. Now that I know the story behind this unit, it makes this image all the more special. It also makes me feel old to know that an engine I caught is now a museum piece.


Over at Trackside Treasure, blogger Eric Gagnon has posted about the fascinating Sclair covered hoppers that were once common around Sarnia and elsewhere. Eric was nice enough to include a link to an older Beachburg Sub post that included a shot I took of the Sclair hoppers in Corunna. I found one other shot of a Sclair hopper, taken in 1992 that I thought I would share. This car is parked on a spur serving a plastics plant near Corunna. That maroon car to the left is a Dupont hopper. The former Dupont plant, now owned by Nova Chemicals, is located in Corunna on the CSX Sarnia Sub.


Steve Boyko said...

It's cool that you caught that diesel by accident! :) I'm always happy when someone is thrilled for their own reasons by a photo that I took. What's "OK" to you could be "sensational" to someone else.

Michael said...

Thanks, Steve. I constantly have to remind myself to take as many good shots as possible, since their significance might not be apparent until years later.

Anonymous said...


My wife and I are planning a trip to hit the abandon rail line near Indian Station. This marry's three of my interests. 1) im a rail fan, 2) Love history, 3) enjoy being out on the atv.

So we plan to take the B series snowmobile trails that will take us up to the line.

I have a few questions that maybe you can help us with.

Skuttlebutt says Algonquin Park refused to accept the land due to contamination. Does this mean its open for public use outside the parks influence?

Do you know of any history surrounding Indian station? What was the point of the station etc..

Would love to atv up to other stations in the park.


Mike (my name as well!)

Michael said...

Hi Mike, Thanks for stopping by. I have to say that I don't know much about the old CN northern main line through Algonquin, including the Indian station, although your plans to do some exploration around there sounds fun. I do know that the old Brent station is now part of a cottage/vacation area, although the area is no longer hooked up to the grid, I believe. I would imagine that you could find some answers by doing a few quick scan online. I wish I could be more helpful.

Anonymous said...

I've done some extensive on line searches regarding Indian Station. Can't find anything on this station.
So at this point we wait for things to dry up so we can get out there. My wife has a new metal detector so she going bring that along. We'll hit the track bed and see how far we can travel north west. Im guessing it will likely be gated or blocked. There is a very large trestle to the west of the station that looks interesting.

We'll bring back photos. Thanks for the help.