Monday, May 10, 2010

Always in back, tagging along!

Prince Rupert, November 8, 1958. Consider the ubiquitous “B” unit. Never quite achieving the status of an "A" unit; always in back, tagging along. But when the tonnage rating gets iffy, and the dispatcher needs a boost, who better to fill the bill?

Railroads went through a period of time when it was believed that “B” units saved money. After all, there was no cab, with windshields, controls, seating, heating, or toilet.

But the flipside to the savings was the lack of flexibility. You simply could not run a train headed by a “B” unit.

In some web discussion groups you hear "distinctions" made between types of "B" units. The distinction made between those with "hostler" controls, and those without. A booster is a B unit with hostler controls, and a slave is a B unit without hostler controls, as they say.

But I'm not comfortable declaring those distinctions as being anymore valid than the so-called "phases" rail fans like to attribute to locomotive model progressions. In fact, the builders never made such distinctions, and I've never seen that terminlogy in locomotive catalogs.

So here's a toast to the utilitarian "B" unit! She's always ready to "help the team!"

A happy ending to the CNR 9039B story. She was snatched from the cutters torch and sold in 1990 to the Feather River Rail Society in Portola, California. But in yet another unforgivable messing around with history, she was repainted from Canadian National to Western Pacific colors and given number 925C.

And, at last report, operational, with almost 60 years on the frame! As part of my facts verification process, I just received this email from David Epling:

She is actually Western Pacific 925C now, not Feather River 925C.
Feather River Rail Society owns the locomotive.

David Epling
Museum Manager
Western Pacific RR Museum
Portola, CA

Railroad Stuff: GMD CNR 9039B, F-7B, was built as a class V-1-B-b in London, Ontario, June 1951, sn A214. 1,500 hp. Reclassified 9/54 as GFB-15b. Retired 4/71, to be rebuilt as 9190 in 10/72. Retired again in December 1989 and sold in October 1990 to Century Locomotive Parts in in Lachine, Quebec, now known as Canada Allied Diesel (CAD), Montreal, Quebec.

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