Thursday, November 19, 2009

Winds of Change

Canadian National Railways 4203, Prince Rupert BC, October 5, 1957. The winds of change are blowing in the air. Where once a sturdy Pacific 4-6-2 would have patiently waited with whining steam generator, thumping air pumps and smell of wet steam, to fill her sand boxes, a freshly painted General Purpose dash nine sits.

General Motors Division has already wiped out the last of Canadian National Railways steam freight locomotives. Many sit on a dead line up at Jasper, awaiting their fate. It’s an uncomfortable time as the diesels move in, looking every bit as awkward and self-conscious as seen here at the sanding tower.

This unit is one of the first six in Canadian National’s initial order of the General Purpose (GP) 9 series road switchers. As the name implies, the GP design is ingenious in its simplicity. About as utilitarian as it gets; a stark steel box covering the power supply, providing open walkways for visibility fore and aft.

And stringing them together like beads on a thread, blocks of horsepower can be created to handle any assignment, from time freights, to varnish, to local switching duties, with equal aplomb.

I remember very clearly the smell of fresh paint on this unit. While she was built in 1956, she was renumber from 4499 less than a month before I shot this photo. Probably her first trip on the Prince Rupert Extension since her renumbering.

As a matter of fact, I was onto the renumbering the day I shot this photograph. With the sun glancing off the cab at just the right angle, her original number, 4499 was clearly visible!

Canadian National Railways 4203, nee 4499, built by General Motors Division, London Ontario, as a 1,750 hp GP-9L, November 1956, Serial Number A-1017.

Re-numbered 4203 September 5, 1957. Flexicoil trucks replaced with Bloomberg trucks and renumbered back to original number, 4499, October 30, 1962.

In 1986, taken to St Charles Shops and reduced to a daughter yard slug, CN 219, assigned to a mother CN 7200 series.

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