Saturday, June 6, 2009

The Ubiquitous Yard Goat

Canadian Pacific Railway 6505, Vernon, British Columbia, July 1958. Next to the EMD 567C, two cycle motor, the McIntosh-Seymour four cycle motor had a most captivating sound, unique to the four-cycle family.

At one time, my late Dad worked for Puget Sound Tug & Barge out of Seattle’s Pier 59. For a period, he worked inland rules, which meant he worked 15 days on – 15 days off.

In the summer time, I would spend the weekend with him. Harbor work involved a variety of tasks including the extremely dangerous tug-assist docking of freighters. One of the tugs I spent considerable time on was the “Active.” She had a highly reliable McIntosh-Seymour 6 cylinder in line engine used in everything from locomotives to warships!

I loved to sit at the upper control station watching the valve rocker arms clicking up and down, with her commanding “ump-pity- tee-dah-dah-dah” cadence.

And what a combination of diesel oil and salt air! Easy to romanticize on the calm inland waters of Puget Sound; quite a different perspective on the storm ravished desolation of the Gulf of Alaska!

So, we were on our way back to Prince Rupert from Seattle when we passed through Vernon, and I was able to jump out of the car and grab this shot of yard goat 6505 working a cut.

The English called them “shunters” Amtrak called them “shifters” but the official name is “yard goat” because they were used to butt cars around the yard.

The trucking industry sometimes applied “yard goat” to small stripped down units used to sort trailers out at terminals. They are most commonly referred to as “spotters.”

Many rail fans get mixed up when determining the difference between an ALCo S-1, S-2, S-3 and S-4. It is in the trucks and radiators. If you make a “snap” judgment, you may be wrong. Fortunately, help is available, but you have to look closely at the details!

Railroad Stuff: Canadian Pacific Railway 6505, built by Montreal Locomotive Works (owned by ALCo since 1904.) Powered by a McIntosh-Seymour model 539, naturally aspirated 6- 660 hp diesel, built 1951.

Her sister, CPR 6503 is on static display at the West Coast Railway Association in Squamish, British Columbia, where you can read more of the history of these sturdy yard goats!

2 Comments - Click here:

Eric said...

Interesting post on yard "goats" Robert. Sometimes yard crews are referred to as yard "apes". Both terms seek to downplay the importance of yardwork, but without it, no mainline train can be built.

I spent many hours in Portage la Prairie, Manitoba watching CP sister S-3 6569 kicking cars and working local industries, or just burbling away at the station. She spent the nights in a grove of trees in a park across from the station. At that time, the CP Rail scheme was in use, but the grey and maroon scheme looks good in your photo. 6539 is preserved in this scheme in Schreiber, Ontario.

Robert in Port Townsend said...

Right you are Eric! CPR had more than 100 of these doughty little critters. Without blowers, they were a breeze to maintain.

I spent many hours riding around on Prince Rupert's "goat." I NEVER heard the crew refer to her as anything other than the "bitch" if things weren't going good, or "The Lady" if they were having a good day.

Crews come in various sizes as well. One crew was so dead pan, I only stayed aboard because I enjoyed the ride.

The other crew was full of the devil. One evening, we were pushing a handful of tank cars full of fish oil over the scales for the evening time freight.

The Yard Clerk was in the scale house recording weights - he was a real numbers no nonsense type.

The fireman asked me if I wanted to see something funny. He sneaked out of the cab with a track torpedo
and got really close to the Scale Shack.

The engineer and fireman could hardly contain themselves with what was about to take place. And while I had heard a torpedo go off, I was not close. I'm sure my hosts were about to count me among the causalities.

The Clerk motioned us to move up one car length.


A black smoke cloud drifted lazily into the air. Time had stopped.

When my heart re-started, the cab was full of roaring laughter as the Clerk bail out of the Scale Shack heading north!

This same crew was later involved in an accident involving the humping of a Western Air Dump Car loaded with ballast! (See Western Air Dump in search engine) and the stranding of some hobos inside a locked industrial siding!

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