Critters

Industries with railway sidings often need to move rail cars around. Large industries like refineries, paper mills, and grain elevators often have multiple cars on site at once and may need to move cars in and out of specific locations to load or unload them.

Industries often used small industrial locomotives to do this work. They did not want to rely on the railway to come and spot the cars, because that cost them money and they would have to wait for the railway to do the work. Having their own locomotive meant that they could move cars whenever they wanted.

These locomotives are often known by how much they weighed, which largely influenced how many rail cars they could move. More weight = more traction.

This job has largely been replaced by small railcar movers like the Trackmobile, which combine rubber tires and steel wheels on one easy to use vehicle. These are more versatile, as they can get on the rails, move the cars, then get off the rails to be out of the way when the railway comes to move cars.

Larger industries still use locomotives for industrial switching, but today these are much larger locomotives, often used locomotives from the major railways like SD40s or GP38s.

In this post I’ll share a few “critters”, as they are sometimes known by railfans. Most of these are slides that I have purchased but I’ll mix in a few of my own photos.

TNVR 12

The lead photo of this post is TNVR 12, which belonged to the Thurso & Nation Valley Railroad, a logging railway in Quebec. This little GE 70 ton locomotive was originally CN 36 and served on Prince Edward Island for many years until its retirement in May 1970. You can about it and its sister units in my book Diesels on Prince Edward Island.

New Brunswick Industrial Paper

New Brunswick International Paper Ltd. locomotive, Aug 1975, Wendell Lemon slide
New Brunswick International Paper Ltd. locomotive, Aug 1975, Wendell Lemon slide

This neat little yellow locomotive is a 35 ton locomotive, built by GE in May 1953. According to Colin Churcher’s excellent Canadian industrial locomotive reference, this locomotive was delivered new to New Brunswick International Paper in Dalhousie, New Brunswick and worked there for two decades. Eventually it was sold and went through a few hands before ending up in Venezuela in 1978. This was a duplicate slide and I believe Wendell Lemon was the original photographer.

The mill itself was a fixture of downtown Dalhousie, NB for many years before its closure in January 2008 and subsequent demolition. You can read the history of the mill here.

Canada Cement

Canada Cement locomotive, Winnipeg, Aug 23 1991. Ian Platt slide.
Canada Cement locomotive, Winnipeg, Aug 23 1991. Ian Platt slide.

The Canada Cement Company had a series of small industrial locomotives to work its sprawling facility in Fort Whyte in south central Winnipeg, Manitoba. The Ian Platt photo above shows a 50 ton GE locomotive (built November 1954) moving four cement cars in 1991.

The Canada Cement plant still exists but it is owned by Lafarge now (more info). It is served by both CN and CP and uses a railcar mover to shuttle cars around.

I photographed a similar critter – maybe the same one – from Fort Whyte in 2011. The building at left looks like the same one that Ian photographed in 1991.

Lafarge, Winnipeg, 2011. Steve Boyko photo.
Lafarge, Winnipeg, 2011. Steve Boyko photo.

Maple Leaf, Port Colborne, Ontario

44 tonner at Maple Leaf plant in Port Colborne, ON, July 2 2001. Pierre Ozorak slide.
44 tonner at Maple Leaf plant in Port Colborne, ON, July 2 2001. Pierre Ozorak slide.

This slide by Pierre Ozorak shows a GE locomotive at the Maple Leaf plant in Port Colborne, Ontario in the summer of 2001. It is labeled as a 44 tonner but this is a 45 ton locomotive. I know the difference is subtle but a GE 44 ton and a GE 45 ton locomotive have significantly different cabs.

I believe that ADM Milling owns the facility now, and it doesn’t appear that they have rail service any more. The adjacent Port Colborne grain terminal has a rail car mover for its in-plant needs.

National Steel Car, Hamilton, Ontario

National Steel Car locomotive, Hamilton ON, Aug 19, 2011. Ian Platt slide.
National Steel Car locomotive, Hamilton ON, Aug 19, 2011. Ian Platt slide.

The sprawling National Steel Car facility in Hamilton, Ontario has used many industrial locomotives over the years. Ian Platt captured this one in 2011 moving a container well car. In the background we can see a large number of yellow TTX boxcars among other cars. I believe this is a GE 50 ton locomotive.

Ex Fraser Paper

Plymouth switcher outside Edmundston, NB
Plymouth switcher outside Edmundston, NB, my photo

This cute little switcher is on display at the Antique Automobile Museum outside Edmunston, New Brunswick. Manufacturer Plymouth proudly put their name on the front of the locomotive. This little 45 ton critter was built in May 1942 for the US military and spent years at Fraser Paper in Edmundston.

Detail on the 45 ton Plymouth switcher at Edmundston
Detail on the 45 ton Plymouth switcher at Edmundston

These Plymouth switchers are interesting in that they have side rods connecting the wheels, like a steam engine. Note the Plexiglass installed to show the engine inside the locomotive – a nice touch.

See Also

Just One More Thing

I’ve been in a bit of a reading drought, but yesterday I picked up Broken by Jenny Lawson, better known on the Internet as The Bloggess. Ms. Lawson is very open about her mental health issues – depression, anxiety, and more – and is alternately hilarious and poignant with each chapter.

I kept wanting to read passages to my wife, but she hasn’t read the book yet and I don’t want to spoil it for her. This is a really funny book – recommended. Buy “Broken” on Amazon

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