CN and CP Branch Lines – David Othen

Alco/MLW diesel locomotives did almost all of of the branchline and way freight work in Atlantic Canada. By 1998 all these locomotives and most of the branchlines had gone. This web page shows some of these locomotives.

Since about 2000, mainline freight trains have stopped to pick up freight cars where necessary but most freight is brought in containers by road to either Halifax or Moncton where it is loaded on to flat cars.

Yard locomotives are situated in Halifax, Dartmouth, Truro, Moncton & Edmundston and they will service the local areas when needed. The Saint John yards and area are serviced by New Brunswick Southern. More information can be seen on the web page on switching operations.

Atlantic Canada’s “workhorses” were the RS-10s (built 1954-6) & the much more numerous and longer lived RS-18s (built between 1956 & 1960 by MLW). Here we see CP RS-10s 8599 at the Bayshore shops in Saint John on 9 October 1977. All CN RS-10s were retired by 1970 but the last unit survived on CP until 1984.

CP operated with short hood forward and here we see the rear of RS-10 8570 on the same day and at the same location but in the “pacman” livery. Note absence of hood-mounted bell on both RS-10 units.

Here we see the front (note bell) of CP RS-18 8763 at Fredericton on 18 August 1985. Many of these units were later rebuilt and chop nosed.

Rebuilt RS-18s 1820 & 1818 (formerly 8759 & 8735) haul empty Ashley Drew Northern boxcars destined for Calais ME through Upper Milltown NB en route from McAdam to St.Stephen where they were shunted onto the international bridge for collection by the paper mill’s switcher.

For comparison we see the rear (no bell) of Canadian National RS-18 3684 switching Ocean Terminals in Halifax on 8 August 1990 when it was 32 years old.

Two RS-18s (3675 & 3663) and an RSC-13 (1730) are at the head of a freight to PEI approaching Sackville NB at 10:30 am on 24 February 1974. Most of the cars are empty potato reefers and 1730 is returning to the island after attention at the Moncton shops.

Here Canadian National RS-18 3624 switches container flats (COFCs) at Ocean Terminals in April 1973. Note the bell on the front of the long hood of the RS-18 indicating that this is the front of the CN unit (in contrast to CP units). Also note the roof details – radiator fan, turbocharger exhaust and raised central cover which housed the dynamic brake (not on all units) triple horn and radio antenna. Also in the picture is an S-12, an outside frame boxcar, several wooden cabooses and the grain terminals with the flour mill.

This RS-18, 3834, is fitted with a winterisation hatch that keeps snow out of the exhaust fan and allows some of the warm air to be recirculated. Several RS-18 had these hatches applied. This unit was also fitted with dynamic brakes housed in the short hood (in contrast to 3624) as shown by the numerous grills on the left-hand side of the short hood. It is seen at Rockingham yards in March 1986.

The CN branch lines with lighter track were serviced in northern New Brunswick & Prince Edward Island by six axle RSC-13s and in Nova Scotia with RSC-24s. Above we see CN RSC-13 1703 with a local freight leaving Chatham, New Brunswick (now part of Miramichi) on 3 September 1974. The last of these locomotives was retired in 1976.

Here we see one of only four RSC-24s ever built – all for CN. 1803 is outside the Bridgewater NS shed in July 1973.

The RSC-13s & RSC-24s were replaced by RS-18s which had received the six wheel A-1-A trucks from the retired RSC-13 & RSC-24 units. These locomotives are often called RS-18Ms or RSC-14s since they were de-rated to 1400hp from 1800hp.

RSC-14 1754 is shunting potato boxcars at Summerside PEI on 9 June 1982. 1754 is now displayed at the New Brunswick Railway Museum and 1762 has been put on display at Kensington, PEI.

13 years later, RSC-14 1750 is in Dartmouth on 28 April 1995, shortly before its retirement. Note the dynamic brake grilles on the short hood. The last units survived on CN until 1997 and two were sold to Acinox in Cuba.

M-420Ws initially assisted on mainline freights and operated in multiple on many branchlines. Here M-420W 2565 and RS-18 3702 are preparing to leave Gordon yards, Moncton on 14 June 1982.

Canadian National’s M-420Ws were built between 1973 & 1976. Here we see 2570 – one of the last batch to be built – at Fairview, Halifax, Nova Scotia in July 1982.

By 1981 MLW had stopped producing M-420s and had introduced an improved version called the HR-412. The units looked very similar to the M-420Ws but on the rear of the long hood the radiators were larger and more like those on an RS-18.

Here we see HR-412 2582 at Fairview on 17 September 1984. Compare this photo with that of 2570. Only 10 of this model were ever built – all for Canadian National. They were retired by 1998 but some were sold to shortlines.

As the RS-18s were retired or rebuilt, M-420s and HR-412s appeared as road switchers (for which the driver’s side window was extended outwards and the fuel capacity was reduced to lighten the locomotive – they were renumbered from the 2500 series to the 3500 series by changing the 2 to a 3). 3539 with its extended side window is at Fairview roundhouse – note turntable on left – at 12:30 pm on 10 April 1987.

Six years later the changes to 2555 are clearly visible at Truro NS on 16 October 1993. The filler around the window is a different shade of orange as is the paint underneath the 3. Note also that the twin headlight fixture has been changed but not repainted and that this unit has had ditch light added.

Back to David Othen’s Canadian Train Photographs

Material on this page copyright 1997-2012 Pat and David Othen. Reproduced with permission.

2 thoughts on “CN and CP Branch Lines – David Othen”

  1. Hi Steve:
    I am working on researching and writing a short history of CNR’s Inverness Branch on Cape Breton Island. To that end I am seeking images of locomotives or stations along the line essentially between 1957 and 1985, the year of abandonment. I rode a mixed train on the line in 1957 but had no camera. Ultimately I plan on submitting the material to either CNLines or Canadian Rail for their publication consideration. I have several of David Othen’s books and wonder if in his files you are aware of any images he captured on that branch line. Any direction or assistance most appreciated.
    Thanks in advance.


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