Friday, 14 December 2012

CPR's Engine 8040

If I was asked to choose a favourite engine, the choice would be difficult to make, but if choosing only from freight service locomotives, then I would definitely choose Canadian Pacific Railway’s 8040. CP8040, a 1000 horse-power RS-23, was built in 1959 by the Montreal Locomotive Works.

Throughout the 1960’s, CP8040 was an almost daily fixture on the Sherbrooke-Megantic way-freight. For years the 8040 had the appearance of a new out-of-the-box locomotive because the CPR still took pride in their image. While I can recall steam locomotives on the way-freight in the late 1950’s, the 8040 was one of the perpetrators that supplanted the steamers.

Finding this photograph on the internet was a treat and seeing the 8040 once again stirred up a few memories from the past. Shown, parked in front the of the Megantic train station, the train is waiting for the highball to depart westward to Sherbrooke. This scene is exactly how I remember the way-freight; a clean and shiny engine 8040, a single tuscan-brown boxcar, and a matching caboose. Oh yes, at other times different types of freight cars and various traffic appeared in the train’s consist, but this photographed consist is what I usually saw passing through Milan most of the time.

CPR’s 8040 was also the first freight engine that I was invited on to. In summer 1963, the CPR was busy replacing the main line rails on the Megantic Subdivision. A work-train was parked on the Milan team track for a few weeks while the rail replacement work progressed along the Milan section between Scotstown and Nantes.

On the afternoon that the eastbound way-freight was called upon to lift and move the work train, I just happened to be trackside watching the activities. The engineer called to me, and after asking a few questions, invited me up and into the cab of the 8040. He didn’t have to ask twice. While aboard the locomotive, the engineer and brakeman showed me the break-stand, the throttle, various gauges and explained how the locomotive functioned. They had my undivided attention.

When the departure signal was received, I said thank you and farewell, descended back to the real world, stepped back a very safe distance and then watched the lengthened way-freight depart and disappear out of town. Many years have passed since, but I shall always be grateful for the engine crew’s kindness and their invitation into the cab of the 8040.

During the 1960’s North America’s railways changed drastically and Canadian Pacific Railway was not exempted from those changes. Passenger trains were discontinued, most rural train stations were closed and no longer manned, and the railway gave up handling express and less-than-carload freight shipments. The Sherbrooke-Megantic way-freight was cut back from a Monday through Saturday round-trip service to single trips; eastbound Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays returning westbound Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.

CP8040 at Ogden, Calgary AB., in 1973, and little changed from the original maroon, grey and yellow stripes paint scheme, except for the lettering.

Nonetheless, the 8040 and the way-freight survived and plodded on into the 1970’s. I do not know which year CPR’s Sherbrooke-Megantic way-freight service ended. In 1973 I had moved to Vancouver and was not around at the time. 

Perhaps missing the end was a good thing.


Notes : 
CP8040 Retired (9/1995). Sold to Windsor & Hantsport Railway (2/1996). Scrapped at Windsor, NS. (5/2006).

The Oddblock Station Agent

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