Posts Tagged ‘Canadian National locomotives’

CN Service Issues Led to CEO Ouster

March 15, 2018

Like CSX, Canadian National encountered service issues last year. Unlike at CSX, the Montreal-based CN decided that it needed more capital spending and to hire additional employees to resolve the problems. It also decided it needed a new CEO.

Speaking on Wednesday at the J.P. Morgan Aviation, Transportation & Industrials Conference, CN’s interim president and CEO said the railroad’s board of directors had been considering for several months replacing CEO Luc Jobin before ousting him last week.

“The board has been thinking long and hard about the leadership at CN,” said Jean-Jacques Ruest, who replaced Jobin. “They decided it was a time to make a change in leadership,” in order to bring more energy and a sense of urgency to fixing the railroad’s service problems, Ruest said.

In fairness, the services issues that CN faced had different roots than those at CSX.

Nonetheless, in commenting about CN’s dismissal of Jobin, Trains magazine noted that it is uncommon for a railroad to get rid of its CEO when the carrier faces a severe service crisis.

The magazine noted that in the past 25 years railroads have stood by their CEOs amid such situations as Union Pacific’s meltdown after acquiring Southern Pacific, the problems that persisted after CSX and Norfolk Southern divided Conrail, and BNSF’s congestion issues in 2013 and 2014.

CN’s woes began last fall when traffic surged by more than 20 percent in western Canada. The result was congestion on main lines and yards that left CN short of operating crews and motive power.

Further aggravating the situation was hard winter weather, derailments, and related line shutdowns that prompted CN to shorten, delay and detour trains.

That increased costs, lowered average train speeds and increased the time that cars spent in yards.

Ruest said the worst of the cold weather has ended and CN has begun to lengthen its trains.

CN management also decided to acquire additional locomotives, hire additional crews and increase track capacity in western Canada.

The added motive power will include 130 leased units and 200 new engines. The latter will be built between 2018 and 2020 and include GE Transportation ET44AC and ES44AC models.

Ruest said it’s likely that CN will see how the network is performing later this year before determining how to proceed as new motive power arrives.

He also said CN is seeking to perfect its traffic volume forecasting and capital planning process so as to avoid service problems again.

Ruest said CN still expects 2018 volume traffic growth of 3 to 5 percent and will continue its long-term strategy to collaborate with customers and grow faster than the overall North American economy.

“We have not changed strategy even though we have changed the CEO of the company,” Ruest said.

In the meantime the CN board is seeking a permanent CEO and many financial analysts expect Ruest to get the nod.


One Day 49 Years ago at London, Ontario

March 7, 2018

Was it really 49 years ago that I took this photo of my first Montreal Locomotive Works FPA-4? Here is a photo that still brings a smile. Canadian National 6786 is at the station in London, Ontario, on November 30, 1968. Mike Ondecker, John Woodworth and I had originally intended to go to Toledo on Nov. 29 for an overnight stay but finished there and spent the night in London were this was taken.

Article and Photograph by Robert Farkas


Trying Something Different in Berea

February 27, 2018

I’ve been going to Berea to watch trains for more than 20 years. I’ve pretty much exhausted about every photo angle I can think of short of trespassing on railroad property.

About the only thing new to get in Berea is to catch a particular locomotive or rail car that I haven’t photographed there before. Or so I thought.

While in Berea not long ago on a rare sunny winter day, I had the idea of photographing trains splitting the signals that have been installed within the past couple of years.

In the top image, eastbound Norfolk Southern intermodal train 206 has a Canadian National unit leading. Although not visible, the trailing unit belongs to Union Pacific.

In the middle image, westbound NS manifest freight 309 is framed by the signals on the Toledo connection between NS and CSX. Behind the lead unit is the Wabash heritage unit.

The bottom images shows a westbound NS stack train framed by several signals, including the westbound home signals for CP 194 on the Chicago Line.

Red and Orange in Olmsted Falls

December 29, 2017

NS train 60E not only has a Canadian National leader, it is a narrow cab one to boot.

You  can pretty much count on most trains passing through Olmsted Falls on the Chicago Line of Norfolk Southern having NS locomotives on the lead.

That’s because most of the traffic is going to or coming from the Cleveland Line, which has cab signals. Most foreign locomotives are not equipped with a cab signal device compatible with the Cleveland Line.

One exception to this NS-only locomotives rule is trains going to or coming from the Cleveland District toward Buffalo, New York. They diverge by Rockport Yard and don’t need a unit on the point with cab signal capability.

On occasion a train will come in with a foreign unit and be shunted into the Berea siding to await a cab signal equipped leader to come out and hook on.

So when you get the chance to photograph a train on the Chicago Line in the Falls with foreign power leading, better grab it.

CN Orders 200 new Locomotives from GE

December 23, 2017

Canadian National has ordered 200 new locomotive from GE Transportation.

The units will be built starting next year at the assembly plant in Fort Worth, Texas, with delivery running through 2020.

The locomotives include units from the Tier 3- and Tier 4-compliant Evolution™ Series line equipped with GE Transportation’s GoLINC™ platform, Trip Optimizer™ system and Distributed Power LOCOTROL® system.

“We are bullish on the North American economy and on our ability to compete and win new business with our superior service model. In the years ahead, these GE locomotives and their digital technology will support and enhance our operational efficiency,” said CN President and Chief Executive Officer Luc Jobin in a statement.

I See the IC

December 19, 2017

One of my primary motivations for going to Conneaut to railfan is the hope of catching a Canadian National train on the former Bessemer & Lake Erie. Of course, my objective in doing that is getting the former Illinois Central SD70 locomotives that have been assigned to the route since March 2015.

Since the IC units have been assigned to the ex-B&LE, every train I’ve spotted on the line has had IC motive power.

The IC units are not always leading. Much of the time, the motive power consist includes at least one engine painted in CN colors and markings.

On a rare occasion, there has been a unit still wearing its B&LE colors and markings. I’ve also seen pure IC motive power consists.

On a recent Sunday afternoon, I was sitting by the Main Street crossing monitoring the rail traffic on Norfolk Southern.

Then the gates started coming down on the B&LE tracks at the Main Street crossing. The incoming train had CN 5422 leading and IC 1034 and IC 1018 trailing.

That was good news. It would mean IC power would be leading when the train came out of the yard heading south.

Last September, the last time I caught a B&LE train, there had been a CN unit leading southbound.

I didn’t chase this train out of town. I photographed it from the east bank of Conneaut Creek, from the Main Street crossing, and from the U.S. 20 bridge. That was enough for this day.

CN Looking to Acquiring Locomotives

December 7, 2017

Canadian National is in the market for additional locomotives. The Montreal-based Class 1 railroad has removed engines from storage, accelerated the rebuilding of some units and is scouring the locomotive leasing market.

Along with that good fortune have come crew shortages and congestion on its route between Chicago and Edmonton in Alberta.

Speaking to an investors conference this week, CN Chief Financial Officer Ghislain Houle said, “ . . . don’t be surprised next year if you hear us being in the market to acquire locomotives.”

The railroad in the meantime is leasing 100 locomotives, half of which are already in service with others due to arrive in January.

Houle told the Credit Suisse Industrials Conference that CN has enjoyed better than expected growth in such traffic as intermodal and frac sand.

He said during a traffic downturn in 2016 that CN extended some siding from 10,000 to 12,000 feet.

The railroad expects to continue increasing capacity because its goal is to grow faster than the overall economy.

“All boats rise with the tide. You’d like to do better than what the tide gives you,” CN Chief Marketing Officer Jean-Jacques Ruest said at the conference.

Bright Red on a Line Known for Orange

November 9, 2017

Putting together the train alongside Conneaut Creek.

I go to Conneaut these days to see the former Illinois Central SD70s that have been assigned to the ex-Bessemer & Lake Erie property since early 2015.

Despite being owned by Canadian National, the ex-B&LE hasn’t seen all that much CN red and black in recent years.

On a recent visit to Conneaut, the CN job to Conneaut came into town in early afternoon with B&LE 867 on the lead. Then came two IC SD70s followed by a CN SD60.

The CN unit, No. 5422, did sport a bright red nose. That came courtesy of a rebuild in Centralia, Illinois, in a former IC shop in 2012.

I guess if the train I’m going to chase must wear CN red, I’d prefer that it be bright red.

I didn’t chase it all that far. By the time the CN train was ready to leave Conneaut it was getting to be late afternoon.

I would catch it in Albion and Conneautville, Pennsylvania, before breaking off the chase and heading home.

Splitting the signals in Albion, Pennsylvania.

A last look at CN 5422 as it saunters through Conneautville, Pennsylvania.


Still Some Bessemer Orange to be Found

November 6, 2017

Since early 2015, Bessemer & Lake Erie motive power has been scarce on the former B&LE. Owner Canadian National sent a fleet of former Illinois Central SD70s to the property that extends between Conneaut and the northern Pittsburgh suburbs.

I was sitting in Conneaut waiting for Norfolk Southern traffic when a car came up and a guy about 12 years old got out with his cameras and started walking briskly toward the tracks.

His mother explained that there was a train with an orange engine coming.

I knew what that meant. A few minutes later I heard horns to the south. A train would be arriving on the B&LE in Conneaut soon.

It turned out to have a dog’s breakfast of motive power, B&LE 867, IC 1018, IC 1034 and CN 5422.

For whatever reason, this same motive power set would leave town minus the B&LE 867. Maybe it was being ferried to Conneaut for yard duty.

Starting to Look Like Autumn

October 24, 2017

These images were made on Oct. 20 and you might think that by then fall foliage would be peaking in Northeast Ohio.

But this autumn has been anything other than ordinary with several runs of warm weather.

Still, there is color if you go looking for it even if it is muted and/or variegated.

In the top image, a Canadian National EF-6441 leads a light power move eastbound on Track No. 1 with some back-lighted gold leaves on the other side of the tracks.

In the bottom image, an eastbound coal train passes some foliage that shows hints of autumn color but is still largely green. Maybe in another week this will be a more colorful location.