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CP’s SD40 fleet was always interesting. I never really understood this group of SD40-2 “B”s and why they took perfectly good SD40’s and stripped the cabs, but it sure made for an interesting locomotive. I believe many of these were used as elves out west in coal service, which may have added a bit of clarity for the conversion but seems a fully usable locomotive would have been more practical. Then again I’m just a railfan, so what do I know. The Hamilton subdivision through the 2000’s was a good place to catch SD40 action and the climb up the Niagara Escarpment in both directions often meant several SD40’s on the head end of most trains. The converted “B” units were quite common here as well.  This day SD40-2 5762 shows off the exterior changes made to the “B” units as it lays over in the ex Canada Southern yard in Welland. All cab windows were painted out, and ditch lights and class lights removed. I don’t believe any of these conversions are left on the roster today.
Copyright Notice: This image ©Marcus W Stevens all rights reserved.



Caption: CP’s SD40 fleet was always interesting. I never really understood this group of SD40-2 “B”s and why they took perfectly good SD40’s and stripped the cabs, but it sure made for an interesting locomotive. I believe many of these were used as elves out west in coal service, which may have added a bit of clarity for the conversion but seems a fully usable locomotive would have been more practical. Then again I’m just a railfan, so what do I know. The Hamilton subdivision through the 2000’s was a good place to catch SD40 action and the climb up the Niagara Escarpment in both directions often meant several SD40’s on the head end of most trains. The converted “B” units were quite common here as well. This day SD40-2 5762 shows off the exterior changes made to the “B” units as it lays over in the ex Canada Southern yard in Welland. All cab windows were painted out, and ditch lights and class lights removed. I don’t believe any of these conversions are left on the roster today.

Photographer:
Marcus W Stevens [1052] (more) (contact)
Date: 01/28/2002 (search)
Railway: Canadian Pacific (search)
Reporting Marks: CP 5762 (search)
Train Symbol: Not Provided
Subdivision/SNS: Hamilton subdivision (search)
City/Town: Welland (search)
Province: Ontario (search)
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6 Comments
  1. That’s a great photo Marcus! These B units are tricky to find and it’s not easy to get as good a photo as the one you got. The story behind these dates back to a Union rule in the 1980′s in the USA only, and not Canada. When CPR trains headed to the USA, the rule down there on some railroads was that if the train had over a certain number of A units, an extra crew member helper was required to be on board that train. To circumvent this extra cost and still abide by union contracts, the railroads would add B units to the consist when necessary. (The Burlington Northern was one of those railroads that had this rule, and there were others too). So, because CP had run through freights on some of these lines in the USA, a small number of SD40 road units were converted to B units as they also wanted to save the extra cost of having the additional crew member.

  2. Thanks for the great photo. The crew cost scenario makes sense.

  3. Thanks so much for clearing things up. I’ve always wondered the real reason why these units existed.

  4. As per some CP motive power guys, since these particular SD40-2′s were Locotrol 2 Receiver units used mainly as mid-train robots, converting them to B-units was to save money by not having to maintain the cabs as lead units. The cab windows were either painted over or replaced with plywood inserts, done in the 90′s. It was only done to some particular groups of Locotrol units, and some were converted back to “A-units” in later years when GE’s took over most unit train operations out west.

  5. You’re absolutely right Dan, and you can see the second radio antenna above the bell which was the locotrol receiver antenna. I should have explained by starting off with their use in coal and unit train service in BC as mid train helpers. I live in BC, and most if not all of these B units “lived” out here for many years then suddenly they disappeared and left the Province. I wondered why they left, and why many of them ended up in Southern Ontario?? It was then that I discovered their use in USA service and that very obscure union rule about requiring the additional crew member. But you’re absolutely right, the first intention with these was for locotrol mid-train helpers.

  6. During the early 2000′s there were periods when these were seen a lot on the Hamilton Sub. During this time, trains often ran with just a pair of SD40/SD40-2′s, which would be enough for most of the route, except for the grades between Milton and Vinemount. For a while, there were 4-6 of these “B” units that were made available to be lifted at Toronto or West Toronto and set-off at Welland, and vice-versa, to add horsepower for the grades. I know there were days when I noted a pair of “B” units trailing on a southbound in the morning, which returned on the next northbound. Before too long this was deemed more trouble than it was worth and the practice stopped.

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