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Running late - at 17:30 431 is running west of Acton at 37.2 with some extra motive power. What follows is a  bit of a story - this explains, in my words, how a part of GEXR operates today and to a point why they do what they do. Comments/corrections very welcome and will update to reflect changes, concluding with the photo you see above.
Goderich-Exeter Railway. When 432/1 used to be a CN operation, 432 would call at London and run to Toronto, 431 would call at Mac Yard and terminate at London and both trains would meet en-route. This meant a two trains each with three (or four) man crews. When GEXR took over in 1998 the aim is to make the operation more efficient. You can easily say this is true but the truth is 432/1 run one of the most razor thin and daring 176 mile round trip operations on the road today. They now often accomplish all of what CN did with six to eight men, with only two men on a daily basis. Except for when things go wrong. Here's why:
432/1 is ordered Daily, Stratford to Mac yard turn at 0500. After making their train in Stratford yard, they head to Kitchener, where they most often have a lift of some traffic for Toronto. On weekdays, it's highly possible 432 has to wait for a GO train to exit the block before access to Kitchener yard can be granted, and after all the work is said and done GEXR 432 departs Kitchener about 0830 and is usually through Guelph at 0900. There is sometimes work at Shantz (P&H Elevator) or at Guelph but this is rare - never is any work east of Guelph so it's usually a straight shot ex Kitchener - but then you enter CN territory. Will there be congestion? Will CN have the outbound lift at mac ready on time? You see GEXR 432/1's average round trip already takes about 10 hours end to end, and crews have maximum 12 hours before being dead on the law - which means train must be parked, period, wherever it is at the 12 hour mark. Hence there is about 1 to 2 hours of delay time in total that GEXR can afford. This is a razor thin margin for a 176 mile round trip. For example if they don't exit mac by about 1330-1430 - the standard operating procedure is to kill the train at mac and rescue it the next day. Otherwise, they run the significant risk of dying on CN or in the single track between Silver and Guelph - which would block the 4 GO trains and VIA's that now ply the line.  If this happens, scratch the afternoon 431 and  next morning 432 from your TODO list since GEXR will just wait to send the next day's 432 in a taxi to Toronto from Straford - and this happens much more often than you think - probably once a week, again due to variables out of GEXR's control. Phew. So let's assume that it's about 1330-1400 -  and it's decision time - a good hogger will offer to take the train to Kitchener - the next possible place to park the train ex Mac yard -  assuming they are able to assess the tonnage and motive power situation to assault the biggest obstacle for westbounds, Acton Hill. This is the one variable that can be very difficult to predict, with temperamental and ageing motive power, anything happens when you are in full throttle assaulting a 2% grade.

Today, September 11 2016, 432 was through Guelph at 9:30 AM (a bit late) with 19 cars but in the afternoon GEXR 431 left mac with 73 cars, 4140 feet of train with 3393/3054/3394 for power at a time of about 1330 - made good time out of mac. But for some reason that I have not yet found out, the train lost their light at Norval - train had to come to a complete stop. I managed to catch up at Georgetown, and they passed Georgetown at 20-25 MPH but I am going to assume that the crew didn't have enough momentum for the hill after stopping at Norval and as a result stalled on the grade. 
This brings us to the next stage - the way I see it the critical decision on GEXR is whether or not to leave mac yard. If they do decide to leave mac, there better be rescue power and a rescue crew available if needed. If there isn't - they now stand to be in the way of a lot of passenger trains on a weekday, and 87 on a weekend. Of course, today, after stalling there was a rescue called, and within 2 hours, light power from Kitchener had made it to Limehouse, and within 10 minutes of arriving the boys are back on their way. So you have the photo above - what I assume is GEXR x518 (extra puller crew) and 431 running together out of Acton, at 1730, almost out of the grade with the spedometer reading 45 MPH as they climb slowly to track speed of 50-60 MPH. This sounded very good but not a great day for the boys in the cab. GEXR always gets the job done though and the razor thin margin of error is well protected. When you think about it the true hero in all of this is the hogger - there are times where miracles happen and a train that should stall gets over the grade on time - but do we notice these occurrences? Nope - because operations seem normal. We as railfans tend to notice the abnormal. Bottom line though for the 'fans - roll the dice if you are going to the GEXR mainline, you just don't know what's going to happen. 
Corrections/comments highly welcome and will update as required.
Copyright Notice: This image ©Stephen C. Host all rights reserved.



Caption: Running late - at 17:30 431 is running west of Acton at 37.2 with a gaggle of all EMD motive power in notch 8 - this sounded really good, but it wasn't a great day for the crew.

What follows is a bit of a story - this explains, in my words, how a part of GEXR operates today and to a point why they do what they do. Comments/corrections very welcome and will update to reflect changes, concluding with the photo you see above.

Goderich-Exeter Railway. When 432/1 used to be a CN operation, 432 would call at London and run to Toronto, 431 would call at Mac Yard and terminate at London and both trains would meet en-route. This meant a two trains each with three (or four) man crews. When GEXR took over in 1998 the aim is to make the operation more efficient. You can easily say this is true but the truth is 432/1 run one of the most razor thin and daring 176 mile round trip operations on the road today. They now often accomplish all of what CN did with six to eight men, with little to no spare motive power, with only two men on a daily basis. Except for when things go wrong. Here's why:

432/1 is ordered Daily, Stratford to Mac yard turn at 0500. After making their train in Stratford yard, they head to Kitchener, where they most often have a lift of some traffic for Toronto. On weekdays, it's highly possible 432 has to wait for a GO train to exit the block before access to Kitchener yard can be granted, and after all the work is said and done GEXR 432 departs Kitchener about 0830 and is usually through Guelph at 0900. There is sometimes work at Shantz (P&H Elevator) or at Guelph but this is rare - never is any work east of Guelph so it's usually a straight shot ex Kitchener - but then you enter CN territory. Will there be congestion? Will CN have the outbound lift at mac ready on time? You see GEXR 432/1's average round trip already takes about 10 hours end to end, and crews have maximum 12 hours before being dead on the law - which means train must be parked, period, wherever it is at the 12 hour mark. Hence there is about 1 to 2 hours of delay time in total that GEXR can afford. This is a razor thin margin for a 176 mile round trip. For example if they don't exit mac by about 1330-1430 - the standard operating procedure is to kill the train at mac and rescue it the next day. Otherwise, they run the significant risk of dying on CN or in the single track between Silver and Kitchener - which would block the 4 GO trains and VIA's that now ply the line. If this happens, scratch the afternoon 431 and next morning 432 from your TODO list since GEXR will just wait to send the next day's 432 in a taxi to Toronto from Straford - and this happens much more often than you think - probably once a week, again due to variables out of GEXR's control. Phew. So let's assume that it's about 1330-1400 - and it's decision time - a good hogger will offer to take the train to Kitchener - the next possible place to park the train ex Mac yard - assuming they are able to assess the tonnage and motive power situation to assault the biggest obstacle for westbounds, Acton Hill. This is the one variable that can be very difficult to predict, with temperamental and ageing motive power, anything happens when you are in full throttle assaulting a 1% grade (334 foot rise over 7 miles.

Today, September 11 2016, 432 was through Guelph at 9:30 AM (a bit late due to being stabbed at Waterloo St. by an Extra GO move ex Kitchener) with 19 cars but in the afternoon GEXR 431 left mac with 73 cars, 4140 feet of train with 3393/3054/3394 for power at a time of about 1330 - made good time out of mac. But for some reason that I have not yet found out, the train lost their light at Norval - train had to come to a complete stop. I managed to catch up at Georgetown, and they passed Georgetown at 20-25 MPH but I am going to assume that the crew didn't have enough momentum for the hill after stopping at Norval and as a result stalled on the grade.

This brings us to the next stage - the way I see it the critical decision on GEXR is whether or not to leave mac yard. If they do decide to leave mac, there better be rescue power and a rescue crew available if needed. If there isn't - they now stand to be in the way of a lot of passenger trains on a weekday, and 87 on a weekend. Of course, today, after stalling there was a rescue called, and within 2 hours, light power from Kitchener had made it to Limehouse, and within 10 minutes of arriving the boys are back on their way. So you have the photo above - what I assume is GEXR x518 (extra puller crew) and 431 running together out of Acton, at 1730, almost out of the grade with the spedometer reading 45 MPH as they climb slowly to track speed of 50-60 MPH.

This sounded very good but not a great day for the boys in the cab. GEXR always gets the job done though and the razor thin margin of error is well protected. When you think about it the true hero in all of this is the hogger - there are times where miracles happen and a train that should stall gets over the grade on time - but do we notice these occurrences? Nope - because operations seem normal. We as railfans tend to notice the abnormal. Bottom line though for the 'fans - roll the dice if you are going to the GEXR mainline, you just don't know what's going to happen.

Corrections/comments highly welcome and will update as required.

Photographer:
Stephen C. Host [1191] (more) (contact)
Date: 09/11/2016 (search)
Railway: Goderich-Exeter (search)
Reporting Marks: RLK 4095, RLK 2211, GEXR 3303, GEXR 3054, GEXR 3394 (search)
Train Symbol: x518-11 (?) rescue of 431-11 (search)
Subdivision/SNS: Eramosa (search)
City/Town: Acton (search)
Province: Ontario (search)
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14 Comments
  1. Excellent caption Steve, and great shot!

  2. I saw him stop at Norval, I thought the reason he stopped was because of the Q148! I wish he had those raillink GP40s on it then :(

  3. 431 had a route lined all the way onto the Guelph sub when the light was taken away. 148 had a clear route also.

  4. Aha, they sent the two units with burnt out traction motors to assist. That’s awesome LOL

    Excellent shot though Steve Mofo

  5. When CN operated the trains in the late 80′s early 90′s we ran from Mac to Stratford and return stopping at Guelph and Kitchener to work in both directions. That was a long time ago of course, so long ago that the Guelph Sub ended at Stratford and the Thorndale Sub ran from Stratford to London. We were often running ahead of the passenger trains and they were so close to catching us that we sometimes had to send a flagman out or keep dropping fusees! Oh the good old days!
    Rumour has it that CN may take back all operations at Hamilton, Brantford and the Guelph Sub. Stay tuned!!

  6. I recall taking that run (CN) Toronto-Stratford in the winter with 3 M420′s. We couldn’t get the switch at Guelph because of the snow, so dumped that traffic at Kitchener. We were is Stratford at 5am ready to head back, and a decision was made to put a plow extra out ahead of us to protect the mornings Budds out of London. This done long after the snow had stopped, and we’d knocked down all the drifts on the westbound leg. I think we made Mac yard with about 15 minutes to spare having been train order stick handled back to Georgetown. There are always decisions that leave one scratching their heads.

  7. @Dave…you have a good memory my friend. Snow on that line always made it interesting for us when we ran that trains on the Guelph Sub :-)

  8. Thanks Gents. My research on toronto to london could be wrong but my info was circa 1997 or so just before the takeover. 431, 432 and 395 ran the Guelph regularly at the time. 395 lifted hot budd auto frames at Kitchener, and it wasnt uncommon to have one or two more thrown onto the “north mainline” for good measure in the late 90′s.

    I had a fellers notes which were very detailed (Brian Ellis of Kitchener) to reference. Ill see if i can find them again.

  9. You are correct Steve; 432 was regularly through Rockwood between 11-1230, westbound often around 4-6. 395 with usually good new power (432 was SD40′s by then –1995) went west anytime between 8pm- 2am. The usual Sarnia passenger trains and a brief experiment with some European MU 2 car thing that had a horrible horn.

  10. If I remember correctly, 4 32/431 (originally 422/421) always had older power, anything at random from SD40′s right down to GP9′s….almost seemed like whatever was available at the shop at the order time for 431!

    There was also a 413 auto train that traversed the Guelph Sub back in the 90′s as well.

    BTW that’s a great pic, 3394 suffered a blown power assembly….so with 3394 down, and 3393 a cripple should be some interesting consists on 432/431 the next few days!

  11. In the 80′s it was 411 that took the Guelph Sub; usually with a big train that had to work it’s way through the Budds coming from London. The numbers change, but the trains remain………

  12. Great shot Steve. I’ve been following GEXR since they took over the Guelph Sub. Motive power problems have plagued them since day one. One would think when G&W took over it might bring some stability. Not the case. Then with the loss of 4001 and 3821 it shrunk the ranks even more.3393,3394 and 3030 all have grocery lists of problems. 4095 and 2211 are both showing their age and need rebuilds.ngineered4u or anyone for that matter,can you shed some light on these CN rumours? These have been floating around for a while.

  13. @Mark. I can’t really say much about the rumours as I have heard them for awhile too. I did have a chat with the top boss at Mac Yrd and he did tell me about CN’s takeover of all CP’s Oshawa’s operations when CP lost the contract. He did say that if things stay as busy in Hamilton that they would take back the operations from G&W and would also look at taking back the Guelph Sub operations. Like anything in railroading. I don’t believe it until i see it.

  14. And the great Officer Hall was right….

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