17 November 2010 was moving day... CN 55400 is now safely at RMEO!
We have been extremely fortunate to receive donation of this excellent example of the railway snowplow, with important Eastern Ontario provenance, from Canadian National. CN # 55400 is a large, modern single track plow built by National Steel Car of Hamilton, Ontario in 1935. This is one of the last plows built for Canadian railways, and was available for service until 2008.
The car weighs 65,700 pounds, is 33'10" in length (over the coupler pulling faces), and is 16'1" tall over the rail head. Its maximum width is 11'0" (the lower rib on the wings).
It has a flanger blade on the nose of the main blade, which is operated by compressed air from the brake system. The wings on either side are air operated as well, and serve the same purpose as the wing plow on a highway snowplow- to fling the snow far away from the track while the plow is pushed along at a quick pace.
The faster the speed, the better these plows cleared the track. Often plows would be run above the maximum track speed on branch lines, to allow proper clearing.
A high- mounted cupola allowed good visibility for the plow crew, who directed the locomotive engineer. The engineer was often driving blind, with his vision totally obstructed by snow building up on his cab windows and swirling around behind the plow!
At some point in the 55400’s career on CN, the cupola front was rebuilt with a sloping profile which reduced snow buildup.
Plows usually had an ancient design of truck under the front end, hidden under the blade. 55400 is no exception. These special archbar trucks had no springs but instead large wooden blocks were substituted to minimize rocking motion of the top- heavy blades. No brake rigging was to be found on the front truck.
The car's original plain journal bearing rear truck was replaced with a roller bearing caboose truck at some point in the car's life, but the original archbar truck is still under the front end.
We plan to install an older cast frame, solid bearing truck under the rear at some point after the plow arrives in Smiths Falls. Such a truck has been on hand at the museum for many years, having come from an old Ontario Northland boxcar.
In 1955-56, CN records indicate the car served on the Campbellton Division, out of New Carlisle, Quebec. Photos indicate that the 55400 served out of St John, NB in the 1970s and 1980s. Its other assignments on CN are unknown.
However, in 1996 the car began a second career that would give it great significance to Eastern Ontario.
In 1996, it was sold to the Ontario L'Orignal Railway (OLOR) as their #55400. The OLOR was a 26 mile short line running from Glen Robertson to Hawkesbury and L’Orignal, Ontario over a former CNR branch line.
When the Ottawa Central Railway absorbed OLOR in 2001, the car became OCR # 55400. Ottawa Central operated the former OLOR line, as well as former CN lines between Ottawa and Pembroke. It had trackage rights over VIA’s former CN Alexandria Subdivision between Ottawa and Coteau, Quebec. The OCR owned 123 miles of track, in addition to operating over the 86 mile Alexandria Sub.
Finally, OCR was purchased by CN in November 2008, bringing the car back into CN ownership after 12 years of service on two independent eastern Ontario railways. CN had no use for #55400, and granted RMEO’s donation request.
The car had to move by road. It is very tall and Ottawa’s Walkley Yard is surrounded by low wires, so our volunteers needed to remove the headlight bracket and horn from the cupola roof, and remove the car's trucks prior to the move. Two highway floats and one crane was be required (Note: The planned 110 ton crane broke down the day before the move, and had to be replaced by a massive 300 to crane, the only other large crane available in Ottawa that day!).
The total load was 16'8” tall and 11’0” wide. Moves like these don’t come cheap, and we are very grateful to our supporters!
Canadian National G.C. Hudson Supply, Brockville, Ontario Campbell Trucking, Smiths Falls, Ontario Regional Crane, Otttawa, Ontario Dulepka crane, Ottawa, Ontario Bell Alliant Andress' Your Independent Grocer, Smiths Falls Quattrocchi & Co., Smiths Falls City of Ottawa Town of Smiths Falls And our many other generous individual and corporate donors and volunteers, who have made this project possible!