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Southern Ontario’s F-Unit Revival

Ontario Southland’s two recently activated former RaiLink FP9s bracket a former Waterloo & St. Jacobs FP9 as the trio haul a heavy cut of mainly loaded autoracks east to the CP interchange at Woodstock, Ont. For a short period in the beginning of 2015, this consist brought rail-fans from far and wide, including the author, to catch the rare sight of three F-units in freight service. As this article goes to press, the former W&StJ unit is now in fresh OSR paint. Marcus W. Stevens photo

Southern Ontario’s F-Unit Revival

2015 Railroads Illustrated AnnualBy Marcus W. Stevens/photos by the author

On a bitterly cold but sunny January 2015 day, I glanced out the passenger- side car window to see a well used rail line following Beachville Road and the frozen Thames River Wetlands. This line formerly belonged to the Credit Valley Railroad, with its main line linking the outskirts of Toronto to St. Thomas and a number of other Southern Ontario railroads. Canadian Pacific took control of CVR in the late 1800s, downgrading this section of main line to a secondary line — a new main line extended from Woodstock to the Ontario/Michigan border at Windsor.

The sound of EMD 16-567 prime movers has long since been at home on this line, especially since the retirement of Canadian Pacific’s four-axle Alco/MLW units in 1998. Through the 1990s and part of the 2000s, CP employed a group of rebuilt EMD GP7s and GP9s to work the industries along the St. Thomas and Port Burwell subdivisions, basing them at Woodstock. The bread and butter of online traffic currently comes from the CAMI Automotive assembly plant at Ingersol producing GMC Terrain crossover SUVs, as well as from the large potash facility at Putnam. Ontario Southland’s takeover of both lines at first brought back Alco/MLW units as power; however, first-generation EMD locomotives have gradually taken over operations in the form of a pair of GP7s, a GP9, and a trio of SW1200s.

In 2012, news quickly spread that OSR had picked up a former VIA Rail FP9 and planned to put it in service. As if the news couldn’t get any better, word came a year later that another pair of long-retired FP9s had arrived on the property. OSR’s shops have done a lot of painstaking work to get the “three amigos” operational again, including searching for many hard-to-locate parts.

In early 2015, the trio of FP9s worked the daily CAMI transfer job to Woodstock. Railfans near and far rushed to Southern Ontario in hopes of catching this rare and short-lived sight. This too was my goal that January day…

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This article was posted on: January 11, 2016