The National Film Board of Canada
Train 406 is the story of a Toronto to Halifax freight train on Canadian National Railways in the late 1950’s. We get a good glimpse of CNR operations and the people responsible for making it happen.
What sets this movie apart is the eclectic collection of first generation diesel motive power including Canadian Locomotive Company (FM) C-liners, Montreal Locomotive Works (Alco) S-4 switchers and General Motors Diesel (GMD Canada) F units and GP9 road switchers. Add to that a healthy dose of CN steam power and CN’s massive yard at Turcot (outside Montreal) and you’ve got 29 minutes of pure railroad entertainment — the way it used to be. Let’s go along for the ride.
Brrr…that looks cold! CN #4536, a GMD GP9 with extra flags flying and running long nose forward, prepares to cut off Train 406 at Turcot Yard.
Dashing through the Great White North comes CN Train #406. Leading the opening runby are a couple C-liners bracketing a Geep 9.
The dispatcher keeps tabs on 406. I love that huge scissors speaker and broadcast microphone!; Here’s the narrator of our story, Assistant Superintendent of Terminals, Montreal, Ned Jackson. Cool fedora, Ned!
The version of 406 we’ll follow is a pure lashup of GP9’s; The engineer’s view down that long hood; Now THIS is what an engineer should look like!; On the other side of the cab are the fireman (what fire?) and head brakeman.
Meet shot, fireman’s side with an F-unit led train on double track; Our hogger hooping up his orders.
Back in the caboose the rear brakeman keeps an eye on the train whilst the conductor (the boss of the train) tends to some paperwork; A CN caboose with huge “Serves all Canada” logo flashes past; despite modern flashing signals in place, this crossing is also guarded by a watchman. (This job was sometimes created for older or disabled workers to keep them employed. The railway took care of their own, back then.)
Train 406 passes a GP9 powered freight; the engineer pulls on the whistle cord as the train is making 50 mph; A view of the classic control stand of an EMD “Geep”; the engineer pulls out his pocket watch to check their progress.
Suddenly we have new motive power. Wow, it’s a pair of MLW RS-18’s! (Road Switcher, 1800 horsepower). CNR owned 225 of these units, so they were likely to turn up in this film.
CNR #3666 takes siding for a fast moving, steam-powered passenger train. Once the passenger is clear, the head brakeman lines train 406 back onto the main.
Soon train 406 reaches the outskirts of Montreal at Turcot Yard; Better be on your toes, boys. Here comes Ned in his 1958 Chevrolet (Thanks, Mark!).
In addition to all the cool, first-generation diesel power we’ve been seeing, Turcot Yard is also no more. In the early 1960’s the yard was moved elsewhere and Canada’s largest freeway interchange now occupies the site.
Head brakeman cuts off the power from 406 and heads to the roundhouse; At the engine terminal another RS-18 lines up with a C-liner under overhead catenary (CNR had/has electric commuter operations in Montreal); Classic bulldog nose of CN 6523 (GMD FP9a); 6523 getting a scrub down as Geep 9 4536 is serviced nearby.
Dispatchers and yardmasters tend to operations with Turcot Yard’s maze of tracks on the overhead board; A “car knocker” (carman) tends to a journal box, then checks the gauge of a wheel; Wheelsets as far as the eye can see.
A couple MLW switchers work the yard (CN 8020 is a MLW (Alco) S-4 switcher).
Train 406’s motive power east out of Montreal/Turcot will be an A-B-A set of C-liners backing past a steamer simmering on the next track; Our last two views are another C-liner flying white flags pulling past an GMD switcher and a beautiful CN caboose #78856.
Gah! What is that SMELL?
To sum up — a great railway film. Pretty much everything you see is gone now, which is what makes this visual record so oochie. If you’d like to check it out yourself, you can view it on the National Film Board of Canada website:
Note: There are several other related CNR movies at the above website
Here’s what IMDb has to say (not much) about Train 406:
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