RyPN Briefs December 25, 2006
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Former Cartier 'Big ALCo' Receives Cosmetic Restoration
Four years after the Quebec Cartier Mining Railroad (QCM) replaced a majority of their Montreal and Schenectady built ALCos, one has received a cosmetic restoration at the Arkansas Railway Museum.
Stretching 260-miles south from ore deposits on the Quebec/Labrador border, QCM's ''conveyor belt'' railroad reaches the north shore of the St. Lawrence River at Port Cartier, PQ. Following the retirement of ALCo and MLW power on CP Rail and Canadian National in the mid-1990s, many fans in search of six-motor ALCos made the six-hour trek north from Quebec City to the small mining community. The railroads shops and maintenance facilities, located at Port Cartier, were home base for the roads roster of twenty-M636s, three-C636s (all former ALCo demonstrators), one-C630, and seven-RS18s. With the retirement of six-motor ALCos on Canada's two class-ones, the Cartier had the largest operating roster in North America.
In 2000 QCM made the decision to replace the aging fleet of ALCos with twelve-new General Electric AC4400s. At the same time, eight of the M636's and one RS18 were rebuilt. In July 2002, the new motive power arrived and within months many of the ALCos were sidelined, with those which received rebuilds pushed to secondary service. Those not rebuilt were placed up for sale. Nine would eventually be purchased and shipped to the United States (because the QCM is cut off from the rest of the North American rail system, everything must be shipped by boat) by Ed Bowers of Vintage Locomotive Inc. Of the nine, eight were sent to New York for storage on the New York and Western Pennsylvania. In 2005 all-eight units would be placed in service on the New York, Susquehanna and Western.
Amongst the nine was #34, a C-630 originally built for the Union Pacific in 1966. The locomotive was one of ten C-630s #2900-2909, according to a UP roster compiled by Don Strack, that would make up the last ALCo purchase by the UP. All ten would end up being sent to the Duluth, Missabi, and Iron Range, before being sold to the Cartier in 1976. It was at about this time that QCM's roster was at its all time-high which included a mix of MLW M-636s and RS-18s, and ALCo C636s and RSD-15s. As the iron ore business declined in the mid-1980s, the RSD-15s and C-630s were deemed surplus and scrapped by the early 1990s. (Note, as of the summer of 2002, three fuel tanks, believed to be from the RSD-15s were stored in an area junk-yard). Only one unit would escape the torch. Kept at Mount Wright, PQ, the north end of the railroad, the #34 was positioned as a back-up unit and was notable for being one of only three C630s left in existence.
Unlike the other eight ALCos purchased by Ed Bowers, which had been sent to Montreal and moved by rail to New York, the #34 was shipped to Houston, Texas in December of 2004, before being moved to the Arkansas Railway Museum, a part of the Cotton Belt Rail Historical Society (CBRHS), at Pine Bluff. While in transit the locomotive was involved in an accident at Segrist Yard in Houston and would be held for repairs until September 2005. Finally the locomotive arrived in Pine Bluff and placed on display in the former Cotton Belt shop buildings that houses the museum.
In June of this year the locomotive began to under-go a cosmetic restoration by the society's volunteer labor to its original Union Pacific armor yellow and its original number 2907. Being worked as time permitted the restoration began to wrap up in November when Steve Lee, of the Union Pacific steam program, finished lettering the locomotive. Current plans for the locomotive are for it to remain on display at the museum. While the engine has not been started-up at the museum, it is believed to still be in operating condition. According to Peter Smykla of the CBRHS the response has been favorable and has even gotten the attention of visiting Union Pacific officials.
Besides the C-630, the collection housed at the museum includes Santa Fe RSD-15 'Alligator' #843, Lake Superior and Ishpeming U23C #2300, a General Electric 25-ton locomotive, Southern Pacific RSD-12 #7012, and SSW GP-30 #5006, all of which are privately owned and loaned to the museum. The CBRHS also has a former Wabash Alloys GE 25-tonner. Also housed at Pine Bluff is former Cotton Belt 4-8-4 #819, well know for it's excursion career during the late-1980s and early 1990s, as well as numerous artifacts and displays. The museum is open 9AM-3PM, Monday through Saturday. For more information visit the Arkansas Railway Museum's website.
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