A pair of CMQ barns leads CP 143 east on CSX’s former-NYC Belt Sub which wraps around the city of Buffalo. The train originated in Montreal and is en-route to CSX’s Lake Ave Intermodal Terminal where it will become Chicago-bound CSX Q165. This consist was the result of an incredibly unlikely set of circumstances and luck, as described in the Photographers Note below.
===== Photographers Note =====
The Central Maine & Quebec Railway, with their rare GMD barns and their sharp blue, white, and gray paint scheme, had been on my “to shoot list” for a while when Canadian Pacific announced their pending acquisition in November of last year. When the restrictions of COVID closed in, getting to Maine in time seemed unlikely. Soon the barns were pulled off the CMQ, rumored to be headed to Winnipeg, and likely eventually to scrap, and the dream seemed all but dead. A few days later and I was standing on Unity Island in Buffalo, watching the result of a remarkable string of issues and luck roll across the International Bridge. An intermodal train lead by a matched pair of CMQ barns, followed by two rebuilds including CP’s Air Force unit. This train originated in Montreal with CP 8013 and the Air Force Unit. Along the way to Toronto a horn failure on 8013 necessitated a power swap. With the Air Force unit facing the wrong way, the only option was to pick up a pair of barns that happened to be in Smith Falls, Ontario. The train arrived that evening in Toronto where it seemed certain that the power situation would be sorted out. Going to bed it seemed that the best possible reward for the 1 hour drive to Buffalo was likely to be a trailing shot of the CMQ units running through the city, if they remained on at all.
The next morning, against all odds, the call came “they’re on, and they’re leading”. Out the door and towards Buffalo we flew, but soon it became clear that they were making good time, and we would most likely miss their entrance into Buffalo by half an hour. Again luck intervened. A TRE F59PH that had been trailing 5th on the consist apparently didn’t have the right paperwork, and had to be cut off at Welland. With this we had at least twenty minutes back, and things were looking close. Still, we were a good ways out when they were given clearance out of the yard. We were still uncertain if we’d make it in time until a few minutes passed and we heard that they hadn’t yet departed, as the engineer was away from the train getting some coffee. Now with time to spare, we nonetheless flew on to Unity Island and joined the assembled railfans to wait for the train's arrival. Finally a horn was heard in the distance, and soon a blue and white face was seen between the girders of the bridge. As it rolled past us and on to the American mainland the chase was on. All-told we were able to catch the train 6 times as it snaked its way around the city before arriving at CSX’s Lake Ave Intermodal Terminal.
===== Operations =====
CP 143/142 & CSX Q165/Q166 are a pair of daily Montreal-Chicago intermodal trains which run via Toronto and Buffalo. Westbound trains originate as CP 143 on the Canadian Pacific in Montreal and arrive in Toronto around midnight. Departing around 2AM, the train heads south towards Welland. Just past Welland the train switches on to Canadian National rails to run through the former Fort Erie yard and on to International Bridge. From there the train turns briefly north before turning east onto CSX’s Belt Sub and running around the city. After crossing the Buffalo River the train arrives at CSX’s Lake Ave Intermodal Terminal. There the CP crew performs switching and then hands the train over to a CSX crew, and the train symbol changes to CSX Q165. Once work is completed in the yard the train proceeds west over CSX to Bensenville Yard in Chicago. The eastbound run begins in Bensenville as CSX Q166 and repeats the process in reverse, with the symbol changing to CP 142 when the CP crew boards in Buffalo.
===== Consist =====
CMQ 9020 GMD SD40-2F, Nee CP
CMQ 9022 GMD SD40-2F, Nee CP
CP 8013 AC4400CWM
CP 7023 SD70ACU Air Force Unit