Thursday, April 29, 2010

Railfanning: The Allure of the New

Nearly-new VIA Rail Canada F40PH-3 #6452 arrived in Toronto, Ontario as a trailing unit on the "Canadian" on 29-April-2010

TORONTO, ONTARIO - The railroad enthusiast (or railfan) community usually gets quite excited about new things, and communicates their discoveries quite widely. In the past two days, I've been informed twice about approaching new locomotives for passenger service in time to go see them. One of the first VIA Rail Canada F40PH-3's, a rebuilt version of the F40PH-2's that VIA has used since 1986, returned to Toronto today on the transcontinental "Canadian" after a tour of crew bases across the country. Yesterday, two new GO Transit MP40PH-3C's, on delivery from MPI in Boise, Idaho, were noted at Lambton Yard in my neighbourhood as they made their way to GO's facility at Willowbrook Yard.

GO Transit MP40PH-3C's #631 and #632 sat nearly hidden in the Canadian Pacific's Lambton freight yards in Toronto, Ontario on 28-April-2010

Sometimes, there is good reason to be excited about new locomotives. Not only are they freshly painted and good looking--a rarity on modern North American railroads--but they may be undergoing acceptance testing. They may be used in ways that they will not for the remainder of their careers, and in some cases, they may prove to be so unsuccessful that they will not last very long and be disposed of, never to be seen in their original form again.

Yet, that's not likely to be the case in these situations. GO already has its original order of 27 MP40PH-3C's in regular service; this additional order of 20 will simply retire older F59PH's. There's no doubt that the new units will just go into commuter service. The F40PH-3's have been well-tested in service out of Montreal; the first one, the 6400, was different and is unlikely to be rebuilt after a recent wreck, but the production units like the 6452 which arrived yesterday will simply take the place of the unrebuilt F40PH-2's until there are none left.

In a sight not expected to be seen with these units again, GO Transit MP40PH-3C's #630, #631, and #632 crossed the Humber River in Toronto, Ontario in Canadian Pacific freight train #244 on 21-April-2010

I'm usually more interested in the locomotives that the new ones are about to replace. The new ones will be around for years, but the ones they replace will likely become extinct, or at least radically change in duties. In this case, that means GO Transit F59PH's and VIA Rail Canada F40PH-2's. Any chance to take pictures of those units will be taken very seriously until they are gone. By some accounts, that will occur at the end of 2010 for the F59PH's; if VIA's plans are executed, it will occur by the end of 2011 for the F40PH-2's.

"Shoot'em when they are new" and "shoot'em before they are gone" are sometimes competing mantras among rail photographers. In times like these, I am inclined toward the latter.

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