Trackage rights arrangements often provide increased operating and equipment variety on many prototype lines. When the trackage rights agreement covers historic competitors, it has even more appeal for the modeler. One such arrangement is CP Rail's Port McNicoll (Ont.) road switcher which five days a week exercises its trackage rights on Canadian National's Midland Subdivision to reach its mainline connection at Medonte, Ont. Since 1971, CP Rail has abandoned most of its own trackage to reach Port McNicoll. The Port McNicoll Subdivision has long been a favorite of both railfans and modelers. Until the late 1950's, tri-weekly summer boat trains pulled by sleek G-5 Pacifics connected with Canadian Pacific's fleet of lake boats at Port McNicoll. The approach to Port McNicoll was crossed on a 2141-foot trestle across Hog Bay. The Port McNicoll line was also the location of the last regularly scheduled steam operation on the CPR in Ontario on April 30, 1960.
Today, CP Rail's road switcher is the only regular movement using the line. From Port McNicoll, the CP Rail line connects with CN's Midland Subdivision via a wye track at McMillan which allows CP access to the end of the Midland Subdivision, five miles west. At Tiffin, both CN and CP have access to a huge grain elevator which generates a large number of loads, especially during the winter when the St. Lawrence Seaway is closed. Also located at Tiffin is a two-track interchange where CN and CP exchange covered hoppers for sand loading at Indusmin in Midland, a CP subsidiary. East of McMillan, there is very little on-line traffic. CP Rail reaches its own rails at Medonte, at the town of Coldwater. Medonte is a train order station on CP Rail's Mactier Subdivision, the main line to northern Ontario and western Canada. The operator at Medonte controls, through a local interlocking board, the crossing of the CN's Midland Subdivision and CP Rail's Mactier Subdivision.
While the Port McNicoll Subdivision once reached east to Orillia (Ont.), the trackage between Orillia and Uhthoff was abandoned in the summer of 1985. Another big shipper on the Port McNicoll Subdivision is the quarry at Uhthoff and the Port McNicoll road switcher often provides local switching service there. Through freights set off strings of hoppers at Medonte for movement by the road switcher to the Uhthoff quarry. Loads are lifted and set out at Medonte for southbound CP freights. When the demand for stone is great, CP Rail runs unit trains from Toronto to service the quarry, exchanging empties for loads. Intra-quarry switching is carried out by a company switcher. CN also serves the quarry at Uhthoff (see the January February 1984 issue of PROTOTYPE MODELER).
Trackage rights authority for the Port McNicoll road switcher is given by CN dispatcher YX located at McMillan Yard north of Toronto. The CN dispatcher issues via the train radio a Manual Block Clearance for the CP Rail train to proceed on CN track. MBS clearances are also used to grant operating rights to CN trains on the Midland Subdivision.
In the final years of steam operation, CP assigned one of its N2 Consolidations as the Port McNicoll road switcher. With dieselization, engines CP assigned as EMD lighter such SW1200RS units in the 8100-8171 series. Later, CP used MLW RS10's as well. Things haven't changed much since the early 1960's although the 8100's are going through a rebuilding process and the RS10's have been retired. They were replaced by RS18's, also the subject of a rebuilding program including a chopped nose. These days the most common motive power for the Port McNicoll road switcher is one of the 32 rebuilt MLW RS18u engines in series 1800-1831.
At the opposite end of the Port McNicoll roadswitcher train, one can find one of CP Rail's steel vans, either the center- or end-cupola version. Even the mainline extended-vision vans are frequently assigned to this run. In between, the freight car variety is usually limited to three types: covered hoppers for grain loading at Port McNicoll and Tiffin, or the same for sand loading at Indusmin in Midland; 40-foot CN boxcars loaded with flour from Oglivie Flour interchanged with the CN at Tiffin; and 40-foot triple hoppers for stone loading at Uhthoff.
Modeling the road switcher
Models of Canadian RS18's are not readily available. Model Power makes an RS18 which could be kitbashed into a chopped-nose RS18u. As an alternative, an Atlas RS11 could be used as a starting point, thus utilizing its superb mechanism. An easier project would be to use an Athearn SW1500 and a Juneco K-21 SW1200RS conversion kit to produce an SW1200RSu in the 1206-14, 1237-51, and 1274-76 series.
The steel vans can be kit-bashed, starting with the Athearn extended-vision kit. Van Hobbies occasionally imports brass models of CP Rail modern vans. The cars for the train are the easiest to model. The Athearn 40-foot boxcar kit with the roof walk removed is a good start for the CN flour cars. Model Power makes a cylindrical hopper car, while MDC makes a triple hopper already lettered for CP Rail. Paint for CP Rail is available from Floquil, Scalecoat and Accu-paint. Decals are available from Herald King; dry transfers from CDS lettering.