Do CN freight trains have a schedule ?

Discussion in 'The Real Thing- North America' started by Biased turkey, Mar 11, 2007.

  1. Biased turkey

    Biased turkey Active Member

    Now that spring is back I want to do some serious railfaning.
    There is a CN freight only track just 200 meters behind my condominium.
    in St. Laurent ( Montréal suburb )
    The problem is that I don't know when the next train will go through that section.
    How can I know that ?
    If I call the CN, will they give me the info, or will I be treated as a potential terrorist ?
    Do freight trains have a regular schedule ?
    TIA for any suggestion.
  2. Relic

    Relic Member

    I also too live only feet from the track{only in NS} it should tahe only a few days of watching trains and marking down the time and direction,The trains here are pretty close to the same time , give or take an hour.
    Myself I've gotten so I watch all of a regular freight but the intermodal,I only check out the engines.
    If you haven't yet you should join the yahoo site cn lines/cn net then you can look up the history of the engines you are lookin' at {if your into that stuff}
    have fun
  3. Relic

    Relic Member

    Sorry BT, it's TrainsCan that you can get the history by using the unit number
  4. Squidbait

    Squidbait Recovering ALCO-holic

    Three ways: i) talk to local railfans; they'll have a handle on what the "schedule" is like, they'll also likely advise you to ii) get a scanner, so you can listen to the trains talking to the dispatcher and others, so you'll know when they're coming; iii) just keep watch. CN doesn't have a fixed schedule, all the trains are run as "extras". That said, most trains depart their terminals at a usual time, but that can vary by several hours.

    No, they won't tell you, you'll likely get a call from the RCMP if you press it too deeply. Besides, unless you're talking to someone at the terminal, or a dispatcher, nobody else is going to have a clue what trains are where.

    In the sense that most numbered trains run every day, from A to B, yes. The time of departure and arrival is subject to a lot of variables, which is why CN (and most RRs) run their freight trains as extras... not scheduled.

    Pick up a Canadian Trackside guide for (among other things) a list of train symbols, and where they run from-to.

    Other railfans are probably your best resource right now. There's probably several places around Montreal that are popular train-watching spots... you'll likely see the railfans grouped around there... they're easy to spot, they'll either be sitting in cars with magnetic roof-mount antennas or scanners on the dash, or will be standing around with cameras around their necks and notebooks in their hands, ;)

    TIA for any suggestion.
  5. siderod

    siderod Member

    Pretty well anything running west of Montreal (mainline wise) will be busy...the corridor towards Dorval is busy. Probably a train every half-hour or so, at peak times. Sometimes more, sometimes less. At least, it was like that the last time I was there.

    The only CN number most people would have access to would be a toll-free number for customers or soon-to-be customers. And, as was said earlier, most people at CN have no idea where trains are on the line. Your best bet would either be MOW guys somewhere along the line, or RTC. Sometimes, talking to MOW guys will work, sometimes not. The only way to get through to RTC is by phoning...which I know wouldn't go over well at all.

    To some degree, yes. I'll touch on that in a minute.

    Talking to anyone you see trackside (easier in a more rural environment) would be the best thing to do right now. Investing in a Canadian Trackside Guide (CTSG) would be a wise idea, too, as it lists all the subdivisions and frequencies for TStBy, RTC, Engineering, and track occupation for said subs. A scanner would allow you to listen to those frequencies (totally legal, by the way). The rubber antenna that comes with the scanner would be more then enough for what you want to do right now. As you get into it more, you can invest in more and bigger antennas to listen further away. I've got 3 antennas on order right now. Two for home and one for the car.

    No, they don't. CN runs most of their trains as numbered trains (ie: Q149-11-12), which means they're not extras. Some of the numbered trains (usually locals) run as Work trains, but it's rare for CN to run extras. Aside from one hi-pri Intermodal just before Christmas (the first in a decade for that train, I’ve heard), the only extras that run down this way are EMD motive power movements from London to a pier in Halifax for exportation. Don't confuse an extra train with an unscheduled train, as they are two totally different things. The same can be said for many railroads.

    You're partially right, however...CN doesn't have a fixed schedule, nor does any freight railroad. Schedules are a luxury known only to the likes of passenger service. CN does, however, have approximate times when trains leave their home terminals and guesstimates as to when they'll arrive, given sufficient padding and an assumed track speed. Many things can foul that, though. And some trains have priority over others, which can throw the travel time off when a lesser-priority has to meet a hi-pri, which can cause delays.

    Turkey, hopefully this has been of some help to you.
  6. Squidbait

    Squidbait Recovering ALCO-holic


    We could dicker about the definition of an "extra" (technically, if it's not published in the timetable, it's an extra, numbered freight or not), but at least we agree on the gist of the matter. The upshot is that there's no fixed timetable for CN freights, the way there is for VIA passenger trains (although some would argue VIA runs by the calendar and not the clock).
  7. Biased turkey

    Biased turkey Active Member

    Thanks to all the people who took some of their time to reply.
    At least I have the answer to my question, I now know that if I spot a freightrain one day at 15:36, I shouldn't expect to see it ( give or take 5 minutes ) at the same time the next day.
    I've never heard about the Canadian Trackside Guide (CTSG) before but maybe in my case it's not the best option.
    My best option would be to invest in a scanner because the CN track is so close ( 2 minutes walk ) that I just need to know when the train leaves the Taschereau yard that has 1 part of it located in St. Laurent.
    If you understand French, I found a good link about railfanning in Quebec:
  8. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    Turkey: The Trackside guide is probably the single essential railfan book in Canada. The new one should be out this month or next--it's updated annually. Published by the Bytown Railway Society (located guess where?) and available through all good hobby shops or by mail. Price is under $30 (or was) and will make your scanning more meaningful. Maps, frequency lists, equipment lists: the only thing missing is freight cars.

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