Is CN using mid-train helpers in Michigan now?

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DTIDave
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Is CN using mid-train helpers in Michigan now?

Unread post by DTIDave »

Hello everyone, long time no see!

Today, after working in my yard all day I decided to head up to the Sunrise in Memphis and get a slice of pizza and a couple of Bosco sticks for "dinner". I figured I'd head up to the CN Flint Sub to see if anything's going on while enjoying that absolutely gorgeous sunset! I hit the tracks around Goodells and saw a headlight coming from the west. As I was sitting at the crossing watching the train go by, I was thinking how long the train seemed. Right on cue, here comes CN 3044 facing backward and RUNNING, followed by a bunch more cars.

Now, due to certain circumstances going on in my personal life, I have not been able to do much railfanning in the last 8-10 years. I would catch the CN on the MTC Sub when I came down to work the MTM train or track crews, and noticed the trains are getting longer and longer, but I have never seen a HELPER on a train in SE Michigan! This one caught me completely by surprise. I found my way to the e-way and came around from the Biz Loop to Griswold, where I JUST missed the engines, as they passed behind a waiting WB with a red/white/blue BC Rail unit bracketed by a pair of CN units sitting at Tappan. Noticing how the train was slowing for the yard (but not falling for thinking they couldn't just blow right into the tunnel), I decided to turn around and head for the Amtrak station on 16th st. there in Port Huron.

As I approached the tracks, the signals went off- HA! I beat it! My goal was to count the cars, but was greeted by a WB flying out of the Tunnel instead! After it passed, I pulled into Amtrak and waited. Now, I've railfanned PH for years and I've seen trains pull up to the signals, appearing ready for a trip through the Tunnel, only to have them sit for an hour awaiting a crew change or green signal. I don't have a scanner so I gotta go with my gut... which, unlike Agent Gibbs, is usually wrong... THIS TIME, though, the high beams came on and it started moving east. I really got lucky with this one- maybe because it was so long, they didn't want it to tie up the yard (?)

Anyway, here are the stats: I'm sorry I don't have a train number, but it arrived at Tappan about 21:30 and departed Tunnel Yard about 21:50. Led by CN 3029 & CN3801, there were 133 cars before CN 3044 appeared as the mid-train helper, followed by 47 more cars. It finished passing about 21:58 with a total of (3) six-axle locomotives and 180 cars! I've seen some long trains on the Flint Sub but never that many and NEVER with a helper! Is this a normal occurrence nowadays, or did I catch a rare sight? Sorry no pics, as it was getting dark. Well, that and my flip-phone camera sucks...

Hope everyone is doing well,
Dave J

Dan Cluley
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Re: Is CN using mid-train helpers in Michigan now?

Unread post by Dan Cluley »

That was train M394. From what I have noticed, it seems to run with a DPU pretty regularly, but may be the only one? There have also been occasional stack trains with an engine on the rear, but I don't think that is a daily thing.

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AARR
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Re: Is CN using mid-train helpers in Michigan now?

Unread post by AARR »

Nice to see you post again, DTIDave.
PatC created a monster, 'cause nobody wants to see Don Simon no more they want AARR I'm chopped liver, well if you want AARR this is what I'll give ya, bad humor mixed with irrelevant info that'll make you roll your eyes quicker than a ~Z~ banhammer...

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LansingRailFan
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Re: Is CN using mid-train helpers in Michigan now?

Unread post by LansingRailFan »

DTIDave wrote:
Sun Jun 13, 2021 11:58 pm
Hello everyone, long time no see!

Today, after working in my yard all day I decided to head up to the Sunrise in Memphis and get a slice of pizza and a couple of Bosco sticks for "dinner". I figured I'd head up to the CN Flint Sub to see if anything's going on while enjoying that absolutely gorgeous sunset! I hit the tracks around Goodells and saw a headlight coming from the west. As I was sitting at the crossing watching the train go by, I was thinking how long the train seemed. Right on cue, here comes CN 3044 facing backward and RUNNING, followed by a bunch more cars.

Now, due to certain circumstances going on in my personal life, I have not been able to do much railfanning in the last 8-10 years. I would catch the CN on the MTC Sub when I came down to work the MTM train or track crews, and noticed the trains are getting longer and longer, but I have never seen a HELPER on a train in SE Michigan! This one caught me completely by surprise. I found my way to the e-way and came around from the Biz Loop to Griswold, where I JUST missed the engines, as they passed behind a waiting WB with a red/white/blue BC Rail unit bracketed by a pair of CN units sitting at Tappan. Noticing how the train was slowing for the yard (but not falling for thinking they couldn't just blow right into the tunnel), I decided to turn around and head for the Amtrak station on 16th st. there in Port Huron.

As I approached the tracks, the signals went off- HA! I beat it! My goal was to count the cars, but was greeted by a WB flying out of the Tunnel instead! After it passed, I pulled into Amtrak and waited. Now, I've railfanned PH for years and I've seen trains pull up to the signals, appearing ready for a trip through the Tunnel, only to have them sit for an hour awaiting a crew change or green signal. I don't have a scanner so I gotta go with my gut... which, unlike Agent Gibbs, is usually wrong... THIS TIME, though, the high beams came on and it started moving east. I really got lucky with this one- maybe because it was so long, they didn't want it to tie up the yard (?)

Anyway, here are the stats: I'm sorry I don't have a train number, but it arrived at Tappan about 21:30 and departed Tunnel Yard about 21:50. Led by CN 3029 & CN3801, there were 133 cars before CN 3044 appeared as the mid-train helper, followed by 47 more cars. It finished passing about 21:58 with a total of (3) six-axle locomotives and 180 cars! I've seen some long trains on the Flint Sub but never that many and NEVER with a helper! Is this a normal occurrence nowadays, or did I catch a rare sight? Sorry no pics, as it was getting dark. Well, that and my flip-phone camera sucks...

Hope everyone is doing well,
Dave J
M394, M395, M396, M397 tend to run with DPUs.

Also intermodal trains to/from Halifax tend to run with one up front and one mid DPU. These symbols are Q120-1-2-123 and sometimes run on the flint sub to Chicago.

CN has a rule that no more than three units at the head of the train can be online at a given time. So if four units are needed you will see a mid-train. They will also use a mid-train if part of the train needs to be set off and a pickup occurs.

David Lang
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Re: Is CN using mid-train helpers in Michigan now?

Unread post by David Lang »

Hi DTI Dave!!!

Good to hear from you.

David Lang

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