Modern Railroads

August 1965

CN Cuts Ribbon at Toronto Yard

New $75 million yard is called world's most advanced automatic freight classification yard

Canadian National Railways has formally opened its big $75 million Toronto Yard. Started in the spring of 1961, the new yard is the fourth and most modern of a quartet of major automatic retarder yards CN has completed in the last three years. These yards (the other three are at Winnipeg—Symington Yard—Montréal and Moncton, N.B.) are CN's answer to the increasing growth and complexity of Canada's transportation needs.

Statistically, Toronto Yard is an eyepopper! The new computer-controlled yard covers 1000 acres, has 158 miles of track, 68 main classification tracks, 53 local class tracks, and 561 switches. The yard can sort 5000 cars a day and has standing room for 11,000. It employs from 1000 to 1500 people.

Yet even more significant, the yard is part of a broad over-all plan that shows not only CN foresight but points to economic progress for Canada's heartland as well. CN president and chairman, Donald Gordon, pointed out at opening ceremonies that Toronto Yard represents a "long-term investment in the future and represents an utlimate saving tha will be measured in millions of dollars." It will bring about fast and more efficient distribution of freight to make the railroad more competitive. (CN estimates that automated freight yard operations cut yard handling time by half.) It will also attract new business and promote the growth of the entire area, he said. Adjacent to the yard is a new 600-acre industrial park, of which CN owns 250 acres. New industries there have already changed the complexion of the area from primarily rural to that of a major industrial-commerical-residential area.

Toronto Yard looking north. Made up of ten smaller yards, the new yard has 158 miles of track, 121 class tracks; can sort 5000 cars a day.

Retarder operators in dual control tower direct the computer-operated classification of cars over the twin-track hump.

At Traffic Control center in administration building, two train dispatchers operate push-button CTC system to guide some 180 trains a day through area.

Mr. Gordon went on to say that the railroad's charter obliges CN, among other things, to facilitate the growth of Canada. Toronto Yard "represents part of our effort to discharge that responsibility." And he added, "We would have failed in our duty to Canada and especially the citizens of this area if we had put together a bargain basement yard that would be out of date in 1966."

Certainly no bargain basement yard, Toronto yard has, in addition to the 121 classification tracks, a 20-track receicing yard, 6 and 7-track departure yards, a 20-track repaired and clean yard, a 22-track empty car storage yard and a maintenance-of-way yard. Furthermore the yard utilizes modern methods and equipment. In Mr. Gordon's words, "the yard has been called the most modern automatic freight classification yard in the world."

Typical of the grand-plan approach CN adopted in building the yard is its location. The site, north of the city between Jane and Keele Streets, was selected by CN and city officials, as the best of numerous sites surveyed. This site is an entirely new area for the railroad and required a massive project to build 138 miles of access rail line to serve it.

In moving to the new site, CN relieved the congestion, both rail and commercial, that was centered in the downtown area. For it was from here that six main line subdivisions [presumably Bala, Brampton, Newmarket, Oakville, Oshawa, Uxbridge] fanned out like spoles of a half-wheel. Within a radius of about 10 miles of Union Station, some 100 miles of main track and 362 miles of feeder track were concentrated. All traffic moved through the hub of the spoke, and, as it became heavier and heavier, serious delays resulted.

The new access line passes around the perimeter of the city, cutting across of existing rail lines in its path from Burlington on the west to Pickering on the east. Construction of the 138 miles of trackage (75 route miles) necessitated the building of 53 bridges and grade separations and the leveling of numerous hills and valleys to a gradient suitable for heavy-tonnage freight trains.

Computer Speeds Cars Over Hump

An analog computer, with the assistance of radar, controls hump speeds. At full capacity the humping rate is three cars a minute. General Railway Signal Company furnished hump yard control and switching equipment. However, total control begins much further out. Train dispatchers at the yard exercise control over a triangular area bounded by Hamilton, Richmond Hill and Pickering on an electronic control board. Using Union Switch and Signal Company equipment, the dispatcher can scan electronically through 38 field stations within the triangle the movement of the 180 trains that proceed through it every 24-hours period. The electronic equipment can receive 900 movement indications from the area in a five-second interval. The dispatcher's console, by which he routes train movements, can perform 400 control functions per second. One hundred miles of access line trackage is reproduced on a board 36 ft. long in the train dispatching control room of the yard's administration building. Train movement throughout the area is indicated on the board by lights.Directly in front of the big board are two control consoles that independently route the movement of trains over the access lines. Each train's progress is recorded electronically on the board. The console only signals routes that are compatible with safe movement.

In operation, when a train requests a route into Toronto Yard's access line system, a warning signal light on the diagram corresponding to an equivalent signal along the track itself flashes to inform the train dispatcher a route is required. At the appearance of this signal the dispatcher selects a route for the train by push-button control. This is all the dispatcher needs to do. CTC automatically lines the switches for the selected route and turns the signals to indicate "proceed." As the train's movements are recorded diagramatically on the board, a pengraph records its movements on paper.

Why Purple Talk-Back Speakers?

One of the interesting features of the yard's assembly-line approach to traffic flow is the color coding of yard locations, signals and other communications devices.

For example, each of the ten yards that comprise Toronto Yard has a distinct function, and each is linked with the others by both audio and visual signal systems. The visual system of signals begins with a series of control towers. The towers are colored white, blue, yellow, green, red andblack to make their functions visible to all sections of the yard at a glance. Talk-back speakers, of which there are 86, are color coded to correspond with the outside coloring of the building to which they are connected. For example, there are white speakers in the southern end of the yard, while the M/E speakers are purple.

The yard's radio system, and the purpose of each section of it, is immediately visible to yard personnel through color coding. The four main yard engine radio frequencies utilize white, red, green and blue.

Other color signaling lights conform to the traditional railroad colors. Hump to engine cab communications by light signal uses the conventional colors. Hump and cab signals from dragging equipment detectors adjacent to each hump crest, for example, are red. Simultaneously with the visual signal, an audible signal is used.

In addition to the talk-back speakers, the yard has seven radio systems, 65 portable radios, 34 Teletype machines and an internal private telephone system.

In-Train Repairs Save Time

Cars requiring more than minor repairs are serviced in an 80,000-sq-ft car maintenance shop. Light repairs are made at a rate of three cars an hour on a spot repair line. In all, almost 200 cars per day can be repaired in the shop. Adjacent to the repair area is the car cleaning plant with a capacity of 300 cars per day. Cleaning equipment to sweep, vacuum, wash, deodorize and disinfect freight cars includes big vacuum cleaners, high-pressure water and steam systems and various smaller machines.

Minor repairs are made to freight cars in the train by special maintenance crews. When a train arrives in the receiving yard, it is inspected by inspectors dropped off from radio-dispatched vehicles along the train. They radio for the mobile maintenance crews for minor repair work. They also radio information on cars that must be cut out for repair tracks. At the same time, other crews ice cars that require it and service and fuel heaters or mechanical refrigeration units. When the above work is accomplished—usually in a hour after arrival of the train—the yard master control is informed so that the train can continue its route.

Diesel repairs are performed at the diesel shop in assembly-line fashion. Units that are ready for use are parked in a "herring-bone" storage yard, where they can be rapidly obtained on a random access basis. A fueling and servicing truck fuels units throughout the yard so that travel time to the shop can be eliminated. About 800 people are employed in inspecting, repairing, cleaning and servicing cars and locomotives in the yard.

CN stresses that Toronto Yard has room for expansion. It has already planned to add piggyback facilities in the future.