Friday, May 17, 2019

Springtime in Belleville, May 2019

If you like a cool, wet spring, well, this is the one for you! No matter, when there are trains to watch and time to kill, power windows and parking in the leeward direction are your best friends. Having paced this train all the way from Mi 178 Kingston Sub, then Mi 180, then Mi 184, it was only right to see it yet again as it approached Belleville Yard. BCOL 4653-CN 2572 are westbound at 0927 (top photo).
Lots of auto racks, but this one stood out: CMO 800057 Union Pacific Bi-Max. In the yard, HTTX 93863 with tarped LAVIII APC's for Saudi Arabia:
At 1005, VIA No 61 with two engines, 6424-6453 lead four LRC cars into Belleville:
These are video captures.
Flooded tracks north from Belleville yard, the former Campbellford Sub. to Corbyville. City of Belleville crews were working on a blocked culvert just to the west. The track goes only a little farther north:
After VIA headed west, I could hear the distinct, though faint, chug of GE's. I was not getting skunked, as happened on my last visit. To the Batvan! CP never seems to go particularly fast, and I knew no CN trains would be around, based on signal indications. Nothing to lose! Headed south on Mitchell Road: CP 9737 approaches eastward, leading 30 assorted cars at 1015...
...then it's intermodal, with 8945 mid-train DPU... lures, tires, travel mugs and weedwhacker line...
...and things we don't see on CN intermodals...
 ...under the watchful eye of a foreman out of his hi-rail pickup for the inspection on the south side, and tail-end DPU 9668 plodding toward Smiths Falls:
Next up, back on The Other Railway was CN No 149 at 1040. Watch the video here
A very creative hostler produced this locomotive consist. CN 2113 with the 15th anniversary 'flaming unit' privatization logo - bleu-blanc-rouge BCOL 4608- and the double-oh-seven 8007. The latter has a cabside numbering job that only my limited modelling skills have heretofore produced:
CN eastbound intermodal with solo engine CN 2853 emerges from the yard at 1048 and meets the still-oncoming 149. Watch the video here.
...clothesline, motor oil, T-shirts and hockey pucks:
At a farm crossing near Shannonville Road, it's telephoto time. Looking east toward the CP crossing over CN. Interesting track profile, eh?
L-U-L-L at the farm crossing then VIA No 51 with engine 900 and six LRC cars at 1125. Watch the video here
Sampling some more video captures:
I'd seen this Signals & Communications building many times, just west of Belleville station, but for the life of me, I'd never noticed that retro Canadian National lettering thereon!
Some things do change in Belleville, though. I was surprised to find myself on this new road which bypasses the Stella-Jones creosoting plant and the former CN yard office/dispatching centre which has had many uses, including its current recycling usage. Not necessarily helpful for railfanning, as it seems to end in some of the new subdivisions in Belleville's north end.
Heading home, this eastbound rolled into the east end of Belleville yard (note taxi) for a crew change:

Running extra...
If you're watching American Idol, (Katy Perry was speechless) you may have enjoyed the musical talents of Alejandro Aranda and his original songs from his audition. Dude has guitar, piano and vocals in his musical quiver. For sheer woohoo content, Katharine McPhee's Black Horse has no rival. Both are standouts from Idol finales. Watch Sunday at 8 for the Alejandro Show.
On my HO scale Hanley Spur layout, this week I decided to replace my rock-cut surface with a proper limestone treatment. Read more about the process here. Also on my layout is CN 4530, an Athearn GP-9. This week I found a suitably grimy online auction site image of the same unit (below). Soon, a new MLW stablemate will join it on my Hanley Spur layout!

Friday, May 10, 2019

Travelling in VIA Business Class

VIA's Business Class is marketed as a step up from economy class. Boosting productivity and encouraging relaxation. There's at-seat meal and alcoholic beverage service,  access to Business Class lounges at larger stations with non-alcoholic hot and cold beverage choices and complimentary newspapers and magazines - perks for this extra-fare class of service. Not all Business Class passengers would appreciate the louder whistling that having the Business Class car directly behind the locomotive provides, but I do.

Having the opportunity to travel by Business Class between Kingston and Toronto on several occasions over the last few years, I've enjoyed the perks that this level of service offers. Especially with VIA's conversion of Business Class cars to 2+1 seating and refurbishing of the cars that began in late-2013. The change from 2+2 to 2+1 seating provided a roomier, more comfortable atmosphere.
Many passengers use the seat-tray tables for work (above - April 2018), laptop use or a convenient place to put their stuff (in my case, notepad, camera, railway-related reading material!) but VIA received feedback that the unhurried at-seat meal service was impinging on passengers' use of tables.  As a result, VIA reduced the numbers of steps in the meal service, thereby keeping the aisle clear of trolleys for more of the trip. On a couple of eastbound trips, I made note of the multiple steps in the meal service sequence.
In September 2014, aboard VIA No 48 (6413-3475-3332-3365-3336) I was in single-seat 5S of 3475 (seen newly-refurbished at Brockville in August, 2013 - above). At Oshawa, the drink cart finally reached me, having started at the back of the car. A cold Canadian was accompanied by a hot towel. The most popular alcoholic drink choice is always the Caesar! I did try this once and though it comes in a large plastic glass, like beer, I haven't tried it since. Previously larger and thicker and wrapped in a knotted plastic bag, the hot towel was smaller, thinner and in a tearable crinkly plastic pouch. Still a nice touch. Also provided was a small snack mix pouch.

Also previously, a crew member would have made a separate trip down the aisle with a tray of two different varieties of snack mix, often for waiting for indecisive passengers to try to choose one. This discriminatingly decisive passenger would simply take one of each - one for me and one for my wife, later. At Clarke, refuse from tray tables was collected. At Port Hope, meal service started from the front of the car. The meal choices were announced over the car's public address system. Previously, this was done by distributing several detailed paper copies of the menu, then noting passengers' choices on a notepad when tickets were collected. Now, most passengers don't hear the unusually inaudible bilingual choices, ask questions and are still indecisive. 

Some regular passengers with Preference Premier status have their choices guaranteed and have their meal choices taken early. Often, though not as often as before, meal choices evaporate by the time the cart reaches the middle of the car. Hope you like pasta! Choices are usually threefold: meat/fish/meatless. In September 2014, the beef was gone (always popular), with seafood brochette and pasta choices still remaining. Canadian red and white wine is served with dinner. Another round of wine and coffee was served at Trenton Junction. Previously, a cold appetizer was served with choice of bread. The appetizer and dessert all appeared on the tray together, again saving a trip down the aisle and compressing the service schedule significantly. Closer to Kingston, a digestif was offered - brandy, cognac or Irish cream were popular choices.

November 2015: In the absence of a warm fish dish (cold tuna just didn't cut it) the pork medallions, potatoes, vegetable and salad with white roll and maple bar, plus white wine was a close second!
In November 2016, also aboard VIA No 48 (916-3469-3304-3307-3369-3369-909) the consist was now 50/50. That is, a P42 at each end, and all the cars including 3469 in which I occupied seat 10S, bidirectional with almost all seats within a car facing centre. Ironically, this is the same seating pattern that the LRC coaches had been delivered with! Tickets (more accurately, passenger-printed emails with a QR code or simply a quick scan of the email displayed on a passenger's electronic device) were 'taken' upon departure. Bar service started at Guildwood, along with snacks. Pickering saw the distribution of warm towels. The entree/appetizer/dessert tray was served from the trolley at Port Hope. On this trip, the choices were beef tenderloin with mashed potatoes (the French announcement put it as 'puree de pommes de terre' which of course sounds much nicer than 'mashed potatoes', pan-fried cod with broccoli (not sure where the pan was kept or used) or lasagna with zucchini. 

More wine and coffee were offered east of Cobourg. At Trenton, a tray of pre-packaged chocolates of two varieties was brought around, and glasses of water offered at Belleville. Previously, the chocolates were not wrapped, arranged on a tray, allowing for yet more passenger indecision. If lucky, or passenger load being light, a trip back down the aisle rewarded lucky passengers with a second round of chocolates! The liqueur cart trip must have come east of Kingston this night. A votre sante - a bientot!

In April 2019, I revelled in one last Business Class junket. With the early morning-departure, late-evening return of VIA Nos 651/650, it's now possible to have breakfast in Business Class. Perhaps an omelette or breakfast wrap, cold cheese tray and that amazing Business Class coffee. The fish selection is also always amazing - a big portion and nicely-spiced. The olive bread is my pain-preference. My next Corridor travel will be in Economy, but I will gaze longingly through the vertical, slit-shaped LRC end-door toward the well-irrigated Business Class junketeers!

Running extra...

Just off the train and hot off the press - an enjoyable read here on Tim's Train Travels blog by Tim Hayman. I had the pleasure of meeting Tim in person in August 2017. He was headed west on a VIA trip and picked up his copy of Trackside with VIA - Research and Recollections.

Train orders, retirement, Kerrobert and the TH&B. Confused?

Cynthia Garneau is VIA's new CEO. Check out this farewell video from outgoing CEO Yves Desjardins-Siciliano. Kingston platform at 3:00 and 3:38 marks in the video!
I've seen a lot of questionable military loads on model railways, but the Russian military had a really eclectic trophy train to publicize their Syrian campaign (above). CBC's Chris Brown filed an interesting news report on the whats, hows and whys of this interesting train.
This week's book purchases:
Sous-vide cookbook. (That's French for under-empty)*
Mini-pot cookbook. (That's legal now)*
Rather Outspoken - My Life in the News by Dan Rather
Dig WW2 - Rediscovering the Great Wartime Battles
*for the spousal bookshelf

Friday, May 3, 2019

Miscellaneous Slides 1969-1976

I hope you've enjoyed some of my Dad's slides from the early 1970's, such as Amherst View and Valois and Kingston. My brother Dave kindly scanned and shared boxes of these slides. Not all of the slides lend themselves to stand-alone posts. This post contains some miscellaneous slides, many from family vacations taken by L.C. Gagnon. Two examples: along a Cape Breton highway heading for the PEI ferry August 1971 (top photo) and switcher at Borden, PEI:
On an August 1970 trip to Ottawa, we stopped along the way, possibly Bells Corners per Jakob Mueller, and this CP switcher-led train of hoppers scuttled by:
Of course, vistas for viewing are much different now. This June 1969 view from Kingston's Hilltop Motel towards the Princess Street overpass over CN includes an eastbound passenger train. Jakob Mueller suggested that there's a 600-series stainless steel diner in the consist. This was a frequent home-away-from-home during trips to Kingston. Taylor-Kidd Boulevard now slices across these former farm fields:
A summer of 1972 visit to Toronto included a highway-side stop at CN's MacMillan Yard:
The number of railway-owned, forty-foot box cars is remarkable, as is at least one big dimensional load (above) and here's another string of forty-footers arriving at the yard. Compare with a current view here.
I'm likely thinking, "Gee, this would look great as an HO scale layout at home!" as I survey the yard from the shoulder of Highway 7. Compare with a current view here
During a CNR 6218 fantrip in Montreal on May 31, 1969, my siblings and I posed with vintage electric maintenance cars at Gohier, QC:

In Toronto, this photo of a CP switcher was taken during a summer 1971 visit, maybe near the Canadian National Exhibition grounds:
Back home, it's the spring of 1976 and my Dad turned his Instamatic to capture the Turbos at Kingston with an avid future blogger. Interestingly, on April 29 we observed VIA 125-153 westbound at 1043; on May 5 we observed 126-151 eastbound at 1007; but on May 8 we observed morning Turbos 125-153 and 126-151. Though no direction of travel was noted for the latter, I believe these photos were taken on May 8.
In CN colours (above) and fresh VIA/CN (below). VIA 125-153 was painted in VIA colours for publicity photos and entered service in early April, the same month it set a Kingston Sub speed record. Those same kids-on-bikes are on the platform in both photos!
The US Bicentennial date July 4, 1976 found us enjoying GMD-1's in the CN yard at Portage la Prairie, MB:
Newly-constructed CNWX aluminum grain cars:
At dusk on a September evening in 1976 , this westbound VIA passenger train arrives at Kingston:
Some photo editing brought the light levels up:
 Into the setting sun....blast-off!
Photographic technology has progressed considerably from the Instamatic era into in-camera digital photo editing and video capability. I'm glad we have these slide images taken by my Dad to enjoy, 40 years on.

Running extra...
In case you thought my Dad was a hard-core train photographer, you'll find many, many candid shots among these boxes of slides from the early 1970's. Flippin' the stacks of wax through the household intercom (above) and a future non-NHLer (below):

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Summertime in Belleville, August 1976

We made an hour-long visit to CN's Belleville yard on August 11, 1976 before visiting my great-aunt and great-uncle for lunch and the afternoon. At 1137, an eastbound fast freight was pulling into the yard behind CN 9622-9598-9603 for a crew change, recorded in a coloured slide recently scanned by my brother.  A few seconds earlier, my Dad recorded the scene in black and white:
The engineer waved, and on the head-end was a substantial cut of through mechanical PFE/ATSF/BNFE reefers, in various states of fresh paint or weathering, that paraded past. The train also had assorted boxcars: Penn Central 153382, MILW, MPA, KCS, Manufacturers' Railway, RI, CV, CGW; covered hoppers BN 518058 and SCLAIR, an MP hopper, a UP flatcar and caboose 79233. 
Summer trackwork season (see below) was delaying scheduled passenger trains. At 1145, a VIA train (direction not noted - perhaps a 23-minute late No 44?) passed by, with 6763-6631 and baggage car 9657 noted. At 1157, westbound VIA Turbo 126-151 slid through the yard approximately 55 minutes late:
A second or two later, in black and white!
Hoppers such as WM 72110, C&O 18221, Chessie/C&O 137039 and B&O 234298 were in the yard:
and CN 3734 was switching:
Lunch was noted as really good. It usually comprised Kentucky Fried Chicken and all the trimmings! After our visit, we drove around and my Dad photographed track machines 65-209 (tamper) and 776-91 (ballast broom/regulator) working west of Belleville. A white-hatted foreman is visible, perusing the final roadbed at right of photo:

Also noted in the yard:
  • CN reefer 251891
  • OCS cars 74793 and boxcar 73012
  • CN RS18's 3734, 3726, 3111 and 3113
  • CN switcher 1288
  • cabooses 79574, wooden end-cupola 79836, 79727
  • CN Rule Instruction Car 15025 near the station
  • Boxcars: SP, D&M, UP and Southwide 4033
The view from the apartment balcony looked north over the city of Belleville toward the CN Kingston Sub. Apparently I spent the afternoon there; as a twelve year-old I was exempted from discussions of family history, politics and other such weighty matters. Noted from a distance:
  • 1233 WB 2 unit, 8-car passenger train, perhaps No 43 from Ottawa
  • 1401 EB with two Geeps, a few covered hoppers then 33 ore cars (Picton?)
  • 1501 no direction 2-unit, 9 car passenger train, perhaps a 55-minute late No 63
  • 1522 EB three Railiners, an 18-minute late No 652
Running extra...

Today, Belleville is a mere shadow of its former self. No more locomotive servicing or car repair. Butt-welding CWR plant long shuttered. Great Lakes District MoW car servicing a thing of the past. Branch lines i.e. to Picton severed. Only one set of switchers, unlike the plethora I listed above, and this set serves the yard/local industries, plus east and west turns on the Kingston Sub as far as Kingston and Port Hope, respectively. Dispatching moved to Toronto now Montreal. New VIA station, though. That's progress, I guess.
Kingston Transit has a new wrap on Novabus 1807 promoting Queens University sports teams. Seen above on Gardiners Road. I'd seen this new wrap a half-dozen times in the past couple of weeks, but this was my first opportunity to photograph it. It sure gets around.

Also getting around, leading a gnomadic lifestyle, is this little fellow, seen in the front yard guarding some crocii. Er, crocuses. Perhaps he represents Doc (fun fact follows) the only one of the Seven Dwarfs whose name was not an adjective!