Saturday, March 18, 2017

March Miscellany

Spring is just around the corner. I've been splitting my time between shovelling drifts, pushing drafts of my upcoming book on VIA Rail back and forth to my graphic designer, and creating some VIA-related memes. So I give you this pop-up post of spring miscellany. Tim Hayman snapped a photo of the first CANADA 150-wrapped VIA F40PH-2D 6454. I used the expansive nose to do a bit of publicity including Tim's role as a valued contributor (top photo). Have you ever wanted to be in the 1%? Here's an onion diagram that reveals how you can be:
VIA has wrapped Business Class car 3476 in the attractive 'leaves' variation of the CANADA 150 scheme similar to that applied to lounge car Glenfraser. Shaun Hennessy snagged the kaleidoscopically kolourful kar at Fallowfield station:
 My initial enthusiasm for the CANADA 150 scheme has not waned:
However it has come to my attention that trackside photographers are taking WAAAAY too many photos of the CANADA 150-wrapped locomotives and not nearly enough of the coaches:
We'll see how that works. Meanwhile, last Sunday's VIA Nos 648/650 featured 650's consist led by VIA 905 trailing the 50/50 consist tailed by VIA 916. Remember that 916 was initially released with white cab numbers which were soon replaced with the far more visible black numbers:
Logan Cadue kindly shared his notable nose-to-nose view at Kingston, and the same night Mary and Malcolm Peakman captured the nocturnal niceties at Napanee:
Some would say the wraps are being applied to cover up less-than-stellar paint jobs on non-refurbished non-Renaissance-scheme cars and there are more than enough photos of the gnarled noses of the P42's that warrant a little covering up:
Hyperbole at the White House:
Hyperbole at Halifax:
Meanwhile at Napanee, ON not much has changed over 150 years:
Last weekend's Kingston Rail-O-Rama netted some fine finds. Vice-Regal, preserved 6917, Brockville, Sudbury, Montreal and back-to-back 6400's added to my photo collection:
And afterwards, a trip to the Kingston station to see an unusual consist on VIA No 63 - LRC's replace the normal HEP consist:
'Orange you glad'? Citrushelf down and consider the navel-gazing I did at our very own city wrap that's appealing and not yet a-peeling:
And a Kingston Transit NOVA bus 1689 pausing proximal to the platform:
Getting a 'D' for E-series Edmunston or EdmunDston:
No longer available - we will no longer have a monopoly on what game pieces we use. The thimble, boot and wheelbarrow have been replaced by updated rubber ducky, penguin and dinosaur. Updated dinosaur??
And a view no longer available. Bright morning sun and dome haze cannot obscure the fact that this photo, taken from the eastbound Corridor Canadian Park car by my Dad in 1983 shows a shimmering stainless steel consist spread ahead as the train crosses County Road 6 near Amherst View, Ontario.
It's photos such as these that I was proud to include in my upcoming Trackside with VIA: Research and Recollections. My Dad's trip accounts, early-80's Corridor Canadian consists and photos get a well-deserved airing. Sharing this material is a fine legacy for data that I hadn't even known existed. I'm really looking forward to making it available to a new generation of VIAphiles, and leading off my book with this fitting tribute:

Friday, March 10, 2017

Mud Season at Morningstar/Trenton, February 2017

While part of the family was skiing at nearby Batawa ski hill, I picked a grey, foggy, slightly damp day to try out Trenton, ON. Specifically, the remnant of the former CN Marmora Subdivision which once ran north from Trenton Jct to Marmora, and south from Trenton Jct to Picton. Located near CN's Kingston Sub and CP's Belleville Sub, this is a neat little spot located just north of Telephone Road (top photo).
Parrish & Heimbecker (P&H) recently took over the former Trenton Grain Elevator, formerly Thrasher Feed Ltd. Located at Mi 32.20 of the former Trenton Spur, before that CN's Marmora Sub, track TB76 was a 1300' (now marked as 1140') spur that served the elevator then veered off to serve Tri-County Agro Mart. The Trenton Spur continued north to serve Trent Valley Paper Board, five miles north. The track to the mill was removed in 1988. The spur now ends before reaching Highway 401. There is still a run-around track just north of the ag facilities, just visible to left. It's designated CN track TB75, 1900 feet long:
P&H covered hopper PHLX 101 was spotted at the elevator. Having profiled these uniquely-painted P&H cars, I was happy to find one doing its job.
Looking south along Telephone Road, CN's section building (used to be Insulbrick) (2014 photo from aboard VIA Rail) and the track beneath the Kingston Sub at Mi. 232.9 are visible. Marmora ore trains used to run here, to be unloaded at Picton Harbour. (Lake Ontario Cement at Picton was the last customer before the trackage was removed in 1995-96.) Now, CN No 518 must traverse the 1455-foot downhill connecting track KP50 to serve the feed mill. The tail of this track is about 800 feet south of the Trenton Spur switch.
Across Telephone Road and up a short driveway if the Trenton Junction VIA stop. Connecting track KP50 is just visible, heading downhill at left. A westbound auto-rack train, likely CN No 371 scooted through, but CN freights made themselves scarce for the remainder of the day. CP's freight haul amounted hi-rail truck! I entitled this post 'mud season' because Mike Confalone, among others, choose to model this uniquely eastern North America season, when snow, mud, cloud and fog all intersect. Just like this day...
Like Kingston, Oshawa, Dorval et al, VIA has added a peaked roof and tower to the diminutive drop-off:
Out at Morningstar Road, it was an all-VIA show through the fog. Rather than posting individual Youtube video links to match these video captures (below), just click on my Youtube page to see four short but dramatic videos!
 At 1112, VIA No 51 Eng 6407:
 At 1245, VIA No 63 Eng 6401:
At 1315, an eastbound - VIA No 64 Eng 6451:
 At 1333, VIA No 45 Eng 6427:
 At 1402, sun and VIA No 42 double-ended consist with 910/911:
One parting P&H shot: in the sun, the view north from Telephone Road, with Highway 401 just visible in the distance:
CANADA 150! VIA's wrapped cars and units continue to proliferate. Read Steve Boyko's interesting review of reactions to this colourful scheme. I caught three units in one day, without even trying. VIA No 655 Eng 916 at 0645:
Grocery cart view! VIA No 47 Eng 905 at 1439:
Parking lot view! Video capture of VIA No 644 Eng 904 at 1530:
Speaking of being trackside with VIA, I'd like to share the draft cover for my upcoming book, Trackside with VIA: Research and Recollections. This book includes a few fingerprints - a team of contributors including my brother, whose photos take the top two positions on the front cover! And there he is, standing beside your humble blogger as he begins a VIA journey aboard an RDC-1 (centre photo on back cover). Watch for an April release.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

CN's Blind Mice F-Units

Some of CN's 9100-series GFA-17's were rebuilt to GFB-17's numbered 9100-9108 between May 1983 and December 1984. These were formerly CN 9174, 9170, 9157, 9152, 9154, 9178, 9155, 9179, 9150 respectively. CN 9100-9104 were assigned to Symington, and 9105-9108 assigned to Calder. On June 4, 1984, an eastbound 112-car loaded grain train into Portage la Prairie was led by CN 9173-9103-9100. The connecting track between CN Rivers Sub and CP Carberry Sub is in foreground:
Two years later, I was over-nighting in Rosetown, SK when a westbound freight made it into Rosetown through showers in the early evening. Tying down the train, the crew 'went for beans'. One of the blind mice was the second unit behind CN 5575:
The rebuilt units' front windshield and side cab windows were covered with one-eighth-inch steel. Number boards, classification lighs and the inside of some radiator vents were also covered with sheet metal.The headlight was kept in operation, with two emergency brake valves, no horn, no hostler control, no brake control and the units could not operate independently, being totally dependent on other locomotives for movement. For ballast, retired axles were mounted inboard, with six in the rear and seven in a the front compartment. Sanding pipes were reduced. CN 9102-9103 and VIA SGU's were at CN Symington shop in Winnipeg in 1985 in this online photo auction site photo:
CN engineer Mark Perry noted that crews referred to these units as 'red beetles'. Jim Booth kindly shared photos of CN 9102 at Kelowna, BC in February, 1987:
The units were retired in December, 1989. By 1990, CN 9100 and some classmates were in the scrapline at Montreal's Taschereau Yard (Bill Thomson photo):
CN 9103 in Jasper, captioned 1986.
CN 9173 in 1986 in Nanticoke, ON. Cabride!
Thanks to Jim Booth and Bill Thomson for sharing their photos for this post.

Running extra...
Looking forward to the annual Kingston Rail-O-Rama train show, March 11 and 12 at Kingston's Ambassador Hotel. Show co-chair Paul Hunter has worked hard on the show's website, flyer and buttons (sure hope he has a couple set aside for me!) I'll be there at the open, with those big bags I usually take to the grocery store!

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

VIA Rail's CANADA 150 Wraps

Ever since VIA Rail Canada wrapped P42 916, the first locomotive in the CANADA 150 scheme, there has been a lot of chatter about this wrapping program. VIA 3356 is westbound on February 22 (top photo). VIA's plan to wrap 44 pieces of equipment: 22 locomotives and 20 cars, has unleashed conspiracy theories as well as positive and negative comments. 
So far, VIA has wrapped P42's 916, 907 and 908; F40 6454, LRC coaches 3356, 3350, 3351 and 3359; and lounge car Glenfraser. I was fortunate to catch Glenfraser in Belleville on February 11:
Glenfraser was likely returning to Toronto Maintenance Centre from Ottawa. On February 7, the 'CANADA 150 Display Train' was at Ottawa for the big reveal and this photo appeared in a CNW Newswire story:
On February 20, a tip from Malcolm led me to check out VIA No 41 at Kingston station, on its way from Ottawa to Toronto. Since No 41 uses the consist of No 648 the night before, and run-throughs are minimal now that stop-blocks have been placed to facilitate high-level platform construction at Ottawa's station. 
Monday's bi-directional train should have included two CANADA 150 coaches. And it did! Arriving at 0735 (above), the consist was 917-3352-3369-3359*-3351*-3452-900. (*= CANADA 150).
 'Breeding pair' 3359 and 3351:
 Close-up of 3351 with city wraps, only two of which might see this car:
Close-up of No 3359 in the shade of the Track 2 shelter. I call this the summer know, the city initials remind me of BBQ'S!
Each car or locomotive lists four station-cities. Lest you think that over 320 cities' names (40 pieces of equipment times 8 names) will be included, VIA has indicated on Facebook that over 40 will be shown, so there will be overlap. Here is the list so far: Vancouver Kamloops Edmonton Jasper Saskatoon The Pas Thompson Churchill Winnipeg Gillam Capreol Sudbury White River Guelph Kitchener Stratford London St Marys Chatham Woodstock Sarnia Brantford Aldershot Oakville Brampton Kitchener Toronto Guildwood Kingston Ottawa Alexandria Montreal Parent Rimouski Jonquiere Quebec Moncton Bathurst Amherst Truro Halifax.
3359 departs westbound(above), with Kingston's cupola capping it off, then 3351(below):
You can see why some detractors have called this the 'silver banana' scheme. I started my own Facebook poll with some sample nicknames and received quite a few neat suggestions to boot:
I tried to start my own conspiracy theories - Budd Canadian ex-CP equipment would be wrapped! P42's would start running out West and down East! LRC's to the Coast! I found it interesting that there was less interest in this type of outside-the-box thinking than there was in inside-the-box carping about how stupid/ugly/needless/costly/meaningless/expensive/wasteful/inappropriate these wraps were. Should railfans be consulted by large corporate bodies before the latter take action? Perhaps this will change. I have my doubts!
Most of the cars being wrapped are high-numbered 3300's not refurbished therefore not receiving the Renaissance scheme and starting to look ratty. Same for the banged-up P42's. Putting some lipstick on those high-horsepower pigs. One last, lingering close-up:
VIA 900 pushes uphill towards Mi 177 Kingston Sub and away west. Don't worry, this consist would return in the afternoon as VIA No 42 before passing a third time in the evening as No 59. A Kingston Sub yo-yo, as it were! Though Business Class car normally trails the locomotive on a regular Corridor train, one can end up ahead of the trailing locomotive on a bi-directional consists. Less horn!
With all those dents and dings, don't be surprised if 900 gets wrapped soon. And here are video captures of the other sides of these two cars that I observed at Trenton on February 22. VIA 3359:
And VIA 3351. Nobody in The Pas, MB will have the opportunity to say, "Hey, there goes our LRC car!" Oh well, we'll always have Gillam. Gillam and Guildwood are two of the most unexpected stations to appear!
Though VIA 916 has been running around in CANADA 150 paint since February 2, and has made numerous trips to Kingston (mostly on the nocturnal VIA Nos 650/651). An early visit to Kingston station on Saturday, March 4 found VIA No 655 awaiting its 75-minute later, relaxed Saturday departure. VIA 916 led 4xxx-4103-4120-4114:
The formerly-white cab numbers (see CNW Newswire photo above) have been superseded by much more visible black numbers.
Some folks who know my data-obsessive tendencies have just assumed that I am keeping track of this information. Well of course I am. Here's what I've got so far. Note to self - prepare to add more rows to the spreadsheet!
Interestingly, 916 made it to Kingston on nocturnal VIA No 650 at least twice recently. Local railfans Logan and Paul did a post-sunset photo shoot and Paul notes that 916's cab numbers have been returned to black lettering replacing the nearly unreadable white lettering. Must have been frustrating for crews and foremen. Thanks to Malcolm, Paul and Logan for assistance with this post.

Late word of VIA 6454, the first wrapped F40, reaching Halifax on VIA No 14/15. Tim Hayman kindly shared his photo of VIA 6454 in Halifax. Everyone seems to like that silver nose. Silver and simple but almost everyone wants something 'more' done with it. On the sides,three names only:

Running extra...

I had Too Much Time On My Hands when I snapped tank car STYX 71141 last Sunday. I hoped it would Show Me The Way to more trains but I was just Fooling Yourself so it was time for this Blue Collar Man to go home to see Babe. It seemed to say to me Come Sail Away.
Tomorrow is Oscar night: