Friday, November 16, 2018

Consider Consists

I must admit - it never struck me that I shouldn't be writing down every car and locomotive number that I could when I started compulsive note-taking back in 1976. Of course, short (but fast) passenger trains were one thing...eighty-car freight consists were another, especially when zooming by at track speed. I was able to note a few consists when in a yard and the train was moving slowly. 

Consists (I pronounce it KAWN-sists) are about order - the order a train is marshalled in. The order of the locomotives and/or cars. These can be just numbers, or we can dress the consist up with other auxiliary but important information:
  • time
  • date
  • place
  • direction of travel
  • reporting marks
  • equipment types
  • other notes/remarks/information
While all this information-taking stayed second-nature to me, it wasn't until I claimed my corner of cyberspace, Trackside Treasure in 2008, that it dawned on me - this information was not only interesting to me, but perhaps others as well. Consists were easily-documented, reformatted and eminently shareable!


Most consist-takers take notes for their own purposes. Occasionally shared, if a particularly interesting train is concerned, but the majority are seen as interesting just to 'me'. We just sit on them. Mine were in notepads in a shoebox, or transcribed into scribbler notebooks.
But why, you may ask? Rail enthusiasts have a long history of sharing photos and swapping slides. A picture is worth a thousand words, so a consist might be worth a hundred. Consists are a snapshot just as a photo is. But for every hundred photographers, you might find one to five consist-takers! So the opportunities for sharing seem limited.

I'm the most compulsive notetaker that I know. Do you know of any? David Morris is right up there capturing passenger consists in Atlantic Canada back to CPR days. But it wasn't till I started posting Krazy Konsists at Kingston, then consists from all eras of VIA to Trackside Treasure that another consist enthusiast (consisthusiast?) took the bibliophilic bait on my line. 

It was Jakob Mueller of Ottawa, who was working on a specific project - CN and CP to VIA paint transition data and would take all the consists I could get for him, especially where paint scheme was noted. Thus was born Trackside with VIA: The First 35 Years. I included my consists and Jakob was kind enough to share his paint transition data in this, my first book on VIA Rail. One purchaser derisively defined this book of 2,700+ VIA consists from 1976-2011 as 'just a bunch of numbers'. On the same day of that pithy opinion, an enthusiastic fellow sent a supportive postcard that I've kept ever since - to mark the day when the value of consists vanquished that victim of vitriol!


So one book of consists led to another book: Trackside with VIA: Cross-Canada Compendium which simply grew too large for all the cross-Canada consists I wanted to include. Thus was born the Consist Companion. And when a third major book on VIA followed five years later, I was proud to include consists that my Dad recorded in separate scribbler notebooks, beginning with the debut of VIA's Corridor Canadians, thirty-seven years ago in November, 1981. My Dad was so fascinated by the ex-CPR Budd-built consists that he tried documenting their passage eastward and westward across Canada, and the changes, additions, subtractions and variations along the way. (This is where we can topple over the consist abyss, entering the world acted by Russell Crowe in A Beautiful Mind!)...
But in printed form?  It wasn't until after the VIA cuts of 1990 that the Bytown Railway Society Branchline newsletter began sharing consists monthly, in the June 1991 issue, which they still do.
So, I've found books to be ideal for sharing consists. But like consist-takers, there are very few consists books. Blogs or webpages can be ideal for sharing platforms. In sharing consists, it's ideal to have a permanent, searchable function to truly translate their tantalizing data into indelible information.


When I recently had the pleasure of meeting fellow blogger Chris Mears, my Dartmouth Doppelganger, my Haligonian Half-Brother, my Scotian Soulmate (OK, perhaps putting too fine a point on it, here!) I brought two special documents to our caffeine-fuelled sharing session. One was The Binder, (above) encapsulating all the notes I'd taken from 1976-1981, and the other was my Dad's Canadian Pacific "The Canadian" scribbler #3 (below):
The scribbler included some of the abyss-edging consists my Dad began analyzing. I knew Chris valued consists, like those of David Morris and my Dad, and that he'd enjoy seeing in person the secondary stage of consist data collection. 


Perhaps none of the above is of even the slightest interest to you. Not your cup of tea, you say. So it's time for you to say, "Cheque, please!" Clear the dishes and head for the door. Start the car! So I'll leave you with the following maxims:

  • Consists are snapshots. We keep snapshots for decades.
  • Consists are fact-filled. Facts matter and stand the test of time.
  • Consists settle arguments. Objective data. Quarrels quelled.
  • Consists are interesting. Variety of order, time, place.
  • Consists are valuable. Irreplaceable, really.
  • Consists should be shared. Preserve and disseminate all the above.
Consists are still happening. 
As long as there are trains, there will be consists. 
And I don't regret scribbling down a single one!

Running extra...

Next Saturday, it's Kingston's new train show: Rail Fair hosted by the Associated Railroaders of Kingston. More information here.

Not as happy an occasion, November, 1981: last VIA System Timetable issued before cuts (left) and after (right):
Pssst....started new blog.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Portage 1983, Part 2

In 1983,my Mom and Dad travelled to Portage la Prairie in Part 1 of this series. On August 5, this eastbound CP freight led by four Geeps had the sun at my Dad's back as he photographed. The Canadian was three hours late this day!
CN two-unit eastbound intermodal picking up orders at Portage:
In Winnipeg on a ridealong with my aunt and uncle, CNR 2747 is stuffed and mounted. The first steam locomotive built in Manitoba, specifically at Transcona Shops:
The aforementioned Transcona Shops with CN mechanical reefers:
And no visit to Winnipeg would be complete without a stop at the Symington Yard hump leads. Check out the kaleidoscopic rear-view mirror view as Geep hump set has its portrait taken!
The Big John Green bracketed by bulkheads! Combines two to a car:
The depot when it still wore the wet-noodle. Oh sure, VIA was there in lower-case signage:
On the trip home, my dyed-in-the-wool Dad took a photo of this CPR beaver blanket, no doubt made by Ayers in Lachute, QC! Both mattresses in their bedroom B of Prince Albert Park were topped by them.
Ride the dome home! CN No 2 operated over the Toronto-Montreal Corridor, so their dome car brought them back to Kingston, with my brother recording their arrival. The ex-CN diner, two Chateau cars, three E-series sleepers and Dayniter were removed by CN switcher 8513 while the consist was in Toronto Union Station. A club car and three ex-CN coaches were added.

Running extra...

Tomorrow - the 100th anniversary of the Armistice to end the Great War. The War to End All Wars. Not.
My maternal grandfather, Lieutenant James Scott Parke (above, serving with Royal Artillery in World War I). Postcards home ('me' circled on postcard, top left - below) to his mother and wife. Without his sacrifice and survival into peacetime, there would be no humble blogger and no James Douglas - one who has no concept of war - James' great-great-grandson. May we all be channels of that peace.

Friday, November 2, 2018

Winnipeg Whiplash and Manitoba Mishaps

Rail-vehicle collisions, derailment and fires have made the pages of Winnipeg newspapers over the years.  Being a railway city, it's not surprising to find these images tucked in my files from decades past. I guess you could say these are the genuine article!

I CAUGHT THE 11:05 (top photo) On February 6, 1989 a Honda Civic ecomes a flanger for CN. Pushed 40 metres after crossing Chevrier Boulevard in the train's path. 

SPEED THE PLOW (below) City of Winnipeg grader in plow service crossing crossbuck-equipped Mollard Road between Ritchie and King Edward Streets - cab noise may have drowned out the sound of the approaching CP freight. The grader was a $150,000 writeoff. The locomotive sustained $2,000 damage.
CAT's A TONIC: Undated, for these eight stranded boxcars. The CP switcher switched off the track, so a nearby Caterpillar bucket loader pushed the errant cars across King Edward Street, averting a cat-astrophe!
BUS RIDER: On December 21, 1987, a CN movement on King Edward Street collided with a Winnipeg city bus. The bus may not have come to a complete stop at the crossing before becoming wedged against the transfer van:
SUBURBAN SPRAWL: On February 8, 1986, on the same day as the Hinton, Alberta CN-VIA collision, a much more minor collision occurred, between a CP freight train and a 1982 GMC Suburban on Jefferson Avenue.
SPERRY THE GORY DETAILS: On February 9, 1996 a westbound Fastrax transport truck met a southbound Sperry Rail Service 131 on the Perimeter Highway between St. Anne's Road and Lagimodiere Boulevard.
A BUNCH OF HOSERS: On June 23, 1988 this CN work car aboard flat car CN 665477 was smouldering in CP's Winnipeg Yard north of Henry Avenue, between Arlington and Salter Streets. A CP Police constable covers the Company's assets. The aged car was likely heading for scrapping, its numbers removed.
MESSIER AND MESSIER: CN road-rail crane lifts one of two derailed boxcars that left the track at 1305 at a crossing between Messier and Archibald Streets after leaving Maple Leaf Mills.
HADASH SMASH: Greater Winnipeg Water District's Mack railbus was struck by a transport truck hauling canola down Highway 11 near Hadashville:
BOXCAR HERE, BULKHEAD THERE:  CN No 201 derailed eight of 85 cars in Transcona, at Mi. 251.3 of the Redditt Sub on April 26, 2002. Ninety percent of the train's tonnage was behind two empty centre-beam bulkhead flatcars; slack action run-in caused the derailment.
CP TRUCK SMUCK: C:P 5914 hit a transport truck west of Austin. Damage to the locomotive was estimated at $100,000. It was returned to Winnipeg for repairs. The truck and trailer were totally destroyed.

Running extra...

The last week of October was a busy one in Canadian railway history. Thanks to Bill Staiger and his Tortoise Tattler:

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Portage 1983, Part 1

My Mom and Dad travelled on VIA's Canadian between Kingston and Portage la Prairie, MB in July-August 1983. End-cupola van CP 437394 at Sudbury on July 21, during their stroll up to the headend during the servicing stop. The perennial view across from the station was the Sudbury arena. Known for combining more than one subject in a photo, my Dad has captured a multimarked, capped CP Rail truck, Sudbury bus and the area in one frame:
That Sudbury bus scheme was designed by Gottschalk & Ash in 1972! Chapleau was reached at 1300, with servicing until 1330. Time to check out CPR 5433 in the trackside park. The Chapleau auxiliary was outside the car shop - no number visible. Two 4700's and an MLW switcher reposed nearby.
'Vacation weather' (thanks, Dave!) set in on July 26 as VIA No 2 was arriving with 6507-6607-6602 at 1630. My Dad noted that several cars, including 'their' Amherst Manor from VIA No 1 were returning east on this train after reaching Vancouver.
VIA 3214-126-129-6616 (left to right) are opposite the Portage station as baggage and passengers occupy the platform along with the operator's car:
Steam siffles from the steamline on Waterton Park as the Canadian departs eastward:
An evening visit trackside on July 30 netted a quartet of variously-attired cylindricals ready for loading at the United Grain Growers elevator just west of the CN station:
Evening shadows lengthen as CP 5561 and a Geep lead grain boxcars westward, with CP's yard at left and CN welding gang cars at right:
Forget Counting Crows. Start Counting Combines! Here's Massey-Ferguson with high (candy-striped) and low multimarks, westward past CP's station on August 2:
At CN's station, it's Combines! Massey-Fergs on a CP bulkhead flat car on CN's team track. CN lumber car accompanying at right, with CN boxcars loaded at Portage Pool 'B' behind.
In the yard, you guessed it, more Combines! CN 4307 and an F-unit are leading this westbound in the CN yard on August 2:

On August 5, potash empties plodded westward past the CN station. My Dad's photo, taken under that high, hot afternoon sun, bring back memories of the clanking freight cars, the warm creosote, dry grass blowing and all the other sights and sounds of Portage trainwatching in one picture!

Part 2 of this series showcases more of my Dad's trackside photos in Portage, Winnipeg and the trip back home to Kingston aboard VIA No 2.

Running extra...

Prince Street blog partner Chris Mears and I have been talking about dusting off the Railfan Five Challenge - five years later. Originally conceived as sharing five formative fotos from our railfanning journey, now we're thinking of Railfan Five x2 (or Two, or 2.0?) which would be five railfan photos taken by others. Five we WISH we'd taken - had we been there and been able to, perhaps at an earlier time. This should be easy. Or will it be? Hmmmmm.

My uncle from Portage sent along this link. Canada's government grain car fleet sold off at less than scrap value? That's going against the grain! CN and CP have infused their fleet with newer, predecessor-road covered hoppers from IC and DM&E/SOO respectively.

Coming November 1 - can we ever have enough books on the Canadian? Ira Silverman's photographic take on the rides he took on this Budd masterpiece, coming from Garbely Publishing.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Kingston-Portage la Prairie Aboard VIA, 1983

My Dad and Mom made two trips from Kingston to
Portage la Prairie (locally known as Portage) aboard
VIA, to visit family there in 1983 and 1994. The first
trip was in July-August, 1983.

Neatly written in two
48-page coil notebooks are my Dad’s railfanning notes
from the trip, which I've transcribed below.
The notebooks cost a princely 49 cents
in 1983, and the price sticker (remember those?) is
from HILL’s EAST Drug Store in Portage! Interestingly,
1983 was the only year between 1978 and 1986 that I
did not make a summertime trip to Portage.

We are there to see Mom and Dad off to Portage la Prairie, MB aboard an
11-car No 1/55 led by VIA 6765-6618 on July 20, 1983 (top photo).

Departure on July 20 was from Kingston, aboard the
Corridor Canadian  with family there
to see them off and help with suitcases. My parents
were travelling in Bedroom F of Amherst Manor
designated as Car 122, but made it up to the dome of
Kokanee Park in the first two miles after departure!
The nightly RDC’s were eastbound at Port Hope, and
CN freights led by 2026 and 9654 were met west of
Oshawa. At Toronto Union Station, CN switcher 8515
coupled on to the rear of No 1. The trainman’s orange
CN lantern was visible. Also in the station were VIA
6767-6859-Chaleur Bay-5474, likely the eastbound
Cavalier. A GO train with five bilevels and six coaches
and passengers was eastbound around 2325.
Dad reported rough track leaving Toronto, before
encountering welded rail and heading ‘straight north
- moonlight’.

At 0400 on July 21, the Canadian was on an
embankment or viaduct at Parry Sound, switching to
CP tracks after a back-up move. Sudbury was reached
in overcast, though the ‘dumpy’ station failed to
impress, especially when the lunch counter had no
milk in cartons (cost would have been 65 cents).
My Mom stands patiently by at Sudbury after walking to the head-end to
see 6769-6619-6624 on July 21, 1983. (L.C. Gagnon photo):
Lunch in ex-CN diner 1363 was beef patty and chicken
salad. Chapleau around 1300 brought views of CP
switcher 7091 and Centuries 4714-4722 in the yard.
An eastbound CP freight of Japanese import cars on
auto racks was at Franz Junction at 1600, with another
CP eastbound in a meet at O’Brien 25 minutes later.
CP switcher 6549 worked the yard at White River at
1710. Dinner in the diner was beef and sole at 1815,
and both meals in the diner, for two, came to less
than $30. CP Century 4510 was at Schreiber, and a
meet with No 2 took place in the fading daylight at

The Ignace area featured a derailment around
0200 on July 22. Five or six freight cars on their
sides, one at right angles to the track! Big hook and
auxiliary on scene. No 1 passed slowly, though jolting
interrupted their sleep. Rennie and Whitemouth, MB
were reached at 0900, then the shuttered station at
My Mom is at right, beside Amherst Manor, at Chapleau. (L.C. Gagnon
photo - above) My Dad with Kokanee Park at Chapleau servicing stop 
on July 21, 1983. (M.P. Gagnon photo):
Arrival in Winnipeg was about an hour late,
with my aunt and uncle from Portage meeting the
train in Winnipeg, followed by dinner at the Countess
of Dufferin restaurant. A drive around CN’s East Yard
revealed the Prairie Dog Central having just returned
with its excursion train. A chat with the engineer
ensued. Engine 3 burned West Virginia coal which
cost $167/ton at the time. The engineer pulled out
his silver-cased Waltham [pocket] watch with Roman
numerals. VIA 6507-6623-6611 were backing up to
take VIA No 2 east, including visible cars Laurentide
Park-Dufferin-Manor-Dunsmuir Manor. Duplex
roomette VIA I-series cars Intervale and Iroquois were
in East Yard.

A visit to the very successful 1983 NMRA convention
held in Winnipeg took place on July 23, with another
dinner at the Countess of Dufferin, the central dining
are of which resembled a dining car. 
A three-unit No 2 stops at Portage la Prairie in August, 1983. 
(L.C. Gagnon photo):
On the 26th,
No 2 arrived at Portage at 1630. The consist: 6502-
6607-6602-616-129-126-3214-500-5717- 5746-Edwardsville-
Closse-Chateau Jolliet-Bliss Manor-Amherst Manor-
Waterton Park, all of which had been on their westbound
Canadian except for the power, 5746, Emerald,
Chateau Jolliet and Waterton Park. A couple from
Australia arrived on the Canadian and the ensuing reunion
was the first time two brothers originally from
Holland had seen each other in 35 years!

An evening country drive on July 29 including a
chance encounter with VIA No 110 at Newton, MB.
two coaches. Another drive on July 31 included a
westbound CN freight with locomotives 9420-9493-
9503 pulling an assortment of freight cars including
57-foot auto transporter CN 9502 in its ‘billboard
black & white auto’ scheme. No 2 on August 2 was
staffed by conductors and trainmen ‘wearing old style
caps with VIA badge’. 

An August 3 drive to Winnipeg
netted the eastbound Canadian near Elie at 1705, its
three units and 17 cars visible from the Trans-Canada
Highway. The westbound Canadian through Portage
on August 5 included tail-end cars Chateau Salaberry-
Chateau Viger-Cornwall Manor-Butler Manor-Banff
Park. Its eastbound counterpart was operating three
hours late, observed west of Portage at 1955, again
with three units and 17 cars. On August 6, Burton
Manor and Lorne Manor were visible at the station
in Winnipeg when my parents arrived to board the
eastbound Canadian back to Kingston.
My Dad has his newly-purchased VIA ‘trucker cap’ in hand just before
boarding the Canadian, at Winnipeg station with Mom on August 6, 1983. (above)
It’s still light at 2035 as No 2 departs 
Winnipeg on August 6, 1983. Dad photographs the photographer 
from the dome of Prince Albert Park (below). (Wilf Schellenberg photos)
At 1700, it was a hot, dry 90-degree Fahrenheit day in
Winnipeg. In Winnipeg Depot, my parents checked in
to the sleeping car steward, before ascending to track
level and finding their accommodation in Bedroom
B of Prince Albert Park, designated as Car 229. The
train for Sioux Lookout, Nakina and Capreol had just
departed. Their porter, Fernand, welcomed them
aboard and they went back to the car’s dome at 2015.
CN switcher 7180 was behind No 2 and departure
was at 2035. 

The Canadian moved out of Winnipeg,
photographed from the parking lot by my uncle, and
finally headed straight east. In the dome until 2245,
five westbound CP freights before passed before their
train reached Kenora at 2305. Each train’s headlights
and ditchlights approached in the darkness, were
dipped for the engine crew of No 2, but turned up
by the time the Park car was reached and passed..
trackside. Passengers came and went from the dome
in darkness, but it was seldom more than half-full.
The Park car bedroom was ‘a bit smaller than one in
a Manor car but had a bigger bathroom’. Original CP
beaver brown blankets were on both made-up beds.

The westbound Canadian was met in the Ignace area.
On August 7, a VIA woman representative gave my
Dad two lunch reservation slips. A small cairn north of
the track at Mi 102.7, commemmorated the last spike
driven on CP’s Montreal to Winnipeg segment on
May 16, 1885. Lunch in the diner was beef patty and
chicken salad, soup, dessert, coffee in the Jack Fish
curve area at an affordable $10.50. The Park car dome
filled up by 1100. A CP Dayliner was on an adjacent
track during a brief stop at White River. 

Though it looks like my Dad is missing his train, No 2 is actually stopped
for servicing at White River on August 7, 1983. Noted - rail is Algoma Steel
115-pound rolled in 1982. (L. C. Gagnon photo):
Spending the afternoon in their room, Fernand dropped by to
be helpful, and the VIA woman representative also
stopped by again and sold two suppers totalling $19.
The westbound Canadian with three units including
6539, and approximately 15 cars was met on the
south track at Franz.

Supper at Chapleau was chicken salad, with pie. At
Sultan, a multi-unit CP was westbound at 1855 with
5965-5542-5557-5781-5666-6007-5930-4712 and
van 434643. Doing 1 mile in 55 seconds at Mile 63,
Biscotasing was reached only five minutes late. In the
dome ‘a fellow in front had tin can repetitive music
coming from his headphones - 8:30 p.m.’ Sightings of
the train’s headlight were less frequent than during
the previous dome ride out of Winnipeg, leaving the
dome around 2200 after the train continued east
from the stop at Cartier, ON.

The last day on the train, August 8 began at Toronto
Union Station’s track 8. A tip for the ever-helpful
Fernand as he departed but my parents stayed on
the train for the trip down CN’s Kingston Sub to
Kingston. CN switcher 8513 removed the last four
CP cars, taking the next seven cars (Dayniter, two
Chateau cars, three E-series and diner 1365) over
to Spadina coach yard. A club car and three coaches
were added for passengers to Ottawa, Montreal and
points in-between. 

Dayliners, LRC 6901, several GO
trains, two Amtrak consists shared the trainshed
on this warm, sunny day. At 0825, the joint Ontario
Northland/VIA Northland was disembarking
passengers: ONR 1502-9654-755-ONR white/blue/
yellow 842-5594-Greening before being taken to
Spadina coach yard by CN 8515. My Dad walked to
the head-end before departure, photographing lead
unit VIA 6767 with Toronto trackside icons Royal York
hotel and CN Tower.
On departure, three Dayliners from Kingston were
inbound as the train reached 90 mph around Port
Hope. Arrival at Kingston was on-time. Cost for fare
and accommodation aboard VIA, booked through a
Kingston travel agent, was less than $1,500.

Watch for an upcoming post (or two) with other trackside photos that my Dad took during that 1983 trip to Portage!

Running extra...

The Associated Railroaders of Kingston are taking on two new projects - one is a November train show in Kingston (see link at top of sidebar) and modules depicting Kingston's Hanley Spur downtown/inner harbour trackage. Though the club emphatically does not want a club layout, this Hanley Spur module project will allow us to build and bring together parts of a larger layout of a very modellable prototype.

Who thought CN would ever run short of Geeps?  This week, I caught GMTX 2248-2273 on Belleville-Kingston turn CN No 518 (no camera at the time!) parallelling Bath Road, but fellow Kingston railfan Paul Hunter staked them out on CN's Cataraqui Spur. Blue and beautiful!
At the Invista plant (above) and Armstrong Subdivision trestle near Bath Road among the bullrushes (below). Thanks, Paul!