Sunday, March 22, 2009

VIA's Vestibule View heading west to Winnipeg, 1985

A brilliantly sunlit September afternoon, and an open Dutch door in coach 126 made a great combination on board VIA No 1, the Canadian, travelling CP Rail's double track Kaministiquia, Ignace and Keewatin Subs west of Thunder Bay, heading for Winnipeg.

There were lots of work programs on the Kam Sub that day: Foreman Forte Mi 18-20, Foreman Lix Mi 29-36, Foreman Scott Mi 47-48, and Foreman Hansen Mi 109-112.


I did some train-to-train photography, as we paced a CN freight with caboose 79472, led by Eng 5075 out of Thunder Bay:

Just past Upsala at 1315, we passed a small church, and a sweeping curve and fall colours along one of many lakes made a nice background for a view of our train.


No 1's consist: 6557 - 6631 - 616 - 126 - 3246 - 500 - 5752 - Cameron Manor - Hunter Manor - Bayfield Manor - Chateau Rouville - Louise - Eldorado- Algonquin Park. At Martin, the siding was full of bulkhead flats being loaded from a looming pile of pulpwood:

At Ignace, Eng 5980 was switching:


There were also many work programs on the Ignace Sub: Foreman Santos Mi 2-7, Foreman Taddeo Mi 15-16, Foreman Bucci Mi 21-29, Foreman Palermo Mi 44-45, Foreman Newman Mi 69-70, Foreman Slack at Mi 86-88, and Foreman Paskewitz Mi 139-143.


Eight miles from Kenora, the Rail Changeout Unit was parked on the south main track for the night. At 1700, looking back toward the Park car, we passed a Pettibone Speed-Swing. This is one of the few times we weren't left-hand running. Normally considered running wrong-main, left-hand running was normal for this route, due to easier grades for loaded grain trains on the north track. The north track was built later, in some places separated from the south track. The line was single-tracked between 1996 and 1998.

A bit more muskeg and swamp, backed by birches, preceded the transition to prairie flatlands near Ingolf on the Keewatin Sub:

At Rennie, the setting sun glinted off about 50 grain cars in the back track, putting the north side of our train in the lengthening shadows at 1800:

We passed under CN's mainline, entered grassland, and passed Whitemouth station at 1820:
Taking a break from combining, some farmers were sitting on the hood of their vintage grain truck, maybe having supper. They gave us a friendly Manitoba wave as we passed. What a fantastic afternoon's ride it had been!

Running extra...
In the same area a year earlier, at the same time of day but heading the opposite direction, here is the elevator at Hazelridge, Manitoba:


The Kingston Rail-O-Rama was held this weekend. At the Bytown Railway Society booth, Paul and Dave were selling Bytown publications and spreading the word about the Society's valuable restoration efforts in Ottawa. To support these efforts, I bought some second-hand magazines, then donated some others that were surplus to my needs. They have a willing and able volunteer workforce, making great strides to preserve some interesting examples of Canada's railway heritage. There were lots of other vendors selling photos and somewhat expensive ready-to-run equipment, but the second-hand HO rolling stock market seems to have dried up. Fewer finds to find on the show tables!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

BNML 2 and the Midland Railway of Manitoba

BNSF 1685, the last high-hood, first-generation Geep in service with a North American Class I railway has gone stateside. Formerly Burlington Northern Manitoba Limited (BNML) 2, ex-Midland Railway of Manitoba 2, the unit was built in 1957. Unfortunately, time has run out for her, and now she sits forlorn outside the BNSF diesel shop in Minneapolis. Due to years of shuttling between CN and CP in Winnipeg, with occasional opportunities to stretch her legs on trackage rights over CN's Letellier Sub down to the U.S. border, she's low mileage. BNSF 1685 has been replaced by GP39-2 2710.
The top photo shows the results of my single sighting of this unique unit - a quick picture taken through the window of my sleeper on VIA No 2, in June 1982. BNML 2 was waiting with 15 cars for us to clear Portage Jct. The first car is an auto rack - traffic brought north to Winnipeg over the years included vehicles, farm machinery, fresh produce, TOFC, gondolas of scrap metal, and boxcars of merchandise for Winnipeg's warehouses. After coming north of the border on the Letellier Sub, the trains travelled CN's Rivers Sub from Portage Jct to St James Jct (black line on map) then north to BNML's small yard along Lindsay St. Mark Perry shared this photo of BNML 2 with a few cars in tow at Portage Jct in 1993:
Among the cabooses used in BNML yard service were: wooden ex-NP BNML 1723 and 1974, steel ex-CB&Q BN 10355, ex-GN BN 11292 and BN 12580. Here's BNML 1723, preserved at the Manitoba Agricultural Museum in Austin, with a freshly-painted NP monad symbol in 1978:
BN road units assigned to help BNML 2 up and down to the border, before CN took over in the mid-1980's, included ex-GN GP-7's 1532, 1543, 1544, 1545, 1553, 1554 and 1555. BN train No 123 departed Noyes, Minnesota at 0850 on May 16, 1974: BNML2 - 1555 - 24 lds - 15 etys - 2108 tons -2592 feet - caboose 10783. BN train No 124 departed Crookston, Minnesota at 2320 on April 18, 1977: 5322 - 5330 - 2061 - BNML 2 (likely headed stateside for inspection and maintenance) - 62 lds - 21 etys - 6033 tons - 4925 feet - caboose 12153. Here's a Midland switchlist from 1972, written out on a GN Form 55:

This switchlist for the Midland Transfer is written on a CP script Form 3493W:

NP 9616 and MILW 16601 are boxcars. CB&Q 94269 is a 66-foot flat, and NP 51649 is a gondola. The cars on the lists are heading to/from BN, CN and CP. Here's a Midland transfer slip, also from the pre-computer era. Scribbled on the back in pencil "NYC 41892 in Track 5":


BNML 2 still exists, albeit in HO-scale. Here she is with some BN cars on my Winnipeg Terminals layout:

Manny Jacob has done a really nice job modelling the unit, check out: http://home.golden.net/~railbus/
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Running Extra...
TRAINS magazine's 45th Anniversary edition, November 1985, profiles BNML 2's run to the border. BRMNA's The Great Northern and Northern Pacific Railways in Canada (Volume One) shows her at home in the BNML yard, with a train of 6 BN boxcars and caboose.
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After leaving the CPR syndicate, James J. Hill tried to siphon traffic from the CPR, building four Great Northern branches, including the Midland, over or approaching Canada's southern border.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

VIA's Winnipeg-Edmonton Panorama, 1984

On June 3, 1984, VIA launched a new service in the Canadian West: The Panorama. VIA Train Nos 3/5 Winnipeg - Edmonton, becoming triweekly VIA No 5 Edmonton - Prince Rupert, and VIA Nos 4/6 Edmonton - Winnipeg, from triweekly VIA No 6 Prince Rupert - Edmonton. VIA's promotional brochure extolled the virtues of the train's consist: "Enjoy the magnificent scenery from our dome car (summer months only) or through the picture windows of a comfortable coach or sleeping car. Meal service and refreshment facilities are available for your enjoyment."

I was able to record the transition from the unnamed VIA No 109 to the Panorama. On June 2, 1984, the last No 109 arrived in Brandon's CP Rail station at 1400. The consist was 6510 - 9616 - 3216:


On June 4, the second westbound Panorama arrived in Portage la Prairie for its station stop, beside a CN freight at 1400. The consist was 6511 - 9475 - 5439 - 5533 - 504 - Entrance:

On an equally gloomy June 5, VIA No 3/5 scooted across the prairie heading for Brandon. The consist was 6506 - 9488 - 5514 - 501 - Elliston:

While visiting the cab of CN 9566 on a CN freight, waiting for VIA No 4/6 at East Tower, I snapped the eastbound passenger hustling by, partly framed by 9566's bell. 6514 was hauling the deadhead consist from the last VIA No 109 back to Winnipeg, plus the regular eastbound Panorama consist:

On June 6, some CN executives may have been sampling the new service in car 15000. The consist included two E-series sleepers: 6510 - 9477 - 5585 - 510 - Excelsior - Evansdale - 15000:

An Amtrak Superliner test consist was used on the route in September-November 1984. The consist was Amtrak F40 319 - Superliner coach, Superliner baggage-coach, Superliner sleeper, Superliner diner - VIA Tempo electrical generator car 15301. In June 1985, the Super Continental was reinstated between Winnipeg and Vancouver over CN trackage. On September 20, 1985, the westbound Super was at Portage at 2240, with: 6306 - 6604 - 9637 - 3204 - 510 - Excelsior - Elgin - Chateau Iberville - 764.
Running Extra...
Winnipeg author Peter Lacey is working on a new book on the Midland Railway of Manitoba. This interesting railway was one of a handful of American railroad lines in Canada. Peter's work is still in the research stages, but promises to be a well-researched account of what would become Burlington Northern Manitoba Limited, now operated by BNSF. The seemingly out-of-place operation reminded me of the presence of a castle full of rebellious French knights in Monty Python and the Holy Grail. King Arthur: "Well, what are you, then? Man: "I'm French. Why do you think I have this outrageous accent, you silly King!" Sir Galahad: "What are you doing in England?" Man:"Mind your own business!"