Sunday, December 26, 2010

The Northlander at Washago

Ontario Northland 's Northlander departs Toronto Union Station six days a week, heading north on an eleven hour schedule to Cochrane. On Thanksgiving Monday just before 1030, travelers crowd the platform at Washago, Ontario as the train approaches from the south. Aside from the tug on the coupler as a train journey starts, the moments of anticipation as the train approaches are among the highlights of any trip.
The train paused at a signal at Washago station, before pulling ahead a few carlengths to board the passengers, some of whom had arrived at the station on a tour bus. We were driving back to Kingston, after a fall getaway in the Horseshoe Valley resort area, and a short sidetrip brought us to Washago. Timing is everything, and the hubbub at the station made us stick around to see the northbound arrive, moments after we pulled off Highway 169 into the parking lot. The Quetton Street level crossing and Highway 11 overpass are just beyond the signal:
The green needles of a majestic pine and some remaining colourful deciduous leaves form a bright backdrop for ONR Electric Generator Unit 204, converted from a disembowelled former Milwaukee Road unit. Former Trans-European Express trains provided service on this route, and one is now a restaurant back in the Netherlands, in Amsterdam, with other cars rusting away in North Bay.
The journey begins for these travelers. I rode a Northlander consist like this one in 1994 between Toronto and Timmins, although arrival in Timmins was on a bus from Matheson. This memorable trip will be profiled in an upcoming post.
Dying weeds line the ballast as the train accelerates away from the station. Here's a similar view of a CN freight passing a 1979 excursion train behind CN 4-8-2 6060 on this curve.
The consist of the Northlander: 1809-204-604-601-609-700. GP38-2 1809 built in 1984, the four coaches and one snack car are former GO Transit equipment built in 1967.
Just about to disappear up the Bala Sub. Washago was the junction of the CN's Newmarket and Bala Subs until 1996, when CN abandoned the Barrie-Washago section of the Newmarket. I can remember an earlier trip through Washago, waking up here to see a CN freight diverging. Like many former junctions, activity at Washago is much reduced, with extraneous trackage removed. After the Northlander departs, a section crew sorting material is the only rail-related activity in Washago.
Over in Orillia, the Ossawippi Express restaurant and patio is up for sale. Great waterfront location at Lake Couchiching. The operation comprises eight former CP, CN, and DAR passenger equipment and a former interurban. Ex-CN baggage 9180 and express-refrigerator 10627 provided storage.
Running extra...

Was Santa good to you? Respondents to Trackside Treasure's pre-Christmas poll indicated that almost half were looking for railway models under the tree, with others hoping for railway books and memorabilia and photos. Seems a large part of Trackside Treasure's readership is involved in modelling what they recall, or what's rolling by today.

Looking for a gift that gives newsy, enjoyable reading year long? I've been fortunate for several years now to receive the Bytown Railway Society Branchline - Canada's Rail News Magazine (thanks D&S!). Each month it brings a wealth of information, photos, recollections and data for the discerning rail aficianado.

An occasional CN freight and VIA trains 52 and 53 were rolling by early on Christmas morning. VIA crews could look forward to a free turkey dinner. VIA 1 crews were also providing goodies to their colleagues in the cab.


Zartok-35 said...

Nice pictures. Merrry Christmas! I hope you're enjoying yourself i nthe holiday season.

Did you ever see the TEE trainsets in service on the ONR? That would make for an interesting post, if you have, anyway. That was always a neat setup.

Eric said...

Merry Christmas to you too, Elijah, and all the best for 2011.
I did see the ONR TEE train at Railway Days in Belleville about 30 years ago.

When I rode to Timmins and return, it was in the ex-GO commuter equipment, in a service for which it was never intended.