Saturday, July 21, 2012

Then and Now: Domes on the Kingston Sub 1981-2012

VIA Budd stainless steel equipment returned to CN's Kingston Sub for one day, heading west from Montreal on July 16.  A five-car HEP consist pulled by F40PH-2 6405 was chartered for the cross-country Skrillex Full Flex tour.  For those unfamiliar with Skrillex, it is not a method of rodent pest control, nor a high-tech firm.  Skrillex is a person - an electronic music performance artist and producer, embarking on a six-city tour, with concerts in Toronto July 13, Ottawa July 14, Montreal July 15, Winnipeg July 18, Edmonton July 20 and Vancouver July 22.  

Though publicized several weeks ago online and in print media, I received a heads-up about the Montreal-Toronto leg on Sunday night.  Fortunately, the train was scheduled to leave Montreal early Monday morning, estimated arrival in Belleville at 0639 (very precise timekeeping!) so observing it on my way to work would be easy.  I was trackside by 0500. No CN freights were operating, though VIA No 651: 6407-3470-3338-3300-3341 snaked out of Queens and into the station to pick up its first passengers for Toronto at 0520:

Then, at 0650, a bright headlight leading a glistening consist came curving through Queens, to the east.  Dome car visible? Check.  This was the Skrillex special, operating as VIA train No 3:
Due in Winnipeg in 36 hours, No 3 was moving.  The consist: 6405-8616-Chateau Bienville-Chateau Brule-Frontenac-Assiniboine Park.  The notion of a pocket streamliner on the Kingston Sub in 2012, though hard to believe, had come to pass.  Be sure to read about the train's progress farther west in Adam Walker's excellent Walker Express post here.
But this was not a first.  Ex-CP stainless steel cars had been operated by VIA through Kingston in years past. VIA trains 1 and 2, the Canadian, ran here between November 1981 and March 1984. For just over two years, while the Budd cars were serviced at Glen Yard in Montreal, and the Montreal-Sudbury section of the Canadian had been cut, the whole consist ran on CN's Kingston Sub between Toronto and Montreal, with Corridor cars tacked on as Nos 2/44/54 at midday eastbound (below at Mi 182 Kingston Sub) and 1/55 in the evening westbound.
I was able to see one of the first such evening westbound consists on November16, 1981 and midday eastbound on November 17.  It was amazing to see domes, both Skyline and Parks, plus stainless steel baggage cars, coaches and sleepers, intended by Canadian Pacific to promote viewing of the splendours of the Rockies, rocketing through humble Ernestown and Amherstview, before stopping in Kingston.  In August 1982, 6784-6863-CN 3109 and 13 cars of No 2 meet VIA No 53 with 6771-6622 and 7 cars just before noon at Kingston:
Steam-emitting Park car and MLW FPA4 share the platform:
Escaping steam belied the pre-HEP nature of these Skyline, Chateau and Park cars, and was especially  useful during a cold winter in early 1982:

On a couple of occasions, the Canadian was delayed west of Toronto. The VIA No 44/54 cars would head east on their normal schedule, with the cars from No 2 heading east on the Kingston Sub later in the day, such as March 9, 1984 at 1920 hours, over seven hours late!
Heading east to Montreal, VIA No 2/44/54 rolls out of Kingston with the mix of ex-CP stainless steel and ex-CN blue & yellow cars apparent.  I was fortunate to collect over 200 dome-equipped Canadian consists on CN's Kingston Sub during this short time, all included in my book on VIA Rail.
November 27, 1982 sees 6780-6867-6612 with 11 cars and Waterton Park on the tail end, snapped having just crossed Counter Street and passing through the Queens West interlocking.  Notice the wooden mileage marker at rigiht, for the small culvert here:
In March 1984, the Glen era ended.  The remaining stainless steel cars were deadheaded to Toronto in several movements, to be maintained at Spadina coach yard.  This meant that through sleepers, coaches and meal cars still operated between Toronto and Montreal, but other sleepers and domes were removed in Toronto Union Station.  On May 7, 1984 VIA No 1 is domeless, departing Kingston behind 6775-6863 with 9 cars:
Interestingly, other ex-CN cars not usually seen in the Corridor substituted for stainless steel cars at times: E-series sleepers, Mount-series sleepers and 1300-series diners.  As the number of conventionally-equipped trains dropped throughout the next several years, Friday and Sunday evening VIA train Nos 168 and 169 were used to move stainless steel cars maintained at VIA's Montreal Maintenance Centre since the closure of Spadina, from the Canadian between Toronto and Montreal.  On July 26, 1991 Strathcona Park brings up the markers (two sets, actually) of a four-car No 169 behind 6452:
Stainless steel sleepers would later operate on the overnight Cavaliers, and a decade later on the Enterprise.  The sun was truly setting on the Kingston Sub domes, except for the short-lived Skrillex solar flare.  I wonder if on the journey he stuck his head out a Dutch door as I had done, riding east out of Toronto in a Chateau vestibule in 1984 and enjoying the reflection on stainless steel?  If he had, there would not be a VIA FP9 coming the other way:
Running extra...

I found it unsettling to look  up, way up from the Kingston station platform and see passengers in the dome looking down at me from that lofty height - same for Park car lounge occupants with drinks in hand.  The Canadian cars still ply their trade westward.  Recent summer-length trains through Winnipeg include July 14 6401-6452-20 cars with Banff Park on the tail end, July 16 No 1 with 6411-6434-21 cars with Tremblant Park.  Always classy.

Just finished listening to BBC War Reports World War Two : On Air. Gripping early eyewitness radio transmissions including the withdrawal from Dunkirk, the desperate London Blitz and the hard-fought beaches of Normandy.  Only late in the war were bulky, portable transmitters feasible, a far cry from today's satellite phones.  A rare document in history, full of rawness and immediacy.

While on a visit to our local Canadian Tire store today, I was amazed in the lawn and garden section to find a box containing a Solar-Powered Rock, used as a garden ornament.  Just sounds strange to me, as did a package of three All-Purpose Cloths.  "Crappy Tire" really does sell everything under the sun, don't they?


Adam Walker said...

Great narrative and great shots of a now by-gone era. Seeing the blend of stainless steel and blue-and-yellow cars makes me wish I was a little bit older to perhaps have seen it first hand.

Had Skrillex taken a peek out the side of one of his cars, he would be more likely to see an SD75 now a days! I'm curious as to whether this consist will be disassembled at Vancouver or if it will come back across Canada to Toronto to be handled at TMC. It made me laugh that Assiniboine Park was at the tail of this one; in my observations of the Canadian, Yoho and Assiniboine are almost always the ones bringing up the rear.


Eric said...

Thanks for your kind comments, Adam. The stainless steel and blue & yellow cars didn't match in some respects, but the blue letterboard stripe on the ex-CP cars helped. A few examples of vestibule views from this post:

You're right about Skrillex possibly getting a face-ful of SD75 :) Hope to hear some more reports of the train out and/or back from the west coast.


BArailsystem said...

Rodent pest control made me lol. Great post.

Eric said...

Thanks BA, for your comments. Everyone to whom I said 'Skrillex' thought I said squirrel, hence my attempt at humour. Obviously, younger people are familiar with his name and his work. Not my cup of tea, but railfans everywhere should be happy with this rare VIA charter event.

Anonymous said...

This post has brought on a bit of nostalgia for overnight Toronto-Montreal trains. I had regretted not riding the Cavalier back in the day, although I suppose I shouldn't be too hard on myself since I was only 10 when it stopped running. I finally got my chance to ride the Enterprise, but it certainly didn't last that long. If only the Skrillex special wasn't a one-off!

(Incidentally, remember the MuchMusic cross country train of 1990 or thereabouts?)

Eric said...

Thanks for your comments, A. The Cavalier was handy for late night returns to Kingston from Tor, Mtl or Ott. You're right, the Enterprise was short-lived. (Notice I didn't have any station photos of it - although I did make a point of getting at least one photo of Kingston Sub's other domeliner before it was cancelled.)

I do remember watching the MuchMusic coverage at the time - Northern Pikes performing "She Ain't Pretty, She Just Looks that Way" from an open baggage car door at Hornepayne or some other northern stop at 0300 for local fans. They rocked it. Didn't hear about Skrillex performing en route.

I did hear a recent report of a fan waiting for the Skrillex train at Kamloops, seemed to be running late.