VIA's Canadian was the only Toronto-Vancouver train from late-1981 to mid-1984. While not as varied as the trains of the 1979 rainbow (more pertinent to Amtrak) or circus train (RBB&B or Strates shows?) era, nor as frequent as the two daily transcons through Portage before the 1981 cuts, these F-hauled trains still included ex-CN and ex-CP cars, sometimes alternating i.e. coaches, diners, sleepers. Giving us a glimpse of VIA's car rotations you'll notice the eastbound consist of No 2 returning from Vancouver a few days after the westbound consist of No 1. I'll note some interesting variations in the consists below, most of which have accompanying photos.
Above, No 1 at White River, Ontario on May 27: 6510-6619-612-107-3228-763-5715-Edgeley-Amherst Manor-Craig Manor-Champlain-Thompson Manor-Chateau Vercheres-Prince Albert Park (no Skyline car), and below as Budd and the CPR intended, draped like a stainless steel curtain around the edge of a shimmering lake in the wilds of northern Ontario:
No 1 at MacGregor, Manitoba at 1541 on May 29: 6504-6603-616-5654-3235-510-3226-Everett Manor- Lorne Manor-Fraser Manor-1349-Dawson Manor - Chateau Dollier - Banff Park (no Dayniter nor 100-series coach, but two of the ubiquitous 3200's).
I caught No 2 at the hotbox detector about 6 miles east of MacGregor the same day at 1623: 6505-6602...506-Egerton-Brant Manor-Grant Manor...Kootenay Park. Partial consist only because this 12-car thing was going like stink!
For a going-away shot of Kootenay Park and the detector, see this post on hotbox detectors. On May 30, No 1 was passing through East Tower at 1447, with the first of the ex-CP rebuilt F's I'd see on this visit: 6553-6615-617-126-3223-504-5700-Chateau Argenson-Christie Manor-Rogers Manor-1363-Ennishore-Chateau Jolliet-Evangeline Park (two Chateau cars). Rebuilt at CN Pointe Ste Charles on July 4, 1980 to CN standards, 6553's peeling paint with CP Rail action red belies its heritage, as does its painted-out VIA nose logo. Having worked on the Algoma Central, the unit now belongs to the West Coast Railway Association.
Also on May 30, No 2's station stop at Portage at 1709 allows an extreme closeup view of 6566's snout. Consist: 6566-6610-6614-602-110-3243-511-5723-Elgin Manor-Osler Manor-Draper Manor-1367-Stuart Manor-Chateau Lemoyne-Kokanee Park (two B-units). Rebuilt at PSC on November 26, 1980, 6566 would be lost in the tragic Hinton derailment less two years later.
A morning of grain elevator photography to the north led me back to Portage in time for No 1 and No 2, and you can find photos and consists in this post about a hot afternoon and a cool spot in the shade on May 31. June 1 found me east of Portage in the morning, again returning for an (overcast) afternoon of trains, including No 1 on the VIA connecting track at West Tower at 1509: 6550-6605-609-100-3242-502-5703-Clearwater River-Blair Manor-Elizabeth-1371-Bliss Manor-Chateau Roberval-Yoho Park.(River car still in service) A later PSC rebuild in July 1981, 6550 returned to CP, renumbered 1400 in Royal Canadian Pacific service.
Strangely unphotographed (?raining) No 2 on June 1: 6507-6653-513-612-3220-500-5715-Burton Manor-Edgeley-Amherst Manor-Craig Manor-Champlain-Thompson Manor-Chateau Vercheres-Prince Albert Park (deadheading Skyline behind the power). My original consist heading west except for four cars swapped out. On June 2 we're off to Brandon, as No 2 slides in at 1422: 6504-6616-616-5654-3235-516-5728-Everett-Lorne Manor-Fraser Manor-1349-Dawson Manor-Chateau Dollier-Banff Park (no stainless steel coach). Same consist as May 29 except for two replacement cars. Interestingly, I saw the last No 109 pass through Brandon this same day, with the first Panorama (Winnipeg-Edmonton-Prince Rupert) the next day).
Gaining CP rails at Shepp from the CN-CP connecting track, here's No 1 on June 4 at 1505: 6553-6615-6613-507-602-129-3213-511-5723-Deep River-Elgin Manor-Bell Manor-Eureka-1367-Hunter Manor-Chateau Lauzon-Kokanee Park. Some similarities, but seven differences from No 2's consist of May 30 (deadheading Skyline). Rebuilt at PSC in April 1982, 6557 is now in Cranbrook BC.
At 1620, No 2 gains CN Rivers Sub rails after a westbound CN train of BC-bound lumber empties including up to nine Thrall All-Door boxcars: 6557-6617-601-5622-3202-501-5738-Naiscoot River-Cameron Manor-Laird Manor-1364-Monck Manor-Chateau Richelieu-Revelstoke Park (again no 100-series coach, three Manors, no E-series), same as No 1's May 31 consist. No 1 was due at Portage at 1457 and No 2 at 1640, meaning this No 2 has done some fast running on CP's Carberry Sub:
Near the CP crossing of the Trans-Canada Highway, No 1 heads west at 1512 on June 5: 6557-6617-617-110-3243-514-5746-Riviere Cloche-Amherst Manor-Craig Manor-1338-Stuart Manor-Chateau Denonville-Laurentide Park:
CP lends VIA a hand the same day at 1640, as SD40-2 5809 leads 6606-6652-609-100-3242-502-5703-Clearwater River-Blair Manor-Elizabeth-1371-Bliss Manor-Chateau Roberval-Yoho Park, identical to No 1 of June 1. Making an already unfriendly engineer even unfriendlier, this rescue unit-led train wasted no time getting out of town. The only rebuilt ex-CP F-unit I missed seeing during this trip was 6569. Perhaps 5809 had replaced it? Like the others, 6569 spent ensuing years in Corridor service, now preserved in Squamish BC.
6652, one of three ex-CP B-units rebuilt to CN standards (watch for an upcoming post) was westbound on No 1 at 1507 on June 6: 6566-6652-615-104-3240-500-5715-Nashwaak River-Lorne Manor-Burton Manor-Wascana-Franklin Manor-Chateau Lemoyne-Prince Albert Park unphotographed in the rain, unlike No 2 at West Tower at 1630: 6507 (like 6504 above, your ditchlights connection is showing)-6603-Eureka-606-118-3236-505-5701-Chateau Papineau-Bayfield Manor-Hearne Manor-1340-Macdonald Manor-Chateau Latour-Assiniboine Park (deadheading E-series behind the power):
Heading east from Winnipeg aboard No 2, we met No 1 west of Franz at 1622 on June 8: 6531-6633-601-126-3223-509-5738-Naiscoot River-Blair Manor-Laird Manor-1364-Ennishore-Chateau Jolliet-Revelstoke Park.
Then, nearing Franz, taken from the vestibule of Dufferin Manor, as clouds scud across a tree-trimmed northern Ontario sky:
No 2 safely tucked under the trainshed at Toronto Union on the morning of June 9 after its long eastward journey: 6542-6616-Edgeley-604-108-3215-506-5752-Warpath River-Osler Manor-Draper Manor-1374-Dufferin Manor-Chateau Varennes-Kootenay Park.
If this post has whetted your appetite for more consists, you'll find a greater selection in my Consist Companion as well as much more information on the ex-CP F's in my Cross-Canada Compendium. I hope you enjoyed this trip back in time riding and railfanning the Canadian almost 30 years ago, as much as I did. Possibly my favourite Trackside Treasure post. Ever.
Though Rapido Trains' products will eventually equip modellers to reproduce these steam-heated consists, (ex-CN B-units just announced), the blue-stripe VIA stainless steel cars will be the last of the Budd sets produced, with CPR and CP Rail cars preceding them. But no modelled Canadian in this era would be complete without a CP Rail SD40-2 on the point once in awhile. Or C-424, RS18u or Century, especially in eastern Canada.
I like this time of year. I like Christmas, and I even like Christmas shopping. Because it's one of the few times of the year I can see my lost, wandering brethren in the malls and stores, looking for that the perfect gift for the people on their list, ball caps on, bewilderment on their faces and scribbled lists in hand. Trudge on, modern-day Wenceslases! There's tons of shopping time left!