Saturday, August 10, 2013

VIA's HEP Baggage Cars, Part 2

In Part 1, we looked at the use of non-HEP ex-CP baggage cars with LRC equipment in Corridor service in 1991-1992. An LRC-equipped train with the baggage car behind the locomotive streaks over the Napanee River bridge in August 1991 (above). These baggage cars were released from their HEP conversions as follows: 612 on July 7, 1993 (see below); 613 on June 9, 1993; and 615 on September 24, 1993. As part of the HEP1 program, all VIA's baggages received a solid blue letterboard above the windows with an "8" added to their number, joining the 8600-series. (HEP2 Corridor coaches and club cars received a blue/yellow letterboard and were numbered in the 4000 and 4100-series respectively.)

In the late 1980's, VIA acquired one dome-observation (built for D&RGW), four baggage cars (built for RI and CB&Q) and seven dome coaches (built for CB&Q, D&RGW, SP&S and WP), some languishing at Ottawa Union Station. Intended as part of the HEP1 rebuilding program at CN's Pointe St Charles facility, the January 1990 cuts made these cars unnecessary, and they were sold or stored. However, six ex-UP baggages that had been acquired by VIA in 1991 were converted to HEP.

These cars, the last ones built for 'Uncle Pete' in 1963 by Budd, were acquired along with 18 ex-US railroad coaches, tendered for rebuilding by Septa Rail in Montreal for long-distance service, with the first cars released to VIA in September 1992. Upon Septa's bankruptcy on March 16, 1993, AMF at PSC completed the cars, the last by June 1994. The cars' Railway Post Office section's interior partitions were removed, with the windows plated over.

Here are the cars' VIA numbers, (UP numbers), date accepted by VIA, and date of my first observation of each:
8618 (5907) February 26/93, April 6/93:
8619 (5909) May 31/93, October 15/93
8620 (5910) October 23/92, January 24/94. Here's 8620 on the Ocean at Montreal's Central Station, behind 6435-6436 on August 22, 1996:
8621 (5906) March 11/93, March 14/93 (On VIA No 64, behind 6429 and 7 LRC cars, soon after being released!)
then again on No 64 on April 24, 1993 two photos (below):

8622 (5903) December 16/92, May 14/93
8623 (5905) December 8/92, December 17/93

By very late 1992 and early 1993, the ex-UP baggage cars became a fixture in the Corridor, as well as eastern Canada and occasionally western Canada. They remain in service today; 8618 'waves the flag' on No 55 at Kingston on September 2, 2011:
The HEP'd 612 still operates in the Corridor as 8612, shown here on No 60 also on September 2, 2011. ATV+baggage cart span the decades of baggage-handling!

Running extra...

Randy O'Brien sent along some photos of an interesting way of modelling the Prairies. If you don't have a lot of real estate for full-size grain elevators, or they're not right for your modern era, consider a grain elevator memorial park. Garden railway-size models of a town's former prairie giants, appropriately painted and lettered, placed in the town park. Here's Yellow Grass, Saskatchewan's memorial:
Did you notice the newest United Grain Growers (Agricore United) elevator at the top right corner of Randy's photo? It's the only elevator still extant in Yellow Grass, and is an example of UGG's last pre-concrete wooden elevator design. Here's Yellow Grass' elevator row as I photographed it in 1985, with the new UGG elevator at far right:

Go railfanning with Michael Hammond in his most recent post to his fine blog The Beachburg Sub. One never knows what's lurking in the weeds...

Bust a move with NBC Nightly News' Brian Williams! And I thought I had too much time on my hands :)


Mark Charlebois said...

Hey Eric,

Awesome post! I had the pleasure of finaly being on a HEP 2 corridor consist with checked bags guess it, the ex UP RPO. I can also attest to your claim that the prairies aren't flat as I just completed a coast to near coast trip. I also saw the awesome CP station, angus van and RPO at Portage la Prairie.

You spoke of the 4 former Rock Island and CBQ's bags that were bought but not converted. Where they the same as the CBQ 73'Budds used on the Cal Zephyr or did both classes differ from one another? I remember seeing and photographing a former ATSF Budd combine at the MMC, wonder if it would have been put in corridor or Churchill service had it been converted.

Bryan said...


Thanks for pointing out that Ottawa-based railfanning blog. I'll have to bookmark that one.

I have an idea for future blog posts, if you haven't already covered them in the past (and I somehow missed it): VIA's Enterprise, and the combined Ottawa/Montreal trains. I seem to recall the combined trains splitting at Kingston rather than Brockville once upon a time, though I expect I'm wrong. Also, I'm not sure if you ever caught the Enterprise layover on camera, but if there is someone out there with a blog about it, it would be you!


Eric said...

Hi Mark, Thanks for your comments, and it was good to hear you have had some good trips by rail recently. Now the relics are preserved at Portage, instead of operating in daily CP service!

I observed VIA 618 at Ottawa on February 7, 1994. The Rock Island lettering was still visible. The cuts to VIA service certainly made the US-acquired domes superfluous.

Jerry LaBoda's website at has photos of some of the CB&Q and RI sister cars, though not the exact ones acquired by VIA for possible conversion. The CB&Q car was built for the Twin Cities Zephyr, 1947.

It would indeed appear that these US baggages were shorter cars than the CP Budd equipment, and we're left to wonder how VIA would have utilized them and how they would have looked next to Budd equipment. What might have been...


Eric said...

Hi Bryan,

I'm pleased to promote Michael Hammond's website because his enthusiasm and interest is obvious.

You have raised an excellent suggestion. We've had income splitting, atom splitting and I see no reason why train splitting couldn't be added to that list.

Generally, trains splitting at Kingston included one consist staying here, while splitting at Brockville generally included Montreal/Ottawa sections. I was usually getting a good night's sleep during the Enterprise era, save for some early-morning forays.

That's not to say I can't cobble together something in true Trackside Treasure fashion!

Thanks for your comments, suggestion and enthusiasm!