Tuesday, November 5, 2013

The RDC and Me

November marks the 60th anniversary of the introduction of the Rail Diesel Car in Canada. I rode VIA RDC's on three routes, though I'd hoped it had been four. I also watched their shimmering silver shapes streak by from trackside. The RDC's adaptability, flexibility and universality kept it in use from coast to coast on VIA's network until the 1990 cuts. With no suitable replacements upon the enacting of the massive VIA cuts of 1990, VIA's fleet found work elsewhere, in Quebec, Dallas and Cuba. Exhaust spews skyward from 6204-6114-6001-6110 at 1600 on February 15, 1981 at Kingston (above).

When I began observing and recording trains in earnest, some of my first observations were Montreal West Island CP commuter RDC consists of three to eleven Budd cars in July 1975! At the age of 12, early mornings trackside along CN's Kingston Sub often began with the westward Ontarian at 0730. Returning on an afternoon run from Toronto to Kingston, the eastbound VIA No 652 arrived at Kingston at 1545, exchanging passengers and departing for Toronto at 1615 as VIA No 655. In 1976, those times were a little earlier, and this train was a little late, so it only stayed at Kingston for 21 minutes, from 1550 to 1611. The engineer is settling into 6116 for the return trip, with 6002-6115 in tow:
Braces of two to four RDC-1s, RDC-2s, RDC3s and RDC-9s would rocket out of Kingston station for Toronto, in full cry by the time I'd see them 12 miles to the west.  On September 9, 1979 6116 and 6121 (still in CN colours) are whizzing westward through the superelevated curve at Mi 183 Kingston Sub. Oh, for a saw.
The Ontarian was a convenient link to Toronto, for day trips there or to begin trips farther west on VIA to Winnipeg. Blasting along CN's Kingston Subdivision, I counted seconds between mileposts.  
On August 31, 1981 I rode the single Budd car RDC-1 6129 (above) from Calgary to South Edmonton, meeting southbound VIA train 196 with RDC-1 6124 at Innisfail. A 15-minute stop at CP's Red Deer station allowed passengers to buy snacks from vending machines at the station! Less than a year later, I would make 6124's acquaintance again, this time at Winnipeg's East Yard near Union Station. Coming out second-best against a truck, the hard-luck car was sheathed in plywood awaiting repairs on June 10, 1982:
6124 was on the last Calgary-Edmonton train in September, 1985. Watch for a future post on the dangers of this high-speed intercity western run! A 1 hour 15 minute trip to Lachute, Quebec on Montreal-Ottawa VIA train 171 in May 1981 was not to be, replaced by a CP F and conventional equipment, though a deadhead Dayliner tagged along behind. The following month, I was able to see Toronto-Niagara Falls Railiners skirt the shoreline at Bayview Junction, some still wearing CN's black windowband. On June 22, 1981 6121-6356 were on VIA Nos 639-640 between Toronto and the Falls.
I also rode VIA train 663 (6113-6005-6123) from Toronto to London in March 1984 on a Corridor Canrailpass. Returning from Toronto to Kingston, one of our three-car brace (6211-6004-6132) on train 656 caught fire at Belleville! Overnighting at Kingston's Outer Station on Montreal Street, the Ontarian was a local fixture, with the service eventually replaced by an F-unit and blue & yellow coaches. Disc brakes equip 6110 at Kingston:
Though some excellent books have covered RDC's in detail in Canadian service, I took the opportunity to update information in my second book, Trackside with VIA: Cross-Canada Compendium, including the renumbering and rebuilding of CN and CP RDC's for VIA. I also added RDC consist information on RDC's used by VIA in service on Vancouver Island, Alberta, Northern Ontario, the Corridor and Atlantic Canada.

I enjoyed riding the RDC's as a dynamic, convenient form of transportation. While railfans will ponder and discuss the impact of the RDC on Canadian rail transportation now - sixty years later - the spiderweb of lines across Canada that heard and felt the throb and rush of RDC's was extensive. Urban and rural communitites, CN and CP, commuters and daytrippers alike were served well by this versatile vehicle. The fact that a few RDC's still serve VIA Rail today speaks to their enduring nature! Budd Co. ad from 1954:

Interestingly, a unique RDC move took place on October 29, as recently-completed 6219, 6208 and 6251 and LRC cars 3310, 3320 and 3362 from CAD/IRSI were added behind the Park car of an otherwise Renaissance-equipped VIA No 15 from Moncton to Montreal. Terry Muirhead kindly supplied a Chris McMahon photo of these cars taken at Moncton awaiting their lift and trip westward. These RDC's have been made accessible, with heated lifts, interior tie-downs and washrooms. The $2 million cost even included snowplows. In July 2023, and maybe for some time before, 6251 was in the deadline at VIA's Montreal Maintenance Centre.

Running extra...

As a regular reader, all remaining items in the Trackside Treasure November sale can now be claimed at 20% off by mentioning code "20"  in your email message. Many unique items still available!

Speaking of enduring, storied careers, here's Yahoo's take on the career of the great #4, Bobby Orr. Having just released his autobiography, Bobby is conducting interviews on his short but stellar career. At the zenith of Bobby's decade-long career, I was somewhere between 4 and 10. When playing on the driveway, road, pond or rink, I did not own a Montreal jersey, I did not wear a Toronto jersey. I proudly wore a kids' Bruins jersey.

Permit me a personal tribute to my late next-door neighbour as Remembrance Day approaches, Lieutenant-Colonel J. S. MacAulay. Born in Cape Breton, Stu was a member of the Black Watch (Royal Highland Regiment of Canada), serving in Germany and Cyprus before retiring as Admin Officer for Canadian Forces Base Kingston. Stu is front and centre in this photo of the 1965 Canadian Army Rifle Team at Bisley, England. A blue jay seen from our window speaks to us of you, Stu.


Michael said...

My Dad tells me stories of working for the Canadian Pacific in Windsor, where the RDCs would end up. His jobs included cleaning out these cars. He often told he found money and liquor bottles. His impression was, when CP began running its passenger service at odd hours, as a way of ridding itself of the passenger service burden, those who still travelled on the late-night Budds were rowdies.

Eric said...

That was likely exactly what CP was trying to do, Michael. Easier to justify discontinuance when ridership figures 'mysteriously' begin to plummet.

I too can recall the Kingston police showing up at our station to remove a passenger or two from the Cavalier in the early hours.

I once read that the best place to find loose money is in a parking lot...especially the parking lot of a bar!

Wilco has a nice assortment of CP Dayliner photos at some unusual places like Smiths Falls:


Thanks for your memories and comments,

Robert in Port Townsend said...

Budd's RDC - Rail Diesel Car - proved to be a remarkable solution for many transportation problems, measuring locomotive crews versus two man crews.

The RDC made possible rail transportation to many. Reliable and and cost effective.

I had the privilege of riding one of the last E&N runs on Vancouver Island, in the compact cab, with full uninterpreted coverage from Shenanigan Lake to the famous Blue Bride in Victoria, now being replaced with a "new" bridge.

If only to know how to transfer the video - High Eight - to computer video ....

Eric said...

Thanks for your comment, Robert. I'd already searched Oil-Electric for RDCs and read up on your coverage of these unique cars.

Definitely compact cabs - I didn't have the opportunity to ride in one, but saw plenty of them start and end their runs at Kingston station. There was room the operator and not much more!

If you ever get the footage transferred, it would be great to see that ride!


Ron said...

I understand that CN 6110 was originally a Budd demonstrator and the "disc brakes" were in fact a different sort of truck, the Pioneer truck which was used on some Budd electric equipment but not on other RDCs. Ron

Eric said...

Thanks for that additional information, Ron. At the time, I didn't know everything about what I was looking at, but I sure knew it was different!