Thursday, February 26, 2015

Early-era VIA in Thunder Bay

Brian Martyniuk of Thunder Bay is a stalwart Northern Ontario railfan. Over a year ago, Bryan and I started discussing early-era VIA operations in the Thunder Bay area. Brian kindly shared photos for my posts on the Diefenbaker Funeral Train and CPR 5468. And now, I'm pleased to be able to share some of Brian's fine 'T Bay' area photos showing VIA operations, along with  caption information for the photos in this post. Though I've been through beautiful Thunder Bay  riding aboard VIA, I'm not a Lakehead railfan. To the photos...the first photo Brian sent me (above) is momentous: VIA No 1 with 1409-8558 near Mi 27 CP Kaministiquia Sub in March, 1980. 
Seven miles west and two years earlier (above) the Canadian - led by CP 1407 is just west of Finmark, around Mi 34, climbing the grade out of the Kam River valley. At this time, left-hand running was the norm between Winnipeg and Thunder Bay. This is almost a complete Canadian - one of everything except for the deadhead coach behind the roadswitcher. 
VIA No 2 with 1418-CP 8560 is at Mi 0.5, with the east end of CP's Westfort yard visible at the curve in the distance (above). Arriving at the CP station in Thunder Bay on a warm July, 1980 evening, the train has entered the yard limits on the east mainline and a yardman has lined the train across the west mainline and into depot one track. In the distance (below) a westbound freight waits for No 2 to clear; an eastbound occupies the adjacent track and a yard movement is on the lead on the next track over. All movements come to a standstill until the passenger comes to a complete stop. Boxcars for moving grain are parked on the track adjacent to Saskatchewan Pool #8 terminal elevator. Their days are limited as more and more hopper cars are being introduced to take grain products to port. This image was taken from the Vickers Street bridge which is connected to the upper level of CP's jackknife bridge across the Kaministiquia River. That vantage point is long gone now. 
It is an extremely cold morning in February, 1982. VIA No 2 with locomotives 6508-6602-6510 is running late. Somehwere along its journey, the usual Park car has been set out, likely on account of frozen water or steam lines. Up until November 1981, the Canadian would have been led by ex-CP units on CP lines, but once the Super Continental was cut, ex-CN locomotives immediately began pulling the Canadian. The red-and-white brick Prince Arthur Hotel, built by the Canadian Northern Railway, is seen directly above the last car. The Shoreline Hotel is the white, rectangular structure and the taller building behind is the former James Whalen building, now called the Public Utilities Commission building. While all these buildings remain intact, this view is now obstructed by a bridge over the tracks into the redeveloped marina.
A 1999 view of CP No 408 with engines 5788-6017-6063 shows the now-obstructed view, though as Bryan notes, it's a new looking-down photographic opportunity!
Whenever there was a derailment on the CP between Winnipeg and Thunder bay, VIA would reroute No 1 and No 2 by way of CN trackage from Winnipeg on the CN Redditt and Allanwater Subs to Superior Junction, then the entire CN Graham Sub to Conmee Junction and then the balance of the CN Kashabowie Sub through the Neebing yard and then over the CN Mission Spur to the transfer track with CP at the west end of Westfort yard and finally down to the CP station in Fort William. No 2 with 6542-6626 pulls by the station at Kakabeka Falls in double-track territory on a snowy day in October, 1982:
At Westfort, No 2 has traversed the transfer track from CN Mission Spur and is stopped on the running lead waiting for the conductor to line the switch for track A-1 at the west end of CP's Westfort Yard. CP's double track main line is adjacent and the signals protect the crossovers at Mi 2.3 (Westfort) on CP's Kaministiquia Sub.
No 2 has cleared Current Junction, which is just out of sight around the bend. The towering elevators along the waterfront present the first view passengers travelling westward would see as the train arrives at the outskirts of Thunder Bay. Note the CN boxcars used for grain shipments parked in CN's Current River yard. Current Junction is the end of CN's Kinghorn Sub. At this point, CN trains use CP rails to get to Port Arthur yard.
It is October, 1985. VIA No 1 led by 6313-6628-6625 has arrived at the east switch at Flett, on CN's Graham Subdivision. VIA rerouted their trains on CN tracks due to a derailment on the CP somewhere between Winnipeg and Thunder Bay. The Graham Sub is train order territory, and No 1 is to hold the mainline at Flett until eastbound No 278 arrives and takes the siding:
Not only is this rare mileage - equally rare would be a meet between transcontinental No 1 and the twice-weekly train from Thunder Bay to Sioux Lookout and return. While I managed to capture an image of No 1 arriving at the east switch, I was expecting the train to stop, but it did not! No 1 only slowed to a crawl. Fortunately, No 278 appeared in just enough time for me to get an image of the tail end on the main, and No 278 on the siding before the Canadian disappeared westward.
Bryan sent some interesting photos of cylindrical grain cars at the Lakehead. In February 1981, he caught ALPX 628147 with the original two-colour Alberta Heritage Fund logo:
An absolutely unique cutaway view of ALPX 628503 in May, 2002. The car was involved in a rollover derailment while loaded, and the side removed to facilitate unloading and rerailing. The Alberta administration wished to have new plates welded along the car side. (Brian wrote an excellent illustrated article on ALPX covered hoppers, published in CPHA's CP Tracks magazine issue 8-4.)

Running extra...

It is no secret that the late 70s-early 80s are my favourite VIA era. At just the right moment, I'll publish a post on that Circus-train Era! Speaking of which...two photos of 'grey-ghost' VIA 6532 at Spadina Shops were just shared by Marty Cahill on Facebook. Since there are so few photos of this unique 1980 creation around, I'm posting them here for fellow grey-ghost fans. Minty new paint!

SNL 40 was amazing! Highlights: Jeopardy with Alec Baldwin as Tony Bennett (great, great, great), Miley Cyrus singing 50 Ways, Steve Martin's intro, the inimitable Marty Short and Jerry Seinfeld audience call-outs. Lowlights: Eddie non-Murphy, Paul non-McCartney, stewardess ending to The Californians sketch. 

Oscars not amazing. Neil Patrick Harris is no David Letterman!

10 comments:

Chris BIGDoer Doering said...

Love the picture of the cutaway Heritage Fund grain hopper. I've always wondered how these types of cars were configured inside. And now I know!

Tyson Turner said...

Hi Eric,

Grew up in Kenora and still love to go on the walking bridge above the yard to watch the goings on. A great place to visit in summer.

Curious about the 8558 unit - seems like those must be rare? Can find almost no pictures of those in that paint scheme. Am I wrong?

Thanks again for the blog it is regular weekly reading for me.

Tyson

Eric said...

Thanks for your kind comments, Chris and Tyson! Good to hear from you!

Yes, the gravity system of unloading was a huge improvement over the still-gravity-but-not-as-direct method of unloading boxcars.

Yes, VIA 8558 was one of a kind. It was supplied by CP as part of the initial deal to supply motive power to VIA, likely as a substitute for an F-unit. It was the only roadswitcher, either MLW or GM, painted in VIA colours. Momentous!

I didn't have a chance to 'railfan' Kenora, but my Winnipeg-based friend Brian Schuff did. A couple of photos here:
http://tracksidetreasure.blogspot.ca/2012/09/black-white-via-photography.html

Eric

Zartok-35 said...

Interesting happenings to Via on the lake head! The detour protocol is very interesting, especially that photo including the mixed train. 8558 is definitely on my list of models to acquire; The RS-10 is by far my favorite CP passenger unit!

Eric said...

Thanks for your comment, Elijah. Indeed, I only had one encounter with 8558, on August 22, 1979. Fortunately, I had my camera handy! Though at the time, I had no idea how unique a locomotive she was.

Eric

Anonymous said...

Great Blog. From Brian to Bryan M great images from a time limited to 1979-82. Early VIA is almost forgotten by trackside fans with the most camera ready and timetable in hand. Great times indeed. Great to see 1409 before it become 6557, and the 8558. While not a fave with crews, she sure was with us trackside. West Fort crossovers and Molson fly-over or hop-over until 1984 was because of grades for grain tonnage, with left hand running, and special single blade left hand snow plows, used nowhere else but Keewaitin subs to Kam subs. Again GREAT!

Anonymous said...

Great Blog. From Brian to Bryan M great images from a time limited to 1979-82. Early VIA is almost forgotten by trackside fans with the most camera ready and timetable in hand. Great times indeed. Great to see 1409 before it become 6557, and the 8558. While not a fave with crews, she sure was with us trackside. West Fort crossovers and Molson fly-over or hop-over until 1984 was because of grades for grain tonnage, with left hand running, and special single blade left hand snow plows, used nowhere else but Keewaitin subs to Kam subs. Again GREAT!

Eric said...

Since I passed through only aboard VIA, it's been great to rely on others to add more to the story of VIA in this part of the country in a great era.

Thanks very much for your assistance and your comments!

Eric

Anonymous said...

Such fine photos and story - thank you as always.
-Leland

Eric said...

Thanks, Leland! I couldn't have shared this without Brian's photos and captions.
Eric