Saturday, February 10, 2018

Transcon Train Times at Portage la Prairie

Any time was train time while railfanning Portage la Prairie, Manitoba. But not anytime was passenger train time! During my preparation and photo selection for my upcoming Trains and Grains project, this was brought home to me. Certain years, there were next to no VIA train observations or photos. Why? Because the VIA trains sometimes were rather nocturnal! And my trackside train-watching hours were essentially bankers' hours. Straight days. Perusing VIA timetables produced the following table, in which I attempt to track train time at Portage from 1976 to 2013, along with the appropriate transcontinental train numbers:
Here are a few photos that I'll be including in the Trains book of the two-volume set due this spring. In July, 1976 we only caught the train from Churchill (top photo by L.C. Gagnon). In 1978, it was the Super (above) with VIA 6515-6607-6502. And 6515 is still in CN colours! Now we're talking! Not only was the Canadian stopping at the CN station in 1979, (heck, CP ripped out their wooden station platform soon after CN took over the Portage-Winnipeg portion of the run, with a connecting track constructed at Portage and CP's Winnipeg Higgins Street station no longer used) but it was also the zenith of VIA's krazy circus or rainbow (that's more properly an Amtrak-related term) era. CN, CP, blue, red, black, white, yellow, VIA all mixed in together:
One of my VIA highlights...a nearly-three-hour-late No 2 arrives at Portage on August 22, 1979 behind 1409-8558-CP 8519. A lime-stained Southern Railway boxcar and doughty Portage Pool 'B' oversee the scene. VIA's only roadswitcher was second up:
And I can't believe I still read conspiracy theories - more akin to far-out musings on Elvis and JFK - that wonder aloud - did VIA's ex-CP 8558 actually exist! My little somewhat-suboptimal-but-there-recording-the-scene Kodak Hawkeye viewfinder found it. Thank goodness for late-running trains! Running late in 1980, too - VIA 6507-6606-CN 4102 bring a late Super into Portage on June 17, 1980:
The Canadian is again photographable in daylight in 1981. Blue-masked VIA 1418 leads CP 8580 and VIA 1898, one-of-two CP E-8's, sitting on the CP-CN connecting track on August 24, waiting for CN. Less than three months later, the Super would be cancelled during the massive VIA cutbacks that year:
In the shadow of Manitoba Pool Elevators' Portage Pool 'B' elevator, VIA 6501-6620-6603 pause with the Canadian on June 14, 1982:
I didn't make it to Portage in 1983, though my parents did. Watch for more of my Dad's photos of that visit in an upcoming post. Here's one of his photos - baggage being handled on No 2. Quite a trek down the platform for the operator with the baggage cart on this day:
One of my all-time favourites. Another MPE elevator, another Canadian: VIA 6504-6603 lead 12 cars through somnolent MacGregor, MB on May 29, 1984:
One more shot of the connecting track, another CN freight to wait for. This Canadian was actually early. Running one to three hours late in the 80's was serious. But compared to today's 6, 8, 12, 24 or even 38 (this week!) hours late Canadians, three hours was nothing! VIA 6557-6617 wait for lumber empties (of all things!) on CN's Rivers Sub to clear on June 4, 1984:
Back to early morning hours, No 2 with 6512-6621 and a diminutive eight-car consist approach Kearns (Eighth Street) in Portage on June 5, 1986. The following year, the bedraggled, beleaguered and be-gone F-unit fleet would find relief from incoming F40's.
In the nineties, my Mom and Dad prepare to board No 2 Eng 6443 at Portage in 1994. The F40 era had arrived (Wilf Schellenberg photo):
Portage la Prairie was unique in so many ways. Where else would one find two transcontinental streamliners, eventually serving a single, not really urban, station four times a day? And even after one was cancelled, this plethoric prairie preserve hosted, and still hosts, the other.

Running extra...
This week it's the Pyeong Chang Winter Olympics. And Valentine's Day. Both are very competitive and full of the thrill of victory, and potentially the agony of defeat. The Dufour-Lapointes show us that Moguls are not just 2-6-0's. Korea's monad is not just for the Northern Pacific. Now for some Valentine's Day jokes: 
  • What did the octopus say to his girlfriend? I want to hold your hand. And your hand. And your hand. And your hand. And your hand. And your hand. And your hand. And your hand.
  • What did the bird say to his girlfriend? Let's be tweethearts.


Zartok-35 said...

OH MY GOD ITS THE HOLY VIA RAIL GRAIL HERSELF! A good reminder I need to keep pursuing an HO model of VIA 8558, especially during this fast approaching train show season! I got the E8s already. I need a 1418 still, too.

Thanks for the handy chart. You always make the best VIA charts! There's allot to take in when they had Canadians and Super Connies in and out of Winnipeg in short periods of time. And thanks aswell for sharing more glorious historic photos of the before time, the long long ago, when you really could cross Western Canada without changing trains. Like a hog would've done, if they didn't have to get off at regular intervals for rest, feed, and exercise. Gotta keep those through cars rolling as on time as the host roads will allow!

Still looking way up for Trains and Grains! If its anything like this, it will indispensable!

Zartok-35 said...

Eric, you have a gap in the chart between June 1978 and June 1979, leaving out the October 1978 Schedule change! UNACCEPTABLE! Let Eli help you out! I have Assiniboine employee Timetables from 1978, as well as 1977 and February 1979!

Portage train times as of October 28 1978: Westbounds No 1 0020, No 3 0005. Eastbounds No 2 0640, No 4 0620.

Eric said...

Thanks for your kind comments and additional information, Elijah! Maj preesh!

Hope you can collect all these important ex-CP locos for your collection. Twice I was lucky to catch one of the E's in a consist with 1418.

If only I knew what I had then like I now know what I had then.