Friday, February 3, 2023

CN to VIA F-Unit Paint Transition Data

VIA's ex-CN F-units wore as many as four paint schemes in their transition from CN to VIA ownership. (top photo - Scotian at L'Islet QC on March 4, 1978 led by 6778-6628-6536, with 6778 wearing the VIA 60Deg scheme (top - online auction site photo).

I initially endeavoured to track the last date I observed the units in CN paint, and the first date I observed them in VIA paint. This didn't track some of the minor differences in the paint schemes. Don McQueen kindly shared his transition data that did reflect these minor differences, reflected in his four paint scheme designations shown in this post applied to A-units (FP9, FPA2 and FPA4) as listed below: 
1. VIA 60Deg, 
2.VIA 90Deg, 
3.CN Wiped and
4. VIA Wiped
VIA's B-units: (F9B, FPB2 and FPB4) received only one VIA paint scheme. Don tracked over 40 distinct paint schemes and minor variations.

It was interesting to compare my observations with Don's data. The greatest strength of this transition data is it use to date uncaptioned photos. The paint scheme in which a particular locomotive is shown can be a good clue to when an undated photo was taken. After 40 years, memories get fuzzy!


1. VIA 60Deg was first applied in June 1976.  VIA 6787 at Brockville in 1981 (above - online auction site photo)
  • this was the premier VIA Rail cab unit scheme, with as many as 10 initially receiving the yellow pilot in 1976.
  • a yellow nose terminated at a 60-degree angle before the cab steps
  • red CN nose logo gave way to a red VIA as of April 1978. The red CN nose logo was first applied to VIA 6516 in June, 1976, then...
  • in 1976: 6516, 6526, 6540, 6765, 6505, 6530, 6763, 6768, 6775, 6787.
  • in 1977: 6504, 6510, 6524, 6762, 6537, 6778.
  • in 1978: 6512.
  • The red VIA nose logo was first applied in mid-1978, then...
  • in 1978: 6502, 6520, 6524, 6537(possibly 1979).
  • in 1979: 6512, 6504, 6505, 6537, 6762, 6778, 6516, 6763, 6765, 6775.
  • in 1980: 6510, 6530, 6787, 6540, 6768(possibly 1981).

2. VIA 90Deg was first applied in November 1977. VIA is eastbound through Kingston on May 23, 1981 (above).
  • this scheme replaced the 60-degree angle
  • a yellow nose extending all the way to the cab steps, forming a 90-degree angle
  • red VIA nose logo

3. CN Wiped was first applied in February 1979. VIA 6758-6862 westbound at Mi 182 Kingston Sub, June 17, 1979 (above)
  • VIA units still in CN colours had their white nose logos painted out
  • also referred to as ‘former CN Transitionals not immediately painted yellow and blue’
  • prefix or suffix ‘VIA’ was added to carbody side number and class to denote VIA ownership

4. VIA Wiped was first applied in April 1981.  VIA 6540 at Kingston at least July, 1982 based on paint scheme, and likely October 30, 1982 based on consist - above)
  •  no VIA nose logo
The paths through paint scheme transitions can be grouped into the following major progressions:
  • CN Paint ˃ VIA 60-Degree ˃ VIA 90-Degree = 7 units
  • CN Paint ˃ VIA 90-Degree = 31 units
  • CN Wiped ˃ VIA 90-Degree = 16 units
  • VIA 60-Degree ˃ VIA Wiped = 10 units
  • CN Wiped ˃ VIA Wiped = 5 units
  • VIA 90-Degree ˃ VIA Wiped = All but 10 of the 71 units listed herein

These tables show the dates of transition of ex-CN locomotives into VIA Rail paint. Column headings:

Don’s four column headings reflect cab-unit schemes as listed in this post.
EDG Last CN – my last observation date of a unit in CN colours.
EDG First VIA – my first observation date of a unit in VIA colours.


There was only one B unit scheme – blue with yellow stripes.

  • 6532 Grey Ghost scheme summer 1980
  • 6535 Wrecked and still in CN paint at PSC 1987
  • 6537 Wrecked at Ingersoll, ON August 1980
  • 6758 and 6775 blue nose logo 1986
  • 6767 VIA 90Deg date could actually be Sep 2/80
  • 6866 CN until retired
  • 6867 Last FPB4 painted VIA colours
  • Ex-CN units were painted at Transcona Shops in Winnipeg, Pointe St Charles Shops in Montreal or Moncton Shops
Information in this post is based on trackside observations by Eric Gagnon and two monographs compiled by Don McQueen: VIA E and F Unit Paint Schemes – Checklist 1977 to 2012 and VIA E & F Unit Paint Schemes – Unit & Model Totals 1977 to 2012

My CN-to-VIA observation dates that corroborated will, within a month of Don's dates, are shown with a (!). Any apparent discrepancies between my data and DMcQ data are (*) after date on spreadsheet. Don has added my data to his monograph in most cases. His information is based on well-sourced and extremely well-documented photo evidence.

Watch for an upcoming post on CP to VIA E- &  F-unit paint transition data.

Running extra...

I generally don't re-use photos once they're published in a post. I find there's nothing worse than going through a blog and thinking, 'Haven't I seen this picture before?' In this post, I included a couple of photos that show the paint scheme in question well, though they're photos I've saved from online auction site (i.E down by the Bay).

Record cold snap, Groundhog Day, a bored-stiff crowd in Quebec finding out their Fred la Marmotte was board-stiff - welcome to February and awards season - this weekend it's the Grammy Awards. Paul Shaffer and the World’s Most Dangerous Band returned Friday to NBC for the first time in 30 years to fill in for The Roots on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, while The Roots were in L.A. for the 2023 Grammy Awards.

From 1982 to 1993, Shaffer headed the in-house band for Late Night with David Letterman before the show moved to CBS and aired opposite Jay Leno’s The Tonight Show as the newly titled Late Show with David Letterman. Rechristened as CBS Orchestra due to a naming rights dispute with NBC, the band remained with Letterman until the late night host retired in 2015. The group was able to reclaim the World’s Most Dangerous Band moniker after Late Show ended because NBC had abandoned its trademark claim.

Winnipeg's Travis Ridgen realized his goalie goal to ride the Canadian back to his homewtown and his videos on Youtube are a treat to watch.

Sunday, January 29, 2023

Industry Profile: Concordia Milling Company

In my Pyrrhic pursuit of the Walthers Red Wing Milling Co. flour mill, I occasionally come across prototype structures that fill the mill bill. In my Pinterest account (see sidebar) I've amassed 260+ photos in my 'Favourite HO Scale Structures to Work With' board. The vast majority of these are the aforementioned Walthers kit. (There's also a smattering of Revell Superior Bakery and Atlas structure photos in there.) I've previously published a post showcasing the creativity of those who have built or kitbashed this iconic concrete cairn of trackside treasure. I have not done neither, nor do I have any plans to do so. Sorry if this sounds like I'm going against the grain! Or, to paraphrase that dreamy movie's title, "Wheat Dreams May Come".
But that doesn't mean I don't enjoy a half-baked stumble into the flour mill sphere, and when I found this example in Concordia, Kansas I immediately surfed over to Googlemaps to see it (above and below). The large silos, storage and milling floors are arranged like stair-steps, in what must have been a standard small mill stacking. The mill is still in use, (perhaps even flour-ishing!) but not rail-served any longer.
On a side venture into the flour world, the daily grind took me into the world of vintage postcards. Apparently, even flour mills were genuine grist-for-the-mill for early-century postcard purveyors. The views in this post are mostly postcards, dated from 1900 to 1920. Some have been colourized.
The above view includes old-timey cars and trees.
Oh yes we are. The windows are open and loading dock in use in this colourized view:
A spooky night-time view;
Similar to the top colourized view is this sepia-toned one:
This vintage advertising is from an era before the meaning of PPP as Public-Private-Partnership!
A sample of the mill's products:
If I ever switch my modelled locale away from Kingston, a mid-West granger road might result. Goodness knows I have the covered hopper cars for it, and now, a vintage prototype plausibly rail-served.

Running extra...

The Amherst/Springfield MA Railroad Hobby Show is baaacck. I can't imagine the potential purchase price of all the models on display by manufacturers*. All this in a 'dying hobby'. The only thing I see dying is the affordability angle. One has to have a sharp eye for bargains. Locomotives at $300 and up, freight cars at $65 and up? Really? My sharp eye blinked this past week when the online seller of a too-large collection of bargain-priced vehicles got chippy and couldn't handle the influx of interest. It was not the Art of the Deal. *Breaking News: Atlas announces CN Pointe St Charles caboose!

I gave two enjoyable ZOOM presentations for the Canadian Association of Railway Modellers this past week, "Kingston's Hanley Spur - What Makes My Layout Unique?" Time for questions:
Six years ago today, I predicted the downfall of a certain Art of the Dealmaker. Said his presidency would end in a courtroom. Courting disgrace - a legacy of disgrace. I think I'm on track to be right. 

Friday, January 20, 2023

Last Canadian, Last Copies

This past week marked the annual observance of the drastic 1990 cuts to VIA Rail Canada's network. The most notable cut was the removal of the Canadian from the CP route after 35 years. Also this week, I made the last shipment of my four books on VIA. The first, published in 2011, coincidentally marked VIA's first 35 years.

Hope all is well with you. Jason asked me to reach out to you. 
We would like to order more copies of the Trackside with VIA books.  
We are completely sold out  - Lystra

Even though I knew this day would come, it stopped me scrolling when I opened up Lystra's email from Rapido Trains. I've never wanted to end up with a basement full of copies of my books. The apocryphal story of surplus copies of Bytown Railway Society's Trackside Guides being bulldozed, some years ago, into landfill was heartbreaking. So all along, I've decided to keep my inventory of printed copies low. Previously, a sell-out was never really final, because I could always order more. Now, to have Rapido Trains getting the penultimate copies after 12 years of printing, it just seemed right. Bookends - delivering copies to Jason in June, 2011:

If you do publish your consists, I will certainly be ordering a copy. 
I think it would be a great reference both for railway history and for modelling.
 I would hope others see the value. - Jakob, September 2010

Jakob and I exchanged many, many emails. Perhaps more than Hillary Clinton and WikiLeaks! Emails about a variety of rail-related topics, from Kingston to consists. But always consists. His interest in seeing early-VIA consists was the main impetus for setting me on this publishing path. When I was mulling publishing in 2010 I didn't think Jakob had any idea that I'd scrape together 2,700 of them for my first book.

When people come to me and want to tell their story, 
I help them publish it as a book - Bryan

Until he said that, I knew Bryan worked at Allan Graphics as a graphic designer, but I didn't know he could help me create a book! For awhile, I was one of their best customers, because self-published autobiographies, family histories or poetry anthologies might only have single- or double-digit press runs. They referred to me as the guy with the train books. Perhaps the only thrill bigger than seeing a Proof Copy in my email inbox from Bryan was getting cases of books. Bryan even delivered them on his way home! Now that's customer service! Dave and his team at Allan Graphics published the books so professionally - I always looked through each copy before I mailed it and enjoyed doing so. 

Bryan thought it was odd when I mentioned to him I wanted a strict upper page count, thereby shipping weight, for my book. He said most people just have a story to tell, and it takes as many pages as it takes. I knew that based on Canada Post rates for Oversize Lettermail, that a 500 gram shipping weight was flat rate, and one gram over that meant we were in Parcel rate, with its inherent distance-based differences and fuel surcharges. As it was, I absorbed costs along the way. The rate for that Oversize Lettermail almost doubled. Padded mailers went up slightly, though still one of the best deals at Dollarama! I raised prices once, in 2014.

For each book I published, I started a blog. Usually, the next book idea and blog were begun as soon as the current book was printed. It was a handy way to document my progress, and perhaps to drum up some pent-up demand. After publication, I added reviews and connections made to each blog.  For my VIA books, I used the generic handle "NEWVIARAILBOOK" because I didn't know how many I'd end up with.

Making deliveries to Jordan and Terry in 2011.

The First 35 Years was a grandiose-sounding title. It's no wonder that hobby shops across the country were contacting me to send copies. My first book was published in June, 2011 and was birthed during a Canada Post labour dispute. I tried to be up-front about the book being mostly valuable consists, a little history. It was all useful information. But it was never a coffee-table book. Jakob and Jason were valued contributors. Perhaps the consist-heavy format worked against me and sales of my later books. Cross-Canada - 24 copies to Halifax, 20 to Vancouver, 12 each to Ottawa, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Merrickville, 20 to Mississauga. Those hobby shop orders would be halved for my next book.

"79 pages of useless car numbers in a book of 116 pages" 
- Customer who shall remain nameless.

Cross-Canada Compendium, published in October of 2012, was conceived because I was getting emails looking for more content from across the VIA network. But I could only publish what I had. So I needed more. Contacting contributors like Gary Hadfield, Robin Lowrie, Tom Box, Brian Schuff, Bruce Chapman and Jakob helped me do that. Brian sent me so many photos that we'd have weekly phone calls to talk about them. He has an encyclopedic memory that includes the photographer, date and location. Come to think of it, many of my contributors were the yin to my yang. Considering that part of the reason for publishing was a personal pursuit of preserving data and photos in some easy-to-find format, it helped to have input that was already well-balanced. The night that I woke up to 24 emails from Bruce Chapman was especially noteworthy.

When the Compendium swelled its riverbanks, it was time to create a concurrent companion volume. As a ally of alliteration, though trying not to make an assonance of myself, I chose another grandiose-sounding, and long title. The Cross-Canada Compendium Conist Companion. This smaller volume contained all the consists that had pushed the Compendium over the dreaded 500-gram mark. The Compendium would finally answer the question - did people really care about consists? Were they consist-crazy??

Bryan kindly makes a delivery of my second book (above). Colour sections in my two later VIA books made my cost 33% more, but how could I tell the stories of the riotous F40 wraps, the early-VIA rainbow years, and other kaleidoscopic kolours in black & white?

The VIA field lay fallow for about four years. I got the itch to do publish some research, trip accounts, and updates on what VIA had been up to in the years following my last book. To fill out Research and Recollections, contributors Tim Hayman, Don McQueen, Mark Perry and Mark Sampson came aboard. It was 2017. Bryan brings boxes of books on April 22, nearly the same date that CP's The Canadian debuted in 1955!
I delivered many copies of all these books, usually by mail from my dining room table. But my favourite deliveries were at Kingston's VIA station, to crews or passengers: Tim (below), Matt, Mark, Chris, Terry, Jordan, Dave, Andrew and Jason.
I'm no economics professor, but Bryan had always told me, go for bigger print runs! I was more cautious, and by the time I got to smaller print runs to maintain some inventory, the costs went up. Selling copies to dealers with a 40% discount left room for profit for them, and as much or less profit for me. I was making $1-2 per copy. The number of hobby shops had dwindled in the past decade. So had the market for printed books. But I was convinced and committed to getting it 'out there' that I continued filling customer requests. 

Did I get rich doing this? Or was it all about existentialism and filling the ether with VIA? At one point, a back-of-the-envelope calculation led me to believe I'd paid for a year of progeny post-secondary tuition. Sounds like a lot! Considering, however, that all that post-secondary education cost us well north of $100K, I wouldn't call that getting rich. But I was rich in satisfaction and pride - both publishing and parental pride. And it had been a good ride, on both accounts.

Cookbooks and novels sell, and I'm sure the Tibetan cookbook shelf even exceeds the VIA one. E-books, who knows? The limited success of non-fungible tokens and crypto-currency shows me that we're still living in a literal, hold-in-my-hand world. At least until the holographic, device-driven world finally displaces Gutenberg's glory.

The VIA book shelf remained a short one when 2022 rolled around. Kevin Holland had published his Morning Sun Books and VIA Historical Association books, and that extended the shelf. Otherwise, we still had Nelligan, Greenlaw, Shron and Gagnon. And during a Rapido Live, it was Shron who said, "Gagnon has published a few things", when hyping the upcoming VHA book, and I was watching. Fellow VIA book creator Chris Greenlaw and his dad Tom, chez Gagnon:

I'd printed books. They were never intended to shake the world. They were an effort to collate information and produce useful books for VIAphiles and for the reference of the author himself, encapsulating a corporate entity perenially at threat, under-funded, without a clear government mandate and begat by two dying passenger services in the 1970's. They were not just things, however. They were things, yes, but they were also books.

The books represent a truly rich collection of information published on the railway and I consider owning copies, a fortunate privilege. - Chris Mears

Publishing books makes you two things. An expert, and a target. An expert because people apparently think you must know everything about a topic when you put it on paper. Obviously not the case, when you believe like I do that 'the more you know, the more you realize you don't know'. I'm happy to wear the trappings of an expert, but they often feel like the emperor's new clothes. A target because people want to keep you humble, and to prove you aren't an expert, even in some small, seemingly trivial way. There are fun-loving VIAphiles, and then there are pedantic, poker-faced keyboard kurmudgeons who are the devils in the details. 

If you have an interest, or experiences that you've always thought would make a good book, or even a blog, wait no longer! Don't let anything you read in this post discourage you. I've had phone calls and emails about people considering their own book, and I've encouraged them. I know of one who has taken my advice, and some great photography of Kingston's Third Crossing bridge, all the way to the shipping dock. Success!

Fellow bloggers, magazines and newsletters kindly printed reviews (top photo from a review by Steve Boyko). I was invited to give pre-pandemic presentations in Ottawa, Toronto, Morrisburg and pandemic Zoom presentations to Winnipeg, Toronto and worldwide audiences, (because one never knows who's watching). It is said publishing is 10% writing, 90% promotion. I didn't spend a cent on advertising, though the promotion part was absolutely my least favourite part of the book creation process. Final totals of copies sold: 606, 352, 281 and 208, totalling 1,447.

The number of copies I now have on hand would not exceed the average LRC train length. Only Research & Recollections is completely sold out, thanks to Lystra and Jason's order! There will be no more printed. I want to thank Jakob, Jason, Bryan, Dave Allan and all of you who have been on this journey with me. It all seems like the Canadian on that cold winter's day in January, 1990 - a silvery, serpentine stream of escaping steam leaving behind years of wonderful memories.

Running extra...

When I someday write my memoirs, this post can serve as the chapter entitled, "I Could Write a Book!".

Fredrik Backman's book A Man Called Ove became Tom Hanks' latest vehicle, a film named 'A Man Called Otto.' You'll never guess how we got to the theatre - by auto to Otto. We thought we ought to. It was National Popcorn Day. Thanks, Cineplex Odeon Gardiners Cinemas, for the free small popcorn to help us celebrate!

No-one should ever agree to take a trip with Tom Hanks. His spacecraft had major problems, his ships are taken by pirates, and if he gets out of the airport at all, one of his planes crashes on a desert island, while the other lands in the Hudson River. Definitely something to Sully ones filmography!

Saturday, January 14, 2023

Railstream Webcam Highlights, Part 2

CNSU 002 on former well car CN 0002 - westbound December 1
My highlight-reel images from December, 2022, showing Railstream webcam images from Geddes Street level crossing over CN's Kingston Subdivision in Belleville, ON. (All images courtesy Railstream, LLC). It's not as if I observed every train, maybe only 2% of each day's trains. But there were enough oddities plus exceptional locomotives and cars that led me to saving and sharing them in this post and the previous post.

 FURX 5563 on 5-unit CN No 305 from G3 Limoilou to G3 Leader, SK elevator - December 1

A second BMEX unit eastbound early on December 2

Bridge girder on OTTX 132026 westbound  - December 4

Prestige Class Chateau Varennes trailing VIA No 42 - December 5

Blair Manor buffer car on VIA No 52 with CN No 518 on north track - December 8

Former Sask Pool WFRX 850820 westbound - December 8

Bluebonnet IC 2466 with mismatched hood and evaluation car CNIS 412011 - December 11

Blue BC Rail 4648 - December 13

Family Lines CSXT 252389 with five CSX covered hoppers - December 13

Herzog HAGX 1750 trailing CN No 369 - December 13

MPM VII/HZGX 175 trails six well cars 

OTTX 132038 with an RBT (Really Big Thing) also on CN No 369 - December 13

NDYX 857135 with awesome tiger graffiti - December 16

Unconventionally-lettered Drummond Manor VIA No 41 buffer car - December 17

Breeding pair of CNNA map units 2508-2521 (that paint!) on CN No 369 - December 19

EVOX 19050 H202 tank car on CN 668240 train CN No 372 - December 21

Unusual DTTX 885203 'K' Line Rail Bridge 5-pak on CN No 123 - December 22

GATX 00306-00322 for Brockville - December 27
In the aftermath of CN's Christmas Eve derailment 17 TankTrain cars, white GATX 00306-00322 were not set out by CN No 377 in Brockville, instead making it all the way to Toronto, then returning to be finally set out in Brockvegas by CN No 368.
BCOL 4653 leads CN No 322 - December 27

The 'Blue Train' - BCOL 4646 DPU on CN No 322 - December 27

CP 7057 made at least three trips over three days on the Kingston Sub - here trailing three CN units on CN No 377 - December 27

QTTX 131437 one of three westbound girder loads, each with CN idler flat - December 29

Atlanta quadcam surprise - railfan capturing UP 1995 C&NW heritage unit - Jan. 2

Running extra...

The Golden Globes Awards were the least-viewed but the most-diverse in the history of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association-sponsored awards. I might be the last person in North America watching these shows. They used to be a real event, a viewing highlight. With the advent of TMZ and other 24/7 entertainment programming, awards shows have become soapboxes for issues. David Letterman hosting the Oscars, save us!

We've started our own sofa-borne book club - I'm reading Confidence Man by Maggie Haberman, and my wife is reading Spare by Prince Harry. The latter mentioned his ghostwriter in a TV interview, though I saw no mention of such a writing assistant in the jacket liner notes. I guess he got ghosted!

Crossover event! Posted on my Hanley Spur blog this week - these 1979 and 2023 views of a rare San Luis Central reefer load of potatoes at Quattrocchi's. My thanks to Mark Charlebois for making this possible.  Layout-level photography revealed the need for missing details I later added: right-hand dimensional data and weathering.