Friday, October 26, 2012

Trackside with VIA: Cross-Canada Compendium

New books! I'm pleased to announce the release of my second and third books on VIA Rail. Entitled Trackside with VIA: Cross-Canada Compendium, my second book is everything my first book on VIA Rail wasn't.  More photos, more colour, more text, even more data, with fewer consists.  (Read on if you're a fan of consists as I am).  For full details, an order form and much more information on both these books, see my book blog here.

Over a year in the making, this compendium became grew to more than 100 pages on VIA's equipment, history and operations all across Canada.  Here's one of the colour pages that shows how well the colour reproduction turned out.  This page features western trains, and there are also colour pages on F40PH-2's, E&F-units, RDC's, VIA cars, locomotive fleet, named trains and eastern trains:
What else is inside? Starting off with some of my experiences riding VIA, the text leads you through some VIA history including the cuts of 1981 and 1990, the LRC, HEP and Renaissance fleets, Rail Diesel Cars inherited from CN and CP, as well as coaches, baggage cars, F-units and lone RS10 8558 also inherited from CP.  
Then you'll move on to VIA's locomotive fleet, from FPA's and F-units, to units begged, borrowed and leased from CN and CP, to Tempo RS18m's, and the F40PH-2's and P42DC's of today.   The assignment of VIA's RDC's and locomotive fleet, including specific motive power surveys provide snapshots of the use of VIA's power across Canada in various eras.
Named trains, switching of VIA trains en route, special trains, rescue trains follow, then you're on to VIA's shop facilities and some unfortunate but notable derailments from the various eras of VIA.  Final disposition of much of VIA's equipment and six photo pages complete our trip through this 100+ page book. Throughout the book, I've included what I call triVIA:  some interesting and little-known factoids about VIA equipment and operations.  

Here's what I hear every time someone pages through this book:  "Nice cover...there's a lot more writing in this book compared to your first...oh wow, colour!" Every single time I hear those same comments!  Liberally sprinkled with over 200 photos, the text and data is richly illustrated, even extending to the back cover:
But wait, there's another new book!  Initially planned as a consist compendium, my second book outgrew its covers.  Fortunately, there were enough consists at the tail-end of the book to spawn a third book and I'm also pleased to announce: Trackside with VIA: Cross-Canada Compendium Consist Companion.  Over 50 pages of consists from throughout VIA's history, especially the interesting and unpredictable earlier eras, over 900 trains make for interesting reading for modellers and VIAphiles alike. 

I'm very pleased with the final products, and I trust you will be too.  I had the assistance of several able contributors, including the photographic collection of Brian Schuff, and the design wizardry of Bryan Babcock of Allan Graphics here in Kingston.  I've endeavoured to make these books useful and useable illustrated reference works that will provide you an excellent value.

For more detail, ordering and pricing information, updates and the genesis of these two books, the place to go is my book blog here.

Friday, October 19, 2012

ONR - The Northlander 1994, Part 2

On March 4, 1994 I was back at the 1916-built Matheson station, off the Ontario Northland bus and waiting for No 698: 1808-203-609-702-612-604.  Interestingly, many decades of waiting passengers had scratched their names onto the station's bricks, including World War 2 servicemen.  At Jardine, we held the main but lined the siding switch for Englehart-Kapuskasing Extra 1801 North: 1801-1800-CN, CR and CV boxcars, ONR and CN bulkhead flats:
Vestibule view of end-cupola caboose 110 in the Ontario's Development Road oval scheme bringing up the tail end in snow flurries.  We were now running 30 minutes late.  All along the line, foremen and sectionmen in hi-rail pickups or boom trucks were seen regularly, inspecting our train as we rolled by.
At Englehart, two ONR freights were ready to go north, headed by 1802-1807-1809 and 1732.  Englehart yard contained cabooses in the chevron and oval schemes, 106-107:
Older scheme 40-foot boxcars and a plow:
And the OCS chevron scheme on MoW Dining Cars and Sleeping Cars:
Handsome smoke deflector-equipped Temiscaming & Northern Ontario Pacific 701 sat stuffed and mounted near Englehart station in the anomalous Clay Belt, an island of fertile land in the middle of northern Ontario's boreal forest.
At South River, we held the main, and lined the siding switch for No 697 to pass through thte siding: 1803-204-602-703-600-611.  We were now 45 minutes late.  Apparently, it was a local crew pastime to slightly misrepresent their location, perhaps just idling out of sight around the next curve, so that the other, earlier-arriving train crew would have to leave the nice, warm cab to throw the switch for the impending meet!
Other freights we met or passed included southbound CN 9303-9635-9xxx at Gravenhurst, northbound CN 2-unit in the siding at Washago, and a southbound CN at Brechin: 9631-5189-60 cars.  We met two more northbound trains at Beaverton and near Richmond Hill.  There was a decided lack of online CN customers.
Arrival at Union Station was 70 minutes off the adverised, meaning my return to Kingston became a redeye bus instead of VIA Rail home.  Regardless, it was a fine trip, confirming that it really is different A Way Up North.
A 1977 brochure features ONR TEE and F-unit motive power and passenger schedule.  The ONR sales office in Toronto Union Station always included a showcase display of an ONR model layout, with Christmas decorations in season, as well as ONR souvenir items for sale.

Running extra...

Oddly, the Clay Belt around Englehart is an anomalous but fertile deposit of glacial lake drainage spawned 10,000 years ago. Sure the soil was fertile and the topography flat, but the deceptively short growing season choked out any hope of the area producing much other than forage crops for the area's cattle.  Who knew there were cows in northern Ontario?  I remember seeing a whole scene of Holstein during my trip.

And who knew there was a group called Clay Jackson and Interlude?  They have a song called 'Take the Clay Train'.  No doubt a takeoff on the jazz standard 'Take the A-Train'. There is definitely as strong a connection spawned between trains and jazz music as there is between trains and food, especially fast food that tastes bad but is really bad for you.  Switching media, I'm working on a version of Gordon Lightfoot's Canadian Railway Trilogy for my Youtube channel. Don't refer to me as a renaissance man though.  I prefer the LRC.

Speaking of trilogies, (though I'm loath to use the term in this context, I'll use it anyway), my second VIA book has spawned a third.  I've come to believe that train consists don't spark much interest in railfan circles, and the subsequent splitting and possibly palpable potential of this alliteratively-titled book will prove or disprove that theory.  Read the latest on my book blog here.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

ONR - The Northlander 1994, Part 1

In March 1994, I had the opportunity to ride Ontario Northland's Northlander to Timmins, Ontario.  At the time, I was a professional council member of the College of Medical Laboratory Technologists of Ontario.  Another member and I represented the college at the Noront convention in Timmins.  Faced with the choice of air or rail transportation, the choice was obvious.  VIA No 41, 6439 and three LRC cars got me to Toronto Union Station on the morning of March 1.  VIA's westbound Canadian was on an adjacent track:
6449-6450 led 8616-8105-8120-8500-Palliser-Burton Manor-Macdonald Manor-two more sleepers and Kokanee Park.  VIA No 697/ONR No 121 (aka the Northlander) had a consist of GP38-2 1808-Auxiliary Power Unit (ex-MILW) 203-coach 609-snack car 702-coach 612 (my car).  Approaching Huntsville, looking across frozen Hunters Bay, CN and CP boxcars for the Kimberly-Clark plant were visible at the station, where CN Geep 4100 and caboose 79700 were also stationed:
We entered the siding at South River to meet the southbound Northlander.  The crew was friendly, and the trainman and I waited by the engine (top photo) for the roll-by inspection and No 698 soon appeared, its arrival heralded by diesel chant in crisp, afternoon air.  The consist was 1501-204-602-703-600:
After the meet, the trainman closed the switch while No 698 made it station stop, and we were able to resume our trip north.  
CN's South River station is still manned in this 1973 Newton Rossiter photo:
We met CN No 450 at Powassan at 1635: CN 5249-5324-5276 with lots of ONR paper boxcars and QOPX woodchip cars, plus caboose 79443.  The snack car had numerous tables on both sides of the aisle, and I selected the menu's hamburger offering:
The snack car attendant added a personal garnish, slicing a fresh tomato onto the reheated hamburger.  At Englehart, a GP9 and centre-cupola caboose 125 waited, and there were two 1700-series ONR SD's at the yard office.  Since the Northlander no longer served Timmins directly, those of us heading there boarded a waiting Ontario Northland bus at Matheson for the rest of the journey.
It was dark when we reached Matheson, so the above view is taken during daylight, at the start of my trip south, which will follow in Part 2.  Rest assured that Northern hospitality was extended to those of us from much farther south at the convention.  Afterwards, evening refreshments were taken at a downtown hotel, including a scintillating, unforgettable performance by the 'Timmins ballet'.  Here's a clearance for CN No 128, the Northland, which governed this train while on CN rails before it transferred to the Ontario Northland at North Bay:
The single train order given to the train at Huntsville shows that the train was led by an ONR F-unit:
A VIA timetable from 1982 shows the various trains that operated out of Toronto at that time, sorry about the Moire effect:
Running extra...

**These items are now sold.  Thanks to all for your interest.** ONR mementoes for sale: 1993 and 1997 Polar Bear Express schedules, ONR services brochure, colour 8x10 photo of No 122 at North Bay in 1992, and a four-panel fold-out Ontario Northland Transportation Commission system map with distances and photos.  

Tangent Scale Models has released Pullman-Standard 4750 cu ft covered hoppers in HO scale, including two schemes that will enable you to easily model Manitoba's leased covered hoppers from 1980 - Pillsbury and the Tri-County Grain Co of Cynthiana, Indiana.

A pleasant journey west on the GO Transit 1538 departure from Oshawa, returning from Union in a flood of humanity at 2113, after my enjoyable evening with the Toronto & York Division CRHA.  I spoke on VIA's history, writing my first book, and gave a brief update on my second VIA book, currently with the printer.  Why not check out this free preview of what this book will have to offer.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

ONR - The Northlander

Last weekend's final runs on Ontario Northland's Toronto-Cochrane Northlander resulted in a wave of nostalgia, regret, political rhetoric and separation talk from some Northerners.  I'll leave it to the political pundits to discuss whether the cancellation was a calculated move by southern politicians to alienate northern residents, or just the reaction of a desperately cash-strapped Ontario government, trying to cut subsidies to a passenger service that could never earn a profit.  To me, it's just one less interesting (dare I say iconic?) regional passenger train in Canada.  
Initially equipped with conventional passenger equipment - ONR acquired passenger cars from Bangor & Aroostook, Canadian Pacific, Detroit & Mackinac and Norfolk & Western - F-units pulled the trains.  ONR 1502 was at Spadina roundhouse in July, 1982.
I remember the Trans-European (TEE) trainsets, one of which travelled east for display at Belleville Railway Days.  The trains travelled the Kingston Sub once again, heading back to Europe after their career on the Ontario Northland.  ONR was keen to publicize their newly-acquired trains:
The TEE trains were built by Swiss Industrial Co., Werkspoor and Brown-Boveri.  Out of service due to their age and the electrification of their Paris-Zurich line, the trains had a purchase price of $200,000 each including a major overhaul.  Shipped from Europe as deck cargo, the trainsets were leased from the Urban Transport Development Corporation, and final assembly took place in Malton, Ontario.  Since the Toronto-Timmins run was one-third on CN lines, the 1900-1903 locomotive numbering was changed to 1980-1983, although interestingly, last-shipped 1983 never operated as 1903.
The TEE cars outlasted the Swiss power units , which were replaced with F-units. CN 8517 pulls ONR 1985 and its three car train to be serviced at Spadina in August, 1981. The F-units were rebuilt to match the profile of the TEE cars, and received a couple of different paint schemes.  The modified F-units then operated with former GO Transit single-level ex-commuter cars.  
It was these cars that I rode to Timmins and back, with my northbound train ONR GP38-2 1808-APU 203-coach 609-snack car 702-coach 612. The trainman and I disembarked as he threw the switch for the approaching southbound at South River behind 1501 (above).  The trainman kept snapping photos after I posed with the engine, resulting in this photo of the train stopped in the show at South River:
The car interiors were quite nice. Watch for an upcoming blog post on this March, 1994 trip.
Though the Northlander is often photographed in the majesty of Ontario's north, here it is at its southern terminus.  On November 25, 1994 at 1120, the consist ONR 1501-202-606-700-612 is approaching the Skywalk west of Toronto Union Station and is dwarfed by hotels and the convention centre, not the pine forests, sparkling lakes and colourful foliage that normally surround it on its journey north:
Last Thursday, I was lucky to see one of the Northlander's last consists under the trainshed at Union Station 1809-1800-202-604-615-612-606-703.  Previously, I'd seen the Northlander at Washago in 2010:

In all cases, the train appeared well-patronized.  But what rail passenger service can pay for itself?  The Northlander was no different.  Will it return?
Watch for more Ontario Northland posts in this series...documents, train orders, publicity, schedules and my snowy 1994 trip.

Running extra...

The extensive coverage of the last Northlander makes me wonder what coverage could have been preserved for posterity at the time of the 1981 and 1990 VIA Rail cuts.  Then, all that was available was overly-sentimental TV news reports, hoary newspaper accounts and enthusiast newsletter articles...a  month later.  How things have changed.  Now we have video, social media, and other real-time accounts and photographs of the last Northlanders. Steve Boyko has links to some videos here.  VIAphile Matt Soknacki rounded up some fine photography of the last runs as showcased on, here, here and here, and will be posting a trip account and more photos of his recent trip north.

I was happy to receive an email from my printer, telling me that the final proof of my second VIA Rail book should be in my hands tomorrow.  The end of a year-and-a-half of work is at hand.  I'll be sharing this update with the CRHA Toronto & York Division Thursday, where I'll be speaking on VIA Rail and my first book.  If any Division members are Trackside Treasure readers, I hope to see you there!

Happy Thanksgiving to my Canadian readers.  We truly have so much to be thankful for, not just one day a year, but all year.  May your upcoming week be filled with turkey casserole, turkey soup, turkey pot pie, turkey tetrazzini...