Friday, November 30, 2012

Portage Then and Now 1980-2010 Part 3

In this third post in the Portage Then and Now series, I'm sharing my Then photos with the Now photos of Manny Jacob.  Manny is a Winnipeg modeller and aficianado of VIA F40's and CP SD40-2's, whose preferred Portage la Prairie photo perch is the Skyview Bridge. From up here, there are panoramic views both east and west of CN and CP mainlines plus VIA trains on CN.  Though the title again incorporates the years 1980 and 2010, these images actually range from 1978 to 2012. Now let's head up the sidewalk along the bridge to see what we can see. For best effect, click on each Then photo, open a second tab, click on the accompanying Now photo, then toggle back and forth between them.  Jump 30 years in a click! Manny's large digital files contrast with my diminutive, 110-format Kodak Hawkeye images.

Then (above): VIA No 3, the Super Continental behind 6504-6503-CN 4100 exchanges baggage and passengers as a CN freight passes by on the yard lead on August 26, 1981. Another headlight is in the distance: GMD-1's 1052-1065.  Over on CP, a westbound empty coal train passes as Portage switcher S-3 6569 idles for lunch by the station.  Local farmers load two grain boxcars opposite CN's station.

Now (below): VIA No 1, the Canadian on the same track on September 29, 2012.
Then: the same train as the top photo leaves the station, giving us a good view of 4100's spark arrestors, a Potash Corporation of Canada and Alberta Heritage Fund covered hoppers (the latter at Portage Pool B), and the van of the westbound CP coal train.

Now: 6409-6452- Grey Cup 6445 with No 1 and the Grey Cup 100th Anniversary cars on the tail end on September 1, 2012.  That shelter-belt row of trees obscures the CP line, with the elevator and Esso fertilizer buildings gone and the CP station now the Canadian Pacific Railway Heritage Park

Then: One-of-a-kind VIA 1418, its blue windshield uniquely painted at CP's Angus Shops on December 21, 1978 leads No 1 on August 27, 1981 in the company of CP 8580, one of VIA's two E8's 1898, 6553 and 16 cars.  Due into Portage 70 minutes behind the Super, the Canadian has the engineers looking at something between the second and third units as an eastbound freight full of British Columbia lumber (yes, you could even smell the fresh-cut lumber up here) lumbers by.

Now: 6401-6442 bring the Canadian in as a crewman trolls the empty platform. CN's yard trackage is much reduced on March 31, 2012.

Then: The eastbound Canadian 'pole position' with 1413-CP 8516-CP 8559 and 15 cars on August 27, 1979.  A grain car is being loaded at United Grain Growers (formerly Victoria Grain) elevator just west of the bridge.

Now: CN 2342-5746 eastbound on August 11, 2012, with a CP westbound windmill parts train in the background.  While it's true that there are still lots of trains in Portage, they're fewer and longer than in the Then era in this post.  It seems I often headed up to the bridge when multiple trains were approaching...notice how many Then photos show multiple trains!

Then: No 3 heads west past a CN boarding outfit (at left) behind 6505-6610-CN 4105. The Super would spend lots of time in Portage this day, August 24, 1981: from 1333 to 1425 waiting for traffic to clear at West Tower. CN 1353-1354 with two covered hoppers from Manitoba Pool B, with CP grain boxcars at Manitoba Pool A.

Now: 2310-IC 1031 with general freight including a caboose (!) off the Rivers Sub on Sept 13, 2012 at 1258.

Then: August 24, 1978: 9407-9529 pass minty new CPWX covered hoppers and fully-depreciated CP boarding outfit cars north of the main, now the site of the the expanded Centennial Arena.

Now: Early snow greets CN 2229 eastbound on October 6, 2012 at 1220.  The absence of grain elevators and accompanying elevator tracks is noticeable. 

Then: CP Extra with 5954-4551-5970 and a 134-car loaded grain train, stabs the Super Continental at West Tower  in August 1981.  The CP Express building with spur is at left foreground.

Now: 9570-8912-3076 eastbound meet ballast cars on Sept 3, 2012 at 1146. Only the CP Express platform  remains.

Then: On June 16, 1980 a westbound CN freight fortified by forty-foot boxcars is stopped for this eastbound CP freight at West Tower: 5525-4502-81 car grain loads.  The head-end trainman is on the front porch ready to pick up orders at the station.

Now: 100th Anniversary Grey Cup train has arrived for its event October 4, 2012 at 1546.  A CWR train is on the next track, then a passing CP freight.

Then: Power-heavy CP westbound past the handcar sheds at 1532 on August 22, 1979: 5708-5536-5518-5717-5758-4568.  A CN freight behind 9522-9496 hides behind the telegraph pole.

Now: 9644-9603 lug intermodal traffic west on August 18, 2012 at 1110.  Trees block the view towards CN trackage as MPE Pool B once did.

Then: In front of the handcar sheds, 5779 tugs 61 empty box cars west, meeting eastbound loads to the Lakehead behind 8496-5546 eastbound in August 1981.

Now: CP westbound 'oil can' unit train with 8615-8651 makes a slick sight on September 3, 2012 at 1324. CP's Portage Geep switcher now resides in a fenced compound east of Third St, instead of 6569 slumbering in the shade across from the station in years past.  CryoTrans reefers have replaced CP 50-foot insulated boxcars in CP's yard.

Running extra...

Manny Jacob sent an additional photo of the CN caboose (CN 79623?) in the freight led cn CN 2310-IC 1031.  This is not the way CN cabooses were intended to look, but it is the way they end their careers.  Windows busted out, oil fill discouraged, smokejacks askew and marshalled at the head-end, not on the tail-end of the train. Warning to viewers...the following image may be disturbing to some rolling stock enthusiasts.

Just finished listening to An Army at Dawn by Rick Atkinson.  Macro and micro historical account of the Allied invasion and liberation of North Africa.  Many useful quotes by Dwight Eisenhower included.  Like Dieppe, this seaborne invasion was a huge learning experience for the subsequent Normandy landings.

Speaking of learning, I've posted errata on my book blog left sidebar for my recent Cross-Canada Compendium.  As I mentioned in the book, I encourage readers to submit any corrections or suggestions.  Orders are coming in, received from both coasts - Newfoundland and California this week.

An enjoyable trip aboard VIA this week to Toronto - on VIA train Nos 651 and 48.  Was that a VIA consist with red markers parked in Belleville yard next to Hydro One's ex-CN caboose 79640?  Hard to tell at 0610.  UPDATE: it was a similarly-painted IC caboose used on the triple-tracking ballast train including those BCOL ballast cars shown in the previous posts. Trip home included 1812 white wine - that was the name on the label, not the vintage.  The average Canadian buys 22 bottles of wine per year.  I recommend this Mighty Diesel Whine.

Friday, November 23, 2012

John 'Canyon' Cowan Retires

Upon release of my second and third VIA Rail books, I received an order from Central Hobbies in Vancouver.  Seems they were in a rush to get some copies in for an upcoming weekend train show.  Done.  Little did I know the coincidence that was about to occur.  The following Monday, I received a nice email from John Cowan of Maple Ridge BC.  John advised me that he'd picked up a copy of my book, that he appreciated the variety of photos, quality and detail of the various eras of VIA, and that he'd be adding it to his vast* railway book collection.  It's always nice to receive emails like this from customers. 
Less than two hours later, I received a more startling email from John.  "I didn't realize when I sent your last email but I see you mentioned me on page six of your book."  I thought, whaaaat?  Thumbing through a copy of Cross-Canada Compendium, I found page six in the 'Ticket to Ride' section, which I had written in response to several requests for my experiences riding VIA in the early years, to supplement my first book's seemingly endless numbers and data.  I'd gone through my old, dusty archives, finding some trip notes and cobbling them into a text piece, including the following passage: "...a CN freight paralleling our progress across the mighty Fraser River...talking to our young trainman, who had previously worked as a CP operator at Smiths Falls."
John continued, "We must have met while going through the Fraser Canyon while I was working on the Canadian, a job I worked for the better part of ten years.  I am a conductor CP with 35 years, five months of service.  I was that young trainman who used to be an operator in Smiths Falls who is now an old conductor about to retire in three-and -a-half weeks on the West Coast Express.  That made my day, Eric."

No, it made my day, John.  Consider the improbable circumstances leading up to these traded emails: that we conversed aboard No 1 on September 22, 1985...that I made note of our conversation...that I kept those notes and referred to them while writing the text piece for my second book...that said trainman purchased the book, carefully read the Ticket to Ride text piece and contacted its author.  What a series of coincidences that came full circle...27 years later.
In June 2009, John wrote an entertaining, illustrated article for the Bytown Railway Society's fine publication, Branchline chronicling his service aboard the Canadian, sharing some anecdotes and experiences from interesting trips and passengers he'd encountered.  John mentioned that his job included riding the Park car of the Canadian between North Bend and Vancouver, and while monitoring the radio from the tail-end he found time to meet passengers.  As "an unofficial tour guide", John would share information about the route they were travelling. In my case, I was heading for Vancouver on No 1, with a tight connection with No 4 to Edmonton.  Though we were running almost two hours late, I didn't have to employ my Plan B, which would have involved disembarking to catch No 4 at Port Coquitlam.
Earlier, in June 2006, John penned another illustrated piece for Branchline on the subject of Okanagan railroading.  Reading both pieces, one comes away with the sense that while John was most definitely a railfan, he was professional on the job and was able to mix the two as appropriate.  John had worked for CPR as an operator in Ottawa, later transferring to Montreal.  Entering the running trades, John worked in Revelstoke, Penticton and Vancouver, serving several terms there as United Transportation Union Local 422 President.  In 1994-95, John also worked VIA's Malahat on Vancouver Island. 
John has worked on Canadian Pacific's 2816 trains four times, including the inaugural trip on September 19, 2001 as well as trains hauled by CP's restored F-units.  Here's something you won't often see a VIA Rail employee doing today...lifting heavy luggage or small children at the vestibule. Conductor job nickname...'baby-lifter'.
Having turned 55 in August, John's last trip aboard WCE will be December 5.  John poses in 2008 with engineer Tommy McDonagh, a good friend he worked the line with, unfortunately no longer with us.  John's regular passengers are planning an 'event' onboard!
John's now 23 year-old son Warren is a conductor with CP. Interestingly, Warren also worked steam locomotives on the Kettle Valley Steam Railway in Summerland BC, the Alberta Prairie Railway in Stettler AB, and 2860 runs with the West Coast Railway Association, eventually firing 2860 with supervision between Vancouver and White Rock BC.  Here are John and Warren aboard a CPR 2816 a few years ago:
John was kind enough to supply these photos, is also an avid collector of railway memorabilia, displayed in 'his museum':

*When he refers to his vast book collection, John is not exaggerating.  He will never run out of vessels to hold a hot beverage, either. (Arrow marks suggested location for a new book on VIA Rail.)
He invites anyone who's in the Vancouver area in future to feel more than welcome to stop by and see his collection.  Just send a heads-up email to johnpcowanATshawDOTca.  Best wishes on your retirement, John as you look back on many years and the many, many miles you've travelled!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Autumn in Belleville

Arriving at CN's Belleville Yard after a short visit to the Shannonville CP-CN over-under, the westbound freight I'd seen there had been and gone, though it left behind a 40-car cut of loaded ballast cars.  A CN Pettibone Speed Swing  was just south of the yard near Station Street. Time for some freightcarology: can you spot a BC Rail ballast car in the background?
I'm always fascinated to see the inter-mixing of CN predecessor and former subsidiary roads with CN's own cars, be it IC, WC, BLE, DWC or BCOL, such as predecessor tie cars.  These dark green ballast cars definitely stand out from CN's orange cars.  BCOL 2804 (above) and BCOL 2876 (below) are from a class of 100 39-foot cars built by Railwest Manufacturing in Squamish in 1977. They're a long way from the land of the redwood and the dogwood.
The Speed Swing sits idly by as a westbound CN freight enters the yard.  Grimy locomotives 8811 and 8814 pull their train in to make a crew change.
At one time there were many more yard tracks in this part of the yard, now removed.  CN has had so much trouble getting their supersized trains into the yard for Belleville for lifts/setouts, that the third track just has to help. Someone has cleaned off the grab irons and engine number on the rear of 8811.  The EcoConnexions decal caught my eye, and Winnipeg's Steve Boyko described this program in this post.
One of today's most-photographed schemes: Pan Am Railways, in this case applied to MEC 31918.  Here's the same car with slightly different lettering.
One of my favourite types of modified cars are these less conspicuous but more interesting green paper cars, originally operated by St Lawrence & Atlantic, now with Minnesota, Dakota & Western reporting marks. 
Though the Golden Triangle can refer to the area in Asia bounded by Burma, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam, in this case it's a 10-mile shortline in Mississippi operated by Patriot Rail Corp.  Like the ex-SLR car above, the GTRA car was in a cut of cars wearing MDW reporting marks.  Though it has an interesting history, this car is typical of today's generally crappy-looking, graffiti-covered rolling stock.
I like me a plain-Jane car now and then.  Aside from reflective striping, this well-tanned CNA Pullman-Standard covered hopper is standard ex-NAHX.
This is an unusual double-Distributed Power Unit (DPU) setup rarely seen on the Kingston Sub, though often seen elsewhere in western Canada and the U.S.  IC 1038 is not equipped for DPU, so its mate must be.  The DPU's were to the east of the former yard office, but I was able to zoom in on them somewhat.
Also wearing IC paint is this ingot-loaded orange bulkhead flat car.
What are the chances I could frame the VIA logo on a passing westbound passenger train between the stacks of ingots?  Apparently pretty good.
My wife commented on this nice, clean and un-graffiti'd CN-lettered car with DWC 794856 reporting marks.  Built this past April, the car has largely escaped the taggers.
Forty-foot, six-foot door car this is not.  It's big.

Running extra...

Check my sidebar for my new, fourth blog, Fast Food and Trains.  The initial post touches on the undeniable connection between the two.  Check it out for the latest on burgers and boxcars, coffee and coaches, diesels and drivethrus, gastonomy and gross tonnage...well, you get the idea.

The game of dominoes was just added to the Toy Hall of Fame in Rochester, NY.  Spotted there, one toy fan was heard to say, "Well, this proves that one thing leads to another - a sort of domino effect - this game was first played in China in the 1300's."  Also selected were Star Trek figures, originally produced in 1978.  Not selected was Twister, probably because a resurgence in sales would lead to a plethora of orthopedic surgeries if played now by the demographic that made the game popular.

My second and third new VIA Rail books are proving popular, with 80 and 60 copies respectively sold in the first two weeks.  You can follow updates here on my book blog, including feedback from customers, but stay tuned to Trackside Treasure next week for an ABC (astonishing book connection).

For some interesting reading that combines geography, history and transportation, check out the archaeological assessment and plans and profiles of the GO Transit Lakeshore East Corridor Oshawa to Bowmanville Rail Service Expansion on CP lines.  Full of photos, maps and more, have a GO at it!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Autumn in Shannonville

On November 3 I had the opportunity to head to a favourite railfan location - the CP crossing of CN's Kingston Sub at Shannonville, Ontario.  As in most of my earlier visits, CP saw fit to keep its freights at a safe distance away.  That is not to say there was absolutely no CP traffic.  The unmistakable high-pitched song of a hi-rail truck announced the arrival of a CP foreman with a TOP inspecting his territory (below).  Meanwhile, someone at CN proved the undeniable connection between fast food and trains.  On the back of one of their Track Occupancy Permits, a CN worker had drawn a map of notable local eateries: Domino's Pizza and Tim Hortons.  It was windy this day, so I used a sawed-off piece of rail as a photo prop paperweight (above).
Of course, I do not advocate standing around on railway property, much less on a bridge. However, the foreman's inspection meant that this was my chance to record the juxtaposition of CP (left, looking east, with CN's now triple-track mainline, at right) from CP's bridge:
and looking west, CP at left with CN's newest, northernmost track at right:
The bleat of VIA P42DC 915's horn announced the eastbound's passage, transiting Foreman Free's Rule 42 limits between Mile 221 to Mile 211, cleared from his sentinel position atop an earthen berm east of Belleville.  Trains were operating on south track only between Marysville and Quinte.  CN Work 900 Eng 5937 was dropping ballast within these limits at Mitchell Side Road.  Quite a difference between June and November, looking west from the bridge in the following two views, plus third track now tamped into place.  The profile and alignment of the third track is a little different from the previous two tracks, made necessary by the position of CP's bridge abutments.

Two Industrial Rail Services-refurbished LRC cars tailed the train east at Mi 214 Kingston Sub.  CP's northernmost bridge abutment is visible extreme left, with CN's new third track in foreground.  Quite a change since double-track only in September 2009.
Update on third-tracking from VIA engineer Chris Diddy: The new track 1 has been cut in to the old North track at mile 215.  The third track has been added on north and south sides: north side Mile 209-215, south side Mile 215 -217 (new Quinte) south side with old track 4 reconstructed to Moira also on the south side. In addition, track 1 has been in service from Napanee to Marysville for a couple of weeks.  Sounding like a weedeater on rails, a CN ballast regulator hove into view from the east.
The northernmost milepost 214 had at is base a small pile of ballast regulator rubber broom hoses stacked against it. Trackside at many locations west of Marysville, crews were holding safety briefings before going out to work on the ballast.  Contractors were working east of Belleville on crossings, signal installations all along the Kingston Sub - very Union Pacific-like! CN 8828 West passes through the limits, handling D-5 dimensional loads on the headend - mobile homes looking like wrapped loads on BCR bulkhead flatcars - doors, windows and siding all facing the south side (darn).
A large cut of ballast cars, soon set-out for the triple-tracking project in Belleville yard, likely loaded in Drummondville, Quebec.  You'll see more of those interesting green former BC Rail ballast cars in the next post.  An eastbound Continuous Welded Rail train trod this section of track in September 2008.
Looking like a propane tank car-mounted giant bagel, this tank car hatch caught my eye.  Carman?
Mid-train Distributed Power Unit 2311 leads the rear half of the train.  Reminiscent of my previous post on was followed by...AUTORACKS! In March 2011, only the sub-roadbed for the third track was in place here.
Graffiti is art.  Graffiti is vandalism. Discuss.
An earlier visit in April 2009 was the original post from this location - Springtime in Shannonville. I've heard of rails-to-trails, but this is trails near rails...CP's use of a ballast undercutter, concurrent with application with tons of new grey ballast has given us a CP Belleville Sub-side trail, visible behind the whistle sign:
The fields and all things in them shall be joyful...all the trees of the wood rejoice - Psalm 96:12.
Belleville's station soars cathedral-like even above a double-stacked CN No 149.  In part 2, I'll provide more coverage at Belleville, including a rare double DPU.

Running extra...

U.S. election fun fact:  If Mitt Romney had become president, he would have been only the second president in history to be named after an article of clothing.  The first being Teddy (Roosevelt).  

Seven ways to make the U.S. election more fun:
1. Make it shorter. Much shorter.  Six weeks here in Canada.
2. Tell high school kids how they can get scholarships to this Electoral College.
3. Need more political reporters with great names like Poppy Harlow, Chip Reid and Wolf Blitzer.
4. What's with the donkey and elephant symbols?  How about a squirrel and a badger?  Or ferocious, duelling eagles.  An armadillo and possum?  The almighty buck, and lots of doe?  Discuss.
5. What's with red states and blue states? They all look greyish-green from a few miles up.
6. Get a third party.  Less rhetoric, more exciting.  Alex, I'll take coalition governments for 400?
7. Ballot format simplification.  A Florida ballot I saw looked like a daily newspaper or perhaps a book.

The first week of sales of my new VIA books has been very encouraging.  I'd like to thank the many customers who bought my first book and have returned for more.  You'll find the second book quite a departure - as one customer said, more of a 'read' than its predecessor.  That's for sure.  Books are on their way to Washington and New York, to Victoria and Newfoundland!