Friday, December 19, 2014

VIA trains 111 and 112, December 1980

VIA's September 29, 1980 timetable (Hello, ladies!) included a centre supplement with something new: the first time a train to Halifax had originated and terminated in Toronto. VIA train No 112 operated eastbound on four dates from Toronto to Halifax, and No 111 operated westbound, both departing their respective originating stations on December 20, 22, 26 and 28. A closeup of the fanciful timetable centre supplement artwork - Santa onboard:

Both trains made stops in Guildwood, Kingston, operating through southeastern Ontario, southern Quebec, then a long non-stop trip across Maine to McAdam, NB thence making the regular stops the Atlantic made into Halifax. In succeeding years, VIA operated extra pre-Christmas trains to the East Coast, though these subsequent trains ran only as far west as Montreal. But December 1980's were the first trains to operate across the state of Maine in two sections in 25 years. The second (non-advance) sections of each train terminated in Montreal. This article was published in the Kingston Whig-Standard by columnist and railfan photographer Bill Reid on December 10, 1980:
Among VIAphiles, the memory of these sold-out trains can spark considerable controversy. How and why were they operated? Why were their consists special? What operational changes were made to ensure their cars of east- and westbound holiday travellers would arrive at their distant destinations on time and in comfort?
December, 1980 trainwatching at Amherst View, just west of Mi 182 Kingston Sub (L.C. Gagnon photo). My brother Dave documents a storming eastbound, with a CN RS-18 behind the leading FPA-4. This was the era in which VIA cab units had those very good-looking red nose logos. The consist of a VIA westbound on Dec 23, likely Rapido No 63 running 15 minutes late at 1347 - 15 cars led by 6526-6619-6760:
My Dad watches a westbound at 1250 with 6525-6621-9 cars - likely Nos 53/43, the combined Lakeshore/Capital:
Jason Shron has pointed out that Turbos were covering morning Rapido AND afternoon Turbo runs in the pre-Christmas rush. I observed 149-154 eastbound, and 146-151 westbound on morning runs December 22 and 23. Eastbound morning Turbo:
Westbound - not too many numbers for me to write down - just the power units:
Another westbound, likely late afternoon, with a CN-painted coach second in the consist. VIA was using non-EM coaches and balloon tops to fill out consists during this busy period.
VIA No 111 was shown on the same schedule as No 11. Did the trains operate together? Nope, they would have been way too long at nearly 30 cars total. No 112 was shown operating 1 hour and 25 minutes ahead of No 12's regular schedule east of McAdam. Bruce Owen Nett authored an article in January 1982 Railfan & Railroad, profiling the trains' arrival on December 21, 1980 at Brownville Junction, ME. Temperature that night dropped to 30 degrees below - that's Fahrenheit! Bruce noted that observation cars were used for accommodation of the on-board service crews, though not the engine crews. The OBS crews would stay on board from Toronto to Halifax, since the train did not (officially) stop in Montreal. The cars Burrard and Bedford were brought east from their usual assignment on the summer-only Skeena between Jasper and Prince Rupert for these special trains. To see multiple sleepers and diners operating on the Kingston Sub in daytime was indeed special, and we made some efforts to catch these trains and record their consists.

I was fortunate to see two of the trains:
Eastbound No 112 at 1316 on December 22: 
6790-6620-CN 3119-9645-5426-5409-752-5722-5734-Greenbank-1369-Bonheur-Elcott-Evanston-Reversing Falls...

...and westbound No 111 at 1357 on December 23 (above photo - original notes below): 
6790-6620-CN 3119-Sisiboo Falls-Exeter-Evelyn-Harmonie-1348-Ecum Secum River-Green Lane-5733-5701-765-5297-5306-5197-9646. (HH61 is a designation I added, one prefix series  for freights, another for VIA trains) Power at Truro was 6772-6634-6773.
Through the efforts of Bill Linley, David Morris, David Othen and Bruce Owen Nett, we have these December 1980 consists for posterity - VIA Nos 111 and 112 are referred to as First 11 and First 12 respectively.

December 20, First No 11 at Halifax NS:
6772-6623-6773, no consist available. (6772 flying white flags.)

December 20 First No 11 at Saint John NB:
6775-6871-CP 8561-9645-5426-5409-5389-752-5722-5734-Greenbank-Rideau River-1369-Bonheur-Elcott-Evanston-Reversing Falls-Exploits River

December 20 Second No 11 at Saint John NB:
6768-6628-6864-9636-5621-5405-5394-3035-426-5714-Fortune Bay-1374-Cape Tormentine-Green Bush-Greenvale?-Pyramid Falls-Fitzwilliam

December 21 First No 11 at Brownville Jct, ME:
6775-6861-CP 8561-9627-5542-5578-5483-5532-755-5702-5707-Greenshields?-Greenhurst-1307?-Cape Canso-Reversing Falls-Churchill Falls-Exploits River

December 21 Second No 11 at Brownville Jct. ME:
6768-6628-6864, no consist available.

December 21 First No 12 at Saint John NB
6772-6634-6773-Sisiboo Falls-Exeter-Evelyn-Harmonie-1348-Ecum Secum River-Green Lane-5701-5733-765-5297-5306-5197-9646-Bedford

December 21 Second No 12 at Saint John NB:
6776-6865-6780-9627-5580-5407-3039-432-5702-Buckley Bay-Yukon River-1365-Cape Canso- Green Cabin - Green Ridge-Rainbow Falls-Resplendent

December 22, First No 11 at Halifax:
photographed by David Othen: 6782-6858-67xx, no consist available. (6782 flying green flags)

December 22  Second No 11 at Truro:
6780-6865-6776-9627-5580-5407-3039-432-5702-Yukon River-1365-Cape Canso-Green Ridge- Green Cabin-Rainbow Falls-Mount Resplendent.

December 26 First No 11 at Halifax:
6785 and 2 B units, no consist available.

December 27 No train number, direction or location:
6771-6867-6868-Entwistle-Sisiboo Falls-Harmonie-1377-Green Lane-5701-765-5400-5283-9646-Bedford.

I included the above consist in my first book on VIA Rail, and was pleased when book contributor Gary Hadfield sent me consists of the trains he observed in Truro, NS on December 22. One major difference - Gary's consist of No 111 included the VIA observation car Bedford, and the train was marshalled in its usual order - locomotives-baggage car-coaches-Dayniters-sleepers. Not so when I observed the train at Kingston - Bedford was missing, and the train operated reversed so that as shown above, the baggage car trailed.

I believe that the train crossed the Victoria Bridge, entered Montreal's Central Station, at least for the removal of Bedford, before proceeding in 'reverse' order westward on the Kingston Sub.

But then again, Dec 21's First 12 was operating with Sisiboo Falls behind the power and the rest of the train in reverse order!

Some 43 years later, Steve Bradley came across a couple of his own photos and realized from the dates that they represented two departures of VIA No 112 from Toronto. On an overcast morning, VIA No 62 Eng 6774 (at left) and VIA No 112 Eng 6790 on December 22, 1980 steaming at Toronto Union (below). The same train I observed, but didn't photograph, right on time at Kingston. Then I photographed the same locomotive consist westbound (above), returning west the next day.
VIA No 112 Eng 6515 near Guildwood on  December 20, 1980 - the very first No 112! This definitely fills a hole in the data points above.
Thanks, Steve!


Mark Hymers from New Brunswick recently shared a photo taken onboard the eastbound No 112 on December 22, 1980! Mark's daughter is enjoying her time in one of the sections - big smile compared to today's equivalent - watching a DVD in a minivan on a long drive east! A neighbouring section's passenger is making good use of a pillow! Mark mentioned that the westward Saint John to Kitchener trip required a change of trains at Montreal and Toronto, but the simpler eastbound trip meant no connections necessary at Montreal! Now, though Mark doesn't recall the sleeper's name, can we deduce which car they were travelling in from this view?

Running extra...

Permit me a bit of Currier & Ives Americana for my Christmas card (below) to Trackside Treasure's loyal readers and blog partners: Steve, John, Chris, Dave, TOTW, Oddblock Station Agent, Michael, Robert, JD, Jason, Bruce, Chris, Adam, Matt and Scott. 
Merry Christmas to all, and Happy Blogging in 2015!!


Zartok-35 said...

Very interesting! Not too often did ex-CN FPA4s mingle with CP RS10s. The variety of sleeping car classes is very rich aswell.

Eric said...

Thanks for your comment, Elijah. Good point about the unit assignments - a couple of CP units found their way onto these trains, and I suspect some script markings and/or CP Rail red on them.

Merry Christmas and all the best for 2015!

Unknown said...

I was able to photograph these trains on all four days at Halifax. On December 20 train 111 departed with white flags behind 6772 6634 & 6773 (I have two photos). On December 22 train 111 departed with green flags behind 6782 6858 and another FPA4(I have three photos). On December 26 6785 and two B units headed train 111 - the only photo I have found shows the three units backing onto their train without flags.
On 28 December I have a photo of both trains in Halifax station - the longer has two A and two B units and has white flags, the shorter has an A unit and two B units (one still in black & white) and no flags. If people are interested I can scan and post the photos.

Seasons Greetings

David Othen Dartmouth Nova Scotia (

Robert in Port Townsend said...

Merry Christmas, Eric. Looking forward to what you have in mind next year. Keep up the good work!

Eric said...

Same to you, Robert! I have a lot of good stuff in the mill. Like the old saying says - so much good stuff, so little time!

Thanks for being aboard, and all the best to you, my fellow blog partner for 2015!


Kenneth said...

Just reading this and was fascinated to learn that no less than three of the sleepers had Newfoundland and Labrador names - CHURCHILL FALLS, EXPLOITS RIVER & FORTUNE BAY! - Kenneth

Eric said...

Interesting, Kenneth! CN was pretty judicious about naming the cars based on the provinces in which they operated. I'm not sure if it would be done the same way if done today. Some of those car names are picturesque!

Thanks for your comment,

Unknown said...

Very, very interesting. Thanks!

Vern Doyle

Eric said...

Glad you enjoyed it, Vern.
Thanks for your comment!