Wednesday, January 27, 2016

VIA Operation Axle: Photos

You'll likely find some photos of Operation Axle trains posted online. But one has to know what one is looking at, judge the era, the location and the equipment to ascertain the veracity of any captioned date. While creating this series on Operation Axle, I came across a few Operation Axle photos posted to an online auction site. These photos show some of the unique equipment combinations, at some familiar locations through which such equipment would not normally operate.

But before we begin, Pierre Fournier kindly shared a photo (top) of VIA No 23 at St Leonard, QC on April 4, 1992, with LRC locomotive 6912, SGU and two blue & yellow coaches. Fortunately, Pierre has watermarked the photo with the date, over two weeks into Operation Axle. Merci, Pierre!

I found this watermarked online auction site photo a couple of years ago. Why was an F40-SGU-Blue & yellow coaches-baggage car train operating through Dundas, ON? I did a quick re-formatting of the photo and saved it. It got me searching back through the archives for more on Operation Axle. (It was VIA No 172 Eng 6438 in March, 1992!)
For the rail enthusiast, evidence can still be found of this important though short-lived era of VIA Rail’s history. Check the date of quirky VIA consist photos you might encounter – were they taken in the spring months of 1992?  These may not have been taken during the kaleidoscopic early VIA years as they might first appear.  They may in fact have been taken during Operation Axle.  It’s a little remarked-upon blip on VIA’s timeline, when tragedy was averted, innovation and safety were paramount, and those of us who were trackside were rewarded with operations of unimagined variety. Now to those 1992 photos posted online:
GO APCU 906 with GO bilevels and VIA 6412 at Hamilton West on March 23:
VIA 6412 with GO bilevels at Bayview Junction on April 2/92:

VIA No 73 is VIA 6447-GO APCU and three GO bilevels at Hamilton West on March 25 (above) GO F59 550 leads VIA No 71 at Bayview Junction on March 24:
 GO APCU 907 is on VIA No 172 at Bayview Junction on March 28, VIA 64xx trailing:
GO 906 trails VIA-led No 71 at Bayview Jct. on March 29, 1992:
VIA 6902-6308 on March 23, 1992 at Hamilton West:
John Reay recently shared two photos he took during Op Axle. Thanks, John! VIA 6920 is at Dickinson Road at Mi 274 Kingston Sub in 1992:
and VIA 6413 leads an SGU, coaches and a baggage through Newtonville, also in 1992:
Online auction site photos: VIA 6427 leads an SGU and blue & yellow consist east at Belleville on March 30, 1992:
VIA 6456 with blue & yellow at Belleville in March, 1992:
VIA 6418 with blue & yellow westbound at Mi 178 Kingston Sub on March 29, 1992:
VIA 6421 leads an SGU and blye & yellow consist at Smiths Falls, ON on April 9, 1992:
The following links comprise all the Operation Axle photos I've come across. A nice variety from Ontario and Quebec. Without securing permission from the posters/photographers of the following photos, I've instead posted links to each on its respective original webpage. Take a trip down Operation Axle 1992 memory lane with me:

Glenn Courtney, Southwest Ontario:
VIA No 640 on March 29, 1992 with F40-SGU-3 blue & yellow cars
VIA No 73 on March 28, 1992 with F40-3 GO bilevels-GO APCU
Pierre Fournier's photo (above) shows VIA No 24 Eng 6903 at Aston, QC on April 4, 1992, with SGU-two blue & yellow cars in the consist. Some more of Pierre's Op Axle photos taken in Quebec:
VIA No 621 on April 26, 1992 with 6902-SGU-blue & yellow cars
VIA No 23 on March 29, 1992 with 6912-SGU-2 blue& yellow cars
and the ultimate, the epitome, the pointy pinnacle of Operation Axle consists:
VIA No 23 on March 22, 1992 with 6905-SGU-1 little blue & yellow car

From Southwest Ontario...
A.W. Mooney:
VIA No 73 with 6408-GO bilevels-GO 907-6446 at Dundas, April 8, 1992.

Rich Stewart:
VIA No 71 with GO Transit 550 at Woodstock, March 24, 1992 and cab car 228 leading.

David Brook:
VIA leading GO at Bayview Jct., April 18, 1992.

Alex Simins:
VIA No 74 at Bayview Jct., March 29, 1992 with 6447-GO APCU and bilevels.

Geoff Elliott:
VIA No 72 at Hyde Park on May 20, 1992 with 6446-4 B&Y cars.

John Eull:
GO consist at London, led by GO cab car 237 on April 4, 1992.

Peter Mumby:
White River Division blog post published in July, 2018 showing a GO bilevel consist at London on April 12, 1992.

A quick trip through the files reveals both TRAINS and RAILFAN magazine covered Op Axle. What got their editors' attention? GO equipment on VIA, that's what! Douglas C Weitzman's photo in TRAINS featured VIA No 73 at Windsor's Walkerville station "on March 17, 1992" about to depart east as No 78 behind an F69(sic) diesel:
Meanwhile, over at RAILFAN (above), Julien R Wolfe photographed VIA No 72 behind GO GP40M-2 721-APCU 902 with sausage-link (sic) bilevels also at Windsor, on March 20. Sausage-links? Not just for breakfast anymore!

Part one of this series featured an historical look at Operation Axle. The last post in the series will include consist mockups. My sincere thanks to Pierre Fournier and John Reay for their contributions!

Running extra...
It's train time at Toronto Union - last Friday! I've been waiting to publish this series until it has appeared in print, in the January-February 2016 issue of Bytown Railway Society's Branchline newsmagazine. Thanks to Malcolm Vant and the editorial team for the pole position and excellent presentation of the article in this issue!

Life at VIA is a light-hearted Youtube video featuring VIA Rail employees - from baggage handlers and counter agents to on-board service staff (haven't tried climbing into LRC overhead luggage bins as at the 3:54 mark) and the man in the corner office - YDS!

I can't believe modellers spend perfectly good money on these messy cars. Spoiler alert - clicking on the CN apple billboard car will lead you right back to good ol' Trackside Treasure!

Thursday, January 21, 2016

VIA Operation Axle, March-June 1992

VIA No 62 arrives at Kingston on March 30, 1992 with 6413-15420-5584-3246-5448 (above). VIA No 63 arrives one hour later with 6425-15478-9624-3201-5458-5529-5576-3224 (below). At the time, these trains were the only VIA trains operating between Montreal and Toronto with a baggage car. However, it would normally be an ex-CP HEP or ex-UP HEP baggage car and LRC coaches!  The lucky folks in southwestern Ontario would see blue & yellow cars until the mid-90's on trains like VIA Nos 72, 73 and 78, hauled by 6400's and sometimes SGU's.                       
In the early 1990s, VIA Rail experienced axle failures on its Light-Rapid-Comfortable (LRC) cars. Such axle failures had the potential to cause serious derailments.  VIA’s organizational response and ensuing operational modifications led to some unexpected travel hiccups for passengers, while producing interesting train consists for those of us who were trackside. This tenuous period in VIA Rail’s history has been dubbed by some - Operation Axle. I touched on this period in my second book on VIA Rail, and now I'll give Trackside Treasure's readers more background and depth here.


The first LRC locomotives and cars entered service in the summer of 1981. Conceived by MLW (later Bombardier), Alcan and Dofasco, the bilingually-titled Light-Rapid-Comfortable/Leger-Rapide-Confortable prototype locomotive and coach were built by MLW in 1973. VIA placed orders totalling $93 million in 1980, eventually totalling 31 locomotives (6900-6930) and 100 coaches (3300-3399) which were delivered between 1981 and 1984. The wedge-nosed 6900's produced 3700 hp, and the coaches' steps were 10 inches from low-level platforms, compared to 21 inches for conventional coaches. Starting with the fall timetable, the LRC equipment was expected to replace fifty percent of the ex-CN equipment by mid-1982. In December 1983, VIA removed its 50 LRC cars from service for inspection by Bombardier and replacement of wheel bearings. Resulting car shortages required leasing of GO equipment for some trains west of Toronto. Foreshadowing of things to come, perhaps.


A minor derailment on early in 1991 was followed by more in 1992. 
On January 31, 1991 VIA No 37 derailed at Mile 72.9 of CN’s Alexandria Sub. The train’s consist comprised F40PH-2D 6423-VIA 1 ‘club’ car 3474 and coaches 3339-3317-3343 and it was 3474 to which the derailment cause was traced.

On February 17, 1992 Ottawa-Montreal train No 34 derailed two LRC cars at 78 mph, near Glen Robertson, Ontario at Mile 15.3 Alexandria Sub. The break was at the bearing backing ring groove of an axle under coach 3339.

An axle defect inboard from the brake rotor led to the next LRC derailment less than two weeks later, on February 29 at St Lambert, Quebec on CN’s St-Hyacinthe Sub.  LRC coach 3319 was one of the coaches on Quebec-Montreal No 621, which was moving at only 15 mph at the time.  The axle had only been in service since December 19, 1991.

Finally, on March 16, Toronto-Ottawa No 46 experienced a broken axle east of Belleville, Ontario at Mile 204.3 of CN’s Kingston Sub – the third in a one-month period. VIA 1 club car 3461 suffered an axle break in the area of the bearing backing ring shoulder groove while the train was travelling at 89 mph. The story made it to the pages of the Kingston Whig-Standard:


Previously, in 1990, VIA had altered its wheel shell size condemning limit from one-inch to one-and-a-half inches, in reaction to proposed limits to be stipulated in Transport Canada minimum safety standards for passenger equipment. Wheel shelling can occur if the wheel’s entire tread surface is heated to high temperatures for long periods of time. The steel surface is weakened and contact rolling stresses cause tiny cracks called heat checks on the tread surface. If the cracks are not worn out, the cracks will eventually link together, pit out, and form a shell.

As a result of preliminary information, the Transportation Safety Board (TSB) forwarded a Safety Advisory to Transport Canada in April 1991, advising that axle failures may be related to corrosion pitting, and that early signs of failure might be detected using ultrasonic testing techniques. VIA performed subsequent ultrasonic testing of axles, finding six axles with an anomaly. These LRC coaches were removed from service. As a further preventive measure, VIA began using another lubricant, this one containing a corrosion inhibitor, on roller bearings of LRC axles.

Further investigation of the axle failures revealed that other factors, in addition to corrosion, had caused the failures. Therefore, in March 1992, the TSB made the following recommendations:

R92-01: The Department of Transport ensure that all axles on VIA LRC equipment that have not been ultrasonically tested within the past month be removed from service for testing as soon as practicable.
R92-02: The Department of Transport require that the axles of all VIA LRC equipment be ultrasonically tested at intervals not to exceed the average monthly mileage of the LRC fleet, to ensure the continuing integrity of the axles.
R92-03: The Department of Transport inform any other operators of equipment employing axles of the design used on LRC equipment of the potential for rapidly-propagating fatigue cracks.
R92-04: The Department of Transport require a program of dynamic testing on LRC axles to assess in-service stresses under actual operation conditions.
R92-05: The Department of Transport, in cooperation with VIA, evaluate the adequacy of the current LRC axle design, manufacture, and maintenance, and if necessary, develop a plan for the replacement of all current LRC axles.

VIA took immediate action with regard to recommendations R92-01 to R92-04. In February, VIA had already begun in-depth ultrasonic axle inspections.  The broken axle in the March 16 incident had been inspected on March 4, and had travelled 4,800 miles afterwards, only half the inspection interval recommended by the TSB.  This unfortunate and unforeseen event, coupled with the potential for a major derailment, led the TSB to issue an urgent warning of “life-threatening mechanical defect” for the LRC coaches.  VIA management decided to withdraw all LRC coaches and club cars from service until better inspection methods restored confidence in predicting axle breaks. The LRC-2 (6900-6920) and LRC-3 (6921-6930) locomotives were unaffected, and some continued to operate during Operation Axle with non-LRC cars.

On April 5, 1992 an instrumented test train of LRC equipment was operated on CN’s Kingston Subdivision. Results of the testing showed that axles equipped with shelled wheels recorded dynamic stress peaks, specifically in the area of the bearing backing ring grooves and inboard rotor seats, that were near the endurance limit of the axle. The endurance limit is the stress limit beyond which an axle can fail.

Metallurgical analysis by the Engineering Laboratory of the TSB revealed that the steel conformed to Association of American Railroads Standards and Recommended Practices as did the size design specifications of the axles. However, the micro-hardness examination of the bearing backing ring grooves failed to indicate the effects of cold rolling as indicated in the manufacturer’s drawings.

Public safety was paramount.  Railway industry experts, VIA officials, the TSB and Transport Canada’s Railway Safety Branch worked together in an extensive investigation.  A group of replacement axles first used in 1983, as well as original axles manufactured by Dofasco in 1978-1979, were found to contain manufacturing defects which could rapidly lead to total axle breakage and failure.

VIA subsequently acquired and installed new axles for its LRC fleet. Corrective action involved complete replacement of LRC coach axles, at a total cost of $750,000.  VIA contracted CN’s Atelier Montreal Facility at Pointe St Charles to produce 500 new axles with wheels pressed, including 100 to be held if needed.  After research and testing indicated the replacement axle design was acceptable, VIA resumed LRC service in April, 1992.

Douglas N W Smith's excellent Canadian Rail Passenger Yearbook 1993 Edition contains the only photo I've seen of Operation Axle replacement actually in progress. Doug's photo, used with permission, shows a shopped LRC coach with a line of inspected axles ready to be installed:
A TSB Safety Advisory was forwarded to Transport Canada in May, 1992 proposing the definitive condemning limit for passenger equipment to be one-inch diameter. Shelling in the VIA LRC fleet was widespread, with 43% of wheels surveyed having shells larger than the one-inch condemning limit, 11% of wheel sets with wheels of varying circumferences, and 7% with radically out-of-round (eccentric) rolling surfaces. VIA continued to use the one-inch standard.

VIA introduced revised inspection procedures and increased audits to ensure proper wheel inspection, introduced a program to upgrade LRC axle manufacture, testing and maintenance, wheel tread standards and the use of rust-preventative compounds.


Since the withdrawn LRC cars were the backbone of VIA’s car fleet in daily Corridor service, replacements had to be found – quickly!  VIA hustled to inspect and return to service conventional blue & yellow cars that had been stored serviceable. The last conventional equipment between Montreal and Toronto was on VIA Nos 62/63 into May 1991, and Nos 168/169 into 1992, though blue & yellow equipment would continue in intermittent use into 1996 in Southwestern Ontario. There were not enough such cars immediately available, so trains ran with only three or four cars in an attempt to protect schedules.  VIA was forced to borrow bilevel coaches, APCU’s and locomotives from GO Transit. Passengers were not used to riding commuter equipment in longer distance intercity service! VIA F40PH-2D’s operated with GO Transit bilevel coach consists west of Toronto.

Ex-CP stainless steel coaches, Steam Generator Units (SGU’s) and F-units were once again seen in Corridor service.  This was before Head End Power and during cold weather, so steam heat had to be supplied to conventional cars. VIA’s F40PH-2D’s did not have this capability, so SGU’s or F-units were also required. LRC cars began deadheading back towards Montreal via Toronto, as conventional equipment was deployed in the opposite direction.  VIA passengers transferred to buses or GO Transit bilevels received travel credits for 50% off ticket price from VIA. Shorter trains, caused by VIA scrambling to provide sufficient cars to protect schedules, meant that some passengers were turned away. Conventional train consists stayed coupled together for days once assembled.  VIA even considered borrowing equipment from Amtrak. Operational train-handling differences due to mixing of equipment types included braking and acceleration, plus slightly-reduced operating speeds.


A timeline of events shows the speed and scope of VIA’s response, and the effects on day-to-day Corridor operations once the LRC cars were removed from service for axle replacement.

After the March 16, 1992 derailment east of Belleville, VIA management made the decision to sideline the LRC car fleet at once. What would happen to VIA’s Corridor operations the next day? Here is a timeline of some of the key events of Operation Axle:

On March 17, the following trains were replaced by buses: all Montreal-Quebec trains, all but one Montreal-Ottawa train, and one Sarnia-Toronto train. One Montreal-Toronto train each way was cancelled, as was one Windsor-Toronto train. Trains set to operate with LRC equipment were deadheaded back to shops – Nos 70 and 72 from Windsor to Toronto, No 80 from Sarnia to Toronto, and Nos 41 and 30 from Ottawa to Montreal. Fortunately, the schedules of trains 70 and 72 were protected by conventional (blue & yellow) equipment already in Windsor. Trackside Treasure Malcolm Peakman was in Montreal for a meeting regarding the Bombardier takeover of Lavalin. He returned to Kingston on a delayed, blue & yellow consist with a cantankerous club car and eventually no lights!

VIA used 3500-series LRC coaches to protect the schedules of Nos 71 and 81 from Toronto. (The ten 3500-series cars had been refurbished for International service to the U.S., and therefore were not compatible with the rest of VIA’s LRC cars.) The 3500’s were also then deadheaded back to Toronto and removed from the joint Amtrak-VIA Toronto-Chicago service, with Amtrak providing both trainsets. Trackside Treasure reader and VIA hogger Terry Brennan was in Windsor that day, and reports that afterwards, on-board service personnel had to set up on a piece of plywood across a GO four-seater. Try making coffee on that!

A passenger extra operated from Montreal to Ottawa to cover No 41’s schedule. Toronto-Montreal Nos 66/67 operated on the schedule of Nos 166/167 later on the 17th. Of VIA Nos 44, 63, 65, 66 and 166 expected into Toronto in the usual three-hour timeframe, only No 166’s schedule was operated. VIA-1 enhanced service was suspended due to the unavailability of sufficient blue & yellow 650-series club galley cars.

On March 18, blue & yellow conventional cars began operating in the Corridor once again. VIA trains between Montreal, Ottawa and Toronto including Nos 46, 64 and 66 comprised 6400-series F40PH-2Ds or a 6300-series FP9ARM pulling conventional cars. VIA train No 71 was the first GO bilevel-equipped VIA train operated. Three GO trainsets were in use.

On March 19, a fourth GO bilevel trainset entered VIA service. These trainsets would be used to protect the schedules of VIA trains 72 or 74, 76, 78 and 80 eastward into Toronto and trains 71, 73, 75 and 87 westward from Toronto.

On March 22, VIA-1 service was re-established on Nos 166/167 using 650-series club galleys, followed by trains 60/61 the next day.

On April 5, Montreal-Quebec VIA No 26’s locomotive 6903 had its fuel tank pierced by an unknown object. Trailing SGU 15466 was damaged in the ensuing fire (though it returned to service three days later). Coaches 3242 and 5590 were uncoupled to permit access by fire crews. The train’s passengers were transferred to the Ocean, VIA No 14. The same day, a test train operated on CN’s Kingston Sub, with LRC cars 3360-3465-3462-3464 bracketed by LRC locomotives 6905 and 6907. The cars had instrumentation installed to measure output from shelled and unshelled wheels for comparison.

On April 7, VIA operated a special overnight movement of 20 LRC cars from its Toronto maintenance centre to Montreal.

By April 12, 80 of the LRC cars were in Montreal, though little if any re-axling had been completed.

On April 17, the first re-axled LRC trainset was placed back in service, with another set following two days later. These trainsets protected Montreal-Toronto afternoon limited-stop  trains 66/67 and evening express trains 166/167.

On May 1, the first re-axled LRC trainset operated into Ottawa. Once completed, re-axled trainsets were re-entering service to southwest Ontario, Quebec City and across the Corridor.

On May 3, I was trackside at Kingston to observe my last conventional-equipped Operation Axle-era train, VIA No 63. The next time I was trackside on May 12, it was back to LRC cars on Toronto-Ottawa No 46.

On June 2, the last of the re-axled LRC cars returned to service.


As a big believer in the value of train consist information, I have selected some consists from the Operation Axle era, many of which I observed at Kingston during that 1992 spring. Consists not only place a train in context with date, train and direction, they also give an clear picture of which locomotives and cars were operating together. I’ve included an example of each of the unusual consist types that substituted for the usual LRC cars:

Apr 9/92 Ott-Tor No 41: 6919-6310-5628-3253-5611 (LRC2-FP9ARM-B&Y)
Apr 10/92 Ott-Tor No 47: 6921-15448-3245-5522-5504 (LRC3-SGU-B&Y)
Mar 19/92 Ott-Tor No 49: 6308-3222-5447-5517 (FP9ARM-B&Y)
Mar 18/92 Nia Falls-Tor No 636: 6424-8115-8113 (F40-HEP1)
Apr 6/92 Tor-Mtl No 68 6428-6514-5569-3201-5531 (F40-FP9-B&Y)
Mar 20/92 Tor-Ott No 48: 6427-6312-3252-5437-5616-3032-5448 (F40-FP9ARM-B&Y)
Mar 17/92 Tor-Win No 71: 6422-3506-3503-3511 (F40-3500series)
Mar 17/92 Tor-Ott No 40: 6438-15472-5576-3219-5652 (F40-SGU-B&Y)
Apr 20/92 Ott-Tor No 47: 6419-15469-103-108-3240-5736 (F40-SGU-exCP-B&Y)
Mar 18/92 Tor-Mtl No 64: 6407-15468-5511-5654-3247-3242-3216-9624 (F40-SGU-B&Y-baggage)
Mar 30/92 Tor-Mtl No 64: 6422-15481-3212-109-100-3213-5531-9671 (F40-SGU-exCP-B&Y-baggage)
Apr 19/92 Tor-Win No 75: 6447-GO 2042-2023-2027-2022-908 (F40-GO bilevels-GO APCU)
Apr 19/92 Sar-Tor No 80: GO 902-2035-2026-2047-721 (GO APCU-GO bilevels-GO GP40)
Mar 21/92 Tor-Win No 75: GO 544-2250-2303-237 (GO F59-GO bilevels)


The following equipment has been compiled from observed consists during Operation Axle. Each car type is listed chronologically by first sighting, not numerically, to give a better idea of which cars entered service first during Operation Axle. Unless otherwise noted, all VIA cars are conventional, ex-CN blue & yellow cars.

VIA Ex-CP stainless steel coaches – 100, 109, 103, 108.
VIA Ex-CP stainless steel HEP1 coaches – 8113, 8115, 8124.
VIA 650-series club galleys: Mount Royal Club, Empire Club, Club Richelieu, University Club, Saint James’s Club, Club St Denis.
VIA café-coach-lounge: 3032.
VIA snack bar coach: 3213, 3253, 3219, 3222, 3208, 3218, 3252, 3204, 3237, 3201, 3244, 3203, 3220, 3216, 3242, 3247, 3246, 3212, 3202, 3224, 3215, 3240, 3252, 3245.
VIA 5400-series coach: 5449, 5447, 5444, 5440, 5446, 5448, 5458, 5439, 5466, 5487, 5488, 5464.
VIA 5500-series coach: 5576, 5517, 5582, 5584, 5529, 5561, 5560, 5569, 5578, 5537, 5564, 5511, 5522, 5532, 5581, 5558, 5506, 5531, 5504.
VIA 5600-series coach: 5628-5652-5618-5623-5616-5654-5646-5603-5611-5642.
VIA Dayniter: 5736.
VIA baggage car: 9624, 9654, 9671, 9628.
VIA steam generator units: 15455, 15472, 15454, 15470, 15448, 15478, 15481, 15452, 15468, 15473, 15415, 15458, 15460, 15483, 15459, 15469, 15418, 15461, 15420.
VIA FP9: 6506, 6514. These hold-out FP9’s had been in use on VIA’s Ocean and Atlantic from 1990 to 1992, and were among the last of VIA’s unrebuilt cab units in active service. In fact, 6514 was part of the locomotive consist of the Ocean that derailed on CN’s Mont Joli Sub, on March 26, 1992.
VIA FP9ARM: 6307, 6308, 6309, 6310, 6311 and perhaps other 6300’s.
GO 2xxx bilevel coaches
GO 2xx bilevel cab car


For the rail enthusiast, evidence can still be found of this important though short-lived era of VIA Rail’s history. Check the date of quirky VIA consist photos you might encounter – were they taken in the spring months of 1992?  These may not have been taken during the kaleidoscopic early VIA years as they might first appear.  They may in fact have been taken during Operation Axle.  It’s a little remarked-upon blip on VIA’s timeline, when tragedy was averted, innovation and safety were paramount, and those of us who were trackside were rewarded with operations of unimagined variety.

This is a major Trackside Treasure series. Too much information to fit in one post. Coming up next: I'll publish photos of Op Axle trains, and consist mockups in the final post in the series!

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Switching the Vancouver Wharves Layout

CP switcher crews confer - both of these switch jobs on my Vancouver Wharves HO scale layout use Proto S-3 locomotives and True Line Trains end-cupola vans. SOOB in both cases - Straight Out Of Box! This area of my 1970-76 Vancouver waterfront-based layout (right side of overhead composite view - below) has spurs serving Dominion Bridge, Shell Oil, Fairbanks-Morse, Pacific Produce and Fisherman's Co-op Federation
Graphics guru Randy O'Brien kindly shared his unique version of my overhead composite photo of my layout. He added two things - a modern logo and look closely! The second brickwork! Thanks, Randy! Meanwhile, back trackside, workers on the loading dock of the Fisherman's Co-op plant are waiting for my spray-painted and decalled loaded CN eight Athearn four-hatch reefer to be lifted.
CP S-3 6528 arrives to work the spur.
Strangely-unmoved, the fellows seem non-plussed. They should be extremely excited that Expo 86-bedecked CN 557417 loaded with tin cans has just been spotted! Especially because this is the early 70's, not 1986!
Next door, sharing the lead with loads of fish are inbound loads of produce at Pacific Produce. Three Athearn 50- and 40-footers. An NADX weathered plug-door boxcar (spoiler alert - the other side is completely unweathered, depending on my mood I can turn the car to see the desired side - usually the weathered, rusted side)!
Now 6528 is here to lift the trio:
In their place, BN 751044 is spotted. This is my hommage to a Burlington Northern 7510xx-series mechanical reefer-turned-cryogenic car, lightly-weathered. (These cars will be the subject of an upcoming post.) Check out the office, trucks and trailers in the lot, and the generalized, grey colour of the retaining wall - intentionally colour-blended.
Proceeding past Fairbanks-Morse, 6528 brings a load of I-beams in an AC gon (subject of another upcoming post!) for Dominion Bridge, where a Burlington Northern gon of scrap gears and machinery are ready for lifting. Two DW&P/CN double-door boxcars of lumber tag along, heading to Overseas Commodities for export.
Two loads of coal are spotted to fuel Fairbanks-Morse's fiery furnaces. Now, 6528 passes the section gang with two loads of Shell oil.
Watch for an upcoming post on a new industrial spur I've added, finally making Maple Leaf rail-served!
Another visitor from the future - CN, ex-PC X72 series boxcar (subject of yet another upcoming post!) The taggers have struck:

Running extra...

Protoswitching - fast Facebook friend Shaun Hennessy caught CN's Belleville-Cobourg roadswitcher switching Cameco in Port Hope, plus the plastics and pallet plants in Cobourg on video. A centre-beam full of skid feedstock shows that the plant is not on the skids!

Mindheiming - my own business. Looking at these scenes through the LCD display, I was thinking of Lance Mindheim's tenets and traits of realistic layouts. But I realized I can't indulge myself or Trackside Treasure readers in the luxury of modelling someone else's layout. No, this is my version of Vancouver, presented in my own inimitable style. Realistic enough for me and fun to operate!
Televisioning - during Obama's final #SOTU last night I winced at the usual partisan applause; while Gervasing the Golden Globes I guffawed at Ferrell and Wahlberg; last weekend Wahlberg appeared with Clooney and Ice Cube in Three Kings; Ice Cube and Kevin Hart did a ride-along on the Bachelor. But Obama's hour-long address trumped all. Was it really 2009 when we had the slow roll?

Thursday, January 7, 2016


Hat-checks! Boarding VIA Rail today means printing your e-boarding pass (airline-ish and distinctly un-railroadlike) before you board, which includes a QR code. The on-board VIA service attendant or service manager scans the code from the paper pass, or your device, and a beep confirms you as part of the train's passenger manifest. Before you reach your destination, a PA announcement lets you know you're almost there and it's time to gather your personal belongings. "On behalf of the crew, I'd like to wish you a pleasant day - bonne journee - and thank you for travelling VIA Rail". (Also kinda airline-ish) It's interesting to note how the VIA Rail passenger experience has continually evolved from the passenger-handling practices of the railways of yore to one that would be distinctly at home in an airport terminal or onboard an airliner, reflecting the travel tastes of the present-day public.
Way back in 1976, VIA Rail had just taken over CN's Corridor tran service and this reddish-coloured example (top photo) of a hat-check bore the VIA/CN logo. Upon presentation of your paper ticket to the trainman, he punched it or removed a carbon copy for the conductor. To mark your place and let the other crewmembers know your ticket had been taken, and how far you were travelling, a hat-check would be placed in a small, two-sided metal clip on the luggage rack above your seat. Using a marker, grease pencil or pen, a one- or two-digit number or written destination was scrawled on the cardboard hat-check, large enough to be visible from the aisle. As of the early-80's, and likely before, here is a list of destinations on CN's Kingston Sub east of Toronto*:
  • Oshawa 14
  • Cobourg 8
  • Belleville 3
  • Napanee 0
  • Kingston 7
  • Gananoque 90
  • Brockville 91
  • Prescott 89
  • Cornwall 81
The hat-checks above, slightly-faded, found trackside, and some dating from 1979, depict the evolution from the CN and CP systems through the early VIA/CN then VIA Rail hat-checks. In the second photo, I've flipped five of them (from the first photo) to show written destinations, a punch, and Kingston destination '7' written on them. I assume the two underscores mean two passengers travelling together. Interestingly, the CP one was found on the ground in Portage la Prairie, one year after the Canadian left CP's rails there. Notice how these early ones have serial numbers and date blocks for marking, though this was apparently rarely done.

As you neared your destination, the trainman would walk through the car, announcing the upcoming stop and removing your hat-check from above you seat. For instance, all hat-checks bearing the number 7 were gathered just before Kingston, indicating those seats as available for boarding passengers.

Here are some long-distance, larger-format hat-checks. Due to numerous coaches on long-distance trains, the seat numbers and car numbers are meticulously inscribed by the trainman. Note the chit on one of these hat-checks that could be removed by the passenger if desired, especially if walking to the lounge or dome. Dayniter hat-checks were classy, completely different animals!
Today, VIA Rail still uses hat-checks, though today's version are like little post-it notes. If you're given the safety talk (hey, there's something else airline-ish!) you receive a second hat-check to alert the crew to your briefing on evacuation procedures. There are even separate ones for briefings on door AND window evacuations. Ideally, these briefings are given to passengers travelling to the end of the line. Approaching Union Station from Kingston, the post-it hat-checks are pulled off the above-seat luggage bins they were stuck to (jeesh, airline-ish again!!) and crumpled up.  Unless of course, a collector is aboard!
VIA post-it hat-checks, some with written destinations, including the Window and Door safety briefings which are dealt with before tickets are taken. Notice how the language has changed slightly: from 'keep this check in sight' to 'keep this check in view'.

*Former VIA trainman Steve Lucas has noted that these numbers were shortened versions of previous Grand Trunk Railway station designations, for instance:
  • Belleville 103
  • Napanee 100
  • Kingston 97
and that these designations may well have begun from the east in either Portland, ME or even Riviere du Loup, QC!

Steve also mentioned that VIA did not start using post-it hat-checks until the mid 1980's. Also, the LRC coaches were not delivered with hat-check holders on the overhead luggage bins. Interestingly, Steve noted that hat-checking passengers in the ex-GTW 4884-4886 coaches meant a bit of a reach.

Funny story from a passenger a personal wakeup on overnight Cavalier VIA No 58 five minutes before Cobourg, the passenger swore at Steve and apparently fell back to sleep. The somnolent seat-sleeper approached Steve farther east around Brighton, saying he'd slept through his stop! Steve arranged to have the panicked PITA passenger put on westbound counterpart VIA No 59 at Belleville. A passenger who'd heard their discussion wryly commented, "He thought he was really funny when he told you to **** off ."

Thanks to Steve Lucas for his assistance with this post.

Running extra...

Rapido' Trains Rapido rapidly rendered radically rabid railfans to Exporail for the Icons of Canadian Steam product launch. I appreciate the inclusion of the duly-credited (in the credits, no less) trackside video footage captured by my daughter with logistical support from my wife and I'm-there-in-spirit support from me. Check the 2:17 mark even if you don't have 11 minutes to watch the entire just-released video. An Exporail audience member video captures the launch from a different viewpoint.
Tonight's Jeopardy, hosted by recent ortho surgery patient Alex Trebek; the category "Trains" had me on the edge of my hassock! I scribbled the category's progress as I would a passing VIA consist:

  • $400 INDIA - the Maharajah's Express operated in this country...
  • $800 TORONTO - The Canadian makes a 2,775 mile trip from this city to Vancouver.
  • $1200 CITY OF NEW ORLEANS - Arlo Guthrie song train restored by Amtrak in 1981. Incorrect answer given - Wabash Cannonball!
  • $1600 SYDNEY - The Indian Pacific route includes a 297 mile stretch of straight track to...
  • $2000 TGV - This three-letter train achieved a record speed of 357 mph Well, it sure ain't V-I-A! between Paris and Strasbourg.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Ray-Mont Transload Facility in Montreal

Just west of Montreal's Central station, passengers on the north side had an interesting operation to take in, that is if they found it as interesting as I did! I'm aboard the Canadian departing Montreal for Ottawa thence the West Coast on September 16, 1985 (above). Offices, grain-handling facilities, trucks, ex-NRUC and Ontario Northland boxcars, distinctive CN VI&E covered hoppers and the facility's characteristic orange warehouse are all visible!(above) Arriving in Montreal on August 22, 1996, I snapped the warehouse and grain-handling equipment with the since-demolished Grand Trunk brick office building just visible at extreme right. VIA Carleton Club is being used as an air-conditioned office alongside two CN boxcars, on this site were former VIA cars were privately scrapped:
Formerly called the 'Wabash'. A CN publicity photo of eight-hatch reefer CN 209500 at Montreal in 1939 looks to be taken at this exact location. The office building is under the arrow, with early Montreal skyscrapers (#1) on the horizon and that curving road (#2) along the embankment:                             
Operated by Ray-Mont Logistics, lumber and grain are unloaded here, and the container stacks, while impressive, seem to be for storage, though there may be some local drayage. It's a great downtown location! The next six photos were taken from aboard VIA Rail, on April 19, 2011. Nearly five years ago, someone shared them with me, though I don't have a record of whom. If they're yours, let me know and I will add appropriate credit! The photos show the Ray-Mont facility in several views:
Between Rue Wellington and the CN main, up to Rue Bridge, is this current container repair and transload facility.
Stacked twenty-foot cans and transport tractors with grain-handling equipment visible in the background (above) and a little farther west, the two tracks that become one are just visible. CN designates the two tracks PG09 and PG10, with a total capacity of 32 cars.
A closer view of the covered unloading shed with the site's Trackmobile visible on the east end, two tracks, and other car-moving equipment just visible at right:
I haven't seen any flat cars or well cars at the site, so there's a good chance the containers arrive by truck. Looking back, the city skyline beckons beyond the containers, and the single tail track is visible at the bottom of the embankment.
Another view of the Trackmobile tied onto three cylindrical grain cars, with the orange warehouse visible in front of the apartments in the background:
Looking back again, a boxcar at left, Canada Coke can coverd hopper and shed appear trackside:
Looks like there's been some pad paving done recently. And, there was controversy when Ray-Mont demolished the former CN office building on the site. A close-up of the ex-CN, exx-GTR building located at the corner of Wellington and Bridge. We made another trip to Montreal aboard VIA! The orange warehouse looms again, but look more closely: CN flatbed trailers, CN covered hoppers, and one-of-a-kind articulated grain car at the end of the cut - CN 398000. Taken from aboard VIA on February 1, 1992:
In August 2011, Marc Caya shared several photos which he took at the site in October, 2009. The idea for this post has been incubating for awhile! Ah, the sometimes gratingly glacial gait of Trackside Treasure blog post production! Telephoto through the site - the orange warehouse is still visible - now at left:
Also looking through the site, a dual-P42 Renaissance consist is led towards Central Station. These shots are a gold mine of information for modellers looking for a compact and plausible downtown industry. And imagine - you can convincingly run VIA trains fast past the site, in the very shadow of soaring skyscrapers!
Another broadside view of the site. Five more dwarf signals and we'd have seven dwarfs!
VIA P42 901 leads a mix of HEP2 and LRC cars west, with Montreal harbour's Five Roses Flour elevator in background, and the Ray-Mont grain unloading shed and a covered hopper also visible:
A wide shot from a similar angle, with tracks leading to CN's Pointe St Charles yard in the foreground:
Looking down Wellington Street towards downtown:
Fellow blogger Michael Hammond posted photos to his fine The Beachburg Sub blog from a recent trip from Ottawa to Montreal aboard VIA Rail. The site also caught Michael's eye, leading him to snap several photos and suggest that it would be at home on a model railway, too! Michael's shot captures a container being placed on a trailer, plus check out the coupler on that bucket loader plus a distant grain car:

Marc Caya created and kindly shared a labelled satellite photo of the site (blue outline) and its juxtaposition to CN's Pointe St Charles yard (red outline), which serves nearby industries along the waterfront, and CN's former Pointe St Charles shop (yellow outline). Merci, Marc!

Running extra...
"Mandy and I were on our way to rehearsal and our car broke down. We figured we could use your place to rehearse" deadpanned Tony Randall. A tenor-ranged, emotion-tinged musical smorgasbord follows: Somewhere over the Rainbow, Brother can you spare a Dime, Rock-a-bye your baby with a Dixie melody, Swanee, Something's Coming, Somewhere (reprise). Impresario Tony Randall distributes the scores to the band, then critically assesses the performance before running out to a side door with the knapsack-totin' Patinkin. Enjoy!

My first train of 2016 was VIA No 55 Eng 6401 at Kingston station, arriving a few minutes late at 1715 this January 1.
Blue skies smiling at me (above) and a standard shot of passengers boarding, also in a blue shade, led to an interesting impressionist still-life when I 'zoomed into' and recolourized the image (bottom photo):
As passengers mill on the platform, one passenger is more than ready to get out of the cold and into the cozy confines of LRC coach 3350. Let's get going! The same is true for Trackside Treasure. All aboard for what promises to be an exciting year of post potential possibility!