Friday, January 27, 2017

Churchill, MB Summer 2016

Trackside Treasure reader and now guest blogger Mark Fidelak travelled to Churchill, MB aboard VIA Rail in June and July 2016. Mark kindly shared some of his photos of the station, yard and harbour. Mark's close-up photo of 85 lb rail, rolled in 1951 and he noted it is commonly seen in the yard trackage.
For more on Churchill, see these posts on my brother Dave's blog Rolly Martin Country on his 1987 trip: touring Churchill, grain to Churchill, the trip north, then heading south  Feeling reflective - Churchill's yard awaits harvest that will never come:
Trackside Treasure blog partner Steve Boyko blogged about recent developments regarding Churchill in this post during Mark's visit, and then in October 2016. Hudson Bay Railway locomotives 2261-3002 at the terminal elevator:
Crane, flat cars and  what looks like a BCR boxcar at the harbour:
A classic ex-CN 57-foot auto transporter with patchwork lettering and HBR logo - HBRY 720100:
The station, platform and elevator:
CN 527745 40-foot boxcar with ACI label and U-1 wheel stencil, now used for storage. One end is painted bright blue!
Some flatcars await unloading in the largely-empty yard:
Many thanks to Mark for sharing the photos of his memorable trip. Almost as good as being there!

Running extra...

It's great to have Mark the guest blogger take over while things are heating up on the book front. My fourth and upcoming book on VIA Rail, Trackside with VIA - Research and Recollections has most of its text pieces and data in review-ready form. Now I'm going into the darkroom to match up some photos. Here's one:
A young Mark Perry working for CN aboard VIA train Nos 92/93 deep in the blue & yellow VIA era. Mark started with CN in 1979, working in the shops before becoming a brakeman in 1981, qualifying as conductor in 1985, then engineer in 1991. Mark worked out of Gillam, MB from 1982 to 1988, then out of Dauphin until 2010 now Winnipeg. A noted railway photographer, not only has Mark's work been featured in TRAINS magazine, he also happens to be a staunch supporter and reader of Trackside Treasure. It's great to have Mark aboard!

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Postscript: Locking the Door at Lachute

After posting photos taken by my cousins of the last Dayliner through Lachute on November 14, 1981, I was happy to hear from Ian Walker. Turns out Ian was at the Lachute station that same morning, returning in the evening for the last Ottawa-bound train.
Before making the Lachute station stop, there was a meet to attend to with daily freight CP No 85. The Dayliner took the siding (above) The MLW-led freight appears (below):
After backing out and taking the main, it was on to Montreal. Engineer Ab Sabouirin takes the RDC-1 through the back streets of Lachute:

That evening, Ab headed back north with 6102, after 6128 was involved in that untimely collision in the morning. Heading back to Ottawa at Lachute:

Conductor Jean-Jacques Sirois worked the morning run (above) and the conductor for the evening run was Robert Charlefour (August 1977 photo with CP hockey-stick face Budd).
Thanks to Ian Walker for sharing these photographs and being there to also document these train-offs. Here's the front page of the Lachute Watchman newspaper as posted to Facebook by Linda Parker: 

Running extra...

VIA has released LRC car 3356 in a Canada 150 wrap, including some online communities in various colours. For some reason, Chatham has always loomed large on VIA's radar! Jordan McCallum photos at VIA's Toronto Maintenance Centre - thanks, Jordan!
VIA 3356 was eastbound on VIA No 668 on January 20, returning on today's No 65.

Robert Ramsay recently posted a couple of intriguing videos to Youtube. The first shows CN's Super Continental at Winnipeg. The second shows CP's (and VIA's) Canadian. Don't you think the Canadian looks the best with a 'one of each' consist?
Malcolm Peakman shared a photo of Toronto's prototype Crosstown articulated car on its way to Bombardier at Millhaven aboard CN Belleville turn No 518. Thanks, Malcolm!

Friday, January 13, 2017

Locking the Door at Lachute

Do you remember where you were 27 years ago today - January 15, 1990? I often use the phrases 'drastic cuts to VIA' or 'massive VIA cuts', referring to the 1981 and 1990 service reductions. And though this date marked the 1990 reductions, when my Dad and I were trackside to experience VIA's last Cavaliers, eight years earlier there had been another rounds of...drastic cuts. Thoughts of such cuts may conjure up sweeping, nation-wide processes - coloured, dashed lines on a map. But what about the cuts are at the grassroots level? The passenger level. The community or town level. Train-offs and last runs sound vaguely sentimental, but what does the end of this process look like? What does it feel like? How do people actually react?

The drastic cuts to VIA made in November 1981 resulted in the termination of well-known named trains like the Super Continental and the Atlantic Limited. But these cuts also affected lesser-known services, leaving VIA with 2,800 miles of their system with no service or reduced service - roughly 20% of its network. One of these services was the Ottawa-Montreal RDC run on CP Rail trackage including CP's Lachute Subdivision, sometimes referred to as the 'North Shore Budd' since its route traced the north shore of the Ottawa River.
Cousins of mine, whose Rodger family heritage farm is near Lachute, QC made a point of being at the Lachute station for the last run of VIA No 170 on November 14, 1981. My late aunt Bea at left in long coat, with her grandsons Michael and Andrew (above) were part of the small crowd on hand along with my cousins Bob and May. Their photographs and details of that day give us the community view we seldom see. On a day that was sunny but not without its dark side, they purposely made their way to the Lachute station to document the last Ottawa-Montreal train No 170: a single ex-CP RDC. Departing Ottawa at a schedule 0730, the Dayliner covered the 132 miles scheduled to arrive at Montreal’s Windsor Station at 1045. 
Approaching in the distance for its scheduled 0920 stop, the train makes its way into Lachute (arrow - above photo) crosses the bridge over the North River/Riviere du Nord and stops for the last time at its stately, 1929-built station. 
Conductor Jean-Jacques Sirois, engineer Ab Sabourin and station agent Henri Larche pose at the open vestibule door for a commemorative photo. My youngest cousins have their photo taken with Mr Larche, the station agent. Mr Larche locks the door “for the last time” (top photo).
To further my family connection to this station, my brother scanned a photo of family members at Lachute station taken by my Dad, at the beginning of a trip to Vancouver on CPR in 1947. In the photo album, my Dad noted that until the 1960s FOUR passenger trains a day travelled between Montreal and Ottawa - two trains in each direction with coaches for week-end and holiday traffic. Back left is my grandfather, front left is my aunt:
The last run from Montreal to Ottawa that evening, VIA No 171 was documented by Colin Churcher, appearing in TRAINS magazine's November, 1985 issue, marking the magazine's 45th anniversary and dedicated to Canadian railroading. The article is illustrated with photos taken by J. David Ingles including one of RDC-1 6123 at the Lachute station taken in October, 1980. Colin noted the futility and hopelessness of employees whose futures were changed by these cuts. The long-time, now-retiring Lachute station agent who asked to buy the station clock from CP but declined when told the price would be $1400! The CP engineman, Ab Sabourin, with nearly four decades of service, who made his way to his waiting auto in Ottawa soon after arrival.
According to the article, after departing Lachute, 6128 hit a truck at a fog-bound crossing on its morning run into Montreal after my cousins photographed it. The train back to Ottawa was protected by RDC-1 6102. Notice the reflection of the station sign board still bearing the lettering Canadian Pacific Railway in the left-hand window (above). Interestingly, 6128 had been converted from CP 9051 at CN's Pointe St Charles shops in November, 1979. After the last runs, she would go to Sudbury-White River service, operating with VIA 9251, then Corridor service in Ontario through the 1980's. Operating between Brownville Junction and Packard Brook, ME, whe was the sole unit on a CP special commemmorating the 100th anniversary of its line through Maine on December 9, 1988. Also notable for operating on VIA No 670 ex London on January 15, 1990 with VIA 6202, then sold to BC Rail that summer. 
The RDC's more than did their duty on those last runs. Photos were taken. Then the link for rail passengers on that single track line between Lachute and two of Canada's major cities was severed. This is what the end looks like.

Here's a postscript to this story. What are the chances that I have more photos to share? Pretty good, actually! Thanks to another photographer, Ian Walker, who happened to be there at the very same time that fateful morning, as well as that evening for the last upbound run.

Running extra...

This story is going to make it into my fourth book on VIA Rail Canada, due to arrive this spring. Entitled Trackside with VIA - Research and Recollections, it will include not only new data, newly-discovered consists and previously-unpublished photos, but also trip reports and accounts of travels aboard VIA, its equipment, and its operations from VIA's early years right up to 2017.

January 2017 - the peaceful transition of power is at hand. No matter who was chosen to hold the office of President, the official motto of the United States of America remains In God We Trust. Unsure about what the next four years may hold, let the United States Army Field Band inspire you (3:52 mark!), reminding us that His truth is indeed marching on. Under the baton of First Lieutenant Alexandra Borza.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

ADtranz IC3 Flexliner in VIA Service

An Israeli State Railways-operated Diesel Multiple Unit (DMU) IC3 Flexliner was on loan to VIA and Amtrak, with the two three-car trainsets touring the country to promote commuter rail systems. Built by ADtranz in Randers, Denmark by a partnership of ABB and Daimler-Benz, the Flexliner trainset operated on diesel or overhead electrical power. 

Both versions could operate together and uncouple 'on the fly' at junctions. Rubber 'donuts' improved the IC3's safety and aerodynamics, but not its looks! Top speed was 112 mph, though limited to 90 mph in VIA service. In a luxury configuration, 109 passengers in coach and 32 in first class could be accommodated. Total trainset length was 193 feet, and weight was 224,000 pounds.

A westbound Flexliner approaches Collins Bay in April. 1997 (top photo). The next six photos were scanned from prints shared by Kingston's Ron Barrett. Thanks, Ron! Ron snapped the Flexliner with VIA markings on the north track at Kingston's VIA station:
Painted in ISR red livery with Israeli and Amtrak decals, the two sets when coupled together deflated the rubber 'donuts' and fold-away windshields and cab controls, providing a wide walkway with full-width diaphragms between coaches. Beginnning the two-year tour, the Flexliners debuted at Los Angeles Union Passenger Terminal on July 16, 1996. 

In VIA operation, the Flexliner operated out of Toronto for 4-6 months after their Amtrak stint. Amtrak lettering was removed, and VIA logos added. In fall 1996, Club 7001-7401-7201 and Club 7003-7403-7203 were in VIA service. The public was invited to tour the IC3 at open houses held in Corridor cities after a debut at Ottawa Union Station on September 20 - Kingston on September 21, Stratford and Kitchener on September 23, then London and Niagara Falls on the next two days, with the Toronto debut on September 26 and 27. At Kingston, there were balloons, clowns and refreshments - Ron was there (next two photos) as we were. 
The demo consist in the morning sun (below) with a nice view of the Public Utilities Commission propane spur at right, served by CN's Aluminum Spur.
The trainsets entered revenue service on September 29, concurrent with the release of the new system timetable and the reintroduction of a morning Kingston-Toronto 'commuter' service. Early technical problems - signals not being activated due to the cars' light weight led to a Transport Canada-mandated withdrawal from service on September 30. Flexliner trainsets could apparently 'disappear' from dispatcher's computer monitors!

The units were stored until further testing took place in early October. Composite brake shoes were replaced by steel brake shoes. When not available, the IC3 schedules were covered by buses or other equipment, such as 6421-3322-8143 and 6401-3344-8141 on October 3, 1996. The trainsets operated on Toronto-Kingston train No 650 and morning Kingston-Toronto 651.
A wintry but sunny day view of the Flexliner on the north track of CN's Kingston Sub at Kingston (above) contrasts with a greener, grassier view on the south track (two photos below):
One of two rotations for the two sets was a Monday-Friday Kingston-Toronto, Toronto-Ottawa round trip, with a Saturday run from Kingston-Toronto, then one more Ottawa-Toronto-Kingston cycle over the weekend, in place again for Monday morning in Kingston.  The second rotation was a Monday-Friday Stratford-Toronto, Toronto-London, Toronto-Kitchener, Saturday Stratford-Toronto and Toronto-Niagara Falls, Niagara Falls-Toronto-Stratford weekend operation, in place again for Monday morning in Stratford.
The Flexliners returned to service on November 19, after being tested on CN and CP lines. Scrubbers had been applied to the cars' wheels, and switched to cast iron brakeshoes. Cast iron brakeshoes kept the wheels 'cleaner' than the composite brakeshoes they replaced. There was also concern from Transport Canada that harmonic oscillations during operation at high speed on jointed rail could result in a derailment. This was not borne out during additional testing. Continuing to operate through the winter, the demonstration was ended on March 28, 1997. VIA logos were replaced with Amtrak logos.

On April 2, 7001-7401-7201 left Canada on the tail end of VIA No 85, travelling to Missouri for further demonstration on Amtrak between St Louis and Kansas City, then on to Oregon. The other trainset continued operating east of Toronto until May 6, 1997 when it was reassumed by Adtranz. Amtrak's two IC3 Flexliners ran in multiple as train 330 in Milwaukee in June, 1997, operating between Milwaukee and Chicago. On June 30, 1997 Amtrak's Empire Builder delivered the IC3's to the Twin Cities, where the train ran at 79 mph over BNSF's main line between the Coon Rapids and Big Lake, MN area to St Cloud.

With the Flexliner's pitfalls and problems, VIA did not pursue the Flexliner after the demonstration period. A postscript with some more Flexliner photos here.

Running extra...
Happy New Year...just like this dude who had one too many and now obscures a perfectly good multimark (above). And of course the Flexliner will be included in my upcoming book Trackside with VIA: Research and Recollections. On track for a spring arrival - my most recent thoughts here.
Speaking of on track, a colleague shared a photo of the re-railing of an SRLX covered hopper at Kingston's Invista plant back in November (scroll a bit in this post to see non-crane rerailing efforts). The plant is shipping outbound product for the first time in recent memory, including new extra track being added on the lake side of the plant.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

VIA Discount Tuesdays Re-imagined

Everybody says "Happy New Year" this time of year. Well, let's start 2017's Trackside Treasure posts off on a happy note. In past posts, we've had the Company Photographer captioning some classic era publicity photos returning again a few months later then one year later for a third post, and even some early VIA LRC publicity photos! VIA puts a photo or two each week on their Facebook page, including Discount Tuesdays. No captions. Each photo is just a springboard for passengers to complain to VIA. My train was 5 minutes late! WiFi didn't work! VIA fares are too expensive! First-world problems, people! LET'S MAKE IT HAPPY, PEOPLE!

Trackside Treasure reader Mark Perry sent along personalized Happy New Year greetings. At Dauphin:
 as did Ray Farand:

Running extra...

My one-and-only New Year's resolution is to bring forth a newly-created book! This one will be called Trackside with VIA: Research and Recollections. As the title suggests, this will be chock-full of some digging into VIA's past - plus some personal observations and reflections on VIA from on board and from trackside. You can expect a high degree of 'retro' but also updating from my previous books (the last was 2012, after all - come one!) for the VIAphiles of today. As part of my resolution, I pledge photos, a colour section, and good value. This is one resolution I plan to keep! The timeline is a bit elastic, but I'm aiming for spring, when hope (and new books) spring eternal!