My Dad and Mom made two trips from Kingston to
Portage la Prairie (locally known as Portage) aboard
VIA, to visit family there in 1983 and 1994. The first
trip was in July-August, 1983.
Neatly written in two
48-page coil notebooks are my Dad’s railfanning notes
from the trip, which I've transcribed below.
The notebooks cost a princely 49 cents
in 1983, and the price sticker (remember those?) is
from HILL’s EAST Drug Store in Portage! Interestingly,
1983 was the only year between 1978 and 1986 that I
did not make a summertime trip to Portage.
We are there to see Mom and Dad off to Portage la Prairie, MB aboard an
11-car No 1/55 led by VIA 6765-6618 on July 20, 1983 (top photo).
Departure on July 20 was from Kingston, aboard the
Corridor Canadian with family there
to see them off and help with suitcases. My parents
were travelling in Bedroom F of Amherst Manor
designated as Car 122, but made it up to the dome of
Kokanee Park in the first two miles after departure!
The nightly RDC’s were eastbound at Port Hope, and
CN freights led by 2026 and 9654 were met west of
Oshawa. At Toronto Union Station, CN switcher 8515
coupled on to the rear of No 1. The trainman’s orange
CN lantern was visible. Also in the station were VIA
6767-6859-Chaleur Bay-5474, likely the eastbound
Cavalier. A GO train with five bilevels and six coaches
and passengers was eastbound around 2325.
Dad reported rough track leaving Toronto, before
encountering welded rail and heading ‘straight north
At 0400 on July 21, the Canadian was on an
embankment or viaduct at Parry Sound, switching to
CP tracks after a back-up move. Sudbury was reached
in overcast, though the ‘dumpy’ station failed to
impress, especially when the lunch counter had no
milk in cartons (cost would have been 65 cents).
My Mom stands patiently by at Sudbury after walking to the head-end to
see 6769-6619-6624 on July 21, 1983. (L.C. Gagnon photo):
Lunch in ex-CN diner 1363 was beef patty and chicken
salad. Chapleau around 1300 brought views of CP
switcher 7091 and Centuries 4714-4722 in the yard.
An eastbound CP freight of Japanese import cars on
auto racks was at Franz Junction at 1600, with another
CP eastbound in a meet at O’Brien 25 minutes later.
CP switcher 6549 worked the yard at White River at
1710. Dinner in the diner was beef and sole at 1815,
and both meals in the diner, for two, came to less
than $30. CP Century 4510 was at Schreiber, and a
meet with No 2 took place in the fading daylight at
The Ignace area featured a derailment around
0200 on July 22. Five or six freight cars on their
sides, one at right angles to the track! Big hook and
auxiliary on scene. No 1 passed slowly, though jolting
interrupted their sleep. Rennie and Whitemouth, MB
were reached at 0900, then the shuttered station at
My Mom is at right, beside Amherst Manor, at Chapleau. (L.C. Gagnon
photo - above) My Dad with Kokanee Park at Chapleau servicing stop
on July 21, 1983. (M.P. Gagnon photo):
Arrival in Winnipeg was about an hour late,
with my aunt and uncle from Portage meeting the
train in Winnipeg, followed by dinner at the Countess
of Dufferin restaurant. A drive around CN’s East Yard
revealed the Prairie Dog Central having just returned
with its excursion train. A chat with the engineer
ensued. Engine 3 burned West Virginia coal which
cost $167/ton at the time. The engineer pulled out
his silver-cased Waltham [pocket] watch with Roman
numerals. VIA 6507-6623-6611 were backing up to
take VIA No 2 east, including visible cars Laurentide
Park-Dufferin-Manor-Dunsmuir Manor. Duplex
roomette VIA I-series cars Intervale and Iroquois were
in East Yard.
A visit to the very successful 1983 NMRA convention
held in Winnipeg took place on July 23, with another
dinner at the Countess of Dufferin, the central dining
are of which resembled a dining car.
A three-unit No 2 stops at Portage la Prairie in August, 1983.
(L.C. Gagnon photo):
On the 26th,
No 2 arrived at Portage at 1630. The consist: 6502-
Closse-Chateau Jolliet-Bliss Manor-Amherst Manor-
Waterton Park, all of which had been on their westbound
Canadian except for the power, 5746, Emerald,
Chateau Jolliet and Waterton Park. A couple from
Australia arrived on the Canadian and the ensuing reunion
was the first time two brothers originally from
Holland had seen each other in 35 years!
An evening country drive on July 29 including a
chance encounter with VIA No 110 at Newton, MB.
westbound CN freight with locomotives 9420-9493-
9503 pulling an assortment of freight cars including
57-foot auto transporter CN 9502 in its ‘billboard
staffed by conductors and trainmen ‘wearing old style
caps with VIA badge’.
An August 3 drive to Winnipeg
netted the eastbound Canadian near Elie at 1705, its
three units and 17 cars visible from the Trans-Canada
Highway. The westbound Canadian through Portage
on August 5 included tail-end cars Chateau Salaberry-
Chateau Viger-Cornwall Manor-Butler Manor-Banff
Park. Its eastbound counterpart was operating three
hours late, observed west of Portage at 1955, again
with three units and 17 cars. On August 6, Burton
Manor and Lorne Manor were visible at the station
in Winnipeg when my parents arrived to board the
eastbound Canadian back to Kingston.
My Dad has his newly-purchased VIA ‘trucker cap’ in hand just before
boarding the Canadian, at Winnipeg station with Mom on August 6, 1983. (above)
It’s still light at 2035 as No 2 departs
Winnipeg on August 6, 1983. Dad photographs the photographer
from the dome of Prince Albert Park (below). (Wilf Schellenberg photos)
At 1700, it was a hot, dry 90-degree Fahrenheit day in
Winnipeg. In Winnipeg Depot, my parents checked in
to the sleeping car steward, before ascending to track
level and finding their accommodation in Bedroom
B of Prince Albert Park, designated as Car 229. The
train for Sioux Lookout, Nakina and Capreol had just
departed. Their porter, Fernand, welcomed them
aboard and they went back to the car’s dome at 2015.
CN switcher 7180 was behind No 2 and departure
was at 2035.
The Canadian moved out of Winnipeg,
photographed from the parking lot by my uncle, and
finally headed straight east. In the dome until 2245,
five westbound CP freights before passed before their
train reached Kenora at 2305. Each train’s headlights
and ditchlights approached in the darkness, were
dipped for the engine crew of No 2, but turned up
by the time the Park car was reached and passed..
trackside. Passengers came and went from the dome
in darkness, but it was seldom more than half-full.
The Park car bedroom was ‘a bit smaller than one in
a Manor car but had a bigger bathroom’. Original CP
beaver brown blankets were on both made-up beds.
The westbound Canadian was met in the Ignace area.
On August 7, a VIA woman representative gave my
Dad two lunch reservation slips. A small cairn north of
the track at Mi 102.7, commemmorated the last spike
driven on CP’s Montreal to Winnipeg segment on
May 16, 1885. Lunch in the diner was beef patty and
chicken salad, soup, dessert, coffee in the Jack Fish
curve area at an affordable $10.50. The Park car dome
filled up by 1100. A CP Dayliner was on an adjacent
track during a brief stop at White River.
Though it looks like my Dad is missing his train, No 2 is actually stopped
for servicing at White River on August 7, 1983. Noted - rail is Algoma Steel
115-pound rolled in 1982. (L. C. Gagnon photo):
Spending the afternoon in their room, Fernand dropped by to
be helpful, and the VIA woman representative also
stopped by again and sold two suppers totalling $19.
The westbound Canadian with three units including
6539, and approximately 15 cars was met on the
south track at Franz.
Supper at Chapleau was chicken salad, with pie. At
Sultan, a multi-unit CP was westbound at 1855 with
van 434643. Doing 1 mile in 55 seconds at Mile 63,
Biscotasing was reached only five minutes late. In the
dome ‘a fellow in front had tin can repetitive music
coming from his headphones - 8:30 p.m.’ Sightings of
the train’s headlight were less frequent than during
the previous dome ride out of Winnipeg, leaving the
dome around 2200 after the train continued east
from the stop at Cartier, ON.
The last day on the train, August 8 began at Toronto
Union Station’s track 8. A tip for the ever-helpful
Fernand as he departed but my parents stayed on
the train for the trip down CN’s Kingston Sub to
Kingston. CN switcher 8513 removed the last four
CP cars, taking the next seven cars (Dayniter, two
Chateau cars, three E-series and diner 1365) over
to Spadina coach yard. A club car and three coaches
were added for passengers to Ottawa, Montreal and
Dayliners, LRC 6901, several GO
trains, two Amtrak consists shared the trainshed
on this warm, sunny day. At 0825, the joint Ontario
Northland/VIA Northland was disembarking
passengers: ONR 1502-9654-755-ONR white/blue/
yellow 842-5594-Greening before being taken to
Spadina coach yard by CN 8515. My Dad walked to
the head-end before departure, photographing lead
unit VIA 6767 with Toronto trackside icons Royal York
hotel and CN Tower.
On departure, three Dayliners from Kingston were
inbound as the train reached 90 mph around Port
Hope. Arrival at Kingston was on-time. Cost for fare
and accommodation aboard VIA, booked through a
Kingston travel agent, was less than $1,500.
Watch for an upcoming
post (or two)
with other trackside photos that my Dad took during that 1983 trip to Portage!
The Associated Railroaders of Kingston
are taking on two new projects - one is a November train show
in Kingston (see link at top of sidebar) and modules depicting Kingston's Hanley Spur
downtown/inner harbour trackage. Though the club emphatically does not want a club layout, this Hanley Spur module project will allow us to build and bring together parts of a larger layout of a very modellable prototype.
Who thought CN would ever run short of Geeps
? This week, I caught GMTX 2248-2273 on Belleville-Kingston turn CN No 518 (no camera at the time!) parallelling Bath Road, but fellow Kingston railfan Paul Hunter staked them out on CN's Cataraqui Spur
. Blue and beautiful!
At the Invista plant (above) and Armstrong Subdivision trestle near Bath Road among the bullrushes (below). Thanks, Paul!