Friday, July 19, 2019

The Winnipeg Sleeper Swap

Some of VIA's operations required switching en route. Switching operations at Winnipeg were of special interest during VIA's early era, not only due to Winnipeg's geographic location as a western Canadian railway crossroads, but also because it was a location at which VIA's transcontinental swapped cars between trains, especially sleepers. This resulted in mixed consists -  ex-CN blue & yellow blended with ex-CP stainless steel cars. Stainless sunset – the setting sun glints off Thompson Manor on Corridor Canadian No 1/55 at Kingston on May 26, 1984, just before I boarded for Manitoba. (top photo by L.C. Gagnon photo)


In the late 1970's, the Canadian and Super Continental operated over CP and CN trackage, respectively, as they had before VIA. Montreal and Toronto sections of each train were joined (westward; split eastward) at Sudbury or Capreol, respectively. Then, in October 1978, with the integration of CP's transcontinental services into VIA, the Canadian began operating as one through train Toronto-Vancouver; the Super Continental also operating as one through train, Montreal-Vancouver, trading eastern originating cities with the June 1979 timetable. Here is a compilation of the iterations of VIA's western services west of Montreal and Toronto:
Both trains now stopped at the CN station in Winnipeg, the Canadian having transferred over from the Higgins Avenue CP station. The two trains now met in Winnipeg, exchanging one through sleeper. VIA's October 1978 Western Transcontinental Services timetable page included the following: "Interline Transfers - Winnipeg: This is the main transfer point for passengers boarding the train on one route but destined to points on the other route. Sleeping car passengers enjoy through service: their car is transferred from one train to the other. Coach and Dayniter passengers transferring must change trains". (The same text also appeared in the June 1979 timetable.) Summer 1979 consists west of Winnipeg show one to three E-series sleepers on the Canadian and one or two CP sleepers on the Super Continental. After October, consists show only one of each.

In October 1979, a one-hour scheduled layover was added, to allow passengers time to transfer between the (at that time) joined Sudbury-Winnipeg train and the Winnipeg-Vancouver Super Continental. Passengers continuing west on the Winnipeg-Vancouver Canadian remained aboard at Winnipeg. 

Interestingly, VIA published a revised October 28, 1979 system timetable including the following message on the Canadian and Super Continental Winnipeg-Vancouver schedule tables: "Through sleeping car service to and from Montreal", and this revised text accompanying a schematic diagram of Low-Season Western Transcontinental Service: "Westbound - in Winnipeg, the Super Continental is made up again for passengers destined to points on the north route through Saskatoon and Edmonton. Sleeping car passengers enjoy through service and remain on their car as it is switched to this train. Eastbound - sleeping cars are switched ensuring through service for these passengers" [at Winnipeg]. Coach and Dayniter passengers had to change trains themselves. My brother travelled Toronto to Vancouver westbound on CN, including Winnipeg to Saskatoon, then eastbound on CP Vancouver to Winnipeg thence Winnipeg to Montreal. CN GMD-1 1902 pulls CP Rail-lettered diner, Chateau Maisonneuve and Kootenay Park over the Assiniboine River at Winnipeg during switching moves in November, 1979. (below - David Gagnon photo)
In June 1980, one-and-a-half hours was allocated for the Winnipeg layover westbound. (Interestingly, a separate April 27 to June 7 schedule was included in the timetable, since one train Sudbury-Winnipeg became two for high season that year.) An interesting article in the July-August, 2018 Bytown Railway Society Branchline includes sleeper-swap consists at Sudbury that show VIA No 1 giving a 100-series coach, Dayniter and three ex-CP sleepers to No 3, which in turn donates an ex-CN coach, Dayniter and two E-series (and one ex-CP Chateau!) to No 1. In late-September 1980, VIA changed from a three-night transcontinental schedule to four nights, going back to operating only one transcontinental train between Sudbury and Winnipeg. This made for a four-hour layover in Winnipeg, and more reasonable departure and arrival times at end points. The change also made more time for inter-switching if one train was late. 
During my trip in October 1980, VIA train No 103 was on another station track at Winnipeg and our No 1 donated Erwood and Chateau Jolliet, behind its CN-painted Eldorado, as the eighth and ninth cars on its train before the two trains left Winnipeg, departing at 1215 and 1330, behind VIA 6505 and 1432, respectively (above). On August 22, 1981, my sleeper Ernestown has been switched from No 1 to No 3 at Winnipeg. Here it slides, sandwiched between similarly swapped Elliston and Eastport, through Portage la Prairie, MB:


Most passengers were not as interested in the Winnipeg inter-switching as I was! On the platform, a 1900-series GMD-1 or switcher shuffled cars, while cases of beer and pop, snacks and other menu items were loaded through small doors in the meal service cars. Tractors and baggage wagons brought linen and baggage, low wagons laden with ice blocks for the older cars' cooling systems, and water tanks were filled. Windows were cleaned by a four-man crew, and car-knockers tapped every pipe, wheel and anything else they could hit with a ball-peen hammer under a passenger car. Rail enthusiasts might be able to piece together its results by examining consists east and west of Winnipeg, but before November 1981 I was able to gather first-hand data on the Winnipeg switching and sleeper swapping. A snow-crusted stainless steel and blue & yelow Canadian consist disappears under the trainshed at Toronto Union station on January 25, 1982. (below - Dave More photo, Mark Sampson collection)


Then, when the 'Corridor Canadian' began operating between Montreal and Toronto in November 1981, I was able to also gather consist-based data on cars added or removed at Toronto for the trip to Western Canada. With the Super Continental cancelled, there was no longer any need for inter-switching at Winnipeg. I was, however, able to photograph the Canadian and the Super Continental in August, 1981 before the latter's cancellation three months later. Interestingly, the Corridor Canadian was switched en route - at Brockville, ON.


The consist data for the Corridor Canadian and west-of-Toronto Canadian is presented side-by-side chronologically within each of the following groups of consists: starting with westbound consists from my 1982 trip, eastbound 1982 consists, consists from my parents’ 1983 trip, ending with some consists east/west of Winnipeg from 1981. Asterisks (*) denote inter-switched cars or locomotive/car changes:

I’m able to draw several conclusions from the above consists…


In 1982-83, crew cars west of Toronto included one Chateau, two Rivers, nine I-series, one Mount, one Green, and possibly one Dayniter! Deadheaded cars between locomotives and baggage car included two baggage-dorms, one E-series, one ex-CP diner and one Dayniter. Cars removed/swapped at Toronto or Winnipeg were two diners and two sleepers - perhaps these cars were bad-ordered. Generally, cars added to the westbound Corridor Canadian at Toronto, and removed from the eastbound Canadian for its Corridor trip east, were blue & yellow: three to four E-series, a crew car and an ex-CN diner. Also at Toronto, one to four coaches (No 55) were removed from the Corridor Canadian, with four or five coaches (Nos 44/54) added for the Corridor Canadian’s trip east of Toronto.

In August of 1981 at Winnipeg, three E-series sleepers were transferred from Toronto-Vancouver (on CN) No 3 to Montreal-Vancouver No 1 (on CP), and three ex-CP sleepers swapped from No 1 to No 3.  The ex-CP diner was swapped out for a new (fully-stocked) ex-CP diner at Winnipeg. On the August 24 east/west of Winnipeg consists of No 3 that I recorded, the cafĂ©-lounge was swapped out for an extra ex-CN diner and Skyline .

Once again, the value of consists comes through. I find this kind of data so interesting, and the information it provides, in this instance on VIA's inter-switching, is valuable. Today's passengers on the Canadian smoothly slide through Winnipeg, unaware of the coupling and shuffling that once took place under that trainshed!

Running extra...

VIA paid some high-priced ad agency a high price to create this campaign. To show a good return on taxpayers' money, I've incorporated it in part of this Trackside Treasure campaign (below). All that's missing is the leggy model with the bright yellow pants!
Fellow Kingston railfan Paul Hunter kindly shared another photo of VIA 906 with its 'love the way/la voie qu'on aime' lettering at Kingston on July 15. Love that P42!
Summertime is a great time for a cool beverage. Try an illuminating lager, a winsome wheat beer, a popular pale ale, or a refreshing radler. I went on a 'bender' recently in this muggy Southern Ontario weather and doubled my beer consumption. Yup, I had two in one day! Cheers!


Michael said...

A car named after Ernestown? I like it. Doesn't have the same grandeur of the fancier named cars, but it still conjures up images of that iconic old stone station along the tracks.

Eric said...

Ernestown was also the high school I went to and the former name of the township I grew up in. And the car I rode west in!

Never ended up being much of a town, since Millhaven and Bath were already well-established on the lakeshore.

All because King George III named his seventh son Ernest! Loved all those E-series names and encountered several of their namesake locations while travelling the West in June!

Thanks for your comment, Michael.