Friday, October 2, 2020

Kingston-Winnipeg aboard VIA, 1984 - Part 1

In May-June 1984 I travelled aboard VIA Rail to Winnipeg, visiting relatives in Portage la Prairie, MB. Departing westward May 26 on VIA No 1, car line 120, roomette 3. This was the second-last year that the Corridor Canadian was operating, so I was able to board lower roomette 3 in Thompson Manor at Kingston through to Winnipeg. The consist at Kingston: 6530-6624-612-5648-754-107-3228-Thompson Manor-Chateau Vercheres.

Interestingly, since servicing of VIA’s stainless steel sleepers had moved to Toronto's Spadina on CN, from Montreal’s CP Glen Yard in the spring, there was no diner, Skyline nor Park car on this slimmer consist out of Montreal. Two Montreal sleepers were the only sleeping cars on the train when I boarded. The consist would change markedly prior to departure from Toronto, with new power, one less Corridor coach, a new cafe-lounge, a Dayniter, diner and three more sleepers, Park car, though strangely no Skyline: 6510-6619-612-107-3228-763-5715-Edgeley-Amherst Manor-Craig Manor-Champlain-Thompson Manor-Chateau Vercheres-Prince Albert Park. 


But first on May 26, 1984 in Kingston, a westbound LRC (6901-3306-3322-3337) at 1905 and an eastbound blue & yellow consist (6790-9649-3222-5537-3225) at 1918 passed through Kingston before VIA No 1/55 pulled in as I checked my ticket, departing on time at 1930 (above - L.C. Gagnon photo). Just west of Kingston we met an eastbound LRC consist. Without a dome on the train, I slipped back to Chateau Vercheres to open the Dutch door and get a vestibule view of the CN’s Kingston Subdivision at Mi. 182 (top photo). Routed by the porter, I noted that ‘[he] is obviously going to be no fun at all.’ I was travelling on a High-Season Youth Eastern Territory Canrailpass purchased on April 27 - all this travel for a princely $185.00, plus $170 for roomette accommodation. My ticket for the trip:

Apple orchards were in bloom near Belleville, where the airport hosted 13 planes including a preserved CF-100, and a Piper Cherokee banked and landed parallel to the tracks. Near Grafton, we were doing 81 mph. CN clerestory-baggage 73903 was part of a work train consist near Port Hope. Oshawa switchers were CN 7204, 1387, 1244, 1243, 7221, 7243 and a long four-unit eastbound freight met us at 2139 just west of there. DT&I, SP, CR, PC, GT, L&N, Southern and Chessie hi-cube boxcars kept the Oshawa yard colourful.

A CN Burro crane with orange ballast car, flat car and transfer caboose were in the Rohm & Haas siding near Guildwood, where we were on time, and still clipping along smartly at 70 mph. Upon arrival at Toronto Union, a four-car Amtrak train was on the next track behind 295, with three Amfleet coaches 21161-21257-21020-Amdinette 20235-conventional coach 4643. The eastbound Cavalier was also in the station, and I was able to garner our entire consist (above), in the trainshed between our arrival at 2210 and our departure at 2359. Out-of-Toronto out the window: Metro Toronto Police horses with reflectorized ‘markers’ across their rumps, parked Trans Ams and Camaros and a trackside clock that flashed time/Toronto Stock Exchange ticker instead of time/ temperature. 

Backing up to switch to CP’s Parry Sound Subdivision woke me at 0430 on May 27, then it was back to sleep until Rutter. A 16-car CP Service outfit train and track machines were at Burwash. Trackside sunrise scenery at 0630 (above) then twelve minutes early into Sudbury at 0718. A long container train and two tracks of ore cars were in the yard, as well as CP locomotives 5963 and 5672, vans 434451 and 434025 (end cupola). Note the Sudbury Stack above covered gon CP 344428, covering the landscape with acid rain, having denuded much of Sudbury's rocky ground over the past decades:

At Cartier, an Ontario Provincial Police cruiser was in the station parking lot. After breakfast, well-positioned in the front right dome seat of Prince Albert Park, a twenty minute wilderness wait at Metagama at 1040 yielded a four-unit CP eastbound hotshot occupying the siding for us. Morning in the dome: CP linemen at work near Stralak in a forest fire-damaged area, with 4600 volts in the top wires:

The classic scene of station and store at Biscotasing, at 1105:
Ramsey lumber camp at 1122, with loaded CP bulkhead flats:

Though I often made note of geography and wildlife, this one stands out: ‘Hawk carrying a snake at 1100’. That is one well-remembered raptor! At Roberts, another eastbound passed at 1113: CP 5748-5537-5520 toting welded rail cars, piggyback traffic, boxcars and Angus van 434497. 

I also noted new-style trackside pre-fabricated maintenance cabins for switch heaters and accompanying propane tanks, likely meaning fewer switches for sectionmen to dig snow out of. Joined in the dome by the tail-end trainman, radio traffic to the head-end was constant, highballing at each interlocking. In the wake of the November, 1979 CP derailment in Mississauga, CP actively installed a network of hotbox detectors that flashed ‘000’ on a four-foot-wide illuminated display if a passing train had no defects. I noted these at many locations such as Biscotasing, Sultan, Kinogama and later on, Missanabie, Pays Plat, Keewatin and Ingolf. By 1983, CP had installed 67 detectors on its system. In the CP Rail colloquial and VIA vernacular of the time, “Three bubbles, no troubles.” 

I descended from my second-storey sunroom for the second sitting lunch reservation at 1315 in ex-CP diner Champlain: Hamburger and salad, potato chips and Sprite, vegetable soup and crackers, fruit cup and candies, though I noted the use of plastic glasses, commercial dessert cups and portions ‘a bit small’. But what could one expect for the very reasonable tab of $5.47? Lunch was disturbed by the Doppler effect - the ‘loud as hell’ airhorn of a four-unit eastbound that screamed by, while we sat in the siding behind another westbound freight near Devon. I can’t remember if the two genteel English ladies at my table jumped, but I’ll bet they did! 

An interesting-looking switcher with green and yellow striping was at the roundhouse at Chapleau as we arrived slightly late at 1336, meeting an eastbound with 5550-4736-8798 (above). I wondered if this could have been from the Spruce Falls Power & Paper railway. CP's repurposed 40-foot boxcars, roofless with the doors barred and ready to receive loads of wood chips from nearby pulp mills stood in the yard:

An attempt to photograph the abandoned Dalton lumber railway interchange was thwarted by the thoughtlessly-placed (personal rail enthusiast opinion) cut of Milwaukee Road/Illinois Central/SOO Line loaded tie gondolas in foreground. At Franz, a 15-car boarding outfit and an eastbound freight in the siding with 5996-4510-4558 at 1538 preceded our fifteen-minute stop on the main just to the west as we continued running 15 minutes late.

Tail-end crewman on the back porch of CP 434398:

As happened often, waiting for a meet gave me a good excuse to walk back down the short aisle to the vestibule for a quick photograph and to stay there as long as I could once we got going. I took to the vestibule from Girdwood for the next 30 miles as we met yet another eastbound at 1625 with 5731-5907-4720 (above) into White River, where I walked to the head-end to customarily collect obsolete train orders and photograph the head-end in the sunshine, with the Spadoni Brothers store as a backdrop. The Speno rail-grinding train was in the yard, along with CP 40-foot wood chip boxcars: 31233, 31383, 31365, 31249, 31269, 31255, 31380 and 31401. Power on hand: 6000, 5524, 4728, 4740, and vans 434348 and 434688. This view was lakeside  at Mi. 110 White River Sub., east of White River:

Supper was ‘very good’ roast beef ribs and pea soup with apple pie. The tab was $9.63 and for whatever reason, the tip was 0. At the table were an English couple and a girl from Perth, ON. Digestion was aided by some after-dinner vestibule time through Jackfish curve and Terrace Bay. CP's 'paper train' local was eastbound here; also visible was a line of Kimberly-Clark bulkhead flats as well as CN and CP woodchip cars. At the station, two ambulances and a Terrace Bay police cruiser (the force disbanded in 2001) attended to facilitate the removal of an old fellow on a stretcher. Pulpwood operation at Mi 100 Heron Bay Sub:

Here we took the siding for an eastbound 4-SD intermodal train east of Schreiber at 1954: 6049-5625-5539-5730. Horrible photography conditions, right into the afternoon sun, but the glint off the stainless steel cars lights up the SD's:

Staying in the vestibule west of Schreiber from Jackfish at 1945 west to Dublin, where I called it quits at 2200, though there was still some light in the sky. Sights and sounds: eastbound freight's next-track Angus van with generator and lights on at Schreiber, a hotbox detector at Mi 17 Nipigon Sub, occupied boarding outfit west of Red Rock with kitchen units lit and TV’s on, unseen ‘spring peeper’ frogs serenaded from an unseen pond. Nature sightings - running total of 10 loons, flock of black-and-white ducks, and a black bear among birches at bottom of right-of-way embankment. And I never thought you would be able to detect the acrid scent of wood pulp through a roomette window - but trust me, you can! Schreiber yard view, looking east:

We were operating around 20 minutes late through the night. I was awakened at 0230 by too much heat in my roomette so turned it off. A look out the roomette window revealed the Big Dipper, then a 42-car boarding outfit. On time at Kenora on the morning of May 28. A crane outfit with CP 414220 was lifting yard tracks at Keewatin. A thirty-machine rail and ballast gang was at Ingolf. A farmer working his field rounded a corner directly beside our stopped train, as we waited for a signal east of Winnipeg. A harrowing experience (!):

Into-Manitoba morning 70 m.p.h. dome reverie was shattered by pesky children. Flat land arrived near Mi. 68 Keewatin Sub. At Molson, CP 6030 and vans 434626 and 437076 (end-cupola), we passed Cloverleaf at 0919, then at 0924 Oakbank flashed by, and I left the dome crossing the Red River diversion at 0930. On-time arrival at Winnipeg at 1000. We passed over CP and their St Boniface yard. Central Grain, at right of photo, no longer stands:

Thanks for riding along so far. In Part 2, I leave Winnipeg on June 7 and head home as far as Toronto, then on to Kingston in Part 3.

Running Extra...

Vice-President Joe Biden rode a two-state Build Back Better special train the day after the trainwreck that was the first presidential candidates' debate. Ohio and Pennsylvania are great train-watching states, and Joe knows he likes riding the train. I have that same opinion, so trains trump politics.

Picton Terminals' plucky tugboat the Sheri Lynn S and McKeil Marine's Molly M1 shepherd a load of aggregate from the Kingston (former) grain elevator dock towards Wolfe Island on September 30. This is the third load from Picton:

Trains and cranes and planes - among other aerial views, Kingston's well-grounded photographer Paul Wash has a prolific, panoramic, plethoric portfolio of the construction history of John Counter Boulevard's overpass over the CN Kingston Sub.

I caught this little dogey as second-and-a-half unit on CN No 368 on October 1. It's Tractive Power Corporation model TP56 FWDX 0005. It's what happens when an SD40 and Thomas the Tank Engine have a baby together. Reportedly heading to La Tuque, QC:


Steve Boyko said...

A great trip so far! Looking forward to the rest of it.

I love that photo of St. Boniface and Central Grain. Not much remains from that photo, except most of the yard and the water tower.

That's a cute little one-truck locomotive.

Eric said...

Thanks, Steve. I used the St Boniface photo for modelling in a previous layout iteration. My brother posted it in his blog re: Winnipeg.

It's taken me awhile to publish the yet-unposted photos...only 36 years!