Saturday, May 1, 2021

Kingston-Portage aboard VIA, 1982 - Part 1

In 1982, from June 8 to June 26, I travelled from Kingston to Portage la Prairie, MB for what was becoming my annual summer visit to see relatives. Fortunately for me, they lived in the railfanning capital of Manitoba! Travel both ways aboard VIA’s Canadian cost $365. Meeting multiple eastbounds (top photo) while ‘in the hole’ east of Biscotasing mid-morning on June 9, 1982. I leaned way out of Chateau Salaberry’s Dutch-door to capture our train, trackage and tree-lined right-of-way on CP Rail’s Nemegos Sub. But how did I get here?

Arriving at Kingston station early, there were four VIA trains through the station in the half-hour before departure: long and short LRC trains, a short blue & yellow consist, and my Corridor Canadian. This was my first ride aboard the Corridor version of this train, which had begun operating Montreal-Toronto-Vancouver the previous November. Our twelve-car consist arrived five minutes late at 1935: 6775-6864-6789-601-5642-5647-118-112-503-5752- Frontenac - Chateau Salaberry - Chateau Lauzon - Laird Manor - Assiniboine Park. I was travelling in roomette 2 of Chateau Salaberry. 

Twenty minutes after departure, I was already making my way back to the dome of Assiniboine Park to enjoy CN’s Kingston Sub from this lofty vantage point. The downstairs lounge was empty, though the attendant was stocking the car for the journey west with beer, newspapers, magazines, VIA postcards and literature, and board games for the kiddies. Some nice folks from Montreal heading to Saskatoon were already upstairs. Our three matched MLW units had our train pegged at 75 mph east of Cobourg. At Cobourg, the parallel CP tracks hosted a work train including Esquimalt & Nanaimo boxcar 292593, and we had a rough start out of the station. Around Port Hope, the conductor arrived in the dome carrying his radio. At Oshawa, a host of CN switchers were tied up: 1384, 7167, 7169, 7243, 1326 and cabooses 76647, 79867 and 79456. Passing GO Transit stations and GO trains, we passed Scott Street tower at 2222 and arrived at Toronto Union Station fourteen minutes late at 2224. 

Our train’s almost-two-hour layover gave the unseen CN switcher time to add a cut of blue & yellow cars behind the Dayniter: Irondale-1368-Elnora-Entwistle Elmira. We received new power: 6533-6632-6634. Also in the trainshed were sleepers Fortune Bay, Equity, Terra Nova River, Grand Codroy River and Greenway. Just before departure at 2359, a GO single-level consist pulled in. Moving slowly out of downtown, we passed the new GO North Bathurst yard and the nearly-complete flyunder. We stopped at 0033-0039 just before my last note of the night - crossing a diamond at 0041. Until 0436 that is, when a stop-and start meant we were backing onto the CP Parry Sound Subdivision in the fog. Had I been awake, I might have heard the passing of No 2 somewhere around Washago before leaving CN tracks. 

I was awake on June 9 just in time for our arrival in Sudbury. CP switchers 8153-8147 were shunting (above), and my stop at the Skyline included a 60-cent carton of milk for my in-roomette breakfast cereal during our one-hour stop. The well-known mining operations of the Sudbury area were in evidence: CP shortie ore cars 375680-375601-375929, the Levack Spur and Hardy Mine spurs.  VIA 6533-6632-6634 have just been fuelled west of the station at 0800 on June 9:

Those taking breakfast in the dining car had their last call at 0920, during our stop at Cartier, ON. A long line of CPR and CP Rail-lettered boxcars were white-lined with WA designation, perhaps for in-house conversion to roofless wood-chip cars. At a siding just east of Biscotasing, likely Drefal at Mi. 52 CP Nemegos Subdivision, we had a four-train meet. A five-unit CP eastbound behind 5743 was followed by an eastbound 13-car work train behind 8758. With the work train still moving through the siding, another eastbound freight with 5551-5508 (below) followed close behind, also on the move. We waited on the mainline for all three trains to pass, heading west again as the final freight’s van 434463 passed us. 

We were doing 55 mph on west of Biscotasing, passing the hexagonal concrete base of a former water tower at Ramsey. Four of us shared a table for lunch in diner Frontenac: me, two Americans heading to Hawaii via Vancouver and Seattle, and a fellow heading to Prince George. Food from my notes was ‘quite good but selection down a bit’ but I must have enjoyed the hamburger, ice cream sundae and a Sprite for $5.15. Another cut of seventy 40-foot boxcars near sitting in an old gravel pit near Devon hinted at their potential future as wood-chip cars - some were without doors. We were 10 minutes early arriving at Chapleau, where passengers banter with a white-smocked crew member during our servicing stop:

CP power included 7044, 7091, 8743, 8765 and 4702 near vans 434649, 434136, 434528, 434573 and end-cupola 434040, plus allready-converted, loaded roofless woodchip boxcars CP 31387, 31464, 31411 and 31440. There was another hexagonal concrete water tower foundation at Musk, 18 miles west of Chapleau on CP’s White River Subdivision. Napping until Franz, we waited two minutes for a signal to cross the Algoma Central line. We waited a further 16 minutes before No 2 passed by. I could only get a partial consist: 6624, Indigo, Excelsior, Chateau Lasalle, Chateau Varennes. A three-Century freight was in the yard at White River behind 4561- 4567-4555. 

Back in the dining car for supper, due to the limited selection I had the very same meal, substituting lemon pie instead of a strawberry sundae, all for $6.15! After supper, it was back to dome seating in the Park car for the overcast evening trip around the shoreline of Lake Superior, with some ice remnants still visible in inlets. Rock fences, tunnels and gravel pits dotted the line, reportedly one of the toughest segments to build on CP’s way west. A cryptic quoted conversation may have pertained to switching operations at Schreiber at 2015: ‘That was seven or eight cars. This was only four. Four!! Seemed like forty-four!’ CP 5519 and Dayliner 91 reposed at Schreiber, ON as did roofless woodchip boxcars CP 31181 and 31199, the latter with International of Maine lettering. Near Selim, our train backed up about a third of a mile before meeting an eastbound CP freight. West of Cavers, we were travelling at exactly 60 mph, with several speed reductions through slow orders. Rain and wind accompanied bingo in the diner, and our train was now running 30 minutes late. Little of Thunder Bay was visible just after midnight, though I was able to make out new Saskatchewan covered hoppers SKPX 625133, 625155, 625286, 625294 and new Alberta covered hoppers ALPX 628073 and 628106. 

Awakened at Vermilion Bay at 0530 on June 10, our train was left-hand running on the double-track mainline. An eastbound 2-unit drag of 90 cars passed at 0550, just west of Edison. We also met a 3-unit, 110-car freight and a 3-unit TOFC/COFC hotshot after 0800. Passing the wooden water tower at Whitemouth, we were six minutes late. There were 20 grain cars in the siding at Molson, with a CP SD40 switching others. Five cars were spotted for loading at the Cloverleaf grain elevator. Passing over the Red River floodway at 0931, we stopped at Midpoint interlocking, now on CN at 0935, passing Beach Junction at 0950, and entering the Depot at 1000. In one way, I'd come home....the James Richardson & Sons building at Portage and Main was the 34-storey home of a company that had its roots in good ol' Kingston!

I broke out a new note-pad for the three-and-a-half hour layover in Winnipeg, in order to take a coach yard census. E-series, Capes, Greens, lounges, diners and Sceneramics Athabasca and Fraser were noteable. New ‘western’ power was added for the trip along CN’s Rivers Subdivision west of Winnipeg: 6501-6610-6603. Burlington Northern Manitoba Limited’s engine 2 was out of camera range as we headed west at 1335, at a leisurely 25 mph for the first 15 miles out of Winnipeg. We met an eastbound freight behind two CN GMD-1’s at 1350. Soon after, we sped up to 70 mph. Stacks of concrete ties were at Benard, MB at 1423, and there were 19 grain cars spotted at the Manitoba Pool and United Grain Growers grain elevators at Oakville. Just before arriving at ‘Portage’, we met an eastbound three-unit CN freight with priority traffic: piggybacks and auto racks. My No 1 pulls west out of Portage on June 10, 1982. Luggage in the car trunk, we leap-frogged ahead to photograph and review the consist one more time: 

In Part 2, I book-end my Portage train-watching with my return trip east from Portage aboard VIA No 2. 

Here's the East Yard coachyard census I captured at Winnipeg on June 10:

Running extra...

Last weekend's Academy Awards broadcast was the most 'woke' and issue-driven one yet. I wasn't as 'woke' and I think I may have got the Oscar for Best Trying To Stay Awake During An Awards Broadcast. The Red Carpet was slimmed down to a Red Hall Runner Held Down With Duct Tape. It was like a docudrama. It was like Downton Abbey on sedation. Forget winning the EGOT. I give it an EGAD!

Jon Batiste won an Oscar for the score for Pixar's 'Soul'. Jon thanked Suleika Jaouad in the socially-distanced audience. No slouch herself, I've read Suleika's 'Between Two Kingdoms'. Jon has a part in this weekend's American Idol Live. Dude oozes music.

The Railroad Modellers Meet of British Columbia by Zoom is on, beginning today and for the next four Thursdays. Registration is free. In the opening session, I enjoyed seeing three decks of BC Rail by Timothy Horton, all in a spare room in N scale. There are clinics, layout tours and meet-the-modeller sessions.


chris mears said...

I hadn't realised the Railway Modellers Meet from BC was on. I really wish I'd seen the presentation on Tim Horton's layout as it's such an incredible piece of N scale modelling. I enthusiastically follow his work on his own website as well as in the forums but it's always so much more enjoyable hearing the builder describe their work--something about the voice and not just hearing it but how it articulates a vision.


Eric said...

Tim has squeezed a lot of railroading into a spare room, Chris. The Q&A was done well, too. I'm tuning in to other layouts tonight and other upcoming Thursdays.

There seemed to be universal let-down not being able to hear Iain Rice due to technical difficulties.

Thanks for your comment,

mlr said...

Hello! My name is Scott. Please forgive me for not addressing the topic but I could find no other way to communicate with you. My question is about the top photo of the "West Virginia Photo Freight". Any idea what railroad it is? I cant quite make out the name on the tender and it doesn't look like Cass Scenic. My interest is in the Gulf tanker in the consist and am looking for more information about it. Over a year ago a photo of this car surfaced. The group of modelers that I belong to got into a debate over the color of the car: black or dark blue. This is only the second time I've seen a photo of that car and any leads would be most helpful.

Eric said...

Hi Scott,

Railfan & Railroad editor Steve Barry posted results of his Lerro photo freight in West Virginia. This is on the Durbin & Greenbrier Valley using Heisler 6. He's been on a tear recently, posting his awesome results to Facebook. The gulf tank car reporting marks are URHX 14734.

I don't always put caption information on my header. (See disclaimer at very bottom of blog) but I do enjoy changing the header photo quite often! I don't have permission to share Steve's photo in a post, but the car looks black to me. If you're on Facebook, check the D&GV Restoration group. Looks like the restoration work took place over the last (less than) three years.

My email address is shown near the top of the right sidebar, see "Comment!".

Hope this helps,

Thanks for your comment,

mlr said...

Eric: Thanks a million for your response. It just so happens that my wife and I have booked two nights on the Durbin & Greenbrier Valley's Caboose Camping in September! It only took two years to get that reservation. Anyway, I'll be able to settle the debate myself come this fall.


Eric said...

Sounds great. Enjoy, Scott!