Friday, December 3, 2021

Kingston-Edmonton aboard VIA, 2019 - Part 2

We watched the screen as VIA No 2’s little electronic icon made its way inexorably across the TV monitor map in the Edmonton station. Finally backing in at 2150, its arrival was three hours late. We boarded at 2220, making our way to Bedroom E of Amherst Manor, car 221 – our home for the next two days and 17 hours. Jeffrey, Lord Amherst would no doubt be pleased to know that a former resident of Amherst View, Ontario was now boarding the car also named in his Lordship's honour! This was our return trip after heading west in early June.

The consist of our No 2: 6421-6438-8609-8130-8126-8511-Elgin Manor-Amherst Manor-Drummond Manor-8502-Kent-Osler Manor-Laird Manor-Hunter Manor-Dawson Manor-Burton Manor-Bell Manor-8507-Louise-crew sleeper Chateau Closse-Chateau Jolliet (Prestige)-Chateau Lauzon(P)-Glacier Park (P).

Our car was just ahead of Drummond Manor, our Skyline 8502 and diner Kent. Kent had been set out from Vancouver to be switched into our train at Edmonton after the westbound diner suffered a fire. Jarvis Manor and glass-roofed VIA 1721 were switched out and sitting on the second station track. Car attendant Debora stopped by before we headed up to 8502’s dome for our extended exit ex-Edmonton. It would be 2350 before the switching was complete, and 0020 before we hit the mainline.

June 23 started with a tentative ten-foot tip-toe to the shower. We were pleasantly surprised to see full breakfast being offered in Kent. We both chose the Transcontinental and signed up for first sittings for lunch (1130) and dinner (1700) while we were there. Since it was Sunday, and fewer track crews would be at work, we anticipated a timelier trip along the Watrous Sub. Fewer Rule 42 foreman to raise on the radio and only Allied Track Services working east of Biggar.

There were lots of westbounds though: CN 2863-2962 at Kinley; 3235 in the CN100 scheme-3041 with intermodal; 3822 with oil; and at Saskatoon 3195-5729-54xx and 2998-3147 CN100 with westbound intermodal. Our train carried 272 passengers departing Vancouver, but after Jasper we had 191, up slightly to 202 departing Edmonton and now, 214. There were 33 on-board staff. We asked Debora to leave our berths down, and went to 8502 to await the first call for lunch. We were running three hours late.

Seated with Tim and Liz from Minneapolis at lunch, we learned that they had come east on the Rocky Mountaineer and that Tim was a model railroader, operating his Black Wing & Western in HO scale. We enjoyed conversation over vegetable soup, then ginger beef on ride for Karen and pulled turkey wrap for me. Dessert was caramel pecan cake and marble cake. As the second sitting was just being called, we headed up to the dome. 

We met two westbounds at Watrous (above): CN 2336 leading at 1430, and 2297-8885-2620 just west of Saskatoon. We had good dispatching this afternoon. There were few stops and we actually scooped two eastbounds: 2673-8836 at Melville (below); 2857-2800 were light westbound, and 2262-8962 stopped with an oil train and 2818-2996 in the yard. Into the yard came 3090-3010-2576-5748 with ex-British Columbia Railway red, white & blue 4603. So much power here: CN 3217, 3827 in CN100, 3161, 8928, 2583, 2182, 2021 and 2910. We met a westbound with CN 3104 east of Melville.

Potash mines proliferated, with sunshine peeking through the clouds. Karen headed back for a nap, and so did I just before dinner. The diner was operating on a different time zone, so we actually sat down with Tim and Liz at 1800 as we passed through the Qu’Appelle Valley. Karen’s favourite – prime rib with mashed potatoes and vegetables, preceded by hammy, hearty pea soup and followed by a strawberry/chocolate cake. 

Time to walk it off. We had mused about walking the train inside, having only done it on the platform during station stops. On our second-last night, we marched! All the way through six Manors, two Skylines, two diners, the crew sleeper then into the rarefied air of two Prestige Chateau cars and finally, finally Glacier Park. 

Would we be welcome here? A staring red wine-imbiber seemed to signal ‘no’. But as others filtered in after dinner, the convivial answer was decidedly ‘yes’! Howard and Terry from California, well-travelled Kilt Guy, an English Rose and then Tim and Liz shared the evening with us through Manitoba, the Uno trestle (above) and Rivers (below). The last to leave, we snapped photos (top photo) during our one-and-only Prestige perambulation, heading back east to Amherst Manor, now about four hours late.

Speaking of late, it was time to turn in. Wanting to witness our Portage passage again, I squeezed in at the foot of Karen’s berth again for Bloom, the diamond at West Tower, Portage station, crossing the Trans-Canada and the run into Winnipeg, arriving there at 0035 on Monday the 24th. Pulling into the Depot, the on-board crew for Toronto was spaced along the platform. Each young attendant seemed to carry a backpack and a large, reuseable grocery bag of essentials. We were operating two hours late. CN 1409-7065 thumped through the station, chanting against their transfer consist as if greeting us, the new arrival in town. What a great nightcap!

It was a good thing we were awake at 0600 on June 24 and showered, just in time to see the sun picturesquely posed across a trackside lake. Leaden clouds, followed by rain, set in at breakfast and shadowed us all day. We sat with a couple from Indiana who were also connecting from the Rocky Mountaineer. The Transcontinental again did not disappoint, while we met three westbound freights near Quibell at Mi 75 of CN’s Redditt Sub, then another westbound led by CN 2401. We departed Sioux Lookout at 1105, four hours late, scooping 3098-3011 with auto racks. After a rainy-day nap, it was time to eat yet again! A cowboy from Wyoming and his wife, originally from Argentina, were our table companions. Karen enjoyed her quinoa salad, but the only salad I had was the slaw served with my just-right hamburger. It was chocolate ice cream, and maple marble cake for dessert, respectively. 

Around Mi 66 of CN’s Allanwater Sub, we slowed to stop as VIA No 1’s headlight pierced the perpetual precipitation. None other than Mark Sampson transferred from the westbound's tail-end (above) to our eastbound in the siding as part of his management duties. System track gangs were sitting in sidings. We may have been miles from any city, but track is track and it needs to be maintained and replaced. Westbound freights were numerous: 8930 led, then 2594-5725 at 1425; three units with intermodal at 1520 out of Armstrong, then into the siding at Minataree, Mi 196 of the Caramat Sub for 2654 with intermodal at 1617; 2625-2785 at 1635 then general freight behind 3012 at 1723.

We listened to the activity co-ordinator give an expose’ on Ontario wildlife in the Skyline dome. I smirked when she intoned the seriousness of “Mississauga rattlers” and how they were only found in certain areas such as … Mississauga. A fact to be remembered next time we slither through the suburbs! 

We rejoined the same couple at lunch for our surf-and-turf downpour dinner: chicken for Karen and cod for me. We managed to see a couple of deer trackside but were disappointed to have been skunked when it came to moose. We had not seen any the entire trip, despite peeled eyes! Mark met us in the dome in the evening approaching Hornepayne. We talked about the Canadian in its earlier eras. He predicted we could make up time on the Capreol-Toronto section. (Schedule padding did indeed make a nine-hour schedule into a seven-hour trip.) Wine tasting ended at Hornepayne and we departed at 2000, now under two hours tardy as we headed for bed.

June 25, our last day on the Canadian found us up in the dome by 0700 at Mi 225 of CN’s Bala Sub, south of Sudbury. Brunch was announced as 0930-1300, with our arrival predicted in Toronto at 1330. We had continental breakfast fixings from the Skyline’s lower level as spruces gave way to pines. We were now in the Muskokas, still two hours late. 

Amid my Transcontinental and Karen’s omelette at brunch, the service manager announced Mark Sampson’s birthday. Mark was in his diner ‘office’, walkie-talkie in hand! Tim Steeves photogaphed our train arriving in Washago (above). We met two westbound intermodals near Richmond Hill, the second powered by 8853-8874-8804. 

Nearing Toronto, our car attendant Louise helped us prepare for detraining at Toronto Union. No 2 tiptoed down the Don River valley and lo and behold, we arrived one hour early at 1330! Checking in for our one-night stay, we thereafter noshed on nachos on a fourth-floor patio overlooking busy Dundas Square as the ant-like commuters headed for home.

On June 26 our Toronto-Kingston train (above, crossing the Don River) got us home on time. VIA No 64 was led by 6418, and we were in LRC coach 3321 – the third car of a six-car consist. We met CN No 149 at Belleville, and Belleville-Kingston local No 518 at Shannonville. Compared to our leisurely pace on the Canadian, this Corridor train was like a bullet!

My travelling companion and I had shared some scintillating scenery. We realized that this vacation had been the longest we’d ever been continuously together – ever! What a nice change from work. We were learning to live without work!

Running extra...

This past Tuesday, VIA held a press conference in Ottawa revealing the first Siemens trainset before it enters testing between there and Montreal. This video shows the train well. The camera is similar to one used by real estate agents. The car's bathroom looks large enough to hold a barn-dance. The galley looks bigger than the kitchen in my house! Free handout! And here's another video!

Due to ongoing Scarborough bridge renewal, and a fatal worksite accident, VIA's Montreal/Ottawa-Toronto trains have been undergoing some schedule delays this week. I hurriedly caught Thursday's VIA No 53. Initially up to Dec. 1, the delays occurred at least three more days and are now expected to continue until Dec.6. No 53 was handling power from cancelled westward movements. Cancelled because they would arrive in Toronto during the evening commuter rush.
Have you seen this post before? Well, maybe, kinda, sorta. I deleted an earlier '25 Days in 25 Photos' post quite by accident. Most of the photos of our trip in Part 1 and Part 2 are new, and more travelogue-related to our time on the Canadian. There's also this Riding the Canadian post that helps whet the appetite for those about guessed it...ride the Canadian.


Cindy Lambie said...

Well written, I have travelled yearly by VIA rail from Edmonton until 2018. 2o19 the sudden death of my beloved travelling companion Paul passed away. Then Covid. Your writing of the trip is excellent. I wish I could write like that. I like all the information of the locomotives and cars, even after all my travel on trains the numbers fly over my head. Thank you.

Eric said...

Thanks for your kind comment, Cindy. I am much better at noting numbers than writing about events, so these posts on our trip not only get the numbers recorded, but I'm able to encapsulate our trip in words. Hope we are both able to travel by VIA again!

Steve Boyko said...

Fantastic series, Eric! It really makes me want to call VIA up and book a trip...

Unknown said...

interesting commentary.I last rode the Canadian in June 1986 from Toronto to Winnipeg return in a standard berth,one the former CP transcontiental route. Sleeping car passengers had to pay for their meals in the diner.I thought the cars were looking very tatty compared with travelling on the Canadian between Carleton Place Ont and Whitemouth Manitoba in the early 60s in sleeper.Looks like the Canadian is now mostly a tourist train.

Eric said...

Steve, i think you should when you can! I'm glad we did what we did when we did.
Thanks for your comment!

Eric said...

Hi, A. Yes, the Canadian most definitely is a tourist train, as VIA has been marketing it for years. The only exception now is Economy which is used for many folks who can no longer use the non-existent Greyhound bus service.

Yes, we had to pay for our meals in the Eighties! I think even with inflation they were reasonably-priced then. Tattiness confirmed. A seat in our Skyline was definitely coming apart and shows in some of my photos. A lot of attention and $ was paid to refitting the Prestige cars as part of the Via business plan.

Thank you for your comment,