Friday, February 18, 2022

Kingston to Prince Rupert aboard VIA - September 1985, Part I


Heading west less than a year before my visit to Vancouver’s Expo 86 aboard VIA, I was travelling on a Canrailpass in coach, with a system Canrailpass trip (costing $230) in September-October 1985 began with a very early morning departure aboard the Cavalier from Kingston to Montreal, then the Canadian through Ottawa and Sudbury to Portage. Following a stopover, the Canadian took me from Portage to Vancouver. At Vancouver, I hopped right aboard train No 4 to Edmonton, thence heading northwest to Prince Rupert on No 5. The next morning, slightly delayed out of Rupert by a derailment, I continued on No 6 to Edmonton, No 4 to Winnipeg, then west again to Regina. I arrived there in the wee hours of the morning, picked up my rental car at daybreak, and spent a few days photographing grain elevators before heading east on No 2 to Thunder Bay. A derailment near Ignace caused passengers travelling eastward to board a turned No 1 at Thunder Bay, as it headed east as No 2. Then it was train No 10 from Sudbury to Toronto, thence No 48 home from Toronto to Kingston.

A year before, the Prince Rupert train was known as the Panorama. At the time of my trip, the Skeena was an overnight, full-service train; today it’s a day train with an overnight stop at its midway, Prince George. Trains were open during stopovers in Winnipeg and Calgary. Most detraining passengers waited to reboard in the station. If one knew where to access the platform outside, it was possible to detrain for supplies, then check out trains under the trainshed before departure! It would appear my not-so-healthy diet choices mentioned herein were a major part of my trip – travelling on a budget! Recommended dining from the take-out window: VIA’s $2.30 double cheeseburger correctly microwaved. Yum!

VIA had not yet installed showers in its ex-CP sleepers. There are still no showers in coaches. Standing in the vestibule, without tomfoolery but with camera in hand, was tolerated by most porters and train crew, who generally turned a blind eye while walking between cars. My total proposed mileage totalled 9,264 miles. Nineteen days’ travel for $230 seemed like a pretty good bargain! This three-part series covers my trip out-and-back.

I left Kingston on Monday morning, September 16 at 0300.  The trip aboard the Cavalier to Montreal was uneventful; lots of commuters get on at Cornwall. Fog shrouds CN's yard at Coteau (above) at 0630. During my two-hour Montreal layover, I walked around outside Windsor Station, buying a snack, a to-be-personally-delivered Montreal Gazette for my aunt and uncle I’d be visiting. There are no luggage lockers in Central Station, removed after a bomb went off in one before my trip. Instead, there is a special baggage area. I boarded VIA No 1, as did a carload of seniors from Wolfville NS going to North Bay for a convention. They were extremely noisy and rambunctious. I was in the dome car when they passed out songsheets, so I sang all the oldtimer songs with them. “Edna, Edna, who’s he put your mind to...the McIntosh boy?” I got in some vestibule time between Montreal and North BayNice country up through Chalk River, Petawawa. I had a seatmate between Petawawa and North Bay. Into Sudbury that night, I walked off the train, got a newspaper and mailed postcards. 

No 1’s consist at Sudbury: 6557-6631-616-126-3246 (my car)-500-5752-Cameron Manor-Hunter Manor-Bayfield Manor-Chateau Rouville-Louise-Eldorado-Algonquin Park. 

CP 4717 at Schreiber:
I headed up to the dome car the next day around Schreiber - very cloudy. An eastbound with CP 5943-QNS&L 206-5564-5594:
I always enjoyed coming into Thunder Bay. Not only were there CP switchers and trains, but also adjacent CN movements. Terminal elevators and cylindricals:
The sun was out. Approaching CN's Port Arthur station:
CN slug set 425-455 with a freshly-painted tank hopper on the pin:
CP 5979 approaches under CN's ore dock:
Plodding passage – through CP trackage in Thunder Bay, as No 1 is about to halt for fuelling then station stop (above).
During the station stop, I walked up to get a photo of the head-end:
Very nice and sunny west of there through Ignace, Kenora, extremely fantastic ride over Manitoba border near Whitemouth (in vestibule). You could smell all the poplar trees. Lots of farmers combining. In Winnipeg, I mailed more postcards and got eaten alive by mosquitoes, the provincial bird, while trying to get photos of engines on trains. Great ride in the dark west of Winnipeg. In dome car and could see stubble fires and grain elevators looming up ahead in the headlight beam.

By this time, I had amassed great numbers of train orders just by asking Conductor for them. I would continue to do so, and came home with about three-and-a-half inches of them. I arrived in Portage la Prairie a little late, and there happened to be an RCMP cruiser in the parking lot. I spent until Friday night with my aunt and uncle. They let me have their car. I saw many trains, out to Poplar Point and High Bluff to photograph elevators, also the new continuous-pour elevator east of Portage at Tucker. The train west was about two-and-a-half hours late, so I talked to the CN operator while we waited for the train to arrive from Winnipeg. September 21 - good morning, Saskatchewan:

Webb (above) and Gull Lake (below).

And Piapot, which I also photographed in similar weather a year later.
Cloudy, but saw several antelope and lots of hawks. Very open country, went under a huge cloud bank. through the window, Brooks' Alberta Wheat Pool elevator: 
I got into Calgary around 1300, went into station to get souvenirs, then out by ‘secret’ passageway to train early, securing a seat in the dome car. An hour or so late out of Calgary, there were very good views through mountains, cloudy then snowed, but sunny through the Spiral Tunnels. I talked to Aussies and other folks in the dome car. A view back from the Skyline west of Banff: 
An elk (trust me) at Mi 88 CP Laggan Sub. Just to the left of the arrow!
There are lots of Aussies, Kiwis and Brits on the train. Approaching the Upper Spiral Tunnel (below) and three miles west of the Spiral Tunnels (top photo).
Waking up on Sunday morning, September 22 going through the Fraser River valley. In the vestibule, photographing and paralleling a CN freight on their line across the river. Near China Bar, BC:
I talked to a young Trainman who used to work on CP as an operator around Smiths Falls, etc. Arriving in Vancouver one and three-quarter-hours late, with a fairly tight (for a transcontinental run) turnaround time in Vancouver of just over 3 hours, I was prepared to detrain at Coquitlam at 0835 if No 1 was running very late, catching No 4 there at 1340. I had a short time to walk to waterfront, looking forward to Expo 86, I got a McDonald’s meal to take on the train. 
In Part 2, I travel from Vancouver to Edmonton thence Prince Rupert, and in Part 3 east from Prince Rupert and all my notes, eastward and westward, are transcribed in this postscript

Running extra...

Divine intervention meant a snowstorm blanketed the Wellington Street protesters late Thursday night. Like heavenly snowflakey manna, or perhaps destined to confuse the cops. Nope, all is getting shovelled out, the Ottawa Police Service remembered how to arrest people, and the city of Ottawa returned to its inhabitants today. Let's hope for more divine intervention against any hidden AR-15's or more dangerous, less lethal wonky rhetoric. Freedom! indeed.
I did, however, enjoy seeing the everyman work ethic on display. Can't get porta-potties brought in? We'll build our own. Need supplies or firewood? We'll set up a depot near the baseball field. Need diesel fuel? Well, here's my Radio Flyer and I can help you with that. I trust that when there are no protests, these industrious, beaver-like tendencies can be used for good causes. Now get the hell off our Parliament, because only politicians live there and you'll never be one of them, Kurt (and Dave, and Dan, and Gene)!
Freedom isn't free, and democracy is sometimes not all that democratic-looking. I'm thinking of turning this into a political blog. You know, juicy tidbits from the halls of power and scads of salacious scandals. Possible blog titles: Justin Time, Candice Bergen Meets Murphy Brown FYI, Jagmeet Me For Coffee, Centre Bloc Toc, Green With Envy the Environmentalist, Back-biting and Back-benchers? Salaciousness knows no right-wing or left-wing! We're staying in defence of centre as our goal(ie)!


Brian said...

I always like to see pictures of wood elevators, Eric. You were able to capture some interesting shots in 1985.

The weather beaten Federal elevator in Webb is a flat roof style. I've only seen a few of those. It seems to me that this was a building style for a while in in the very-late 1950s and early 1960s.

The balloon annex at Gull Lake has a noticeable lean away from the tracks. Also interesting is that the trackside platform is in place and ready for service. I wonder how long it had been since it had seen any use, even then.

Three of the five hopper cars at Piapot are still shiny and new. They are probably still in their first months of service.

The Brooks elevator is interesting too. With the integrated annexes, it must have been among the last of the wood elevators constructed on the prairies.

The B terminal elevator in Thunder Bay looks like it might have been repainted not long before you passed through town.

Eric said...

Thanks for your observations on the elevators in the post, Brian. The ownership of the elevators changed often, with earlier designs being relettered, though newer ones were one-owner, usually.

I could start a whole separate blog on elevator ownership, design, provenance and then the takeovers and mergers in the Canadian grain industry. I have the books for reference, that's for sure!


Jason Sailer said...

Awesome to see the grain elevators along the tracks! Especially from the Canadian!

Eric said...

When it really was the Canadian...
Thanks, Jason.