Saturday, April 16, 2022

Kingston-Vancouver aboard VIA, Part 1 - September, 1986

The big event for North American railfans in 1986 was the Expo86 World Exposition in Vancouver. SteamExpo was to include a grand parade of big steam locomotives like UP 8444, SP 4449, CNR 6060, CPR 2860 and many smaller ones. I wanted to squeeze in a lot on this trip, visiting Rosemary and Wilf in Portage, staying with my great-aunt Alison in Vancouver, plus photographing grain elevators out of Saskatoon. This is the final one of my 1980's trips west aboard VIA Rail to be shared on Trackside Treasure. I've published posts on portions previously, and you'll find links scattered throughout this two-part series, just like Easter eggs!

I was wide awake at 0520 on May 20, with Mom and Dad driving me to Kingston station. With ticket to Toronto bought and in hand, I was aboard VIA No 651 in snack bar coach 3242. Arrival in Toronto Union was at 1015. Lunch was at the Jolly Chef, and I boarded No 9 at 1300. I was up in the dome of Strathcona Park (top photo) until we were well out of Toronto. 
CN 9506-79309 were parked at Orillia (above), arrival at Washago at 1530 (below). First call for dinner was at 1700. I was seated at a table with two ladies from Toronto and a fellow from Connecticut. It turned out he was also a railfan heading to SteamExpo. Dinner was ham steak. I met the Connecticut railfan and three other fans in the Park car dome after dinner.                              
Once we reached Sudbury, I was on the platform to see the switching of No 1 from Montreal. I’d been keen to get travelling, but on this first night away, in roomette 3 of Sherwood Manor, I was already missing Karen. On May 21, I was awake at 0530 because I had a job to do. David had asked me to photograph his former CP Rail territory between White River and Thunder Bay. (I would end up doing much more at the Lakehead than just taking photos…) Positioned at the rear lounge door in Strathcona Park, at Mi. 45 of the CP Heron Bay Sub, meeting an eastbound with 4709-4705 I got a ‘locomotive view’ of every station, siding and bridge. David has published the CP Nipigon Sub photos - Schreiber to Nipigon and Nipigon to Thunder Bay - on his blog, carefully correlated with annotated topographical maps. Red Sucker Tunnel out the Park car lounge window:

Later in the morning, the tail-end trainman mentioned ‘engineer Rolly Martin’ was in the cab. David had roomed with Rolly and Therese in Schreiber during his time as a trainman in Schreiber! I made my way up to the cab once we reached Thunder Bay and introduced myself to Rolly as he alighted from the cab (above). He beamed when I mentioned David! This brief chance meeting served to put Rolly and David back in touch with each other. Their friendship resulted in several visits to Schreiber and to Kingston. 
Eighty miles west of the Lakehead we passed the aftermath of a derailment (below), where lumber from a wrecked boxcar was being stacked trackside. After dinner in diner Emerald, we were only doing 15 mph for about 10 miles. Lead unit VIA 6513 was having mechanical issues, and CP 5982 was sent from Kenora to take us west into Winnipeg. I was in the vestibule from Hawk Lake, ON to Moss Spur, MB. I called Rosemary and Wilf from the nearby Fort Garry Hotel after arrival in Winnipeg. Before long I was meeting Rosemary at the station stop in Portage. Generous as always, I was given a care package comprising food and books to read. I drifted off around MacGregor, hoping to sleep in on Thursday morning.
Well, I woke briefly at Grenfell, SK and snapped some photos of towering metal-clad grain elevators in the early morning light, from the roomette bed. Back to sleep until 1000! Clouds and drizzle moved in, and I spent a little while in the vestibule as we passed elevators at Carmichael and Tompkins, SK. The rain let up and I was back in the vestibule snapping elevator photos from PIapot SK to Bassano AB and Bassano to Indus thence into downtown Calgary and the station. Once on the station platform, another railfan and I slipped into the station to buy some souvenirs.
Near Exshaw (above), CP 5618 4 gons and 434731 at Banff:
Leaving Calgary four hours late, it was once again time for dinner in the diner. Could nothing be finer? Yes, perhaps a vestibule ride into the mountains could be! From Exshaw, AB to the Spiral Tunnels, it was a cold ride, with snow falling. I’d seen lots of wildlife. Elk now, deer antelope, hawks, magpies and pheasants earlier in the day. My sleeping car porter was a “really sarcastic and funny guy”, I noted. I continued to discover more railfans on board, all heading to SteamExpo as I was. 
Castle Mountain, train on curve Mi 108
The Grand Parade of Steam was tomorrow, and I was tired and needed to rest up for arrival in Vancouver. This was my final night of the trip in sleeper space - it was all coach from here.

Looking across at CN near Ashcroft, 0800 (below) On May 23, I woke up near Ashcroft, BC. While in the vestibule for a while, we passed one of CP’s hotbox detectors and for once, the digital readout was counting: 016, 017, 018. The train came to a halt for a visual inspection. The scenery along the river was dramatic, dimmed only by the leaden overcast and our increasingly tardy progress.

We arrived at Vancouver station three-and-a-half hours late at 1300, and there was no time to lose. I had to find a spot to view the steamers near Canada Place. Built for Expo 86 and opened by Prince Charles, I had no idea where I could actually view the parade from there. I quickly found a locker for rent in the station and boarded the new SkyTrain. Developed near home at Millhaven, this rapid transit system was also put in place for Expo 86. Scads of railfans were perched at track level and every other level for the parade. I found a perch above the tracks, but owing to our late arrival, had missed the grand parade. 

In Part 2, I take in Expo 86 and continue east aboard VIA Rail, with stopovers in Saskatoon and Portage la Prairie.

May 21/86
Coldwell 0715 EB - CP 6013-5001-5xxx-4743.

Schreiber 0835 EB - CP 4559-4708-4730 and 10 cars.

Selim - CP 4248 and 2 ballast cars.

Sprucewood 1040 EB - CN 5148-5057 on parallel CN track to Red Rock.

Thunder Bay - CN 1910-1913; CP 1529-1694, 1532-1576, 1242, 8114, 6001-5009, 1560-1828, van 434345.

Kenora EB - CP 5747.

May 22/86
Indian Head, SK, EB - CP (ex-QNSL) 5413 leading.

Medicine Hat, AB yard at 1320 - CP 3075-3070-3109.

Near Bassano, AB, EB - CP 5831-5731 with potash.

Crowfoot, AB at 1525 - VIA No 2 Eng 6304.

Calgary - CP 1526; end-cupola vans 434037-437309-437012-437162-437022-437046-437166-437045-437149.

Alyth Yard - CP 1507-1506, 1503-1525.

Running extra...

VIA's inaugural Siemens trainset made its way west on CN's Kingston Subdivision this week, passing through Kingston at 0900 en route to Toronto, London, and Windsor! Westbound as VIA No 649, eastbound at 1900 on Thursday heading back to Montreal as VIA No 628. Thanks to my VIAphile secret squirrel for the heads-up. You know who you are. Coupled to GO 654 at TMC, VIA rolled the dice by backing the consist around the east leg of the TMC wye, the most treacherously-curved track in VIA operation! The speedster tackled the 30 mph CN Oakville Sub back east to Toronto and survived!

This apparently fledgling blog has an interesting post on VIA's history and corporate branding. It's a good read, even if some of the photo credits "via Trackside Treasures" (is it too late for me to change the name to that?) are a bit loose. Two of the photos are mine, others taken from this blog were fully credited when posted. This seems to be intenet-era photo crediting at its finest! Read it anyway if you choose.

Here's how you can go from Toronto to Brockville in no time. Jason Shron's KingstonSub layout coming in Model Railroader. As always, click for larger version:
The trackplan is a bit hopeful, as both lower decks are currently tool and materiel storage and sleeping space! Speaking of crediting...

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