Thursday, October 13, 2022

Buffer Cars Added to VIA HEP Trains*

BREAKING NEWS - Buffer cars are expected to be removed as of May 18, 2023!

Buffering used to be an indication of slow internet. But now it's an indication of new requirement taking hold at VIA Rail Canada. If you thought buffer cars were for oil trains, read on...this post will tell you everything I've been able to glean in the past week. The desperate dearth of information provided by VIA or any other reliable source led me to it,  likely led you here, just like the 1,700 pageviewers in the first seven days. Now, the consist thickens...

Additional posts I've published on this topic:
OCTOBER 27 UPDATE: Thanks to the National Post's Chris Selley for his nationally-read October 27 article, using this buffer car post as a springboard to discuss other challenges VIA  is facing. Chris' piece begins: "A seemingly obscure little news item popped up recently in the rail-fan blogosphere..."

OCTOBER 28 UPDATE: Although VIA is maintaining near-absolute secrecy about it, several cars are on their way to contract shops to have their structural integrity tested. Up to: one baggage, on coach, one diner, one Park, and maybe even an RDC! Equipment to be stripped in Montreal, though testing may take place at the National Research Council's Ottawa Rail Testing Facility.

NOVEMBER 4 UPDATE: Two stripped cars will be heading to Ottawa this weekend for testing at the National Research Council! I'll be posting all additional information in this postscript

NOVEMBER 10 UPDATE: Thanks to Bernard Babin et Gilles Gagne of the Quebec news network Le Soleil for publishing this excellent article (en francais) on the buffer-car issue. Interestingly, Gilles roots out some new information, and I like this sub-headline "Uncertainty and secrecy, worse than danger". Gilles also publishes specific questions he asked VIA Rail that elicited no response.


Despite claims from railfans that these were one-offs or some sort of conspiracy, it was an official VIA policy. It was a safety provision in event of a collision with another train or equipment. The goal seemed to be to reduction of impact energy being transmitted through a train's consist, due to a lack of structural integrity in the HEP1 and HEP2 cars to cushion the impact.

I found a complete 'cone of silence' when it came to orders or new regulations being imposed on VIA by regulatory agencies, Transport Canada, Canada Transportation Agency, Transportation Safety Board or the host railways and perhaps most surprisingly, from VIA itself! Also a 'cone of science' as to why this had suddenly become a safety concern. As some would say, after 70+ years. I began to assemble some data points as we build the case retrospectively. This corner of the 'railfan blogosphere' got busy, as the only source of information on the buffer cars!

Data Point 1: VIA's Heritage Fleet Modernization Program, which began in 2018, is an important capital equipment program for VIA Rail as it involves renovating 54 cars in its Head End Power (HEP) fleet. The HEP I long-haul cars are at or over 65 years of age and have not had any refurbishment performed in 27 years. The HEP II cars, which are approximately 70 years old, were acquired and refurbished by VIA Rail in the early 1990s with no refurbishment since that time.  Structural repairs are required to this aging fleet to address identified cracks and corrosion issues to ensure continued health and safety for travellers and employees.

Data Point 2: Twitter to the rescue. This could be a start:
Data Point 3: Nearly a week after the use of buffer cars began, Trains News Wire threw us a buffer bone: 

An independent consultant’s inspection requested by VIA Rail Canada management has prompted the company to immediately assign non-revenue buffer cars at the rear of all trains that utilize HEP-1 and HEP-2 stainless steel equipment manufactured more than 60 years ago. The action was taken unilaterally by VIA last week as a safety precaution, pending further examination by the Transportation Safety Board of Canada and a series of more in-depth tests. Sources tell Trains News Wire that no single incident led to the company-wide inspection. But there have been isolated instances over the last several decades where cars built by the Budd Co. and other U.S. manufacturers, primarily in the 1950s, have occasionally displayed structural defects during periodic heavy overhauls. Trains News Wire expects VIA Rail Canada and the Transportation Safety Board to provide details on the next steps.
Read the full Trains News Wire story.

Data Point 4: An updated October 18 Trains News Wire story by Bob Johnston, with a revision: VIA shared its plan with Health and Safety Policy Committees, union leadership, and the Canadian rail safety regulator, an arm of Transport Canada (not the country’s Transportation Safety Board, as News Wire originally reported).

Data Point 5: A Globe & Mail story from October 19 acknowledges an email from VIA referring to the Hatch engineering firm report. The worst-kept secret in the rail enthusiast world - a ministerial order will be issued the same day, a week after this post was published. Perhaps better never than late! The same day the news stories were released, VIA's Instagram account showed VIA brass breaking a champagne bottle on the first of the Siemens trainsets! Buffering the news cycle!

Data Point 6 (from a much later January 2, 2023 online post by Rick Fullerton): Just arrived in Toronto from Vancouver on #2 Friday around noon. Talked to a VIA engineer about the issue with the Budd stainless steel fleet. Just to clarify, he indicated the chassis main frame of the cars is carbon steel and is mig welded to the stainless steel car shell. The problem is the main frames have been patch welded too many times, compromising the overall robustness of the car to withstand a collision incident. Hence the deployment of the buffer cars. 

**Official** Railway Safety Act Order dated October 19: 

Therefore, I find it necessary in the interests of safe railway operations to make this order, under section 32.01 of the RSA, requiring VIA to: 

1. Implement the following operational mitigations to reduce the potential consequences of a collision event:
-Position empty rolling stock directly behind the locomotive and as the last car in any train that includes HEP cars to act as a buffer.
-Ensure HEP cars are positioned as per the engineering consultant's recommendation to minimize energy transfer and impact to an occupied car.

2. Conduct an engineering simulation of predicted HEP car collision performance and provide to Transport Canada a report summarizing the assumptions and findings by October 31, 2022.

3. Conduct a tear down inspection of four HEP cars with structural defects to identify whether additional structural conditions, which are only visible in this invasive-type inspection, are present and provide Transport Canada with a copy of the inspection report and a list of recommended actions by January 31, 2023.

4. Conduct a static structural test (compression test) to the requirements of the Association of American Railroads - S034, of at least two unrepaired HEP cars, to validate the structural capacity and provide Transport Canada a copy of the test report and an assessment of how the test outcomes will inform future repairs and mitigating measures by January 31, 2023. 

5. Provide the final report of the engineering simulation, incorporating findings from tear down and static structural tests required in item 3 and item 4 by March 31, 2023.

6. Conduct a static structural test (compression test) to the requirements in the Association of American Railroads - S034, of at least one fully repaired HEP car, to validate the repair methodology and provide TC a copy of the test report and an assessment of how test outcomes will inform future repairs and mitigating measures by December 31, 2023.
This Order takes effect on October 19, 2022 and will remain in effect unless it is repealed by the Minister of Transport.
-Director General, Rail Safety


As of October 12, 2022 all Head End Power (that's HEP1 and/or HEP2) consists - thereby excluding LRC-equipped Corridor trains - must have an unoccupied car on head-end AND tail-end. This is a soft launch. The first effect felt by VIA Rail passengers was pet owners being notified that they would not be allowed to have access to their pet in the baggage car. No pets could now be handled in baggage cars. Passengers were sent a message telling them to have medication, or any items needed while on the train, with them in their carry-ons.  Accordingly, on-board service personnel would also not have access to the baggage car, only the engineers doing baggage-handling at stops. Baggage cars would now be counted as buffer cars. These changes were termed temporary operational adjustments. Also, VIA said it was sorting through these operational changes. 


Then, deadhead sleepers began appearing on the tail-end of VIA's Canadian (above). All of a sudden, Corridor railfans were noting an empty sleeper tacked on the tail-end of a stainless steel Corridor consist. Examples and reports from various online and personal observations since October 12:

  • VIA No 76 with Craig Manor trailing
  • VIA No 71 with a sleeper trailing
  • VIA No 73 with Manor car
  • VIA No 1 with Carleton Manor trailing
  • VIA No 601/603 with Chateau Rigaud and 8109D trailing
October 14:
  • VIA No 62/52 with illegible name Manor car at head-end
  • VIA No 55 with unlit coaches at either end 
  • VIA No 1 with Chateau Marquette at head-end and Carleton Manor at tail-end
October 15:
  • VIA No 2 with Chateau Marquette at head-end until set out at Winnipeg, and Cameron Manor following Laurentide Park
  • VIA No 55 with a Manor car at head-end
  • VIA No 692 with unoccupied Evangeline Park on tail-end
  • VIA No 693 with a coach following the Park car
October 17:
  • VIA No 1 with coach 8134 following the Park car
  • VIA No 2 with Monck Manor at head-end and Carleton Manor at tail-end
October 18:
  • VIA No 693 with Chateau Marquette as eighth and last car
  • VIA No 41 with LRC car 3329 at head-end and 3361 tail-end
* C O R R I D O R    P A R T      O N E  * 
Here are the six buffered Corridor consists in use: date observed, train number, locomotive and cars (D=refurbished 'D&H' scheme) Part I up to October 29, (see Part Two below for October 29-November 4):

October 14 No 62/52: 908-XX Manor*-4009D-4103-4100-4114D-8110D
October 15 No 60/50: 901-4107-4002D-4119-4106-4116-(4121 added October 21)
October 15 No 41: 904-3455-4008D-4110D-8102D-4104-4121**/***/****
October 15 No 62/52: 6421-8129D-4007D-4117-8123-4105D-8103*****
October 15 No 40: 9xx-4000D-4004D-4108-4122-4115D-4112D******
October 17 No 61: 6412-3329-4003D-4113D-4101-4120-3361*******

**4121 was replaced by 4005D by October 21
***4008D was replaced by 4001D as of October 24
****3455 was replaced by 8122 on October 29, after 8122 was deadheaded to Toronto on an LRC consist
*****8103 was replaced by 4113D as of October 17, until taking its place back from 4113D by October 27!
******4112D replaced by 8116 as of October 27, until taking its place back on October 28.
*******3329/3361 were replaced by 8106/8129D on October 29

October 21:
  • VIA No 2 with 8134 at head-end and Thompson Manor tail-end
  • VIA No 601 with Chateau Rigaud at tail-end
  • VIA No 603 with 8109D at tail-end
  • VIA No 40: 904-4107-4002D-4119-4106-4116-4121-4001D-6431 (longest Corridor consist yet)
October 23:
  •  VIA No 1: Carleton Manor at tail-end
October 24:
  • VIA No 60/50: 6415-4107-4002D-4119-4106-4116-4121-919-3455-4001D-4110D-8102D-4104-4005D (double-buffered consist!)
  • VIA No 693 with 8127 as eighth and last car
  • VIA No 2 Cameron Manor at tail-end seen at Banff and behind Laurentide Park - photo below kindly shared by Bernie Goodman at Washago, ON.
October 28:
  • VIA No 601 with Chateau Rigaud at tail-end
  • VIA No 603 with Chateau Iberville at tail-end
  • VIA No 2 with Christie Manor at tail-end
* * C O R R I D O R      P A R T      T W O  * * 
An updated record of the six corridor consists, from October 29 to November 4. (See Part Three below for November 4 and thereafter): 

October 29 No 41: 908-8116-4009D-4103-410x-4114D-8110.
October 29 No 60/50: 6415-4107-4002D-4119-4106-4121-4116.*/**
October 29 No 62/52: 6436L-8126-4003D-4113D-4101-4120-8109D.***
October 29 No 40: 916-4000D-4004D-4108-4122-4115D-4008D.
October 30 No 50: 918-8122-4001D-4110D-8102D-4104-4005D.****
October 31 No 41: 6414-8129D-4007D-4117-8123-4105D-8103.*****/******
*consist remarshalled and 4116 replaced on tail-end by 4112D by Oct.30
**4106-4107 removed, two 33xx on tail-end behind 4112D by Oct. 31; two 33xx removed, 4103 added by Nov. 3
***4120 removed by Nov. 2
****consist minimally remarshalled, 4005D removed by Nov. 4
*****8123 removed Oct. 31
******4120 added by Nov. 4

October 29:
  • VIA No 63 with 4109-8122 (shades down) deadheading at tail-end of four-car LRC consist, and added to October 30's No 50! None of the three LRC buffer cars are still in use
  • VIA No 185/186 with 6250 (baggage) and 6105 (buffer) bracketing occupied 6217.
  • VIA No 692 with 8127 at tail-end. ( below - Mark Perry photo of 8127 on 693 in Winnipeg)
October 31:
  • VIA No 63 with 8112 (half-shades) deadheading at tail-end of four-car LRC consist
  • VIA No 692 with Chateau Lasalle at tail-end
  • VIA No 2 with Thompson Manor at tail-end
November 1:
  • VIA No 42 with 8113 (half-shades) deadheading at tail-end of four-car LRC consist
* * * C O R R I D O R      P A R T      T H R E E  * * * 
An updated record of the six corridor consists, from November 4 to November 11. Having established a good pattern in these three parts of Corridor listings, I'll only post updates occasionally now.

November 4 No 41: 912-8129D-4007D-4117-4105D-4120-8103.*
November 4 No 52: 918-8122 shades down-4001D-4110D-4104-8102D. (5 CARS)**
November 5 No 50: 910-4121-4002D-4119-4112D-4116-4103.***/****
November 5 No 52: 6436L-8126-4003D-4113D-4101-8109D. (5 CARS)****
November 5 No 40: 911-4000D-4004D-4108-4122-4115D-4008D.
November 8 No 41: 908-8116-4009D-4109-4100-4114D-8110.*****

* 4007D replaced by 4005D; 4105D replaced by 4107 [sometime] between Nov 4 and Nov 7; 8129D replaced by 8110D on Nov 10
**4110D replaced by 4105D on Nov 5
***4103 replaced by 4101 between Nov 6 and Nov 8
****4112D replaced by 4106 Nov 9
*****4101 replaced by 4103 between Nov 5 and Nov 8
******8110 replaced by 8105 between Nov 5 and Nov 8

November 5:
  • VIA No 2 with Cameron Manor at tail-end, apparently being menaced by a CN freight (below - photo by Tim Kent at Hornepayne, ON):
November 6:
  • After being in Corridor service since the beginning of the buffer-car era, 8123 headed west at the head-end of VIA No 1. Thompson Manor at tail-end.
November 7:
  • Check this postscript for more on the testing now underway, and watch that postscript for an upcoming press story for which I was interviewed.
November 13: 
  • VIA No 1 with Christie Manor at tail-end. (Still in use February 14)
November 14:
  • VIA No 692 with Chateau Marquette at tail-end.
  • VIA No 2 with Cameron Manor (still in use /April 4, 2023) at tail-end - 8120 at head-end VCVR-JASP then 8137 WPEG-TRTO on tail-end. Prestige Chateau Denonville and 8517 were deadheaded at head-end as well. 8137 and 8517 trailed VIA No 42 east on Nov. 22. On November 28, 8137 and Yoho Park deadheaded west on VIA No 63. Photo below kindly shared by Patty Moss, taken from the lounge in Prestige Class Laurentide Park:
November 15: 
  • VIA No 2 at Toronto - Brock Manor at tail-end (still in use February 28, 2023)
November 20:
  • VIA No 1 departed Toronto with two tail-end cars - a Manor followed by a diner, likely Frontenac that was deadheaded into Toronto after interior refurbishment and now on its way to Vancouver. (Video capture below by CJ Burnell):

November 22

  • VIA No 603/601 had buffer cars Chateau Iberville/Chateau Rigaud, respectively.

November 29

  • VIA No 5 appeared to have Assiniboine Park. After the Park car!
December 2
  •  VIA No 1 had Christie Manor and 8140 at the tail-end
December 4 
  • VIA No 1 had Yoho Park 'backwards', likely for Churchill service, trailing Christie Manor at tail-end. Yoho Park had arrived at TMC from MMC on November 28's  No 63.
December 4 and 6
  • For the first time since the very early implementation of buffer cars, two Manor cars have been used in Corridor service. Craig Manor trailed No 50 on December 4, and though largely illegible on the other side, No 63 on December 6. Blair Manor trailed No 50 on December 6, returning that evening on No 645. Blair Manor trails No 50 on December 8 (image courtesy Railstream, LLC):

December 10 

  • VIA 603/601 each operate with baggage, coach and Chateau buffer car: Iberville and Laval (both still in use/Feb. 1, both replaced by Feb. 6)
  • VIA No 40 had Drummond Manor as tail-end buffer car. 
December 11
  • VIA No 1 had Revelstoke Park backwards, deadheading at head-end, with Cameron Manor-8134 at tail-end. Revelstoke Park had been on December 9's No 51.
December 12
  • VIA No 692 with Chateau Lasalle at tail-end.
December 13
  • VIA No 2 had Christie Manor-8142 at the tail-end. On December 22, 8142 trailed VIA No 42's LRC consist.
December 14
  • VIA No 41 had Lorne Manor as tail-end buffer car, having joined Blair Manor, Craig Manor, and Drummond Manor as the fourth Manor car in the Corridor consists.
* * * * C O R R I D O R      P A R T      F O U R  * * * * 

With the use of three Manor cars in the Corridor, it's time to list the Corridor buffer-car consists used from December 13 until January 7/23. (It seems to me that there's a coachyard numerologist at work. Notice how five consists had two or three cars (Business Class and at least one coach) that end with the same numeral!

December 9 No 41: 6406-8110D-4007D-4117-4107-4120-8103D */**/***/****
December 12 No 40: 908-4000D-4008D-4108-4105D-4100-4122+
December 12 No 44: 900-8122-4005D-4115D-4116-8129D-Craig Manor
December 13 No 41: 6411-8116-4009D-4109-4114D-4112D-Drummond Manor*****/******
December 13 No 50: 913-8126-4003D-4113D-4106-8105-Blair Manor*******
December 13 No 52: 912-4121-4002D-4119-4110D-4111D-4001D********/++/+++
*8103D replaced by Lorne Manor by Dec. 14
**4107 replaced by 4103 on Dec. 15
***8110D replaced by 4101 between Dec. 23 and Dec. 30
****4117 replaced by 4104 between Dec.16 and Dec. 30
*****8116 replaced by 8109D on Dec. 19; 8116 deadheaded east trailing No 42 on Dec. 20
******8116 replaced by 8109D on Jan. 6/23
*******Blair Manor replaced by Bliss Manor on Dec. 19
********4002D replaced by 4004D Jan. 2/23
+4008D removed, 8116 head-end on Jan. 6/23
++4119 replaced by 4117 between Jan. 1 and Jan. 7/23
+++ 4001D replaced by 4107 between Jan. 3 and Jan. 6

Here's Craig Manor at the tail-end of VIA No 45 on December 13, taken at Kingston with car line number 211 near the vestibule door:

December 17
  • VIA No 41 had Drummond Manor at tail-end, in snow (image courtesy Railstream, LLC):

December 18

  • VIA No 1 had Brock Manor and 8140 at tail-end.
December 19
  • VIA No 50 had Bliss Manor at tail-end - the fifth Manor seeing Corridor buffer car service in December
December 23
  • VIA No 2 had Brock Manor at tail-end.
December 31
  • VIA No 692 with Chateau Levis at tail-end.
January 1, 2023 buffer cars are entering a new year:
  • VIA No 1 has Cameron Manor at tail-end.
January 3, 2023
  • VIA Banff Park was set out from No 2 at Jasper, joining Kokanee Park on the Skeena.
January 4, 2023
  • VIA Lorne Manor trailed No 41 at a bleary-eyed nought seven forty:

January 6:

  • VIA No 2 ex-Vancouver was trailed by Cameron Manor-coach 8106 for Prince Rupert. On January 11, coach 8100 was deadheaded at head-end of No 1 west from Jasper, perhaps replaced by 8106.
* * * * * C O R R I D O R      P A R T      F I V E * * * * *

Numerous changes to Corridor consists were made during the Christmas holidays. It's been three months since buffer cars, and now four Manor cars, were introduced. Here are the consists in use post-January 4, 2023:
  • January 4 No 41: 907-4101-4007D-4104-4103-4120-Lorne Manor.
  • January 5 No 52: 910-8122-4005D-4115D-4116-8129D-Craig Manor. Video of consist.*
  • January 6 No 52: 900-8126-4003D-4113D-4106-8105-Bliss Manor.**
  • January 7 No 41: 913-8109D-4009D-4109-4114D-4112D-Drummond Manor.***
  • January 7 No 50: 6427L-8116-4000D-4108-4105D-4100-4122.****
  • January 7 No 40: 919-4121-4004D-4117-4110D-4111D-4107.*****
*4115D replaced by 4111D on Jan. 10; 4005D and 8129D replaced by 4009D and 8109D between Jan.14 and Jan. 16; 8122 replaced by 8103 Jan. 22; 4001D replaced Craig Manor Jan. 28 after 4001 not observed since January 6.
**8126 replaced by 4000D Jan. 22; 8105-Bliss Manor replaced by 4119-Blair Manor Jan.25; 4003D replaced by 4008D Jan. 29 after 4008D not seen since Jan. 6; 4112D ahead of Osler M. on Feb.25, not seen since Feb.4.
***Drummond Manor replaced by 4118 on Jan. 13 but back on Jan. 17; 8109D replaced by 8110D and 4009D replaced by 4005D between Jan.16 and Jan. 26
****4000D-4108 replaced by 4002D-4117 on Jan. 9.
*****4117 and 4111D replaced by 4119-4115D on Jan.10; 4119 replaced by 4118 Jan. 24; 4115D replaced by 4108 Jan. 23 after 4108 not observed seen since Jan. 9.
January 9
  • VIA No 692 with Chateau Lasalle at tail-end (still in use February 14)
January 17
  • VIA No 2 departed Vancouver behind 6445-6440 with Brock Manor at tail-end and Skyline 8505 ahead of baggage car. Arrived Toronto behind 6440-6449 with 8127-unknown Manor cut in ahead of 8505.
  • VIA No 2 departed Vancouver with Abbot Manor at tail-end (still in use January 31).
January 22
  • VIA No 1 with Prestige Class Chateau Lauzon at head end; Abbot Manor-8142 at tail-end.
January 27
  • Blair Manor is back as a Corridor buffer car, replacing Bliss Manor. (Bliss had replaced Blair as of December 19) and Craig Manor has left the well-Manor'd buffer car pool.
It's not that the passengers don't want to see the south-side scenery! The drawn shades are a giveaway that 8103 is a buffer car, immediately behind 911 on January 28's VIA No 40 (above - image courtesy Railstream, LLC).

February 6:
  • VIA No 603/601 had buffer cars Chateau Latour and Chateau Papineau, respectively (still in use March 16).
February 10:
  • VIA No 2 had Chateau Maisonneuve and Burton Manor at the tail-end behind Cameron Manor. Ch Maisonneuve then deadheaded to Montreal on the tail-end of VIA No 42 on Feb. 13.
John Levai kindly shared his photo of Christie Manor on the tail-end of No 1 at Sioux Lookout, ON on February 16, 2023 (above).

* * * * * * C O R R I D O R       P A R T      S I X  * * * * * *

To start off a new month, and to mark the expected delivery of the structural testing results to Transport Canada (oh, and because there have been almost complete turnovers in some of the consists - more turnovers than Pepperidge Farm!), listed below are the six Corridor HEP consists in use as of January 30, 2023 (D="D&H/ refurbished" scheme, L=Love the way wrap). Interestingly, VIA's normal equipment cycle was disrupted at this time, with HEP sets unusually used on trains 61 and 65, instead of the usual morning parade of Nos 41/60/50, 62/52, 42 that often rate an HEP consist:

Jan.30 No 41: 909-4101-4007D-4104-4103-4120-Lorne Manor.*
Jan.30 No 65: 911-8103-4009D-4111D-4116-8109D-4001D.**
Jan.31 No 41: 909-8110D-4005D-4109-4102-4112D-Drummond Manor. +***
Jan.31 No 50: 902-4000D-4008D-4113D-4106-4119-Blair Manor.****
Jan.31 No 61: 901-8116-4002D-4117-4105D-4100-4122.*****
Jan.31 No 52: 915-4121-4004D-4118-4108-4110D-4107.******

*4101 replaced by 8122 Feb.1; Lorne Manor replaced by Bliss Manor between Feb. 3&6; 4104 replaced by 4115D on Feb.20.
**4111D replaced by 4107 and 4001D replaced by Craig Manor Feb.8;4116 replaced by 4111D between Feb. 13&19; 8109D replaced by 8105 Feb.22.
***4109 replaced by 4114D Feb.1; 4112D replaced by 4118 after Feb.4;Drummond replaced by 8105 Feb. 14-17; 8110D replaced by 4115D between Feb.15&17;4115D replaced by 4121 Feb.19;+4102 had deadheaded west on VIA No 51 on January 25. Previously not observed since November, 2021, this was perhaps a trial trip!
****Blair Manor replaced by Osler Manor Feb.14; 4008D replaced by 4003D Feb.17;4112D added Feb.25 making a 7-car consist until 4106 removed Feb.26.
*****4122 replaced by 8126 Feb.8.
******4107 replaced by 4101 Feb.2; 4118 replaced by 4109 Feb.3; 4121 replaced by 4122 Feb.13.

February 14:
  • VIA No 2 was trailed by Christie Manor-coach 8143 into Toronto.
  • VIA Osler Manor becomes the sixth Manor to enter Corridor consist buffer car service (image courtesy Railstream, LLC):

February 16:
  • VIA No 601 encountered a mechanical problem with one coach. Passengers were moved to Chateau Papineau at Hervey Jct and the consist remarshalled. Returning as VIA No 600/604, some passengers made use of Papineau's beds for a relaxing ride back to Montreal!
February 19:
  • Diner Empress was between 6434-6443 and Blair Manor (Corridor buffer car from Dec.6 until Feb.14) on No 1 departing Toronto, with Brock Manor at tail-end. Empress deadheaded west on the tailend of VIA No 51 on Feb.15.
February 26:
  • VIA No 1 had Business Class car 4008, not a Skyline in the consist! Deadheading at head-end were 8117-Burton Manor and Christie Manor at tail-end. I believe this departure is captured in this video. At Jasper, 8612 is seen trailing the tail-end buffer car, with Evangeline Park and buffer car Revelstoke Park sitting at Jasper as the Skeena and Banff Park (forward) and Kokanee Park (rearward-facing) added ahead of the baggage for Vancouver. Three Parks, zero Skylines. This was arranged by a savvy VIA manager in order to have enough refrigerated space to feed coach passengers over four days!
February 28:
  • VIA No 2 had Brock Manor-8509 at tail-end. Here's 8509 trailing No 42 on March 2 (image courtesy Railstream, LLC):
To start off the new month of March, one month past the expected delivery of the structural testing results to Transport Canada and with the prospect of a Park and Skyline now being sent for NRC structural testing, as well as wholesale changes to most of the six Corridor HEP consists, here they are as of February 27, (D="D&H/ refurbished" scheme, L=Love the way wrap). 

* * * * * * * C O R R I D O R       P A R T      S E V E N   * * * * * * *

Feb.27 No 41: 910-8122-4007D-4115D-4103-4120-Bliss Manor.*
Feb.27 No 60: 916-4122-4004D-4109-4108-4110D-4101.**
Feb.27 No 50: 6417-4000D-4003D-4113D-4119-4112D-Osler Manor.***
Feb.27 No 44: 918-8103-4009D-4107-4111D-8105-Craig Manor.****
Feb.27 No 40: 6413-4121-4005D-4114D-4102-4118-Drummond Manor.*****
Mar. 4 No 42: 6451-8116-4002D-4117-4116-4100-8126.******

*4007D replaced by 4001D March 2; Bliss Manor replaced by Lorne Manor Mar.4; 4103 removed and 4106 added after 4120 after Mar. 22.
**4109 remarshalled behind 4110D Mar.20; 4122 replaced by 4121 and 4110D replaced by 8105 Mar. 27 (8105 for one day only)
***4113D replaced by 4106 and Osler Manor replaced by 8127 March 2; 4106 replaced by 4114D Mar.17; 8127 replaced by 8110D Mar.19; 4119D replaced by 4105D between Mar.23 and 25.
****8105 replaced by 8109 Mar.6-8 only, again on Mar.17, then by 4105D on Mar.18 then 8105 back on Mar.25 before being replaced by 4119 Mar.27; 4009D replaced by 4008D Mar.22.
*****4114D replaced by 4104 Mar.8; Drummond Manor replaced by Osler Manor Mar.21; 4121 replaced by Bliss Manor Mar.26.
******4117 replaced by 4113D Mar.12; 8116 replaced by 8109 by Mar.25.

March 3:
  • VIA No 2 had Rogers Manor-Abbot Manor-Cornwall Manor following tail-end buffer car Cameron Manor!
March 5:
  • VIA No 1 had 8104 on the head-end and 8139-8143 on the tail-end, trailing Cameron Manor.
March 10:
  • VIA No 2 had Business Class car 4008 trailing Cameron Manor, returning east from Vancouver after heading there in place of Skyline 8504 on February 26.
March 15:
  • VIA No 1 had Prestige Class Chateau Jolliet behind the power, and Cameron Manor at tail-end. Chateau Jolliet had headed to Toronto on Sunday's No 67.
March 17:
  • Diner Imperial arrived on No 2 in Toronto behind the power. Trailing VIA No 64 on March 19, heading for possible refurbishment. The dining room looks empty, perhaps some furnishings removed:
March 21:
  • VIA No 2 had Blair Manor-8619 on the tail-end into Toronto. On March 24, 8619 trailed VIA No 42 on the way to Montreal.
March 24:
  • VIA No 2 had  Christie Manor-Brock Manor at tail-end.
March 27:
  • VIA No 692 had 8143 at tail-end (deadheaded west from Toronto on VIA No 1 on March 5).
Another month, another potential deadline. March 31 is the deadline for VIA to report testing results to Transport Canada. Multiple changes have been made to the six Corridor consists after the March break. (D="D&H/ refurbished" scheme, L=Love the way wrap). The first Manor-bookended consist and the first all "D&H" consist!

* * * * * * * *  C O R R I D O R       P A R T      E I G H T   * * * * * * * *

Mar.27 No 41: 920-8122-4001D-4115D-4120-4106-Lorne Manor.*
Mar.27 No 50: 6413-Bliss Manor-4005D-4104-4102-4118-Osler Manor.**
Mar.27 No 40: 903-8103-4008D-4107-4111D-4119-Craig Manor.***
Mar.28 No 41: 6454L-8109D-4002D-4113D-4116-4100-8126.
Mar.28 No 50: 916-4121-4004D-4108-8105-4109-4101.*****
Mar.28 No 45: 900-4000D-4003D-4114D-4105D-4112D-8110D.******

*4106 replaced by 4103 (marshalled ahead of 4120) Mar.29; 8122 and 4120 replaced by 8127 and 4117 Apr.7; 4001D-4115D replaced by 4007D-4112D Apr.20
**4004D replaced 4005D Apr.23 or 24.
***Craig Manor replaced by 8116 Apr.16; 4107 replaced by 4115D Apr.24.
*****8105 replaced by 4110D Mar.29; 4101 replaced by 4106 Apr.1; 4004D replaced by 4009D Apr.3; 4121 replaced by Drummond Manor Apr.23; Drummond Manor replaced by 4120 April 24.
******4112D replaced by 8105 Mar.30; 8110D replaced by 4107 marshalled ahead of 8105.

March 29:
  • Assiniboine Park and Kokanee Park (buffer) were on the Prince Rupert train at Jasper (still in use April 24).
April 2:
  • VIA No 693 had Chateau Levis at tail-end. 
  • VIA No 67 had refurbished diner Emerald at tail-end, after arriving in Montreal on VIA No 15, then departed behind the power on No 1 on April 5.
April 3:
  • VIA No 2 left Vancouver with Tremblant Park and Yoho Park (likely for the Prince Rupert train) at tail-end behind Christie Manor. There is no 'sleeper Skyline' from April into May, apparently.
  • VIA No 692 had Chateau Marquette at tail-end.
April 5:
  • VIA No 1 had refurbished Emerald-8517 behind the power and Cameron Manor at tail-end.
April 7:
  • VIA Nos 603/601 had Ch. Iberville and Ch. Laval, respectively, both still in use May 11.
April 11: 
  • VIA No 693 had Chateau Levis at tail-end
April 21:
  • VIA No 2 had baggage 8608 behind tail-end Blair Manor.
April 23:
  • VIA No 1 had Skylines 8510-8509 behind the power with Blair Manor at tail-end. The two Skylines had deadheaded to Toronto on the tail-end of VIA No 51 on April 20 in the opposite order.
April 24:
  • VIA No 2 departed Vancouver with Revelstoke Park behind tail-end buffer Christie Manor.
Another month, another deadline in the buffer car implementation is past, and the cars are still rolling. Relatively few changes were made to the six HEP consists in April - one consist unchanged, one with one change, and two consists with only two changes. Let's see what May will bring! The only car not recently in use is 4122. (D="D&H/ refurbished" scheme, L=Love the way wrap). 

* * * * * * * * *  C O R R I D O R       P A R T      N I N E   * * * * * * * * *

Apr.28 No 41: 919-8127-4007D-4112D-4103-4117-Lorne Manor.*
Apr.28 No 50: 912-4120-4009D-4108-4110D-4109-4106.**
Apr.28 No 52: 900-4000D-4003D-4114D-4105D-4107-8105. (May 2 as No 45 - photo above)
Apr.28 No 40: 6407-8109D-4002D-4113D-4116-4100-8126.
Apr.29 No 41: 913-Bliss Manor--4004D-4104-4102-4118-Osler Manor.
Apr.29 No 52: 6411-8103-4008D-4115D-4111D-4119-8116.******

*4117 replaced by 8106 May 11.
**4108 replaced by 4101 Apr.30; 4109-4106 flipped May 14.
******8103 replaced by 8110D May 4; 8110D replaced by Drummond Manor May 10.

April 28:
  • VIA No 2 with Acadian ahead of Blair Manor at tail-end. 
April 30:
  • VIA No 693 had 8139 at tail-end.
May 2: 
  • VIA No 40: 6437L-6407-8109D-4002D-4113D-4116-4100-8126-4005D-8122-8106-Macdonald Manor-Chateau Vercheres. The first six cars were on Monday's No 40, plus five deadheading: 4005D last in use on April 24; 8122 April 7. The last three are likely from TMC heading to MMC.
  • VIA No 2 had 8143 at head-end; deadheaded east at tail-end of VIA No 42 May 4.
May 6:
  • VIA Nos 1 and 2 were halted by wildfires in Alberta, with passengers bussed and trains returning in the direction from which they'd come. VIA No 2 had Grant Manor at head-end and Christie Manor at tail-end before running in reverse back to Vancouver.
May 13:
  • VIA No 61 had refurbished diner Kent at tail-end.
May 19:
  • VIA No 2 arriving Toronto had  Panorama car 1720 ahead of the baggage car, with Blair Manor at tail-end. VIA 1720 departed for Montreal for 'repairs' on VIA No 42 on May 20. [VIA 1722 headed east on the head end of June 2's No 2, thence departing Toronto for MMC with 8139 trailing June 8's VIA No 42, with 1721 in Montreal since at least 2020.]
May 21:
  • VIA No 1 departed Toronto with Blair Manor-Kent at head-end.
BREAKING NEWS - Buffer cars are expected to be removed as of May 18, 2023! Apparently, an email was sent to all VIA employees on May 17. Transport Canada released the order below, dated May 17 - the repeal of the earlier ministerial order:

Order Under Section 32.01 of the Railway Safety Act (MO 23-01)
From: Transport Canada

Whereas, pursuant to section 32.01 of the Railway Safety Act, if the Minister considers it necessary in the interests of safe railway operations, the Minister may, by order sent to a company require the company to stop any activity that might constitute a threat to safe railway operations or to follow the procedures or take the corrective measures specified in the order;

And whereas, Ministerial Order 22-06 (MO 22-06), issued pursuant to section 32.01 of the Railway Safety Act, included requirements for VIA Rail Canada Inc. (VIA) to undertake operational measures and additional analysis to mitigate the safety concern associated with its Head-end Power (HEP) cars.

And whereas, VIA has since conducted a series of simulations, testing, and inspections which concluded that the cars showed no additional deficiencies, and the cars are still compliant with structural design standards for crashworthiness.

And whereas, pursuant to section 45 of the Railway Safety Act, the Minister of Transport has, in writing, authorized the Director General, Rail Safety to make an order under sections 32.01 and 36 of that Act.

Therefore, I, Stephen Scott, Director General, Rail Safety, consider it necessary in the interest of safe railway operations to make this order
under section 32.01 of the Railway Safety Act repealing Ministerial Order 22-06 effective 23:59:59 Eastern daylight time on May 17, 2023.

With the end in sight, I'll be tabulating last buffer cars reported in use on each run in the section below, the same section where my tabulation of various buffer cars on various buffer trains started way back in October, 2022!

Prestige Class Park Car -  If you have to ask, you can't afford it. I was only a Prestige poseur, not a pampered passenger. So, my travel in the Park car was confined to one evening eastward on the Canadian in June, 2019 (top photo and above). But from the cut of my fellow Prestige (actual) passengers, they were there for The Experience. Maybe The Experience included rhapsodizing about the receding track as we rolled into the night (already being lamented on Youtube. Maybe it was not, and they were A-OK with looking out the side window. Or occupying the dome. No diaphragm in sight here, just the day sinking like a sunset. On October 25, VIA sent emails (and a subsequent retraction email) to Canadian Sleeper and Prestige passengers denying access to the Park car! Apparently intended for Skeena passengers instead. Oops. Consists reduced to 15 cars at end of October.
CAMERON MANOR into Toronto on No 2 MAY 16, departed for Vancouver on No 1 May 17.
BLAIR MANOR into Toronto on No 2 May 19, deleted from May 21 No 1 ex-Toronto, with Glacier Park at tail-end (below - Mark Sampson kindly shared his photo taken at Toronto Union).
MAY 19 A 20-car No 2 ex-Vancouver no buffer car behind Prince Albert Park.

RDC Redundancy - The Sudbury-White River RDC run has even employed buffer RDC's. Sample buffered consist: baggage-passengers-buffer = 6250-6217-6105. Passengers are only allowed in the middle car, limiting ridership, and on-board staff cannot deal with baggage while in motion.
LAST BUFFER CAR IN USE - 6217/6250 No 186 MAY 6

Skeena Sadness - On the Skeena, not only was access to the Park car suspended, so was snack and beverage service. Or, as one sad passenger put it, 12 hours without food, drink or Park car access. Perhaps there would be Red Cross parcels provided? As of November 23, a buffer car was being sent for use on the Prince Rupert run. Assiniboine Park was the buffer car on November 29. Kokanee Park arrived in Jasper on No 2 on January 3. One of few instances of two Park cars running together in VIA's history.

Churchill Churlishness - On the Winnipeg-Churchill train, there will also be an unoccupied Park car until buffer cars can be deadheaded to Winnipeg. Then a coach following the Park car when coaches became available. Later a Chateau at tail-end, following the in-service Chateau. 
LAST BUFFER CAR IN USE - CHATEAU MARQUETTE on No 692 MAY 20 then CHATEAU LEVIS on No 692 into Winnipeg MAY 22.
May 20 ex-Winnipeg No 693 Chateau car deleted

Jonquiere Junkets - Even the Montreal to Jonquiere train 601/603 to Senneterre are included, with the 601 gaining a Chateau car on October 12 and a refurbished coach on 603, later a Chateau for each.

Ocean Okay - Since the Ocean is no longer turned at Halifax, the bidirectional contest has four ex-CP cars on one end, including a baggage, as well as an unoccupied Renaissance car on the opposite end. Buffer cars need not apply!

Corridor Content - Six HEP consists are operating in the Corridor. LRC cars have been added as buffer cars, one Manor car which quickly left the Corridor consists, or just another stainless steel coach on currently stainless-steel consists. This operational adjustment may not look all that different here. At night, passing trains can be seen with no lights and/or no passengers in head-end and tail-end coaches. Manor cars entered Corridor buffer-car service in December.

* * C O R R I D O R     D E - I M P L E M E N T A T I O N * *
In this section I'm going to list buffer-car de-implemented consists as I observe them. One car removed from most HEP consists, with some coaches shuffled, and five-car consists the norm except for one four-car consist. The first buffer car removed was Drummond Manor on May 17, and the last was 8109 on May 19. At VIA's Toronto Maintenance Centre, the buffer cars removed were being immediately readied for revenue service, such as coaches 8109, 8127, Bliss Manor and Osler Manor as well as removed buffer cars 4000 and 4120, Drummond Manor and Lorne Manor.. Here is the beginning of the de-implementation from May 17 overnight into May 18:
  • May 18 No 50: 916-4008D-4115D-4111D-4119-8116 (Drummond M. off h.e. May 17)
  • May 19 No 41: 6414-4007D-4112D-4103-4117-8106 (8127 and Lorne Manor off h.e. May 18, 4102 replaced by 4103-4117)
  • May 19 No 50: 902-4009D-4101-4110D-4106-4109 (4120 off h.e. May 18)
  • May 19 No 52: 900-4003D-4114D-4105D-4107-8105 (4000D off h.e. May 18)
  • May 20 No 41: 901-4004D-4104-4102-4118 (Bliss M. off h.e. and Osler M. off tail-end May 18)
  • May 20 No 52: 6407-4002D-4113D-4116-4100-8126 (8109 off h.e. May 19)
Interestingly, after the removal of the (ex-CP) 8100's from Corridor consists as buffer cars, by June 2 they trailed five of six Corridor consists: 8100, 8105, 8106, 8116/8127 and 8126.

What difference, if any, did the buffer cars make operationally? One VIA engineer noted, "The buffers add to the weight of a train, causing increased time to get up to speed, and also offer slightly better braking capabilities due to extra brake rotors on the extra axles. A smaller train responds quicker, but can take longer to stop."


Eric May said...

A Buffer car on the tail end is unfortunate. If I had paid to be in the park car I'd be ticked. Perhaps if they used a gondola car on the rear, the rearward view wouldn't be so bad.

Eric said...

Yes, someone else suggested a flat car! VIA says the only alternative is to leave the Park car unoccupied, as on the Skeena and Churchill train.

I am so desperate for some real rationale and studies that may have gone into VIA's decision. I'm sure I'm not alone.

The Park car denizens will likely reach the media sooner or later with their complaints!

All I can say is that there are some *interesting* consists right now!

Thanks for your comment, Eric.

Anonymous said...

Back in 2020? VIA announced the cancellation of the contract to update part of the stainless fleet to modern standards including wheelchair lifts. If I recall correctly part of the reason given at the time was issues with the cars discovered during the rebuild. Perhaps this is related to those issues and any monitoring over the subsequent 2 years of the issue.

Eric said...

Most likely, A.

I would be surprised if age and condition are not the reasons for implementation of the buffer cars. Now if VIA would just come forth with the true justification.

Thanks for your comment!

Jeremy said...

The only positive I'm clinging to right now is that in VIA's statements about the change to pets being banned from the baggage car, they describe it as "temporary operational adjustments". I can only try to be optimistic and hope that it really is temporary.

Eric said...

So much unknown. I think the "TOA's" are a nice way of saying VIA is tap-dancing as fast as they can on this issue. Actually, not all that fast!

Thanks for your comment, Jeremy.

Anonymous said...

Personally, I smell a cooked up(or at least exagerrated) scheme to try to rattle some funding for equipment loose. It didn’t work when they were trying for the loose purse policy with covid, so lets try this...

Brian said...

Coincidentally perhaps, there is an article about this very topic in today's (Thursday's) Globe and Mail on page B2.

On the other hand, maybe you got the scoop on this, Eric.

Eric said...

Thanks, Brian. I've been updating the post quite a bit. I slipped in the Globe article mention (if it's the same article - I think it is!) under Data Point 5.

I'm glad to see reporting on this other than in Trackside Treasure. It was lonely here for a week! I was like the voice crying out in the buffer-car wilderness!


BArailsystem said...

Thanks for all your investigative efforts around this Eric. My kids are now the age where we were actually considering taking the Skeena this year with a bunch of extended family from Saskatchewan tagging along and it's very saddening to think that we may have missed our chance to ride it on the Budd cars. Riding coach through the mountains for 8-12 hours with no amenities doesn't have the same ring to it as riding in a park car for the non-train enthusiasts in my family.

It may be just my opinion but this whole thing sounds like it came straight out of the anti-public service political playbook; defund, disincentivize, discontinue.
Talking to VIA booking they told me it was a "security concern" that buffer cars had to be added and that they would not be offering touring class for the Skeena in 2023.

I really hope the crash testing yields positive results and they restore the service.


Eric said...

Good to hear from you, Ben. Yes, time will have to tell re: the HEP cars, because VIA sure won't. The secrecy was put in place early and has only continued, in turn driving my probing curiosity!

When I rode the Skeena in coach, overnight, I was young and so was my spine(!) though we didn't have a dome at all.

There is definitely a fine line between acceptable levels of risk in the face of an unproven 'security' concern, and discouraging business!

Thanks very much for your comment,