Friday, February 24, 2023

The Bridges of Yarker

The Napanee, Tamworth & Quebec (NT&Q) Railway Co. was granted its charter on May 15, 1879. From a connection with the Grand Trunk Railway (GTR) at Napanee, up through the Napanee River valley via Newburgh and Yarker to Tamworth, with an option to extend towards the Ottawa River near Renfrew via Arden. Iron ore deposits had been discovered near Tamworth that year. The 28-mile NT&Q route would be U-shaped, from Napanee to Napanee Mills (Strathcona), Camden East, Yarker, Moscow, Enterprise and Tamworth.

Early construction costs led to financial difficulties in 1882. New management in 1883 included chief investor Edward W Rathbun of Deseronto. Rathbun, a local business magnate, already had a Napanee-Deseronto line, the Bay of Quinte Railway (BQR). Napanee would therefore become merely a way station of Rathbun's newly-envisioned extension west to Tweed, and east to the Kingston & Pembroke (K&P) line. Lennox Member of Parliament John A. Macdonald may have been instrumental in securing Dominion government subsidies of $3,200 per mile. Rail was laid to Newburgh by November 17, 1883; Yarker by the first week of December; and near Moscow by Christmas that year. Additional rock work at Yarker would be required to reduce the grade. North and west of Yarker, the line turned progressively from farmland to Canadian Shield. Maximum speed on the new line was 25 mph. The inaugural train traversed the line departing Napanee on August 4, 1884. A Whig ad published November 10, 1884 mentioned the station under Yarker Notes:
Two views of the Yarker station, showing the 'Wagar family' and the other looking toward Napanee:
A Kingston extension was proposed, to be a bridge line to bring material to Kingston: minerals, grain timber and ore. The first proposed extension to be built to Kingston would go through Wilton, Odessa, Westbrook, Collins Bay, and Portsmouth. Instead, in 1888, Rathbun applied to build a seven-mile branch from Yarker to Harrowsmith thence Kingston via running rights over the K&P. (The proposed line to reach the K&P would have saved 25 minutes of time and six miles of distance, compared to the NT&Q's eventual route to Harrowsmith.) A 22-mile extension to Tweed, later extended to Bannockburn after 1903, was also proposed, all intended to extend Rathbun's commmercial reach. Extensions to Harrowsmith and Bannockburn were secured by 1889. 

Yarker was chosen as the Napanee-Tweed mainline departure point for the NT&Q extension to Harrowsmith, three miles shorter than the originally surveyed point near Moscow. The branch to Harrowsmith did not incorporate a direct connection for traffic between Kingston and Napanee. This would save the expense of building another bridge across the Napanee River at Yarker. For expediency, the departure point was set just north of Yarker station. Harrowsmith-Yarker-Napanee traffic would be handled via a wye at the junction.  The only available location for the wye was west of the mainline at Yarker, just past the connection to the Harrowsmith branchline, due to the proximity of the Napanee River. Additional land had to be secured for the wye to be built. The wye required a seesaw movement of east-west traffic, for example from Napanee north past the station, back the train into the wye, exit south leg of wye and head east on branchline. Two trains having negotiated the wye, head east across the original bridge toward Harrowsmith. The second [one version colourized] and third views are vintage photos, the second is from a vintage postcard captioned 1908:
A westbound train traverses the bridge in the opposite direction, heading into Yarker: 
Cut stone abutments and the single pier for the two-span deck plate girder bridge began in the spring of 1889, spanning the connection running from just north of Yarker station thence eastward. The bridge was completed by November, 1889 (shown below in 1895).  The Harrowsmith branchline was fit for use by November 19. 1889, laid with 56-lb rail. The first train operated between Tweed and Deseronto on December 1, 1889, and the first Tweed-Kingston train operated December 2. 
The NT&Q changed its name to the Kingston, Napanee & Western Railway Co. on April 24, 1890. Traffic flow was Tweed-Deseronto, through two daily trains each way Tweed to Kingston, and one daily Deseronto-Yarker train each way. The K&NW was leased to the Bay of Quinte Railway on Sept. 24, 1891 then incorporated in to the BQR on January 1, 1897. When Rathbun died in 1903 at age 61, his empire rapidly disintegrated. 

In turn, the BQR was acquired by MacKenzie, Mann & Co. as part of their Canadian Northern (CNoR) Toronto-Ottawa line. They installed the missing link at Yarker, building a deck girder bridge across the Napanee River in 1912. This direct link, which left the mainline farther south, finally eliminated the time-consuming switching movements required by trains heading east to Harrowsmith. Two photos of the construction - bridge pier forms (Pinterest image) and installation of spans:
MacKenzie and Mann also realigned their line through Newburgh, moving it north away from the Napanee River in 1914. This realignment may have been due to potential flooding, or to bypass the town, though it definitely reduced the grade eastbound. BQR became part of the their Canadian Northern Railway (CNoR) on January 5, 1914, bought at 70% of its original value. Two schedules from the June, 1916 Official Guide of the Railways: Kingston-Yarker; Toronto-Ottawa; Deseronto-Yarker:
Kingston-Yarker; Tweed-Deseronto; Deseronto-Bannockburn:
CNoR's poor financial straits saw its progressive amalgamation into Canadian National Railways from 1917 to 1923. As a result, the NT&Q, K&NW, BQR disappeared into the national railway. CN abandoned the Yarker-Tweed segment in 1941, and the Yarker-Smiths Falls (extended via subsequent extensions from Harrowsmith to Sydenham and east) in 1986. I'm not sure when the first bridge's spans were removed, but it's likely they were reused elsewhere on the system.
Approach to the second bridge, in 1958 (above). Unless otherwise noted, photos in this post, most originally from the Lennox & Addington County Archives published in the excellent book: Lost Horizons - The Story of the Rathbun Railway Company and the Bay of Quinte Railway - by Donald Wilson, Mika Publishing, 1983.

Undated (likely late 1940's, early 1950s) aerial views Queen's University Archives, George Lilley Fonds: V25.5-48-78/79 Yarker; V25.5-48-69 Strathcona; V25.5-48-53 Newburgh:
Yarker (above) showing the second bridge at centre, road overpass and first bridge abutments, and the curve at left heading north to Colebrook. A second view of Yarker (top photo) shows the second bridge, with the right-of-way of the former Harrowsmith extension just visible, curving up to left.
Strathcona (above) with several CN boxcars at the mill and the siding along the line. Newburgh, with two boxcars just visible near top of photo on the relocated ex-CNoR line and the Napanee River at near bottom:
My son and family took a recent stroll along the Cataraqui Trail and across the bridge, which sparked my interest in finally putting in the work to research this well-known local bridge and its interesting story. As with all other railway engineering, nature is always vying for supremacy - grapevines spread their tentacles over the side fencing along the bridge deck. I wonder if my four year-old grandson, walking with my son, could imagine CNoR steam-hauled passenger trains speeding across the bridge a century ago? From here looking upstream, the central pier of the first bridge is still visible:

Lots o' links:
Lesley Bernard kindly shared this view of the piers and abutments of the first Yarker bridge circa 2007. Lesley knows a thing or two about the Tweed extension! 

Running extra...

On March 26, the Ottawa Valley Associated Railroaders are holding a model train event a.k.a. flea market Sun: 9am to 5pm at the Hellenic Centre, 1315 Prince of Wales Drive in Ottawa. Admission $5. Table prices: $20 for OVAR Members, $25 Non-Members.

This is Trackside Treasure's 800th post, and this blog's 15th August anniversary arrives this summer! The same day, I reached 800 follower on Pinterest. Pinteresting coincidence.

If only that 40-mile Communist convoy, presenting such a fat target, and a pathetic picture of poor military planning, on its illegal invasion incursion into Ukraine, could have been destroyed one year ago. I'll continue to raise my Ukraine flag in our front window each day until the final Victory. 

Slava Ukraini! Heroyam Slava! Glory to Ukraine! Glory to the Heroes!

Saturday, February 18, 2023

HEP Buffer Car Corridor Consists

While tracking the VIA buffer cars in use not only in the Corridor, but across VIA's network, I noticed frequent changes in the unoccupied buffer cars as well as the passenger-carrying cars in the six HEP Corridor consists. The buffer car implementation began in mid-October 2022, and January 31, 2023 was the date by which the results of the NRC structural integrity testing of Chateau Richelieu and 8138, as well as the CAD tear-down testing of 4006, 6208, Alexandra and Chateau Rouville, were to be communicated to Transport Canada. So that seemed like a natural timespan in which to book-end my tracking of these ever-changing consists.

Included in the six-car (and a few five-car) consists are HEP1 ex-CP coaches: VIA 8102D, 8103, 8105, 8109D, 8110D, 8116, 8122, 8123, 8126 and 8129D, HEP2 Business Class cars 4000D-4009D (except 4006D long sitting forlornly at CAD in Lachine, QC in poor shape) and HEP2 coaches 4100-4122. In December, ex-CP Manor cars Brant Manor, Bliss Manor, Craig Manor, Drummond Manor and Lorne Manor were added as tail-end buffer cars. As always on Trackside Treasure, the 'D' after a car number pertains to "D&H" designation for the schemes applied to refurbished HEP cars: teal/yellow on coaches 4105D, 4111D, 4112D, 4113D, 4114D, 4115D (top photo) and the grey/yellow on the Business Class cars. Otherwise, the HEP1 cars have a blue letterband and the HEP2 cars have a yellow/blue letterband.
The consists presented below are randomly assigned the arbitrary designations HEP1 to HEP6, based on the order in which I first recorded them. Most mornings on the CN Kingston Sub, it's possible to catch up to five HEP consists on trains 40, 50, 52, 60 and 62. Some days, later trains 42, 44 and 45 (above, in December 2022), and still others in failing light later in the day. Some of the latter are heading westbound after being eastbound in the morning. While there is a somewhat-predictable Equipment Cycle that VIA uses, it is not ironclad, and can be altered by operational exigencies. 

Here are the six consists and their progression over the last 3+ months. Notes are at the end:

While some have taken the buffer car implementation as an opportunity to slag VIA, including me when VIA kept the initial issues under tight wraps, the buffer cars have actually made VIA trainwatching more interesting! Some day we will look back at the Buffer Car Bonanza as we do Operation Axle - as just another Hail Mary moment in VIA's history!

Running extra...

Charles Cooper's Railway Pages continue to be a useful website with useful information like upcoming shows, a railway newsletter archive and new railway books. Also an author, Charles kindly helped publicize my books on VIA Rail. He died this past Monday though the site lives on, at least for now.

Cries from the wilderness are already being heard, dreamers putting in dibs on Budd ex-CP Canadian cars. Summer cabin, tiny home, the possibilities are endless. All one needs is good road access, a heavy-equipment moving guy, local municipality approval (optional?), oh and some money. 

I was thinking this past week of someone I knew that had a nicely-outfitted 'grouch house' in his former garage, in which to do his woodworking. Source of heat/AC, concrete pad, electricity, and a bar fridge would do it. He was a Priest, and a father, and a brother, but he wasn't even Catholic, so I guess you could say nun of the above! 

Friday, February 10, 2023

CP to VIA E- and F-Unit Paint Transition Data

On September 28, 1978 VIA bought 25 F-units and 2 E-units from CP for $5,000 to $7,000 each. A mix of FP7's and FP9's in the 1400-1432 series, and five F9B's formerly CP 1961-1965 ex-CP 4473-4478. CP 4476 was in rough shape and even lacked a steam generator – not bought. In late 1977, 1408 had been wrecked near Savanne, Ontario. To fulfill the agreed-to number of locomotives in the sale to VIA, steam generator-equipped 8558 went to VIA instead. Among the first ex-CP units destined for a minty new VIA blue & yellow paint job were: 1405, 1410, 1414 and 1418. VIA 1423, leading VIA No 2 during our August, 1979 visit to Portage, had emerged from Calgary's Ogden Shops two months earlier in VIA paint, complete with red nose logo.

VIA 1418 received a unique paint scheme, with the blue paint extending up past the side of the carbody to the roof, and around the windshield. I always thought that I'd blown my chance to get a good side view, because I was on the Skyline bridge when VIA No 1 made its Portage station stop on August 27, 1981. But now, I see it as one of the few down-on photos I've ever seen of this unique Angus-applied paint scheme!
In May, 1984 VIA 6553 is showing off its nose-patch, where once a red VIA logo was painted. Also, red paint on the roof, another tell-tale sign of former CP units is just visible. Having been painted at CN's Montreal Pointe St Charles shops, the numberboard and carbody numbers are CN-style.
I've previously published posts on VIA's ex-CP B-units, and E-8's to round out VIA's ex-CP locomotive fleet. This previously-published post portrays paint scheme transition of VIA's ex-CN F-units.

The table below shows the transition that the ex-CP E- and F-units went through, even renumbering that was proposed to align the numbers with the ex-CN fleet, but not fully carried out. Also, the units' storage and eventual fates. As always, click to enlarge:

At VIA’s request, ex-CP F’s also began entering storage at CP facilities in 1983 in Montreal and Alberta. Cancellation of the Super Continental freed up ex-CN F’s. By 1984, only eight ex-CP F-units were in operation. These were 6550-series FP7’s and FP9’s, and 6650-series F9B’s rebuilt by CN, hence the application of numbers matching the former CN F-unit numbering scheme. The renumbering scheme was released on May 22, 1980 with each ex-CP assigned a CN-series number. CN would not renumber ex-CP units unless rebuilt to CN specifications. CP units that received VIA paint but retained CP-style Helvetica-font numberboard and side numbers were overhauled at Angus. Maintained by CP at Alyth in 1982, the units’ home shop gradually moved east – to Winnipeg in 1984 then Toronto by 1986. Several CP units were retired by VIA still wearing the red CP Rail multimark scheme.

Having the right of first refusal if no longer required by VIA, CP bought the remaining 17 E’s and F’s back from VIA for stripping then scrapping, each for $1 more than the sale price to VIA. The two E8’s were to be scrapped first: 1899 by November 26, 1984 and 1898 by January 5, 1985. CP Rail gondola car 340982 was loaded with steam generator #’s 107, 118, 131, 171 and 197 removed from 1410, 1898 and 1899 at Ogden Shops. The E8s’ engines were used in Weston-rebuilt CP SW1200RSu’s 1248, 1249, 1250 and 1251. 

Moved to Medicine Hat to prevent cannibalization temptation, then Alyth for repainting into CPR colours in March 1985, then returning for display in Medicine Hat were 1418 and 1424. 

Running extra...

I made two videos showing some actual switching on my HO-scale Hanley Spur layout. The first featured CP switching some warehouses along Railway Street. and the second video sees CN switching some industries around the Outer Station. It's a challenge being the director, cameraman, engineer, conductor and trainman all at once! And yes, sometimes unexpected things happen.

For an organized tale of a chaotic trip, take the time to read Tim Hayman's post on his Tim's Train Travels trains and travels blog. Hey, why should the airlines make all the headlines?

Friday, February 3, 2023

CN to VIA F-Unit Paint Transition Data

VIA's ex-CN F-units wore as many as four paint schemes in their transition from CN to VIA ownership. (Scotian at L'Islet QC on March 4, 1978 led by 6778-6628-6536, with 6778 wearing the VIA 60Deg scheme (top - online auction site photo). More about the paint scheme transition of the ex-CP units here.

I initially endeavoured to track the last date I observed the units in CN paint, and the first date I observed them in VIA paint. This didn't track some of the minor differences in the paint schemes. Don McQueen kindly shared his transition data that did reflect these minor differences, reflected in his four paint scheme designations shown in this post applied to A-units (FP9, FPA2 and FPA4) as listed below: 
1. VIA 60Deg, 
2.VIA 90Deg, 
3.CN Wiped and
4. VIA Wiped
VIA's B-units: (F9B, FPB2 and FPB4) received only one VIA paint scheme. Don tracked over 40 distinct paint schemes and minor variations.

It was interesting to compare my observations with Don's data. The greatest strength of this transition data is it use to date uncaptioned photos. The paint scheme in which a particular locomotive is shown can be a good clue to when an undated photo was taken. After 40 years, memories get fuzzy!


1. VIA 60Deg was first applied in June 1976.  VIA 6787 at Brockville in 1981 (above - online auction site photo)
  • this was the premier VIA Rail cab unit scheme, with as many as 10 initially receiving the yellow pilot in 1976.
  • a yellow nose terminated at a 60-degree angle before the cab steps
  • red CN nose logo gave way to a red VIA as of April 1978. The red CN nose logo was first applied to VIA 6516 in June, 1976, then...
  • in 1976: 6516, 6526, 6540, 6765, 6505, 6530, 6763, 6768, 6775, 6787.
  • in 1977: 6504, 6510, 6524, 6762, 6537, 6778.
  • in 1978: 6512.
  • The red VIA nose logo was first applied in mid-1978, then...
  • in 1978: 6502, 6520, 6524, 6537(possibly 1979).
  • in 1979: 6512, 6504, 6505, 6537, 6762, 6778, 6516, 6763, 6765, 6775.
  • in 1980: 6510, 6530, 6787, 6540, 6768(possibly 1981).

2. VIA 90Deg was first applied in November 1977. VIA is eastbound through Kingston on May 23, 1981 (above).
  • this scheme replaced the 60-degree angle
  • a yellow nose extending all the way to the cab steps, forming a 90-degree angle
  • red VIA nose logo

3. CN Wiped was first applied in February 1979. VIA 6758-6862 westbound at Mi 182 Kingston Sub, June 17, 1979 (above)
  • VIA units still in CN colours had their white nose logos painted out
  • also referred to as ‘former CN Transitionals not immediately painted yellow and blue’
  • prefix or suffix ‘VIA’ was added to carbody side number and class to denote VIA ownership

4. VIA Wiped was first applied in April 1981.  VIA 6540 at Kingston at least July, 1982 based on paint scheme, and likely October 30, 1982 based on consist - above)
  •  no VIA nose logo
The paths through paint scheme transitions can be grouped into the following major progressions:
  • CN Paint ˃ VIA 60-Degree ˃ VIA 90-Degree = 7 units
  • CN Paint ˃ VIA 90-Degree = 31 units
  • CN Wiped ˃ VIA 90-Degree = 16 units
  • VIA 60-Degree ˃ VIA Wiped = 10 units
  • CN Wiped ˃ VIA Wiped = 5 units
  • VIA 90-Degree ˃ VIA Wiped = All but 10 of the 71 units listed herein

These tables show the dates of transition of ex-CN locomotives into VIA Rail paint. Column headings:

Don’s four column headings reflect cab-unit schemes as listed in this post.
EDG Last CN – my last observation date of a unit in CN colours.
EDG First VIA – my first observation date of a unit in VIA colours.


There was only one B unit scheme – blue with yellow stripes.

  • 6532 Grey Ghost scheme summer 1980
  • 6535 Wrecked and still in CN paint at PSC 1987
  • 6537 Wrecked at Ingersoll, ON August 1980
  • 6758 and 6775 blue nose logo 1986
  • 6767 VIA 90Deg date could actually be Sep 2/80
  • 6866 CN until retired
  • 6867 Last FPB4 painted VIA colours
  • Ex-CN units were painted at Transcona Shops in Winnipeg, Pointe St Charles Shops in Montreal or Moncton Shops
Information in this post is based on trackside observations by Eric Gagnon and two monographs compiled by Don McQueen: VIA E and F Unit Paint Schemes – Checklist 1977 to 2012 and VIA E & F Unit Paint Schemes – Unit & Model Totals 1977 to 2012

My CN-to-VIA observation dates that corroborated will, within a month of Don's dates, are shown with a (!). Any apparent discrepancies between my data and DMcQ data are (*) after date on spreadsheet. Don has added my data to his monograph in most cases. His information is based on well-sourced and extremely well-documented photo evidence.

Watch for an upcoming post on CP to VIA E- &  F-unit paint transition data.

Running extra...

I generally don't re-use photos once they're published in a post. I find there's nothing worse than going through a blog and thinking, 'Haven't I seen this picture before?' In this post, I included a couple of photos that show the paint scheme in question well, though they're photos I've saved from online auction site (i.E down by the Bay).

Record cold snap, Groundhog Day, a bored-stiff crowd in Quebec finding out their Fred la Marmotte was board-stiff - welcome to February and awards season - this weekend it's the Grammy Awards. Paul Shaffer and the World’s Most Dangerous Band returned Friday to NBC for the first time in 30 years to fill in for The Roots on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, while The Roots were in L.A. for the 2023 Grammy Awards.

From 1982 to 1993, Shaffer headed the in-house band for Late Night with David Letterman before the show moved to CBS and aired opposite Jay Leno’s The Tonight Show as the newly titled Late Show with David Letterman. Rechristened as CBS Orchestra due to a naming rights dispute with NBC, the band remained with Letterman until the late night host retired in 2015. The group was able to reclaim the World’s Most Dangerous Band moniker after Late Show ended because NBC had abandoned its trademark claim.

Winnipeg's Travis Ridgen realized his goalie goal to ride the Canadian back to his homewtown and his videos on Youtube are a treat to watch.