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.


Michael said...

I'm trying to remember if there was a ever a Via F unit that didn't have the black strip on the top. Am I imagining seeing this photo online? Talk about memories being fuzzy! Seeing these old units in Via blue and yellow brings back great memories of my childhood. I used to stand in awe whenever I saw these engines as a kid.

Eric said...

Fuzz no longer, Michael. Perhaps you're thinking of VIA 1418 that was painted by CP with the top of the body blue, not black.

Watch for an upcoming post showing the ex-CP units that went to VIA.
Thanks for your comment,