Saturday, April 29, 2023

Modelling CP in Northern Ontario

Don't worry, my HO-scale Kingston's Hanley Spur is not about to move north! In the past, I've gotten the itch every few years to change my modelled locale. From Winnipeg to Vancouver, to Vermont and ultimately to Kingston. Such a change would not be due to my gnat-like attention span, it's just that there are so many interesting things about Northern Ontario that are just begging to be modelled. Though I'm entitling this post Canadian Pacific, I'll also introduce elements of the Algoma Central, Canadian National and VIA. The AC crosses CP at Franz, CN at Oba, and VIA used to operate on CP though it now crosses Northern Ontario on CN rails.
Having travelled through the region aboard VIA several times (links to trip accounts in this post), I've published other individual posts, like the CP & ACR in Franz. Fellow HO-scale modeller Derek Pittman and I were discussing TVO's recently-aired TRIPPING Train 185 documentary (screen shot of Chapleau yard - above). He'd also travelled the line, most recently last month, and is modelling the Chapleau-Franz segment in HO scale. This discussion got me thinking...
The RDC run starts at Sudbury on the 113-mile CP Cartier Sub, then covers the 136-mile Nemegos Sub through Metagama, Biscotasing and Woman River, with the White River Sub beginning its 129 miles at Chapleau, through Dalton and Franz and finally White River.

Going back through some CP Rail freight schedules, the route through Northern Ontario hosted many road freights. Each one would have its own unique blocking be it piggyback, containers, auto racks, pulp and paper traffic, or just a plethora of interesting through cars heading to East of West Coasts, fill tonnage and Service cars:

  • Winnipeg-Toronto Nos 946 and 954; Toronto-Winnipeg No 963
  • Vancouver-Toronto No 902; Toronto-Vancouver Nos 901 and 965
  • Winnipeg-Montreal Nos 952 and 954
  • Montreal-Calgary No 949
  • Toronto-Calgary No 401
  • Toronto-Vancouver No 403
  • Toronto-Coquitlam No 405 lifted steel at ACR Franz; Coquitlam-Toronto No 404
  • Toronto-Calgary Pacific Auto Train No 415
  • Toronto-Coquitlam overflow No 445; Coquitlam-Toronto overflow No 446
  • Montreal-Winnipeg No 471
  • Montreal-Coquitlam No 481; Coquitlam-Montreal No 482
  • Montreal-Winnipeg overflow No 491; Winnipeg-Montreal overflow No 492
  • Toronto-Thunder Bay No 955 handling cars for Cartier and Chapleau


My background in layout design, building and operation is based on my railfan experience, available prototype information, and 1980's technology. Newer modelling technology has since emerged, like foam (not plaster) for landforms, static grass (not ground foam) for scenery, and DCC (not DC) for control. We had very occasional Model Railroader or Railroad Model Craftsman articles for Canadian prototype inspiration 'back in the day'. I was modelling while still living in that era, not trying to find prototype photos and information from 50 years ago in 2023. I had a dog's-bone layout built by my Dad which was expanded, and which I converted to operations. That layout bridged the train set/club layout to early operations-based layout eras.

Modern modellers have high standards and expectations. Rolling stock is more realistic, locomotives run better and come with sound - literally all the bells and whistles! A panoply of prototype information and modelling inspiration is available online - blogs, websites, social media, Googlemaps and Yotube. Layout design deans like Lance Mindheim bring their perspectives, perhaps setting a trap that layout designers fall in to. One style of layout, for the purposes of design certainly does not fit all! An industrial switching line in Florida does not equate well to the wilds of Northern Ontario with through freights and passenger trains.

Operation can begin even before scenery is complete. Trackplan revisions can be made after operations have begun. I tended to design a rough trackplan, then almost immediately start laying track. Now, modellers often use software to design an exacting trackplan, then move on to track laying and the unpopular wiring and sometimes succumb to analysis paralysis.

Derek Pittman has come up with a trackplan for his 'The Budd Car' layout featuring Chapleau and Franz. It shows just how much can be accomplished in a 15x9-foot space. Derek mentioned to me his experience is that the hobby is difficult and seems to require failure. Even that building a layout is not for the faint of heart! Despite all that is daunting difficulties, Derek wants to create the Chapleau he experienced, and a realistic, even if less operationally-interesting layout. Here's Derek's trackplan, which he has kindly shared, along with its great name The Budd Car:


If, and it's a big if, I were planning operations on a room-size Chapleau-Franz layout, I would have an Algoma Central freight switch the AC-CP interchange and various through CP freights switching Chapleau and Franz. I'm not sure about the operation of  a local CP freight, likely with road power, perhaps spotting nearby pulp and paper mills. CP paper cars, pulpwood cars, woodchip cars and Service cars like boarding cars, tie cars, fuel cars would be prevalent. Characteristic CP power like SD40-2's and Centuries, and vans, including end-cupola steel ones, would inhabit the ready tracks.

Chapleau could have fuel car spotting, car and loco shop moves, Service cars, bad-order setouts and local mill traffic being switched by the yard engine. Franz would host AC-CP interchange tracks and CP Service cars behind the station.

Signature scenes would include the town of Chapleau, mills, lots of spruce trees and granite rock cuts, the Chapleau overpass and Franz junction. Details like sectionmen's Toyota pickups, CP and AC trucks, buildings clad in Insulbrick and passenger flag stops, with trails disappearing into the bush to nearby lakes, camps and docks.

Passenger operations can include AC passenger trains, VIA's Canadian and the RDC's.  I can envision 1970's CP operations, or the 1980's-90's VIA operations. F-units to F40's, with the ever-present RDC's in hockey-stick or yellow noses. Although the VIA-era 30-car behemoths would likely chase their tails on most layouts, imagine a CP Rail-era 6-8 car train gracing the curves!

I can readily imaging many of the prototype operations that I described above being applied to Derek's trackplan. My own inherent bias for a layout I would build and operate is toward lots of industries, spurs and industrial switching. So this wide open mainline would be a departure for me. But I can certainly see the enjoyment of running some road freights around and making the most of online switching!

Since much of the design phase depends on good prototype data and photos. I'm including some links, modellers who model Northern Ontario, and some 1980's photos in this post. But first, an all-important screen-shot of the The Beer Store (previous iteration of signage) as the RDC's on TRIPPING leave Chapleau:


Our school trip west aboard VIA's Canadian in October, 1980 provides some inspiration. These photos between Sudbury and Chapleau were taken October 25. What incredible faith our teachers and school administration had, allowing us to plan a train trip across Canada. Sure, there were educational aspects, including the Boredom Prevention Package booklet our group prepared. Sure, there were goings-on in sleeper cabins and luggage racks. We were high school kids once. And some of us were already railfans! 
Water tower at Metagama (above) for which no amount of photo-editing can retrieve any positive qualities of this early overcast greasy morning vestibule view photography!
Our train on a curve near Woman River at 1140 with vestibule views of the head-end and tail-end. Swampy topography, treelines and lots of water characteristic of the North. Note the aluminum canoe which is present in both photos.

Chapleau yard. Script-lettered CP water tender put out to pasture (above). Car shop and auxiliary train of rebuilt passenger cars 411692 and 411281 and boxcar 412517 in between:
A westbound freight with 5748-5547-4646-4233 pulls in next to us as our cars are watered (below). This freight had scooped us at Sudbury at 0706, but we passed it before it again caught up to us here at 1307.

CPR 5433 preserved - built here in Kingston in 1943, ceremonially donated on August 23, 1964 by Mr and Mrs A.J. Grout to mark the importance of the CPR to Chapleau. Scribbler-mounted composite photo (above). Some of the photos in this post are redneck scans with photo corners visible. Just adds to the old-timeyness and nostalgia-wallowing.

Childhood friend Andrew in vestibule during water stop, likely Dayniter 5731. We were in the vestibule prior to Chapleau, before being "rooted out by the [East Indian] Dayniter attendant". We cheekily opened the Dutch door, running up and down the steps while stopped here. A lumber mill west of Chapleau, of which even a small portion as a backdrop or spur would add prototype interest. We were in the vestibule for a few miles west of Chapleau, and "the PSA didn't seem to mind".

Meeting a freight near Dalton (above) with 4733-4743-4730-5561 at around 1500. We had encountered CP and Algoma Central operations  in just over an hour - mind-blowing! AC 167-101 working the Franz interchange at 1613:
Our suppers cost a princely $5.45, $4.45 and $5.90 on the way west. We met the Speno rail-grinding train led by CP 8735 at Wayland. At Dalton we met a four-unit eastbound hotshot, having taken the siding at 1430. A few miles to the west, we met another eastbound behind three SD's, lugging Datsuns and general freight at 1451. Missanabie at 1513 meant another eastbound freight, this one with two units, and the old steel water tower still standing. At Lochalsh at 1528 another eastbound two-unit freight met us. We played bingo in the diner from 2200-2220. I won a VIA pocket knife (any three numbers) and a lighter (full card)!
Since repainted with questionable font applied to running-boards and tender, here's a cleaned-up image of my composite photo, and note the juxtaposition of the tender with the Chapleau station and the blue & yellow cars of our train. Close-up:
Just over a year later, I was again travelling west aboard VIA in June, 1982 and snapping some CP Nemegos Sub inspiration. We stopped in a sunny siding, likely Drefal at Mi 52 Nemegos Sub for an eastbound CP freight, a work train and another freight:
I leaned my 18 year-old self as far out the open Dutch door of my car, Chateau Salaberry (above). The plume of steam from the head-end is just visible against the ever-present tree-line horizon. On this trip, our Biscotasing stop was scheduled for 1035, but late running got us there at 1115. We made up time, running at 50-55 mph, arriving 11 minutes early into Chapleau. The water tower were still standing at Cartier, but only octagonal bases remained at Ramsey and Musk.
Station stop with the tail-end on the curve at Chapleau (above). The spray-paint was still fresh around the doors of CP woodchip cars 31411-31464 in the yard:

Lots o' links:

You'd think that a Sudbury model railway club, not one in southern Ontario, would host a Sudbury layout. No, it's a club in the Waterloo Region that has done so much research and modelling of CP's Northern Ontario operations and focussing on the Sudbury-Cartier segment.

Having worked and vacationed north of Superior, my brother Dave has a wealth of Northern Ontario CP and AC prototype information on his Rolly Martin Country blog. A must-visit for modellers and railfans alike!

It's not surprising that with the sheer size of northern Ontario, several well-known model railroaders have made it their modelled locale, mixing CN, CP, VIA and AC trains. 

Modellers of Northern Ontario - an informal survey of those of which I'm aware. These layouts are literally located from British Columbia to Newfoundland & Labrador:
  • Nick Acciavatti - AC Hawk to Hearst, Wawa and Michipicoten in two levels
  • Josh Anderchek - CP North Bay and Chalk River Subs, roughly 1985-1992.
  • Jason Baxter - CN Armstrong to Hornepayne
  • Peter Elliott - CP in N including Chapleau and Mattawa
  • Clark Kooning - modified Huron Central Sudbury to the Soo
  • Bob Mitchell - CP and AC 1950s
  • Derek Pittman - CP Chapleau and CP/AC Franz
  • Kev Pla - ONR Cochrane 1980, CN Kap Sub, VIA on ONR and Senneterre runs
  • Blair Smith -  1980 AC in HO with CN and CP interchange.
  • Chris van der Heide - AC in HO
Running extra...
James Corden hosted an amazingly entertaining final week, retiring from his Late, Late Show after eight years and 1,200 episodes at the 0030 timeslot. Carpool Karaoke with Adele, an impromptu wedding reception for two soulmates he brought together - with their first dance by Norah Jones live, 'Crosswalk, the Musical!', getting Tom Cruise with no worries on stage in the Lion King,  and a dream sequence featuring his insomniac peers Stephen Colbert, Jimmy Fallon, Seth Meyers, Jimmy Kimmel and David Letterman.

James is going back to England, just in time for the Coronation of King Charles III. Rehearsals are already taking place in the middle of spring nights in London. There will be nothing impromptu about it!

Thursday, April 20, 2023

Railstream Webcam Highlights, Part 4

My highlight-reel images from late-February to mid-March, 2023 showing Railstream webcam images from Geddes Street level crossing over CN's Kingston Subdivision in Belleville, ON. (All images courtesy Railstream, LLC). It's not as if I observed every train, maybe only 2% of each day's trains. More oddities plus exceptional locomotives and cars that led me to saving and sharing them in this post. Previous months' highlights can be enjoyed in these previous posts:
  • Part 1 - end of October to November 2022
  • Part 2 - December 2022
  • Part 3 - January to early-February 2023
Blue BCOL 4645 DPU on CN No 372 - Feb. 19

CNA 404835 skolrwai graffiti on CN No 368 - Feb. 20

SOXX 526658 526657 fifteen new gondolas on CN No 368 - Feb. 20

GTW 384662 westbound - Feb. 22

CN air cars 0065 and 0093 on wesbound intermodal - Feb. 25

ONT 6000 6001 6003: 3 of 4 new grain covered hoppers on CN No 372 - Feb. 25

'Breeding pair' of ex-Citirail 2772-2793 on CN No 149 - Feb. 26

Cat excavator on HTTX flat car on CN No 372 - Feb. 27

Grove crane on HTTX 93300 also on CN No 372 - Feb. 27

LB45 on HTTX flatcar on CN No 305 - Mar. 2

Rare National Steel Car logo NSCX 54158 on westbound - Mar. 2

VIA 8509 trailing VIA No 42 - Mar. 2

Heritage-not-Heritage IPO25 CN 8898 westbound - Mar. 6

New car from Kingston Invista TILX 526030 westbound - Mar. 8

Westbound VIA Siemens test run No 627 - Mar. 9

Looks like a buffer loco! VIA 910  trailing No 42 - Mar. 9

'Open-door' VIA 6438 and Chateau Jolliet to go on No 1,  trailing VIA No 67 - Mar. 12

Rarely-seen baggage car. VIA 8621 trailing No 42 - Mar. 16

Running extra...

And the latest event to crash the internet is the CP-KCS merger. One day in and over-reacting rail enthusiasts are bemoaning the loss of everything CP, already calling it a fallen flag. It was impressive that CPKC (as it is now called in a 1970's recall reference to the inimitable disco group KC and the Sunshine Band) contracted with sign contractors to change CP yard signs all over the network to CPKC on the same day. So many sign photos! Get [That Old Sign] Down Tonight! Please Don't Go [CP Sign]! Or perhaps a Wild Cherry reference: Change That Funky Sign Right Now, Boy! Or Quebec disco chanteuse Patsy Gallant: [No Longer Just] Mon Pays or perhaps Back Back to the [Kansas] City!

An interesting data sheet on Trailer-Train TTUX Uni-Level Railcars. To show operator egress after loading a vehicle, a burly trucker is thoughtfully included in the photo!

97 Hours on the Canadian for $11,257. Wot, no spa on the Canadian? No, not in the "state of On - tarr -io", chum. This couple looks pretentious even just looking out the window, never mind the spa product ad snuck in to the video. Every move they make is cinematically filmed in slow motion, even imbibing a Diet Coke! Dude, you're in Prestige. Time to drink booze from breakfast to bedtime! At least this video shows the 'extra course' served to Prestige Class passengers which until now has remained top secret! Sure, the two front seats in the Park car dome are reserved for the only two (!) bougies on the train, but the window is snow-encrusted. West of Jasper, the Park car lounge is much more crowded, and some Prestige Class passengers adopt a rather strange Economy-class of sitting (below) I think they call that social justice. Egads - reference made to power on the Canadian as two P42DC's. How have I missed this also-secret motive power? Oh wait...

Thursday, April 13, 2023

Testing VIA's HEP Fleet - The Results Are In!

VIA Rail Canada (VIA) added buffer cars to both ends of Head-End Power (HEP) consists back in mid-October, 2022. Little if any information was provided by VIA at the time on the implementation of the unoccupied buffer cars, but rail enthusiasts immediately noted their presence. This led to speculation in the rail enthusiast community and even the national media. Fare-paying VIA passengers were instantly affected as baggage car access was denied and the bullet lounge view from Park cars was obscured by a trailing sleeper, leading some passengers to jokingly rename them 'bummer cars'. Many other passengers were oblivious to this implementation, ostensibly made to enhance their safety while riding the decades-old stainless-steel equipment. VIA operates 203 cars in its HEP fleet, built by the Budd Company between 1947 and 1955, so the implementation affected multiple routes and raised concerns about the fleet's future and eventual replacement.


Trackside Treasure has tracked (pun intended) the buffer car implementation since the additional cars were first observed. You'll find posts tracking the buffer cars over the past six months, the secretive testing performed for VIA, the initial HATCH engineering report, national media and trade press articles trying to get to the bottom of what was occurring, and my retrospective post showing daily changes to the  Corridor HEP consists. From what I've seen, Trackside Treasure has hosted the most comprehensive coverage of buffer cars.

Why? I have to ask myself why this has become such a pursuit for me, besides my obvious interest in daily VIA operations as a VIAphile. The answer is - secrecy. It's been frustrating to see interested parties try to divine 'the answers' while others fan the flames with speculation. In the course of this implementation, several 'sources familiar' and silent partners, some from within VIA itself, have shared information. Rail enthusiasts, consist-takers and videographers have posted consists, photos and observations. All the while, VIA has remained silent for all intents and purposes, or so it seems. For example, the cars for compression testing were sent to Ottawa at night, stripped and wrapped, apparently to make visual identification impossible.

After the issuance of the Transport Canada ministerial order, and the passage of the reporting dates set out by the order, it has only been through Access to Information (ATI) requests that I have been able to personally obtain definitive data from VIA. 

This is disappointing to me. I'm a taxpayer, and you are likely one, too. We're all potential VIA passengers. Many of us have VIA trains passing through our communities, sharing tracks with freight and other trains. We are owed some sort of accountability, if not transparency. Imagine the outcry if similar deficiencies were found in the national airline fleet and kept quiet by the air carriers, or detected by auto manufacturers without recall notices being issued! Fortunately, there is recourse for individuals in the face of this silence, and it's thanks to existing access-to-information legislation.


In response to the aforementioned ATI requests, VIA fulfilled its responsibilities under its own Governance & Ethics policies. I have found their responses professional and responsive. No restrictions were placed on sharing this information by VIA.

I'm a railfan, not a professional engineer, or even a locomotive engineer! I'm interested in car names and numbers, the future of VIA's fleet that I can observe and photograph, and more generally, safe and reliable rail transportation within Canada. The reports provided to me are engineering reports, and more complex than I'm used to dealing with. So I'm not able to divine details from graphs nor parrot a lot of engineering terminology that I'll either have to define, or that you need to Google! Elements from the reports are contained in the following sections. Let's get to the results!


Based on the six paragraphs of the order, these were the requirements for mitigation, testing and reports submitted to the Senior Manager of Engineering at VIA, and the effective dates of each:
  • 1 - Implement buffer cars (October 19, 2022)
  • 2 - Engineering simulation of predicted HEP car collision performance (October 31, 2022)
  • 3 - Tear-down inspection of four HEP cars with structural defects (January 31, 2023)
  • 4 - Static structural test of two unrepaired HEP cars (January 31, 2023)
  • 5 - Final report incorporating 2, 3, 4 (March 31, 2023)
  • 6 - Static structural test of one repaired HEP car (December 31, 2023)

To assess the effectiveness of buffer cars, an engineering analysis was conducted to simulate various train-to-train collision scenarios. The purpose of the analysis is to confirm that the unoccupied buffer cars reduce the consequences of a collision event in the adjacent occupied cars. The engineering analysis includes one-dimensional train-to-train crash scenarios with a standard FRA reference train of one locomotive and five coaches. The subject train of the analysis was VIA’s revenue-service HEP fleet trainset with different consist sizes to simulate different services, such as the Corridor (one 900-series locomotive and five coaches), Skeena (one 6400-series locomotive and three coaches), and Canadian (two 6400-series locomotives and 21 coaches).

The analysis was intended to demonstrate how collision energy was dissipated along various train configurations with buffer cars. The analysis would not predict the actual outcome or all possible behaviours of the train in a collision event. The simulation was consistent with industry practice for demonstrating low and medium speed collisions with limited crush. 

VIA's HEP fleet of Budd-built cars are constructed of a stainless-steel body, frame, center sill, side sills and cross bearer beam, in combination with carbon steel draft sills and body bolsters using rivets or plug welding to connect the sections of dissimilar materials.

Engineering analysis found that a Lead Coach Vehicle Body Front End Crush impact (the crush zone of the first coach behind a locomotive) could extend up to 100 inches, the limit for the fidelity of a coach's end crush zone. This was of course estimated, prior to the actual compression testing of an unrepaired HEP car, completed soon after by the National Research Council in Ottawa.

Based on the Transportation Safety Board Rail Occurrence Database System (RODS) information on a sample of Head-on/Rear-end collisions, 50 out of 68 collisions with speed more than 15 mph resulted in derailment (74%) and 15 of the 18 non-derailed trains had fewer than 20 cars. In collisions with speed more than 20 mph, 29 out of 36 collisions  resulted in derailment (81%) with 6 out of the 7 non-derailed trains having fewer than 3 cars.

Most rail enthusiasts decried buffer cars as not effective in stopping a 15,000-ton potash train going 50 miles per hour, or some other fairly wild estimate of the David-and-Goliath crash scenario of a CN versus VIA train. The above criteria detail makes it clear that such an extreme collision was never the scenario envisioned prior to the analysis, and was also not envisioned for the protective value of buffer car implementation. VIA informed Hatch verbally that in the last 30+ years there had been no accidents that resulted in actual carbody longitudinal deformation. Many buffer-car doubters pointed to the August 17, 1959 Gull Lake, SK collision between a CP train Nos 8 and 6, and the 69 resulting injuries as the most recent such scenario example of a serious train collision. However, the 30+ year timeline just misses the February 3, 1986 date of the catastrophic Hinton, AB collision and derailment involving CN No 413 and VIA No 4/6! Ideally, lessons learned combined with improved technology will, and have, lead to further reductions in the possibility of such collisions occurring.

As a result of the analysis, the temporary mitigation plan to use an unoccupied buffer car behind the leading locomotive and as the end coach of the consist, was supported by one-dimensional analysis results, and would reduce the consequences of a collision event.



The required teardown inspections on four HEP cars, VIA 4006 (HEP2 Business), 8225 (HEP1 Chateau Rouville), 6208 (RDC-2), and 8402/Alexandra (Diner) were completed on January 20, 2023.  Gerry Burridge kindly shared a photo (top) of the latter two cars taken outside CAD on February 12, 2023 looking torn-down! These cars were selected as representatives of the age, the various structural configurations, and general condition of the entire HEP fleet. The tear-down inspections were planned in detail and completed in three primary phases: 
  • i) a complete strip-down of each car,
  • ii) accessing by cutting and cleaning inspection visually inaccessible areas, and
  • iii) detailed inspections.
The goal of inspection was to assess the presence of already known structural conditions using NDT (Non-Destructive Testing such as dye penetrant) or other means, and to identify additional structural conditions visible only by invasive type inspection. VIA hired Hatch to prepare the strip-down and tear-down procedures, perform the inspections including data collection, provide recommendations and prepare the reports. The inspections were conducted at the CAD Railway Industries shops in Lachine, QC, a qualified industry contractor, as supervised by VIA and Hatch staff.

The inspected cars required full interior and underframe strip-down to access structural elements and their connections. Once strip-down was completed, the cars were cleaned to remove materials obstructing inspection of the car shell such as insulation, paint, primer, shimming, adhesive residue, corrosion product, and dirt. The tear-down phase involved the cutting of certain structures.

All four cars were inspected visually (VT), as well as with a liquid penetrant crack indicator (PT) and using ultrasonic measurement (UT) to assess the thickness of parts. These methods were applied to primary structural elements and their connections, as appropriate, following the inspection procedure.

Data from the inspections was compared to the VIA’s previous STR Inspection condition data collected from other vehicles in the HEP fleet. Five of the eight known conditions were found among the inspected cars. Condition 5 and 6 (visible crack on the transition zone) was not found and Condition 7 (Dome Car cross bearer damages) is not applicable to the 4 cars inspected. 

The tear-down revealed five conditions not seen during VIA's normal visual inspections:

1. Bolster to Side Sill Connection: Plates associated with the bolster connection at the side sill exhibit substantial corrosion deterioration that can only be quantified with the removal of other structural elements. This was found on all four cars. In some cases, holes due to corrosion were found in the structure adjacent to the connection. VIA applies repairs at such locations based on presence of cracked connection plug welds. 

2. Bolster to Side Sill Top Plate Interior Connection: Partially cracked welds were identified on one car only, car RDC-2 6208, in a gusset connecting the top plate of the bolster to a post; separation or detachment were not observed. Partly corroded welds were also found on 8225, 4006 and 8402, where plate thickness loss was also observed. These defects are not visible without the removal of significant interior components. The RDC car has a different design than the other HEP cars and may need to be assessed differently.

3. Significant thickness loss was noted on tops and sides of body bolsters of car diner 8402, under the kitchen area, and 6208 and 4006 at dissimilar metal interfaces. This observation was made by the removal of floor structure and using a pattern of UT measurements. Some UT measurements are currently made during VIA’s routine inspections from the underside on exposed areas, but not to the same extent performed during the tear-down inspections, due to access constraints. 

4. Center Sill Transition Zone Plug Welds (where present): On two cars out of the four inspected (8205 [sic] and 8402 - the two other cars have different connections), partial cracking around the circumference of the plug welds was observed on the inside surfaces, seen when floor pans are removed, but same was not visible on exterior side. Complete separation of the connections was not observed. VIA’s standard repairs would address this condition.

5. Areas of the carbon steel structure fully exposed to the environment exhibited very low corrosion loss. Stainless steel members did not show signs of thickness loss or degradation. This suggests that inspection efforts can be focused on crevices, overlapping parts and dissimilar metal areas.

6. Collision posts: The carbon steel internal members of the collision posts were accessed for inspection as part of the tear-down procedures. Non-significant deterioration was observed on any [sic] of the posts. Stainless steel portions of the post did not show any deterioration. 

The tear-down inspections conducted on the four cars suggest that VIA’s inspections can capture all the visual defects conditions. However, such inspections are not providing the data needed to evaluate the non-visible conditions of the cars, notably at dissimilar metal interfaces that trap corrosion accelerators. Therefore, the tear-down inspection of additional cars, to be completed by March, may help to extrapolate these conditions on all cars. 

In addition, the tear-down inspections may demonstrate the need for different inspection procedures and any repairs required at the bolster and its connections, if this is deemed a critical structural integrity concern. VIA’s HEP fleet is comprised of multiple car configurations, and different design vintages within a given car type, hence the approach must consider these variants. The implications of this finding on VIA's HEP fleet are manifold, and not all configuration variations have been examined yet. Therefore, it is prudent to continue with the planned tear-down inspections.

Notably, although four torn-down cars were photographed outside CAD on February 12 (RDC, diner, Chateau, Business Class), three more cars (Manor, Skyline, baggage) representing additional car types were photographed on March 25. These likely represent the continuation of the wider VIA fleet tear-down inspections as referred to above.


A static structural test on certain unrepaired HEP cars to validate the structural capacity of the cars to the requirements of the Association of American Railroads Standard S034. The compression test load to 800 kips on the line-of-draft in accordance with OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) Standard AAR (Association of American Railroads) S-034:1945, was performed on two HEP cars: 8222 (Chateau Richelieu) and 8138 (Coach 'SEPTA') on December 15, 2022, and January 19, 2023 respectively. 

Pre-test inspections were carried out on both cars showing that they are representative of general degradation in the fleet. Chateau Richelieu/8222  had general corrosion and material loss mainly on carbon steel surfaces at Draft-Sill top surface and cracks and defects on Side-Sills. Coach 8138 had general degradation and corrosion at Draft-Sill and Center-Sill/Draft-Sill A-End Transition Zone, as well an unrepaired Condition #5 defect on A-End LHS.

The test cars were fitted with strain gauges in five cross-sections: three mid-sections at the stainless-steel portion and two end-sections at the end-underframe assemblies with carbon steel construction. The strain gauges were attached to the structural members on the longitudinal load path to evaluate the criteria of the AAR standard of 800 kips - kips are customary US measuring units of force where one kip equals 1000 pounds-force - compression on the line-of-draft load case for (a) maximum allowable strain at maximum load application, and (b) residual strain and permanent deformation after load removal. 

Both cars successfully passed the structural criteria of the tests, based on three pass/fail criteria:
  • There were no visible cracks, fractures, separations or permanent deformation within the vehicle structure.
  • Strain gauge readings showed no stress values exceeding allowable yield strength of structural members.
  • Residual strain readings are below defined criteria after removal of maximum load, confirming no permanent deformation.
The compression test was continued to the ultimate load capacity of Chateau Richelieu above the required 800 kips load. Coach 8138 was tested to 800 kips to this date, as it was decided to postpone the ultimate test for other interim testing. After performing the envisioned internal tests, 8138 will be tested to ultimate sometime in February 2023.

The testing on Chateau Richelieu carbody showed fully elastic behaviour to ~885 kips of applied load, which gives approximately 10% safety margin against the required 800 kips compression on the line-of-draft load case. The global buckling of the carbody shell occurred at 1,045 kips of applied load. This load is identified as the ultimate load capacity of the car.

Further details of the analysis of test outcomes, including further testing of 8138 and compression testing of a Park car, will be reported at a later stage on or about March 31, 2023.


Conclusions released increase the extent and locations checked by UT measurements on focus areas such as crevices, overlapping parts and dissimilar metal areas when performing a repair and on scheduled car inspections. The car preparation process should be modified to include abrasive cleaning of areas that facilitates UT measurements. The impact of degraded Bolster to Side Sill Connections on the integrity of the car should be investigated and the current repair should be revisited, as necessary.

Assumptions used in the Crash Analysis (Simulation) of the Buffer Car Operation were valid and conservative. The investigation and analysis to evaluate the necessity of operational mitigation with buffer cars is in progress using the current test results. The temporary mitigation plan using buffer car continues and will be re-evaluated once the testing program is completed.


The cost, not just the financial cost, of this testing was the reduction of VIA's HEP fleet by at least 11 cars: one-sixth of its remaining RDC fleet, one-twelfth of its diners, one-ninth of its Business Class cars, an overall five per cent of the total HEP fleet. No fewer than three of the cars sacrificed were unlikely to see service again, however, so perhaps their loss is not as dramatic as it might at first seem.

VIA, in its 2023 First Quarter Report risk analysis released in May, said, "The ... HEP rolling stock equipment has essentially reached the end of its operating life. Its reliability has deteriorated in the past few years, resulting in delays and additional operating costs to maintain a state of good repair."  Then, giving as much information on the testing as it ever has publicly, continued, " aging fleet requiring more inspections and repairs, as a result of which service revenues and costs as well as equipment availability will benegatively impacted in the future.

Following the discovery of new structural conditions with the HEP equipment, and the filing of a thorough engineering assessment by a competent third-party, the Corporation had to put in place additional safety measures to mitigate the safety concern until a structural reinforcement and repair program of the entire HEP fleet has been undertaken. These measures included the use of buffer cars, tear-downs of cars with structural defects to identify potential additional structural conditions as well as structural compression tests to validate the structural capacity of the HEP cars.

The results of these measures showed that the structure of the equipment is adequate and the structural
reinforcement and repair program will not be as substantive as initially projected. In addition, the ministerial order issued by Transport Canada in October 2022 requesting that the Corporation add buffer cars in its trains was lifted on May 18, 2023."

Once the final March 31, 2023 report provided to Transport Canada is released, I'll be publishing additional information, more testing results, conclusions and recommendations. After six months, it is good to have solid data that can be made available, albeit through an ATI request to VIA. 

Never in Trackside Treasure's nearly 15-year history has a series of posts been constantly updated over such a period of several months.

Published June, 2023 this post profiles the final report provided by Hatch Engineering to VIA thence Transport Canada.

Running extra...

Spring has sprung, the grass has riz. I wonder where the flowers iz? 
(Only in Kingston can we grow limestone-coloured grey tulips!)
It's been a long winter of wondering. Wondering when this particular VIA mystery would ever clearly revealed by our national rail passenger carrier. Wondering if Access to Information requests were ever going to be responded to. Wondering, along with many others, if the former CPR Canadian fleet's time had finally run out. 

But, patience! Like a garden bed full of tiny bulbs' breakout with fresh green shoots through the autumn's leaves, maybe if we wait just a little longer, if we let the glaring light of day bring forth the story, that it will blossom into a fulsome, truthful account of the events that began last October. Actually, much longer ago than that, because who knows when the various structural elements of these cars started showing their age!

Friday, April 7, 2023

VIA's Diners - Refurbished!

As part of VIA's ongoing refurbishing of its ex-CP HEP1 equipment, a $16.4 million contract for work on its remaining diners was let to Rail GD of New Richmond, QC in October, 2018. The work was to be completed in the second quarter of 2020 and was to include installing a new kitchen and devices to make the cars Wi-Fi ready for future deployment, carrying out a mechanical upgrading and replacing various electronic and electrical components. Rail GD features the diner project on their website. As with most contracts these days, there were delays and cost over-runs, though ideally adding 25 years of useful life to the diners. 

Rail GD boasts a modern shop with an area of ​​2,230 square metres and three tracks each 65 metres long that can accomodate six cars. The company had also performed repairs to Manors and other VIA equipment, as well as Rocky Mountaineer. This uncredited photo posted to social media shows the Rail GD shop interior, with three diners undergoing refurbishing.
The first of the refurbished diners, Annapolis, received the teal-and-yellow window-band "D&H" scheme. The succeeding cars did not receive this scheme, and most of the refurbishing can only be seen on their interiors.  It was during the refurbishing of Annapolis in 2018 that structural integrity issues were first detected that would result in emergency inspection, some structural repair, and eventually imposition of a ministerial order and implementation of buffer cars on HEP consists in October, 2022. The repair costs due to corrosion exceeded the budgeted costs, so the contract requirements likely had to be revised for the remaining cars.

As of April, 2023 seven of the remaining 13 of CP's 18 diners have been refurbished. This post lists VIA's in-service diners as of April, 2023. I've listed them as "number/name" because although many VIAphiles refer to these cars by number, I always find referring to the Canadian equipment by name to be so much more classy!

In February, 2024 during a media tour of the MMC, reporters saw a diner's kitchen and dining area that had been completely stripped on the interior (Acadian), and then the new version of the same car with a working kitchen, grey tables and chairs with a grey carpet and grey pull-down blinds (Imperial).  VIA's VP of Mechanical Services Bouchard noted, “We’ve replaced the electric and air-conditioning systems. We've also revamped the whole kitchen to make it more ergonomic for the health and safety of the chefs on board. It’s been updated to all the standards as well, but the goal is to ensure the safety of all passengers.” This gives an idea of the scope of work VIA was doing in-house 
* * *
In service. At Winnipeg for on-board staff training, will return to service for summer. Deadheaded east in April, 2023. Being refurbished as of October, 2023. This video by Rail Fans Canada shows 8401/Acadian and 8411/Imperial (below) being refurbished at the MMC during the media opportunity publicizing VIA's RFP for a new long-distance fleet in February, 2024. Acadian and Imperial:
Acadian is completely stripped in the dining area. The media tour did not go as far as the kitchen.
* * * 
Stripped and torn-down at CAD in Lachine, QC. Photo (above) kindly shared by Gerry Burridge, taken  February 12, 2023. Scrapped onsite.
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The first diner refurbished at Rail GD, with a new kitchen and pantry. Released April, 2021 wearing the "D&H" scheme [the only diner that has received this scheme] added to the westbound Ocean at Matapedia. CFMG403 posted this video showing the one-car movement at the 1:00 mark. I photographed it trailing VIA No 67 on July 15, 2021 (above) just west of Kingston.
In service, then returned to Rail GD and re-released in December, 2021. 
In service since.
* * *
The only diner given a Churchill wrap. We had the pleasure of dining in Emerald out and back on our trip aboard the Canadian in June, 2019 (above, westbound at Sioux Lookout, ON).

Emerald, Empress and Frontenac headed east as VIA No 614 on May 29, 2021 and were at Rail GD in June. Two units and three diners at the 1:11 mark in this video by CFMG403 showing the movement. Refurbished and released in March, 2023 Emerald made a 'test run' on the Ocean Mar 15-18. Now wrapless, Emerald went west to Toronto on April 2's No 67, before deadheading west on No 1 departing Toronto on April 5.
In service.

Tim Hayman kindly shared this photo of the refurbished Emerald in Halifax duting its test run:

* * *

Refurbished, Empress deadheaded west to Toronto on VIA No 51 on February 15, 2023. 
In service.
Empress control panel (above), VIA nameplate and Rail GD refurbishment (below):
Empress interior (below and top photo)
Member of Parliament Diane Lebouthillier posted this photo of truckless Empress to social media during a visit by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to Rail GD on August 18, 2022:

* * *
In service. Deadheaded east to Toronto in February, 2024. In Montreal March, 2024 awaiting refurbishment.
* * *
Refurbished (interior), released by Rail GD July, 2022. Some of the refurbishing work is also now being done in-house by VIA.  Frontenac deadheaded west with 8101 on VIA No 63 on November 17, 2022 (below - image courtesy Railstream, LLC), before trailing the tail-end buffer car on VIA No 1 on November 20. Interestingly, Frontenac rested in the West, at Vancouver from February until mid-August, 2023!
In service.
* * *
Sent east, I photographed it looking rather empty while trailing VIA No 64 at Collins Bay, ON on March 19, 2023 (below) with a tiny accent aigu over the 'e' in Imperial!
Being refurbished as of February, 2024. Imperial will emerge with an unitalicized font nameplate.
During the VIA media opportunity in February, 2024 linked above under Acadian, these screenshots from the Rail Fans Canada Youtube video show Imperial looking complete:

* * *
Last in service March, 2020; deadheaded to Montreal in May, 2020. Being refurbished. Refurbished and released in April, 2023 Kent made a 'test run' on the Ocean April 5-8. Kent headed west for service on the Canadian, trailing VIA No 61 on May 13.
Lesley Bernard kindly shared interior photos of Kent during its test run. Protective coverings still adorn the tables:

An end-door view, with a cropped close-up (above) shows table coverings and temporary carpet runner to keep everything nice and clean. A crew member mentioned that 'measuring equipment' was in the car therefore there could be no passenger access! Lesley notes that the steward's station is still in place, though photos on the Rail GD website (likely of Annapolis) show it has been removed.
The refurbished Kent heads west here on May 13 on the tail-end of VIA No 61 (image courtesy of Railstream, LLC). Kent departed Toronto on VIA No 1 Sun., May 21.

* * *
Was at CAD for work in March, 2020.
In service as of February, 2023.
* * *
In service as of March, 2024.
* * *
In service until October, 2019. Princess deadheaded east on VIA No 66 at Collins Bay on May 25, 2020 (below) while the Canadian was not running. Many cars came east in May for shop work including diners Acadian, Empress, Emerald, Fairholme, Frontenac and Kent came east. Acadian, Alexandra and Fairholme went west in June. Emerald headed west in March, 2021. 
Princess was photographed trailing an LRC consist on December 12, 2021, likely following refurbishing.
Refurbished, in service.
* * *
Out of service since 2019.
Being refurbished.
Making test runs on VIA Nos 68/61 in the last week of July. Unlike Emerald and Kent that made test runs on the Ocean, the Ocean was being short-turned at that time due to washouts in Nova Scotia.
Final release was in late October, 2023 and York deadheaded west on VIA No 1 on October 29. Its name is in dark-blue, non-italic lettering. York still has not made a revenue run as of at least January 9, 2024! On the Moonlighters' Special in late-February, York went bad-order with electrical issues after a kitchen finer at Capreol, with Empress (and Brock Manor that 'wouldn't uncouple') added to No 1 at Winnipeg. .
* * *

Here's a summary as of March 3/24 of VIA's 12 extant diners listed by number/name then dates in (may be approximate) and out of refurbishment:
  • 8401/Acadian 6/23-underway
  • 8404/Annapolis 3/20-5/21
  • 8407/Emerald 5/21-3/23
  • 8408/Empress 5/21-2/23
  • 8409/Fairholme unrefurbished
  • 8410/Frontenac 5/21-7/22
  • 8411/Imperial 3/23-underway
  • 8412/Kent x/21?-4/23
  • 8413/Louise unrefurbished
  • 8414/Palliser unrefurbished
  • 8415/Princess x/20?-12/21
  • 8418/York x/23?-7/23
Cars that were received unserviceable from CP and did not see VIA service, or were removed from the roster while in VIA service:
  • 8402/Alexandra - torn-down during HEP fleet structural integrity testing, 2023.
  • 8403/Alhambra - Received unserviceable from CP, sold for scrap 1985.
  • 8405/Cartier - Received unserviceable from CP, sold for scrap 1985.
  • 8406/Champlain - Scrapped after September 3, 1997 derailment at Biggar, SK.
  • 8416/Selkirk - Received unserviceable from CP, sold for scrap 1985.
  • 8417/Wascana Scrapped on site after April 12, 2001 derailment at Stewiacke, NS.
This post lists all the ex-CP cars no longer in VIA service.

I dined in Champlain and Frontenac on my trips West in the 1980's, as well as ex-CN diners like 1363.

(Photos in this post of the refurbished Emerald on VIA No 1 kindly shared by Andrew Stott.)

Running extra...

Fun non-fact from VIA's webpage on dining carsVIA's dining cars are named for famous luxury hotels across Canada. Like Sheraton and Hyatt? Acually, dining rooms in former CPR hotels.

I was able to watch most of the debut of TRIPPING Train 185 tonight, and will watch the rest on the ol' PV-R. Film quality and sharpness are excellent. Down-the-track, drone and historical recreation footage alternate, and there is even winter footage. On-screen captioning has some curious captions, at one point referring to inspection of train 'under casings' for undercarriage, and noting that a 4 km-long CP freight train can take 30 minutes to pass. I would not want to be sitting at that crossing! Local residents and fishermen are showing using the train, and there is in-cab and radio communication to eavesdrop on. Notably, the drone footage shows only a two-car train, but the long, along-river drone scenes show off the area's natural beauty very well. A very enjoyable ride!