Wednesday, June 28, 2023

Canada Day 2023

Each year of Trackside Treasure's history, there are certain days that get special mention: this blog's birthday, Remembrance Day, Christmas, and of course, Canada Day! This year, Canada lost a prominent troubadour in his 85th year - Orillia's own Gordon Lightfoot.  I can well remember Lightfoot songs coursing through my crappy AM radio, many extolling Canadian virtues and history, like Kingston's own Tragically Hip a generation (or two!) later. For your humble blogger, Lightfoot's music was from a purer, less-commercial era, its roots nourished in the smoky folk venues of the 1960's. Commissioned by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, Lightfoot's signature Canadian Railroad Trilogy kicked off Canada's Centennial year, then was re-recorded in 1975.

As we celebrate all that is great and glorious about Canada, it seemed timely to feature the Trilogy's lyrics, politely complented by a cascading cornucopia of cartographically captured cenes of Canada for our collective consideration...

There was a time in this fair land when the railroad did not run
When the wild majestic mountains stood alone against the sun
Long before the white man and long before the wheel
When the green dark forest was too silent to be real
But time has no beginning and the history has no bound
As to this verdant country they came from all around
They sailed upon her waterways and they walked the forest tall
Built the mines, mills and the factories for the good of us all
And when the young man's fancy was turned into the spring
The railroad men grew restless for to hear the hammers ring
Their minds were overflowing with the visions of their day
And many a fortune lost and won and many a debt to pay
For they looked in the future and what did they see?
They saw an iron road runnin' from the sea to the sea
Bringin' the goods to a young growin' land
All up from the seaboards and into their hands
Look away, said they
Across this mighty land
From the eastern shore
To the western strand
Bring in the workers and bring up the rails
We're gonna lay down the tracks and tear up the trails
Open your heart, let the life blood flow
We got to get on our way 'cause we're movin' too slow
Behind the blue Rockies the sun is declinin'
The stars they come stealin' at the close of the day
Across the wide prairies our loved ones lie sleeping
Beyond the dark ocean in a place far away
We are the navvies who work upon the railway
Swingin' our hammers in the bright blazin' sun
Livin' on stew and drinkin' bad whiskey
Bendin' our backs 'til the long days are done
We are the navvies who work upon the railway
Swingin' our hammers in the bright blazin' sun
Layin' down track and buildin' the bridges
Bendin' our backs 'til the railroad is done
So over the mountains and over the plains
Into the Muskeg and into the rain
Up to St. Lawrence on the way to Gaspé
Swingin' our hammers and drawin' our pay
Layin' 'em in and tyin' 'em down
Away to the bunkhouse and into the town
A dollar a day and a place for my head
A drink to the livin', a toast to the dead
Oh, the song of the future has been sung
All the battles have been won
On the mountaintops we stand
All the world at our command
We have opened up this soil
With our teardrops and our toil
Oh, there was a time in this fair land when the railroad did not run
When the wild majestic mountains stood alone against the sun
Long before the white man and long before the wheel
When the green dark forest was too silent to be real
And many are the dead men
Too silent to be real.

Photo locations from top - Emerald Lake, BC (3); McEwen Drive in Kingston; Ex-CNoR Yarker, ON; Lachute, QC; Gravenhurst, ON; Brockville, ON; Glenora, ON; Collins Bay, ON; Craigellachie, BC; VIA station in Kingston; Lake Ontario Park in Kingston; Harrowsmith cemetery, ON.

Happy Canada Day! 
From Carbonear to Comox, and from Cedar Springs to Cambridge Bay
and to those readers beyond our borders!

Running extra...

Terry Muirhead kindly shared this photo of ex-Union Pacific VIA baggage car 8619 after deadheading to Vancouver on VIA No 1. Shown here on June 17 at the Vancouver Maintenance Centre:
In other VIA news, June 25th's VIA No 645 had an engine fire on unwrapped VIA 902 with no air conditioning on train joined to VIA No 55 and both four hours late to Toronto with mid-train VIA 6432 providing all the power!

Thanks to the anonymous - and I mean completely anonymous because there's no return address and no postmark - donor who sent me a shipment of valuable and no-longer-popular X2F couplers this past week! 
There were more than a couple!

Thursday, June 22, 2023

Testing VIA's HEP Fleet - The Final Report!

This post marks the destructive denouement of VIA's unprecedented buffer-car era. Trackside Treasure's comprehensive and complete coverage of the nearly exactly seven-month span, published in six previous posts published since October, 2022:

VIA Rail Canada provided Transport Canada with a final report dated March 31, 2023, pursuant to the fifth paragraph of the October, 2022 ministerial order. The report was the last in a series, all provided by the HATCH engineering firm utilized by VIA. An April 12 Project Memorandum from HATCH to VIA was part of the firm's mandate to provide guidance to VIA on how to address findings of the Heritage Program inspection campaign encompassing the entire Head-End Power (HEP) fleet.

In its January 31, 2023 prior report to VIA as part of the ministerial order requirements, HATCH had suggested continued use of buffer cars until the testing program was complete. Compression testing performed by that report date had showed that the cars complied with original design standard for the HEP cars AAR S-034:1945. Carbody degradation had not degraded the cars' buff strength. These successful test results ruled out the need to reassess and repeat a crash analysis. 

Compression testing was performed at the National Research Council (NRC) Automotive and Surface Transportation Research Squeeze and Tension Frame Facility in Ottawa. The testing methodology was undertaken by professional experienced staff from HATCH and NRC, to identify conditions such as cracks and permanent deformations which could be initiated or propagated as a result of the test. Waterton Park received a PASS as a result of the testing. Coach 8138 and sleeper Chateau Richelieu had significant reserve capacity noted during testing before yielding commenced, though they also received a PASS. 

Accompanying the HATCH Project Memorandum was the 76-page Final Report on Carbody Structural Assessment of the HEP fleet. I should note that only through VIA's Access To information (ATI) legislative requirements was this report obtained. A precis of the report is included below, [with editorial comments in square brackets].
Sections contained in the report:
  • Tear-down Inspection Planning, Car Preparation, Tear-down Inspection Procedure, Inspection Results and Analysis.
  • Compression Load Test Instrumentation, Compression Test Procedure, and Results & Analysis.
  • Overall Conclusions and Recommendations.
  • Work-in-Progress.
As of the report date of March 31, 2023 tear-down inspections were essentially complete on eight of the planned 10 cars deemed representative of VIA's 203-car HEP fleet. Further compression testing of Waterton Park was still scheduled for April 12, 2023. No further tear-down inspections were deemed necessary. As of the report date, HATCH already recommended removal of buffer cars protecting standard configuration (non-dome) cars. Removal of buffer cars protecting the dome [Park] cars on the  Prince Rupert and Canadian western routes was to be reviewed after the scheduled April 12 tests. In fact, buffer cars were not removed by VIA until May 18, 2023.

Paragraph 6 of the ministerial order stipulated compression testing of at least one fully-repaired HEP car. This testing was intended to validate the repair methodology, and was based on a premise that only repaired cars would be in compliance with the AAR standard. Since a failure condition was not found during compression testing, the testing of a repaired car would not demonstrate the effects of such repair. If a failure was found after testing Waterton Park, the repair of Park cars was to be addressed separately.

Eight cars were selected for tear-down inspections, exceeding the recommended number of four cars. Cars selected had to:
  • have had no previous structural repairs.
  • have a representative level of deterioration in the eight known conditions found during VIA's STR inspections conducted, or during the Heritage Program.
  • represent variations in primary underframe structure configuration (i.e. the testing of dome cars).
  • be representative of various service conditions and route service environmental exposure.
  • have car history considered.
The cars selected for compression testing and tear-down inspections were listed by name, (average miles per year [not defined further as to individual car or time span]): notes on areas of interest.

Compression Tests:
  • Chateau Richelieu (28,000): 1st load test then teardown, potential deterioration from toilet modules.
  • 8138 (52,000): 2nd load test then teardown, riveted side sill connection
  • Waterton Park (40,000): 3rd load test, unique centre sill transition at dome section.
Tear-down Inspections:
  • 6208 (4,621): unique configuration
  • Chateau Rouville (40,567): potential deterioration from toilet modules
  • 4006 (98,756): [nil]
  • 8618 (97,536): unique underframe structure due to doors
  • Stuart Manor (91,030): potential deterioration from toilet modules
  • Alexandra (74,000): potential deterioration from kitchen area
  • Strathcona Park (60,191): unique centre sill transition at dome section
  • 8505 (31,000): unique centre sill transition at dome section


All cars selected for testing received full strip-down of interior and underframe to gain full access to hidden structural elements and their connections. After strip-down, materials obstructing inspection of car shell i.e. insulation, primer and paint, shimming, adhesive residue, corrosion product and dirt were removed. For compression test cars, locations to receive strain gauges were cleaned to bright metal to properly attach gauges.

Such destructive cutting rendered cars unuseable for structural testing. Therefore, compression-tested cars received a partial tear-down inspection after testing, as required.


Inspections were performed by HATCH's qualified inspectors using three methods:

1. Visual
2. Liquid penetrant crack indicator (PT)
3. Ultrasonic measurement (UT)

The industry contractor [CAD, though not mentioned by name in the report] was provided with itemized procedures accompanied by labelled photo-diagrams. After inspections, results of all three methods were combined and presented as photo-diagram record sheets of inspections showing thickness measurements, to give an overall assessment of the cars' condition.

The eight conditions already known to VIA prior to inspections were:

1. Side sill cracks and defects (found in all 11 cars).
2. Draft sill top flange to floor part welds, cracks (11 cars).
3. Partition post corrosion.
4. Vestibule sub-floor corrosion.
5. Top centre sill transition zone cracks.
6. Centre sill transition zone weld cracks.
7. Bottom centre sill transition zone.
8. Body bolster corrosion at floor pans (11 cars)

Additional primary load-path elements inspected at tear-down were:

9. Draft sill flanges, webs, gussets and draft gear pockets.
10. Bolster top and bottom plates, flanges and gussets.
11. Bolster connections to side sill including internal plates and attachments.
12. Bolster centre plates.
13. Centre sill to bolster transition structure, flanges, webs and connections.
14. Collision post steel members.
15. Jacking pads and connections.
16. Cross bearers and connections.
17. Centre sill structure, transitions and major transition (Park car)
18. Sidewall to side sill structure and connections.
19. Condition of welds and attachments for all of the above.

Report tables showed the conditions that were present in each car, though some conditions were not applicable to all cars due to car type and design. According to these tables:
  • 8618 had 17 conditions present
  • sleepers had 11 conditions present
  • 6208 had 14
  • Alexandra had 12
  • 8505 had 10
  • Park cars had 13
  • 4006 had 14.

Several findings were revealed by visual and liquid penetrant crack indicator testing:
  • Welds were found cracked, corroded or with loss of thickness as was corrosion at connections (normally invisible).
  • Carbon steel exposed to the environment had very little corrosion loss.
  • Cars with water sources onboard had more significant corrosion.
  • Overall, no notable deformations, loss of shape, nor sag was observed.
  • 8138 will receive detailed tear-down having passed compression testing.

The loss of thickness noted at inspected points were also presented, in table form. The most notable, highest percentages of thickness loss were:
  • Waterton Park - 50% at draft sill top flange.
  • Chateau Rouville - 42% at draft sill top plate-interior.
  • 4006 - 46%  at bolster connection to side sill.
  • 6208 - 31% at bolster connection to side sill.
  • Alexandra - 59% at draft sill top flange.
  • Stuart Manor - 43% at draft sill top flange.
  • Strathcona Park - 38% at transition zone bottom flange.
Corrosion and thickness loss interfaces between dissimilar metals on every car were heightened in cars with onboard water sources. No measurable corrosion was found on stainless steel members. There were clear trends were corrosion to be found, albeit with variation between cars, and even between cars of the same type.


The most notable observed deterioration was found at:
  • Draft sills - top flange and top plate
  • Bolsters - top plates, webs and connecting plates to side sill
  • Transition zone - carbon steel plates and members.


[This list of cars selected for compression testing confirms the identity of one previously-unconfirmed wrapped Park car delivered to the National Research Council facilities at the end of February. That is, after testing coach 8138 (tested January 2023) and Chateau Richelieu (tested December 2022), that it was Waterton Park/8717 that arrived at the end of February for testing of the unique dome [Park car] design. The other possible wrapped Park car taken to NRC could have been Strathcona Park, but as the report reveals, that unfortunate Park car was torn-down at CAD.]
At the NRC facility, compression tests comprised force applied in two ways, that is, two locations in the car's underframe where force would be directed in a train-to-train collision:

1. To line-of-draft (buff) stops in draft gear channel.
2. To end-sill anti-climb stops

Compression loads were applied at 100 kips/minute with stops at each five minutes, up to the standard of 800 kips. [Kips are a customary US unit of force, equalling 1,000 pounds-force.] Once the standard 800,000 pounds were applied (800 kips), compression testing continued until failure mode (geometric instability of the draft sill and centre sill) was reached. The compression test values were 885 kips for Chateau Richelieu and approximately 1,000 kips for 8138.

Chateau Richelieu in the NRC compression test facility:
Chateau Richelieu's centre sill has been crippled:
Both cars passed the 800 kips line-of-draft test and 8138 passed the 500 kips end-sill test. Testing on 8138 did not proceed to failure mode. This was due to 8138's design redundancy which displayed a large margin above the standard and above the testing RAM's ultimate capacity.


The testing provided VIA with valuable findings to positively guide remaining efforts in the Heritage Program.

1. Tear-down inspections showed that some areas of carbody structure deterioration were NOT being captured by VIA's C630.002 Inspection Procedure [the "STR"]. Areas requiring attention included the following conditions in the cars' load-path: corrosion on bolster top plates, corrosion on bolster-to-side-sill connecting plates and draft will top plates in the vestibule area.

2. Deterioration found in tear-down inspections did not alter compression test results due to inherent HEP-car design redundancy. Compression testing excess capacity between elastic limit and global (ultimate) failure would guide VIA's repair to improve the fleet's structural connections. Load and strain readings suggest current structural repairs be extended to bolster connections, floor pans and draft sills inboard of the vestibule.

3. VIA still must conduct an engineering review to assess effects of deterioration and potential mitigations.

4. Observed hidden deterioration will continue until addressed by an ongoing repair program. The program will take some time to be implemented across the entire HEP fleet.

5. Compliance with the AAR standard directly mitigated the risk of train-to-train colllisions envisioned in HATCH's Technical Advice initial risk assessment dated October 17, 2022. 


1. Since VIA's HEP fleet is currently compliant with the AAR standard, no further simulations are recommended or required.

2. Buffer cars other than those coupled to Park cars can be removed and HEP consists returned to original configuration.

3. Testing of repaired HEP cars was not necessary.

4. Conclusions from the report are only valid until the HEP fleet experiences changes in deterioration. VIA should enhance visual inspection requirements of their STR to include systematic monitoring of areas noted with cracks such as cross bearer connections, bolster connection and centre sill transition zone, including visually-accessible ring/plug welds. Cars with changes in crack sizes and number of cracks should be flagged for engineering evaluation or potential early repair. VIA should conduct an engineering assessment of deterioration noted in tear-downs and compression tests and use UT-mapped measurements of draft sills, bolsters and transition zone gussets to monitor changes in thickness loss until repairs are made.

5. Based on test findings, HATCH provided VIA with several technical recommendations for VIA's approach to the eight conditions that VIA shop forces were already monitoring.


As of the report date of March 31, 2023 three activities remained to finish the assessment (above-and-beyond ministerial order-mandated work but part of HATCH's mandate):
  • 8138 tear-down - to gather additional inspection data on this coach that successfully passed the compression load test without permanent deformation.
  • Waterton Park - compression load testing.
  • 8505 - completion of tear-down testing.


Though I won't be corroborating the dates and data in question, I believe that the timespan between issuance of the Project Memorandum dated April 12, and the removal of buffer cars on May 18, was due to the completion and communication of the three work-in-progress tests to Transport Canada. A photo depicting a line of tested HEP cars, ostensibly heading for a Montreal-area scrap yard was briefly posted to social media before being speedily removed. However, a June 17 photo shows Alexandra, 6208, 8505, and Strathcona Park still there. Apparently CAD is capable of performing scrapping on-site. Terry Allan kindly shared the following four photos, taken at CAD and conclusively showing all eight torn-down cars still there as of July 23, 2023 (below). Note the see-through appearance of the windowless carbodies, as well as the variable spacing with certain between-car components removed, especially both ends of the Business Class car:
Although the cars' names/numbers aren't visible, they're likely (left to right) Alexandra, 6208, 4006, Chateau Rouville, Stuart Manor, 8618, 8505 and Strathcona Park. Composite view (top photo).
So what was it all for? VIA shop forces will still be working with the 70 year-old cars' foibles, and instituting a more robust structural testing program.

The HEP fleet continues to roll into the future, although 5% smaller, as 11 of its cars were sacrificed to destructive testing. A new long-distance fleet cannot be procured immediately, therefore its arrival is still some years in the future. The Siemens Venture trainsets in the Corridor will replace the six consists' worth of HEP cars operating there now; perhaps the HEP cars will be the last of the three Corridor car fleets to be replaced. The two Renaissance Corridor consists are on borrowed time, and perhaps the LRC consists will be replaced next.

Passengers and pundits who decried the use of buffer cars were happy to see them removed. Some of those pundits are happy that nothing major was found, proclaiming it a nepotistic inside-job. Others, meanwhile, are unhappy that nothing was found, meaning a new long-distance fleet was not immediately required.

VIA Rail Canada and its engineering firm HATCH have done a credible job advocating for safety, providing what appears to this layman's eye as detailed and comprehensive reports.

The biggest loser in all of this, in my opinion, has been the dual concepts of accountability and transparency. From the initial discovery of cracks during the 2018 Rail GD diner rehabilitation which led to hurried inspection of in-service diners, through repatriation of HEP cars from across the VIA system to shops for inspection during the pandemic, through the resumption of services post-pandemic and now the buffer car era, VIA has not informed the public about potential safety risks that exist within its passenger car fleet.

In fact, passengers were left scratching their heads after receiving cryptic e-mails about curtailed baggage car access and Park car services, at the onset of the buffer car era. Most members of the travelling public would have had no idea about the implementation of buffer cars on the trains they were riding.

Your humble blogger beat the bushes, consulted trusted sources inside and outside VIA, made inquiries to relevant agencies, and correlated information from online media and industry reports, to piece together the facts regarding what was happening at VIA. Ultimately, I had to resort to two Access To Information requests, plus the results of an ATI request provided by another requestor, to see copies of the engineering reports and car information via VIA Rail Canada's own ATI process. VIA has not placed any restrictions on the sharing of the reports it provided. 

The results have been shared in this series of posts. Let's hope that this fraught era of VIA's history is now behind a buffer car.

Running extra...
The July-August issue of the Bytown Railway Society Branchline published my account up to February 2023. The six-page article includes my consist data and photographs as seen on Trackside Treasure. 
Passenger Train Journal issue 2023-3 includes my artlcle on the final testing results as a Journal Spotlight item:

Then this happened. Shortly after publication, this Reddit supporter emerged: 

Friday, June 16, 2023

OVAR Presentation, June 2023

Back in March of this year, I was contacted by Angus Palmer, the program director for the Ottawa Valley Associated Railroaders (OVAR) to speak at an upcoming meeting in Ottawa. At the time I was hesitant as we emerged from pandemic precautions, but later agreed to attend in person at their June meeting. I had previously presented at OVAR in June 2015, and was firmly of the opinion that OVAR did things right! 

An enjoyable part of my Hanley Spur journey has been sharing my research and modelling with fellow enthusiasts across Canada. Each presentation is a unique PowerPoint slide deck of 60-100 slides, tailored to the wants and interests of each group. Here's a list of the ZOOM remote presentations I've been invited to present on prototype or modelling aspects of the industrial/railway history of Kingston's waterfront.

Associated Railroaders of Kingston: "Smoke on the Waterfront" - November, 2020

Toronto Railway Supper Club: "Kingston's Hanley Spur An Industrial Approach" - February, 2021

Winnipeg Slide Night: "Smoke on the Waterfront" - April, 2021

Canadian Association of Railway Modellers: "Kingston's Hanley Spur What Makes My Layout Unique" - January, 2023 (two dates)

National Model Railroad Association, St Lawrence Division: "Kingston's Hanley Spur Modelling Inside and Outisde the Layout Room" - March, 2023

Railway Modellers Meet of British Columbia: "Kingston's Hanley Spur Blog! Paper! Scribblers!" -  May, 2023 

Ottawa Valley Associated Railroaders: "Kingston's Hanley Spur An Industrial Approach" refreshed and updated - June, 2023 as publicized in their excellent group newsletter "The Interchange":
This past Tuesday found my wife and me heading east for the nation's Capital at the crack of mid-morning. We were soon ensconced in the cultural milieu of Ottawa, visiting some sites of local importance: the Tanger Outlets and IKEA. But I digress. Tuesday night I was fighting the desperate deconstruction of the Ottawa work-day (that means traffic!) and wending my way along Prince of Wales Drive (perhaps to soon be renamed the King Charles Freeway?) to the Hellenic Centre. Social hour was at 1730, dinner at 1830 and my presentation at 2000 hours. 

I soon met Angus Palmer as the technical troubles of combining PowerPoint, live audience, remote audience and Zoom technology were being overcome. To help out, I headed to the bar. Returning with my new friend Stella, I was soon filling my valise with years-old copies of Model Railroader, donation to to the ongoing work of the C. Robert Craig Memorial Library. 

OVAR is a mix of prototype enthusiasts and modellers, so sharing recent model projects is a focus of each meeting. Each modeller fills out a card accompanying their model, and each is presented after dinner with the accompanying card read out. Not noted on my card - but as Kyle the commentator notably mentioned - my wise choice of X2F couplers for all my models!

The theme for displays was 'End of Train'. For my three contributed cars, I went to the head-end of the train, where one might find a CN auxiliary and idler cleaning up a derailment, or a CP snowplow clearing drifts. Stuffed and mounted (below):

McEwen cars and O-scale:
CLC mini-plate and support for Ukraine boxcar:
Mike Hamer's modules:
In the September issue of OVAR's excellent Interchange, this photo was published. All the displayed monthly models are meticulously photographed and captioned. A great way to encourage members to share and have their efforts preserved for posterity!
I got to meet an chat with OVAR members Mike Christopher, Mike Hamer, David Jeanes, Normand Levert, John Soehmer, Greg Stubbings, Malcolm Vant, Mark Walton and many, many more. Seated at the 'head table' with the irrepressible 'Father' Fred Mills, Angus, VP Gerry Berrigan and within sight of the Greek salad, pasta and chicken, plus two kinds of dessert (it was a dessert storm!) I enjoyed talking about vacationing in Scandinavia, riding the Amtrak Empire Builder, and hearing about CN No 589 heading to Arnprior. After dinner there was some business, some more business, banter, more banter, then the annual presentation of the 56th McEwen Car to the volunteer of the year (at centre of trio below), Bernie Goodman:
Angus is speaking to the in-house crowd as well as the Zoom crowd via the screen. Fred's dinner bell used to make announcements and to designate the next table to go to the buffet! Though Fred is not in the photo, if you saw him you'd recognize him. His face rings a bell! A short bar break later, it was presentation time!
Then I was dangerously handed the microphone and projector remote! Time to lighten up the crowd that Angus had already termed 'spirited' with some humour. Well, turns out I didn't have any humour, but I had packed a couple of Dad jokes - remember, there are no bad jokes, just Dad jokes! The presentation went well, and questions followed. Always the tail-twister, Angus opened the questions with David Jeanes, asking him to specifically ask a question regarding Kingston railway stations, their detailed history and exact dates. David parried by wondering aloud who had $1.6 million to buy the former 'Hanley Station'?!

As a hybrid meeting, I estimated over 80 attendees and up to another 10 or more by ZOOM. I left the hall several copies of my 'Smoke and Stories' books lighter, including two donated copies for the night's door-prize draw. I got the honour of drawing the winning ticket then presenting the pair of books to the winner. It was none other than Canadian Trackside Guide expert Earl Roberts. Earl lives near uberVIAphile and book contributor Jakob Mueller, and used to live on the next street over from us in Lachine. Those copies gone, I was more than re-ballasted with my new-to-me back issues of MR. Thanks to Angus and all members of OVAR for their invitation, their generosity, warm welcome and hospitality, their attentiveness and their good questions!
The next morning, we departed Colonel By's fair burg, noting a couple of Oil Well Supply hi-rail trucks in a nearby hotel's parking lot!
A stop at the Brockville Michaels store netted two options for Hanley Spur layout groundccover, both 60% off! Astro-turf that I intend to trim down (poor man's static grass, perhaps?) and a 'fairy mat'. Also available is a large roll of the later material about 48 inches long for those hard-to-cover areas on the layout! I will be using both projects for some inspired micro-scenic elements!

Running extra...

After opening the small shelf we bought at IKEA, I realized its product name was  MALMBACK (including two little dots over the first 'A' for any Swedish-speakers out there who might be enjoying a Danish as they read this, although sometimes Danishes are un-afjordable). Related products (sorry, no little dots) are Mosslanda, Mellosa, and Maleras. Sounds like a Swedish law firm!

What you hear when you arrive for your job interview at IKEA. "Good morning, please make a chair and take a seat." I asked a sales clerk if they actually had a sofa named FARTFUL and received a strange look...which reminds me of a joke: This guy gets a new job at Wal-Mart and was telling his friend about it - "Yeah, I'm a monback!" -  he explained excitedly. His friend seemed non-plussed, replying "What's a monback?". "Oh, I stand behind the trucks at the unloading dock, I wave my hand and I tell them " ''mon back, 'mon back!"

A former colleague named George and I once decided we could hold an entire conversation using just punch-lines. Just as my Mom and I decided we could hold an entire conversation using just song lyrics. Punch-lines preceding my presentation were: "Oshawa", "One of these times, that train is just bound to be late", and "BUR - GER - KING".

Friday, June 9, 2023

CN 'Zero is Possible' Safety Train

Back on May 20, I heard rumblings of a CN executive train movement from Toronto to Montreal. Called the CEO Retirement special, the special was to traverse the CN Kingston Sub on Friday, June 9.

Metrolinx internal messaging stated that CN was 'looking to bring CEO train with retirees across our network' on June 9. On that day, the train was to 'depart Mac Yard via York 2 or York 3 with the engine on the head end [sic] and take the Newmarket Sub to Union Station via the south connecting track at Snider. From here the engine and consist will depart Union and head eastward up the GO Kingston and onto CN's Kingston Subdivision to Montreal.'

But then Metrolinx denied CN their movement, so passengers were loaded at the CN Brampton Intermodal Terminal Friday morning and an all-CN route taken toward Montreal on June 9. 

This June 6 article from Centralia reveals CN's Zero is Possible Safety Week train!

CN photos posted to social media showing the Zero is Possible train at a CN facility in the U.S.


Wabtec-rebuilt CN 3309 (ex-2598 C44-9W rebuilt into a AC44C6M) led 6 business cars: 

  • CN 1710/Fraser Spirit - HEP car
  • IC 800210/Baton Rouge - sleeper
  • CN 1059/Tawaw - lounge/kitchen
  • IC 101314/Champlain - dining car
  • CN 119/Ocean View? or Jasper? - new to CN full-length dome
  • IC 800653/Sandford Fleming -theatre/inspection car
Two additional CN business cars were considered for the train, but not used:
  • CN 99/American Spirit - dome car
  • IC 800413/Great Lakes - bedroom/observation

The 'jungle telegraph' became enlivened as railfans jockeyed for facts and scheduled times. Levels of secrecy were either debated or guarded closely! The last time I observed the CN executive train was a deadhead move east on CN No 120 on May 20, 2019. Photos in this post show the cars in the slightly less-trainsettish olive and black. This black, white and red is positively Tycoish! Oh well, we will take what we're given and not going around asking, "Well, where my Executive E-units at?".

Tentative schedule posted by a rail enthusiast:
Tuesday June 6 Centralia, IL 0645 to Champaign, IL for a meeting there. 
1000 Champaign, IL to Battle Creek, MI for a meeting there
1700 Battle Creek to Sarnia, ON and layup.

**ACTUAL Tuesday, June 6th
Centrailia, IL dep after 07:30
Champaign, IL arr for meeting 10:30
Champaign, IL dep 11:35 to 1140
Griffith, IN 13:55 Crew Change in the Yard
Griffith, IN at 14:21
Battle Creek AR at 17:45 for 1hr meeting
Charlotte, MI at 19:45
Tied down in Flint at 21:15
Here's a video!

Tentative schedule posted by a rail enthusiast:
Wednesday June 7 0645 Sarnia to London for a meeting at 1000 then one more meeting in Brantford or Aldershot. 1645 to MacMillan Yard.

***ACTUAL, Wednesday, June 7th
Flint, MI departed at 0715 Wed. for Port Huron and Canada. Sarnia: 
Sarnia arr 1000, dep 1045 after entraining passengers and replacing SBU.
London 1210-1320
Bayview Jct 1445.
Toronto MacMillan Yard arrived 1700 Wed. 
Here's a video!

Although one rail enthusiast posted a notice that the crew was called at 0414 on June 8, the train stayed in Toronto all day Thursday. Friday's run to Montreal may extend east, perhaps to Halifax.


I was looking and listening for updates all Thursday (in case that was the day of the move east as rumoured, but no) and Friday (actual). The first OS was CN P624 departing Toronto around 0600, nearing the Kingston Sub from York Sub around 0800, a third OS arriving and departing Belleville after entraining some passengers 1000-1015, then Kingston 1100, Brockville 1150 and Coteau 1320 and Central Station 1430. There the train was apparently wyed prior to backing in to the station.

There are a couple of ways that railfans have been preserving this movement for posterity. The obvious one is video. The other is roster shots of the cars, or even scenic shots. The train is uncolourful in terms of paint schemes but quite varied in car types. I decided to try both video and still photos. I wanted a non-ground angle to capture the seldom-scene tops of the cars, so I decided on the Bayridge Drive overpass. 

Parking at the end of the overpass, I walked up around 1040, deploying my digital camera on tripod astride the sidewalk railing to capture video, and using my iPhone in burst mode for still shots for this post. I heard two whistles to the west (Coronation Boulevard near Mi 182 and Collins Bay Road at Mi 180) just prior to 1100. The special hove into view and I started filming. Their 34 axles went over the Mi 179.6 detector at 60 mph.
Here is my youtube video link and here are the photos of each car in the consist, as listed above:
Another way to photograph the Sandford Fleming theatre inspection car is from the tail-end, to see just who's viewing the receding track. Well, that would have meant a mad dash across up to five lanes of traffic, so I stayed put, and these cloud-bedecked grainy zoomed iPhone image are what I ended up with:
Look, ma, no traffic! (above) but check out those rain-laden clouds (no rain for at least an hour afterward, but it came) and the grab shot over the railings (below)
Thanks to Jordan McCallum, Jesse McLaughlin, Malcolm Peakman and others for additional information with this post.

After arrival at Montreal's Central Station for what some termed 'an awards ceremony' at CN headquarters, 3309 and the cars trailed Saturday's CN No 149 west to Toronto, thence Homewood, IL on Sunday's CN No 149.


At 1500 on Thursday, June 8, VIA No 42 led by 6456 had four LRC coaches in its consist trailed by Panorama car 1722 and deadhead coach 8139. This is the second move of a Panorama car, with VIA 1720 having been conveyed east on the same train on May 20, 2023. The third such car obtained from BC Rail, VIA 1721 has been at VIA's Montreal Maintenance Centre since pre-pandemic times.
BC Rail purchased three single-level ‘Ultradome’ cars 1703-1705 from Colorado Railcar, for use on its Vancouver-Prince George Whistler Northwind service in 2001. Built on three ex-CN baggage car underframes, the cars were under construction for the Florida Fun Train when it was shuttered. These cars were purchased by VIA in 2003, for use on the Skeena. The former BC Rail single-level dome cars were used on VIA’s Edmonton-Jasper Snow Train Express, retaining their later BC Rail numbers 1720-1722 but not their distinctly British Columbia names: Coast, Cariboo and Chilcotin respectively.  

At 0545 on Wednesday, June 7, this eastbound empty tractor-trailer crossed the Highway 401 median and ended up on the tracks at approx. Mi 63 CN Kingston Sub. (Photo kindly shared by Jeremy McCabe - below). VIA train Nos 60, 61, 62 and 63 were rerouted via Ottawa, incurring 1-2 hour delays. The driver was treated for very minor injuries, and the tracks cleared by the afternoon.
A drone photo showing the path the errant truck took across the median, dropping onto the tracks before potentially veering into the eastbound traffic lanes.

Running extra...

Watch for an upcoming post on the final report on VIA HEP fleet testing. This report was conveyed from VIA and its engineering firm to Transport Canada as required by last October's ministerial order. It will take me awhile to go through all 76 pages with my fine-tooth comb. I'll also include a timeline of the whole buffer-car era because it is an important and destructive phase in VIA's chequered history!