On September 20, firm plans were released to VIA operating employees of the impending Venture revenue run. Initially, a deadhead 'Legacy' set was to tag along, perhaps to keep the Corridor equipment cycle intact because it was not clear how the Venture set would be returning to Montreal. Though crews are trained in Toronto, there is no maintenance base yet. In fact, the ground-breaking at VIA's Toronto Maintenance Centre (TMC), or should I call it a ballast-breaking, only took place on July 10, 2023. For the time being, a Montreal crew can operate a Venture set to Toronto, where it can be fuelled and watered only before returning to Montreal.
Thursday, September 21, 2023
VIA's Siemens Venture First Revenue Visit to Kingston
This week marked the first revenue visit of a Siemens Venture set to Kingston's VIA station. The first of the 32 new trainsets being built in California for VIA visited Kingston 19 months ago, having arrived in Montreal two years ago. VIA planned a soft commercial launch this September. Word slowly started making its way to the rail enthusiast grapevine via various VIA employees last weekend. Indeed, the Venture set was plugged into the VIA reservation system last week to operate on VIA No 63 (Montreal-Toronto). This is normally how anyone - passengers, railfans and some VIA staff - finds out which equipment be it LRC, Renaissance, HEP or Venture is operating on which train in the Corridor.
The grapevine lit up this Thursday morning. The departures board at Montreal's Central Station let the secret out around 0600, and the 'socials' spread it, including Transport Action Canada but strangely not VIA. That's because VIA was intending this to be a surprise, with additional crew 'ambassadors' accompanying the first revenue run over CN's Kingston Subdivision (before you ask, no, the tiny part in Quebec doesn't count.) I'm talking Kingston Sub as in Kingston, baby!! Also on the train was a California-based Siemens train rider to deal with any on-board issues. The assembled local railfans:
The lighting might not have been favourable, but I wanted to be on the shadow side of the train. Why? Because a Siemens running through, or stopping at, Kingston station has already happened. But a revenue run implies paying passengers, and I want to see what happens when this happens! Video captures showing station staff and coach passengers before and after the car doors open, then the first Business Class passenger boarding:
I was left wondering just how many of these passengers suspected, knew or cared that this was neq equipment on its first revenue run. I didn't hear anyone yelling, "OMG, OMG, OMG!" or anything like that. Well, except the railfans! View my Youtube videos of the train arriving and departing.
VIA No 63 comprised Siemens Set 3 led by SIIX 2203 with Business Class cars 2602-2702 both in service, coaches 2902-2802 and cab-car 2202. Set 3 arrived at Central Station late and left 20 minutes late. The 'Legacy' set (planned as 6456-3452-3305-3321-3329) had been cut off and left at the MMC due to unknown issues. Darn! A combined Venture J-train would have been quite a sight!
Thirty minutes late Cornwall to Kingston, 25 down at Belleville and arrival at Toronto Union was only 17 minutes late! We were witnesses to history. Rich Stewart, whom I run into occasionally, caught the first revenue run arriving Brockville. Watch this post to keep track of further trainset deliveries, revenue runs and roll-out of more Venture sets in more frequencies and services.