Thursday, January 25, 2024


We often discuss then dismiss trivia as being, well, trivial. Not worth our time. Stuff you didn't know you didn't know and didn't much care that you didn't know. Not any more. This post comprises things you need to know about VIA but didn't know. Until now. That's TriVIA!

1988 - VIA electric generator units 15300-15302 were being used mainly to heat LRC consists while shuttling from Toronto Union station to VIA’s shops.  Converted from baggage cars in 1968-69, these cars offered the flexibility of conventional (non-Tempo) CN locomotives to pull Tempo consists. 

Ahead by a Century - The Canadian’s Park cars had their third digit increased by 100 in 1979, becoming VIA 155xx from 154xx to avoid numbering conflict with ex-CN steam generator units.

Dis-Mount – In 1982, three ‘Mount’ cars are converted from 5-compartment, 4-drawing room configuration to 3-double bedroom-buffet-lounge, and the Mount prefix dropped from their names to become Albreda, Fitzwilliam and Resplendent.  Occasionally used as a Park car substitute due to their configurations being similar to Park cars, these ex-Mounts were often used on the Ocean between 1985 and 1990, but never with a Park.

Down Tempo – Tempo buffeteria cars (bar-snack bar) 341 and 342 were stored at Spadina coach yard in December, 1984 pending conversion to coaches.  Changes to Ontario’s Liquor Licensing Board regulations now permitted consumption of alcoholic beverages in coaches.

Chill Out – All ice air-conditioning cars are off VIA’s roster by 1983.

Cavalier Attitude – From 1984 to 1986, VIA train Nos 48/49 to Ottawa were most often assigned an E-series sleeper for overnight accommodation.  Exceptions to this in May 1986 included Naiscoot River or a Bay-series car, and Chateau Radisson.  In August 1986, Warpath River and Greenvale were substituted.  In 1987, the trains’ sleeper was usually a Chateau car, except for Elgin and Erinview in June, Deep River in August, Elmira and Naiscoot River in October.  In October 1988, it was Extew’s turn.  

Tunnel Vision - The last sleeper through Ottawa was accompanied by CP business car Assiniboine on April 24, 1989 heading to the May 4 opening of the Mount Macdonald Tunnel.

Good Side -  On April 14 and 21, 1989 sleeper Edenwold left Montreal ‘nameless’ with 1112 stencilled on its side, in place of the car name.  The name was reapplied in Vancouver, so both sides carried both the car name and the car number!

French Miss – In September, 1992 an inconclusively-stencilled York Club emerged from the paint shop with ‘Club York’ stencilled on one side.

Skytops Sidelined– CN’s Skyview cars, built as Skytop cars, were bought from the Milwaukee Road and refurbished by CN in 1964.  Used in Halifax-Montreal, Gaspe-Montreal, Jasper–Prince Rupert service, the cars were removed from service in October 1976 due to a Canadian Transport Commission order concerning safety issues related to their single-door access.  These unique, glass-roofed, 8-double bedroom, 20-seat lounge cars were stored at Montreal in 1971, pending rebuilding at Transcona.  The rebuilding never occurred, nor were the cars transferred to VIA.  Most were sold to US buyers: Trinity and Malpeque to A. Rivard, Fundy to J.A. Arbuckle, and Baddeck to T. Sellers in 1978.  Gaspe and Mahone were scrapped at Mandak in Selkirk, Manitoba in January, 1977.  While never owned by VIA, imagine what these CN cars could have looked like in VIA blue & yellow!

Two Items – VIA stainless steel baggage cars 8606 and 8613 were briefly leased to Amtrak in 1999.

Tempo Time – Many ex-CN Tempo cars were stored at the TMC in 1985, later moved to Cedars, Quebec.  Seen on the Sunday International, removed at Sarnia, Tempo cars were also used occasionally on the Toronto-Kingston Ontarian in March and November 1985.  The last four cars in use in 1985-86 were 352, 354, 370 and 372.  

Conventional Wisdom – LRC and HEP2 equipment gradually replaced most conventional consists in the Corridor.  In late 1986, east of Toronto, conventional trains were Nos 43/44, 48/49, 58/59, and 651/652 (the latter’s RDC’s often replaced by an F-unit and two coaches).  By late 1987, only Nos 168/169 operated conventional equipment east of Toronto.  In mid-1993, while the majority of the Corridor was LRC-equipped, Toronto-Windsor Nos 73/78, 72/79 and 74 were still assigned a 6400, an SGU in season, and blue & yellow cars, until enough HEP2 cars had been made available for use.

Half Thousand – VIA’s 100-series trains were renumbered to become 600-series trains on November 1, 1993 causing changes to some time-honoured train numbers.  This move was necessary to avoid numbering conflicts with intermodal/MOQ freight trains while operating on CN lines.  For instance, Winnipeg-Churchill No 93 became No 693, and Toronto-North Bay 121 became No 697.

Climb Every – HEP2 cars used on the special train for the Premiers’ Conference in August received a circular red & white decal with a green mountain logo “Jasper 1996”.  These cars returned east for Corridor service by November 1996.

Who Knew 2 – Two stored LRC locomotives had a last high-speed ‘hurrah’ on the night of August 6, 2003.  Pulled by 6421 and trailed by baggage car 8613, the 6921 and 6907 were moved from TMC to MMC in a night-time movement.  Operating at 50 mph to Oshawa, where an inspection was made, maximum speed was increased to 75 mph.  A second stop and inspection at Port Hope, and the little train was off again, at a maximum speed of 90 mph!

Straight Shot - VIA's September 29, 1980 timetable included a centre supplement with something new: the first time a train to Halifax had originated and terminated in Toronto. Described as an imaginative and far-sighted attempt to both attract and handle increased Christmas ridership, VIA planned extra trains on some of its most heavily-travelled routes. Extra trains include Nos 16/17 Montreal-Matapedia-Gaspe, Nos 111/112 Toronto-Kingston-Saint John-Halifax, Nos 652-655 Toronto-Kingston-Brockville-Montreal, Nos 7/8 Winnipeg-Capreol-Toronto and Nos 9/10 Prince Rupert-Prince George-Jasper-Edmonton. In succeeding years, VIA operated extra pre-Christmas trains to the East Coast, though these subsequent trains ran only as far west as Montreal. December 1980's were the first trains to operate across the state of Maine in two sections in 25 years. The second (non-advance) sections of each train terminated in Montreal.

Really Durable Cars - November, 2013 marked the 60th anniversary of the introduction of the Rail Diesel Car in Canada. I rode VIA RDC's on three routes. I also watched their shimmering silver shapes streak by from trackside. The RDC's adaptability, flexibility and universality kept it in use from coast to coast on VIA's network until the 1990 cuts. In 1987, VIA operated the largest fleet of RDC's anywhere, employing 80 of the 398 built between 1949 and 1962. 

Railiner Ramble - A contract for refurbishing VIA RDC's fleet brake systems was awarded to the Urban Transit Development Corporation (UTDC) at the Napanee Industries buildings around 1988. The cars were operated under their own power between Napanee and the Kingston Outer Station, where they were set out and lifted by CN. These movements took place in the wee hours of the morning! When only three cars were left in the contract, orange-dotted rotten ties on the site trackage allowed rails to spread under an RDC being moved on the property. This led to the RDC derailing and a subsequent investigation by CN. At great expense to UTDC, all the rotten ties were then replaced at the very end of the contract!

Prairie Schooner - From November 1981 to June 1984, VIA instituted a daily, pint-sized passenger train - VIA No 109 Winnipeg-Saskatoon, and VIA No 110 Saskatoon-Winnipeg. The diminutive, two-car (baggage car and cafe-coach) consist was the former CN Saskatoon-Regina RDC run over the Craik Subdivision, extended to Portage over CP trackage, thence CN into Winnipeg. VIA even marketed a 'Brandon Getaway' brochure to mark the Wheat City's centennial. "Travel relaxed and in comfort on VIA Rail's train service - arriving and leaving Brandon at convenient times. Shop and sightsee in this interesting city." 

Teeny-Tiny - Lettering displayed high up on CN/VIA Sceneramics was mandated by a trust agreement: "OWNED BY UNITED STATES TRUST COMPANY OF NEW YORK, 45 WALL STREET, NEW YORK NEW YORK, AS TRUSTEE UNDER THE TERMS OF AN EQUIPMENT TRUST AGREEMENT."

Notable Baggages - VIA 612, 613 and 615, while awaiting their HEP conversions at Montreal's Pointe St Charles AMF facility, were equipped with pass-through cables to conduct 480 volt Head End Power for heat and light from a locomotive ahead through to the trailing LRC cars. The three cars retained steam heat and axle-driven generators and continued in their pass-through format into early 1993, though my last observation of their use was 613 on September 19, 1992. 

HEP Exceptions - In the late 1980's, VIA acquired one dome-observation (built for D&RGW), four baggage cars (built for RI and CB&Q) and seven dome coaches (built for CB&Q, D&RGW, SP&S and WP), some languishing at Ottawa Union Station. Intended as part of the HEP1 rebuilding program at CN's Pointe St Charles facility, the January 1990 cuts made these cars unnecessary, and they were sold or stored. 

VIA's ex-CN Dayniters -  Offered as a spacious, comfortable cocoon for those willing to pay a little more, these cars had reclining seats with footrests, crazy colours and other perks. VIA pitched them as 'attractive deluxe coach type accommodation for daytime and overnight comfort...offering the comfort of individual adjustable reclining deep-cushioned seats with padded leg rests, fully carpeted floor, and a quiet trip all around with special acoustic sound-proofing. The fold-away table also serves as a handy work-space.'

Airline Strikes - Every piece of equipment was brought out of the coach yards to carry overflow passenger loads. In June 1976, CP RDC 9308 was attached to No 1, travelling from Ottawa to Thunder Bay. There, standees heading east necessitated the transfer of 9308 to No 2. In October 1977, CP attached stored RDC's to the Atlantic Limited to free up coaches for the Canadian.

Long Life - CP's E-8's were recommended for scrapping even before their transfer to VIA, due to their increasing age. They instead continued in service until 1982. 

TTC Strike - RDC-5's 9300-9302 were moved to Toronto for use on the run to Havelock, ON in August, 1978.

CP’s Windsor station in Montreal (not in Windsor!) saw some notable last departures in the early VIA era: the last Canadian on October 28, 1978 was CP 1412-4478-1432-601-105-506-Fairholme-Chateau Laval-Prince Albert Park (interestingly, since the Canadian would soon operate from Toronto, CP shuttled equipment from Montreal to Sudbury, then south to Toronto, including five baggage-dorms, five 2200-series coaches and four Park cars); the last VIA train on April 28, 1984 was No 164 to Quebec City with RDC-2 6216; the last intercity train on January 12, 1986 was Amtrak No 68, the Adirondack behind Amtrak 344 with Amfleet cars 21117-21182-20218.

GMD-1 Substitute - VIA train Nos 22/25 normally operated with LRC's but these were replaced by CN GMD-1's 1900-1902 pulling five conventional cars Montreal-Ste Foy during Thanksgiving, 1982.

Take Five - Lake Huron, Lake Ontario, Lake Michigan, Lake Erie, and Lake Superior are the five Great Lakes. Lake St. Clair is just a Pretty Good Lake. (Not VIA-related, just dropped this here to see if you're paying attention!)

Glen Denizens - On November 7, 1982 (November 7 being a famous day in CPR history!) fourteen of eighteen diners, and twenty-five of forty-two Manor cars were at Westmount's Glen yard.

Fog and Rain - Freezing rain and fog hampered airline operations in December, 1982. VIA No 49 departed Ottawa comprising stainless steel sleepers Green Harbour, Greendale and coaches 5305-5399 for extra capacity.

GO GO! - Ex-Rock island GO Transit GP40 722 and APCU 905 led GO coaches on Toronto-Windsor VIA train Nos 75/80 on December 23, 1982.

Railborne Rally – On January 29, 1983 Quebec government workers rated a 14-car consist led by 6777 and three F9B's on VIA No 25.

LRC, B, B - On March 31, 1983 VIA No 79's 12 cars were led by 6900-6620-6631.

Vintage Ride - On October 15, 1983 the High Level (Alberta) Chamber of Commerce operated a passenger train on CN rails between Roma and High Level. The interesting consist was CN F7Au's 9176-9175, SGU 15401 and VIA coaches 4890, 4891 and 4892. Reportedly, 71 passengers were treated to a ride in these vintage cars!

Finders Keepers - was the title of a movie filmed on CP in early 1984 between Banff and Vancouver. VIA 6506-6511 received a red, white and blue 'AMrail' paint scheme, pulling stainless steel cars with Glacier Park bringing up the markers. One report mentions the AMrail paint damaging the VIA paint scheme, resulting in a complete repaint after shooting was completed.

Three LRC's Out - In late 1983, 6906 suffered fire damage, 6909's main generator exploded and 6915 experienced collision and fire damage.

Overflow Seating - Provided by baggage-dorm 9480 on December 28, 1983 on Montreal-Ottawa train Nos 31/34.

Training Purposes – On January 25, 1984 VIA No 14 to Halifax included deadheading LRC locomotive 6907 on the tail-end for Moncton maintenance personnel training.

Tagging Along - Ottawa-Toronto No 43 ferried 6121 to Toronto on April 15, 1984. The RDC-1 was assigned to cover Ottawa-Sudbury service at the time.

Taxi! - Canadian passengers not entrained at a pre-arranged flag stop in May, 1984 and were ferried from Chapleau to the waiting Canadian at White River by CP C-424 4228 and three CP vans (cabooses).

Leased by ONR - VIA diner Acadian was leased for Polar Bear Express service in the summer of 1984.

Electro Lytes - What is the chemical symbol for potassium? K. If you have no potassium, you're 0K. If your potassium is extraordinary, you feel Special K. (Again, not VIA-related and you're almost there, thanks for paying attention and keep reading!)

16 Cars - No 65's unusual locomotive consist on August 12, 1984 was 6915-6773-6783, with the latter two marshalled nose-to-nose. Baggage-dorm 9481 brought up the markers.

EGU - Electrical Generating Units formerly used on CN Tempo trains found new assignments in 1984. 15300 was used to heat Amtrak Superliner cars on the Panorama when not coupled to the Amtrak locomotive, and 15301/15302 provided ground power supply and Montreal and Coach yards, respectively.  VIA 15301/15302 were acquired from Great Lakes Western by Rocky Mountaineer Railtours in 1996.

Tail-end SGU - Several consists of train Nos 14/15 in January 1985 included a Steam Generator Unit trailing the Park car.

Ten VIA blue & yellow baggage cars leased by Amtrak had their ‘VIA’ logos painted out. An ‘Amtrak’ decal was applied on the yellow stripes between doors, above the car number. The first baggage car readied was 9643 at New Haven, CT on February 3, 1985.

Circus Train - The Shriners fraternity chartered a special train from Niagara Falls to Ottawa on October 4, 1985. Six cars were led by CN 4365-SGU 15459.

Loop Line - Redevelopment of Toronto's railway lands and the release of the October 1985 system timetable meant a change in Toronto train turning. The loop at Spadina was no available for turning complete consists, and the wye at Mimico could only handle four cars at a time. As a result, the Canadian traced a new circular route in and out of Toronto. The nocturnal Cavalier was no longer turned, with the sleepers facing backwards one way.

LRC Out - VIA No 40's usual LRC consist was replaced by 6514 and four conventional cars on December 18, 1985. Deadheading RDC-1 6129 was on the tail-end, staying on as the consist continued from Ottawa to Montreal as No 34.

Combination Car 7210 - received VIA colours in late-1983. The 1919-built car came to Eastern Canada on CN train No 214 in late-September, 1985. The car's last regular assignment was the now-abandoned Hearst-Nakina service. The vintage car was even included in a train hauled by CN excursion steam engine 6060 between Jasper and Vancouver in May, 1986. Debuting as the solo passenger car on the triweekly Senneterre-Cochrane service, it replaced a 9300-series baggage-coach moved to the Montreal-Sudbury Canadian in late-1986.

Y2K - VIA Rail operated three special trains out of Toronto, Montreal and Halifax for those celebrating the arrival of the 21st century. The Toronto train left at 2000 (hours that is, the year was still 1999!) and patrons were served a gourmet dinner in the dining cars. Another two cars were outfitted for dancing, one with a disc jockey and the other with a live band. The train returned to Union Station at 0130 on January 1, 2000.

Behind Steam – In August, 2000 6413-6425 operated behind former Milwaukee Road 4-8-4 261 pulling 22 private rail cars over BNSF and DM&IR rails from Minneapolis and Duluth, MN. 

Running extra...

I hear and watch it all the time. The Jardiance commercial. Singing and dancing for what ails you, especially after years of bad food choices or just genetics. The good news? It has its own conspiracy theory as shown in this post and what would Reddit be without a good Reddit rant thread? So many social media to review while I'm snacking on my burgeoning bowl of Cheesies.
So maybe the only good commercial is a muted commercial. Our local Global Kingston has a series of very mutable commercials: Fox Run Retirement Home, Expressions Fashion Boutique, and Midas Kingston with their effervescent  narrator who talks about TAHRS! Get your TAHRS here!! And you get free TAHR replacement!!! One commercial I always watch, and I'm always hoping for new commercials in the series is Dr. Rick and the medical condition he's concerned about: Parentamorphosis.

Friday, January 19, 2024

Tree Planting Cars, Part 2

In Part 1, the early life of CN 15021 as a Tree Planting Car (TPC) was profiled. In this post, let's move forward in time to the car's second life as a museum display car in Winnipeg. As I was creating the TPC post, a fellow railfan sent the top six colour photos in this post, part of Winnipeg's Vintage Locomotive Society collection, bequeathed by Ted Shores.  I've been looking at pictures of these cars in CN's East Yard for years now, and it's about time to follow this natural lead-in from the TPC era into this subsequent, more garishly-painted 'That 1970s Show!' era. These were two of many treasure lying in the multi-track marvels of East Yard. Though accessible to VIA travellers on layover in Winnipeg, I did not photograph them or record them in my notes.


An intermediate step between CN 15021's first and second life involves former CN combine 7162, seen above at East Yard adjacent to the Winnipeg Depot. Permit me this small diversion that's integral to the longevity of former TPC 15021. The Manitoba Museum of Man and Nature was engaged in sharing its exhibits more widely across the province in the early 1970s. One approach was a Museumobile van with removable exhibits for schools. Another was acquiring a 'Rolling Stock Museum' exhibit car, ex-CN 7162, reportedly only one day from being scrapped when first inspected by museum staff at CN's Symington Yard. 
Museum staff loading a display case into companion car 9098:
Three black and white images plus schedule from 1972 and 1974 editions of The [creatively-named] Grande New Dawson & Hind Quarter Epistle of the Association of Manitoba Museums show CN 7162 as received (above) and being moved to begin its tour (below) after refitting.
When completed, the heavyweight car featured displays created by the museum's craftsmen, touring 20 communities between The Pas and Churchill with two guides living onboard. Displays were designed to withstand slack action since the car would be moved between display sites by freight train, not by passenger train! Exhibits were tailored to the area's Cree, Cree-Metis and Chipewyan residents and presented in their languages. The car debuted in The Pas, MB on July 17, 1972. The car may also have toured in 1973. An aerial photo of East Yard shows the car still there in June, 1975.


For the 1974 exhibit season, the Museum's Extension Services Division, created to deal with such travelling exhibits, once again producing a train display. Whereas the theme for the previous two years had been focused on the northern environment, "The Whole North", it would be "The Parklands" featured from the May-August 1974 tour. It was brainstormed that the Rolling Stock Museum would barnstorm through parts of the agricultural region stretching from southeastern Manitoba, through central Saskatchewan, perhaps to the northwestern farming area of Alberta. The planned 1974 Parklands schedule:
It seems serendipitous that the demise of the TPC program in 1973 coincided with the search for the Parklands museum car. For the Parklands program, CN 15021 was selected to take to the rails again, accompanied by former CN baggage car 9098. Presumably surplus to CN's needs, the former baggage car was a display car for maps, artifacts and photo displays. The former TPC would be the library-activity car where programmes were delivered, National Film Board movies and slide shows screened, as well as providing classroom, activity and library space for reference materials - very similar to the way the TPC was used. The Parkland Regional Library Service underwrote the cost of refitting the car. Again accompanied by two museum guides, the car would be open 12 hours per day, seven days a week!
Both cars' obverse sides are shown on these cloudy day photos. The parklands were open prairie punctuated with groves of aspen trees, leading to the cars' eye-catching distinctive leaf graphics.

Inveterate passenger train rider Ira Silverman kindly shared these photos showing CN 15021 wearing its Parklands 1974 scheme on the tail-end of this CN train ready to depart Churchill southbound, in these three photos taken in late-summer, 1974:


CN 15021 got yet another layer of paint, emerging in this shades-of-green Boreal Images scheme, again photographed at East Yard. Perhaps the Parkland Regional Library Service did not provide funding, and the transitional green paint covered up the previous graphics and 'Boreal Images' covered up the Parklands lettering. The National Museums corporation granted the Manitoba Museum of Man and Nature $36,000 in March, 1979 to send the display cars into the northern Prairies and North-West Territories! I've found only two two-car Boreal Images schedule data-points: Regina early-May, 1979; Saskatoon mid-July 1979.
Jim Parker kindly shared two undated (1980s?) Bill Grandin photos of the Manitoba Museum of Man and Nature/National Museums of Canada Boreal Images 15021 and baggage car 9098 stored at East Yard (note the coach yard building at right, up at depot platform level). 

After its touring days, CN 15021 was scrapped by CN. Both cars looking very much the worse for wear when valued book contributor Brian Schuff photographed them in Winnipeg on December 29, 1986 on their last trip to Mandak. CN 9098:
CN 9098 is preserved at the Big Valley (AB) Historical Society.
CN 15021 with many yawning window spaces:

Thanks to Mark Perry for sending pdf copies of two AMM newsletters from 1972 and 1974 that included articles on the display cars.

Running extra...

As an advocate for VIA, a chronicler of VIA's eras and a documenter of the recent nearly-calamitous buffer car era prompted by the advancing age of VIA's HEP fleet, I'm spreading the word about Transport Action Canada's current petition and asking you to consider signing it here via the Parliament of Canada website. (It's good to be an involved citizen!)
VIA Rail was ready to proceed with the procurement last year, having completed the RFI, and the timeline to replace the fleet will be in real trouble if the funding doesn’t come through this year. The objective of the petition is to make sure the government knows that there’s support for this investment and that any further delay will result in service cuts. 

The wide-ranging aims of the petition are to: 
  • Incorporate the contents of Bills C-371, the Rail Passenger Priority Act, and C-236/C-640 (41-2) the VIA Rail Canada Act, in a Government Bill and prioritize its passage through the legislative process;
  • Commit, in the 2024 federal budget, the funds necessary to renew VIA Rail’s long-distance fleet;
  • Provide passenger and worker representation on VIA Rail’s board of directors; and
  • Revise the High Frequency Rail project to protect VIA Rail’s role in delivering public passenger rail service along the Windsor to Quebec City corridor.
Signing the online petition is relatively painless, requiring only some contact information and checking three boxes. That link once again. When I signed, there were already 1,095 fellow petitioners. 

Since CPR 1095 is preserved here in Kingston, that seemed like a good, positive omen to me! I have seen several online videos of Canadian modellers dutifully operating Rapido Trains Inc. HO-scale models of this plucky ten-wheeler on their layouts. On August 18, 1967 we were clamouring to collaboratively clamber over this CLC 1913 product, stuffed and mounted mere steps from its birthplace:
Sign painter and former Kingston Mayor Bob Fray letters the tender:
(Queen's University Archives photo)

Friday, January 12, 2024

Tree Planting Cars, Part 1

Recently added to my bookshelf: A Prairie Odyssey - Allan Beaven and the Tree Planting Car by Dianne Beaven (published in 2011, with 2023 Update). A one-time advertisement by the Dauphin Rail Museum caught my eye and I've been thoroughly enjoying reading the writer's unique perspective on her father Allan's long association with the unique travelling Tree Planting Car (TPC - as she refers to it, and so will I). The 5.5x8.5 perfect-bound book is chock-full of anecdotes, history, photos and remembrances - an enjoyable, well-illustrated read! I've gleaned information from the book and added to this post (that languished in draft form for quite a while) showing the various TPC's that roamed CN and CP lines. 

The Canadian Pacific TPC prepares to welcome another group of farmers and schoolchildren at a community on the Prairies during the 1950s (CP photo - top photo. - note the end-of-car collapsible bracket for flag-flying). The cars were a cooperative effort between railways and the Canadian Forestry Association (CFA) to teach and encourage soil and moisture conservation on the treeless prairie. Planting shelter belts to protect farms from the ravages of wind and drought was encouraged. TPCs were a popular attraction throughout their 55 years of service. Captioned 1950 (below):


The writer notes that very little was previously recorded about the TPCs and the men who shared their expertise as lecturers, usually for little remuneration. Beginning with the completion of the CP line to the West Coast, beautification of stations and enticement to settle the area around them were major efforts by railways. The Canadian Forestry Association took up the cause in the 1920s as an innovator and sponsor for forest conservation, with CN and CP subsidizing a rolling home for the program in TPCs that were maintained by them at almost no cost.

The railways carried the cars gratis, placing them at each station. Station agents would make contact with the TPC staff to assist whenever possible, and even section men or carmen did maintenance on the TPCs as needed.

In an era when travelling Chautauqua shows, Better Farming Trains and school cars travelled widely, it was the social and geographic isolation of farming communities that made all three popular. Residents of these areas were eager for education, culture, entertainment and human contact from the 'outside world'. People were interested in the unique experience of learning about trees and tree planting on a railcar, and a visit to the TPC was the only real entertainment they would have during the year.  TPCs were the oldest secular teaching missions in the West. Operating for 53 consecutive years, travelling 263,000 miles and hosting four generations totalling 1,500,000 visitors, the TPCs accounted for the planting of 500,000,000 trees on over 100,000 farms. If planted at six-foot intervals, these trees would circle the globe 27 times!

In the 1930s, the term Conservation Car was adopted as the former TPC travelled farther from traditional crop-growing areas to forested areas. 


The TPC encouraged the planting of seedlings grown in the Indian Head, SK Nursery. Opened in 1901, the nursery's first year saw 58,800 trees distributed to 47 farmers.  Becoming a model forestry farm, education and the planting of shelter belts were its main objectives. The 1886 Experimental Farm Station Act had established farms at Nappan, NS; Brandon MB; Indian Head; and Agassiz, BC and the Central Experimental Farm in Ottawa. Conifers, namely spruce and pine, were five to eight inches tall. Deciduous caragana, willow, maple, ash and poplar were shipped bare-root or as cuttings. Another Saskatchewan farm was established at Sutherland, near Saskatoon, in 1913. Over the next 41 years, both nurseries distributed 180,604,380 deciduous trees and 3,655,206 evergreens, resulting in the establishment of shelter belts around buildings, fields and gardens on many thousands of formerly treeless farm properties.

I can remember seeing the Indian Head farm during a trip west with my aunt and uncle in 1981. In A Prairie Odyssey, anecdotes included many other names of places I'd visited: Cedoux, Conquest and Imperial, SK to name a few. None of these were mainline cities or even towns. Farmers, students and townspeople were all welcome to attend one of multiple lectures, film screenings or presentations made in railway stations and schools within the many communities visited by the TPC. 


  • CP 114 (above) - a suburban coach built 1906, only used for a short time as early as 1919.
  • CP 121 (above) - also built 1906 at Montreal's Angus Shops, donated to the CFA in 1921 and fitted out at Angus, with lecture and demonstration space for 72 visitors. CP 121 operated as TPC for 38 years, renumbered to CP 54 (top photo) in November, 1942 and retired and scrapped at Weston Shops in Winnipeg in April, 1959.
  • CP 64 - built as first-class day coach at National Steel Car 1451 in August, 1926. Refitted and assigned to CFA in March, 1959. When lettered as Conservation Car, it sported a white-painted car roof:
Canadian Pacific Spanner employees' magazine articles on the TPC in June 1959 (above) and September 1960 (below, plus four archival photos)
Canadian Forestry Conservation Car (former CPR 64) in Edmonton, AB – June 1964 – Ken Hooper Collection – Great Canadian Plains Railway Society / Galt Historic Railway Park for the Manitoba Forestry Association - Courtesy Jason Paul Sailer:
Lettered for the Manitoba Forestry Association:
An interior renovation in 1970 included the addition of educational displays, improved lighting and painting. CP's Prairie Region Vice-President (and chairman of the Prairie Provinces Forestry Association) cut the ribbon upon completion. But the car would only roam the rails for three more years. As road links improved, and information was provided to farmers in other ways, the railways were less willing to carry and spot the cars from town to town.

In 1973, CP retired TPC 64 and donated it to the Manitoba Forestry Association. It was moved to Hadashville, MB on the Greater Winnipeg Water District Railway, completing the move on a flatbed truck to the Sandilands Forest Discovery Centre. A suitable segment of track was prepared for the placement of the car. Allan Beaven was involved with programming and education as manager of the Manitoba Forestry Association until his retirement in 1978 at the age of 75! With its protective overhead shelter removed, 64 is soon to be moved to the Manitoba Agricultural Museum at Austin. (colour photo shared via Mark Perry):
Mark Perry visited the site in October, 2022:


After nearly fifty years in Hadashville, the TPC was removed by two large cranes, placed on a special steerable-wheel flatbed trailer and taken on a circuitous route over the 357 kilometres to Austin, MB - home of the Manitoba Agricultural Museum - on November 8, 2022. The museum had agreed to add the car to its exhibits and built a protective roof over it. Once in Austin, the prepared track and trucks were ready to receive the car. This, following some initial difficulty finding the pins holding the car onto its trucks due to an extremely large cache of fir cones that some industrious squirrel had collected there!


The CFA operated a program through Ontario, Quebec, the Maritimes and British Columbia, similar to the TPCs on the Prairies. 
  • CN 6065 - Forestry Exhibition Car, 1920 to 1932. 
  • CN 15021 - Donated by CN, this wood-body, steel-underframe 80-foot car was built for the Canadian Northern Railway at CC&F's Amherst, NS works in 1914, as 14-section tourist sleeper 9408. Renumbered CN 2211 in 1920, steel-plated in December 1926. Rebuilt by CN in the early 1950s, reconfigured as combined lecture car and library and renumbered 15021. It was turned over to the CFA on February 22, 1954.
CN 15021 wore an overall olive green scheme with gold lettering. Canadian Forestry Association heavyweight car from the CFA Archives, Library & Archives Canada undated photos, posted to social media by Rian Manson, showing the car's opposite side:
In one six-year period in the 1950s, CN 15021 travelled 150,000 miles.
Another photo of CN 15021 in this black & white scheme in 1962

CN 15021 wore a white and green 'Parklands 74' Parkland Regional Library scheme as shown in this cool 1976 photo posted to Flickr. CN 9098, built in 1953, wore an overall white 'Extension Services Division' in an accompanying Flickr photo

Lots o' links:
In Part 2, (see an upcoming post) more about CN 15021 in its later life as a museum display car.

My thanks to Jason Gilmore, President of the Dauphin Rail Museum for listing and making this excellent book available to me!

Running extra...
I was proud to share the Platforum (can it really be four years ago?) with VIA engineer Jordan McCallum. This week, Jordan is celebrating 30 years with Canada's railways, now in the right-hand seat. Congratulations, Jordan! Thanks for being a faithful supporter of Trackside Treasure and best wishes celebrating your career as you roll on to year 31 and beyond!
A passenger aboard VIA's Canadian snapped this photo in Skyline 8500 (above) and another photo showing tailored CP and VIA displays filling otherwise blank space in it and Skyline 8507 (below) and the Canadian's swiftly-passing eras tour back and forth across Canada - we CAN have nice things! Look what you made me do - I was proud to be able to contribute to these unique displays celebrating the VIArious eras of this venerable train as it rolls on to its 70th anniversary and beyond. 
Though I hate to disappoint my Instagram friend Travis the goalie and his goal of the Canadian returning to CP rails - they are never, ever, getting back together!

Thursday, January 11, 2024

VIA Ventures in Service, Part 1

As of January, 2024 and with the delivery of the twelfth Siemens Venture set, I split this Siemens Venture post originally published on September 21, 2021.  Siemens Venture sets in service on CN's Kingston Subdivision (Montreal-Toronto and Ottawa-Toronto) were maintained in this post until May, 2024 when a third post emerged from the original post. Below is the ever-growing list of Trackside Treasure posts on VIA's Siemens Venture trainset implementation:
For your ticket-booking benefit - Venture car seating diagrams: Business, Economy, and cab car. The direction of travel changes during booking, so disregard it here. Someone's selected seats are in yellow. Purple means premium, X for groups of three or four, green available.
Seats with no/poor window views (all rows shown include seats A,B,C,D):
  • Car 3: Rows 2, 4, 7, 9, 11, 13, 15.
  • Car 4&5: Rows 5, 7, 9, 11, 13, 16.
APRIL 2022 UPDATE: VIA's first Siemens trainset made its way west on CN's Kingston Subdivision this week, passing through Kingston at 0900 en route to Toronto, London, and Windsor! Westbound as VIA No 649, eastbound at 1900 on Thursday heading back to Montreal as VIA No 628. Coupled to GO 654 at TMC, VIA rolled the dice by backing the consist around the east leg of the TMC wye, the most treacherously-curved track in VIA operation! The speedster tackled the 30 mph CN Oakville Sub back east to Toronto and survived!

AUGUST 2022 UPDATE: Set 1 was testing in SW Ontario Guelph Sub, arriving in Toronto August 6, 2022 at 1130, through Kingston at 1430 (top photo). Sometime after arrival at the MMC, locomotive 2201 became the power for Set 1, with 2200 kept at the MMC.

NOVEMBER 2022 UPDATE: After a couple of employee-only runs between Montreal and Ottawa, the first Siemens revenue run took place November 8, with 2301 leading VIA Nos 33 and 26 on the same run. Further unannounced revenue runs took place into December, resuming again in mid-January still on 33/26.

MARCH 2023 UPDATE - VIA 2301-2202 (Set 2) made a test run to Toronto on March 8, returning east on March 9. Here is the westbound VIA No 627 at 1355, (image courtesy Railstream, LLC):
APRIL 2023 UPDATE: Another VIA all-stops test run with Set 3 (leader 2203/cab car 2302) was made from Montreal to Toronto and the TMC on April 4 as VIA No 627. The test train will be returning east all-stops on April 5 as VIA No 656. Fifteen minutes after sunset westbound at Mi 179 Kingston Sub at 1955:
MAY 2023 UPDATE: Set 3 made a test run west from Ottawa to Toronto as VIA No 649. Departing Fallowfield 1620, Brockville 1739, Kingston 1836 (below). Thanks to Michael Judge for the heads-up! Set 3 returned east the same night: Belleville 2240 and Kingston 2315. Set 3 may now be in service on VIA No 24, meaning two days' worth of two Siemens sets as the rotation is VIA Nos 20/37/24, though not on Tuesday's 33/26 as before.
Belleville at 1907 (image courtesy Railstream, LLC):
Inquiring minds want to know - about 'spare' locomotive VIA 2200, according to this Access to Information request from May:
JUNE UPDATE: Set 4 made a test run from Ottawa through Smiths Falls to Brockville on June 6, then from Ottawa to Montreal the next day. 

I'm going to officially call them Venture consists, not Siemens consists from now on!

JULY UPDATES: The sod-turning for the new Venture fleet maintenance building under contractor Buttcon Limited at the TMC was held July 10. Featured in the photo-op, Set 4 made a trip from Montreal to Toronto as VIA No 657 on the evening of July 9 through Kingston around 2050, departing Toronto around 2000 west to Windsor on July 10 as No 667 behind VIA No 79, and returning to Montreal. After stopping in London for a $25 million station funding announcement, Set 4 went east through Kingston around 1800 as VIA No 656. Trainset deliveries are meeting the anticipated 4-6 week interval, with a commercial launch predicted for September to coincide with the reinstatement of VIA No 651 (and possibly other pandemic-suspended trains in Southwestern Ontario), ending the year with 10 trainsets on the property.

AUGUST UPDATE: Set 2 was observed at the TMC over the long weekend in August, there for crew training. Set 2 was eastbound through Kingston on August 31, running east as VIA No 656.

SEPTEMBER UPDATES: Set 4 is in service. Some reports say Toronto crews have been trained, that includes running trades and on-board service. Other reports note that a Montreal crew operate the train to Toronto, where it can be fuelled and watered and run back to Montreal, at least until maintenance facilities are built. A report from Quebec of VIA Nos 26 and 28 may mark the first day two sets were in use - September 18. Set 3 was the first revenue run on the Kingston Sub (Montreal-Toronto) took place on September 21. I'll now be able to track implementation, rotation and sets in service through Kingston. That's much more of interest to me than just Quebec-Montreal-Ottawa.

OCTOBER UPDATES: Posted to social media par Luc - the location of Sets 2 to 6 as of Friday, October 6. Note that Set 3 has stayed in Toronto since it arrived in the first, and only revenue run to Toronto as VIA No 63. There are also reports explaining Set 6's very late 0119 arrival at Ottawa after mechanical failure re: brakes on what may have been a VIA No 37 (perhaps Set 5?) earlier on Friday. Sets 2, 5 and 6 are in service in the Ottawa-Montreal-Quebec lanes. Set 3 returned from TMC on October 17 as VIA No 40. The first revenue Toroto-Ottawa Siemens run, and no doubt getting into position for further Kingston Sub revenue runs beginning October 24.
 Sets 3,4 6 and 7 are in use on the eve of the regular Ottawa-Toronto service:
On October 24, it was Set 3 entering regular service here, operating as VIA No 41; on October 29 Set 2 was operating as VIA No 43, looking like a change of Sets after the weekly trip to the MMC on this first Friday. Six sets in recent service!
Six sets again after another weekend change at MMC with Set 6 operating on VIA No 43 November 5:

  • Another weekend, another change of sets with Set 6 operating as No 43 Sunday, November 5 and likely the week to come. 
  • Still in service November 12, though. No change of set this week.
  • Sunday, November 19th saw Set 3 on VIA No 43. Some have noted that the SIIX reporting marks are now being removed.
  • Sunday, November 27th saw Set 7 on VIA No 43.
    • Sunday, December 3rd it was Set 4 on VIA No 43, and again on December 10. 
    • Siemens rotation changes afoot on December 11 (see excerpt from diagram by Doug Bardeau (below) with seven sets  (Sets 2 to 8) in use. Set 6 on VIA No 43 Fri. Dec.15!
    • Sun. Dec. 17, Set 2 was VIA No 43; Tues. Dec. 19 Set 7 was VIA No 41-46; Set 6 was VIA No 41-46 on Tues. Dec.26.
       JANUARY 2024 UPDATES: 

    Effective December 28 - now a two-set per week schedule on the CN Kingston Sub (above - despite still being dated December 11)
    • Mon. Jan.1 Set 2 was VIA No 45 Tues. Jan.2 Set 7 was No 41, Set 4 was No 43 on Fri. Jan.5
    • Sun. Jan.7 Set 4 was VIA No 43; Wed. Jan.10 Set 6 was VIA No 41.
    • Tues. Jan. 16 Set 4 was VIA No 41; Thur. Jan.18 Set 7 was No 41.
    • Sun. Jan. 21 Set 4 made an equipment move from MMC to TMC as VIA No 657, with LRC consists operating as No 43-646; Set 4 was No 43 on Jan.26.
    • Wed. Jan. 31 Set 4 was still in use on No 41. As the month ends, VIA's roll-out of newly-delivered sets remains glacially slow. Only six sets in regular service at any given time.
    • Set 8 was VIA No 41 on Thurs.Feb. 1.
    • Set 6 was VIA No 45 on Mon. Feb. 5; Set 4 was VIA No 41 on Wed.Feb.7; Set 8 was VIA No 41 on Thurs. Feb 8. and 43 on Fri. Feb.9.
    • Set 8 was VIA No 48 on Mon.Feb.12. The last of eight sets commissioned, with four in commissioning; Set 1 used for testing is awaiting a major retrofit. Set 9 was in use as No 646 on Thu.Feb.15.
    • VIA Nos 43(returning as 668) had Set 9 and 63(*new returning as 54) had Set 5 on Fri.Feb.16. This appears to be the beginning of two sets per day, with Ventures expected on 643-46 on Sat.Feb.17 (*new-until now no Ventures on Saturdays), 43-646 and 45-668(*new) on Sun.Feb.18, and Mon.Feb.19 Nos 45-48 and 61-46(*new). Two consists are not yet reflected on VIA's New Fleet webpage. Oops, they must have read this - now posted Tuesday, February 20! Here's the new two-set summary and first week's Sets in service if known, followed by diagram by Doug Bardeau:
    • Mon 45-48 Set 7 Feb. 19; 61-46 Set 9 Feb.19
    • Tues 41-46; 45-48
    • Wed 41-46 Set 4 Feb.21; 45-48 Set 9 Feb.21
    • Thu 41-646 Set 4 Feb.22; 45-668 Set 9 Feb.22
    • Fri 43-668 Set 4 Feb.23; 63-54 (LRC Feb.23)
    • Sat 643-46
    • Sun 43-646; 45-668
     The second week of the two-set schedule (unconfirmed in brackets):
    • Mon.Feb.26 61-46 was Set 2; 45-48 was Set 4 
    • Tues.Feb.27 Set 2 was (45)-48; 
    • Wed.Feb.28 Set 3 was 41-46; Set 2 was 45-48
    • Thu.Feb.29 Set 4 was 41-646; Set 2 was (45)-668
    At the end of February, there were routinely seven sets in use, possibly eight! Following the ground-breaking last July, demolition at VIA's Toronto Maintenance Centre continues (Trackside Treasure collection) with the last of the left-hand building extension gone by Feb. 28:

    • Fri.Mar.1 No 43 was Set 4 (above); nine minutes later, 63-(54) was Set 2 (below). I would venture to say they seem strangely similar. Friday is the only day of the week this timing occurs. Streetcar-like headway! With the three-consist schedule (see below) No 643 will be one hour earlier, meaning three westbound Ventures in about an hour on Fridays!
    • Sat.Mar.2 VIA No 643 was Set 2
    • Sun.Mar.3 No 43 was Set 3; No 45 was Set 2; (Set 11 inaugural trip in service to Quebec City)
    • Mon.Mar.4 No 48 was Set 3; No 61-46 was Set 2
    • Tue.Mar.5 No 41 was Set 9; No 54 was Set 11 (third trip in Corridor)
    • Wed.Mar.6 No 41 was Set 9; No 643-54 was Set 11; No 45 was Set 2
    • Thu.Mar.7 No 41 was Set 3; No 643 was Set 11; No 45 was Set 2; 
    • Fri.Mar.8 expect No 43 to be Set 3; No 643 to be Set 11; No 63 to be Set 2.
    What's this? A third set on the Kingston Sub (in Doug Bardeau's diagram)? Later posted to VIA Rail website effective March 3:
    Now that we're almost a week past the introduction of three daily trips through Kingston, I'll wait until a fourth set is introduced, or new sets like Set 10, or Set 12 and above are put in service, to track more updates.
    • Set 12 made a test run to SW Ontario and was in London on March 11.
    • As of mid-March, there are eight sets routinely in use:
    • Southwest Ontario soft launch! March 19's VIA No 73/78 were covered by Set 2. First revenue run west of Toronto! Looks like it was a one-off though, not the beginning of an extended rotation. 
    • Set 12 was still in Toronto as of March 27 and beyond.
    This could be a first. All of the first 11 sets have recently been in service as of Saturday, March 30. Note Set 1 arriving at Quebec City as VIA No 26 (at 2023 h):
    It was expected that an eighth Venture set will replace the last LRC consist in the Quebec-Montreal-Ottawa lane on April 16. (This leaves the Q-M-O lane all Venture except for a lonely Ren set). Additional trains through Kingston will be on Nos 61-54 Sat and 643-54 Sun. The rest of the week, this eighth set will run M-O-Q. Reports of the last non-Ren (LRC) consist operating M-O-Q were on April 8, and this new schedule actually debuted one week sooner than expected. The only discrepancy between Doug's April 9th diagram and the listings on VIA's new fleet schedule page is a visually confirmed Venture-equipped No 53 departing Ottawa at 1148 on Wednesdays, not No 45 departing Ottawa at 1027. TBD.

    Sets 3 (with passengers) and 4 (deadhead) were a J-trained VIA No 61 on Monday, April 22. Video link and thanks to Lion Liu for the heads-up. Reason for the first-on-the-Kingston-Sub (not including the far east end beyond Coteau) Venture J-train were not initially known, some accounts indicate a fire while in Central Station, though apparently not serious. Arr. Toronto 2 hrs late. Set 4 continued west in service on April 23 as No 83, likely returning as VIA No 70 on April 24, then staying at the TMC until at least May 1.
    Nine sets in use as of April 23. Note neither of the J-trained sets left Toronto for 24 hours. Ten sets are in regular use:
    Set 13 left the TMC, as non-revenue VIA No 636 on April 25, for the first time after its delivery there on Feb.18.