Friday, January 13, 2017

Locking the Door at Lachute

Do you remember where you were 27 years ago today - January 15, 1990? I often use the phrases 'drastic cuts to VIA' or 'massive VIA cuts', referring to the 1981 and 1990 service reductions. And though this date marked the 1990 reductions, when my Dad and I were trackside to experience VIA's last Cavaliers, eight years earlier there had been another rounds of...drastic cuts. Thoughts of such cuts may conjure up sweeping, nation-wide processes - coloured, dashed lines on a map. But what about the cuts are at the grassroots level? The passenger level. The community or town level. Train-offs and last runs sound vaguely sentimental, but what does the end of this process look like? What does it feel like? How do people actually react?

The drastic cuts to VIA made in November 1981 resulted in the termination of well-known named trains like the Super Continental and the Atlantic Limited. But these cuts also affected lesser-known services, leaving VIA with 2,800 miles of their system with no service or reduced service - roughly 20% of its network. One of these services was the Ottawa-Montreal RDC run on CP Rail trackage including CP's Lachute Subdivision, sometimes referred to as the 'North Shore Budd' since its route traced the north shore of the Ottawa River.
Cousins of mine, whose Rodger family heritage farm is near Lachute, QC made a point of being at the Lachute station for the last run of VIA No 170 on November 14, 1981. My late aunt Bea at left in long coat, with her grandsons Michael and Andrew (above) were part of the small crowd on hand along with my cousins Bob and May. Their photographs and details of that day give us the community view we seldom see. On a day that was sunny but not without its dark side, they purposely made their way to the Lachute station to document the last Ottawa-Montreal train No 170: a single ex-CP RDC. Departing Ottawa at a schedule 0730, the Dayliner covered the 132 miles scheduled to arrive at Montreal’s Windsor Station at 1045. 
Approaching in the distance for its scheduled 0920 stop, the train makes its way into Lachute (arrow - above photo) crosses the bridge over the North River/Riviere du Nord and stops for the last time at its stately, 1929-built station. 
Conductor Jean-Jacques Sirois, engineer Ab Sabourin and station agent Henri Larche pose at the open vestibule door for a commemorative photo. My youngest cousins have their photo taken with Mr Larche, the station agent. Mr Larche locks the door “for the last time” (top photo).
To further my family connection to this station, my brother scanned a photo of family members at Lachute station taken by my Dad, at the beginning of a trip to Vancouver on CPR in 1947. In the photo album, my Dad noted that until the 1960s FOUR passenger trains a day travelled between Montreal and Ottawa - two trains in each direction with coaches for week-end and holiday traffic. Back left is my grandfather, front left is my aunt:
The last run from Montreal to Ottawa that evening, VIA No 171 was documented by Colin Churcher, appearing in TRAINS magazine's November, 1985 issue, marking the magazine's 45th anniversary and dedicated to Canadian railroading. The article is illustrated with photos taken by J. David Ingles including one of RDC-1 6123 at the Lachute station taken in October, 1980. Colin noted the futility and hopelessness of employees whose futures were changed by these cuts. The long-time, now-retiring Lachute station agent who asked to buy the station clock from CP but declined when told the price would be $1400! The CP engineman, Ab Sabourin, with nearly four decades of service, who made his way to his waiting auto in Ottawa soon after arrival.
According to the article, after departing Lachute, 6128 hit a truck at a fog-bound crossing on its morning run into Montreal after my cousins photographed it. The train back to Ottawa was protected by RDC-1 6102. Notice the reflection of the station sign board still bearing the lettering Canadian Pacific Railway in the left-hand window (above). Interestingly, 6128 had been converted from CP 9051 at CN's Pointe St Charles shops in November, 1979. After the last runs, she would go to Sudbury-White River service, operating with VIA 9251, then Corridor service in Ontario through the 1980's. Operating between Brownville Junction and Packard Brook, ME, whe was the sole unit on a CP special commemmorating the 100th anniversary of its line through Maine on December 9, 1988. Also notable for operating on VIA No 670 ex London on January 15, 1990 with VIA 6202, then sold to BC Rail that summer. 
The RDC's more than did their duty on those last runs. Photos were taken. Then the link for rail passengers on that single track line between Lachute and two of Canada's major cities was severed. This is what the end looks like.

Running extra...

Watch for a postscript to this story. What are the chances that I have more photos to share? Pretty good, actually! Thanks to another photographer who happened to be there at the very same time that fateful morning, as well as that evening for the last upbound run.

This story is going to make it into my fourth book on VIA Rail Canada, due to arrive this spring. Entitled Trackside with VIA - Research and Recollections, it will include not only new data, newly-discovered consists and previously-unpublished photos, but also trip reports and accounts of travels aboard VIA, its equipment, and its operations from VIA's early years right up to 2017.

January 2017 - the peaceful transition of power is at hand. No matter who was chosen to hold the office of President, the official motto of the United States of America remains In God We Trust. Unsure about what the next four years may hold, let the United States Army Field Band inspire you (3:52 mark!), reminding us that His truth is indeed marching on. Under the baton of First Lieutenant Alexandra Borza.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

ADtranz IC3 Flexliner in VIA Service

The Danish-designed, German-built Israeli State Railways-operated Diesel Multiple Unit (DMU) IC3 Flexliner was on loan to VIA and Amtrak, with the two three-car trainsets touring the country to promote commuter rail systems. Built by ADtranz, a partnership of ABB and Daimler-Benz, the Flexliner trainset operated on diesel or overhead electrical power. Both versions could operate together and uncouple 'on the fly' at junctions. Rubber 'donuts' improved the IC3's safety and aerodynamics, but not its looks! Top speed was 112 mph, and in a luxury configuration, 109 passengers in coach and 32 in first class could be accommodated. A westbound Flexliner approaches Collins Bay in April. 1997 (top photo). The next six photos were scanned from prints shared by Kingston's Ron Barrett. Thanks, Ron! Ron snapped the Flexliner with VIA markings on the north track at Kingston's VIA station:
Painted in ISR red livery with Israeli and Amtrak decals, the two sets when coupled together deflated the rubber 'donuts' and fold-away windshields and cab controls, providing a wide walkway with full-width diaphragms between coaches. Beginnning the two-year tour, the Flexliners debuted at Los Angeles Union Passenger Terminal on July 16, 1996. 

In VIA operation, the Flexliner operated out of Toronto for 4-6 months after their Amtrak stint. Amtrak lettering was removed, and VIA logos added. In fall 1996, Club 7001-7401-7201 and Club 7003-7403-7203 were in VIA service. The public was invited to tour the IC3 at open houses held in Corridor cities including Kingston, complete with balloons, clowns and refreshments. Ron was at Kingston's open house (next two photos) on September 27, 1996, as we were. 
The demo consist in the morning sun (below) with a nice view of the Public Utilities Commission propane spur at right, served by CN's Aluminum Spur.
The trainsets entered revenue service on September 29, concurrent with the release of the new system timetable and the reintroduction of a morning Kingston-Toronto 'commuter' service. Early technical problems - signals not being activated due to the cars' light weight led to a Transport Canada-mandated withdrawal from service on September 30. Flexliner trainsets could apparently 'disappear' from dispatcher's computer monitors! The units were stored until further testing took place in early October. Composite brake shoes were replaced by steel brake shoes. When not available, the IC3 schedules were covered by buses or other equipment, such as 6421-3322-8143 and 6401-3344-8141 on October 3, 1996. The trainsets operated on Toronto-Kingston train No 650 and morning Kingston-Toronto 651.
A wintry but sunny day view of the Flexliner on the north track of CN's Kingston Sub at Kingston (above) contrasts with a greener, grassier view on the south track (two photos below):
One of two rotations for the two sets was a Monday-Friday Kingston-Toronto, Toronto-Ottawa round trip, with a Saturday run from Kingston-Toronto, then one more Ottawa-Toronto-Kingston cycle over the weekend, in place again for Monday morning in Kingston.  The second run was a Monday-Friday Stratford-Toronto, Toronto-London, Toronto-Kitchener, Saturday Stratford-Toronto and Toronto-Niagara Falls, Niagara Falls-Toronto-Stratford weekend operation, in place again for Monday morning in Stratford.
The Flexliners returned to service on November 19, after being tested on CN and CP lines. Continuing to operate through the winter, the demonstration was ended on March 28, 1997. On April 2, 7001-7401-7201 left Canada on the tail end of VIA No 85, travelling to Missouri for further demonstration on Amtrak between St Louis and Kansas City, then on to Oregon. The other trainset continued operating east of Toronto until May 6, 1997 when it was reassumed by Adtranz. Amtrak's two IC3 Flexliners ran in multiple as train 330 in Milwaukee in June, 1997, operating between Milwaukee and Chicago. On June 30, 1997 Amtrak's Empire Builder delivered the IC3's to the Twin Cities, where the train ran at 79 mph over BNSF's main line between the Coon Rapids and Big Lake, MN area to St Cloud.

With the Flexliner's pitfalls and problems, VIA did not pursue the Flexliner after the demonstration period.

Running extra...
Happy New Year...just like this dude who had one too many and now obscures a perfectly good multimark (above). And of course the Flexliner will be included in my upcoming book Trackside with VIA: Research and Recollections. On track for a spring arrival - my most recent thoughts here.
Speaking of on track, a colleague shared a photo of the re-railing of an SRLX covered hopper at Kingston's Invista plant back in November (scroll a bit in this post to see non-crane rerailing efforts). The plant is shipping outbound product for the first time in recent memory, including new extra track being added on the lake side of the plant.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

VIA Discount Tuesdays Re-imagined

Everybody says "Happy New Year" this time of year. Well, let's start 2017's Trackside Treasure posts off on a happy note. In past posts, we've had the Company Photographer captioning some classic era publicity photos returning again a few months later then one year later for a third post, and even some early VIA LRC publicity photos! VIA puts a photo or two each week on their Facebook page, including Discount Tuesdays. No captions. Each photo is just a springboard for passengers to complain to VIA. My train was 5 minutes late! WiFi didn't work! VIA fares are too expensive! First-world problems, people! LET'S MAKE IT HAPPY, PEOPLE!

Trackside Treasure reader Mark Perry sent along personalized Happy New Year greetings. At Dauphin:
 as did Ray Farand:

Running extra...

My one-and-only New Year's resolution is to bring forth a newly-created book! This one will be called Trackside with VIA: Research and Recollections. As the title suggests, this will be chock-full of some digging into VIA's past - plus some personal observations and reflections on VIA from on board and from trackside. You can expect a high degree of 'retro' but also updating from my previous books (the last was 2012, after all - come one!) for the VIAphiles of today. As part of my resolution, I pledge photos, a colour section, and good value. This is one resolution I plan to keep! The timeline is a bit elastic, but I'm aiming for spring, when hope (and new books) spring eternal!

Monday, December 26, 2016

Windmill train CN X307, December 2016

On December 22, CN train X307 carried 50 turbine towers down CN's Kingston Sub. The windmills are manufactured in (what I thought was Gaspe), and are to be interchanged to BNSF for furtherance to Texas. Fortunately, since I was able to be trackside for this unique movement, I decided a normal three-quarters view of these oversize loads would not do. I chose a nearby overpass embankment at Bayridge Drive. CN 2251-IC 1003 did the honours, with 307's hogger giving a toot-toot greeting!
Thanks to additional information from several knowledgeable fellow enthusiasts, I learned that the first train of blades was from LM Wind Power in Gaspe, transloaded to rail in New Richmond, QC. There is a company named Delta Fabrication in New Richmond that produces towers, but these were lifted from the QGRY interchange in the Quebec City area, specifically Allenby, QC the previous evening. These are produced by Marmen in Trois Rivieres, QC.
A heads-up OS of 0520 at Drummondville was updated by Michael Berry and Brockville Railfan, the latter at 1207. I estimated one hour, pending meets. VIA No 40 would have met 307 around Kingston's VIA station.
With our local No Frills store in the background, these loads were also no frills. On welded cradles, the towers rested easily, with no chains or other obvious restraint. The diameter of the towers was marked on the orange tarps i.e. 3200 mm and 3400 mm. Notice how one end of each tower overhangs one end of each car, necessitating a 2:1 (tower:idler) car ratio. The last car:
Here's the complete consist:
CN 2251
IC 1003
XTTX 146352
TTHX 97189
XTTX 147190
XTTX 146328
TTHX 97130
XTTX 146336
XTTX 146295
TTHX 97114
XTTX 146145
XTTX 146338
TTHX 97180
XTTX 146300
XTTX 146211
TTHX 97174
XTTX 146340
XTTX 146395
TTHX 97190
XTTX 146397
XTTX 146386
TTHX 97160
XTTX 146310
XTTX 146327
TTHX 97155
XTTX 146381
XTTX 146366
TTHX 97135
XTTX 146371
XTTX 146390
TTHX 97178
XTTX 146388
XTTX 146373
TTHX 97110
XTTX 146362
XTTX 146393
TTHX 97181
XTTX 146392
XTTX 146372
TTHX 97102
XTTX 146368
XTTX 146299
XTTX 97119(97113?)
XTTX 146326
XTTX 146153
TTHX 97150
XTTX 146155
XTTX 147192
TTHX 97186
XTTX 146148
XTTX 147191
TTHX 97168
XTTX 146283
XTTX 146301
TTHX 97107
XTTX 146346
XTTX 146263
TTHX 97173
XTTX 146259
XTTX 146274
TTHX 97149
XTTX 146256
XTTX 146235
TTIX 961792
XTTX 146210
XTTX 146237
TTIX 961807
XTTX 146238
XTTX 146234
TTIX 961511
XTTX 146240
XTTX 146236
TTIX 961501
XTTX 146231
XTTX 146230
TTHX 97111
XTTX 146317

XTTX cars are cradle cars for the towers. TTHX are short idler cars and TTIX are longer idler cars. Whew. I haven't seen that many X's since my last X's and O's tournament. A going-away view of the tail-end, with Lake Ontario's frozen-over Collins Bay in the background.
My Youtube video, from which these video captures are taken. Andre Gerow took a double-sided video just west of Ernestown. Andre also captured the first train of blades, No 307 on December 5. This observation was really an example of pinpoint precision prediction railfanning, based on accurate OS's from further down the line. There's still a place for staking out a spot for hours and waiting to see what happens.

Running extra...

A day later, Kingston railfan Logan Cadue was on the Sir John A Macdonald Blvd overpass where he caught a three-way meet between eastbound VIA, CN No 518 and CN No 149, plus CN No 376. A little earlier, heavy eastbound potash unit train B730 had been in emergency with a broken knuckle, bunching up traffic.
CN No 376 heads east behind 2438-5756 (above). Earlier, CN No 518 pulled west to the light at Queens West (below) and VIA would slip through at this point on the south main. CN 4115-4803 leads five cars of scrap and three empties from Kimco, plus covered hoppers and tanks for Invista. We'd later drive under 518 at the Gardiners Road underpass at the top of the Cataraqui Spur. CN No 149 behind 5699-5609-8017 is on the north main.

Running extra...

Hoping that you had a great Christmas, as I did! Beer, nuts and books all found their way under our tree! Looking most forward to reading Mike Myers' Canada, which may be a pinkie-biter if not a nail-biter, accompanied by my brother's sent mp3 of Bob & Doug McKenzie's 1981 album, of course. Good day! What a hoser, eh?

Seasonal music: having seen the Pentatonix Christmas special, I've been enjoying their video of the simply heartfelt That's Christmas to Me - 25,686,593 viewers can't be wrongI would definitely follow them to Bethlehem, listening to this doubly-modulated gospel choir chorus! I harked back to a previous Christmas favourite, the USMC Chamber Orchestra's version of the Leroy Anderson classic Sleigh Ride! (Watch it to see if you're hooked up right.)
When I first saw this STEEL auto-rack graffiti, I thought that this was the ultimate 'painting on a big canvas'. Little did I know it was sold as a complete Microtrains set in N scale...
,,,or that once broken up, at least two 'E' cars were roaming the North American network singly! That train gets an 'E' for effort. Labour-saver - if I ever choose to do a four-car ERIC graffiti, I only have three cars left to do!