Monday, November 1, 2010

VIA's LRC in Service

VIA's LRC trains debuted in the summer of 1981 with fanfare. The Canadian-developed train was intended to speed travellers along the Windsor-Quebec City corridor at speeds exceeding 100 mph. The trains entered service more slowly than expected, in part due to a strike at Bombardier. LRC's are still a novelty as 6910 pulls my first photographed LRC train into Kingston station in December 1981 with a long Christmas consist:
Conductor and trainman, with enough gold bars on their sleeves to recall the steam era, operate controls in the vestibule. Power-opening traps and steps would later be replaced by less troublesome, but clunkier manual operation.
More trainsets were eventually available, and 6913-6 cars-6914 arrive at Kingston eastbound in early 1985. That white thing is a wooden whistle post for the Counter Street crossing. Welded rail lies trackside:
To quote Rapido Trains' Jason Shron, "They've had maintenance headaches in the last few years. In their prime, they were saviours of the Corridor". VIA's Diane Graham confided to Jason in the mid-90's, "Thank goodness we have the LRC. I don't know where we would be without it. " 6904 with 6913 on the rear on March 16, 1985 speeds along near Mi 183 Kingston Sub:
Once released from the factory, train riders often occupied a seat on each LRC train, ready to respond to calls for assistance with a minor (or major) problem. Even VIA's 1982 annual report mentioned: "During this introductory phase, a number of technological problems related to the train systems were encountered which were addressed jointly by VIA and the manufacturer, and refinements effected gradually." In December, 1983 VIA removed its 50 LRC cars from service, for inspection by Bombardier and replacement of wheel bearings. 6915 brings up the rear of a 6-car train headed by 6916 on January 1, 1985 past cedar scrub near Mi 185 Kingston Sub:
In April 1986, 50% of the LRC coach fleet was shopped. Then, electrical problems in April 1988 meant that LRC locomotives couldn't run solo, instead requiring a 'B' unit or steam generator unit. From March-May 1992, axle problems at tolerances greater than 2/1000 of an inch brought back blue & yellow conventional consists and SGU's. 6930 and 4 cars head east at Napanee on April 30, 1985:
LRC consists usually ran with an LRC locomotive and 4-6 cars. Trains of 6-10 cars required locomotives on both the head-end and tail-end. Rarely did the locomotives operate elephant-style. 6912 smokes it up out of Kingston in mid-1985:
Most of the LRC locomotive fleet was stored by 1991, except for 6902, 6903, 6905, 6916, 6919, 6920 and 6921. Some units may have been temporarily brought out of retirement though, as I saw 6907 and 6914 in 1993, and 6909 and 6917 in 1995. The last few units were retired by 2001. Until retirement, complete LRC consists with a locomotive at each end were in use on morning and evening Montreal-Toronto non-stop service. It was awesome to see them rip through Kingston station, on the only VIA trains that didn't stop here. 6912 burbles away alongside other LRC equipment at Toronto Union Station, seen from the dome of Stratchcona Park in May, 1985:
Even though LRC cars had racked up their first million miles each by 1991, they are soldiering on, currently undergoing major refurbishing at IRSI in Moncton. 6930 leads an evening westbound over the just-refurbished Collins Creek bridge near Mi 180 Kingston Sub on November 15, 1987:
The LRC locomotives have since met their stopblocks, with only 6921 preserved at Delson and 6917 in Toronto. 6916 leads 8 cars and 6926 through Napanee, Ontario on March 31, 1986. More on the LRC's early years in this post.
The LRC car fleet rolls on into the foreseeable future, now pulled by 6400's and 900's. Witness these cars rolling into Kingston on VIA train 46 on May 4, 2009, complete with Canada logos and large Canadian flags on their flanks:
Running extra...

Check out the right sidebar for updates on my upcoming VIA book, or go direct to the blog here. Lots of chat recently on Yahoogroups about the 101 uses for an LRC locomotive, before the F40's arrived, hauling Tempo, conventional, even ONR cars, the Canadian in the Corridor, yard switching, teamed with F's and SGU's and who-knows-what-else. I remember many of these trains and they'll definitely be included in my book.

Preserved LRC's. Who ever thought those words would form a phrase? Read about the Toronto Railway Historical Association's efforts with 6917 here , plus a photo of 6921 at Delson here . Can't preserve a coach because they're still running. Thanks to Jakob Mueller for the idea of rotation of retired units post-1991. It seems the official retired unit list of the time did not take into account some units returning to service subsequently.

Those little bags of potato chips intended for crunch..crunch Hallowe'en sure are tasty. Only about 7 chips per bag though...chomp chomp. Sure cuts down on dip intake scoop..scoop.


6 comments:

Bryan said...

And who could forget those little cardbord punch-out LRC trains they'd hand out? One of my favourite parts of taking a train ride as a kid.

-Bryan

Eric said...

They also made great "back of the coach yard" models for the layout, until Jason Shron brought out the LRC coaches. Do you remember the set with the elephants and other animals inside the cars?
Eric

hunter said...

The LRC's seem to have a history that wasn't well recorded, I live in Chatham Ontario and vividly remember seeing all LRC consists whip past my Aunts house on the way to windsor and London, most clearly from 1997-2001. Almost every train consisted of them or F40PH-2's at the time. I would have been 3-4 in 1997 but can still remember the beautiful wedge nose, and the crews waving out of the oddly angled cab windows. AND THE SOUND! Oh man those things were loud! Not just the engine but even the horns sounded so much louder than a regular train.

Eric said...

Thanks for those comments, Hunter. You might also be interested in my VIA Corridor Consists found in my right sidebar. Here's the 1996-2000 page:

http://tracksidetreasure.blogspot.com/2009/11/via-corridor-consists-1996-2000.html

The evening express trains were LRC until the end, and they'd whistle for the crossing through Kingston station eastbound. Zing then gone!!

Eric

James said...

6920 was the lead unit wrecked at Brighton in the early 1990s and they never repaired its damage since it was much easier to just activate another stored unit.

I frequently was able to spot train 67 outbound at Dorval in 2000 and can say for sure that 6902 6905 6909 6914 6919 and 6921 were in active service at that late point. I do not remember anymore whether any of 03, 07, 17 or others were active at the end but pretty sure that VIA kept 7 units active for the 10 year period from the cutbacks until the P42s took over in late 2001. I don't recall ever seeing 6916 in service in the 1997-2001 era so it may have developed problems and been replaced.

In addition to 52/53/66/67, LRC locomotives powered at least a couple of the daily rotations on Montreal-Quebec City services through the 90s until retirement.

They are missed!

Eric said...

James, thanks for your comments and information. My last sighting of 6916 was in July 1994. You're right about VIA keeping a few LRC locomotives going until their removal from service, and rotating them in and out of service.

If you haven't seen it already, please check out http://newviarailbook.blogspot.com for information on my new VIA Rail book that contains all VIA observations I made from 1976 onward.

Eric