Saturday, November 30, 2013

Across Canada by Train Order - Eastward

In Part 1, we worked our way westward aboard VIA Rail in September, 1985. Continuing my Toronto-Vancouver-Prince Rupert-Winnipeg-Regina-Toronto trip,this return leg will also see the accumulation of more sets of train orders. Having reached the Pacific tidewater at Prince Rupert, I headed for the Crest Motel before an early morning departure back east. Once again, I'll list the train order sets I was able to collect by date, train number, route segment, railway travelled and train order offices, along with some train orders of note and en route photos:
The above train order was apparently delivered by road to CN's Nemoto yard. We waited for a derailment clean-up after departing Rupert. Running three and a half hours late at Terrace at 1400, as baggage and passengers are handled. Covered wood chip cars line the next track beside ditchlight-equipped FP9 6514:
September 25, 1985
VIA No 6 Prince Rupert BC-Edmonton AB
CN Nemoto (to No 6 Eng 6514 at Prince Rupert)
CN Terrace
CN Smithers
CN Prince George (meeting VIA No 5 Eng 6519 at McBride)
CN Shelley
CN Dome Creek
CN McBride
CN Harvey
(Above - Meeting a CN freight at Unity SK at 1755, and it's always Winter in this part of Saskatchewan!)

September 26, 1985
VIA No 4 joined with No 6 at Jasper AB-Edmonton-Winnipeg
CN Jasper (Engines VIA 6511-6610-6514 with No 6 consist total 11 cars)
CN Edson
CN Edmonton
CN Wainwright
CN Biggar SK (Engines VIA 6511-6510-7 cars)
CN Watrous

September 27, 1985
CN Melville SK
CN Rivers MB
I rode west from Winnipeg to Regina SK on No 1, toured nearby grain elevator branchlines as far south as Weyburn, returning from Regina to Winnipeg on No 2. A message sent from Montreal to VIA No 2 detailed a stop at Whitemouth (above).
September 30, 1985
VIA No 2 Winnipeg MB-Thunder Bay ON
CN Winnipeg
CP Winnipeg (The Canadian operated over CN Pine Falls Sub from Union Station, via Beach Jct to Pine Falls-Manson connecting track to CP. Unlike No 1's orders at Kenora, CN orders were delivered to the crew at Union Station, with CP orders handed up at a small ATCO building at Manson as the train left the city of Winnipeg. Message to No 2 at Manson - stop at Whitemouth to entrain one passenger in car #210 destined Pembroke ON)
CP Kenora ON
CP Ignace (No 404 Eng 6047 run ahead of No 2)
My plans to ride the mixed train out of Neebing on CN did not pan out. I Stayed at Thunder Bay before catching No 1's 13-car consist turned to become No 2 and passengers bussed around a derailment back at Ignace. GO train traffic (cab car leading) was competing for our track south of Washago:
October 2, 1985
VIA No 10 Sudbury-Toronto ON
CN South Parry (to No 10 at Boyne)
CN Washago (Engines VIA 6312-6618-6787)
CN Orillia
Another memento: an ever-present sign in the crew's four-seater - hand-lettered sign left on seat 'Reserved for Crew S(il) V(ous) P(lait)
Returning back to Kingston, I alighted from the LRC carrying some extra weight in the form of a couple of inches of train orders. Although many of the train orders detailed slow orders and work limits, there were enough orders governing the movement of my trains to make these very interesting documents in retrospect. Before long, train orders and hand-written clearances hooped up by operators at stations would be replaced by TGBO's produced by anonymous fax machines, spit out at Field Information Terminals. Much less interesting and less colourful!

Running extra...

Black Friday beckoned and Syracuse NY did not disappoint, with CSX intermodal, garbage, manifest freights, Amtrak Empire Service and a 2 hr 20 min late Lake Shore Limited, and a steady flow of oil trains with BNSF and NS run-through power. Of course Trackside Treasure is supposed to be Canadian - don't worry, there was still lots of Canadian content. CN covered hoppers, boxcars, and ex-CN COFC flats now carrying the aforementioned garbage. How could they refuse? Watch for an upcoming post (shameless plug).

Speaking of Shameless, Yukon OK's favourite son put on an engrossing two-hour solo show broadcast live from Wynn Las Vegas' Encore Theatre live on CBS last night. Garth Brooks paid homage to his early influences: James Taylor, Billy Joel and George Strait. (Interestingly, as I type this, the Starbucks sound system is playing a version of Bob Dylan's Make You Feel My Love, which Garth also performed.) Surprisingly, the special which capped Garth's three-year run did not include The Dance nor Friends in Low Places.

After a day of shopping and trainwatching that began at nought-dark-thirty, despite infusions of Panera Bread dark roast coffee, all I could think as I propped my eyelids open during the special was I'm Much Too Young to Feel This Damn Old.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Across Canada by Train Order - Westward

In September 1985, I travelled to western Canada aboard VIA Rail. I was travelling on a System Canrailpass ($230), which meant one thing...coach travel! Though I would hesitate to undertake this journey without sleeping car space today, for the adventurous 21 year-old (being greeted on my return to Kingston by my Dad - above), spending several days in ex-CN and ex-CP coaches was not too much to ask.

The conductor and trainman generally rode in the same coach I did. At each crew change, I set about acquiring the crew's used clearance, train orders and bulletins in one of two ways: I would either ask politely for them, explaining my rail enthusiast status, either prior to to or during the crew change, or rifle through the crew four-seater's VIA paper garbage bag after they detrained. These methods worked like a charm, and netted me a nice, fairly complete set of train orders for my cross-Canada route. In my second book on VIA Rail, I included a section called 'Ticket to Ride' that described some of the sights, sounds and tastes of my travels aboard VIA in this era.

Since VIA trains operated over CN or CP rails (and those of Burlington Northern in Vancouver), the orders represented my train's movement over both of Canada's Class 1 railways. Here is a list of the train order sets, by date, route, train number, route segment, railway travelled and train order offices represented, including some interesting orders, accompanied by photos taken en route:

September 16, 1985:
The Montreal and Toronto sections of VIA's Canadian (Nos 1 and 9, respectively) were combined at Sudbury. 
VIA No 1 Montreal QC-Winnipeg MB
CP Ottawa 
CP Renfrew
CP Chalk  River (meeting CP eastbound freight No 492 Eng 5797 at Hodgson)
CP North Bay (including Lucky tie crane - below)
CP Cartier
The orders from No 9 Toronto to Sudbury were also added to my set:
CP Parry Sound - at Reynolds
CP Burwash

I missed overnight crew changes i.e. Sudbury and Chapleau, White River and Schreiber
September 17, 1985:
VIA No 1
CP Thunder Bay ('loose caboose' CP 437188 equipped with train order signal at Niblock- above)
CP Ignace (Boarding car CP 412592 equipped with train order signal in siding at Hawk Lake)
CP Kenora
CN Kenora (including trains to CN Pine Falls Sub. This was a unique though not unheard of instance of CN and CP clearances being issues by the same operator - in this case MacFarlane. The CN clearance included orders for CN's Pine Falls Sub in Winnipeg, which the Canadian reached via a short connecting track from CP Manson to CN Pine Junction for the run over the Pine Falls Sub and St Boniface high line into Union Station)
At Winnipeg, three westbound trains were under the trainshed: No 93 Engs 9163-9158 to Churchill , No 7 Eng 6306 from Capreol, and No 1 Engs 6305-6625 to Vancouver. I stopped over in Portage la Prairie MB to visit relatives there.
September 21, 1985:
VIA No 1 Portage la Prairie MB to Vancouver BC (had to sleep sometime)
CP Field BC (two order 602's, one amending the Eng number on dimensional shipment train- above)
CP Kamloops (Engines VIA 6541-6613-6304-15 cars)
CP North Bend
BN clearance was also issued by Opr Basra at North Bend, to C&E No 16:
September 23, 1985:
VIA No 4 Vancouver BC-Edmonton AB
CP Vancouver
BN Vancouver (to Psgr Extra VIA 6311 South)
CN Vancouver
CN Jasper AB
CN Edson AB
September 24, 1985:
VIA No 5 Edmonton AB-Prince Rupert BC
CN Smithers BC (above)
CN Terrace BC
The next post, Across Canada by Train Order - Eastward will include train orders from the return trip eastward from Prince Rupert....until then, here are the westward and eastward clearances for my trains through Terrace (above).

Running extra...

An eventful week on VIA: Montreal St marsh fire Monday delaying trains up to three hours, two RDC's tailing No 657 Thursday possibly on their way to Prince Rupert service, and I'm looking forward to sampling VIA's new Business Class meal service this coming Monday.

VIA has scheduled many upcoming trips this winter between Jasper and Prince Rupert using RDC's. Spectacular scenery, but the refurbished RDC seats don't turn, so passengers will be able to see where they've just been. Then there's the overnight stay in Prince George. Watch for an upcoming post with scenic views of my daytime coach trip...it's a lonnnnnng way down from some of the bridges!

Fire up the Keurig! Recently purchased by the sale of some um...assets, a new Keurig at work bookends the home Keurig to ensure kontinuous kaffeine konsumption. A plethora of blends, and more roast options than Dean Martin! Tim Hortons and Folger's are advertising their Keurig-kompatible products on TV. It's a koffee klatsch kornucopia!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Then and Now: VIA at Kingston 1979-2013

A recent August evening visit to Kingston's VIA station got me reflecting on some of the changes in passenger locomotives and rolling stock that have served our city over the decades. The physical plant hasn't changed much, as an earlier post on Kingston platform scenes reveals. Those darn light standards are ever-present, and they loomed large even on the cover of my first book on VIA Rail, except at the extreme east end of the platform:
As I stood on the platform photographing the evening VIA trains in August, my mind wandered back (dissolve graphics) to earlier years when, as a younger (sometimes much younger) railfan I photographed FPA's, F-units, LRC locomotives and more. In this post, I've tried to match the Now photos with Then photos taken at the same angle with trains heading in the same direction, then cropped them to heighten the experience. This post is a bit photo-heavy, so I'll keep the captions to mostly train information and let you reel in the years....
As I suggested in previous Then and Now posts, you might enjoy clicking on and opening the Then photo in one window, the Now photo in another, then toggling between them to melt away the years and compare the venerable VIA vistas. Eastbounds approaching Counter Street on the south track of the Kingston Sub:
NOW: 902 leads No 644's three cars
THEN: From top - 6502-3249-5468 at 1247 on November 25, 1985, 6919-3474-3313-3396 at 0941 the same day, 6780-6860-6519-CN 4105 with a 15-car Capital on Good Friday April 13, 1979.
Westbounds on the north track:
NOW: 915-903 lead a three-car No 657
THEN: 6442 leads No 63 on April 14, 1991.

Westbounds heading uphill out of town westward on the north track:
NOW: No 657
THEN: Blue & yellow consist, 1984.

Westbounds arriving on the north track at Counter Street crossing:
NOW: No 657
THEN: 6760-6637-CN3121 at 1859 on April 29, 1979

Rolling stock of the day:
NOW: Rebuilt Renaissance paint scheme coach 3331 on the tail-end of No 64
THEN: CN-painted club car, equipped with marker lights and VIA stepbox, 1981.

Eastbounds crossing Counter Street:
NOW: No 46 Eng 913 leads four LRC cars
THEN: 6780-6867-6612 and 11 cars with Waterton Park on the tailend as No 2/44/54 meet westbound No 53 behind 6534-6630 and 7 cars at 1144 on November 27, 1982 and 6525-3034-103-5452 at 1302 on March 3, 1986. The Canadian was the only western transcontinental train operated by VIA by this time, so excess stainless steel cars were used in Corridor service.


Westbounds making a station stop:
NOW: No 65 with 6417
THEN: Preparing to head back to Toronto, mid-afternoon 6110-6001-6114-6204 on February 15, 1981

NOW: No 65 is away from the station. Interestingly, the locomotive is where longer, two- and three-unit power consists used to come to a halt while making their station stop.
THEN: A VIA/CN unit leads an MLW power consist while passengers entrain and detrain.

Darkness falls on Kingston:
THEN: Ditch light-equipped 6513 leads a four-car eastbound as my Dad also notes the consist in 1986
NOW: No 650 Eng 907 terminates its four-car stainless steel train at Kingston
THEN: Last Cavalier No 58 January 16, 1990 6914 is handling the eight-car, unwyed consist solo, as did 6925 on the last westbound No 59 with seven cars.


I hope you've enjoyed wallowing in VIAstalgia as much as I have. While the platforms and infrastructure have changed very little since the station was opened in 1974, the trains operated by VIA certainly have. This has given observers like us a chance to easily compare the trains in familiar surroundings, over the decades. Kingston is still a great place to watch and photograph trains!

Running extra...

On my VIA book blog (see top of right sidebar), there is an opportunity for free books to celebrate the 500th copy of my first book, Trackside with VIA - The First 35 Years. A best-seller in Canada is 5,000 books, so 500 seems to be a pretty good start!

I subscribe to Seth Godin's blog. A recent post resonated with me. Seth was describing the many spoon-fed experiences available today online, comparing them to being behind a velvet rope at an amusement park. In urging his readers to look deeper, Seth wrote, "The best opportunity you've got to grow and make an impact is to seek out the 'I don't get it' moments, and then work at it and noodle on it and discuss it until you do get it. Analogies and metaphors are your friends. Dense lyrics, almost undecipherable prose, mysterious successes - these are the places where you will leap forward."

Monday, November 11, 2013

Elephant Elevators

Cominco Fertilizers Elephant Brand bulk fertilizers were sold to farmers from unique turquoise-coloured elevators that dotted Manitoba. These elevators consisted of an elevating leg and bins with a covered truck-loading pipe. (So though the title is Elephant Elevators, this post has little to do with perpendicularly positioning a pachyderm.) Often, but not always sited on town elevator tracks beside larger grain elevators, these green gems were often found at multi-elevator shipping points served by CP,  one-time owner of Cominco. MacGregor (above and below).
Manitoba locations that hosted Elephants (*photos included in this post/ **still standing):
Altona, Arborg, Brunkild*, Hamiota, MacGregor*, McTavish**, Minto, Niverville**, Oakville*, Portage la Prairie*, Waskada, Westbourne*.
Some locations included covered storage sheds or Quonset huts, such as Munro Farm Supplies served by CP in Portage la Prairie (above and two below in 1980-81, other photos in this post taken in 1984)

Some 'double' elevators were actually enlarged versions of the single Elephant elevator, with a truck loading bay, such as Oakville. The competition, Engro, was set up right next door.
Notice the elevating machinery at rear of Oakville's Elephant elevator. Carloads of ties from CN's P-811 tie machine were stored here in 1984, along with a CN speeder:
Westbourne's plant (three photos below) was also operated by Munro Farm Supplies. Munro Shur-gro now operates several fertilizer locations in Manitoba.
For modelling purposes: notice the signage on the elevators, including the Elephant logo and sometimes the name of the operating agency. Radio antennae and lightning rods sometimes surmounted them. A wide variety of vehicles were usually scattered around: tank trucks, hopper trucks, trailers, pickup trucks, tractors and augers. Coverall-wearing figures should also be working or lounging.
Scribed styrene can be used for siding and roof, with Penn Central-like turquoise paint in fresh or faded shades, all atop a poured concrete floor. My HO scale model served for many years, but did not survive the transition from Prairie to Vancouver modelling intact!
Randy O'Brien kindly sent an updated photo of the Brunkild location which I'd earlier included in a post on modelling the built environment of the Prairies. Now operated by Golden Plains Agro Inc. the double elevator was in disrepair when he photographed it in 2008. The Prairie winds had done some damage:
These Elephant elevators would be compact, colourful, easy-to-model additions to any Prairie layout's elevator track. With a relatively small footprint, Elephants could be placed against a backdrop, or even in the foreground of a narrow shelf layout. Here are some logos from print advertisements, plus my own humble hand-drawn, now faded facsimile (top middle of scan):
Munro Shur-gro still has an Elephant elevator at one of its locations: Westbourne. (Munro Shur-gro website photos) Westbourne's Elephant Brand sign has Agrium lettering along its top:
MacGregor's Elephant elevator was still standing in 2009 (below), though it's now been replaced by a modern, six-tank facility.
UPDATE: Other Elephants are stampeding in...Elijah noted Rosetown SK in his comment. Jason Sailer from Lethbridge provided a link to Jim Pearson's Vanishing Alberta site. Instantly, on Jim's Feed and Seed page, I found Elephant elevators in Bentley, High River, Standard, and Three Hills; Pincher Creek's still stands. Randy O'Brien added Moose Jaw SK, Carman and Souris MB. Here's one of Randy's photos of Eatonia SK, taken in 2009. This is a slightly different design, without the cupola, but with combined signage:
Running extra...

Why so many yogurt commercials? It's mostly (if not all) Greek to me. How did we survive without it for so long? This incredibly healthful, pro-biotic gooey substance is one floor up from tofu, but it seems to have snafu'd many consumer dollars, not to mention advertising dollars. Well, at least it provides us with some culture. Speaking of health promotion, watch out for this (click to enlarge):
Yo, go Business Class! VIA has just instituted its new meal service in the 3400's - appetizer and entree together. Dessert and buns smaller, and sometimes no hot towels or napkins. Read a couple of recent reports in my Fast Food and Trains blog in the right sidebar. Thanks to Sean for the advance scouting reports, complete with near-Swiss-timing annotations. A more dedicated professional correspondent there may not be.

It's fall, and a recent Jim Parker photo in my Inbox showed a classic New England image - Delaware & Hudson U-boat 709 with leaves stuck in the rear air intakes after a few trips through an Appalachian autumn: