Saturday, October 29, 2016

Kingston-Toronto Return Trip, October 2016

A trip to Toronto aboard VIA train Now 651/48 on October 28 began with a dark and chilly departure from Kingston around 0530. The sunrise sky turned a shade of blue-black but there was little to commend to my camera. An early arrival in T.O. at 0814, in advance of the padded-schedule 0825 allowed a quick walk in pursuit of Amtrak's Maple Leaf 0820 departure. Amtrak 182 and five Amfleet cars were on the track we arrived on, just ahead of us and I was able to grab a sketchy video of their departure before that of our consist: 910-4004-4119-4103-4114. Contained by the cold commercial canyon that is Bay Street, an out-of-service Bombardier Flexity five-pak passed, plus some that were in service, along with TTC CLRV's and ALRV's (top photo).
An early afternoon departure on the Union Pearson Express seemed an appropriate avian activity. Some Air Canada tail markings...
 ...gave way to those of Air Transat, WestJet, Rouge, Pakistan International Airlines and even a taxiing China Eastern Boeing 777:
Then it was time to return to Union for a couple of hours on the Skywalk. In two hours, I observed 46 GO movements, 5 by VIA and 12 by UP Express, for a total of 63. That's just about one every two minutes on average. The longest lull was six minutes around 1600! GO's North Bathurst layover yard looked ready for the afternoon rush:
Oh, the ignominy of cab cars having to behave like coaches. And the added shame of an green e-bell on GO 229! I observed 31 'old' 200-series cab cars in this role, plus 29 of the new Bombardier-built 300-series leading or trailing trains. An additional ten high-200-series cab cars were functioning as intended, from 243 up to 257.
The golden glow of the sinking sun is radiantly reflected off the copper-coloured cornucopia of commerce that is the Royal Bank headquarters. Basking in the glow was a pair of VIA consists (perhaps VIA Nos 646 and 68) inbound from Mimico at 1540. Five LRC cars led by 6406:
 (I'm ready for my close-up):
 Budd baggage car 8608 was behind 920 and ahead of five more LRC cars.
Poppy-decalled Business Class car 3463 reminded us that VIA generously supports Canada's veterans, providing a helmet-sized bowl of complimentary lapel poppies at the reception counter of the Panorama Lounge. Baggage car 8608 dutifully trailed into one of the few tracks used by VIA Rail under the expansive trainshed as the CN Tower's shadow spread (left of photo below) acting like the world's largest sundial. Its Canada flag logo is waving the white flag of surrender due to fading. Always there beside me, my shadow refused to leave me alone:
It's challenging to capture four trains at once in a still photo. It looks like four trains just sitting there. It happened twice during my time trackside in the shade of the CN Tower. But a GO double-header happened only once, in this case with 632-603 eastbound at 1709:
I observed 37 600-series GO MP40PH-3C's but only four F59PH's: 558-560-562-563. Apparently only 557-564 are still in service. GO 562 is trailing a 10-car eastbound consist led by 560 at 1722. At 1543, 558 trailed a six-car westbound consist and at 1550, 563 led a six-car eastbound consist.
Do trains talk to each other? If so, greenish-blue 903 had some words with bluish-green 909 before it departed westward with four LRC cars at 1637 as VIA No 83.
Later, 903 discussed matters of the day with 6449 which arrived at the rear of a five-car LRC consist led by VIA 908 at 1645.
Conversations concluded, VIA No 75 departs at 1733 with 903-8622-4002-4001-4106-8112-4122-8104, just two GO movements and one UP movement before my two hours concluded. Time to adjourn to the Panorama lounge for a strong, dark Van Houtte coffee from their counter coffee-maker!
GO Transit passengers flock to their train, as new and old cab cars, 327 and 247 respectively, perhaps also discuss things under the trainshed. Such as, "Why are all the humans on their phones?"
Latest purchase from the Panorama Lounge gift display: a VIA travel mug to replace a brown-stained, paint-peeling but resilient one my daughter bought for me at Mark's Work Wearhouse some years ago.
The mug's dome side (above) and logo side (below) as we await departure. VIA No 48's all-stops Ottawa-bound consist home was a 50/50 forwards/backwards consist: 907-3474Ren-3367-3311Ren-3309Ren-3359-900. The spicy snacks, the cold Heineken, the warm towel, the soulful sole, the caffeinated coffee and the white wine were a fine end to this Friday.

Running extra...

Observed in Toronto:

  • 100th anniversary Toronto Maple Leafs display banners. Still the only Original Six team to have their Stanley Cup-winning photograph in black & white.
  • artistic homage to the Jays ALCS World Series run. Tried to get a picture but it was too big, too high, and Tulo!
  • the tagger paradise that is the UP Express right-of-way. Who needs the Louvre, the MOMA or even the AGO when you have a plethora of tagging styles visible on both sides of the ride?
  • every second person who exits the Skywalk takes a picture of the CN Tower. One guy even lay down on the sidewalk to get his. Once the only way to take in the full sweep of the Toronto railway lands, I now do my trainwatching on terra firma.
Not observed in Toronto:
  • the Play Me I'm Yours grand piano. Renovations to the Great Hall now make walking like a trip through the catacombs, with large swaths ensconced in plastic and scaffolding. The piano must be ensconced somewhere else.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

40 Years Trackside AND 40 Years of VIA!

On February 20, 2016 my wife and I drove three miles west of Kingston to the Amherstview sports field at adjacent to Mi 182 of CN's Kingston Sub. I brought with me a 126-format black & white print that my Dad had taken back on my first day of number-taking, way back on February 19, 1976. The trees on the embankment near the water tower have sure grown in! Here's a November 4, 1978 view of this same location, with fellow rail enthusiast Drew Makepeace perched on fencepost at left to get a good view of CN 4518 and a short westbound wayfreight:
As I mentioned in an earlier post on my 40 years of number-taking, February 19, 1976 was not the first day I'd spent trackside, but it was the first day I'd made a point of recording locomotive, car, coach and caboose numbers! So it seemed fitting to mark the anniversary there and my wife graciously agreed to snap a photo for prosperity:
CN did not see fit to sent a juicy eastbound freight through during our visit, as they had 40 years earlier when my Dad snapped me in number-taking action  near the right-of-way fence:
So what has happened since that first day of number-taking? I included some photos in the previous post showing how I'd initially transcribed, recorded and organized those numbers I'd collected. I have the primary data ("notepads") and the secondary data ("Scribblers") available to me. The notepads contain date, time and direction as well as any other data I noted at the time. The scribblers and binders I have maintained since then are time capsules that are easier to review than notepads and scraps of paper! Graphics guru and Portage modeller Randy O'Brien took those images and made this one, which I sepia-toned to make it look 'vintage'! Randy left my dropped mittens intact... well as putting the 12 year-old and 51-year old versions of me together. Why would I turn my back on a PC-BN-SP freight consist, though? Better to look over my own shoulder at the fleeting freight! And boy, do I wish trains were as interesting to watch now as they were then, instead of endless private owner Railboxes, tanks and hoppers - mainly mundane...
Memories get cloudy. Facts get fuzzy. Recollections relegate reality to the backseat. Data properly recorded and maintained continues to give useful, substantive information for years afterwards. Photos show what happened, but not necessarily what and where. Notes can do that. Handwritten, they are ideally accurate as the hand-eye coordination of the recorder. The number of folks that I've met that DO keep detailed number records, either cross-referenced to their photographs or just as numbers, I can count on one hand. Notwithstanding the business-like documentation styles of some of my family  members - see below!

Since 1976, my transcription has matured to include more detail on each train, and more sophisticated format. I can thereby add information to photos beyond what can be visually gleaned from squinting at the photo itself. But except for the books above, everything remains handwritten. While I can't document every train every day, I have documented large swaths of my trainwatching activities. Most of all, it's the collective, collected data transcribed by one person on his journey along Canadian tracks down through four decades.

And it's not too late for you to start taking down numbers and other facts you observe. Spreadsheets, smart phones and social media do a lot of the work for you. Or just start scribbling in a notepad! I did!

Back in 2010, uberVIAphile Jakob Mueller read some of my VIA consists posted on Trackside Treasure and wondered if I could make photocopies of them. It seemed at least difficult, and at most impracticable due to logistics and the volume involved. So I created a book. Well, not overnight. Around October 2010, I posted an initial post on a blog created to track the progress of this book, then two others. With the constant encouragement and co-operation of Jakob and Jason Shron, the book sold over 500 copies. One purchaser commented to me that it was "just a book of train numbers" and that's exactly what I wanted. Then there were two more:

Arguments - settled! Conflicts - avoided! Truth told, backed up and substantiated! These books serve as bulwarks of realism to the pie-eyed watercolours we sometimes ascribe to the past. Their numbers bolster the unreality of the most undocumented memory. I should also have created a book on the CN freight consists observed over the years. But no-one has asked for one of those, though there has been interest in consists documented in Portage la Prairie, MB during my visits there.

Sometimes out of loss can come great joy. When I created my first book, Trackside with VIA: The First 35 Years, I knew I was missing a few months of consists. Perhaps a notebook had gone astray in the 30+ years between recording the consists and preparing the 73-page spreadsheet of 2,700 consists that comprised this premiere volume in my series on VIA Rail. VIA's Canadian was running between Montreal and Toronto on CN's Kingston Sub, but between December 20, 1981 and May 12, 1982 - I had nothing. The first Canadians I observed were on November 16, 1981.

Exactly two years ago, discovering four consist books that my Dad maintained has been quite a revelation. There are 31 new Canadian consists from the missing months! And a ton of other consists, because the books span the years 1981 to 1986, after the end of the Canadians on the Kingston Sub! Including the elusive "two LRC locomotives leading the Canadian"! VIA 6902-6901 hauled a 13-car No 1/55 on July 22, 1982, returning east with a 15-car No 2/44/54 on July 23, 1982. Then, a couple of weeks later on August 5, CN 9583 rescued No 1/55, with stalled 6900-6625 leading 6863 and 13 cars at Kingston!

And this is just the tip of the iceberg. I'm digesting these newly-discovered consists, formatting them into a fourth book that I am currently creating. As well as these scintillating consists, the rest of the book will include research, recollections and reflection on the 40th anniversary of VIA. Where else would you find this stuff!!?!

Running extra...

Watch for updates on this exciting new book project!

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Pop-up Post: CN Nos 305/376/368, October 2016

It's time for another pop-up post! Freight cars yes, verbose verbiage not so much. CN No 305 at Belleville last Friday, 376 at Kingston same afternoon, then 368 and 305 the next day at Kingston from 50 feet up.
Heritage fun...ALNX 396166
All Crandic'd out, now EAMX
Ain't nothin' like the wheel thing maybe, CN 48960
ECOFABulous - Andersons RMGX 9119 on the tail-end
Lumbering along, CN 598259
SMW 320437 also seen on eastbound on July 12
Paint it black -  TILX 487122
Take a jahb at it...WC 27371
It 's not so easy being green, BN 468210
Neatly-relettered BAEX 1167
If it's AOK with Chris Mears, it's OK with me, former GATX
Been angling for these for awhile, got two
EAMX 454 and 471. Holy Oke, Batman!
Just one shade of grey. Clean CN 382558
CN 598051 on 368
and CN 598237 on 305 - can ya tell I like these?
Thoroughbred pool car NS 469493
No taggers yet TBOX 671847
Send TILX around the bend on the tail-end, Trackside Treasure friend
What he said. Thanks for riding along to the end

Friday, October 14, 2016

Autumn in Belleville, October 2016

As the leaves burned brightly in shades of orange: eye-popping papaya whip, astounding atomic tangerine, and the scintillating cinnabar of vermilion, we headed west to see what CN and VIA sere sending along the leaf-strewn CN Kingston Sub. Well, nothing upon my arrival at Belleville. Crickets chirped as I could almost hear the leaves turning among the churning chlorophyll trackside. But wait! 
At least two autumn shades were visible on the rails: TankTrain orange and TrailerTrail yellow! Ducking behind the well-stored well cars were about thirty TankTrain cars of oil for the Ontario Power Generation Lennox Generating Station eastward down the Kingston Sub at Bath. GATX cars with classic orange/white logo and very small logos. Lifted by Belleville-Kingston turn CN No 518, cuts of the stored cars were taken to Belleville, then east to Quebec for filling before returning west aboard CN No 321 and return to the plant with 518:
Egregiously engaging in some NoTrophy...just across Station Street which parallels CN's Belleville yard's south side, a slightly-overgrown spur leads to Soltex, formerly OMG on Dussek Street where six TEIX, NATX and CBTX tank cars were had been spotted by the Belleville yard crew.
Looking north from Station Street back to the yard; this is one of the few bits of trackage south of the Kingston Sub mainline:
Finally, VIA decided to burnish the rails, sending VIA No 43 Eng 6457 and four cars alongside Airport Parkway at 1013, past the entrance to the Belleville airport, former site of trackage south to the Point Anne cement plant and current site of Strawberry Farms. Look! Google maps still thinks it's double-track! Quinte, Mi 217 Kingston Sub. The crossing gates creak as they descend, but the bells don't ding and the air horn doesn't chime in. Quietest Quinte crossing ever!
Changing tracks as the colours change - check out that majestic, ruddy red maple at right (below). The switch heater awaits its time to shine...
VIA No 61 is next at 1032 with 6418-Poppy bearing 3473-3371-3348Ren-3327R-3344R:
An eastbound VIA hogger gives a friendly toot-toot to the borderline-bored blogger on this Youtube video: VIA No 52/62 with 6401-5 cars-6406-4 cars. But today is TGIF and F stands for Freight. I originally took this photo to see just what kind of freight consist was approaching, but I was perfectly pleased with the scintillating sway-back of the track profile here and kept the photo. It's CN No 305 Eng 2855 at 1115 with a cut of covered gondolas and tank cars on the head-end, submitted for your approval:
Judicious Jim Boyd-esque use of a trackside structure:
How much wood would a DPU push if a DPU could push wood? DP use seems to still be resulting in more than a healthy share of break-aparts, with CN No 368 splitting after the 118th car two nights ago due to a broken knuckle on CC 40124, one of those clapped-out carmine-coloured crappy scrap tie cars that CN insists on fully depreciating, daily dragging their derelict derrieres over the CN Kingston Sub drearily. Just like the IC and CN gons on the other side of fairly-new CN 3011:
Channelling Mark Perry, down at the station after crew change, departing at 1145:
With 122 cars, I was able to note the entire consist: lots of tank cars, auto racks near the tail end, and lumber, though no visible Irving. Channelling the Can Opener during the pull-by:
VIA is preparing for Remembrance Day again, re-applying poppies to Business Class cars for their annual campaign, as yet unannounced for 2016:
Stealer's Wheel had a hit with "Stuck in the Middle [with you] in 1973. I was channelling the 1970s (the 1970s called and they want their channel back!) when I paced CN 3085, the DPU on CN No 376 back into Kingston. "BAEX boxcars to the left of me, BAEX boxcars to the right, here I am, stuck in the mid-DPU". What would Joan BAEZ say? Probably something about diamonds and rust...
Watch for a Pop-up Post on the less-than-mundane freight cars I observed on these trains.

Running extra...

Toronto down one game to Cleveland in the ALCS. I channelled the Rogers Centre offering Trackside Treasure some advertising space. Here's what I'd do. Closed dome:
And open dome: