VIA News Editor (East) Tim Hayman:
VIA News Editor (West) Terry Muirhead:
VIA LOCOMOTIVE ROSTER UPDATES – AUGUST 2011.
The third and fourth rebuilt LRC coaches have been released from IRSI in Moncton, and one of them is now in service between Montreal and Quebec City. Coach #3319 entered service in early August, and joins 3315 and 3317 as the first rebuilt LRC coaches to enter service. Meanwhile, rebuilt LRC 3328 was released from IRSI on August 12th, and moved to Montreal. Several Montreal-Quebec trains have been running with 3315-3317-3319 all together in the consist. As the power for these trains is often a rebuilt F40, these trains have been missing only the club cars to be fully rebuilt consists. It is still unclear when the first rebuilt LRC Club car will be released.
On July 11th David Morris took this sequence of photos showing VIA trains No 15 and No 14 (“Ocean” MTL – Halifax) meeting at Painsec Jct, in New Brunswick.
No 14 consist: F4o’s 6444, 6433, Renaissance cars 7003, 7223, 7222, 7226, 7217, 7309, 7400, 7314, 7502, 7508, 7500, 7521, 7518, 7526, 7512, 7600 and dome/obs “Revelstoke Park”
No 15 Consist: F40’s 6425, 6436, Renaissance cars 7009, 7220, 7108, 7227, 7208, 7312, 7402, 7308, 7517, 7520, 7507, 7506, 7513, 7504, 7602, and dome/obs “Assiniboine Park”.
On July 6th, Andre St-Amant took this shot of VIA #601/603 ''Montréal-Jonquière''/''Montréal-Senneterre'' at Shawinigan, Québec
RBRX F59PH 18522
RBRX F59PH 18521 *
RBRX F59PH 18520 *
Coach 8146 *
Coach 8145 *
Baggage 8620 *
On August 1, 2011, at 2133 hrs (1 minute ahead of time) VIA #48 East arrived at the VIA station at Smiths Falls along Victoria Avenue. The accompanying photograph of VIA 48 East with locomotive 6427 is the last photo of a passenger train stopping to detrain and entrain passengers at this station, putting an end to 124 years of constant service at this location. VIA trains will still go by the Victoria Avenue station but will not stop, choosing the new VIA station/shelter on Union St. on the outskirts of Smiths Falls. Although the new station is little more than a shelter, it does offer more modern amenities, and according to VIA, it’s new location will allow for more efficient train movements through Smiths Falls, and fewer delays. On this day, #48 was under the care of Service Manager Joe DaSilva who was delighted to be part of the historic milestone as he collected and signed the ticket to Rian Manson, the last passenger of record entraining at Smiths Falls CPR station, Victoria Avenue. Rian says the ride was flawless, and he was treated to VIA 1 service.
As VIA is still waiting for their new RDC-4 6251 to be completed by IRSI in Moncton, VIA have transformed RDC-2 6205 into an all baggage Budd car to load canoes, bicycles and camping equipment for trains on the Sudbury-White River route. The car had its seats removed, but has not received any external modifications. Having not been designed for baggage service, 6205 has no baggage doors. This means that baggage must be loaded through the vestibule doors, presenting the same difficulties that have faced the Renaissance baggage cars. Understandably, maneuvering large baggage such as canoes and bicycles through the vestibules is rather difficult. The fate of 6205 will be determined after RDC-4 6251 is delivered.
The release of VIA RDC 6251 (ex-CP RDC 9251) was delayed from the IRSI Shop in July, due to additional minor modifications and adjustments that had to be made to the car. It is expected to be completed in early August, and in service with VIA by the middle of the month. When it enters service, this RDC-4 will bear a VIA Rail number (in the 6200 series) for the first time in its history.
IRSI's leased 6202 continues to serve on the Sudbury-White River line with 6250. Reliability has been a real concern in recent times on this run, with equipment trouble frequently resulting in the cancellation of trains 185/186. On August 16th, Trevor Wiley caught VIA 6202 arriving in the yard in Sudbury and passengers await to board the magnificent train, it will depart 10 minutes late and will meet a 110 at Levack
VIA F40PH-2d 6408 and 6445 are still sporting their Coors Light “Silver Bullet Express” graphics, although 6408 has recently had VIA Rail logos added. 6408 now sports two small “VIA Rail Canada” logos on each side, and two small black “VIA” logos on either sides of its nose. 6445 is, at this time, still devoid of any VIA logos.
On August 12th, VIA Rail closed its station in Victoria, BC. The city is preparing to replace the current Johnson St Bridge, which provides the only rail access to the station, with a new bridge that will not include a rail component. Although there are hopes that the remaining funding needed to restore VIA Rail service on the Victoria-Courtenay line will be secured in the near future, any future passenger rail services in Victoria will require the construction of a new station, at a new location.
On August 15th, VIA Train #60 was stopped at Cobourg, ON, for approximately 40 minutes after a passenger on board the train allegedly claimed to have a bomb in his luggage. The train was met by police and emergency crews, and the luggage was removed from the train and searched. Finding no explosives, the man was remanded to police custody, and the train departed.
In mid-August, VIA began a new strategy for marking the end of trains. According to current Transport Canada regulations, marker lights are no longer required on the end of a train. For this reason, VIA has begun removing the markers from its LRC coaches as they are rebuilt, and unlike the prototype F40 rebuild 6400, new F40 rebuilds do not have red markers. VIA had begun replacing these with a single reflective red dot on the ends of coaches. However, they have now started using a new system. A small reflective red “paddle” is inserted into the coupler of the last car on the train, to serve as the marker. VIA editor Tim Hayman took this photo of one of the new markers on the rear of Train 85 as it departed Kitchener, ON, on August 12th.
Two of VIA Rail’s newly refurbished Park Cars are in service at the moment on trains 14/15 The Ocean. Tremblant Park and Revelstoke Park now feature new interiors, with black and orange leather seat upholstery (in lounges and the dome), new carpets, and the ceilings of the bullet lounge and dome have now been painted black. The extent of the refurbishment has been almost entirely inside, as the only exterior modification has been the addition of the newer “VIA Rail Canada” logos. Revelstoke Park still features it’s bizarrely capitalized name lettering, spelled out as “ReveLstoKe ParK”. Perhaps someone at VIA thought it was amusing enough to leave it that way!
Last month, CRO reported on the July 29th collision between VIA Train 71 (led by P42 915) and a pickup truck at a crossing near Glencoe, ON (http://www.canadianrailwayobservations.com/2011/aug11/aug11via.htm), which derailed the locomotive and all of the LRC passenger cars. There were only minor injuries to passengers and crew, but the driver of the truck later died of his injuries. [insert name of photog] submitted these excellent photos of VIA 71 following the collision, showing the damage to the locomotive and tracks.
Amtrak “Maple Leaf”
Since 1981, Amtrak and VIA Rail have been jointly running the Maple Leaf service between New York and Toronto. Although the train has most recently operated with Amtrak equipment, it is operated by a VIA Rail crew on the Canadian side of the border, and an Amtrak crew on the American side. This train marks the only rail connection with the US through Toronto, with the only other Canadian rail connections to the US being the Adirondack out of Montreal, and the Cascades out of Vancouver (both are Amtrak trains). The Maple Leaf crosses the border at Niagara Falls on the Whirpool Bridge, which is owned by the Niagara Bridge Commission. There is a single track crossing this bridge, which is part of the CN line. Some time ago, CN ceased operating freight trains across the bridge, and in May of 2011, issued a formal notice that they would discontinue all service on the Whirpool Bridge. As a result, the track on the bridge is to be abandoned by CN. In order for passenger service to continue across this bridge, passenger operators (namely Amtrak) will have to pay fees to the Niagara Bridge Commission. Sources have reported that these fees are very high, and Amtrak is not enthusiastic about the costs involved. Neither VIA Rail nor the Canadian Government (federal or provincial) have addressed the issue in any formal way, with regards to negotiating better prices or attempting to otherwise entice Amtrak to continue operating this service.
At this time, the future of the Maple Leaf is beginning to be called into question. Although they have made substantial investments in the American portion of the line, Amtrak is concerned about the rising costs of operating the train across the border. If there is no major action taken by VIA Rail or the Canadian Government to address this issue, it is entirely possible that the days of the Maple Leaf may be numbered. CRO will continue to monitor this situation, and report to our readers on any further developments as they happen.
Showing clearly why so many of us love MLW’s, Ron Visockis took these two great shots. VIA FPA4 6780 with VIA and CN cars passes a Westbound freight with a CN Pointe St-Charles Caboose at Coteau, QC on July 21st,1978. VIA FPA4 6775 blasts up a smoke plume as it roars through Coteau, QC August 18th,1983. For some cab breeze, crews often left the nose door open on humid summer days!
In the early 1990s, VIA Rail acquired a number of second-hand Budd coaches from the United States, to be rebuilt for VIA’s HEP-2 program. These cars would allow VIA to retire their ex-CN CC&F blue and yellow cars that were in corridor service at that time. The cars were of various origins, and many were heavily modified from their original configurations into their new HEP-2 set-up.
In 1991, Jon Archibald took this photo in Halifax, NS, of a Budd Coach-Buffet-Lounge car, originally built for the Southern Railway. It's original Southern number was 951. It was inherited by Amtrak, and although never repainted, it was renumbered Amtrak #3851. This particular car would soon be rebuilt into VIA HEP-2 coach #4111.
Here is a link to a photo of 4111, a number of years after its rebuild:
“My LRC Memories”
(Thanks to Carlos Oliviera, Andy Cassidy, and Bruce Chapman)
Some have said the LRC was born on a dare at a coming out party of the Turbo train (built by United Aircraft) between UA and MLW. MLW/ALCO/GE had never had a competitor to the EMD passenger unit because the 4 cycle engine is that much heavier than the 2 cycle. To meet the axle load, MLW came up with the idea of a streamlined aluminum monocoque body. A 12 cylinder engine with a 300 KW alternator in a short body would be needed. Dofasco developed and supplied HS trucks, Alcan the aluminum body and Wabco the brake system, which blended brakes and the fancy Cineston controller. The low profile also reduced the weight. The very low center of gravity helped go around curves and bad track at relatively high speeds (sometimes unintentionally)
The prototype “LRC” (Light Rapid Confortable) numbered “JV-1” was constructed by MLW in the mid-7o’s (with Bombardier getting involved after 1976). The engine underwent intense testing for three years (The prototype at test track at Pueblo, which broke the speed record, and on demonstration runs. The primary customer for the LRC was of course VIA Rail, which in those days was more political than practical. VIA set up the specs and insisted on a 16 cylinder engine. A Canadian General Electric 785 traction motor was used (a shortstack 752). VIA wanted to run a 1-10-1 consist, with HEP from either end, and 30 KW per coach wasn’t enough in their opinion, so 500 KW was specified: A larger alternator would mean a longer unit and they couldn’t make the weight in that configuration, that with the low profile made these locomotives looked longer than most. Two off-the-shelf 250 KW Stanford generators running off the same ring gear saved that space, but they never did synchronize properly, so mostly ran with only one on line. No money was invested to the prototype for a new configuration, and by this time Bombardier was in the picture nobody was going to delay an order for 21 LRC-1 locomotives (6900-6920)and 50 coaches. Into production they went, 21 prototypes. The following LRC-2 locomotives (9621-6930) order in 1982-83 did have mods. In early prototype tests, the 16 cylinder engine took so much air that it sucked the carbody filters out of their frames, allowing snow to pile up in the engine compartment. The air brake piping was too close to the very thin (light) aluminum sides and in rare times tended to freeze in windchill at high speeds. During the early years the Canadian market could not support redesigning the LRC to correct its problems, and the Americans had the “Buy America” act. Even then, it wasn’t a bad effort. The LRC-1 production units managed to outlive the turbo trains which saw only two Canadian winters before they were removed from service, and they’d been designed by aerospace engineers. We weren’t that bad at MLW - Dickson St! The production units did help modernize VIA (coaches till running) oh shoot, remind me to tell you about the train size battery we invented when I see you guys. As well, Bombardier became the world’s leading supplier of rail passenger equipment.
Bob Heathorn submitted these LRC photos:
VIA LRC 6908 with LRC coaches, Nepean ON, 17 June 1982.
The Amtrak LRC test train at Brockville ON, June 1st, 1980. Note the train is on the CP tracks that went behind the current station and a VIA F unit on the far left.
End of the line for the LRC power units (coaches are still in service) Ville St Pierre, PQ, 1 August 1990
VIA LRC 6920, Nepean ON, February 1987
Arnold Mooney caught CN 6542, VIA 6627, CN 3107 departing eastbound out of Toronto Union Station back on April 10th, 1977. The Royal York hotel in the background is already being dwarfed by the Bay St. business boom of the era.
© CRO Sept 2011