VIA News Editor (East) Tim Hayman:

VIA News Editor (West) Terry Muirhead:




February 8, 2011, marked the 25th anniversary of one of Canada’s worst rail disasters, the head-on collision of a VIA Rail passenger train and a CN freight at Dalehurst, AB, just outside of Hinton. On February 8, 1986, VIA Rail’s Super Continental and Skeena were running connected as Train 4, having departed Jasper heading east towards Edmonton. At 8:40 am, a westbound 114-car long CN freight failed to stop for a red signal, and collided head-on with the VIA Rail train at over 80mph. A total of 23 people were killed, including the head-end crews of both trains and a number of passengers. As many as 95 other passengers were injured. The cause of the accident was never absolutely determined, but it is believed to be the result of human error. The disaster was tragic, but has led to changes in railway practice that has greatly improved railroad safety today.

The consist of VIA #4 on that day was:

FP7A 6566 - F9B 6633 - Baggage 617 - Coach (Snack Bar) 3229 - Skyline 513 - Sleeper Ennishore - Sleeper Elcott - FP9Au 6300 - Steam Generator 15445 - Baggage 9653 - Dayniter 5703 - Cafe-Lounge 757 - Sleeper Estcourt - Steam Generator 15404

 All equipment ahead of 6300 was destroyed and never returned to service. FP9Au 6300, which started life as CN 6524, was severely damaged. It would later be rebuilt with the cab of Kansas City Southern F7A 4062, and returned to service. Years later, it was assigned to serve as the shop switcher at VIA’s Vancouver Maintenance Centre. Although often sidelined by mechanical failures, 6300 is still assigned to service at VMC, making it the last active F unit on VIA’s roster.

 Tim Ball submitted these photos of VIA 6300, taken by his father shortly after the wreck in 1986 while at the shops in Capreol, ON. The fact that 6300 sustained this level of damage despite being eighth in the train consist, gives a sense of the magnitude of the wreck.

 Throughout this winter season, VIA has once again been operating a single Budd consist on Trains 14/15 The Ocean. However, it looks as though this may be the last winter for this practice, as upgrades to the Renaissance cars are approaching completion. VIA’s online reservation system is now accepting reservations through the first week of January 2012, and all departures up through to that week are currently listed as Renaissance consists. It is unclear if this will change when the season gets nearer.

VIA Rail’s first rebuilt HEP1 Diner, “Emerald”, has been operating as part of the Budd consist on the Ocean this winter. Tim Hayman took this photo of the interior of the newly refurbished Emerald, while riding Train 15 in late December, 2010. The new interiors are really lovely! Also of note, VIA has been running Emerald backwards, with the kitchen facing the rear. On board crews were unable to explain the reason for the change, but they did admit that it threw them off!

VIA Rail has been working on installing a CTC system along the Chatham Subdivision in place of the OCS system previously in place. As of Feb. 1, the work has been completed and the system is operational.

January was a rough month for service on the Sudbury-White River line, as both trains 185 and 186 were cancelled three times during the month. On January 15th, two VIA RDCs (and RDC-4 and an RDC-2, with the RDC-4 leading) struck an MTO truck at the railway crossing at Dog Lake. An article on the incident can be read here:

 Service on the line was cancelled on the weekend of January 14th, citing “mechanical problems” resulting from the aforementioned accident. Both trains 185 and 186 were also cancelled on January 22nd and 23rd, and again on January 27th and 28th. Equipment problems were cited as the cause for each cancellation.

Rob Eull caught VIA #97 running over three hours late through Oakville, Ontario on February 4th, with VIA F40PH-2 6412 and AMTRAK P42 78 with five AMTK coaches. VIA #97 is the AMTRAK “Maple Leaf” between Toronto-New York City (over the CN Grimsby Sub south, and runs with a VIA crew/train number in Canada.  At the Niagara Falls VIA station, Amtrak crews takes over for the remainder of the run to New York City on CSX (ex-CR) trackage.  As the front pilot on the Amtrak GE was slightly damaged, and it had no plow, it had to trail a new lead unit.  The bent snow plow on AMTK P42 78 was cut off  the unit inside the VIA shop, after it apparently got snagged while being  turned on the TMC wye the night before.

At St. Catharines, Ontario on February 7th, Peter D. A. Warwick caught VIA #97 (Amtrak “Maple Leaf”), with double headed AMTK 135 and VIA 902 heading eastbound towards Niagara Falls and on to New York.


From his commuter train passing the Pointe St-Charles test shed on February 4th Pierre Fournier clicked retired VIA 6430 and 6400 only 500-feet from the overhead crane where they be cut up and scrapped.  This may be the last photo ever taken of these. 

The Canadian deadheaded two Rocky Mountaineer cars between the VIA locomotives and Steve Boyko’s photos show the train departing Winnipeg, MB on February 10th with VIA F40PH-2d 6458, RMX 3215 dome, RMX9509 coach, VIA F40PH-2 6428, Baggage 8116, 8502, Diner, Franklin Manor, Rogers Manor, Burton Manor, Chateau Iberville, Evangeline Park.  (2 engines,  cars).


The  Island Corridor Foundation which owns the former Esquimalt and Nanaimo Railway on Vancouver Island has put forth a new plan to rehabilitate the track between Nanaimo and Victoria, switch the terminus from Victoria to Nanaimo and add additional VIA service to the line,' Matthew Buchanan, president of Transport Action reported on Feb. 17. The plan would introduce an early morning run from Nanaimo in the morning appealing to commuters before the traditional departure from Nanaimo, up island to Courtenay. In the afternoon the train would arrive back in Victoria in time for take the Victoria commuters back to Langford, Duncan and as far as Nanaimo. They are asking for the federal and provincial governments to put in $15 million each. They point out that there has already been $30 million in investment around and along the corridor including $4 million in ties, signals, and ballast.  Transport Action BC supports this plan and encourages members and the public to show their support by contacting the BC Ministry of Transportation, the Ministry of Transport, and politicians in charge. The Island Corridor Foundation has put together a list of people to contact.


A former CN Parlor/Lounge car built in the 1950’s by Canadian Car & Foundry (CC&F – Montreal) is for sale from Sterling Rail at a price of $16,700 (US).


A CRO Special Report

What colour are the VIA Rail P42's?

 by Tim Hayman

 VIA Rail’s first GE P42DC locomotives were delivered in 2001, as part of the so-called “Renaissance” of passenger rail in Canada. The locomotives have served VIA well over their first decade of service, but they have also served to create frequent debate in the VIA railfan community. Some have argued that the P42 may be the ugliest passenger locomotive ever built, and others that it may be one of the sleekest and best looking. But the real debate that has raged since day one is: What colour are those darned locomotives?!? Are they blue? Are they green? Do they change colour in different lights? Have they been repainted? Faded?

 This question has bothered me since the beginning, so I have spent many hours scouring over photos of P42s in every conceivable lighting situation and circumstance, from their first days on the job to their current assignments. After much effort, I feel I have come to a reasonable understanding of more-or-less what is going on. My aim here is to try to give some answers to this question, all with the support of photographic evidence.

The Initial Delivery

 When the P42s were first delivered to VIA Rail, they wore a shade of paint called “Pantone 316”. This is a dark, metallic, teal sort of colour. It most definitely has more of a green tinge to it than blue, but it could appear differently in different lighting conditions. This is the paint people generally refer to on the P42s. It’s the “changing with the light” paint. The first photo here shows VIA 908, less than a year after delivery. The paint is very clearly a greenish, teal sort of colour.

 Another photo from 2002, also clearly green:

 However, in certain lights, it could look dark blue. See here:

 Or alternatively, quite dark green:

 The odd-ball in the fleet, when delivered, was 902. 902 received an extra green stripe above the lower yellow stripe. Here’s 902, directly compared to a sister unit:

 Things Start to Change

 As the years have gone by, the P42s have slowly changed from their initial green into a much brighter blue. There are two reasons for this, and both have to do with the quality of the paint. One of the undeniable characteristics of the paint used by GE on these locomotives was its poor quality. This led to many of the locomotives beginning to show visible wear in their paint coats only a few years after delivery, and has also lead to visible fading of the paint. Fading of paint can lead to it changing colour quite visibly (anyone familiar with BNSF’s many shades of pumpkin orange is well familiar with this phenomenon). Pantone 316 apparently fades into a lighter blue colour. So as the paint aged, it started to dull down, and turn blue.

 By 2004 to 2005, this was starting to be evident on some P42s:

 Yet many locomotives still retained an evident green colour:

 In addition to paint fading, it began to chip, peel, and otherwise need replacing. Some units received neat patch-jobs. Here, 920 has had the original paint colour repainted on parts of the nose, showing off how faded the rest of the paint has become:

 As the years continued to pass, some locomotives became visibly bluer and bluer, clearly due to fading, such as 901:

 Yet others appeared in bright blue paint not because of fading, but because of repainting. At some point, it seems VIA decided to repaint faded locomotives into a blue paint that would match the fading colour, rather than the original colour. In 2007, 920 could be seen in poorly patched paint:

 Then in 2008, it was repainted into an unmistakable bright blue:

 Earlier, I posted a photo of newly delivered 908. Well here is 908 again in 2008, undeniably blue after a repaint:

 I snapped a photo of a freshly painted 919 in Brockville in 2009:

 The same can be seen with many of the P42s, and it appears that most of these repaints were done in around 2008. So it seems that VIA had finally decided to go to a nice, bright blue, and repaint all of their units that colour, right? Well, not exactly. In the same year that several units were repainted blue, P42 #917 was being repaired at CAD in Montreal following a fire. 917 was released in 2008, and was clearly repainted from its old colour…but not like the others.

 Here is 917 in 2006, showing faded blue:

 And then in 2008 in fresh paint:

 Green again??

 Here it is, compared directly to sister unit 918, sporting blue (still faded…916 would later get a brighter blue repaint)

 It’s definitely not the same green that the P42s were originally painted in either (compare it to the photos earlier in my write-up that show the original colour). This is a much more distinct green that more closely matches the Renaissance cars, and is an exact match for the green on the newly rebuilt F40PH-2d’s. So VIA, why the change? The answer to this seems to have come in the form of P42 #902. As you’ll recall, 902 was the unique unit in the fleet, with the extra stripe. Then on August 17, 2009, 902 suffered an engine fire while leading train 46 into Ottawa. It was sidelined, and headed to CAD for repairs. When it was released in 2010, it looked exactly like sister 917, and the recent F40 rebuilds:

In this photo of 902, you can still see the original (now faded to blue) paint around the headlight:

Of course 902 is still unique, because no “Canada” word mark logo was applied to the flanks of the locomotive. This is likely because they were not available at the time of repaint.

 The Way of the Future

 So why did 917 and 902 get the green paint? The most likely answer has to do with the fact that they were repainted at CAD. CAD in Montreal repaints the F40PH-2d rebuilds when they are complete. So when they were given the job to repaint the P42s that they repaired, they used the available paint, which was the same green being applied to the F40s.  So there are now two so-called “green-slime” P42s running around on the system, in the midst of a predominantly blue fleet.

So what does the future hold for these locomotives? It is becoming readily apparent that VIA is shifting away from its traditional blue to this new shade of green/teal. The F40 rebuilds, which will form the bulk of the fleet, are all painted in this green colour. The rebuilt LRCs are expected to wear a new paint scheme with that colour featuring predominantly. There have been rumors that when all of the rebuilds are complete, the Budd cars may receive matching green letter board stripes instead of blue.

 The rebuilt F40s also bear the new “A Green Choice” logo on the side of the locomotive, a slogan that is showing up on a lot of new VIA Rail material…could the shift to green as a colour for the fleet be intended to further connect VIA’s image as a green form of transportation? Regardless of the rationale, it seems that it is the direction of the future for VIA’s fleet. The blue P42s are here for now, but it is very likely that they will soon be painted into the same, matching green that will soon adorn most of the fleet.

 The rebuilding and repainting of the F40s has brought about the end of the classic, yellow-faced VIA Rail locomotive. And with the impending shift to this new green colour as the dominant shade for the future VIA Rail fleet, it looks as though the classic blue is also on its way out. Some people may be happy with this change, and many may not be. But there is at least one positive outcome of a shift to a unanimously green fleet: we will no longer have to ask the question…just what colour are those locomotives anyway?


VIA Vignettes:


On the morning of 26 Jul 1981 VIA Train No. 1, the westbound 'CANADIAN' is seen at Cathedral with VIA (ex-CP) 1407, CP 8522 and VIA (ex-CP) 1413; then two and a half days later, on the evening of 28 Jul 1981, the same three units stopped in Field, B.C. with eastbound Train No. 2, 'The CANADIAN'. During the years CP operated The CANADIAN the same units that went westbound to Vancouver typically returned eastbound to Calgary a few days later. This practice ended after VIA took over.  




On June 18th 1979, barely a year after VIA assumed responsibility for passenger service in Canada, Cor van Steenis caught VIA FP9A 6507 (ex-CN 6507) & VIA F9B 6604 (ex-CN 6604) coming into Edmonton's downtown station with Train No. 4, the eastbound 'Super Continental'. VIA 6507 was an FP9A, class GPA-17a, built in Dec 1954 for CNR; retired from the CNR roster and transferred to VIA on 31 Mar 1978.  VIA # 6604 was an F9B, class GPB-17a, built in Nov 1954 for CNR; retired from the CN roster and transferred to VIA on 31 Mar 1978; sold for scrap by VIA in May 1994 to General Scrap of Winnipeg, MB.



Retired VIA FP9A 6507 was sold on Mar 8th, 1995 to Ohio Central Railroad who in turn sold it to Kansas City Southern in August 1995, for use as backup motive power for their business car fleet. It was numbered KCS 4 and named 'Vicksburg'. In 2007, after 53 years in operation, the engine was taken out of KCS service, re-numbered KCS 34, and put on permanent display at the restored Kansas City Union Station; this is what it looked like recently (Dec 2010):


On July 7th, 1981 Cor snapped VIA FP9A  6512 (with VIA F9B  6610 trailing) leading westbound VIA Train No. 3, the Supercontinental, into Edmonton's downtown station. Both were ex-CNR units built in Jan 1955 and transferred to VIA on 31 Mar 1978. VIA 6610 was sold for scrap in 1993 to General Scrap in Winnipeg; VIA 6512 was sold in Mar 1995 to the Ohio Central Railroad who in turn sold it to the Kansas City Southern in Aug 1995 for use with their business car fleet. Amazingly, 6512 is still in use today, 56 years later, as KCS 1.



This is what the 6512 looks like today (Jan 2011) as KCS 1:


© CRO March 2011