Senior VIA News Editor (East) Tim Hayman

VIA News Co-Editor (West) Terry Muirhead



On February 26th, VIA Rail train #92 enroute from Niagara Falls to Toronto, derailed at Burlington, ON, killing three in the locomotive cab, and injuring one employee and a number of passengers on board. VIA #92 had departed Niagara Falls at 14:06 hrs and was destined for a 15:39 hour stop in Oakville.  After a stop at Aldershot, and traveling about 40mph they were increasing  speed up to the posted 85mph track speed, when suddenly (Rebuilt) VIA F40PH-3 6444 and all of the five VIA LRC cars (including one rebuilt LRC) derailed. The locomotive and first car were overturned, and the subsequent cars were off the tracks to varying degrees.

The two locomotive engineers, Ken Simmons, and Peter Snarr, both veterans with over 30 years experience, were killed in the derailment. Additionally, Trainee engineer Patrick Robinson, who had several of years experience as an engineer elsewhere and was now in his familiarization period with VIA, was also in the locomotive cab and lost his life.  The impact of this tragedy has been felt throughout VIA Rail and the railway community across the country. It is another reminder of the respect deserved by the men and women who work every day to keep the trains running all across the country.

We at CRO, express our heartfelt condolences to the families, friends, and coworkers of the engineers who lost their lives in this horrible accident.  You may read more about the VIA crew, by clicking HERE.

Although the loss of life to the locomotive crew was tragic, there were fortunately no fatalities among the passengers on board, and most suffered no more than minor injuries. There were 75 passengers on VIA 92, many of whom were taken to hospital with varying degrees of injury. By midnight, most passengers had been discharged, with only a few in more serious condition in hospital. The more severe injuries included broken limbs, one passenger with a back injury, and one who suffered a heart attack.

The cause of the derailment will be determined through the course of a Transportation Safety Board investigation, which could take a year to be completed. CN, who owns the tracks in the area, and VIA Rail, will both be conducting their own investigations. The train had just switched to the south track before derailing, and the lead truck separated from the locomotive which may suggest preliminary speculation about the cause, but it is still too early to know for sure. CRO will continue to update our readers with details as the investigation proceeds. 

VIA customers traveling the next day on the line from Toronto to Niagara were transferred on buses, with GO Transit service originating and terminating at Burlington, ON for a short period. GO Bus service operated in each direction between Burlington and Aldershot. The derailment also caused major backups to CN as over 30 freights pass through daily.


For more information, photos, and videos: CLICK HERE  and  HERE

New video of VIA #6444 being righted on February 28th and rerailed, revealing the severe cab damage HERE

UPDATE: As CRO went to press, the TSB had concluded that excessive speed was the cause of the derailment, and are recommending installation of Voice data recorders in the cab The train was negotiating the mainline crossover at four times the speed limit  traveling 67 MPH (108km) instead of the posted 15MPH (27km), causing the locomotive to sway violently from side to side, and then derail at speed.    


The VIA Rail F40PH-2’s at CAD Railway Services for rebuild as of February 17th, and listed in their expected order of release are:

VIA 6428, 6413, 6421, 6420, 6424, 6414 (Loto Quebec), and 6445 (Coors Light). VIA F40PH-3 6446 was released from CAD in late-January 2012.

Currently, there are only seven VIA F40PH-2’s left “in service” the old paint scheme.  The numbers are 6408, 6415, 6427, 6435,  6440,  6451, and 6453. 

One of the last F40pH-2’s still wearing old paint, VIA 6440 is shown westbound with a seven-car Ren set at Belleville, ON Feb 6th.   (Ron Visockis)

Dan Tweedle caught Train 92 after rounding the curve at CN Snake with rebuilt F40PH-3 6425 and four LRC cars on January 26th.

Ron Visockis submitted photos of VIA #60 passing the new station still under construction at Belleville, ON January 29th.

On February 23rd Ron's shots show progress on the new VIA station in Belleville, ON.

Work is underway to get passenger rail service to Peterborough, Ontario restored and four potential companies are bidding for the opportunity. In spite of potential cuts to service at Via Rail, VIA is still very interested, and there are three other Canadian firms also interested in operating the passenger service on the route.  While VIA is a strong choice, it will come down to the best service at the best price.  Malcolm Andrews, a spokesperson for VIA says it's too soon to say who would operate the line. If VIA is approached, such a proposal would have to be discussed with the shareholder. For VIA to consider adding a new route, he says a business case would have to be presented that would have to show it would contribute to the bottom line, meaning it would have to fit within the company's operating funding. This funding is closely linked to its five-year corporate plan, which is approved annually by the government. 

Jason Jongen reported on February 2nd, VIA #2 at Washago had two Rocky Mountaineer domes between the units heading for Toronto, and destined to North Bay for RMR repaint.  The “Canadian” consist included: VIA F40PH-3 6433, RMR 9521 Dome Coach and RMR 9506 Dome Coach VIA F40PH-3 6412, 8602, 8101, Skyline 8507, Diner Kent, Drummond Manor,  Cabot Manor,  Craig Manor, Butler Manor, and  Kokanee Park. (Shots of these cars appear in CRO SHORTLINES).

The LRC rebuild program is moving along nicely, and more IRSI refurbished LRC coaches are now in service.  Michael Berry caught a VIA eastbound stopped at Dorval, QC on February 5th with  VIA F40PH-3 6446 leading  four LRC cars, three of which were refurbished and in new paint (3347, 3328 and one unknown #). Note that 6446 is now sporting a unique new plow, on top of the standard F40 plow.  Chris McMahon noted LRC car 3331 was released from IRSI in Moncton NB on February 24th, and was sent on the rear of VIA #15 to Montreal.

On Feb. 25th, it was reported that VIA’s ex-“Northern Spirit” sleepers are ready to leave Winnipeg for transport to Mexico, and were expected to go by CN to BNSF in North Dakota before the end of the month. Two of the sleepers are now lettered FXE 15007 and 15008. The Northern Spirit cars were ex-Amtrak 10-6 sleepers purchased by VIA in 2004 (after a four year lease) for use on the Winnipeg-Churchill route. Painted in a unique scheme with a solid blue band through the windows and each carrying the image of different Canadian arctic animal, the Northern Spirit sleepers were poor performers and were withdrawn from service around 2006. Since then, they had sat idle until their sale to Ferromex.  

More information about the sleepers, along with some great photos of them stored at the Winnipeg Maintenance Centre, can be found at Steve Boyko’s blog: CLICK HERE

VIA RDC-1 6135 is currently stored unserviceable in Sudbury, ON, after arriving in Sudbury in mid-December where Diesel Electric Services discovered major coolant leaks and one engine seized. The other VIA RDC-1 6148, is fully operational but had also arrived from Toronto with major coolant leaks, which are now repaired.  It may be while on Vancouver Island or while stored in Vancouver, these Budd cars were not drained properly.  VIA RDC-1 6135 is now on the storage track at Sudbury, ON and may become a source for parts.   On February 19th, Dan Tweedle shot VIA 6135 at DESX.

On February 4th, Duane Cooke caught VIA #1 backing into the Vancouver, BC coach yard, from the Terminal Avenue (Grandview) Viaduct.  On this day, the “Canadian” was running just under 2 hrs late.  This area used to be known as Vancouver Jct., is now called Burrard Inlet Jct. The cut trackage to the right of the 6456 used to be the lead that took trains into the long gone Burlington Northern Vancouver Yard. The west leg of the wye at Vancouver Jct. connected with this track just past the fourth coach on this train. Track that curves off to the bottom left is unused and used to serve the  Terminal Ave warehouses as far as the old CN coach yard. (almost at Station Street).



VIA #1 is shown with rebuilt F40PH-3 6456, and standard VIA F40PH-2 6451 backing towards the station platform and passing the (Vancouver Maintenance Center) VMC, where VIA 6416 sits in the background. 

Duane Cooke also caught Amtrak train #510 arriving from Seattle and heading into the coach yard past Burrard Inlet Jct.  Amtrak P42 #1 is on the south end with #469 on the north end.   Immediately following Amtrak's arrival, a late 11-car (9 revenue and two D/H's) VIA #1 backed into the platform tracks which would have made for a very busy morning at Pacific Central Station with two passenger trains arriving within 10 minutes of each other.

VIA Rail’s Capital Investment Projects

As usual, we encourage you to check out the updates at VIA Rail’s frequently updated and rather railfan-friendly Capital Investment Projects page:


Noteable updates this month that are worth checking out include updates about the brand new Panorama Lounge at Toronto Union Station, which is now open to the public (the official opening of the lounge will be March 12th), more information about the RDC general overhaul, with some neat new interior photos, as well as continuing on in the LRC overhaul process, and a new "Ask VIA" video answers segment continues, with VIA "expert" Jacques Leclerc answering some fan questions about stations.

Also recently added are a feature article about the equipment VIA uses to build and maintain its tracks, an image gallery of a new bridge at Hutchison Road, an article about what makes materials used inside a car "train-worthy" (i.e., safety testing), an update on the Windsor, Ontario Station construction, and an article about VIA’s addition of smartphone ticket booking.  

Lots of neat stuff that’s well worth checking out, and continues to be updated every week.


Ron Visockis submitted this great VIA VIGNETTE, showing the CN (Montreal) Pointe St-Charles passenger diesel shop awash with CN RS18’s, and VIA FPA 4’s FPB4’s, FP9A’s and Budd’s on July 23 1977.

Under a grey, damp and snowy day in Montreal QC in 1989, a pair of CN Boxcab electric Z-1-a’s 6713 and 6711 having just pulled in to the pocket track at Jct de l’Est on the Mont-Royal Sub, are awaiting the imminent departure of VIA FP9Au 6311 (nee-CN 6529) with train 133 bound for Jonquière QC. The normal routine at the time was to attach the Boxcabs on the northbound diesel powered passenger trains from Central Station and run them through the ‘non ventilated’ 3 mile long 0.6% grade Mount Royal tunnel.  This service spared the onboard train passengers as well as the patrons at Central Station of the diesel smoke.  Over the years Montreal has seen its share of neat rail operations but I think this had to be the last and arguably the most eclectic one too, in fact they even used these same venerable Boxcabs on Via’s Budd RDC operated trains as well!  Unfortunately with the retirement of the CN Boxcabs in 1995 as well as VIA’s F unit fleet, this scene has now been filed in the Bygone Era category.  To think for a number of years you could see Boxcab Electrics built in 1914 hauling steam heated F units!!  All but a distant memory….Today not much remains of this scene; the poles have been gone since 1995,  new tracks have been layed, and CN 6711 now resides at Exporail (Canadian Railway Museum) at St-Constant QC,  VIA FP9Au 6311 now works on the Washington and Idaho Railway at Marshall, WA,  the 6713 unfortunately never managed a  preserved fate, and was retired and scrapped  at Cadrail in 1995.  (Kevin Dunk photo)

Jeff Keddy caught pre-rebuild VIA F40PH-2 6444 leading the “Canadian” on Jan. 27th, 2008 at Indigo, MB. This is the locomotive that derailed in Burlington, Ontario February 26th, 2012.

© CRO March 2012