Sunday, April 29, 2012

Ticket to Ride

What was it like to ride VIA Rail in its early days?  Lots of people want to know.  I'll be including some stories in my new book.  Train consists, rosters, numbers and dates are one thing, but a railfan travelling on VIA and his experiences are something else entirely.

How about riding a Skyline between Montreal and Ottawa in 1985?  A ride that included a sing-along with a group of seniors travelling from Nova Scotia to North Bay.  Upon arrival at Ottawa Union, the group seems to have headed downstairs to stretch their legs, get some fresh air, or perhaps have a cup of tea.

While this book won't be everything to everyone, there will be something in it for everyone.  

Even one VIAphile's travelogue across Canada and back: picking berries on the way to Prince Rupert, a map-wielding Dutch seatmate and Dutch doors, and a Sudbury Saturday night.


Wednesday, April 18, 2012

GO Figure !

This is a GO train, 1974-style at Toronto Union Station, two years before trains bearing the VIA logo appeared on Toronto Terminals Railway tracks.  GO was leasing ONR streamlined Polar Bear Express coaches, each emblazoned with a small GO logo.  CN provided the motive power, passenger service-geared GP40 4016 and a steam generator.   

Let's do some math illustrating some of the trains running out of Toronto in the 1970's and 1980's: CN + ONR = GO.  GO + Tempo = GO.  GO + VIA = VIA.  CP + CN = VIA.  CN + ONR = VIA.

As VIA began its history, passenger trains provided a rich cornucopia of combinations in a continuum.  The introduction of VIA and its synthesis from CN and CP was gradual.  I hesitate to use the term 'pre-VIA' because that implies there was a definite VIA era.  But the pre-VIA era includes the above photo, and you can expect to see similar deliciously intriguing trains referred to in my upcoming book.  They are entirely topical and genuinely germane to any discussion of VIA's early years.

Thanks to Brian (photo), Christopher and Tom for your support this week.  Much appreciated!


Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Is this train special?

What makes a special train special? The range of non-scheduled passenger trains throughout VIA's history is surprisingly wide.  These include:
-VIA display trains for publicity purposes
-VIA equipment with special paint schemes i.e. Home Hardware, Budweiser
-VIA trains chartered by commercial enterprises or individuals
-VIA equipment rented by railways for special events including steam excursions
-railways using their own remaining passenger equipment for special events
-shared equipment and services, short and long term i.e. CN/VIA/ONR, CN/VIA/GO
-VIA equipment leased by commuter agencies i.e. VIA/AMT
-derailments and equipment failures resulting in the operation of rescue, makeup and hospital trains
The mind boggles.  There are so many special trains combinations and permutations.  Then there are 'Easter eggs'.  Fun stuff just slightly non-VIA in nature, but operating in VIA's operational milieu. And when you find one or many of these trains, as I have while researching my second book, passenger train operations become much more interesting and unpredictable.  

Monday, April 2, 2012


Getting the Space Shuttle into orbit required different types of fuel, for use during different phases of the launch sequence before entering Earth's orbit.  Similarly, I've found that different types of fuelling are required for a book project like this.  First comes the fuel of inspiration.  Next, the fuel of contemplation as the scope of the project takes shape and is organized.  Then, propelling the project forward in some electronic format, and finally, fuelling the whole assembly with data and information.

While there were some issues early on with each of these steps, it's now safe to say that the final stages of the fuelling process are underway.  While my first book was six months in the making, this one has taken a little longer, with about six months already elapsed.  That doesn't mean the project is running short of fuel, in fact the potential energy is building quickly now, while my first book still has plenty of life in it.

Watch for future posts that will describe some of the information this project is being filled (or fuelled) with.  It's gonna be a gas!


Mark Walton photo - 6785 at Ottawa station's fuel rack, December 1983