Thursday, December 30, 2010

Work Blocks

Work on my book is progressing well. How about a six-hour "work block" transcribing consists, which covered the end of F-units up to the advent of Renaissance equipment? Fuelled by Pepsi and leftover fruitcake, my fingers were flying and my neck swivelling by 0215 hours. I settled my brains for a long winter's nap.

With 1981-2008 covered, all that remains is 1976 to 1981, and 2008 to present. These two remaining blocks of time will tie together the alpha and omega of VIA's existence, linking a CN/CP castoff with tired equipment to a modern intercity network with (relatively) new equipment.

I'm starting to work on bonus features, to round out the book and make it more useful to the VIAphile and modeler alike. Happy New Year and highball!

Friday, December 17, 2010

VIA Christmas Consists

I'll be working on my book over the Christmas holidays. To tide readers over, here's a post from my main blog, Trackside Treasure, originally published in December, 2008.

Elvis sang "I'll have a blue Christmas..." How about a VIA blue-and-yellow Christmas? Bing Crosby sang "I'm dreaming of a white Christmas..." Why not a CN black-and-white Christmas?

Extra Christmas ridership usually means that every available car is out of the coach yard carrying passengers homewards and generating revenue. This can lead to some weird Christmas consists. Stormy winter weather, unforeseen delays and heavy passenger loads can make operations unpredictable. Here are some Christmas consists from CN's Kingston Sub, in the CN and VIA eras, each year from 1976 to 1985. Merry Christmas and here's hoping you find some treasure under your tree.
December 24, 1976 1230 E: 3101 - 6633 - 9657 - 5639 - 5394 - 5217 - 5413 - 5423 - 3034 - 5643. Here's VIA 5217 with the early VIA:CN markings:
December 24, 1976 2027 E: (All CN markings) 6537 - 6859 - 3126 - 3109 - 9654 - 5627 - 5589 - 753 - 5589 - 5534 - 4886 - 5588 - 5638 - 5635 - 5471 - 5533 - 2512.

December 26, 1977 1224 E: (Partial consist) 6533 - 3107 - SGU - silver coach (probably one of the ex-Reading Crusader cars that seemed to appear around Christmastime)

December 26, 1977 1302 E: (Partial consist) 6776 - 6871 - VIA 6775 - VIA 9600 - VIA York Club (VIA paint is starting to appear)

December 29, 1978 1330 W (Partial consist) VIA 6516 - VIA 6637 - VIA 6539 - CN University Club - CN 425

December 26, 1979 1545 E (Partial consist) Here's a weird one. VIA even borrowed CP Rail and Ontario Northland coaches for the Christmas rush this year. VIA 6539 - VIA 6621 - CN 5208 - CP 108 - ONR 836. The photo is taken late on a dreary December day, and is mainly presented to show it really happened:
December 27, 1979 1243 W: (All VIA now except as noted) 6761 - 6870 - CN 3112 - CN 5382 - CN 5181 - CN 5491 - 2504 - 5455- Mount Royal Club - Warpath River - 4888 - 5574 - 3032 - 9663. Here's a photo taken the same day of an eastbound Rapido with 6788 - 6624 - CN 3126 and CN baggage car 9604:
December 30, 1979 1546 E: (Partial consist) Another dreary day and another weird one - 6523 - 6635 - CN 304 (silver) - CN 5620 - 5292 - 9483 - Muskoka. This Christmas, VIA was running Toronto - Montreal through trains replacing the normal Toronto-Kingston RDC's:
December 26, 1980 2038 W: CN 4520 - CN 4561 - CN 4560 (stripes) - CN 3118 (stripes) - 15423 - 15473 - 9631 - 5443 - 5449 - 5531 - 2513 - 5298 - 5302 - Empire Club - 3030 - 5652 - 5399 - 5301 - 9632.

December 19, 1981 1203 E: (The Canadian running between Toronto and Montreal, with extra coaches) 6764 - 6619 - 6630 - 612 - Club de la Garnison - 5595 - 5511 - 5654 - 2513 - 5449 - 3215 - 116 - 104 - 507 - 5733 - Chateau Cadillac - Chateau Rouville - Riding Mountain Park.

Here's Club St-Denis, one of the few cars remaining in CN paint, December 1981 - note the steam, stepbox and markers:
Of course lots of passengers means lots of baggage. Here's skis and other items being loaded aboard baggage car 9662:
January 4, 1982 1541 E: 6786 - 6629 - 6521 - CN 3126 - 9603 - Laurier Club - 5726 - 5447 - 5494 - 2503 - 5618 - 5495 - 5558 - 5610 - 2505 - 5634 - 5640 - 5635 - 5517. Here's 6521 MU'd in the middle of that four-unit locomotive consist:
December 28, 1982 1146 E: (The Canadian, again with more coaches than usual) 6532 - 6612 - CN 3118 - 612 - Club de la Garnison - 5545 - 3223 - 5455 - 5519 - 5443 - 3213 - 5627 - 107 - 503 - 5720 - Chateau Varennes - Chateau Brule - Banff Park.

January 8, 1983 1143 W: 6760 - 6870 - CN 15476 - CN 9657 - 5446 - 3037 - 3232 - 5519 - Club de la Garnison. SGU 15476 has a small VIA decal before its number:
December 23, 1983 1551 E: 6786 - 6634 - 5590 - 3219 - 5588 - 5532 - 5750 - 5483 - 5500 - 2503 - 5725 - Chateau Laval

December 21, 1984 1225 W: 6782 - 6865 - York Club - 108 - 5545 - 5486 - 2510 - 5494 - 5562 - 5574 - 3211.

December 21, 1985 1203 E: CN 4362 - 6624 - Tweedsmuir Park (running backwards) - 612 - Boulevard Club - 3210 - 5495 - 5541 - 759 - 117 - 3200 - Chateau Laval - business car 95:
Maybe some CN bigwig was heading home for Christmas, or maybe going to a Habs game in Montreal with some customers...
December 30, 1985 1455 W: 6783 - 6780 - Empire Club - 5516 - 3209 - 5468 - 2503 - 115 - 3237 - 105 - 3231 - 5610.

Running extra...

Looking for a gift that gives enjoyment all year long? I've been fortunate to receive the Bytown Railway Society Branchline - Canada's Rail News Magazine for several years now (thanks D&S!). Each month it brings a wealth of information, photos, recollections and data for the discerning rail aficianado. Check it out at:

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Western VIA Consists

In the 1980's, I made several trips on VIA to Winnipeg, Vancouver and Prince Rupert. I'll be including these consists in my forthcoming book. They've been the topic of discussions on Yahoogroups recently, as group members try to recall the Kingston Sub Canadians of this era.
I'll also include notes on cars that I saw stationed at various VIA terminals: Winnipeg, Vancouver and Toronto. These cars were either in the trainsheds, or in Winnipeg's case, spares or serviceable cars stored in CN's East Yard near the station. The variety of cars was startling: ex-Milwaukee domes, RDC's, minor fleets of second-hand sleepers, and railway business cars.
Above: VIA No 1 at MacGregor, Manitoba. Highball.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010


Wading through 1984-1985 VIA consist notes, would you believe a train with 4 LRC locomotives? My original notes say "two LRC trains operating together". Three LRC locomotives up front, 9 cars and one LRC locomotive on the tail end. Nothing in the notes about why I didn't get a photo of this unique movement though. Then lots of consists with CN 4300-series Geeps and GM F9B's operating together on trains which often included ex-CP stainless steel cars bumped from the Canadian.

It's amazing how many parts a book contains: foreword, acknowledgements, table of contents, ISBN, catalogue data, appendix, etc. All these parts contribute to a quality publication, and will be part of this VIA Rail book.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Canadian consists on the Kingston Sub

The original 1955 Budd CPR Canadian consist was baggage-dorm, coach, Skyline, diner, Manor car, Chateau, Park car. Would you believe near-original consists were running on CN's Kingston Sub in 1983? Except for the ex-CN F's, and sometimes missing the diner, shortened winter-spring consists of VIA train 1/55 were nearly-original. In summer, up to three Budd sleepers were in the train, in winter sometimes just one. And Budd diners were also in evidence.

This is the kind of uniqueness that we're lacking today. But wait, looking forward to the 1990's, there were still some pretty cool consists being operated by VIA, blue & yellow and stainless steel, F40's and LRC's. That's seven years beyond 1983, where I'm currently data-mining. Highball.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Cookie-Cutter Consists

I find today's VIA consists somewhat the same. There's not the variety that existed in the 1980's. Standardization is the new buzzword, and no business wants to maintain product lines and service programs for multiple fleets with different requirements. The LRC consist above as VIA's attempt at standardization. A single fleet, but unlike the earlier Turbo, some flexibility in consist length and options for locomotives at each end.

I've seen some reference to 3-car LRC consists on Yahoogroups, but haven't come across any yet. Witness the single-locomotive 3-car consist above.

I'm transcribing daily Corridor Canadian consists from 1982 right now. It's interesting to see differences in consists from day to day, so I'm including them all. Eastbound consists from Torontoreturn westbound from Montreal the next day, but with an E-series sleeper substituted for a Chateau, or a 3200-series coach substituted for a 100-series. The same but different, remarkably different, and definitely not cookie-cutter. Highball.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Time for Transcription

My fingers are flyin'. OK, maybe that's a bit of an overstatement. In one hour the other night, I was able to fly through two months of 1982 consists, and get them typed into spreadsheet format. I'm making a point of proofreading each page after transcription, to make sure there are no transcription errors from my original notes. Accuracy is important.

Yahoogroups are humming with discussion of LRC-hauled VIA trains of the eighties. These unique locomotives were used in many services, especially just before the F40's arrived. I've got these consists in my notes, and I'd like to share them with potential readers. They'll help settle a lot of unanswered questions, such as did VIA ever run such-and-such equipment together, and can these be realistically modelled on a model railway layout? I call these fantasy consists, and yes they existed and thus can be modelled if desired.

I'd like to finish this book early in 2011, marking the 35th anniversary of VIA. Highball.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Printer and Pages

I met Tuesday night with Bryan, of Allan Graphics here in Kingston. Allan Graphics website.

Bryan will be doing the setup for the book. He knows his way around printing, graphics, fonts and all things book-related. That's good, because I know very little, so I'll be relying on Bryan's years of expertise. In return, he has jokingly assured me he doesn't want to proofread all my content. It seemed prudent to meet before starting the transcription of my consists.

Speaking of content, Bryan's thought on page count was...more. More pages. That means possibly increasing from my initial projection of 50 pages to 60 or 70. So those are my new projections, not promises. I'll have to see how much from each era I'll be presenting to my readers. I took a run through 1976 consists tonight, complete with business cars and open-platform Bedford. Then on to 1986, with lots of overnight Cavalier consists, the variety of which was amazing.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

F is for Format, F is for F-Unit

Before this project gets too far out of the station, it's time to invest some time thinking about readability. This book is going to be data-dense. You want consists and train detail, you're gonna get it. But it's gotta be readable. Nobody should have to break out a magnifying glass, and the book shouldn't be so big that a cart is needed to move it.

At this point, I'm getting two months worth of consists on one page. At that rate, ten years of VIA is sixty pages. More years will mean more pages. One thing is for sure, it'll be packed as full of consists as I can get it. There will be some text to break things up visually. I'll be thinking about column breaks, bullets, shading, font size, all that nuts-and-bolts stuff that separate a readable book from Excedrin headache number 37.

But oh, those 1981 Canadian consists are AWESOME! Highball.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Clear Track Ahead

Just like the Canadian crossing miles of Saskatchewan prairie, the track looks clear ahead. Offers of assistance, expressions of support, and a generally increasing level of interest appear as this project hurtles along.

One thing is clear: VIAphiles, as I'm calling those who share my interest in VIA Rail, represent all eras of VIA. This is something I'll bring to the book. It's not enough to proclaim, "These were the trains of the glory years of VIA...", because this is a question of perception. It seems fair to include all parts of VIA's sometimes tumultuous past, from its inception to the present.

Thanks to all who've expressed interest in this project, along with their unique viewpoints.

Just today I've put together my first draft page. Highball.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Initial indications of interest inundate my inbox

My inbox is brimming with expressions of interest in my new VIA Rail book. I am obviously in good company with some dedicated VIAphiles, including the sterling members of the VIASIG Yahoogroup. Thanks to all who responded in this initial wave from Canada, the U.S and internationally. You are confirming my hunch that it's time for such a project, and you're convincing me to commit my time and resources to its completion. I've thought of getting this information into useable format for my personal use for years now, but I'm increasingly realizing there is an audience, albeit a niche audience, who share my enthusiasm.

As I mentioned in my initial post, the scope/content is something I'm trying to come to grips with. I certainly won't be skimping on the detail. It's all there already. I'll include interesting consists, including the Cavaliers, Royal train and those krazy and kooky consists of VIA's colourful "circus train" era. I'm still interested in which eras interest you. I'm also still interested in ideas on price point. What's it worth to you as a potential reader? Email me at mile179kingstonATyahooDOTca with your idea, in confidence.

Here's one facet of the detailed consists I want to share. For one summer month in the early 1980's, I have 15 consists ready to go listing Canadian consists operating in the Corridor. Absolutely amazing consist combinations and passenger permutations!

Make this blog your one source of information on this project. I'll be posting progress and describing developments as the project rolls on.


Sunday, October 3, 2010

A New Book on track: Consists from VIA's early years

Do you remember the consists of the early VIA years? I do. I have thousands of them. I'd like to share them with like-minded fans of VIA Rail.

I'm planning a new book, unlike any other book written on VIA Rail until now. Here are some some working titles:

-1000 VIA Consists
-VIA Rail Consists...the Early Years
-Trackside with VIA Rail
-VIA Rail 1976-1986

Who will be buying this new book?

-VIA fans
-modellers with an interest in prototypical VIA consists, especially those with fleets of fine Rapido Trains passenger equipment
-photographers who need to know what cars were on that train they photographed in let's say, 1984
-transportation historians
-locomotive and rolling stock enthusiasts
-railfans looking to fill a gap in their book collection

What will this new book look like?

-professionally-printed and perfect-bound 8x11-inch format on 70-lb stock, readable print with clean and neat design
-intense data: time/date/direction, consists including motive power and cars
-consists from across Canada
-special interest areas: Montreal-Toronto on CN's Kingston Subdivision, VIA's Canadian and Super Continental, conventional, RDC and Turbo corridor consists.

There's never been a book like this before. It'll be affordable, unlike many books aimed at the railfan market today.

I'd be interested in your thoughts on this project. What would you like to see on its pages? What might you use it for? Would you buy it? How much should the purchase price be?

Leave a comment below, no registration required, or email me at mile179kingstonATyahooDOTca. Stay tuned for more as I begin work on this project.