Union Pacific Donates 1880 Depot
Union Pacific has donated the depot at Antonito, Colorado, to the town. Constructed in 1880 for the Denver Rio Grande Railroad, the depot is unique in that it was built of locally quarried lava rock. Passenger service ceased in 1951. The depot was listed by the Great American Station Foundation as one of the nation's most endangered depots in 1999. In donating the depot, the railroad's only requirement was that the town construct a fence to separate it from the railroad tracks as a safety measure.
Canadian Pacific Replacing Swing Bridge in Wisconsin
Work has begun on a two-year project to replace Canadian Pacific Railway's swing bridge over the Black River at La Crosse, Wisconsin, with a lift bridge. Built in 1905, the truss swing span will be replaced with a bascule span to improve operations. Work on the $15-million project is expected to be completed in March 2004. Also at La Crosse, workers earlier this spring finished installing a new center pivot assembly on the center pier of a 357-foot swing span over the Mississippi River.
Genesee & Wyoming to Acquire Utah Railway
The Genesee & Wyoming has signed an agreement to acquire the Utah Railway Company for $54-million, subject to working capital adjustments. The Utah Railway, founded in 1912, operates over 400 miles of track from Ogden, Utah, to Grand Junction, Colorado, and interchanges with both the Union Pacific and Burlington Northern Santa Fe. The acquisition is expected to be completed by the end of the third quarter, according to a news report.
Norfolk Southern, Union Pacific Add New Intermodal Service
Norfolk Southern and Union Pacific have announced a new intermodal service that trims up to three days from current transit times on intermodal shipments from eastern cities to Laredo, Texas, and to Mexico. Service originates on NS in Atlanta, Charlotte, Jacksonville, Miami and Harrisburg, and is interchanged with UP at Memphis. UP also offers this service from Marion, Arkansas. Destinations include Laredo, Mexico City, and other major markets in Mexico.
BNSF Forms Logistics Unit
Burlington Northern Santa Fe has announced the formation of BNSF Logistics, LLC. Located in Springdale, Arkansas, BNSF Logistics will offer customers logistics products and services, including network analysis, design and optimization, and a variety of execution services, including multi-modal transportation management, according to a news report.
Amtrak to Repair Wreck-Damaged Cars
Amtrak has begun a program to repair its backlog of more than 100 passenger cars that have been damaged in wrecks. Amtrak president David Gunn said in a news report that the repair program could cost "tens of millions" of dollars, adding that Amtrak is losing revenue because it does not have enough equipment to meet passenger demand.
CSXT Rebuilding CW60AC Locomotives
CSXT has begun rebuilding class CW60AC locomotives, reducing their horsepower and reclassifying them as CW44-6.
New Safety Train Dedicated
[CSXT Midweek Report, August 15, 2002]... CSXT employees, area firefighters and public officials gathered at CSXT's West Springfield Yard on July 31 for the dedication of a new safety train, a near copy of its Victorian-styled predecessor. The original safety train is still hard at work after four years. A self-contained school on wheels, with a converted boxcar for a classroom together with three donated tank cars and a caboose, the train enables firefighters to receive hands-on training with equipment they could encounter in a railroad emergency. The brainchild of former Massachusetts fireman John O'Neill, now an executive in an environmental company, the second train is the result of years of coordination by O'Neill with the companies, including CSXT, that have contributed to it. Last year, about 3000 responders worked with the original train as it traveled throughout the CSXT system. As primary sponsor, CSXT pays many of its expenses and uses the train for classes run by the CSXT Hazardous Materials Systems group across the network. "John's dedication and vision have created two teaching tools of enormous practical value to our community awareness and education efforts," said Skip Elliott, assistant general manager, Hazardous Materials Systems. Later this fall, the second safety train will tour Virginia, Kentucky, West Virginia and Ohio, among other states.. Praise for the safety train comes from many quarters. The Springfield, Massachusetts, Union-News recently published a story saying that "CSXT and the Massachusetts Call Volunteer Firefighters Association unveiled one of their most effective tools to date: a five-car safety train that will travel throughout the Northeast, providing free training to thousands of emergency response personnel during the next year." The train's second classroom car was dedicated at the Springfield ceremonies in the name of O'Neill's son, a high school athlete who died unexpectedly last year.
CSX Managers Meet for Midyear Review
[CSXT Midweek Report, August 8, 2002]... More than 200 senior managers from CSX, CSXT and CSXI met near Jacksonville this week for a review of the company's performance in the first half of 2002 and a look ahead at the drive to become a visionary company. "We are working to transform CSX into a company that is the safest, most progressive North American railroad, relentless in the pursuit of customer and employee excellence," said Michael Ward, CSX president, in his opening remarks. Ward said that CSXT has shown it is a team that can deliver. In the past two years the company has made strong improvements in safety and service, improved financial performance and demonstrated success with pricing and modal conversion programs. "But we've committed to an ambitious goal," Ward said, "and everyone in the organization must be focused on achieving it." The company's BHAG (Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal) is to grow revenue to $8.2-billion by the end of 2004. "This meeting outlines the action plans in place to achieve that goal," Ward added. "Everyone should think about the work they do. If that work is not driven by the initiatives we're describing today and the core values around which they're based, you're working on the wrong thing."
More Jobs for Central Region, CSX Says
[CSXT Midweek Report, August 1, 2002]... Doug Greer, vice president- Central Region, said the good outlook for merchandise freight has CSXT's C&O Division - which includes all (in the region) of West Virginia, and parts of Virginia, Maryland, Kentucky and Ohio - looking to hire people. His remarks were published in the Huntington Herald-Dispatch last week, as the paper sought to find how CSX's positive second-quarter earnings would affect the local economy. "We have 1300 train and engine employees this time of year, down 100 from a year ago," he said. "Our plan calls for hiring 123 conductors and 138 engineers during 2002." Greer said 100 of that 261 would be hired in West Virginia before the end of the year. Greer also told the paper that coal, the key commodity for the region, showed volumes off 10 percent - 38,000 carloads - from their record-breaking levels in 2001. But prolonged heat could restore higher coal traffic over the summer, Greer said, with the assurance that CSXT was prepared to handle additional coal shipments as they come. Greer explained that job availability on the railroad was growing partly because of recent changes to the Railroad Retirement System and normal attrition allowing crew members with 30 years' service to retire at age 60 rather than 62.
AAR Reports Safety is on the Upswing
[CSXT Midweek Report, August 22, 2002]... U.S. railroads are on track to show sharp improvements in most key safety measurements, the Association of American Railroads says after compiling the data for the first four months of 2002. The total number of train accidents was down by 19.4 percent for the first four months of 2002 in comparison with the same period last year. The train accident rate was 3.53 per million train miles, down 18.6 percent from last year. The lowest train accident rate for any full year was 3.54 in 1997. The employee injury rate of 2.74 per 100,000 employee hours was down 16.8 percent from last year. The number of highway- rail grade crossing fatalities was down 28.9 percent during the first four months of this year. However, the number of trespasser fatalities was up by 22.9 percent from 2001. The total number of rail-related fatalities from all causes was down 1.02 percent from last year.
Harpers Ferry Station Update
Historic American Engineering Record Holds Project Closeout Presentation
By Walton Stowell Jr. and "Railroad Rob" Brzostowski . . .
On August 21, 2002, the National Park Service Harpers Ferry Train Station Project reached a milestone. A meeting was held in downtown Harpers Ferry presenting completed architectural drawings. The drawings (on record with the NPS) detail the current condition of the train station, as well as some historic conditions. In attendance were over 20 people from the town, the park, and surrounding areas.
The presentation began with park architect Peter Dessauer introducing the Historic American Engineering Record (HAER) project and team. Other influential project members spoke, including project supervisor Christopher Marston and team leader Walton Stowell, Jr. Team foreman Kris Key presented various findings about the drawings, including structural details. Team members Paul Girouard and Xenia Olah also discussed their contributions to the drawings. Lastly, team member Rob Brzostowski recalled his work on the project, presented a collection of railroad images in frames, and culminated the meeting with a slide presentation.
The collection of 13 drawings was on display on the walls of the second floor of the Master Armor's House (Park Information Center). The drawings were labeled as: (1) Title Page; (2) Timeline; (3) Baldwin Stations; (4) Site Map; (5) Floor Plan; (6) East & West Elevations; (7) Lateral Sections; (8) North & South Elevations; (9) Longitudinal Section; (10) Roof & Foundation Plan; (11) Doors; (12) Windows; and (13) Details.
Although most of the drawings were completed, two team members will be finishing details until the end of September. Soon the project will be a permanent part of the Historic American Building Structures/ Historic American Engineering Record collection in the Library of Congress, and will eventually be available on the Library of Congress's "American Memory" website.
The August 21 presentation nears the conclusion of the initial stage of the station's restoration project. Current plans for restoration include reconstruction of the interlocking tower that stood above the east end of the building until the 1950's.
A Personal Memoir of Tunnel #21 - Eaton, West Virginia
By Earl Scharper . . .
[Reprinted with permission from the July 2002 issue of "News & Notes," publication of the Retired Administrators of the B&O Railroad.]
When I began working with the B&O Railroad in 1936, its Parkersburg Branch was known as the bottleneck for high and wide shipments on the route between Cumberland and Cincinnati. The main impediments were the 23 tunnels on the Parkersburg Branch. Over the years clearance improvements were made but freight cars were also becoming larger and the Parkersburg Branch was still "The Bottleneck."
In the early 1960s, a comprehensive clearance project was begun to remove The Bottleneck. Some tunnels would be open cut and others would be enlarged by setting back and/or raising the tunnel roof. This was a combination project utilizing the B&O's tunnel repair gangs but principally outside contractors. Railroad traffic was maintained but most of it was scheduled at night to provide maximum working intervals for the clearance work while maintaining reasonable schedules for railroad traffic.
Work progressed smoothly and, in due course, work was begun at Tunnel #21 to widen some portions of the walls and to raise some portions of the roof by the railroad's tunnel repair forces. Work was on schedule until that fateful day when there was a roof failure which closed the tunnel and trapped three men inside.
Work was immediately started to rescue the trapped men but progress was agonizingly slow. As soon as some of the debris was removed, there would be additional failures and the cleared area would be filled with newly fallen rubble. After a week or two of this impasse, it was obvious the old tunnel could never be repaired because of the extensive roof failures and the decision was made to drive a new tunnel about 300 feet north of the old one. A survey was quickly made, a new alignment established, plans for the new tunnel prepared and a contract let for the new structure.
Since the Parkersburg Branch was now completely closed and all through traffic was necessarily rerouted over other lines at much greater cost, the new tunnel contract specified construction was to be carried out 24 hours a day and seven days a week until completion, with a construction gang to start at each end of the tunnel and work towards the center.
In the meantime, rescue work at the old tunnel was being pushed as hard as possible, but the roof walls were also becoming more extensive and working conditions were becoming exceedingly dangerous. When it was apparent that all rescue work which could be done had been performed, it was decided, with the concurrence of the trapped workers' families, that all hope for their recovery was gone, and it was felt foolhardy to expose the rescue workers to more and more dangerous conditions in the procedures. So the old tunnel was sealed at each end and it remains the tomb for the trapped tunnel workers.
The work at new Tunnel #21 presented a problem for the construction engineers. With work progressing at each end of the tunnel and continuing around the clock, it was increasingly difficult for the engineers to provide alignment and elevation controls when needed by the contractor without delaying his progress. It quickly became apparent that the new Tunnel #21 project needed to have its own engineering crew supervised by an experienced tunnel construction engineer.
John Packman, who was in charge of the outside contractor projects, had good crews assigned to him, but he had no one with experience in driving new tunnels. So Packy asked his boss, Les Kroll, to obtain a qualified person to take charge of the Tunnel #21 project while Packy would retain supervision of the ongoing clearance improvement projects. As I was one of the few men in the Construction Engineering Department who had supervised new tunnel construction, Les Kroll asked me if I would take the assignment at Tunnel #21. Of course, I said yes.
At the time, I was assistant office engineer with a salary larger than John Packman's. When this was discussed, Packy said that was OK with him as long as it was understood I was to be in charge only for Tunnel #21, while Packy continued on with the other contract work. That was a happy solution to a potentially contentious situation since Packy and I had worked together very well on other projects and surveys and we saw no reason why there should be any conflict about our separate responsibilities at Tunnel #21. I did not realize it at that moment, but I was going to be much too busy at Tunnel #21 to ever try, or even want, to nibble into Packy's other projects. We did work together smoothly in sharing engineering crews, when necessary, and in supporting each other with advice and suggestions when asked. There were no incidents of authority clashes during our tenure together.
One thing was made clear to me from the beginning - the first priority was that the contractor at Tunnel #21, C. J. Langenfelter & Son, was not to be held up or delayed for any reason. We had to work around that condition and we engineers had to provide the center line controls and elevation checks in the periods of natural pauses in construction activity, such as shift changes, moving drilling jumbos into and out from the drilling face and during safety checks. We could not even count on lunch periods (there were no coffee breaks) because the crews ate when and as they could as the work progressed. This unceasing progress also meant that the engineering crews had to be available on very short notice and ready around the clock. Long work days became the norm and we quickly acquired the ability to tolerate interruptions to our routine duties in order to set line and grade controls for the construction gangs at both ends of the tunnel.
I went to Tunnel #21 immediately after the 4th of July to find work was well underway at each end. Unremitting pressure was on for progress and there were no times off, no breaks, no holidays and no overtime pay for the engineering crews. We worked for two weeks straight and then had two days off. Also, the days were long and we didn't have enough hours away from the job to have the opportunity to get into mischief. When we left the site, our only interest was to get a decent meal, get a shower, get to bed and get some sleep, and then start all over again.
That was our schedule through July and August. Around the end of August, the contractor's forces said they would not work over Labor Day and they wanted that Sunday and Monday off. After some consideration by the railroad and the contractor, their request (read that "demand") was granted. For the engineering crews, though, it was the first opportunity we had to run a thorough check of our alignment controls and profile elevations, and we spent the Labor Day holiday in that fashion. The check of our controls was good and we breathed a sigh of relief and rejoiced.
After that two-day shutdown, work began once more and the pressure was still on. Around the end of September, as I recall, the tunnel construction gangs from each end met, the barrier wall was blasted and excavated. Work could now continue on construction of the concrete sidewalls and arch roof.
With the Parkersburg Branch closed while the new tunnel was being driven, it was possible for the railroad's tunnel forces and the outside contractor's forces to intensify and speed up their work so they were finished before track was laid through the new tunnel. Soon after the tunnel sidewalls and arch roof were being constructed, Packy was able to retake control of Tunnel #21 and I returned to Baltimore.
I must make mention of the fine men I worked with at Tunnel #21 and acknowledge the outstanding engineering control work they performed. They were a joy to be with. They included Bill Barker, Al Bogdon, Tony Braden, Herb Dankert, Ron Fitrow, and many others as well.
[According to Ray Lichty, editor of "News & Notes," Earl Scharper is a native of Baltimore and he began with the B&O in 1936. He spent his entire career with the railroad's engineering department. He spent most of his career in Baltimore, but he was assigned to Clarksburg until that office was closed and he returned to Baltimore as assistant office engineer working for Harry Roebuck. After the creation of the Chessie System and the consolidation of the Engineering departments, he went to Huntington, West Virginia, where he worked as project engineer for chief engineer Rudy Tench. He retired from the railroad in the 1970's and still resides in Huntington.]
Down to the Sea at Halifax
My First Mile Was in the Park Car
[By Doug Koontz] . . .
Awakened by a jolt, I raised the blind. Outside a street light illuminated a fox, which approached, stopped, doubled back and came forward again. His path cut off, the animal stopped, not sure what to do. He looked left then right, a wall of stainless steel stretched out in both directions. Dejected he tucked his trail and headed off in the direction from which he came.
Welcome to Matapedia, Quebec, at 4:50 a.m.; VIA's eastern transcontinental train - the Ocean - has arrived. A few minutes later a gentle knock came at the door of roomette 5 of VIA Rail sleeper Chateau Bienville. Car attendant Nadine Arsenault was at the door with a wake up call for breakfast - not to eat, but to observe chef Al Garneau preparing breakfast in the dining car kitchen. Gathering cameras, film and flash unit, I headed off into the hallway. It was a long walk as the Ocean carried six sleepers separating Bienville, which was on the rear just ahead of the Park car, from the diner.
It was that same Park car - Evangeline Park - that I had begun my long overdue journey the day before aboard an overnight passenger train. After more than 20 years of serious train photography, the one glaring omission from my rail travel experience was an overnight journey on a sleeping car!
One reason for that omission is that to me Amtrak has never been very exciting. As Amtrak made the switch to Genesis locomotives and added express cars to its trains the situation worsened. The Canadian rail system, however, has retained an amazing hold on history. Trains in Canada looked like American trains from the 1950s. The decision where to take this first ride was easy - it would be north of the border. Choice of the Ocean was more complex. I had long wanted to ride the Canadian. However the Ocean caters to real travelers - those using the train for transportation - while the Canadian is more the tourist cruise train. I wanted to experience VIA in a real world setting. The Canadian's service standards are a notch above any other train on the system, and riding it first could potentially lead to a disappointment on following trips aboard lesser trains.
At Montreal's Gare Central, a station that I had last visited more that 15 years ago, the concourse was alive with people on September 19, 2001. When I was last in Montreal, in pursuit of ALCO FA's, the Ocean was an unremarked train, looking nothing like today - with its all stainless steel streamlined appearance. In 1987 the Ocean was made up of VIA's blue and yellow smooth sided steam-heated cars. Photos from that earlier visit showed no dome cars in the consist.
After checking in at the sleeping car desk with the rest of the first class passengers, I made my way downstairs to the eastbound train. Dropping my bags in roomette 5 of Bienville I made my way to the dome car at the rear of the train. In the darkness I carefully ascended into the upper dome section. In the darkness, six other passengers had already taken seats to await departure.
What better way to log my first mile on VIA than in a round-end dome, sleeper, observation Park car! Quietly, exactly on time, the Ocean slipped from underneath the train shed and out into the open air south of Central Station. Montreal's skyline towered above and behind the dome.
This trip almost didn't happen. Months earlier when I planned the trip for the middle week of September 2001, little did I know that the world would be turned on end eight days before departure as airliners slammed into buildings in New York and Virginia. It was a tough decision whether to press on or postpone in the days following the 11th. My wife voted strongly for postponing. Her fears ranged from imminent international war to border closings trapping me out of the country. In the end, the decision hinged on the fact that I had negotiated a week off with my new employer long before I was due regular vacation. If the trip was postponed, I was not sure if it would be possible to reschedule at a later time.
As the Ocean cleared the station, the entire consist - 19 cars and three F40s - was visible wrapped around a curve. On three of the Ocean's six weekly departures, it is combined with the Chaleur - to Gaspe, Quebec. One unit and 7 cars on the head end of this train would be cut off a Matapedia to run to the northern St. Lawrence seaport.
While the Ocean is a majestic train, its journey - as with many great trains - lacks a grand departure. Terminal trackage - almost all of it under overhead wire for the Agence Metropolitanie de Transport Duex Montagues electrified line - tight curves and numerous switches make for a slow journey through an industrial backwater. As number 14 turned east for the first time, the Alstom locomotive rebuild facility came into view to the right near VIA's Montreal shop. Numerous locomotives of all makes and paint schemes were present in the Alstom lot.
The Montreal area highlight is encountered as the train makes its way across the Victoria Bridge over the St. Lawrence River. The combination rail/highway bridge owned and operated by Canadian National is a landmark on the east side of the city. Speed is curtailed as the train makes its way across the double track structure. Cars on the roadway - attached outside the through truss spans - were making faster progress than the train. The Victoria Bridge has a unique dual route to prevent trains from being delayed by ships traversing locks in the St. Lawrence Seaway. The locks are located under drawspans on the east end of the bridge. About 2/3 of the way across at mid-bridge a junction of two tracks diverge to the south on a separate bridge to form a loop around the locks, rejoining the mainline just off the end of the bridge. Both routes have draw spans, but are spaced so that a ship being raised or lowered while moving through the locks only blocks one set of spans at a time. Trains can take either of the two double-track routes. We took the main, or straight away, route across the bridge.
The Ocean's slow pace came to a dead stop just off the end of the bridge. Could this be the first meet of the trip? A motive power problem? No, it was a station stop at the Montreal suburb of St. Lambert. It was not possible to tell this was a station stop until the train departed 10 minutes later after making three stops! The Park car was too far back to see the station platform! Friends and loved ones waved to the train as the Park car rolled past.
Once the train got moving again, it was all business. Finally speed became a priority. The three F40s got the train moving east with a vengeance, racing through the suburbs passing cars battling the evening commuter gridlock. Soon a headlight appeared on the other main track. Anticipation built for the meet. A familiar boxy figure appeared out of the dusk; however the color seemed out of place. An Amtrak F-40, on lease to the commuter agency, blasted by with a commuter train.
The upper level of the dome car was alive with conversations of seasoned travelers, many pointing out scenery, landmarks and even talking about the other trains. Soon conversations turned to dinner in the diner. As dusk arrived the majority of the crowd left for the diner. I however stayed for a while longer, taking in the sights of night-time railroad from a Budd 24 seat dome. Up ahead the Skyline dome - for the coach passengers - had its interior dome lights turned on and gave a stark contrast against the inky blue sky. Lights were off in the first-class Park car allowing for great viewing.
As the sky turned dark, signals - many of which were searchlights - could be seen in the distance ahead of the train. First the locomotive headlights illuminated the signal mast, then as the units passed the green light of the target was all that remained until block occupancy caused the aspect to flicker to red just about the time the first of our three dome cars flew past.
Finally my thoughts turned to dinner and I reluctantly made my way down the gracefully curving lighted stairway that is a classic in the Budd built dome cars. I chose to have dinner as a typical passenger, leaving the tools of my photojournalism trade in my sleeping compartment. It was about three sleepers ahead that I regretted that decision. Rounding the turn in one of the sleepers I ran into car attendant Gisele Arsenault making down open section sleeping compartments. Today those sleeping arrangements are uniquely Canadian, having been phased out on American trains years ago. The sleeping compartments are in danger of disappearing from VIA as well due to planned introduction of newer European equipment on this route. After a quick introduction I returned to the compartment for my Nikons to record this unique operation.
Afterward I had a late dinner in a half-full diner. Before leaving the car I talked with both Bert Aucoin, the Directeur de service, and Kenny Cairns, normally the service chief on the Bra d'Or cruise train to Sydney, NS. Cairns was helping out working as dining car staff on the Ocean this trip. Cairns told of his experience on 9/11, where he was the service chief on the Bra d'Or. Stopping the train to make an announcement about the attacks, the crew soon realized one of the passengers was the parent of a World Trade Center worker.
Cairns talked of passenger railroading VIA style in the now closed diner, as the Ocean stopped at Joffre yard near Quebec City where the train's first engineer crew change is made. Refueling of the locomotives is also performed in a lengthy stop. VIA's F40s have very small fuel tanks and the units are refueled several times en route. VIA operates its trains with one distinct difference from US passenger trains. VIA no longer employs conductors. The service chief fills in those duties handling tickets and making sure the passengers are aboard before letting the engine crew move the train. In return the two person engine crew is solely responsible for train movement, including signals and authority to proceed and switching of cars.
After dinner I returned to my roomette for a quick briefing on making down the bed - or should I say pulling it out of the wall. On Chateau series sleepers the rooms are arranged in a high/low fashion in which every other sleeping compartment is raised two steps. This allows the beds in rooms with the same elevation as the corridor to slide directly under the raised portion of the room ahead. The upper rooms have beds that fold down out of the wall. Before retiring for the night, I spent a few more miles in the dome, finally turning in around midnight for my first overnight ride.
Sleep did not come easily. Various reasons abound but two are important to mention. One, I had made arrangements to photograph chef Al Garneau in the morning and I did not want to oversleep. The service chief insured me that a sleeping car attendant would wake me up with the crew. Since I was not a part of the regular crew I was afraid that my wake-up call might be overlooked. I did not want to miss this opportunity. The second reason is the only down side to the entire trip. The center portion of the Ocean's journey is over the rails of two shortlines - the Matapedia Railway and New Brunswick East Coast. The jointed rail and track maintenance of these shortlines left something to be desired. I felt every bump and sway, every switch and every low spot. These shortlines are also dark territory - lacking block signals.
After my early morning photo shoot in the dining car at Matapedia, where the Chaleur to Gaspe is split from the Ocean, the train arrived in Campbellton, New Brunswick, where I detrained for my first "foot steps" in that eastern province. Pre-sunrise views of the train were exposed while the units were fueled and the second engine crew change was made. Once the train was moving again I returned to the dome to watch the sun break over the horizon. A mixture of clouds and sun greeted the early morning risers in the dome section. A flash of sun on the flute sided stainless steel capped off a fine morning VIA style.
On VIA's Ocean, sleeping car service is designated Easterly Class, which does not include meals. To make up for the lack of included food service the Park car serves a continental breakfast. The tables located in the bullet lounge of the car did a brisk business with many passengers taking their goodies to the dome. Downstairs in the bullet lounge six clocks adorn the wall representing the different time zones in Canada top to bottom: Newfoundland time, 1-1/2 hours ahead of Eastern Time; Atlantic, 1 hour ahead; Eastern; Central, 1 hour later; Mountain, two hours later; and Pacific, three hours behind Eastern.
Soon it was time to try out the shower. On VIA's sleepers one section of each car has been removed and replaced by a shower and changing room. After gathering a shower kit and towels from the car attendant I made my way into the shower, which is quite roomy considering the small area it occupies. Only a rough switch or two made me teeter into the shower walls as the train rolled east. The changing room is a great addition to the shower and allows passengers to easily change before heading back to their room. Only the Park car lacks a shower since those cars never carried open sections. Passengers on the Park car use the adjacent Chateau sleeper's shower.
After showering, more dome riding rounded out the morning taking in the beautiful eastern Canadian landscape. The highlight of the trip was encountered as the Ocean rounded Chaleur Bay - the wide body of water looking for all the world like the Atlantic Ocean. Rail traffic in eastern Canada is sparse and only a few meets were encountered during the entire trip. Shortly before lunch we arrived at Moncton, NB. This location, once the site of a CN Alco/MLW maintenance facility, was all but a railroad ghost town. Only two tracks remain at the station and a grass covered field spread out to the south where once a rail yard stood. The legendary shops, that were once the home base for CN MLW fleet, are now used as a railcar rebuild facility of Industrial Rail Services and are out of view from the station.
At Moncton, site of the final engineer change, the train switched out two sleepers and fueled the locomotives a final time. Train size is reduced here by two cars. Via saves two sleepers from the consist of the Ocean by running them on the Montreal to Moncton portion of the train. The eastbound Ocean drops these two sleepers in Moncton in the morning, which are cleaned and restocked for pickup by the afternoon westbound Ocean heading back toward Montreal. Short haul sleeper patrons occupy these two cars, placed directly behind the dining car. Through passengers are assigned the rear most sleepers so there is no need to make passengers change sleeping compartments at Moncton.
East of Moncton the Ocean raced toward the sea. Now back on welded rail of CN the ride was much smoother and speeds were higher. Block signals were again flashing past the windows. At lunch time I headed forward to the diner. Even with two fewer cars in the consist it was a long walk. I had lunch with sleeping car attendant Gisele Arsenault and her boyfriend, a CN locomotive engineer. Arsenault talked of her mid-life career change. The former mortgage banker gave up the business life for the traveling life because she "really likes people."
The massive tide changes of eastern Canada's Bay of Fundy were visible though the dining car windows. Small tributaries of the bay reach inland and cross under or run parallel to the CN track. Deep mud-filled ravines were all that remained of the waterways at low tide. In a few hours the water would return to fill the streams to the brim. The Bay has 20-30 feet normal tide changes. When I saw these same streams on my westbound journey they were filled as promised by Arsenault.
East of Truro I prepared to photograph the meet with #15 the westbound Ocean. Using schedule, timetable and a helpful crew, I made my way to the vestibule of the Park car and waited. We held the main at an obscure siding; however, the approach signal on the west end gave a hint that this would be the location of the meet. A series of curves obscured the view ahead until near the east end of the siding. Up ahead just clear into the siding was the yellow nose of a VIA F-40 carefully treading over lightweight jointed rail. Through an 80-200mm lens I aimed down the side of the train to record the meet. Two long trains of stainless steel slide by each other. I returned to the bullet lounge for a look at the rear of #15. Waves were exchanged with Montreal bound passengers as the two Park cars passed.
The last miles into Halifax were slow by comparison to the rest of the trip. The Ocean took the siding west of Windsor Jct. for a meet with a CN intermodal train which was powered by two SD75s. The once double track route through a series of deep cuts leading to the seaport had been recently singled tracked and many signal heads were turned away from the track. Progress slowed even more as the train entered the yard where tracks headed off to the southeast serving the port docks and intermodal yard. A freight locomotive of the same vintage as the train could be seen working the rail yard. A rebuilt GP9 and slug switched cars as we made the final turn into the passenger station lead. As #14 eased to a gentle stop a massive cruise ship was docked along side the station. Land cruise, meet ocean cruise!
The Halifax terminal is stub ended and the Ocean pulled in with its locomotives stopping just short of the bumping post. Arrival was exactly on time. No train shed exists today so the station is an open air affair. As I gathered my bags and detrained, bidding a round of farewells to the crew I had just spent 22 hours with, I noticed a railfan off to the side taking photos. A few minutes spent talking with this fellow fan helped with an orientation of Halifax.
A walking tour was conducted of Halifax's ocean front. Ships and boats of all sizes use this bustling seaport. Even a submarine was docked at the city wharf. The sub, after further investigation, was not active duty from the Canadian navy, but rather a retired foreign sub being used as a prop for the movie K-19 Widowmaker. This working title was for a movie depicting a 1960's nuclear accident aboard a Russian submarine and the efforts of its crew to prevent a total loss of life.
At the far end of the city docks, a fleet of modern tug boats and several tall mast sailing ships were tied up. At the terminal building where the ferry to Dartmouth - a city across the harbor - departs I found an open restaurant for dinner that had a view of the water.
As dusk neared I walked up hill to catch the #80 bus for the ride to a nearby hotel. Even planning this trip several months in advance, I found the choice hotels downtown were already full. I had hoped to stay at the Queen Elizabeth which is a part of the VIA station complex, but it was the first hotel to report full. When the finest hotels can't accommodate, the next best choice is a bayside hotel with a view overlooking the CN mainline in the western part of the city. A 20 minute city bus ride gave a great tour of the city.
I turned in early after viewing one westbound train pass in the darkness. With nearly 28 very active hours and little sleep the night before, I was soon sawing logs. The next morning I had a leisurely morning. My choice of hotel was a good one as it contained a restaurant - an asset when traveling without a car. Breakfast came complete with newspaper which was helpful in catching up on the events back in America. While in Canada the locals were highly interested to hear my thoughts on the events of 9/11. Everywhere I visited, I found the Canadians were asking more questions of me than I was of them.
Soon it was time to return to the station for my 12:55 p.m. departure of the westbound Ocean back to Montreal. On the ride back to the station a very friendly bus driver regaled me with tales of how the city responded to the grounding of major air planes in Halifax after the US airways were shut down after 9/11. The whole city turned out with typical Canadian hospitality to welcome the stranded passengers and find housing and meals. Many passengers stayed in private homes as hotels quickly filled to capacity. One couple en route from Europe to Las Vegas for their wedding were instead married in Halifax. The story made headlines in the Halifax newspaper. It also seems that many of the stranded passengers turned to the train to reach America as the grounding turned into days. In the days following, VIA's departures from Halifax swelled as passengers used all means to get moving again.
Returning to the station I toured more of the city and its skyline. The same train consist, from my eastbound ride, was turned and ready for departure west. This time the Ocean would be in the capable hands of service chief Stella-Marie Sirois of Sydney, N.S., who seemed quite comfortable having a journalist following her around. From the bullet lounge the station slipped away behind the train as the westbound journey got underway. The westbound run was similar, only with a slightly different crew. However, several faces were familiar as some crewmen were making the return trip.
One significant change in accommodations was made. I elected to travel in a lower section. While this sleeping accommodation is cheaper than a roomette, that was not the reason for this move. The section's days are numbered and I wanted to experience this method of travel before it is gone. The lower section bed was larger and more comfortable than the roomette. The section is actually wide enough for two as it doubles as a two person seat by day. On this trip I had the section to myself, as no one purchased the upper berth. This allowed me to use the upper bed for bag storage. During day time seating, the lower berth uses the forward facing seat, while the upper berth gets the backward facing seat. For a family or couple traveling together this would make a nice little area for conversation or play.
The time keeping on the westbound journey took several hits. First the switching of sleepers at Moncton took much longer than it had the day before. Once the train was coupled back together with the added cars, departure time slipped past by almost 30 minutes as a truck added diesel fuel to our two locomotives. A nervous Stella-Marie waited in the vestibule keeping one eye ahead and the other eye on her watch. Once under way #15 experienced a smoking journal on one of the sleeping cars west of Moncton. A stop in the woods revealed nothing seriously wrong. The train was moving again at 6:40 p.m.
At dusk I rode once again in the dome as we out paced road traffic on a parallel country road. West of Rogersville, a lighted cross on a trackside church appeared to hover in the sky. The darkening sky - just the correct shade of gray - caused the steeple to appear invisible. This created the illusion that the blue cross was floating in the sky. A late evening meet was held with one of NBEC's road trains near Campbellton behind a single black SD-40-2 leading a string of box cars.
Sleep came easier and the comfort to the lower section bed may have been responsible. Awakened east of Joffee Yard, the next morning, I looked out the window in time to catch our westbound counterpart pass. Another long consist eased past, windows in the lounge and diner were illuminated allowing views into the eastbound passenger train.
A few last photos in the dining car were exposed at breakfast before returning to the Park car to enjoy the final miles into Montreal. One railfan was on the train and he photographed the last freight train meet of the trip from the Park car's lounge. Nearing Montreal the weather took a turn for the worse and a heavy rain began falling. The dome windows were obscured as the train crossed the Victoria Bridge and eased into the station with the skyline of Montreal filling the view that remained. Arrival was on time at 8:10 a.m.; the Ocean had made up every bit of its lateness during the night!
Given the circumstance of the week preceding and the rainy weather, I elected to return home after arrival in Montreal. The border into New York is only about an hour south. The only change noted from previous dealings with customs agents was a request to look into my truck - something they had never done before. The drive home was uneventful. I stopped in Scranton, Pa., near sundown for some last minute sweet light views of the Alco M636 of the Delaware-Lackawanna Railway - ironically a former Canadian unit.
Arriving home near 11 p.m., I had completed one of the great things on my "to do list." Next it's the Canadian.....
[The author is a photojournalist and travel writer for his newspaper, the Frederick (Maryland) News Post. The extra access he was granted, such as to the dining car kitchen, came from VIA's press office.]
The July issue of the Bull Sheet with its Biking Through History article brings back many railroad memories. New Freedom, the top of the hill, always seemed to be more of a drag going west [geographically north] than coming east. I ran some of the last of the Truck Trains over the Northern Central prior to the hurricane that finally led to the abandonment.
If you look close enough you can still find cinders on both sides of the hill. A few feet back off the right of way, in the brush, cinders a few inches deep and in some places much more, will probably be there forever. All of them out of the stacks of a pounding steam engine locomotive. The mighty Pennsy, and the pride of the passenger power in the days of steam, the K4. Also in freight, the L1 and H9 were in service on the NC, some with stokers and most were hand fired. Who would have ever thought of a Bike Trail!
Oh yes, if you listen close enough, you can hear the musical moan of the famous K4 whistle blowing for New Freedom.
- HOWARD ZIETHEN
- Phoenix, Maryland
An update regarding LM Cabin. I am saddened to report that the tower has closed and the interlocking is now controlled by the CSX CR Desk in Jacksonville. It was a quick change as word of the tower closing did not leak out until around July 20 or so.
The last day of full operation of the tower was July 29. All signals were suspended on July 30 creating a scene reminiscent of June 1, 1999, when Conrail was split and a meltdown occurred. Jacksonville officially assumed control on August 2 at 1400. Slowly over the next few days parts of the signal system were put in service with everything up and running on August 4. Originally operators were to staff the tower through August 9, but the last day I know someone occupied the tower was on August 4.
"The Columbus Dispatch" published an article on August 3 noting the closing of the tower and profiling second-trick operator Walter Dorsey. Dorsey has worked for CSX and its predecessors for 43 years, the past nine at LM Cabin.
I spoke briefly with a Norfolk Southern maintainer who said that the plans are to tear down the tower, though he could not give a date of when this was to occur. Hopefully, the local railway museum or another group will remove the pistol grip interlocking machine before the tower falls.