Thursday, November 10, 2005

The VIA Veteran Train Chase

David Morris, Peter Gough, Ken MacDonald and I left at 10 AM from Fredericton on November 9th to chase the special VIA Veteran's Train as it made its way from Halifax to Montreal. Our plan was to start at Onslow just west of Truro and chase him to Moncton. We made good time and we were in Truro before 1 PM. As it happened the train was 17 minutes late leaving Halifax (thank you to the Othens for letting us know). We decided to head to Brookfield, just east of Truro, to catch him there.

13:20: As we rolled up to the crossing, we saw CN local 515 heading down the cement spur, van first with one car and 4774 trailing.

CN 79918 at Brookfield

The brakeman and the engineer both gave us a friendly wave. Thanks, guys!

Quite a crowd gathered there to wave at the train. I talked to a few of the bystanders as I listened to radio chatter on the scanner (mostly 515's chatter). There was one woman there holding a Canadian flag who had keys to the nice little ex-CN station there, and she offered to let us in after the train went by. I reluctantly declined, as we had to boot it to Onslow next.

Ex-CN station at Brookfield

Pat Othen gave us another update and we talked with Bill Linley too.

Soon we saw headlights in the distance. The crowd gathered, the railfans set up for their shots, and VIA 15 blew through in fine style, Canadian flags a-flapping on engine 6420. (14:04) Note the extra headlight on 6420.

Ex-CN station at Brookfield

I think the video looks OK except that I was a twit and didn't notice the wire running across the top of the shot. Sigh.

We sprinted for the car and took off. We saw CN 515 coming back to the mainline as we rolled past (14:07), so I grabbed a shot out the window as we sped toward the highway. I don't know if you can see it from this picture but there is some kind of eye marked on the nose. It must be a variant of "WASH ME".

CN 515 at Brookfield

Peter G drove us to Onslow in good time, and en route we heard the detector go off, reporting that VIA 15 was doing 66 MPH. Not too shabby! We had lots of time to wait at Onslow. I saw there was someone up at the old Tatamagouche Road and there were a few railfans and other people at the Onslow crossing. I saw "VIAKEN" posted a photo from Onslow, so I guess he was one of them!

Finally the Ocean rolled out of Truro at 14:44. The shot from Onslow was great as we could get the whole train. I unfortunately clipped the Park car off the end of the first shot:

VIA 15 Onslow

VIA 15 Onslow

Once the Park car rolled through, we got on the road to Atkinson. We arrived there and it was raining. Drat! Peter and Ken set up for the "coming" shot and David and I set up for the "going away" shot. I had forgotten my hat in the car and I didn't dare go back to get it for fear of missing the train. Tim Dryden showed up a few minutes before the train appeared. We waited for perhaps 20 minutes in the rain until the Ocean appeared at 15:36. Look at the flags on 6420.

VIA 15 Atkinson

VIA 15 Atkinson

We decided to get him coming into Amherst next. We stopped on the side of the road and both Bill Linley and Tim Dryden stopped briefly beside us. They hurried on to catch the train at the station. We turned out to have two good shots, one long-distance showing the whole train and the closer one, which wasn't quite long enough to show the entire train. (16:15)

VIA 15 Amherst

VIA 15 Amherst

Our next shot was at Fort Beausejour. I had never gone there before so I was interested in the photo opportunity. I usually go to Fort Lawrence, but after going to For Beausejour. I may never go to Fort L again! You get three good photo ops at Fort B. The engineer gave us a couple of toots as he passed the Fort at 16:31.

VIA 15 Fort Beasejour

VIA 15 Fort Beasejour

VIA 15 Fort Beasejour

The sun poked out enough to light up the train as it went across the Tantramar Marsh. Nice.

We tried to get the train at Sackville station next, but it apparently did only a single stop. It started moving just after we arrived at 16:47 and didn't stop again. There was quite an enthusiastic crowd at the station.

VIA 15 Sackville

We ran up the old road and got ahead of him before Dorchester. We pulled over next to one of David's favourite spots and found Tim Dryden and Bill Linley already there waiting. The light was terrible and my video camera misbehaved, so I didn't get any good video here. (17:05)

VIA 15 Memramcook

From there we sauntered into Moncton and arrived at the station after the train. They had the engines at the usual spot, so the Park car must have been on or before the overpass. I tried some night shots of 6420 and this one turned out pretty good. Not bad for no tripod, if I do say so myself.

VIA 6420 at Moncton

I saw someone else there taking photos of 6420, but he didn't say anything. Comment if it was you!

The Ocean left at 18:06 in practically total darkness. As I started to video their departure my camera announced that it had less than 5 minutes of tape left. It took almost 3 minutes for the entire train to roll out.

Park car leaving Moncton

We went inside and shot a few photos of the decorated interior, and talked with a few railfans. The staff did a fine job with the decorations. I'm proud to say that the soon-to-be-New Brunswick Railway Museum supplied a few props, including this station board.

Station board in Moncton station

Art Clowes joined us for dinner, then we headed home. I got back home at 21:30, almost 12 hours after I left. It was a very good day.

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