Friday, February 03, 2012

Whither the Chaleur?

I'm quite concerned about the future of VIA's Chaleur train. The Chaleur has been terminating at Matapedia, Quebec for more than a month.

First the bridge over the Grand-Pabos River in Chandler was condemned on December 14, forcing the Chaleur to turn at New Carlisle. Then the bridge at St. Jules / Cascapedia was condemned on December 22. That's this bridge, by the way.

That bridge is between Matapedia and New Carlisle, so since December 22 the Chaleur has been terminating at Matapedia and passengers have been bused the rest of the way. There's a VIA press release about this.

Did you know there are 95 bridges on the route? When I was last there I would bet that at least 80% of them had a 10 MPH slow order on them. That gives you an idea of the condition of the line.

The Gaspésie Railway (Société du chemin de fer de la Gaspésie), owners of the line from Matapedia to Gaspé, have asked all levels of government for additional funding to repair the railway, to the tune of $19 million per year for the next five years (press release, news story).

This article says the bridges should be fixed by mid-February at the latest. There is an interesting photo in the article showing three Rio Tinto passenger cars led by an ex-NBEC RS-18 being brought to Gaspésie Diesel for work.

The odd thing is that VIA is booking coach and sleeper space on the Chaleur on ReserVIA. They do have a note that the train will be replaced by bus between Matapedia and Gaspé on February 2 and 3.

Special thanks to VIA Guru Tom Box for all his informative posts on CanPassRail!

From happier times, here are some photos of the Chaleur provided by Bob Liming, who had the opportunity to ride the train twice, in October and November 2011. Just in time!

Here's VIA 6457 at the station in Gaspé in October.
VIA 6457 by Bob Liming

And from the rear...
The Chaleur in Gaspe

Now this is November with VIA 6426. Note the masts behind the train from the marina.
VIA 6426 in Gaspe by Bob Liming

 You may remember that some idiot tried to burn the station down back in early 2011. VIA has been using a trailer for the station since then. It's just visible on the right.
VIA photo by Bob Liming

Here's Bob himself standing in front of the station. Thanks for the photos!
VIA photo by Bob Liming


One Man Committee said...

It appears that VIA's regional services are dying the death of a thousand cuts. You can see it everywhere - Vancouver Island, Northern Manitoba, Quebec. Reduced schedules and services have become the norm.

Steve Boyko said...

I agree but in all cases they are dying because the track infrastructure is decaying. On Vancouver Island, in northern Manitoba, and in the Gaspe, all of these routes are owned by shortlines with shallow pockets. They inherited marginal lines from CN or CP and are not able to make huge capital upgrades to bring the lines up to snuff. The Vancouver Island route is done, the Churchill run is threatened due to the abolishment of the CWB, and the Chaleur is in peril. It's very worrying.

Brian B. said...

Hi Steve,

I was on last night's ( Feb.02nd ) train from Montreal to Riviere-du-Loup.....ticketed for Train # 16. This was my first ride in the Comfort class Renaissance equipment and I like the interior and ride quality.

The train had an F-40 with stainless cars, including dome car, positioned behind the Ren cars. Departure from Montreal was about 1/2 hour late, due I surmise to a late arriving train from Ottawa, which may have occupied boarding track space at Central Station, for Trains 14 / 16.

There were two meets with CN freights whereby VIA was in the hole....east of Drummondville with a Stack train and between Charny and Montmagny, a meet with a manifest.

I also did notice a Realty company sale sign on the Riviere-du-loup station.

Brian B. said...

Oops....I meant to say I was on last night's Feb. 3rd train.........

Steve Boyko said...

Hi Brian, I guess the Ocean and the Chaleur are still running as "J" trains with the whole Chaleur behind the Ocean. They used to have the two Ocean engines on the head end followed by the entire Chaleur, then the Ocean train. That required more switching at Matapedia. Now they can just cut the Chaleur off the end and the Ocean can continue on.

I'm glad you liked the Renaissance cars. People seem to love them or hate them.