Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Montreal Railfan Adventure 2008

From Andrew Reid:

Given the resounding success of the Railfan trip to Montreal on VIA Rail in the spring of 2007, it was decided that, perhaps, we should look into planning another event of similar nature. The people who went on the trip last year had a great time, VIA Rail Canada seemed impressed with the trip, and the VIA Montreal Maintenance Center (MMC) employees couldn't stop talking about it! With that in mind, Ron and I met to discuss various options for a trip this year.

This year, to keep things different, we're planning on doing the tour at Canadian Allied Diesel (CAD), the company contracted to do the rebuilds on VIA's F40 locomotives. Ron has spoke with CAD already, and not only are they willing, they're excited about the possibility, and Ron mentioned that our large group would be broken into several smaller groups and taken around on more personal tours by some of CAD's upper management. The tour would likely be 3-4 hours, leaving us the afternoon to do as we please. More on that later, though.

So, I come to you with some of the options for the year…

I had originally planned on trying to arrange this trip for October sometime…fall foliage, different scenery, and a generally different experience then we had last spring. I figured this, and the greater time between trips might encourage some people to come, and perhaps bring their families to see the scenery on the trip up and back. The problem with October is that Ron, who has hinted in the past he wouldn't be with VIA forever, will very likely be retired by then. He also noted that the odds of the stainless coming back in the fall were, right now, fairly slim. Thus, he suggested we go in April again, allowing us to ride the Stainless Steel HEP equipment. I agreed that it would be nice to have Stainless. October would be a bit more expensive then April…VIA would have Winter pricing in effect, but wouldn't yet be into their half-off winter booking sales, like they would be in April. My preference for traveling would be in October, however, I'd like the chance to work with Ron one last time before he leaves. Having met his potential replacement, I have no doubts that we'll be able to do this in the future…but Ron's been good to me so
far, and I'd like to do one last trip with him.

Something else we discussed was the possibility of a 3-day trip, versus last year's 4-day trip. Ron suggested a departure from Halifax on Saturday the 19th of April, traveling to Montreal in HEP Stainless cars. We'd then have all day Sunday to tour the CAD facility, as well as the afternoon to do what we wanted. We'd board the train in the evening on Sunday, and return to Halifax in Stainless HEP cars, arriving late-afternoon on Monday. The 19th is the last round-trip weekend of the Stainless Steel equipment for this year.

A 3-day trip means some cost savings…there's no hotel rooms to pay for, there's one less day of missed work, for those who have to worry about such things, there's less meals to purchase, and overall expenses would be lower. Transportation is a bit of a sticky issue - it proved troublesome last year, and I'm reluctant to go through the trouble of vehicle rental again, if only for the one partial day's events. Ron suggested that taxis might be the way to go, since as long as we agreed in advance were we were going, travel would be fairly limited, and thus, not stupidly expensive.

A 4-day trip is a possibility…it does mean we should rent vehicles again, which adds to the cost and confusion. A hotel would have to be factored in, as well. The downside to a 4-day trip, however, is the returning trip would be aboard a RenSet, not the HEP equipment. Those who went last year can attest that the trip on the RenSet was less enjoyable. The lack of a dome made it that much less enjoyable. The HEP wouldn't have a Park Car, however, it would have the Skyline Dome like last year, and we would have access to it again (albeit in moderation, right David? *really big grin*) we'd also need something to `do' on the extra day…I'm open to any and all suggestions.

Essentially, what I'm looking for right now (the sooner the better, really) is some form of confirmation from you folks…would anyone like to do this trip again? What time of year would you prefer? 3 or 4 day trip? Opinions on transportation? Suggestions on places to go if we do a 4-day trip? Any and all comments are welcome! This is in no way democratic - I'm just looking for what the masses would prefer, and we'll arrange everything from there. I appreciate the input!

If you're interested, contact Andrew Reid at

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