Monday, May 22, 2017

Fallen Flags Train

CP 6251 heading south
This is a quickie post about a CP train that had a lot of "fallen flags" cars on it.

What's a Fallen Flag?

North Western - Employee Owned
For railfans, a "fallen flag" is a railway that doesn't exist as that entity any more. It might be a railway that went bankrupt, or one that was absorbed into another through a merger or acquisition. There are many, many examples in history but here are three.
  • Rock Island (the Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific) - went bankrupt
  • Milwaukee Road (the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific) - went bankrupt, part went to the Soo
  • Chicago and Northwestern - purchased by Union Pacific
All of these fallen flags were represented on this train.


I was driving south of Winnipeg on highway 59 to get my tent trailer for the camping season. I store it for the winter on a farm near Otterburne, Manitoba. On my way down, I stopped in at Niverville to look at the ex Manitoba Pool grain elevator and see if any trains were in the vicinity. Niverville is on the CP Emerson subdivision that runs north-south between Winnipeg and the US border at Emerson, MB. There were no trains but I took a few (more) photos of the Artel grain elevator and continued south.
Merchants Merchants Merchants! Amirite?
I drove past the farm and carried on into Otterburne to get trackside. I saw no trains to the north or south, but I did see an interesting collapsed building so I pulled over to photograph it. As I stepped out of my van I heard a train horn in the distance.

I sprinted over to the nearest crossing to capture CP 6251 South. It had just the one unit with a friendly conductor giving me a wave.

The Fallen

Following them were a series of rusty old cars - some festooned with graffiti (ugh) but most mostly untouched. Maybe they were too rusty for people to tag? Here are some samples.

AOKX 181509 is a former Northwestern car
NAHX 23662 is obviously a former Milwaukee Road
Quite the patch job on the car data on that Milwaukee Road car.

GCCX 173851 was another Northwestern car

FURX 815414 is a former Rock Island car
"The Rock" was my favourite car, and it brought up the rear.

Other Interesting Cars

There were a few other cars of interest to me on this train.
FURX 818730 was a Cook Industries Inc. car
I'm not sure who Cook Industries is/was... Google brings up a lot of things but none of them look like they owned rail cars.

GROX 60664 is lettered for UNION EQUITY
I've seen Union Equity before, at the Paterson grain elevator in Binscarth, Manitoba.

PTLX 14823 is labelled for Continental Grain
Continental Grain continues to be a very large company, one of the 300 largest privately-held companies in the US.

USLX 8032 is a mystery...
This one looks interesting but I can't quite determine the former owner of this car. Any ideas?

This is a former Minneapolis, Northfield and Southern Railway car... I photographed brother USLX 8034 in Grande Pointe, MB not too far from here on April 28, 2016.


This train was interesting to me because of all of the varied cars in the train. It was a nice change from graffiti-festooned boxcars and autoracks, or solid blocks of towering containers. Sadly these trains won't last that long as many of these cars were built in the early 1970s and will be coming to the end of their mandated 50 year lifespan soon. Shoot them while you can!

Paired multimarks in Niverville

Oh, and that collapsed building I stopped for? Here it is.

I think it might be done.

Here's my trailer, attached to my van and being inspected by one of the farm's dogs.
"OK the PK. Woof."

See Also

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Double Wrapped Math! 2 X 150 = VIA 1

Two Canada 150 wrapped locomotives on VIA 1
The railfan news network was alive with the news that VIA's Canadian leaving Toronto on May 11 (through Winnipeg on May 13) had two "Canada 150" wrapped locomotives on the head end. This was the first time two wrapped F40PH-2 locomotives were on the Canadian, and perhaps the first time two operated together at all.

You may remember that VIA 6454 was the first "Canada 150" wrapped locomotive to visit Winnipeg. The second was VIA 6437 on May 4th and VIA 6416 on May 11th. I was out of town on both of those days so I didn't have an opportunity to see them.

A bonus was that this VIA 1 was also carrying a Rocky Mountaineer car west to home base in Kamloops, BC. These cars get refurbished now and then and I have seen them pass through on VIA 1 before.

What's a "Wrap"?

A quick aside to define what railfans mean by a "wrapped" locomotive or car. Locomotives and rail cars are painted initially. They can be repainted with a new scheme, or in VIA Rail's case they are usually covered with a vinyl "wrap" instead. Think of it like a giant decal. As a commenter on one of my previous Canada 150 posts said,
"They're a lot of work. First a crew comes in to clean the cars. Then a crew does body work and then we jump on them for the wrap. It takes 4 highly experienced 3M installers most of the day to complete one. We also did the Glen Fraser car and another biz class car with similar graphics. VIA then inspects them thoroughly."
Theoretically the wrap can be removed after the promotion is over, but in reality the locomotive or rail car normally needs to be repainted.

The Setup

I knew the Winnipeg railfans would cover it well within the city, so I decided to head east of the city and catch it somewhere on the CN Redditt subdivision. Before I went to bed on Friday night (May 12), I checked VIA's train tracker site and they said it was running a little over 2 hours late. Even better!

May 13... Saturday morning dawned... cloudy. Does a day really dawn if it is cloudy? Let me know!

Anyway... I woke up at 6:30 AM, and after a quick shower and breakfast, I hit the road for points east. I passed through Dugald and saw a few maintenance vehicles in the grain elevator siding there, and carried on to Anola. The siding in Anola was full of rail maintenance vehicles and there were a few pickup trucks around as well. Clearly some maintenance was planned for the day!

Subset of CN Redditt subdivision
I had originally planned to go all the way to Elma (mile 196.8) to catch VIA, but after checking VIA's web site again I decided to stop short, as the last thing I wanted to do was to get behind the train and miss it.

I drove into a few crossings east of Anola but none of them had great sight lines. I wanted a good side shot of the train so I had to have a wide view. I eventually decided on the small community of Vivian, mile 221.3 of the Redditt subdivision. I had been there before as it has a hotbox detector and Wheel Impact Load Detector (WILD) that I photographed for my article in the Trackside Photographer.

I parked on Park Street (heh) and walked around to find the best angle. I arrived at around 08:20 and nothing happened for half an hour. I had my scanner with me but nothing was going on.

I tried setting up my Canon S3 as a video camera but the batteries were dead. So I put my phone on the tripod... a little jury-rigged...

Eventually I noticed that a signal was lit.... and saw a headlight to the west! That can't be VIA...

CN 112

I wasn't really set up for an eastbound train but I did my best to capture CN 112.
CN 112 through Vivian, Manitoba
CN 8805 was on the head end and CN 2968 was on the tail end.
CN 2968 on the tail end
Odd how CN 2968 was facing forward... and what a rusty container!

They called VIA 1 to find out where they were. It turned out that the Canadian was not far away, in the siding in Nourse at mile 217.3, 5 miles east of me. They came in loud and clear on the scanner.

13 minutes after CN 112 left, VIA 1 arrived.

The Canadian in Vivian

VIA 6402 led the way as the Canadian rolled through Vivian.
"Canada 150" VIA 6402 and VIA 6436 through Vivian, MB
Here's a side shot of the two. The "Canada 150" wraps have 3 cities on each side of the locomotive. There are some cities repeated among locomotives, as you will see, but each side lists different cities. VIA 6402 has Ottawa, Winnipeg and Montreal on the engineer's side and VIA 6436 has Vancouver, Ottawa and Moncton. Canada's capital city was well represented!

A full look at VIA 6436:
VIA 6436 in Vivian, MB
VIA 6441 was the third unit - three units on the Canadian is unusual - and the first car after 6441 was a Rocky Mountaineer car, RMRX 9525.
Rocky Mountaineer #9525
It was, of course, empty.

You may recall that when VIA has carried the Rocky Mountaineer cars in the past, they had to put the car between the two locomotives due to the cabling used. I'm told there is new cabling so that VIA Rail can marshal the Rocky car(s) behind the locomotives and just pass the Head End Power (HEP) cabling through. It looks nicer too!

The going-away shot was not that impressive but I was there for the head end, not the tail!
Kootenay Park on the tail end of the VIA Rail Canadian
Here's the video of VIA 1 through Vivian with the two "Canada 150" locomotives. When you watch the video, note the two Skyline dome cars together.

Here's the complete consist:

  • VIA 6402
  • VIA 6436
  • VIA 6441
  • RMRX 9525
  • VIA 8609
  • VIA 8106
  • VIA 8143
  • VIA 8503
  • VIA 8517
  • VIA 8413 Louise
  • VIA 8308 Bliss Manor
  • VIA 8341 Thompson Manor
  • VIA 8313 Cabot Manor
  • VIA 8301 Abbot Manor
  • VIA 8339 Sherwood Manor
  • VIA 8316 Christie Manor
  • VIA 8324 Dunsmuir Manor
  • VIA 8327 Fraser Manor
  • VIA 8224 Chateau Roberval
  • VIA 8228 Chateau Vercheres
  • VIA 8208 Chateau Dollier
  • VIA 8212 Chateau Latour
  • VIA 8219 Chateau Montcalm
  • VIA 8509
  • VIA 8414 Palliser
  • VIA 8206 Chateau Denonville
  • VIA 8227 Chateau Varennes
  • VIA 8708 Kootenay Park

I've highlighted the Skyline domes and the two diner cars. Now if you were a poor soul in Dunsmuir Manor, you had to walk forward through six sleeping cars to get to diner Louise or back through six to get to Skyline 8509 and through that to get to diner Palliser. Talk about a long stroll to get a bite to eat!

I think it might have been better to stick one of the domes between the Manor and Chateau cars, but maybe there were good reasons to marshal the train as it was.

After VIA rolled through, I tossed everything in the van and took off west in chase.

A Quick Grab

Surprisingly, I overtook VIA very quickly. I had not expected to overtake it at all, really, but I thought I'd give it a shot. Since I overtook it well before Anola, I turned up a side road and quickly parked to grab the power rolling through.
Side on view of "Canada 150" locomotives near Anola, Manitoba
After shooting those, the chase was on again.

I zoomed through Anola - slowing down to 60 km/hr, grrr - and carried on toward Dugald. I was well ahead of them by this point so I decided to shoot them at the grain elevator in Dugald.

VIA 1 in Dugald

I wanted to get the other side of the train to get the other six cities. Since it was cloudy, light direction was not a concern! I parked by the baseball field and rushed over toward the track to grab the shot.
VIA 1, the "Canadian", through Dugald, Manitoba
There was no time to set up for video so I just dropped the tripod and shot some stills.

VIA 6402 in Dugald
VIA 6402 had Moncton, Saskatoon and Kitchener on the conductor's side, while VIA 6436 had Guelph, Winnipeg and Montreal on the left. Note that Winnipeg is on both engines, just on different sides.

VIA 6436 in Dugald
The going away shot was a little better here.
Kootenay Park in Dugald, Manitoba
(I like how Chrome wants to correct "Kootenay" to "Hootenanny")


At that point I gave up the chase, as I didn't think I would catch them again. I would have had to crawl along at 60 km/hr and risk getting stuck behind traffic, and they had a clear shot to Transcona and beyond and there was no way I would catch them again before they parked at the station downtown.

Instead I elected to go east outside Dugald and wait for the promised 4 westbound CN freights. That's for another post...

From Others

Jack Hykaway was near Nourse just east of me and recorded VIA 1 coming through.

He also included VIA 6416 (from a week ago) in the video. Thanks, Jack!

Ken Storey photographed the 12-hour late VIA 1 through part of BC. He has several photos in his excellent VIA Flickr album but to me this was the shot of the day.
Red Rock

You'll note that the locomotives are different from when I saw the train. VIA 6402 was dropped at Saskatoon, I believe, and 6441 came off at Jasper and was replaced by 6453. It's too bad the wrapped unit wasn't leading. The odd thing was that the Rocky Mountaineer car wasn't dropped at Kamloops but instead went all the way to Vancouver.

Further Reading

Saturday, May 06, 2017

Book Review: Trackside with VIA: Research and Recollections

Research and Recollections Review

As soon as I could, I ordered Eric Gagnon's fourth VIA Rail book, "Trackside with VIA: Research and Recollections". Eric had been writing about his upcoming book for a while at his book blog, and my anticipation was growing and growing. Eric is a good salesman!

Pssst... Read to the bottom for a giveaway!

I placed my order and paid via e-transfer (his first!) and in a few days the book arrived in the mail. As requested Eric had signed the interior, and to my surprise it was numbered Copy #001.

Research and Recollections is a soft-cover perfect bound book with 124 pages plus the title page and table of contents page. The book contains a lot of text, as well as numerous small photos (mostly black and white) and a number of tables. This is not a coffee-table picture book, but it is very accessible and easy to read.

After several introductory pages (including a foreword by Tim Hayman and a dedication to the author's father) the book launches into a series of trip reports. These really set the tone for the book and draw the reader into the world of VIA Rail in the 1980s. Eric is a meticulous record keeper and it shows in his stories. The level of detail - what he ate, what he paid for it, for example - is impressive, yet it doesn't detract from the stories. In fact, I would say the details add to the stories and really place you in the moment.

These stories take up about 40% of the book, and include black and white photos related to the stories, as well as several "triVIA" boxes featuring.. well, trivia about VIA Rail.

After the stories are numerous research articles, from vice-regal cars to sleeper car swaps in Winnipeg to the IC3 Flexliner trial, and much more. Maybe the book title should really be Recollections and Research to be in the proper order! These articles are very engaging and each could easily be expanded into a quality magazine article.

Guest contributors Tim Hayman, Mark Sampson and Mark Perry have their own sections in the book. Maybe in book five Eric might invite a transplanted Easterner to contribute... what do you think? ;)

After the guest contributions follows what is, in my opinion, the weakest part of the book. There are 26 pages of consist information, a full 20% of the book. I know Eric loves consists, and so do many other railfans, but for me that was 26 pages of fast forwarding. Maybe that's why I read the book so fast the first time!

This section is followed by 10 pages of colour photos, six per page. Many are Eric's but other photographers are also represented. Full advantage is taken of the colour to show VIA's many wraps, from Home Hardware VIA 6429 to the Grey Cup train to today's Canada 150 wraps. A huge variety of VIA equipment is shown, including F units, RDCs, the blue and yellow fleet, Renaissance... VIA certainly has had quite a variety!

The final few pages of the book include some reference material and tables to finish it off.


I think by now you can tell that I really like Research and Recollections. The stories at the front really give a good flavour for what travelling on VIA Rail was like in the 1980s, and the many research pieces and photos - especially the colour ones - provide a great deal of deep information on many aspects of VIA past and present. I'm not interested in the consist tables, but I'm sure many people are. Even if those pages were completely blank, I'd still recommend this book!

It's affordably priced at $35 for Canadians, shipped, and $40 shipped to the US (prices in Canadian dollars); contact Eric for international shipping costs. You can download and print the order form, or Canadians can send Eric an Interac e-transfer to his email address, listed at top right of this site.

If you are a Canadian railfan, you need to buy this book.


I like this book so much that I am going to do my very first giveaway in almost 12 years of blogging. The winner will receive a free copy of Trackside with VIA: Research and Recollections, shipped to any address within Canada or the US. Here are the rules:

  • Everyone on my mailing list by the end of Monday, May 8, 2017, Central time will be eligible. If you're not on my list yet, you have a few days to join!
  • I will randomly choose one person from my mailing list and email them to get address information.
  • If for some reason I'm not able to contact the winner, I'll draw again.
  • If the winner is outside Canada or the US, we'll talk.
Join my list if you're not already on for a chance to win!

Good luck!

This review was written on WestJet flight WS 202 from Calgary to Winnipeg. I was not asked to review this book and I have no financial incentive to promote it.