Monday, January 29, 2018

Two VIAs By Night

VIA Rail's Canadian has been notoriously late this winter. At times VIA 1 (westbound) or VIA 2 (eastbound) has been well over 12 hours late and sometimes more than 24 hours late. Today's VIA 1 and VIA 2 were no exception.


VIA 2 was almost 24 hours late today. It was supposed to arrive at Union Station downtown Sunday (yesterday) at 8:45 PM and leave at 10:30 PM.

I was downtown this Monday evening and noted VIA 2 at the station at 6:30 PM. I don't know when it arrived but that was almost 24 hours late.

I parked at the Forks and at 6:35 PM I noted two VIA locomotives zooming east past the station toward the head end of their train. I'm not sure what they were doing but I have a theory.

They were not so late earlier this morning, but they lost a lot of time. Maybe there was a problem with one or both locomotives and they had to swap them out at the Winnipeg Maintenance Centre. Regardless, VIA 6458 and 6454 ran to the switch, then reversed in toward the station. The odd thing was that they didn't immediately couple onto their train.

I just had my iPhone 6 with me so that was my best camera!

I walked around, trying to find an angle to see the two locomotives from VIA 2. The CN track is higher than the land around it so it's hard to find a spot where you aren't looking up a hill at the trains.

I found a spot where I could scramble up a snow-covered hill to get close to level with the tracks. There's a fence here, so I held my phone up to the fence with the lens between the wires.
VIA 6454 (closer) and 6458 in downtown Winnipeg at night
VIA 6454 still has its full "CANADA 150" wrap.

They sat there for a long time... or at least what seemed like a long time. It was pretty cold outside (-22C or -8F) and my fingers and toes were feeling it as I waited for them to couple up.

After 15 minutes, I decided to give up and find some warmth. As I walked under the overpass I spotted VIA 1 rounding the bend by the Shaw baseball park by the Red River.

VIA 1 Arrives

They paused before the overpass over William Stephenson Way (named after the famous spy who was one inspiration for James Bond, born in Winnipeg). I ran down to photograph them there.

In the photo below, notice the signals at the extreme left of the photo. That's probably why they stopped there.
VIA 6409 in Winnipeg
Note former "CANADA 150" locomotive VIA 6437 trailing. This locomotive still has the giant yellow VIA wrap but the red "CANADA 150" has been removed... at least everything but the "15"...
VIA 6437 in Winnipeg
They started to head into the station tracks as VIA 1's two locomotives finally backed toward their train. Maybe they lingered there for the crew to help line the switches?

VIA 1 arriving in Winnipeg - quite late
I walked under the York Avenue overpass to photograph them from the north side of the tracks.

VIA 1 and VIA 2 Meet

I wanted to get the two trains meeting, with the Museum of Human Rights behind as the background.. that would have been magic.

Yes, it sure would have.

Too bad my phone's battery died in the cold.


I'll just have to tell you what happened. VIA 2's locomotives backed onto the baggage car until it bumped, but they didn't couple. VIA 1 pulled up to overlap VIA 2's locomotives slightly, and one of the crew dismounted to line a switch to go into the station one track north of VIA 2.

It looked like a very tight squeeze to me, down on the road below, but I'm sure there was more clearance between the two trains than I saw. Regardless, VIA 1 pulled into the station very gingerly. No scraping noises!


I had had enough of the cold and headed inside to warm my extremities and charge my phone.

As I walked away, I heard a "ding, ding, ding" of an engine bell. I turned and saw CCGX 4206 and CEMR 4002 - of the Central Manitoba Railway - running light to the east, exercising their running rights over CN as they returned to their yard in North Transcona.

VIA 2 left shortly after 7 PM, apparently as soon as they could after VIA 1 got in.

VIA 1 at the Station

Once my phone's battery charged up over 50%, I went over to photograph VIA 1 at the station.
VIA 1 at the Winnipeg, Manitoba station
That was it for me. I left the downtown at 8 PM and I saw on VIA's tracking site that VIA 1 left at 9:30 PM, only 9.5 hours late... so far.

I hope VIA can find a way to get the Canadian closer to schedule. The cold is not helping but I think it's CN's congestion that is really hurting VIA. I'm not sure what the short term solution for that is.

PS I caught a late VIA 1 two weeks ago at the station, also in bitter cold... I think the photo below is slightly better than tonight's. Better spotting by the crew for photography ;)
VIA 6459 and 6437 in Winnipeg, January 15, 2018
I wish I had managed to photograph the two trains at the Winnipeg station together - a very rare occurrence - but at least I saw it.

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