Thursday, November 19, 2015

3 Budds, 7 days, and 2446 miles


Earlier this month a friend sent me a picture of a group of us on a 1987 railroad excursion that brought back memories (you'll find the picture later on in this story). I decided to write those memories up. Since I did not have contemporaneous notes, I was on my own. After I completed my writeup I remembered that one of our group, Dave Ingles, had written his own report on the trip in the February 1988 issue of Trains Magazine. The article was titled "3 Budds, 7 days, and 2446 miles" which is a great summary (and which I am borrowing for the title of this piece.) Our reports do not differ in any meaningful manner, though I used his to add a few missing details to mine.

Early in 1987 the West Coast Railway Association (WCRA) ran an advertisement in Trains Magazine's "Running Extra" section for a tour of most of the British Columbia Railway System. The only part of the line (which stretched from North Vancouver to Fort Nelson) not covered was the then out of service Dease Lake Extension. The price for a seven day tour was $675 CDN (about $475 US at the time) including all hotels and most meals, a real bargain even in 1987. A separate excursion the day before, covered the Esquimalt and Nanaimo Railway on Vancouver Island for a mere $99 CDN (though my credit card was charged $99 US and Mellon Bank would not fix the overcharge...I've not banked with them since.)

I was in the midst of getting divorced from my first wife, Nikki, and in need of a vacation, so I jumped at the chance to join a number of friends from around the country on this trip.
E&N and BCR routes covered

The Esquimalt & Nanaimo Railway

I flew to Vancouver on September 11, 1987, a day ahead of the E&N excursion and made my way to the motel my friends and I had agreed on in North Vancouver. The next morning the WCRA bus picked me and others up and we caught a BC Ferry over to Nanaimo on Vancouver Island where a train of Via Budd RDC cars awaited. Once aboard, the train took us north to Courtenay, BC and south to Victoria where we caught another BC Ferry back to Vancouver. It is the only time I've ridden on any of the E&N and will likely remain so as the line is presently out of service.

Our Esquimalt & Nanaimo Railway Train at Victoria, BC
At the same time that this was happening, some of my friends (Dave Ingles from Waukesha, WI, Rick Moser from Naperville, IL, and John Arbuckle from Hutchinson, KS) were riding a Canadian National mixed train on the ex-NAR from Fort McMurray, AB south to Edmonton and then flying to Vancouver. We met up at the motel that evening.

Leaving North Vancouver

The next morning (September 13) we made our way to the North Vancouver station of the BCR. In those days the BCR had a regularly scheduled train between North Vancouver and Lillooet (continuing on to Prince George several days a week). Our three Budd RDC cars were running on the rear of the regularly scheduled train as far as Lillooet. At Lillooet our cars would separate from the others and continue on. The first of our three cars contained a cab for the engineer and fireman, a small galley, and "first class" seats. The second car consisted of reasonably cushioned standard coach seats. The third consisted of less reasonably cushioned commuter seats. A group of us quickly settled into a three sets of two seats on each side of the aisle in the second car. In addition to the names already mentioned our group consisted of Dave's father John, Joe McMillan then from the Chicago area and now the operator of McMillan Publications out of Arvada, CO. Steve Patterson of Arvada, CO, John and Marcia Lucas out of Albuquerque, Bill and Luanne Lea then of Prescott, AZ, John Garden of BC, and Roger Puta of San Francisco.

All 11 of us: Roger, John G., Rick, Joe, John A., Dave, Bill, Luanne, Marcia, John L.
John I., Steve, and me
To Prince George and on to Fort Nelson

The scenery along the entire BCR is breathtaking, pretty much everywhere. There were lots of photo runbys every day. Meals were decent (except that they were mostly chicken based which was bad for Joe, who didn't eat chicken...he thought he'd be saved the day they announced that dinner would be lasagna, but it turned out to be chicken lasagna.) The hotel rooms every night were decent, or as decent as could be expected given that they were mostly in small towns.

Our train, no doubt crossing the Peace River
For me the "new mileage" began when we passed the station at Pemberton. I had ridden a steam excursion to there during the 1978 NRHS Convention but had never ridden any further.

The first day we rode from North Vancouver to Prince George. The second day we rode to Fort St. James where we were treated to a tour of the town (including a bear "dressing"). The Dease Lake Extension went about 100 miles to the northwest from here, but we could not ride it because it was out of service at the time. We reversed direction from Fort St. James and continued on. It was night and raining as we rode the McKenzie branch into the company town of the same name before tying up for the night in Chetwynd. The third day we rode east to Dawson Creek (on the border with Alberta) then back through Chetwynd to Fort St. John. At this stop I managed to temporarily lose my suitcase because it did not get loaded onto the bus/van that took us to the hotel. Luckily, once I discovered this, I was able to recover it where it sat in the mud near the train.
A tour of Fort St. James
The fourth day we rode to the northernmost point of the line, Fort Nelson. This evening I am sure that dinner was off the train in a real restaurant. The local chamber of commerce put on a pageant for us that some of us did not attend because the real show was outside--an incredible view of the northern lights.

Did I mention the scenery? (On the Tumbler Ridge branch)
At this point it is probably worth discussing the morning ritual of our group. Early on the first day of the trip we had all agreed that the seats in the second car of the train were the best on the train. We also determined that we wanted to continue to sit together. Obtaining 11 seats together given the first come first served seating policy was potentially a challenge that we solved by having someone go to the train ahead of the bus/vans to grab the seats. We had various means of accomplishing this, but the first one I remember is when Rick and I finished breakfast early and walked to the train (along the tracks if I remember correctly) in Chetywnd at the beginning of the third day of the trip.

End of track in Fort Nelson
In Fort Nelson the hotel was way too far from the train to walk. After breakfast I went up to the front desk and asked the woman behind the desk if the hotel shuttle would be willing to take a few of us to the train. She responded by handing me the keys to their van, along with $8, and asked me to buy gas and shuttle some of the passengers (especially those with mobility difficulties) to the train along with our group. I ended up making 1.5 trips to the yard where the train was sitting and left the van in front of the yard office with the keys in the ignition when I was done, as instructed. Talk about hospitality.

A mid-day stop in Dawson Creek
Back to North Vancouver including an afternoon on Tumbler Ridge

The fifth day of the trip saw us heading back to Fort St. John and the sixth to Prince George. But before getting to Prince George we made a detour down the 82 mile long electrified Tumbler Ridge branch which had opened in 1983 to serve a pair of coal mines. (This branch closed in 2000 after the mines it served closed.) The most interesting lunch of the trip was served along this branch in a most interesting fashion. Our train had to wait in a siding near the west portal of either the 5.6 mile long Table Tunnel or the 3.7 mile long Wolverine Tunnel while we waited for a train from the east to pass us. It was a long wait and they decided to give us our box lunches to eat outside while awaiting the arrival of that train. We were warned to watch out for bears and then let loose. The rails were along a hillside and most of us climbed to good vantage points to take pictures of the oncoming train as it left the tunnel, and opened our lunches to discover a box full of pastries. When we later reboarded the train we were all on a sugar high. No bears showed before the train we were awaiting, and we all got our pictures. Unfortunately a disgruntled member of the WCRA staff, Doug Cummings, decided to step into everyone's picture just before the train appeared, but it was still a memorable few hours. We reboarded the train to continue to the end of the branch and then came back the way we had gone and continued on to Prince George for the night.

After a pastry lunch on Tumbler Ridge, this appeared
The next morning (the seventh day) we were, as usual, faced with the problem of obtaining our seats. The problem was simplified somewhat because John and Dave Ingles, and John Arbuckle had decided to leave the tour to fly down to California to ride an excursion on the Northwestern Pacific before the line was abandoned. This particular morning, Joe, Rick, and I left the hotel early by taxi and made our way to the car shops in the BCR yard. We boarded the train there and had our seats reserved before the train pulled into the passenger station where the rest of our gang and everyone else waited. The expression on some faces as we pulled in and they realized that we were already aboard was priceless.

There were two events of interest on this particular day. The first concerned a passenger, Steve Zehner from Milwaukee, who had overslept and missed the train. He hired a taxi and spent several hundred dollars to catch up with the train, most likely at Williams Lake. The WCRA asked for voluntary donations to help him pay the taxi fare. I understand he actually made a profit.

The second event was the search for Dave Ingles. The excursion was run by a WCRA member, Alan Cruickshank, who had spent entirely too much time on the PA during the trip. (In fact, one of my friends, the late Peter Putnam Bretz, would pick up the PA and do a parody of him that was almost flawless during the trip.) In any event we were all pretty annoyed with him after seven days. He came through the train looking for Dave Ingles who he claimed owed more money because of an exchange rate issue. For most of the day we would tell him that he had just missed Dave as he had gone to the other car. As far as we know, he never tumbled to the fact that Dave wasn't on the train at all that day.

The train arrived in North Vancouver after dark on September 19. I had determined that a limousine would be the cost effective way to get to the Vancouver airport and a few of us shared one to an airport hotel for the night. The next morning I flew to Chicago where I spent a few hours with a would-be girl friend and then on to Pittsburgh where the trip ended.


The WCRA ran this trip again a year or two later. I believe they traveled on a part of the Dease Lake extension, but otherwise they did essentially the same trip...for at least $600 more!

Sunday, November 1, 2015

The Lexington Group's 2015 Meeting


The Lexington Group in Transportation History is an educational institution that was created in 1942 and concentrates on all aspects of transportation history, but particularly railroads. I have been a member of the Lexington Group since 1985, the year they held their meeting in Memphis. The typical Lexington Group meeting has several days of papers about transportation topics and one or more group inspection trips, usually sponsored by a railroad. Due to conflicts I've only been able to make it to three meetings before this one:
  • 1985 in Memphis
  • 2005 in Harrisburg
  • 2011 in Knoxville
Since 2005 I have hosted the group's website at (decidedly not a major undertaking due to the wishes of the organization.)

After last year's meeting (I believe in St. Louis) they announced that the 2015 meeting would be in Newark and I marked it on my calendar as a semi-immovable event. As soon as they announced the hotel information I booked a room for the entire time (Tuesday night to Sunday morning) while awaiting the details of the meeting itself. Eventually the meeting registration information came and I signed up immediately. In addition to two days of papers, there would be a NY/NJ harbor inspection tour on Thursday, and a rail inspection tour on Saturday. Beyond that the details of the inspection trips were vague, but that didn't matter because the Group always does things interesting enough to be worthwhile.

My daughter, Lizzy, is not in college this semester. Some of her closest friends go to school at NYU and I decided that it would be fun to take her and two of her friends to a Broadway show on the night before the meeting. She could spend the rest of the week with her friends, and make her way home to be in time to help Barb with Halloween. So I purchased four center/orchestra seats to the Book of Mormon and air tickets for Lizzy.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

We left home in time to catch the 10:25am PAT bus to the airport. I get to ride free with my CMU ID (or with my Medicare card, but it's easier just to use my CMU ID card.) Lizzy had to pay, but the bus is the only reasonable way to get to the airport if one is going to be away for more than a few days and the return is at a reasonable hour. It adds less than 30 minutes to the trip.

Our United Embraer mini-jet left about 10 minutes ahead of its schedule 1:17pm departure, and then sat in the penalty box due to air traffic in the Newark area. We eventually were wheels up at 2pm and arrived around 3:10pm, only about 20 minutes late. We had plenty of time to catch a shuttle to the conference hotel (the Hilton at Newark Penn Station), clean up, and catch a New Jersey Transit train to New York Pennsylvania Station. We were to meet Lizzy's friends, Grace and Kyle at the Eugene O'Neill theater on W 49th near 8th at 6:15 and walking from Penn Station we were there around 6:10. Grace an Kyle got off their subway from NYU at the wrong stop and showed up around 6:30 which was fine. The doors opened right around then and we were able to check Lizzy's bags before taking our seats.

Lizzy, Grace, and Kyle outside of the Eugene O'Neill Theater
The Book of Mormon was everything I had heard it was. I had purposely kept myself from knowing much about it ahead of time other than that it was funny. It was definitely that...I laughed so much I probably missed a good 30% of the lines. Highly recommended.

After the show I left Lizzy, Grace, and Kyle to head back to NYU while I caught a No. 1 subway to Penn Station and then a NJT train to Newark Penn Station.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

I awoke around 7:30 and met my friend Rick Moser up in the "executive lounge" of the hotel for a quick bowl of cereal. Then we picked up our badges and excursion tickets and other goodies and went into the first session which opened with wonderful presentation about the Pennsylvania Railroad in New York by Albert Churella. The first paper was supposed to be about the Central Railroad of New Jersey, but that talk was canceled with no information given to the attendees about why. This was followed by an overview of the operations of the Port Authority of New York/New Jersey much of which I did not know about. I was particularly taken with the capacity discussions and wonder what will happen in 5-10 years if the growth of travel in the area increases as projected.

For some reason there is a lot of Portuguese cuisine in the Newark area (at least near the hotel) and the hotel put on a terrific Portuguese lunch full of sausage and seafood. After lunch there were presentations about advertising the New York Central and Pennsylvania Railroad trains in the 1840 to 1940 era, WW I German sabotage in the New York area, and an interesting talk about the revived New Jersey to New York railroad car float operation. (Interesting fact: about 2% to 4% of freight to New York is delivered by rail. Almost all of the rest is delivered by truck. When the bridges and tunnels were closed after 9/11 the city had possibly 10 days worth of food available with no redundant means to get new supplies.) Finally, George Bullow, who organized the next days maritime excursion, gave a presentation about what we should expect to see and some of the relevant history.

I had arranged to meet some friends for dinner at Keen's Steakhouse in New York City. Nina and Stevan Goldman met me at the hotel a little after 6pm and we caught a NJT train that arrived just as we got to the platform. There had been torrential rain all day and this caused both the Goldmans and the train to be a bit late, but the rain had stopped and we made it to the restaurant relatively dry just a few minutes past the 7pm time of our reservation. There we joined Kim and JK Scheinberg who were already seated. We spent the next two plus hours with great conversation, great food, and great drinks (especially for the scotch drinkers among us.) Nina and Stevan and I almost immediately caught a train back to Newark and went our separate ways at the hotel.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

This was the day of the maritime excursion which turned out to be a tour of the New York and New Jersey harbor facilities with a particular emphasis on old rail facilities. Most of the railroads that served New York City did not have tunnel or bridge access to it. They relied on ferry service from places including Jersey City or Hoboken. The route of our nearly six hour excursion took us past both of these and much more, leaving from pier 23 near Newark's Liberty International Airport (near where I95 and I78 intersect on the map below.)

Rather than a detailed travelog (George Bullow did a great job of describing everything, but I couldn't possibly) I'm going to simply include a variety of photos.

The John James Audobon awaits the fourth bus at Pier 23 near Newark Airport 
A somewhat unique view of the Freedom Tower
Dry dock on Staten Island 
A famous lady and two equally famous buildings
Another famous lady (the Queen Mary II) docked in Brooklyn
A better view of the Freedom Tower
A better view of that other large building
(Erie) Lackawanna Terminal in Hoboken 
Central Railroad of New Jersey's former depot in Jersey City
Many of our ancestors passed through Ellis Island
One last view of the Statue of Liberty
The buses returned us to the hotel by 4pm and Rick and Neil and I arranged to meet in the lobby at 5pm to discuss a planned trip to Switzerland for next March. The banquet for the meeting was held at the Brasilia Grill about a 15 minute walk away (or one could go by bus...we elected to walk). We actually got there a bit ahead of the crowd and were happily seated and with beers before many others walked in. The meal was really good all you can eat churrascaria and unfortunately for us, all we could eat was much more than all we should have eaten. We were all overfull by the time we finished and the walk back to the hotel didn't help very much.

Friday, October 30, 2015

In addition to the official business meeting of the group, Friday was a day of papers. Roger Grant, the President of the Lexington Group started the meeting promptly at 8am by acknowledging my contribution of the organization website...I have no idea why I was at the top of the program. Then George Werner read brief farewells to members who had passed away during the previous year (including my friend Pete Stonitsch). After other business the papers began with a presentation about the New Haven Railroad and another about TWA in New York. At this point Neil and I joined Rick and took a "quick" roundtrip to Gladstone, skipping lunch in the process.
Our New Jersey Transit train at Gladstone
An attempt to be creative with my iPhone (at Gladstone) 
We returned in time for an extremely interesting paper on ATC and PTC on Amtrak's Northeast Corridor by Chris Jagodinski (a proud Bill Crawford told me that Chris had been a coop student who worked with him back in his college days.) Then a presentation by Ron Batory, the President of Conrail talking about his railroad in the present day. At the end of his talk Ron introduced Bennett Levin who, with son Eric, had organized Saturday's forthcoming inspection trip over Conrail tracks. Bennett talked about his life as a (perhaps) 12 year old visiting his Grandma in Jersey City and becoming enamored of the local railroad scene (and his many explorations thereof). He then gave us details for boarding the trip and the meeting adjourned.

Rick, Neil, and I walked to a local pub and had sandwiches for dinner and then retired to our hotel rooms, getting out of Dodge, so to speak, before the Mets/Royals game and much of the Halloween celebrations started.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Saturday was the rail inspection trip aboard the Jersey Devil. This was a special train put together by Bennett and Eric Levin with the cooperation and assistance of Amtrak and Conrail. Bennett had told me to come hungry so I skipped breakfast and headed over to Track 5 at Newark Pennsylvania Station and waited for the train which arrived at about 8am having come up from Philadelphia that morning. It was lead by Bennett's E8 diesels 5711 and 5809 resplendent in Pennsylvania Railroad livery.
The Jersey Devil arriving at Newark Penn
The train from front to rear consisted of two amfleet coaches, an amcafe, two more amfleet coaches, Bennett's parlor lounge Warrior Ridge, and Bennett's office car Pennsylvania 120. My friend Rick and I joined other lucky passengers in the Warrior Ridge and settled into our seats awaiting the on time 8:30am departure.

Schematic map of the route of the Jersey Devil
We backed out of the station to a location called CP ("control point") Hunter and then headed off to Croxton Yard, then down the National Docks Secondary, the Coast Secondary, and the Amboy Secondary to Jamesburg where the train was turned and we were treated to an excellent hot pastrami lunch in the local Elk's Club.
The Jersey Devil in Jamesburg
After lunch the train retraced its steps up to CP PD north of Perth Amboy and then headed to Bound Brook where the engines ran around the train and pulled us backward up the Leigh Line to Newark where we arrived on Track A just before 5pm.
The route of the Jersey Devil
The day ended with dinner and great conversation with several good friends.

Epilog - Sunday, November 1, 2015

This was the end of daylight savings time which meant that even though I woke up at the usual 6:30am for this trip, I got an extra hour of sleep. I took my time dressing, packing, and having breakfast before catching the hotel shuttle to the airport at 9am.

Sometime during the night United had switched aircraft on me. Instead of flying in an Embraer 175 jet, the aircraft that awaited me was a Bombardier Q400 turboprop. I was somewhat unhappy with this switch because I don't much care for the noise level and also because I had purposely picked my flight so that it was a jet. But it's United so shit happens. In any event we boarded on time and I noticed that my seat in Row 15 was actually in Row 13 (but there was no Row 13 and 14 on this aircraft and who knows what other rows numbers were missing.) The door closed about 5 minutes late and we began our taxi to the runway at which point a flight attendant asked "is there a doctor onboard?" We soon returned to the gate. EMTs boarded and very quickly a passenger and his companion walked off the plane. To the airline's credit they turned things around very quickly all things considered and we were only 55 minutes late into Pittsburgh. I waited 20 minutes for a bus to near my home, Barb picked me up, and I was home by 3:10pm.

Tomorrow back to work, but it was a great week of railroad, airline, maritime and New York/New Jersey history along with some fun ride. I'm already looking forward to next year's meeting.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

A Week on Amtrak and the Grand Canyon Railway in 1990

On Saturday, March 31, 1990, two friends, Rick and Phil Moser, and I began a week long Amtrak trip. For me there were three main interests in making this trip:
  • It would fill in a number of routes that I had never ridden.
  • It was a chance to spend time with some friends who live elsewhere.
  • It was a chance to ride the new Grand Canyon Railway.
The Southwest Chief pulled out of Chicago's Union Station at 5pm sharp. I settled into my economy room across the hall from one of my friends in the rearmost sleeper and watched as we rolled past the Amtrak Chicago maintenance facility. After the conductor took our tickets and the On Board Services Chief gave us our meal vouchers we headed for the lounge car for a cocktail before dinner. Dinner in the diner followed, with an expanded menu from my last Amtrak trip. The choices included a chicken dish, a seafood dish, a chef's special (often shortribs or lamb/pork kabobs), a vegetarian dish (usually lasagna), and a steak, or roast beef. Every meal I had was tasty and properly cooked with the exception of the steak which they never can get rare for some reason.

Not our menu (check out the prices!)
After dinner it was back to our rooms to watch the moonlit Illinois scenery. Then an evening drink in the lounge...which we quickly took back to our rooms...the movie that they were showing in the lounge made it impossible to talk. Then to bed. I slept like a rock. As I did, I recorded the first of my "new" mileage...the Santa Fe line through Topeka. Every time I had taken that train before it had bypassed Topeka. When I woke up we were around Garden City, Kansas and an hour late because of the change to daylight savings time.

Breakfast was an interesting experience. A companion and I both ordered corn flakes for breakfast and when they came we were amazed that the portions were so small. I had earlier noticed that they were using portion controlled servings. While I ate I noticed the waiter making up another order for another table and lo-and-behold he was splitting one of these portions between two bowls. Later on I complained about this to the On Board Service's Chief who talked to the steward who came back and told us we mistaken. (Subsequently another On Board Service's Chief told us that the steward and waiter were probably stealing...they'd pocket the cash from someone else's cash order).

The Southwest Chief
Going through Raton pass, one of the units died, so we crept along quite slowly, but made the hill...but not without turning off HEP to avoid a power drain. The second unit was eventually restarted and we were only a few minutes late out of Albuquerque, and virtually on-time into Winslow, Arizona. This was the high point of the trip (for stupidity). The Amtrak computer's had not dealt very well with the time change when it came to Arizona (the time does not change there). As a result, tickets issued for departure on April 1 within Arizona, had the wrong time printed on them, and our conductor decided that we could not leave the station until that time. So we sat in Winslow for nearly an hour (while other members of the crew tried to convince the conductor that he was wrong to wait). Anyway, we finally reached Flagstaff, rented a car, checked into a motel and went to sleep.

The Grand Canyon Railway
Early the next morning we drove the 30 or so miles to Williams where we went to the station of the Grand Canyon Railway. There we picked up our tickets (ordered well in advance) for the 10:00 trip to the Grand Canyon. The train consisted of a steam locomotive (I don't care enough about steam to have noticed what kind), and three Harriman coaches that I probably commuted in when I lived in the Bay Area. The coaches had been refurbished quite nicely and the whole operation was quite professional. This train, too, left right on time with 250 or so passengers, and headed through some interesting scenery. During the trip, car attendants (two per car) gave us bottles of Coke (in 6.5 oz bottles!) and cheese and cracker snacks. For part of the trip we were serenaded by a "cowboy" with a guitar. (Even though I am indifferent to steam, I would have preferred to hear the steam locomotive!) Arrival at the Grand Canyon, was about 2.5 hours later, and a quick walk up some stairs brought us to the El Tovar Hotel (where we had lunch overlooking the Canyon) and the south rim of the Canyon itself. If you've never been there, go. The Grand Canyon is indescribable. Four hours later we boarded for the return trip, and about 7pm pulled into the Williams station. Of course, this was more new mileage for me.

Part of our route including the Grand Canyon Railway
Then it was back to Flagstaff, a quick shower, and a MacDonald's salad, before getting on the Southwest Chief for the trip to LA. The car attendant made up our rooms while we had a drink in the lounge, and by the time he came to get us, we were ready to go to sleep. After a rough night (the only night I had trouble sleeping) I awoke just before we pulled into the Pasadena station (the train still took the old route then. Now much of the right of way from LA to Pasadena and beyond is the MetroLink gold line), and was ready to get off by the time we reached LAUPT. After breakfast at the station (alas, we did not know about Philippes at that point), and a quick walk around part of downtown LA, we boarded the Coast Starlight for the trip to Seattle. We were to be met by a friend who works for the SP at San Jose, so he could have dinner with us to Oakland where he would get off. Unfortunately he didn't show up so we dined alone. The Starlight also provided me with new mileage including the East Valley line from Roseville to Tehama, and Vancouver to Seattle. We were two hours late into Seattle, because of slow running up the coast and a medical emergency. Just south of Tacoma someone fell down the stairs in the lounge car and knocked himself out. An ambulance was summoned and he was removed from the train. We have no idea what happened to him.

In Seattle we checked into another motel and had a short night's sleep. The Pioneer left at 6am. This is a short little train to Salt Lake where it joins the California Zephyr and the Desert Wind to become a huge train. The train out of Seattle consisted of a diner, two coaches and a sleeper (all Superliner of course). The trip to Salt Lake was a wonderful trip, complete with new mileage for me (Portland to Salt Lake), and great scenery. It was only marred by an idiotic UP dispatcher who (according to our crew) deliberately repeatedly stabbed us for freights. In spite of being almost an hour late by the time I went to bed, we were nearly on time into Ogden, only to be put behind a coal train making us an hour late into Salt Lake.

The combined train left Salt Lake roughly an hour late with 16 cars! 4 baggage cars, a hi-level coach dorm, three sleepers, 6 coaches, a diner and a Superliner lounge. We immediately stopped because of a signal problem on the Rio Grande and all at once were an hour and 40 late. Extensive track work on the Grande caused us to be three hours late by the time we reached Glenwood Springs. On the radio we learned that the train would be picking up 400 skiers at Fraser (Winter Park). Sure enough, the train pulled into Fraser and there was a mob waiting. An hour later (it takes a while to put that many people and skis on a train) our nice quiet train had been turned into a madhouse. The skiers were mostly high school kids on spring break, and they behaved as such. Luckily, we were in the last sleeper and could barricade the doors against their incursions.

The next morning it was the dining car crew that suffered. We had decided to have breakfast and lunch at the last call since the train was likely to be at least three hours late into Chicago, and wouldn't be serving dinner. Around 8am the PA system announced that they were on reservation number 12 for breakfast. Around 9am it announced that reservations for breakfast would be taken for the next 5 minutes, so one of us when to get one and came back with number 98, just as they were calling number 33. About 10am we decided it was stupid to wait any longer and sent our porter for breakfast which we enjoyed in the privacy of our rooms. They eventually stopped serving breakfast at 12:30pm! Then they announced that they wouldn't start serving lunch until 2:30pm (I wonder why?) About 1pm, the On Board Services' Chief announced that Amtrak would be providing free Kentucky Fried Chicken dinners when the train arrived at Galesburg (actually, they put on 300 at Burlington, Iowa, and 280 at Galesburg). This significantly cut the crowd for lunch (which for non-sleeping car passengers cost real money). So we were able to enjoy a final meal in the diner without much trouble. (The crew did not look as happy as it had the previous day!) Anyway, the train backed into Chicago Union Station at 8:45pm on the Saturday following my departure, less than 4 and one half hours late.

Some observations about the trip:
  • The crews (with the exception of the potentially thieving dining car crew on the Southwest Chief) were consistently first rate. It is easy to rank them, but the differences are marginal. (From best to "worst": the Pioneer from Seattle to Salt Lake, the Coast Starlight, the Pioneer/Desert Wind/Zephyr from Salt Lake to Chicago, and the Southwest Chief). This is a big difference from my last major trip of a few years ago where the crew performance was really spotty (Chicago to Sparks on the Zephyr, Stockton to LA on the San Joaquin, LA to Chicago on the Eagle).
  • The scenic highlight of the trip is the D&RGW east of Grand Junction. Other first rate scenic portions included: the Southwest Chief between Trinidad and Lamy, the Grand Canyon Railway as it got near the Canyon, the Coast Starlight along the Pacific ocean, the Coast Starlight through the Cascades, the Coast Starlight and Pioneer along Puget Sound (with a great view of Mount Rainer), the Pioneer along the Columbia River, and the Pioneer/Wind/Zephyr climbing Soldier's Summit on the D&RGW.
  • The Superliner equipment is showing its age, perhaps due to not enough opportunity for maintenance. Amtrak really needs to get more Superliners so it can rotate them out of service for good overhauls more frequently. In one of my rooms a bolt was missing on the seat so it had to be proped up by a stack of Amtrak Express magazines. On the otherhand, another had been recently outshopped, had the latest retrofits, and was tight as a drum (hardly any rattles). (By the way, the latest retrofits include: an upstairs washroom, a public shower downstairs, and oversized upper berths in Deluxe Bedrooms.)
All and all a great trip.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Charlotte Circle Trip, November 1990

It seems like all of the really good trips come around the same time, usually in the Spring and the Fall. Fall of 1990 was no exception, and so, on Friday, November 2, I found myself out at the Greater Pittsburgh Airport waiting for my USAir flight to Charlotte. At the terminal I met my friend Dave from Wisconsin, who changed planes in Pittsburgh and flew with me to Charlotte. The flight left a few minutes late, but we were essentially on-time into Charlotte where we were joined by my friend Rick from Chicago. (Aside: Rick wanted to fly one way to Charlotte from Chicago. The best fare he could find was nearly $300. I got creative and booked him on a Chicago to Birmingham roundtrip on USAir for $128.00. Had we decided on the trip a few days earlier I could have booked him on the same flight for $54. Of course, to go to Birmingham from Chicago on USAir requires a change of planes...guess where?)

Anyway, we rented a Maxima from Hertz (for the grand total of $19.96 per day!) and drove to the hotel that the trip sponsors (the Piedmont NRHS folks) had recommended.  The Holiday Inn-North was an old Holiday Inn. The rooms had the usual old Holiday Inn musty smell, and the whole place looked seedy. As we parked the car in a nearly empty parking lot, I started worrying about whether it would be there the next morning. (It was, but that and an unexpected knock on the door in the late evening from a woman inquiring about something or other :-) caused us to shift our reservations to a Red Roof Inn for the next night.) So we went out for some southern BBQ and then played half a game of Rail Baron before calling it a night.

The train was scheduled to leave Charlotte at 7:30am on Saturday. Boarding passes were to be distributed starting at 6:15am. We arrived at the station at about 6:25am to discover that there was a long line ahead of us waiting for passes (which they didn't start giving out until 7am). Eventually we got seats in the 8th car (right behind the commissary) the first open window coach. The train was the Norfolk Southern Steam Excursion program's "B" train, a very mixed bag of equipment. The consist included open window and A/C cars, a commissary, and a sleeper lounge (Pine Tree State) for invited guests. The routing was from Charlotte to Winston-Salem via Barber Jct. on the Southern, Winston-Salem to Norwood on the Winston-Salem Southbound, and Norwood to Charlotte on the Aberdeen, Carolina and Western. Power was to be Class J 611 to Winston-Salem, a pair of Geeps (NS, and CSX) from Winston-Salem to Norwood, and a trio of GP7's and GP9's back to Charlotte. For me, the attraction was the new mileage: Charlotte to Barber Jct. and Winston-Salem back to Charlotte.

It was a beautiful sunny day for a train ride, and we left Charlotte only a few minutes late at around 7:40am. Things were going well for a few minutes when we ran into our first delay. 611 was having trouble negotiating a curve on a grade still within the Charlotte city limits (near a place called Atando where the line to W-S diverges from the main line). We took an hour to get up the "hill" with our 14-15 car train. Then we started to move, and all was again well with the world. A really nice photo runby was held at a place called Mt. Ulla, complete with a long sweeping right of way and plenty of brilliant fall colors.

611 on a photo runby -- though not on the trip being written about
Those of us into shortlines were really looking forward to the runbys scheduled on the WSSB and the AC&W. Alas it was not to be. About 20 miles from W-S, the 611 again had trouble pulling the train up a grade. It tried for about 30 minutes before they decided to double the hill. The plan was to take 6 cars off the front of the train to a siding at the top of the grade, come back for the rest of the train, rejoin the cars at the siding, and continue on our way. They made the cut and the 611 took off...a few car lengths. It still couldn't make the grade (I think I can, I think I can, ...., I can't!) So they radioed for diesels to come and get us and let us get off the train and stretch our legs in the middle of nowhere while we waited. Eventually two diesels showed up (the ones for the WSSB segment), and we took off after a 3+ hour delay with a CSX engine heading up the train. Some folks off the train got a great picture of the train being pulled by a CSX unit passing the disabled 611. (We later heard that it had sander problems...maybe.)

So around 4 hours late, we reached Winston-Salem and made the transfer to the WSSB. Switching there went faster than expected and we were soon heading through some spectacular scenery across high bridges, and along glistening lakes. I say glistening because due to our lateness we only saw the northern part of the railroad. The lakes were lighted by moonlight. We reached Norwood with no trouble, quickly made the transfer to the AC&W (which also involved hooking up another private car, the "Babbling Brook" to the rear of the train), and headed for Charlotte.

Due in at 6:30pm, the train did not make it until 10:30pm or so. We dashed off to our car, and went to check in at the Red Roof Inn, a much nicer place at less cost than the Holiday Inn (though inconsistent with the AAA ratings!) My friend Rick was catching the Crescent around 1am, so he used one of our rooms and showered while the rest of us went and had a late dinner at the nearby Waffle House. Then I took Rick back to the Amtrak station to catch his train, and left him to wait while I showered and went to bed at about 12:30am. At 7am I got up, and Dave drove me to the airport where I caught a flight back to Pittsburgh. Except for the fact that USAir had lost my reservation, this was uneventful.

The trip was a good one, even though there were delays. I've got a few observations however:

  1. When I ride a trip scheduled to be pulled by steam, I always assume it will be at least an hour late these days. Steam is dead, and the railroads (even those that want to) don't know how to deal with it anymore. If anything goes wrong it is magnified by the inability of the railroaders to deal with it. The should place less emphasis on steam on these excursions.
  2. The days of the NS steam program are (in my opinion) numbered. There seems to be very little high level committment to the program at the NS. Every NS trip I've been on in the last year has been late, sometimes due to equipment problems, and sometimes due to sabatoge by the dispatchers, etc. The passenger equipment is borderline. Some of it looks like it hasn't had any maintenance in years. There is no pride in the program on the railroad anymore. Moral: if there are trips you've been wanting to ride, ride them next year if they are offered. They might not be here in 92.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Broadway/Capitol Special Inaugural Train (1990)

Saturday, November 10, 1990 marked the last departures of Amtrak's Broadway Limited and Capitol Limit that traversed Conrail's Fort Wayne line between Alliance, Ohio and Chicago. Beginning with the next day's departure the Broadway would back out of Pittsburgh to the connection with the B&O at Bloom and then take an all B&O routing to Chicago via Youngstown, Akron, Fostoria, Garrett, and Napanee. The Capitol would continue on its present route to Alliance, Ohio where it turned north toward Cleveland and connected to the present route of the Lake Shore Limited. This made Pittsburgh to Cleveland travel by rail possible (albeit very inconvenient) for the first time since the inception of Amtrak.

To celebrate this new service, Amtrak ran a special inaugural train for dignitaries, travel agents, media, and other invited guests. I was lucky enough to be sent an invitation, and so on the previous Tuesday night I boarded a USAir F100 for Chicago. After a pleasant dinner with my sister and a friend, I went to bed early anticipating an early wakeup on Wednesday morning. At 4:20am(!) my alarm went off, and I got ready for a big day of travel. I arrived at Union Station about 5:15am and proceeded to track 28 where the special train was waiting.

The inaugural train
The train consisted of two F40's, a baggage car (for supplies), two Amfleet II coaches, a full diner, a dome, a Amfleet II lounge, two more Amfleet II coaches, and Amtrak 10001, a track inspection car. This was the first time I'd had a chance to see 10001. It was built from a wrecked Amfleet I car and had a standard office car configuration (from the rear: open platform, lounge area, a number of private bedrooms with bathroom and shower, a dining area and a kitchen/pantry area. The curved sides of an Amfleet car made the side standard side passage a bit awkward, but otherwise it was practically indistinguishable from Amtrak 10000. (In my experience the 10000 rode better, however.)

Amtrak 10001 brought up the markers
By 5:45, various of my friends who also had been invited, had arrived, and we settled into our seats in the lower portion of the dome car. The train pulled out a few minutes late at just past 6am. Shortly after departure, uniformed attendants passed out orange and apple juice, along with a continental breakfast. This was just the start of an almost continuous stream of goodies and souvenirs that were showered upon us during the two days.

For most of us the attraction of this trip was to be able to see the lines traversed in daylight, something that aren't possible with the overnight schedules of the regular train. The train pulled into Napanee, it's first stop at about 9am to an incredible crowd. This was Amish country, and there were horses and wagons surrounding the station. A very anachronistic sight. Probably 200 people showed up to greet the train and listen to the speeches by local politicians and Amtrak officials. About 100 of them boarded the train for the short run to Garrett, the next stop. This scene was repeated at every stop along the way, except with somewhat smaller crowds.

Amish at Napanee
The train was on-time all of the way across Indiana and Ohio. An unscheduled stop was made in Ravenna, Ohio, a town that felt slighted because it was not a scheduled stop on the route of the Broadway Limited. Amtrak officials thanked the crowd for its support, and indicated that they may consider this request at a future date. Also, the people of Lordstown, Ohio (where there is a big GM plant) were out protesting that it wasn't a stop.

At Youngstown, a major crowd (and a band) boarded, ready to party to Pittsburgh. My friends and I finished a game of Rail Baron (begun in Charlotte) in the lounge, but by the time we finished it the noise level of partying Youngstownites had made the car unbearable, so we retreated to the dome. It wasn't much better (the NARPites had taken it over as their private preserve), so we decided to ask the diner crew if they would heat some Steak n Shake burgers that had been delivered to us at trainside in Garrett (from Fort Wayne). While we waited an Amtrak attendant served us Korbel Champagne and we have photos of us eating Steak n Shake hamburgers in style.

The completion of a game of Rail Baron started weeks previously
The train refueled in New Castle (so that it didn't have to do so overnight in Pittsburgh) and this put us a little off schedule. We reached Field (on the B&O...Bloom on Conrail, hey it's in Bloomfield!) the junction of B&O and Conrail tracks in Pittsburgh a few minutes after our scheduled 7:30pm arrival and backed into Pittsburgh station at about 8pm.

After a all-too-short night at home in Pittsburgh (mine, not my friends), we reboarded the train (which had been turned overnight) for a 7am departure. This time we chased some of the NARPites out of the dome and settled into some seats there for part of the trip to Cleveland. Before we left Pittsburgh, one of the last eastbound Broadway Limiteds over the old route arrived. The run along the Ohio river to Rochester, PA was fun, complete with a scenic tour of Conway Yard once one of the biggest, and before long we were in Alliance, Ohio where we diverged north to Cleveland. A good sized group boarded at Alliance, including some of the Ohio folks who've been pushing for Pittsburgh to Cleveland service for years.

Alliance to Cleveland was a very busy railroad (Conrail routed much of its traffic from Pittsburgh to Chicago this way...hence the desire to downgrade the Fort Wayne line) and we found ourselves behind at least one and maybe two freights. We'd come upon signal after signal lit approach medium. The schedule accounted for this, and we were likely to end up ontime into Cleveland, when we came to a red signal, and there, just ahead of us was PIEL8 (Pittburgh, Elkhart, 8) stopped. It had gone into emergency for no apparent reason, and while they decided what to do we sat...just 7 miles from our destination.

The finally got the freight out of our way, and we did the last few miles to Cleveland in good time, arriving at Lakefront Station at about 11:30 instead of 11:00. There were bands and a good sized crowd there to meet us. We didn't stay for the celebration which was to go on until 7:30pm, with invited guests having luncheon on the train, and a public display before the train ran non-stop to Chicago (scheduled arrival 2:30am!)

My friends from the Chicago area rented a car instead, and railfanned their way across Ohio and Indiana. They planned to stop at the Fort Wayne Steak n Shake, and also to get pictures of one of the last Capitol Limiteds on the Fort Wayne line, and get home at a more reasonable hour (though at a higher expense). I caught a plane for Washington, and a business meeting.

A very enjoyable trip. Amtrak was to be congratulated. They knew how to throw a party.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Ten New Miles (1993)

Ordinarily I wouldn't have bothered posting a short trip report like this, but at the time I thought folks would be interested in the fact that Norfolk Southern had apparently turned their excursion program around (in 1993.)

Jim Boyd (the late editor of Railfan and Railroad Magazine) had written an article blasting the Norfolk Southern Railroad excursion program and specifically Carl Jensen, manager of the program. As I've mentioned in other reports, the NS excursion equipment was in terrible shape, A/C cars ran hot, Jensen walked around with a permanent scowl on his face, dispatchers refused to cooperate with getting the train over the rail, etc.

On Saturday June 19, 1993, I had the good fortune to ride the excursion operated by the Ohio Railroad Museum (the folks at Worthington) Rails to Rollercoasters a one day excursion from Columbus, OH to Cedar Point and other activities at or near Sandusky.  My friend Rich Copeland and I had driven in from Pittsburgh the afternoon before and spent the night at a local Red Roof Inn.  The tickets said that boarding passes would be issued at 6:45am, the train would board at 7:30am, and we'd leave at 8:00am.  We arrived at the fairgrounds at 7:00am and found a good sized crowd there already.

My previous experience with NS at the fairgrounds was for an Independence Limited several years ago.  On that day we stood around in heavy thunderstorms awaiting a train late for boarding, then boarded soaking wet into a well air conditioned car.  Very uncomfortable.  This day the weather was perfect at boarding time (though it would get very hot later).  Not only that, but the train pulled in at 7:20am and we were on board before the advertised 7:30am. The train left exactly on time at 8:00am. The car was air conditioned and the air conditioning worked perfectly.  The cars had been converted to HEP (head end power) and had been refurbished somewhat.  All were painted tuscan red, so the train had a uniform (and very nice) appearance.

The NS line to Bellevue and Sandusky was an ex-PRR (Pennsylvania Railroad) line that the N&W (Norfolk & Western) bought in the 1960's when it merged with the Nickel Plate and Wabash to give it connectivity.  It was in good shape, and had long stretches of double track at the time.  Along the way to Sandusky we passed at least three freights that were waiting for us at the end of double track. This was in sharp contrast to recent years. In previous trips they'd done things like hold us at the end of double track while a train 50 miles away came toward us.  That so there'd be no chance that we'd hold up the freight before we got to the next siding.

Carl Jensen (sans scowl) stopped by and chatted with us for a while.  I hadn't had time to notice, but all of the ex N&W cars had train names on them: Pocahantas or Powhattan Arrow.  Carl said that as soon as he could get the decals they'll be putting appropriate train names on the other cars: Man 'O WarRoyal PalmSouthernerCrescent, and one other that escaped me at the time.

The train arrived in Sandusky (actually a yard about 3 miles away) at 10:57am. We were then faced with a problem: Rick and Phil Moser were driving our car to Sandusky so that they could ride the return trip and so that Rich and I could head for home.  They weren't scheduled to arrive in Columbus by air from Chicago until around 9am and by the time they retrieved our car and drove to Sandusky and found the train it would be sometime in the future.  We ended up waiting until about 1:30, the only ones on the train (to stay out of the hot sun and in the cool A/C...I can't believe I was able to say this about a NS train sitting on a yard track) before they appeared.  We zipped over to the local McDonalds and then dropped them back at the train and headed off to points East.

It was a really nice, smoothly run little trip that added 10 new miles to my mileage map.

Oh, and in case anyone really cares, the train was pulled by steam engine 611.
611 pulls a train on some other trip

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

My 1990 Trip on the Via Canadian

In September of 1989 I learned that Canada's passenger rail service, Via was going to cut out 50% of its service on January 15, 1990. Like most railfans I thought about all of the trains I would never be able to ride.  In my case that would be most of the cut trains since my rail experiences in Canada had been very limited.  I had ridden the entire British Columbia Railway, the Atlantic from Montreal to Moncton, the Budd car from Moncton to Edmunston, the Adirondack, and the Montrealer.

Due to limited time and funds, I soon put thoughts of covering the soon-to-be-gone trains out of mind and went on to other things.  One day in December, a friend suggested a trip to Gaspe when he learned that the train was being cut to three times a week (which means a roundtrip would require a full day layover).  I made reservations to join him, but then realized that for only a little more money, and a few more days, I'd be able to take the Canadian from Vancouver to Toronto, a train I'd always wanted to ride.

Our hero freezing his ass off
I booked a trip from Pittsburgh to Vancouver on American Airlines and back to Pittsburgh from Toronto using frequent flier miles. The return from Toronto involved flying through Chicago but, hey, it was free.

So it was that Neil Lang and I found ourselves on the Canadian departing from Vancouver on January 12, 1990.  The Vancouver Via station is the old CNR station on the outskirts of downtown.  We spent a few hours prior to train time exploring the station, the various trains out on the platform (#2, #3, and #4) and begging employee timetables off of CNR staff (we succeeded).  At about 3:30 we boarded our train which consisted of two Via F40's, two steam generator cars, a dead head coach, a baggage car, two coaches, a Skyline dome diner/lounge, a Chateau series sleeper (4 section, 5 bedroom, one drawing room, 6 duplex roomette), two Manor series sleepers (4 section, 6 bedroom, 4 roomette), and a Park series dome lounge sleeper (1 drawing room and 4 bedrooms I believe).

VIA Canadian awaiting its Vancouver Departure on 1/12/90
Since I hadn't experienced a night in a section (a section is the kind of accommodation that Jack Lemmon, Tony Curtis, and Marilyn Monroe shared in the movie Some Like it Hot) since my camp train days (not the one mentioned in the Trains article) we elected to try it again for one night.  We were assigned section 1 in the last of the Manor cars and settled in for the 3:55 on-time departure from Vancouver.  We then went back a car and found seats in the dome. Although the train was virtually full upon departure, we never had a problem finding dome or lounge seats when we wanted them.

This is not what it looked like in my section!
After a beer or two, it was time for us to head to the diner for our 3rd seating reservation (at 8:15). There were four seatings that first night.  The diner portion of the Skyline car had 6 tables of four and was full.  We were offered two selections for dinner, and they varied every evening.  The first night we had a choice between roast sirloin of beef or a baked sole.  I elected the sole and it was excellent. Dinner came with soup, a salad, rolls, dessert, and beverage, for $10.95.  After dinner we went back to the dome briefly and then to our berths.
Sleeping in a section is not very much different than sleeping in a bedroom except for three things.
  1. You have to change in the bed or the bathroom
  2. If you need to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night you have to walk down to the end of the car (hopefully in your robe!) 
  3. The berths are wider than those in a roomette or bedroom, and to my thinking more comfortable.
At Field
In any event I had a slept extremely well...perhaps too well, because when I got up I found we were approaching the town of Field, BC and I had missed at least some of the Canadian Rockies.  Luckily for me the best was yet to come.  At Field I put on my boots and got off the train to take some pictures.  Although it was cold, it wasn't COLD.  There was an awful lot of snow on the ground. After Field came the rest of the climb and then the descent towards Calgary with stops at Lake Louise (gorgeous) and Banff (lovely) on the way.  I took pictures at all of them.

A stop in Banff
By Calgary a lot of groups had left the train.  From then on the train ran relatively empty (there were less than 40 coach passengers and 40 sleeper passengers out of Winnipeg).  Crew members told us that they had noticed a huge drop in loadings after about the 9th of January as people realized they'd only be able to travel one way.  It was sad, but it certainly made for a comfortable train.  The second night (BBQ Ribs and Chicken or Rainbow Trout) there were three sittings for dinner, the third (Chicken or Halibut) there were two sittings, and the fourth (Salisbury Steak or Scallops) there was one sitting.
Leaving Calgary on the 13th, we moved into the drawing room in the Chateau car. A drawing room has three beds, two lowers and an upper, and private washroom facilities.  During the day it has a sofa and two easy chairs.  Since there were only two of us we had it very comfortable.  The scenery from Calgary to beyond Winnipeg has been described as boring, but I think that is overstating the case.  True it is mostly farm land, but it has its moments.  In any event I wasn't bored by it.  We arrived at Winnipeg on Sunday morning (the 14th) 15 minutes late.  We had been on-time, but erroneously tripped a hot box detector (detects an overheating wheel which might lead to a serious failure) just before arrival.  At Winnipeg they service the train, re-stock food and beverages, and the crew changes.  This is scheduled for 50 minutes and they seem to use it all.  However, this day the train sat in the station for an extra hour or so due to a derailment up the line (nothing major, but they were fixing the track).  As a result we stayed 1.5 to two hours late most of the way to Sudbury.

A typical drawing room made up for night
Starting at Kenora (Manitoba? ... no I think Ontario) we found crowds at the station protesting the end of service.  We also learned that ours was to be the last Canadian that would make it into Toronto.  The following ones were to either be annulled at Winnipeg or converted to the new #2 and sent on to Toronto on the CNR route.  We were never able to confirm that this was really true...we kept getting conflicting information from Via and CPR employees.  Anyway, at Thunder Bay there were nearly 1,000 people standing in the cold and snow with candles and signs of protest.  This was around 10pm on Sunday night.  Also at Thunder Bay we again changed rooms, this time for the drawing room in the observation car (we had been unable to book a single drawing room the entire way).

In Sudbury
On Monday, we arrived at Sudbury about two hours late.  Just before we got there we learned that #2 was annulled at Sudbury (#2 goes to Montreal, the Toronto section runs as #10 out of Sudbury) and that passengers would be bussed the rest of the way.  The equipment for #2 which had come in from Montreal the night before was standing at the station.  Some men were spraying the front of the locomotive and we later learned that it had hit a pickup truck and killed a man and a women on its final run.  You could see where it hit the truck, and red stuff that I don't want to speculate on.  In any event we lost another hour while they switched things around and coupled the Montreal section onto our train.  That gave us an extra locomotive, an extra steam generator, and extra baggage car, and three extra coaches making for a very long train.  We headed onto Toronto through some very nice scenery and eventually arrived at Union Station at 9:30pm on Monday, 3 hours late.

Not sure I want to know what they are cleaning off the (annulled) Montreal section
We had flights home booked for around 10am the next morning, so we transferred to a hotel near the Toronto Airport. Neil was booked on a United flight to San Francisco. I was booked on an American Airlines flight to Chicago, connecting to Pittsburgh. We awoke to a foggy day in Toronto and also, apparently, in Chicago. We boarded our respective flights and they left their gates on time and we then spent the next several hours staring at each others airplane as they both sat in the "penalty box" while awaiting for the fog to lift. On my plane the pilot eventually got on the PA and said that if there was anything they could do to make our delay more comfortable, ask a flight attendant. I called one over and suggested that they find a way to feed us (it was past noon by this point.) Believe it or not, about 20 minutes later a catering truck approached the plane and snacks were delivered. Finally many of the passengers started complaining that they had no need to go to Chicago because they had already missed their meeting.

The plane went back to the gate around 2pm and people who wanted to get off were allowed off. I had a copy of the Pocket Airline Guide along and discovered that Canadian Pacific Airlines had a nonstop to Pittsburgh leaving within the hour. Following the maxim from my Grandmother ("if you don't ask, you don't get") I asked the AA rep if they could put me on the nonstop. Remember that I was on a free ticket so I did not expect what happened. They did indeed get me on the nonstop to Pittsburgh and I arrived home earlier than I would have had the flight to Chicago been on time!

It was a wonderful trip, and can't be duplicated.  There is talk of a premium service, privately owned ala the American European Express, running 8 times a month with a cost of nearly $1,500 a person. It is supposed to start this summer.  One can only speculate why the train they are keeping (renamed the Canadian by the way, and running three times a week as #1 and #2) is going to take the more northerly CNR route.  It probably has nothing to do with the fact that the president of Via is also the president of CNR.  Or with the fact that both are government agencies and the ability to do creative bookkeeping becomes easier.  It also probably has nothing to do with the fact that the northern route is less scenic and will attract fewer sightseers.  And it certainly has nothing to do with the lower population levels along the route.  I'd find it hard to believe that they were trying to discourage patronage so that a few years down the road they could say: "see, nobody wants to ride these trains anymore" and get rid of it altogether.  So there must be some other reason.  Any one out there have any ideas?