Senior VIA News Editor Tim Hayman
VIA News Co-Editor Terry Muirhead:


CONGRATULATIONS to J F Logue retiring after 45 years at VIA. We caught his last run as VIA 72 with 909 crossed over at CN Lihou Ingersoll Ontario July 29 2016. Enjoy your retirement.

 VIA Rail and UNIFOR members voted to ratify a new 4-year collective agreement. Negotiations on the new agreement nearly brought trains to a standstill in June, but a strike was narrowly averted.

 On July 22, Transportation Minister Marc Garneau was at VIA's Montreal Maintenance Centre to announce a $34.4 million investment for improvements at stations and maintenance facilities in the Windsor-Quebec City rail corridor. This funding, which was already included in this year's budget, includes money to make basic station upgrades and repairs along the Corridor, as well as for major work at both the Montreal and Toronto Maintenance Centres.

 In addition to their plans to start running additional regional trains in the Maritimes, VIA is apparently thinking about getting into commuter rail, for the city of Halifax. VIA presented an "unsolicited" proposal to the city of Halifax in mid-July. The Transportation Standing Committee recommended that council move forward with examining the proposal, and council will now have to decide whether to do so. Commuter rail has been studied for many years in Halifax, but the high start-up cost has often quashed the idea. Though it's not clear what VIA's plans may be, they have apparently suggested that they think they could start the system sooner, and on a lower budget. The plan would be to run from Windsor Jct. in to Halifax, serving Bedford and a number of stops along the way. Further details will likely come in the future, and it's still far too early to guess if this will come to pass.

VIA Rail's High Frequency Service Threathened by CPDQ Infra's REM

For most of its existence, VIA Rail trains has endured delays owing to freight train interference on CN and CP-owned trackage.  In recent years, freight train length increased and horsepower per ton ratios shrank, as freight carriers searched to increase their operating efficiency.  In turn, passenger and commuter trains delays have become more acute and prevalent.  VIA has clearly recognized that its long-term survival is far from assured if it remains an unwelcomed host on freight-owned trackage.  It has therefore come up with a plan to build its own dedicated passenger rail corridor between Quebec City and Windsor, through Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto and London.

 VIA's bold and ambitious plan is summarized in this link on VIA's corporate web site. High-Frequency Rail plan

 Yet, VIA has hit a snag which threatens to derail the whole plan, if not its very own existence.  As VIA was readying to solicit private capital sources as soon as next Fall, publicly-owned pension fund Caisse de Depot et de Placement du Quebec (CPDQ) announced a 5 billion dollars plan to build a fully automated light rail line in the Montreal area, the Reseau Express Montrealais (REM - see details in the AMT News section).  The most controversial aspect of this plan involves CPDQ seizing and gaining exclusive use of AMT's Deux-Montagnes subdivision, an electrified rail line which runs through the Mount Royal tunnel.  The conversion of the tunnel from conventional rail to an automated high-frequency light rail system is likely to forever prevent any VIA or AMT train from ever running through the tunnel again.

Little known at the time was that the preferred routing for VIA's High Frequency Service corridor between Montreal and Quebec City runs along Quebec-Gatineau railway's former Canadian Pacific Trois-Rivieres subdivision, a lightly-used rail line on the North Shore, thus avoiding CN's often congested main line on the South Shore, which is the present route.  To reach the QG line from Montreal's Central Station, the only available routing involves running through the Mount Royal tunnel and connecting to CP's Parc subdivision, either through an underground branch emerging near the Rockland overpass or through Jct de l'Est and Gohier (a route which was last used in 1990).  Either options are now seriously jeopardized by CPDQ's REM, which would effectively shut VIA out of Quebec City.

Even less known to the general public and policy makers is that VIA is also eyeing the tunnel for its line to Ottawa and Toronto, thus avoiding CN's slow and congested line through Pointe St-Charles, St-Henri and Ballantyne.  This basically implies that if CPDQ's REM proceed as intended, VIA will be completely shut out of Montreal's downtown.

 The following map illustrates possible routing for VIA's dedicated corridors out of Montreal:


VIA has met with CPDQ on several occasions to discuss a possible mixed use of the tunnel, either through capacity increase or signaling upgrades to its own rolling stock in order to make it compatible with the Communication-Based Train Control (CBTC) system that will be used by the REM.  Using CBTC could circumvent Transport Canada's current safety regulation which prohibits mixed used of light and heavy rail equipment on the same trackage. 

 But CPDQ has so far refused to change any aspect of its own controversial (and somewhat destructive) REM plan, citing the short headways (3 minutes all-day).  Running longer light rail trains on a longer, 6-minutes headway could allow VIA (or AMT) to run some of their own trains between light rail movements, but CPDQ refuses to bulge.

 CPDQ has instead suggested that VIA trains stop North of the tunnel at a new transfer station that will be built in an industrial wasteland near Jct de l'Est and A40, for AMT's Mascouche line (which will also be truncated out of downtown).  Not only would this option be very inconvenient to travelers by forcing a transfer to overcrowded light rail vehicles with low seating capacity for the final miles into the city, it would also prevent VIA from accessing their own maintenance center in Pointe St-Charles, South of Central station.

 Both VIA Rail and CPDQ intend to solicit Canada's Transportation Minister for federal funding of their respective rail plans.  Transport Canada could choose to fund either projects, or both.  If so, CPDQ and VIA may be forced to find a mutual agreement to either mixed use of the tunnel, or build a new parallel tunnel. 

 This is however far from assured, as for now CPDQ's REM is solidly on track for a speedy construction, with enthusiastic support from Quebec and Montreal elected officials, while VIA's plan has barely been heard by the general public, and could be subjected to lengthy environmental review process.

 Nevertheless, if CPDQ's plan proceeds as intended, Montreal will be shut out of the passenger rail network for good.  Game over.


On July 15, Ron Visockis photographed several blue P42s under hot and sunny skies near Belleville, with LRCs and HEPs in tow.


On July 24, Chad Smith caught an eastbound VIA train behind 6436 at Beaconsfield, QC.

 On the same day, Chad also photographed VIA 637 with a Renaissance consist behind P42 900. The British-gauged Renaissance cars sure make even the relatively low and narrow P42 look huge!

On a muggy looking Canada Day, Pierre Fournier shot VIA 37 with 913 leading across the bridge at St. Leonard on its way to Ottawa with a 15 minute stopover in Montreal.

 Pierre Fournier photographed VIA 20 at Drummondville on a gorgeous July 6th.

On July 10, Pierre photographed two VIA trains meeting next to the station in Drummondville.


Back on June 24, Michael Berry photographed the combined VIA 605/VIA 607 as it passes CN 120 near Turcot West. The train will remain combined until Hervey Junction where the two trains go their separate ways (Jonquiere and Senneterre respectively). With two coaches in addition to the baggage car, the consist for 605 is actually longer than usual.


VIA 919 leads an eastbound past CN 368 as it approaches its station stop at Dorval under overcast skies on July 14. (Michael Berry photo)


VIA 6409 leads VIA 65 with 4 LRC cars on CN's Montreal Sub, July 17. (Michael Berry photo)


On July 22, VIA 635 is seen splitting a set of old dwarf signals that will soon be replaced by the new signals that are currently turned away from the track on CN's Montreal sub in the St-Henri neighbourhood of Montreal. VIA 6413 is leading this train that goes to Ottawa with only one intermediate stop at Dorval. (Michael Berry photo)


VIA 917 lates VIA 63 through Montreal, already half an hour late, on July 24. (Michael Berry photo)


Late on July 24, VIA 633 for Ottawa is approaching Turcot West with VIA 907 bringing up the rear, along with VIA 6411 leading, and a second P42DC in the middle of the train. The rear part of this train is one of the sets of push-pull equipment that VIA is now using on a few trains. The seats in the LRC cars have all been arranged with half facing forward, half facing the rear. In this photo, the equipment is being relocated (on a Sunday) for its Monday assignment. (Michael Berry photo).


For quite some time VIA 63 was running with a single LRC Club car (for Business Class) among 5-6 stainless steel cars. Since the June 1st VIA Rail schedule changes it has been running with a 100% stainless steel consist, as well as operating at an earlier time. On July 27 it passes Montreal's skyline five minutes after leaving Central Station with seven stainless steel cars in tow. (Michael Berry photo)


Walter Pfefferle sent us these photos of VIA action in his area.

VIA 85 with VIA 6401 running 90 minutes last approaches Airport Road London Ontario July 29 2016

VIA 71 with 905 flashes out of the morning Sun as it arrives in Ingersoll Ontario July 12 2016

Laterin the day Walter caught VIA 6432 arriving with VIA 73 in Woodstock Ontario.

Here we see VIA 72 with VIA 6415 blow through Ingersoll Ontario July 13 2016.

This was a bit of a meet as CN 585 with CN 4710 waiting just west of the VIA Station in Woodsotck as VIA 73 clears the platform. July 14 2016

On July 16 VIA 73 headed up by VIA 907 rolls through Paris Ontario with a complete set of rebuilt LRC cars. Looked pretty nice. Paris Ontario July 16 2016.


Touring VIA's Vancouver Maintenance Centre 2012 (by Andy Cassidy)

Over the next few months, we're going to take a tour of VIA's Vancouver Maintenance Centre, through the lens of Andy Cassidy. Andy visited the site in 2012, and took a plethora of photos throughout his tour. This month, we'll let Andy introduce the scene, and take a few looks outside. Next month, we'll continue the tour!

Andy writes: Back on July 24th, 2012; I had the pleasure of getting a grand tour of the VMC. There are a fair number of photos, so I'll just post a handful per mailing with appropriate short winded narrative. I hope you'll find them interesting. I will post the Picasa Slideshow with all the photos in the last mailing.

Background: The VMC is located behind (East), of the Pacific Central Station (PCS) in Vancouver. The station was originally built for the Canadian Northern Railway, subsequently the Canadian National, then/now the Pacific Central. VIA plus Amtrak currently use the station. When VIA Rail took over passenger services in the late 70's from CP and CN, the CP station in Vancouver ceased being the originating/terminating point for the "Canadian". Instead, the train ran in and out of town over at the CN station, Mile 131.8 on the CN Yale Sub. The original CN Coach Yard there handled train maintenance till the new VMC was built in the late 80's.

In the old days one could walk through the CN facilities like it was your own place. Now it's locked down like Fort Knox. So I was very lucky to have this opportunity. I'll just start off with a few pictures around the outside of the facility. 



Continuing on with our tour of the VIA Vancouver Maintenance Centre, let's get the crap out of the way first. Literally, LOL!! This set of photos just blows me away frankly. The first order of business was to see their state of the art Toilet Servicing/Repair Dept.

So first off, one has to appreciate that these Budd Coaches are the same coaches I worked on years ago when they belonged to the CPR. To say they have been upgraded since is an understatement, especially when it comes to the sanitary side of things. When I worked in the Coach Yard at Drake Street in Vancouver the on-board toilets just dumped to the ground below. Everybody knows that I think. The process of lubricating generator drives, changing brake pads on the Disk Brakes these coaches have, and doing other below deck work meant wading past various bits/chunks of hanging or stuck-on waste as you might imagine. That's just the way it was. No flushing when sitting in the station please!

Now to VIA personnel, these photos show equipment that's just in a days work. But for me it was just unreal that a coach's sanitary system could be this high tech. I can't give you all the details of how this system works, but suffice to say they are vacuum operated and all the waste is contained and dumped at servicing. The first few shots show the repaired toilet innards that await application, and the room where they repair these things. It was all very Spic and Span there, and I was impressed! Their test bench looks like something you'd see in a radio repair room.

In the photos you can see one of the holding tanks used on the coaches, and then a close up of the operational system in the following shot. Wow! I didn't know toilets could be so complicated.



Continuing on with our tour of the VIA Vancouver Maintenance Centre. In this set I'm taking shots in the NE corner of the shop. You will recall from the first set that these are the tracks named M1E, M2E, & M3E.

The first shot shows off their electronic Blue Flag system that's used to indicate tracks under protection from moves in the shop.

The next 5 shots are all from the NE corner of the shop looking West. You can see this facility handles locomotives as well as passenger coaches. The elevated shots are taken from a raised platform that allows rolling stock roof access. You can see the Horizontal Lifeline Fall Protection System in place above the roof of the West Coast Express (WCE) car that's in that track.

Down below there is a large Droptable for the re/re of trucks and traction motors. Over on the Release Track are a number of locomotive traction motors, wheelsets, & combos, as well as truck components from the WCE equipment. You'll see a close-up of that later. The Droptable has support jacks on the sides to hold up equipment when the trucks are removed. This table is about twice as long as the one in place at CP's Coquitlam Diesel Shop, as it was only designed to remove a single wheel/traction motor combo at a time.

This shop is spotless inside and well laid out for what they do. More to
come (next month!).



One final vignette to close this month off. Anyone getting sick of the summer heat and humidity? Here's something to cool you off! (and maybe remind you of why you shouldn't wish for the heat to disappear too quickly) Back in January 1987, Ron Visockis braved the cold in Belleville to take this photo. You can almost feel the chill!

Only 10 years on Nov 12 2006 ago but in this view we see VIA 73 blowing through Ingersoll Ontario with one of the now gone landmarks, the chimmey at Zehr Transport.  Any photos in Ingersoll now will look much different.


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