Wednesday 5 July 2017

Cross-Canada Trip 2017 - DAY 2 (Part 1)

DAY 2: Part 1 – Montreal to Toronto
April 15, 2017

Morning! Today is the day!

I woke up around 7, and admittedly had not slept that well. I found the bedroom really quite comfy, but I just couldn’t stay asleep. Perhaps it was just all the excitement about the trip ahead! It was another beautiful morning, and a good way to start off the day.

I headed down the hall to the shower, only to discover that there was no hot water in Macdonald Manor. So I headed up to Amherst Manor instead, and everything worked just fine. I got dressed, and headed off to breakfast.

Unlike lunch and supper, breakfast was actually being cooked fresh on board in the diner’s kitchen. I opted for eggs, over easy, with bacon. It was excellent as usual, and the bacon in particular was exceptional (Gary didn’t hold back on that, so I ended up pretty well stuffed!).

Special HEP menu on the Ocean
Breakfast menu

Breakfast on the Ocean!

We were running on time as we approached Drummondville. Dan made up my room, and I headed back to Park car to enjoy the ride on the last stretch into Montreal. This has always been one of my favourite parts of the Ocean trip. In stark contrast to the often leisurely pace of the day before, the final run to Montreal is at a much quicker pace, and a dramatic change of scenery from the woods of New Brunswick.

At Drummondville we made a stop to drop coach passengers, and then pulled ahead to clear the crossings. There were no sleeper passengers getting off, but we waited for about 10 minutes to get back on schedule.

We had a meet with a freight at MP115, and had to wait in the siding. Despite that, we were still on time at St. Hyacinthe.

Andreas tries his best to work through the grubby bug-splatter on the dome windows.

First CN meet of the day. I would soon get very used to this sight.
Trackside attraction at St-Hyacinthe

We also met a Quebec-bound VIA train with 6454 in its Canada 150 wrap leading, but my camera decided not to work for that photo. Drat!

We met what I believed was CN 120 at Lemoyne.

After crossing the Victoria Bridge I spotted VIA 202, one of the MMC switchers, out on the lead to the MMC. I’d never actually seen it from the train before (or ever, in person), so that was a welcome sight!

VIA 202, MMC switcher, near the entrance to the MMC
The Montreal skyline approaches

Snaking our way into Montreal 

We arrived in Montreal 3min behind schedule.

It would be another 45min before #65 was due to leave, but the train was on the next platform over and was all ready to receive passengers. So I decided to just make the cross-platform transfer and go ahead and get settled in, rather than heading upstairs. I was in Business class, in seat 13S (a single seat, forward facing), and was the only passenger on board when I boarded.

The consist for #65:

VIA 65 – April 15, 2017

8621 HEP1 Baggage
3477 LRC Business Class (50/50 setup, Vimy Ridge decal) (*seat 13S)
3361 LRC (new seats, 50/50 setup – Canada 150 wrapped)
3306 LRC (new seats, 50/50 setup, new paint)
3346 LRC (new seats, 50/50 setup, new paint)
3312 LRC (new seats, 50/50 setup, new paint)
3358 LRC (old refurbished seats, all forward, old paint)

Vimy Ridge anniversary decal on the Business Class car
About to board #65! Note the appropriate LRC t-shirt. VIA staff seem to be very willing photographers.
Business Class. This is the rear, forward-facing seat section.

Later in the trip I did a walk-through to get car numbers and observe the seating layouts. Many of the LRC cars now have new seats that are identical to the ones used in Business class, but in a 2+2 (rather than 2+1) layout. I also noted that these seats have thinner armrests than their Business class equivalents, and also have no footrests.

At 10:26 I noted the Ocean backing out to the MMC for servicing. The Amtrak Adirondack left for New York on time.

We departed on time. There were about 15 people in Business class leaving Montreal. Tickets were scanned right away. As I was still a VIA Preference “Premier” member at the time, I got to pick my meal (for lunch) when my ticket was collected. There were two hot selections that sounded okay, but the cold plate (with poached salmon) caught my eye.

Cart service began with snacks and drinks shortly after tickets were collected, still before Dorval. I opted for a Rickard’s Red, and sat back to enjoy the still beautiful cloudless sky outside.

VIA snack mix and Rickard's Red

 A few more people boarded at Dorval. We passed an AMT train with 1321 leading Bombardier multilevels as well as an eastbound VIA train with an LRC club and HEP2 coaches, almost simultaneously at 11:28am.

We had another VIA meet at 11:35am: an F40 leading all LRCs, with no Canada 150 wraps.

We next met a CN manifest at 11:38, with a BC Rail C40-8M leading and an IC SD70 trailing, no CN painted units in sight!

At Coteau I noted a string of flat cars with a ramp down to the rails at one end. I guessed this was probably for loading MOW equipment, and this suspicion was supported a few minutes later. After another CN meet (2900 series GEVO leading and another as mid-train DPU), we slowed down and passed an MOW gang on the north track (at ~11:59am). They appeared to be replacing rail. We passed them from around MP 47-48, as we kicked up fresh ballast dust in our wake. We would then meet another VIA eastbound just past Cornwall.

Lunch was served around Cornwall, and it was excellent. The salmon was well cooked, and actually quite good cold. The couscous side dish was particularly good, and I wish I could remember what was in it!

Hot towel service to freshen up before lunch is served

Lunch! Poached salmon with vegetables, dill, a mango/corn chutney, and some sort of couscous that was really exceptional. And of course white wine, an Ontario variety of some sort.

After-lunch coffee and Easter chocolate

After lunch we were given special Easter chocolates, which were really fantastic.

The ride was notably rough as we got past Cornwall, and remained that way for much of the trip. We got jostled and bounced around a lot. I don’t know if it’s the track or the aging LRCs, but either way the ride quality was worse on this trip than I remember on many previous ones.

I got distracted as we neared my former home turf, and missed the end of my old street (Sophia St. in Johnstown, ON), where I spent countless hours watching trains as a kid. I did get a glimpse of the international bridge, and noted a whole bunch of cars on the spur leading to Prescott Grain/the Port of Johnstown.

Ah, Brockville. Always nice to see (even if gloomy...). The station and layout here has changed so much recently, but they have done a nice job.

We met another CN manifest just past Perth, and then met another VIA eastbound about halfway to Kingston (all LRC, no Canada 150s).

As we neared our stop at Kingston, I checked in with the crew to see if it would be okay to step off the train briefly during out ~5min stop. As I was planning this trip, I had been in touch with prolific blogger and bonafide VIAphile Eric Gagnon. For those of you not familiar with Eric, you can check out his blog here: Trackside Treasure

In addition to his blogging, Eric has written 3 excellent books on VIA (plus an extra little compendium). I had been involved as a minor contributor on the second volume, but when Eric started working on volume 3, he asked me to take on a slightly larger role. In addition to some feedback on a few sections, he asked if he could feature some of my VIA models. That turned into a section in the book, and I also ended up contributing the foreword.

This book was nearing publication as my trip approached, and Eric speculated that it just might be ready in time for my quick swing through Kingston. As luck would have it, the first printing arrived just in time! So Eric arranged to drop by the station, and we had a hasty meeting next to the train (under the edge of the station – that beautiful day I mentioned before? It turned to rain by the time we got to Kingston!). Eric handed off my copy of the book, and we had a quick chat before I was ushered back to the train. His wife was kind enough to snap a photo too!

Book delivery in a very appropriate setting! (Eric/Karen Gagnon photo)

My train arrives in Kingston, windshield wipers a' blazin' - you'd never guess how nice it was at both end points! (Eric Gagnon photo)

Not the car I was in, but one of the many Canada 150 wrapped cars running around the Corridor this year. One of those cities is where I was when this was taken, two of them I'd been through the night and morning before, and the other I'd reach before long! (Eric Gagnon photo)

It was great to be able to pick up the book en route (in part, to have some excellent reading material for the trip ahead!), and it was especially nice to finally have the chance to meet Eric in person, after corresponding online for so long. Eric wrote up a blog post about the meeting too, which you can see here on his new book blog:

Back on board, I showed the book to the attendant who let me off, and as we were chatting the other business class attendant came over and said "are you Eric Gagnon?" I said no, but I'd just met him on the platform. He said "oh no, I wish I knew!" He said he’d been following the development of this latest book (and has the others) and is set to order this one too. Small world, eh? 

With the quick Kingston stop finished, I settled back into the coziness of my seat and watched the downpour outside, on what was now a rather gloomy, rainy day. We met another VIA eastbound (all HEPs - #64 I think) not long after Kingston, then stopped for a freight at 2:09pm. Back on the go we soon passed an intermodal train (CN 149?), and then met another VIA eastbound (all LRCs, at least one Canada 150 wrap) at 2:47pm, and then another (same sort of consist) at Port Hope.

Port Hope! No train on the other bridge...

Misty fields...

Nearer to Oshawa the rain let up, and low-lying mists surrounded us. It was quite haunting. We met another CN freight (lots of tanks, DPU mid train, autoracks at rear), and then as we arrived at Oshawa the blue skies broke through and it was a beautiful day again!

Another VIA eastbound arrived while we were at Oshawa, and I snapped a neat photo of 3351 with the reflection of the Canada 150 wrapped car on our train in the glass between. Kind of neat! That train had wrapped 908 leading, and rough-looking 911 on the rear end.

Wrapped 908 at Oshawa

Canada 150 reflections

I spotted a few GO trains on the way in, but missed any opportunity for a photo. We made our last stop before Toronto at Guildwood, and then headed on the final stretch. The crew made the 15min call, and gave instructions for connecting to several other VIA trains plus GO and UPX. There were no instructions for the Canadian (unsurprising, since it would be much later in the evening!).

We were a bit late arriving, but I didn’t actually note the time, so I’m not sure exactly how much. I headed off, and descended into Union Station. It’s looking quite impressive these days, with the more open roof over the platforms making for a far more pleasant atmosphere. The main station itself is a little chaotic with the ongoing renovation work, but it will no doubt be nice when it’s done.

Approaching Toronto

More Canada 150 wraps! The new open trainshed makes for much easier photo taking.

GO Train in new Metrolinx colours, under the new roof

A flashy banner, on a not so flashy construction covering in the main station
Union Station - beautiful, as always.

Heading inside I went to the Panorama lounge to find out when I would need to check in for the Canadian. I was informed it wouldn’t be until much later in the evening, so I had some time to kill. I was finally able to pick up one of the fancy VIA journals (they had plenty in Toronto), and then headed down to the baggage area to drop off my carry-on bags so I wouldn’t need to lug them around Toronto.

With about 4 hours to kill before I needed to be back to check in, I headed off to explore a bit of downtown Toronto. First step: find a new memory card!

I’ll end this second part here, because a) it’s where my original notebook ended, and b) it’s where my first memory card ends and the second one takes over. So a reasonable point to take a break.

In the next part, we’ll wander around Toronto for a bit and then board the Canadian and start the real journey west!

There it is - only 5 hours until boarding!


  1. So far, so excellent! This is a great addition to the weary ol' internet, Tim!! Great to see your trip accounts accompanied by photographs and your usual factual, newsy and detail-filled style. Of course it was great to meet you in Kingston, and thanks for the shout-out for Karen's photography skills!

    Looking forward to each and every post,

    1. Thanks Eric! Happy to add to the railroad-y and VIA-y content out there. I've been finding that this ability to include additional content (i.e. inline photos) really helps with the flow of the report, so I'm definitely happy to have taken this approach. Thanks again for your and Karen's photos from Kingston!

  2. Thanks for letting us ride along with you, Tim! Love the content and the photos so far. I've added you to my blogroll and my RSS reader. :)

    1. Thanks Steve! Glad to have you on board :) I'll be moving along to your neck of the woods shortly, so hopefully you'll find that part particularly interesting!

  3. Itoo am looking forward to following you westward. Enjoy one of Canada's treasures.
    Grant out in Victoria