Saturday, 5 October 2013

CNR and Oka Cheese

CNR and Oka cheese - is there a connection?

Actually there was.

What this following schedule does not show are all the station stops these trains made between Montreal and Deux-Montagnes. These trains (or others on the same schedule) also operated between Montreal and Deux-Montagnes Mondays through Fridays as part of the CNR weekday commuter service.

From the CNR October 27, 1974, system passenger time table

In 1972 and 1973 I was a summer student employed at the Montreal Gazette, when the Gazette was still at 1000 rue St. Antoine and a block or so from CNR's Central Station. For three months each summer I was one of the Monday to Friday regulars to and from Roxboro on these two trains.

What made these trains different is that they were diesel powered in part on the only CNR electric catenary route. The northbound 17:40 departure was diesel powered Mondays through Fridays whereas the southbound 08:50 arrival was diesel powered on Mondays only.

On Mondays, train 188 also carried a baggage car in spite of the the schedule footnote reading, "No checked baggage." 

The following schedule from CNR's employee time table reveals the reason the baggage car was not included in Train 187 on Fridays; on Monday mornings CNR dead-headed the equipment as Train 167 from Montreal to Grenville.

CNR's Grenville Subdivision schedule effective October 29, 1972

On those warm July and August Monday mornings, (only on the Mondays) by the time that over-crowded, standing room only train completed it's run through the Mount Royal tunnel to Central Station, the train would stink, I mean really reek and not from diesel exhaust. Curious, one Monday morning I finally walked up to the front of the train to find out what was being unloaded from the baggage car.

Much to my surprise, the cargo was cartons of Oka cheese on pallets. Need any more be said?

Trains 187 and 188 together with that baggage car may be long gone, but the cheese is still around today. Oka cheese is as popular as ever...and yes, it does stink a little...but it tastes good nonetheless.

The Oddblock Station Agent

Addendum May 19, 2015

Someone actually took a photo! 

Photo credit and details: 
RS-3 3900 (ex CV 1859 one of two units transferred to CN 1/1958) Alco 80747 9/1954
Mount Royal, Tuesday 6/18/1963. Rod Peterson/Joseph Testagrose Collection

June 18, 1963. This diesel-hauled CN consist was identified as northbound Train 81 destined for Grenville. The location was CN Mont-Royal. Note that combine behind the RS-3! One can only wonder what type of freight would have been heading to Montreal in that combine the following morning. Cheese please!

The April 1962 schedule from CNR's public timetables.

Monday, 30 September 2013

Vancouver or Bust

Canadian Pacific Railway's eastbound Train 2 crossing the famed Stoney Creek bridge east of Rogers Pass. Borrowed from the internet, this photo had no details, however, the image appears to be the Nicholas Morant photo that graced CPR public timetable covers in the 1950's.

If the calendar below looks at all familiar, then it is probably because CNR came up with the same tiered-fare concept ten years earlier in a more colourful manner known as, "Red, White and Blue"

My life-long dream at that time was to travel across Canada on CPR's famous train, "The Canadian" and something that I had planned for years. 

When one is young, a few years does seem like a definition of forever, but now...

This is the back of CP Rail's April 29, 1973, passenger train system timetable.

$76.00 was the cost of a one-way coach seat from Montreal to Vancouver on CP Rail's premier train "The Canadian" but meals not included. 

The cost may not seem high today but in 1973, $76.00 was more than a summer student's minimum wage, week's salary before taxes.

Although the date was not recorded, my train journey across Canada started on September 19, 1973, to take advantage of the lower fare for Wednesday departure and to arrive in Vancouver on Saturday, September 22, so that someone could meet me upon arrival.

The return trip on a "gray" date in October was less at $58.00.

In 1973, CP Rail tickets did not come with copies or a receipt.

This undated gray ticket receipt was issued by the train's originating conductor when my ticket was lifted. During the journey and after departing from crew-change stations, the relieving conductors would re-check lifted tickets against the receipts....and yes, even in the middle of the night.

Serving as home for 3 days and nights, Seat 18 in Car 173 was in the forward coach section of the skyline dome car. Today, Via Rail's skyline dome cars (inherited from CP Rail) no longer have a forward coach section. Also today, Via Rail runs the skylines cars in reverse direction in their trains.

Inside the April 29, 1973, pocket schedule for "The Canadian" included with the ticket and  ticket folder.

One significant change over the last 40 years is that most of the 435.3 miles of the Canadian Pacific Railway between Montreal and Sudbury no longer exist; first traffic changes, then abandonments and finally scrappers eventually taking their toll.

The Oddblock Station Agent

Addendum July 15, 2014

By chance I came across this image on the internet and the scene depicted reminded me of my first arrival into Vancouver on this train in September 1973... including the gray sky.

Circa early 1970's - CP Rail's Train 1 - "The Canadian" arrived at Vancouver.   (M.S. Horne photo)

Thursday, 26 September 2013

The Montreal "B" Folder

What was a Montreal "B" folder?

Nothing more than Canadian Pacific Railway's smaller, pocket-sized, train schedules for their passenger train services that originated from Montreal.

I personally picked up two copies of this particular schedule at Windsor Station in Montreal back in 1968. Being the train-nut that I was, for six months I carried one copy of schedule around with me almost all the time. It wore out. 

45 years later I still have this other one and sometimes wonder why.

Needless to say, Table 4 was the most studied of these schedules, and over everything else too. Had I studied that diligently in high school instead, then perhaps I would have done well academically. No regrets though.

The Canadian railway world has certainly changed much over the decades.

The Oddblock Station Agent

Update and additions: 

In the late 1960's and early 1970's, the Canadian Pacific Railway/CP Rail Montreal to Riguad commuter service was operating close to break-even. 

In April 1970, CP Rail placed their then new double-deck commuter equipment into revenue service.

A new "Lakeshore" schedule, separate from the Montreal "B" folder, was issued for the time change on April 26, 1970.

The Monday to Friday trains.

As was advertised - the look of the new CP Rail commuter passenger cars.

A CPR 10-trip commuter ticket issued in 1969. Good for travel in either direction between Montreal and Cedar Park, for the grand total of $5.55. When the new CP Rail image came in, this card gave way to a strip of 10 separate tear-off tickets.

A cash fare receipt issued for $0.70, the cost of a single trip between the same two stations; Montreal and Cedar Park.

One more look at a CP Rail commuter train in the 1970's. A westbound train having just departed from the Montreal West station heading toward next station Sortin. This photo appears to have been taken from the tracks of CP Rail's Adirondack Subdivision looking northward. The road bridge in the background would be Westminter Avenue. (Massey F. Jones photo borrowed from internet)

Surprise! Surprise!

Look what turned up on the internet.

A single trip ticket for travel on CP Rail's "Lakeshore" commuter trains. The CP Rail 10-trip ticket strip (mentioned above) was almost the same format except pale green in colouring.

Wednesday, 18 September 2013


VIA train and Ottawa city bus collide during morning commute, six dead

National Post Staff | 18/09/13 | Last Updated: 18/09/13 11:49 AM ET
More from National Post Staff

Six people are dead and about 30 were injured after a Via Rail train and an Ottawa city bus collided in the city’s southwest end Wednesday morning, officials have confirmed. Witnesses say the bus appeared to run through warning symbols at a train crossing.

The accident occurred just outside a suburban Via Rail station. The train tracks cross both a major city street and a transit line for buses.

Via Train 51 left for Toronto from Ottawa Station, shortly after 8:30 a.m. The train originated from Montreal.

Eleven people were rushed to hospital in critical condition.

“People started screaming, ‘Stop, stop!’ because they could see the train coming down the track,” Tanner Trepaniere, who was sitting on the top level of the bus, said.

The front end of the double-decker OC Transpo bus is severely damaged, images from the scene near Woodroffe Avenue and Fallowfield Road show. Witnesses say the front part of the bus was ripped off by the impact, which occurred in the middle of the morning commute, at about 8:50 a.m.

OC Transpo general manager John Manconi said they are investigating and do not know the cause of the collision.

Robert Kurtenbach, who was on the top level of the bus, told the Ottawa Citizen that the bus didn’t appear to slow down at all as the train went through the crossing.

He was thrown forward by the impact and twisted his leg, but said he wasn’t seriously injured.

“I could see bodies lying there,” he said. He said he could see “more than two or three” people that were severely injured and he could not see the driver at all.

Pascal Lolgis, who witnessed the crash, told The Canadian Press the bus drove through a lowered crossing barrier.

“Boom! It went into the train like that,” Lolgis said. “He didn’t stop. He must have lost his brakes. Or he had an … attack or whatever.

“He just didn’t stop. He just keep going like that. Then he get hit.”

The front end of Train 51 on the ground. The side of the locomotive cab was struck by the bus. The head end crew must have seen what was coming and they were powerless to do anything to prevent the collision. Nonetheless the locomotive crew has to live and bear with the burden of consequences beyond their control.

Gregory Mech, who was on top-level the bus, told CBC News that passengers were screaming for the driver to stop after he took a nearby turn.

“It just didn’t feel right,” he said. He said he thought there were about 10 people who were dead or severely injured.

“I could see there were bodies on the train tracks. It was horrible.” 

Fire services said at least two or three of the train’s cars are off the tracks, and that all of the casualties are on the bus, with no injuries on the train. The train came to a halt about 100 metres west of the accident site.

The double-decker buses can hold up to 82 people.

A number of the injured have been taken to the Ottawa Hospital. At least three people where admitted to the Civic campus of the Ottawa Hospital in critical condition, the Ottawa Citizen reports. 

Fire Services spokesperson Marc Messier said he not believe any children were among those involved in the accident.

Emergency services are working to clear the roadway. The Transportation Safety Board are en route to the scene. Air ambulances have been dispatched in Toronto.

Ottawa’s Emergency Operations Centre has been activated, Mayor Jim Watson tweeted. The city’s flags have been ordered to half-mast.

“A number of agencies will be looking into what transpired this morning, including the Ottawa Police, the Transportation Safety Board of Canada and the Coroner, but our focus as a City today is to care for those families who have lost a loved one as well as ensure we provide the best possible care for those who have been injured and affected by the accident,” Watson said in a statement.

All trains on the Ottawa-Toronto route are cancelled for the day. Chartered buses will run the route for the rest of the day, VIA Rail said.


Only yesterday I had received Via Rail's "Crazy Tuesdays" e-mail offering very low fares between Toronto and various destinations. I had actually pondered taking advantage of the $26.00 one-way fares offered to make a same-day return train trip to Ottawa today. 

That idea was quickly dismissed as travel to a destination too far, on a day too soon in case of unexpected health issues, (recovering from a heart attack) never considering the possibilities of other things going wrong.

If I had chosen to go, then of course I would not have been on either the train or bus involved in the accident, however, I would certainly have been on one of the trains delayed or cancelled en route.

The Oddblock Station Agent

Monday, 16 September 2013

More Railway Art

North American Railways seem to go out of their way to make their freight cars as plain and anonymous looking as possible. In a way, small wonder that drab looking rail cars idling away and rusting in rail yards attract the artists.

If I did not see this stuff passing by, I would never believe art work like this could exist. 

To be honest, I am not out there looking for this stuff. Train photos are what I'm really after. The art work just happens to be there, and in the way sometimes.

These artists are certainly not reaching world audiences through traditional and stuffy, maybe even pretentious, mainstream art channels. Here's another sampling of their art for art's sake. 

One can only wonder what goes through the minds of the creative individuals who live in these different sub-cultures that populate and stalk railway yards in search of another "steel canvas" to cover.

DARK SPICE - need anything else be said? Yeah! Maybe! What is dark spice?

CREATIVE - The door's locking bars have been incorporated into the painting. I have no idea what the remainder means. Any suggestions out there?

2nd LOOK - You just gotta love these two guys behind bars.

BAD CONTRAST - Difficult to see and I have no idea what message may be behind this one. Pink rhymes with stink, and this entry does. Call this a case study in how not to paint.

SOMEONE - It took me a while to figure this one out but it looks just looks like someone; I just don't know who though.

MTL PUNKS - One can only wonder what message the artist wishes to convey, however, is it possible that MTL means Montreal? Did this artist travel on the rails only to end up in Montreal? I suppose we'll hear a tantrum from Pauline "Mauvais" Marios ranting that the painting was done in English only should we ever learn the art work originated in Quebec.

QUOI?? - on the subject of Quebec politics, this message makes about as much sense if not more.

HONOURABLE MENTION - for good use of colours but I wish I could figure out what it means.

GRAND PRIZE - Grand prize this week goes to this one for clarity. How can anyone look at Charlie Brown and not wonder whether or not he shall at last catch that fly ball? Well done!

The Oddblock Station Agent

Cab Ride on GO Train 166

July 15, 1994

Since moving into our new home about a year and a half ago, I have regularly watched and sporadically photographed the GO trains on GO Transit’s Milton Line (CP Rail’s Galt Subdivision) near Erindale Station. While not situated too close to the tracks, I can see the trains and station from my back yard. 

Milton GO Train schedule effective from April 26 1994

On the last day of my July vacation, I managed to talk Kie into accompanying me on a series of short rides between Milton and Union Station that I had worked out from the schedule. A day pass for unlimited travel from Union Station to Milton is a bargain at $12.10 per person. Two round trips can be accomplished on the afternoon/evening trains alone.

Ticket to ride...but only on the date shown

Our journey started at Erindale Station on Train 164 which pulled out exactly on time at 16:08. Twenty-nine minutes later at 16:37 we were on the platform in Union Station, slightly ahead of the schedule’s indicated 16:40 arrival time. This allowed us to make a very brief pause in the station concourse to pick up a snack and newspaper as we circled around from GO’s boarding area through to Via Rail’s boarding area to catch the next westbound train, GO 159 slated for a 16:50 departure. The Milton GO Trains board passengers at Via Rail’s gate 13.

We rode GO 159 as far as Meadowvale. My plan was to wait at Meadowvale for train 161 which was following twenty minutes behind. The short wait gave me a chance to choose the best possible photo location on the platform.

Westbound GO Train 161 arriving on the north track at the Meadowvale station. Only the north track has a platform for passengers. GO Trains on the “Milton Line” operate push-pull; eastbound morning trains are hauled by the locomotive whereas the westbound evening trains are pushed. Kie is the person sitting on the bench.

At 17:52 we boarded train 161 for the quick downhill dash between Meadowvale and Milton. We rode in the first car and I watched the track from the doorway window. The train’s consist was being pushed from the rear by an F59PH. The profile of CP Rail’s double track mainline is almost identical to the profile of the nearby Highway 401 stretch between Erin Mills Parkway and James Snow Parkway interchanges; not surprising since the rail and road routes are almost parallel to each other.

The Milton GO Station is literally in the middle of nowhere and quite a way out of the town. This of course may change in the years ahead as city sprawl and housing development catches up. While I took photographs of the head end of terminated Train 161, the CP Rail crew was preparing the parked equipment for a return run as Train 166.

Westbound Go Train 161, stopped at Milton, has completed its run. The engineer already left the control cab of car 203 and the crew is preparing the consist to return to Union Station as GO Train 166

F59PH-2 numbered 545 will be pulling Go Train 166 eastbound to Union Station, making all regular stops. Just after this scene was recorded, I boarded the train and was then invited to ride in the cab of 545 to Erindale.

After capturing a couple of frames on film, Kie and I walked the platform to the opposite end. I also wanted a shot of the F59PH-2. Unit 545 would be pulling Train 166 to Union Station. A few moments later we boarded the train. As soon as we were seated, I noticed a man on the platform motioning me to come over to the door.

“How far are you going?” he asked

“Erindale.” I replied.

“Do you want a ride up in the cab?” he offered.

He was the engineer and I could scarcely believe what I was hearing. For me, this was one of those rare invitations of a lifetime. Momentarily returning to Kie, I informed her that I was going to be riding in the engine for our return trip to Erindale. I also wanted to assure her that I would exit the train there. 

The north track in Milton as seen from the cab of F59PH-2 numbered 545. The crew of Train 166 is ready, waiting for 18:15, and the final authorization to depart.

Upon entering the cab through a pair of steel doors, I heard the conductor repeating back train orders to the dispatcher over the radio. A few moments later at 18:15, Train 166 pulled out of Milton on the north track, slowly rounded the curve and approached a crossover just beyond the curve. The signal aspects were displaying red, flashing yellow and red from the top of the signal mast down.

Limited to stop
“Limited to stop.” the conductor called out.

“Limited to stop.” The engineer called out also.

Both men read aloud their interpretations of the signal indication displayed to verify they both had the same understanding. Train 166 moved through the crossover from the north track to the south track for the train’s uphill charge over the main line’s wave-like profile. Train 166's consist quickly gained speed while proceeding to the next signal, in spite of the previous signal having informed us that the next signal would be instructing our train to stop. The crew knows well every detail of their route. Looking up the miles of straight track ahead, I was unable to see the aspects of the next signal.

In the distance I saw the headlights of an approaching train. Westbound GO Train 163 was charging downhill toward Milton for its 18:22 arrival time. From far away it was impossible for me to determine which track the approaching train was on. A lot of faith was being placed in the information the signals had been telling us.

Train 166 slowed as the glowing aspects of the signal mast came into view. All three lights were displaying red. Our train was almost stopped when the top lamp flickered and changed from red to green; thus giving us a clear track over which to continue.

“Clear.” The conductor called out.

“Clear” the engineer confirmed. 

When he pushed the throttle forward, the floor vibrated as all cylinders in the engine behind the cab’s rear wall thundered. The F59PH-2 worked quickly to pull the following string of bi-level cars uphill toward Meadowvale. Repeatedly engine 545’s horn blasted for crossing just beyond the signal masts, yelling at impatient drivers to stop. Finally cars yielded the right of way to 166.

Upon approaching the next signal the conductor called out, “Limited to clear.”

“Limited to clear.” The engineer called out in confirmation. 

Train 166 slowed and crossed back over to the north track. The station at Meadowvale does not have a platform on the south track. Our consist passed a speaking detector which faithfully reported on the status of our train’s wheel sets, “CP detector, mile twenty-five naught zero, Galt Sub, north track, four naught zero axles, no alarm.” and then concluded with, “Detector out”

“Is that reporting on our train?” I questioned, just to confirm it was.

“Yes it is.” The engineer replied.

The cab’s large digital speedometer was displaying 40 miles per hour as the already slowing train reached the west end of the platform. The engine was just clear of the east end of the platform by the time the speedometer displayed zero; a perfect stop that could only have been perfected through years of experience.

A few moments later and out of Meadowvale, Train 166 rounded a curve and approached the small yard at Streetsville Junction at 67 miles per hour. Streetsville Junction is the location where the Orangeville Subdivision joins the Galt Subdivision. A pair of SW units was switching cars on the adjacent north track and our train’s lead, 545, sounded the bell as a warning to the crew of the opposing movement.

Less than a minute later Train 166 neared Tannery Road in Streetsville. A little more than a month earlier, this road crossing of the CPR tracks was the location of a tragic death. A young lady in her mid teens, who had been waiting for a westbound train to pass, accidentally stepped into the path of an eastbound container train traveling on the second track. The unfortunate train crew was powerless to change the outcome but those men will have to live with the consequences nonetheless. Today, no persons or vehicles were waiting at the Tannery Road crossing as eastbound 166 commenced slowing for the Streetsville station.

While leaving the station the train gingerly approached the Mississauga Road crossing through the banked sharp curve. Not long ago at this crossing, a stopped car was rear-ended by another vehicle and shoved into the passing freight train. Miraculously, nobody was killed nor the train derailed in that incident. As soon as the crossing protection gates were seen to be down and all road traffic stopped and waiting, the engineer nudged the throttle a notch or two higher.

“Limited to limited.” Our conductor called out.

“Limited to limited.” The engineer confirmed upon approaching the next signal.

The Erindale GO station is just around the curve. After passing the signal mast, Train 166 will cross over highway 403 on the bridge at the start of the curve. The unprotected crossing shown is a location where I have photographed trains from trackside.

A signal mast is located near the north end of CP Rail’s bridge over Highway 403. Seeing one of my favourite train watching/photo locations from the locomotive cab rather than trackside was a treat. Today, to make the stop at Erindale, Train 166 would diverge and enter the third track.

When the train was stopped I exited the cab of GO’s unit 545 and descended to the ballast beside the right of way. The engineer looked down from the cab to ensure that I was safely off the train and out of the way. He gave me a thumbs-up and I gratefully returned his signal. I waited for Train 166 to departed and watched as the green and white consist disappeared around the curve en route to its destination at Toronto’s Union Station.

That was my first cab ride in the head end of a CP Rail train traveling over mainline tracks. My initial observation was how deceptive the feeling of a lack of speed could be from high above the track. At times the train did not feel to be moving all that quickly, but glances at the speedometer, which was visible to all in the cab, easily confirmed that Train 166 was often traveling at more than 60 miles per hour and a few times touched the maximum 75 miles per hour permitted over the GO Train territory of CP Rail’s Galt Subdivision.

The men who pilot these trains day after day are professionals and they take their work and responsibilities very seriously. First-hand I have witnessed their work and practices. I am very grateful for their kindness for allowing me this ride up front and brief glimpse into their on-duty activities. When I ride the GO Trains on the “Milton Line” (CP Rail’s Galt Subdivision) I have no doubt whatsoever that I shall arrive safely at my destination.

Thank you head-end crew of Train 166. This was one of those few rare gifts of a lifetime and a wonderful conclusion to my vacation. Again, thank you.

Written in 1994
The Oddblock Station Agent

Monday, 2 September 2013

The Most Profound of Train Books

The following train book was rediscovered a few months ago while I was searching for something else.

This unique book was created by my daughter in 1991 when she was nine years old.

Nothing else need be said by me.


TheOddblock Station Agent