Canada August 2012
We’d been attempting to do some of the Canadian Shortlines that operated with Alco’s for some time and this trip ended up being the one, although one fell by the wayside early on unfortunately, that being the York Durham Railway in Toronto, who couldn’t operate their annual top & tail trains over the GO Transit network for the Markham Festival due to GO Transit doing track work.
We almost didn’t end up getting the Orford Express at Sherbrooke in either, that has a whole story in its own right though, see below.
In the end the whole trip through Quebec went without hitch and everything went virtually to plan. I’ve split the trips up into their own sections below for ease of viewing.
Our first stop in Canada was Tornoto, having flown out with Air Canada with a free business class upgrade. It slightly make up for the fact that we departed almost 2 hours late from Heathrow, which thankfully didn’t mess up our evening plans.
Having touched down at 1515 we made it outside for the 1552 #192 bus to Kipling Subway Station. They run at 12, 32 & 52 minutes past the hour during the day and cost $3, which includes access to the subway at Kipling to connect into Toronto. We were at Toronto Union, having changes lines at St Georges at 1640 and thanks to a kind woman at the ticket machine we just made GO Transit‘s 1647 Toronto – Aldershot with MPI MP40PH-3C #628 on its double deck stock. We’d bought a “day pass” which is actually a day return between two points that’s valid for unlimited travel that day. We were staying in Burlington and our Toronto – Burlington cost $17.40.
The 1647 ex Toronto was the start of a 10 train bash, which got us 11 different MP40’s, finishing at Burlington off the 1913 Toronto – Aldershot.
Out the evening of 23rd August on the Lake Shore line were:
604, 605, 606 (multi with 629), 612, 616, 628, 629 (multi with 606), 632, 633, 638 & 649
We also was a couple of VIA trains with VIA GE P42’s:
901 with 76 1321 Windsor – Toronto
913 with 75 1730 Toronto – Windsor
Also at Clarkson was LTEX GP38 3803 shunting the yard
Having spent the night at the Best Western Inn & Suites at Burlington, a fifteen minute walk from the GO Transit station, we were back at the station the following morning to choose & loose going back into Toronto.
Out in the morning rush hour on 24th August were:
612, 613, 622, 628 & 637 (obviously there were a load more but these were the only ones we saw running into Toronto, before our VIA trip to Quebec, via Montreal.
This would be our first taste of VIA Rail Genesis GE P42DC’s and our first train had two of them involved. We’d booked all our VIA tickets online, luckily for us during a half price sale too.
Friday 24th August
0925 Toronto – Montreal was formed of two trains, both going Montreal – Quebec, one via Ottawa, the other via Cornwall.
Train 56 via Cornwall was leading with GE P42 #917, Train 54 via Ottawa was coupled behind with GE P42 #902 in the middle of the formation and its train trailing behind. The trains were split at KM127 about 2km outside Brockville station.
At Montreal we had time for lunch before going forward to Quebec City.
Train 24 1610 Montreal – Quebec City was GE P42 #920 and our arrival into Quebec was bang on time.
Sunday 26th August
Having done the Le Massif on the Saturday we were plagued by 920, all the way back to Montreal, we had it on the following:
Train 23 0745 Quebec City – Montreal from Quebec to Drummondville, where we spent the day doing the Orford Express in Sherbrooke &
Train 27 1730 Quebec City – Montreal from Drummondville to Montreal, it having worked Train 22 1300 Montreal – Quebec City in between. We’d been hoping it wouldn’t but common sense prevailed. The only other GE we saw that day was pioneer of the VIA fleet #900, which worked the following, seen both times at Drummondville:
Train 620 0830 Montreal – Quebec City
Train 26 1755 Montreal – Quebec City
Common sense also says it worked:
Train 25 1310 Quebec City – Montreal
Back at Montreal that night we stayed in the Hotel Visitel, which was a very short walk from the UQAM stop on the Montreal Metro system in what can only be described as a ludicrously large room on the hotel’s ground floor, which had 3 beds, and a separate bathroom, with two sinks. Good value for money too at $99 for the room.
The Train of Le Massif de Charlevoix is nothing short of impressive inside, the decor is very modern, with every table being adorned with an i-Pad to guide you through your journey. Unlike most diner trains in the UK there is no dress code, which gives a nice relaxing atmosphere. The food served is fresh and all booked in advance through the Le Massif website when you make your booking. Of course though, we weren’t there for the food, we went solely for the two MLW RS18u’s (1821 & 1868) that Le Massif had overhauled for their operations, which only started in late 2011.
In May 2012 Le Massif introduced an new timetable, offering more trips for people each day, this has resulted in their operation not always using both MLW’s in top & tail style but using one on each set with a cab car. I thought this would pose us a problem in being able to get both MLW’s in, in one day, however after a bit of e-mail tennis with the staff at Le Massif they booked us on the following:
“Discover Baie St. Paul” 0945 Chutes-Montmorency to Baie St Paul then
“Escape to La Malbaie” 0900 Chutes-Montmorency to La Malbaie, forward from Baie St Paul and back to Chutes-Montmorency
This meant we got both MLW’s in and even had the bonus of photographing the first depart with the falls as a back-drop.
It wasn’t a cheap do though and at $948 for three I’d actually deem it very expensive, even when converted to Sterling. We got what we paid for in relation to the train itself and the scenery is fantastic but there is absolutely no noise to be heard from the locos at all. In fact the only thrash we heard all day was when both sets were shunted clear of the station area, during the afternoon downtime, at Baie St Paul.
Still it was an experience, and an enjoyable day at that. The weather was good to us and we got some decent photos at both Montmorency Falls and Baie St Paul. We opted to stay close to the Falls at the Econo Lodge in Boischatel, about a mile up the road, the owner of which, who actually had “General” on the hotel’s cards, even ran us down to the station and picked us up again in the evening, at no cost.
Having left the Train of Le Massif de Charlevoix behind in Quebec City we used VIA Rail to get back from Quebec to Montreal via a short detour at Drummondville. Our train 23 0745 Quebec City – Montreal arrived almost to time, which was 0937, giving us enough time to photograph it departing then walk the mile or so to the car hire place to collect our car. Which amazingly, we managed to do in French.
The 90km journey from Drummondville to Sherbrooke took 1h05m, without SatNav and we weren’t hammering along that much. We had 90 minutes to spare when we got to Sherbrooke, which we used to purchase our tickets from the caboose that is the ticket office for the Orford Express and then photograph Montreal, Maine & Atlantic (MMA) GE B23-7 #2001, which was sat in the sidings opposite the Orford’s Depot. The very same MMA GE had actually worked the Orford Express the previous day (25th August) due to the Orford Expresses own MLW M420TR #26 failing with an electrical fault.
Taking into consideration our sole purpose for visiting Sherbrooke was to get the MLW M420TR in, the only remaining working member of the type, we had a bit of a job confirming it was actually going to be out, which started way back in July.
I’d managed to contact the Orford Express direct through their website contact page to ask if the M420 would be working the passenger train on the day we’d be there, obviously 26th August. This was in response to information I’d heard that confirmed that EMD FL9 #484 had been bought by the Orford Express and would be replacing it very soon, which at the time very soon meant the start of August.
Even a week before we departed the UK we still didn’t know if the M420 would remain on the passenger train by the time we got there. Once the FL9 arrived the Orford guys had already confirmed that the M420 wouldn’t be used specifically for us on the 26th August and that the FL9 would be pressed straight into service.
By the 1st August we had a 90% chance of the M420 still being in service, I wasn’t sure of the delay with the FL9 but of course I wasn’t bothered either. By the 9th August we were told that the FL9 would arrive at Sherbrooke on the 16th, which spelled disaster of course, yet by the time we departed the UK on the 23rd the FL9 still hadn’t arrived at Sherbrooke. It wasn’t until Friday 24th, while in Quebec City that we had e-mail confirmation that the FL9 wouldn’t arrive until Monday 27th at the earliest, which meant we could relax, or could we……..
The girls in the office at Orford’s Caboose in Sherbrooke had done a sterling job in keeping me up to date with on-goings and it didn’t stop the next bombshell falling, just when we thought we were safe, an e-mail came though the day before our trip to Sherbrooke, to say that the M420TR #26 had failed and had been replaced by an MMA loco, of course that was what we discovered to be GE B23-7 #2001. At that point the girls didn’t think that the #26 would be repaired with the imminent arrival of the FL9 expected. I mean just how cruel could it be that we’d spent all our time thinking we might not get it in as it was being replaced, only for it to give up the ghost itself!
As everything was booked up we decided to make the journey anyway, expecting to have the MMA GE on the train, which lets face it wasn’t something to be ashamed of, they hardly ever worked passenger trains so it was quite a rare working. It wasn’t until we walked into the caboose at Sherbrooke to collect our tickets that the girls told us that the #26 was actually back in traffic and working the train………….
It was well worth making the trip, the tickets only cost $248 for all three of us, which was less than we’d paid each for the Le Massif’s train. The trains interior wasn’t as up-market as Le Massif’s but felt more relaxed in its older style surroundings. Again the food was served freshly prepared and it was excellent too. We couldn’t hear any thrash from the little M420TR though but we could tell it was there as every now and again clag drifted past the window, which turned out to actually be the locos downfall. Mr Thompson, who owns the Orford operation, told us that he had to replace the M420TR due to complaints from people about it’s pollution basically. He had no clue at that point what would happen to it once the FL9 arrived, as to whether he’d keep it or sell it on. He went on to say that it had been a sterling performer and that it hardly ever failed, recalling only two occasions since they’d got it, including the previous days of course. They’d only managed to batter it back to life that morning, once they’d found the electrical fault and we were given a tour round it while the train paused for its afternoon stop at Magog on the return from Eastman. I have to say it was in pristine condition, paint work, power unit, cab, the lot. Mr Thompson was going to Montreal the following day to inspect the FL9 and fully expected it to be in Sherbrooke by Tuesday or Wednesday.
Having had a thoroughly enjoyable time we did hammer it back to Drummondville, as time was quite tight for our VIA train into Montreal that evening, departing Drummondville at 1929. We departed Sherbrooke just after 1730 and were back at Drummondville station for 1915, leaving 14 minutes to spare, after the mile walk back from the car hire place. Everything turned out quite nicely.
In the end the FL9 arrived at Sherbrooke in early September, 1st or 2nd, the girls in the office were still keeping me updated, even after our trip. It appears that it worked its first solo trip on Wednesday September 12th’s Orford Express but may have done a few test runs with #26 still in the consist prior to that. We were so close to missing the #26 and now its fate hangs in the balance……………….
I still recommend this trip to anyone, even if the train is now worked by a GM.
Doing anything with AMT in Montreal was a bonus, we’d not planned it and hadn’t even realised we could do anything until having a quick scan at the timetables on the journey into Montreal the previous evening.
There are only two outbound trains from Lucien L’Allier in a morning, which was just enough for us to string a bash together using an AMT Zone 1 ticket, which was valid just long enough for us to do exactly what we needed. Double backs are allowed on their tickets, which are valid with a time limit and are effectively a rover between the two points during the time limit allowed.
AMT seems to have a bit of a selection of “cast off” traction from various different commuter lines, some of which is hired in, all of which was spotted that morning and we only saw about 10 trains. Our bash basically consisted of two return trips to Montreal West, stepping off at Vendome coming back in both times.
Locos seen on the morning of 27th August were as follows:
Ex GO Tranisit, now owned by RBRX and leased to AMT, F59’s
18520 – 0545 Vaundreuil – Lucien L’Allier, 0700 Lucien L’Allier – Vaundreuil
18521 – 0730 Vaundreuil – Lucien L’Allier (T&T with EMD GP40FH-2 4140)
18522 – 0645 Vaundreuil – Lucien L’Allier (T&T with EMD GP40FH-2 4143)
18531 – 0700 Candiac – Lucien L’Allier
302 – 0600 Candiac – Lucien L’Allier, ecs to Candiac then 0735 Candiac – Lucien L’Allier
4118 – 0658 Hudson – Lucien L’Allier (T&T with GM F40PH 411)
530 – 0655 Vaundreuil – Lucien L’Allier
532 – 0625 Vaundreuil – Lucien L’Allier, 0750 Lucien L’Allier – Beaconsfield
1327/1320 (T&T) – 0610 Saint Jerome – Lucien L’Allier
1321/1329 (T&T) – 0655 Saint Jerome – Lucien L’Allier
A good morning was had by all, before we walked to Montreal Central for our Amtrak “Adirondack” to head over the border into the US.