My brother Marc recently took his son to see Via Rail Canada's 40th anniversary special. I'll let my brother take it from here - Michael
There was a low-key Via Rail visit in Sarnia this past August. Via had planned to make stops in various communities to showcase their service, which provided a great opportunity to re-familiarize myself with rail travel.
Via also made this a community-minded event, by holding a ceremony in partnership with Sarnia’s RAIL (Rail Advocacy in Lambton), a grassroots lobby group, whose purpose is to increase and improve the level of train and bus service in Sarnia-Lambton. Via’s staff donated and planted seven trees in Centennial Park, where CN’s lightly-used Point Edward Spur runs through, servicing Sarnia’s harbour and docks. (The last time Via ventured onto this spur was when the Grey Cup Centennial train visited Sarnia in 2015 - Michael).
The RAIL group is credited for several improvements in the area. They brought attention to the neglected train station (since restored), and had passenger service reinstated at the Wyoming passenger station.
Via’s staff hosted tours in Centennial Park on a rainy summer day. Friendly staff greeted guests, showing off the dome car, a coach car, and a lounge car (Via's Glenfraser).
Engine 6454 idled for our event, sporting the 40th livery. This train usually operates the Halifax run, according to the engineer. Waterfront condos are seen in the background, along Sarnia’s Front Street.
The staff kept kids busy with the cardboard Via trains I remember getting as a kid in the 1980s. There was an entertainer for them too, making balloon animals and telling jokes. He was a real hit with the kids. In the dome car, a young staffer answered questions and took pictures.
I am used to traveling by air, so it was a bit of a surprise to see how dated the coaches are inside. They are clean and in a good state of repair, so it’s not a criticism. I can imagine this is a very nice way to travel, taking in the scenery. Certainly more room than an airline seat.
Sarnia’s Historical Society took advantage of this gathering to show off Bullet Nosed Betty, on static display at Centennial Park. 6069 has been under restoration for several years by a dedicated group of volunteers. The gates were open, and guests were allowed to check out the inside. This was the first time in ages that the inside of this steam locomotive was accessible to the public.
My son loves checking out trains, so this was a thrill. A rainy day was not stopping him!
A CN retiree was on hand to talk about 6069. He was one of the last engineers to operate this old workhorse.
He was very kind to my son, and let him wear his hat. He gave us a tour, showing us the basics of steam operation.
Thanks to VIA for bringing this tour to Sarnia. It was well attended by kids and adults alike, with politicians mingling in. Note Sarnia Bay and the Government Docks in the background (top left). This spur terminates at the waterfront.
Thanks to my brother for the recap. It sounded like a fun event. Certainly it might prove useful in helping RAIL secure another passenger train for Sarnia, which now has only one arrival and departure a day. -Michael