Monday, January 30, 2023

A busy day on the mainline in Kingston: Part I

In November, my wife was attending a music conference and my daughters were participating in the music class portion, which gave me a free day to railfan in Kingston. This was worth the early morning wake-up and nearly two-hour drive from Ottawa. Having seen countless photos and historic commentary about the Kingston Subdivision from the Trackside Treasure blog, I was eager to get some of my own images from this rail hotspot. I have caught the occasional freight while driving through Kingston on Highway 401, but this opportunity was far different. This time, I didn't have to rely on lucky timing. I could sit at the Kingston Via Rail station and wait. Oh, the luxuries of living along a main line!

The day was punctuated with trips to downtown Kingston to drop off my daughters at various activities and then more time spent trackside at the station.Here are the first three trains I saw.

P42 917 leads an eastbound J-Train, with a F40 mid-consist for the moment. This was shortly before 11 a.m. The daily trains travelling east toward Brockville are Via Trains 60 and 50. Once they arrive at Brockville, they separate, with one proceeding east on the Kingston Sub toward Montreal while the other branches off onto the Via Rail Brockville Sub (ex-CP) toward Smiths Falls and from there, the Via Rail Smiths Falls Sub (ex-CN) into Ottawa. It's not often you get to see a Via Rail train this long, excluding the Canadian, which I have yet to encounter in person.

Not long after 60/50 arrived, it had company, as a westbound made its way to the platform, under the watch of the local Via staff on the platform. P42 916 was leading what I assume was Train 51 toward Toronto. If you're keeping count, that's three trains in one meet.

I made sure to get a shot of Train 51 with the entire Kingston station in a frame. It seemed silly to post about the station and not actually take a photograph of the structure itself. Kingston's station dates back to 1974, which predates the birth of Via Rail by a few years. It replaced the famous 1855 Outer Station on Montreal Street, which dated back to the Grand Trunk Railway. Of course, you likely know all this history if you visit Trackside Treasure. It's not my goal to get into an extensive history of this station other than to mention it. I found it funny that there is a line on the Wikipedia entry about this station that states: "The current 1974 mainline station has no notable historic or architectural value." Seems kinda harsh for Wikipedia, no?

Here's the next train I saw. which brought my total up to four. Actaully, it is five, as this was another J-Train, which was destined to separate at Brockville. This consist was led by F40 6436, with the French wrap showing on my side. The mid-train power was P42 911, also with the French slogan wrap showing on my side.

This is Train 62/52. As is the custom with these trains, one heads to Montreal from Brockville while the other heads northeast to Smiths Falls and Ottawa. Since I was on the platform, I decided to take some extra shots of this consist, as I have been trying of late to find images that show detail, rather than just the straight consist. As the P42 went by, I noticed a vestige of its original paint scheme still visible beneath the wrap. It's the old Government of Canada logo. I'm glad Via has done away with this bureaucratic government logo. I am assuming it was forced on them. 

I also took a quick shot of Via coach 8126 acting as a buffer car, is as the case with the old streamlined coaches these days. All the shades were down. It's interesting to see how many paint schemes Via has going on its entire rolling stock roster these days. The original silver and blue is my favourite scheme, but Via has for some time opted for different shades of blue and black on its silver fleet. It's also nice to see the Canada logo taken off the centre of the coaches. I found this to be visually distracting.

One final shot of the J-Train. I took a shot between two coaches to illustrate my point about how much the Via livery has changed over the years. The newer scheme is much more in the blue-green or teal hue. I still think that government logo is out of place on the grooved silver surface. From a business point-of-view, I don't think it's terribly appealing to remind your customers that you are subsidized by the federal government. 

Some have suggested the newer Via scheme is reminiscent of the old C&O passenger scheme, which is something I can appreciate, being a fan of Chessie System and its predecessors. However, I will always prefer the original Via blue and yellow. I'm sure there are marketing reasons to adopt newer schemes, but I maintain the right to be old (40+ anyway) and set in my ways in this case.

That covers my first few meets at the station with five different Via Rail corridor trains. In the next post, I will share images of the lone CN freight train I saw, along with more interesting Via corridor action. I will admit that I was hoping to see more than a single CN freight train, but the sheer volume of activity on my visit to Kingston station more than made up for the lack of freight trains.


Eric said...

Thanks for sharing your railfanning success and also the links to Trackside Treasure, Michael. Saturday mornings can be extra busy if CN gets its act together, interspersing more CN freights with the VIA. I guess that on this day, the fleet was running a little earlier or a little later.

I think the VIA station got an architectural boost when it was given the peaked roof, over the original flat roof that was part of the CN design at the time. Many of the shingles were blowing off the peaked roof this past summer, as it is quite a windswept part of Kingston. A huge amount of plywood went into that peak, and it was just reshingled before winter.


Kevin from Windsor said...

Running the combined trains sounds like a convenient operational efficiency, but offers less choice to passengers. If the Ottawa and Montreal trains ran at different times, then customers would have a wider choice of departure times between Toronto and Kingston, or wherever the Ottawa "section" splits from the mainline. Or if there's no bandwidth for the extra departure times, then just park a train at the split point and have Ottawa customers do a cross platform transfer. Or better yet, have all eastbound departures from Toronto go to Montreal, but alternate. First train heads directly to Montreal along the lakeshore. Second one goes to Ottawa, but make it a through train to Montreal via Alexandria. Third train heads directly to Montreal along the lakeshore. Etc. You get the idea. Yes, those trips to Montreal via Ottawa will take longer, but there will be a wider choice of departure times. And then add memory schedules with departures on the hour or half hour. Via (or shall I say the federal government) has invested multi-millions of dollars in stations and trains, but the schedules and frequencies push most folks other than students and seniors back to their cars. Here in Windsor, we actually have fewer, slower trains than we did when Via was in its infancy. In the early 80s - and I regret that I didn't save my timetable collection - we had 5 round trips a day to/from Toronto and for a while 6 on Fridays and Sundays to accommodate weekend package tours to Toronto that were sold to Michiganders like hotcakes. Today, we're down to 4 round trips a day, pretty much the same schedule that CN offered back in 1972. (Well, in 1972 you could still ride a CP Budd RDC between Windsor and Toronto, so I guess you could say we had 5 trains a day, but that was its last year of service.) - Anyhow, just a rant after seeing the J train photos. Your photos and history are enjoyable, and the work you put into this blog is much appreciated! I am looking forward to your posts about Chatham!

Michael said...

Hi Kevin. I'm sure many people would agree with you. As a Sarnia born railfan with lots of family in Windsor, I can appreciate your opinion. Sarnia now has one train in and out each day, despite efforts to petition for a second train. I used to be able to go visit my sister in Kitchener on the evening Amtrak run-through train from Chicago. Now, anyone leaving Sarnia for points east has to board a train at the crack of dawn. I would think the J-Trains certainly help keep the frequency of passengers trains down on the CN rails, which might be one of the benefits to them. Via arrival times would likely suffer further if CN dispatchers had to sideline more of them for freight trains, which is often the case, I'm told. It certainly builds the case to re-establish the CP line from Toronto through Peterborough and onto Ottawa. That line goes not further than Havelock and many wonder why it was ever severed in the first place. Short sited decisions, many feel.