Plenty of Power. 9,000
horsepower from three railways is more than ample to power the
three-car Operation Lifesaver special train towards Walkley Yard in
Ottawa on September 12, 1988. Photo by Ray Farand. This is
a colour image in substitution for the black and white image used in
the original article. It was taken near M&O Junction.
There was a time not that many years ago travellers passing
through Ottawa's main issenger terminal referred to it as Ottawa
Union Station. The term "Union" imparted a pirit of
co-operation between the railway giants of the day and the government
that has its seat of power only footsteps up the hill along Wellington
Today, Ottawa Union Station is but a memory for a generation that has
seen Canadian railways slip from their place of prominence in the
public eye to become what most perceive to be simply a drain on the
public purse. Along with a new terminal location for the capital's
gateway came an abbreviated title, simply Ottawa Station. Though it is
still a jointly operated facility in many respects, occasions when one
can literally see and feel the spirit of cooperation between today's
major railway players are not often forthcoming.
One of these unique opportunities presented itself on September 12,
1988 when .Ottawa Station truly became a "Union" station if only for a
few hours. The occasion was the .inauguration of Operation Lifesaver's
National Awareness Day. This timely event re-dedicated the commitment
of Transport Canada, the Railway Association of Canada, the Canada
Safety Council, Canadian National Railways, CP Rail, VIA Rail Canada
Inc., and law enforcement agencies all across the country, to a common
goal, that being to reduce the number of deaths and injuries that occur
at rail/highway level crossings.
Though the official ceremony was to be held at the east end of CN's
Walkley Yard near Conroy Road, the station was used as a staging area
to assemble a special train that would take officials and guests to the
main site. The news media was also in attendance and it was their task
to get the message out to the Canadian public that rail/highway
crossings are to be respected and approached with caution.
The list of speakers on hand to host the event included Operation
Lifesaver's National Director and the day's Master of Ceremonies, Roger
Cyr, Transport Minister Benoit Bouchard, and R.S. Allison, Chairman of
the Railway Association of Canada, and Chief Executive Officer of CP
Rail. In addition to other notable officials such as Denis de Belleval,
President of VIA Rail Canada Inc., and John Kelsall, Canadian
National's Vice-Presldent of Operations, one could not help but be
impressed by the support directed towards the program by the Canadian
Association of Chiefs of Police. Police Chiefs, or representatives from
the police forces of almost all of the municipalities of
Ottawa-Carleton and West Quebec, as well as the Royal Canadian Mounted
Police, Ontario Provincial Police, Quebec Police Force, and the
railways' own police forces were on hand. Some, including Ottawa's
Chief of Police Arthur Rice, were in full dress attire.
To take this distinguished entourage from Ottawa Station to the site of
the inauguration ceremony, a special move was set up using locomotives,
passenger and business cars supplied by Canadian National, CP Rail and
VIA Rail. The special train was comprised of a pair of resplendent
SD40-2's, CN 5244 and CP 5934, both freshly painted, and immaculate VIA
F40PH-2 6412, CN Business Car No. 91, VIA coach 5650, and bringing up
the markers, CP Rail's Official Car "Wentworth". Those of you who are
historically minded will recall that the "Wentworth" was temporarily
assigned to the Royal Train of Their Majesties King George VI and Queen
Elizabeth back in 1939. Tipping the scales at nearly 100 tons, this
1926 product of CP's Angus Shops was a splendid choice for a tail end
car. Under the bright September sun, the train was nothing short of
spectacular in appearance with its "Kodachrome" blend of colours.
Shortly after 10:00, the Special eased out of the stub track at the
east end of Ottawa Station and proceeded slowly towards Walkley Yard
via the Alexandria Subdivision and the Walkley Line. The schedule
called for the move to take approximately one-half hour, enough time
for the news media to view an audio-visual display designed to inform
the public about Operation Lifesaver's primary goals and to demonstrate
the impact that the program has had since its inception in 1981.
Statistics indicate that Operation Lifesaver has helped significantly
to reduce the incidence of level crossing accidents in Canada. The
total number of accidents at the 27,000 public rail/highway level
crossings in Canada has fallen from 826, recorded in 1980, to 458 in
1987 - a 45% decrease. During the same period of time, injuries dropped
37% and fatalities were down 40%.
Impressive results such as these do not come cheap. Since 1980,
Transport Canada has been providing an annual grant for the program and
plans are for the federal government to spend a further $100,000 in
each of the fiscal years 1987/88, 1988/89 and 1989/90. The Railway
Association has agreed to provide matching funds for the same period.
The result of these worthwhile expenditures will be continued public
safety awareness education and modernization of level crossing
protection across the country.
At Walkley Yard, everyone made their way to a temporary sheltered area
to listen to the keynote speakers, Messrs. Cyr, Allison, Rice, and the
Honorable Minister Bouchard who formally closed out the ceremony. The
remaining time was devoted to the news media who conducted personal
interviews with the organizers. It is somewhat ironic to note that
during this period of time, as the special train prepared for
departure, the Conroy Road crossing circuit was activated, setting off
the bell and warning lights. Despite the presence of the nearby train,
motorists continued to cross the tracks, many of them barely taking the
time to slow down and look both ways. Obviously more work remains to be
done, with driver education at the top of the priority list.
Shortly after 11:30, everyone re-boarded the train for the return trip
to Ottawa Station. The train backed down the Walkley Line and east onto
the Alexandria Sub before it proceeded on the final leg of the trip
back to "Union". If one word can be used to sum up the entire affair,
it would have to be "class". It was truly a class act from start to
finish, and the participants have to be commended for their efforts at
getting the message out to Canadians. When it concerns grade crossings,
"Trains Can't Stop".
Upon arrival back at the station, everyone said their final goodbyes
and went their separate ways except for a pair of "train buffs", excuse
me, BRS reporters (yours truly and the Features Editor, Dave Stremes).
As we said our goodbyes, Dave was approached by a senior Ottawa Police
official, who wanted to know if he was a photographer hired by the
railway! After explaining that he was not, and that the camera had
slide film in it, Dave was still asked if he would mind taking a few
pictures of Ottawa Police officials, including Chief Rice, as well as
Roger Cyr, and J. Mel Beaupre of the Railway Association of Canada.
After being assured that the Ottawa Police Photo Lab would handle any
photographic work necessary, the group assembled on the rear platform
of CP 5934 for their photo.
After saying our goodbyes, we had to hang around to see the last moves
of the day completed in the yard on the south side of the station.
There's something to be said for those who persist in being the last
ones to leave a good party, though party may not be the appropriate
term in this case. As our last unofficial act of the day, we were
granted a tour of the "Wentworth" by a very obliging Business Car
Attendant, Norman Virgoe.
While we were admiring the overwhelming elegance of the car's interior,
VIA 6412 had been uncoupled from the two SD40-2s and then nosed up to
the "A" end of the private car. Shortly after that I realized we were
about to be treated to an unexpected ride around the M&O wye. To
try and explain to you what it felt like to be sitting on a plush sofa
gazing out the door onto the balcony of an honest to goodness business
car (Car No. 27 notwithstanding, besides it doesn't have a sofa), all
the while trying to take a picture of the big yellow nose of a new VIA
locomotive and at the same time eat a leftover muffin without dropping
any crumbs on the carpet, is almost beyond description. Ah-h-h, railfan
heaven. To quote a popular television commercial, "It just doesn't get
any better than this!!"
Branchline, December 1988, page 9.