March 1989

The first Railway Safety Inspector card issued by Transport Canada

Wednesday 8 March 1989

I traveled on the LRC to Toronto this morning having decided to try out my new Railway Safety Inspector Card.  I went to the station and found Graham Fielding, the VIA Assistant Superintendent, who introduced me to the two Toronto enginemen who were taking train 41 back to Toronto,  They had come up on VIA 44 last night.  Nobody was interested in my card.  They were more interested in the heat, or lack of it, in the cab.

It was minus 27 Celsius when I climbed into the cab and the inside temperature was very much the same.  There was frost on our breath but luckily the window heaters were working so there was no difficulty in seeing out.  We left on time at 0750 and right from the start it was evident that it was going to be an endurance test because of the cold.  As  we made our way across the crossings in the western part of the city the enginemen were preoccupied with their comfort than what was happening at the crossings.  As we approached Merivale Road the ground relay tripped with a jerk and the sound of bells. This happened four times between Ottawa and Kingston.

The LRC rides well and the track is good.  It was comfortable at 95 mph.  This speed was difficult to attain because the enginemen decided to run with the throttle no higher than notch seven in order to avoid ground relay problems.

We were a couple of minutes late into Smiths Falls, partly because of the ground relay and partly because of a westbound CP freight which took a little while to get out of the way.

The run over the CP Brockville subdivision was uneventful, the most memorable part being the intense cold in my feet.  I hadn't been over the main line Kingston subdivision in the head end for some time.  My impression is that although it is well maintained there are many curves and speed restrictions for passenger trains.

I left the head end at Kingston for the comfort of the Club car.  Even so it took some time for my feet to thaw out.  Not all LRC equipment is as cold as this but this one certainly needs fixing.  The dynamic brake had been disconnected on February 22 and the two speedometers were not recording the same.

I returned from Toronto on VIA 46 in the evening.  I must admit that I came back in the Club car.  It was much more pleasant.

Tuesday 21 March 1989

I had intended to travel to Calgary yesterday evening but after two hours in the plane sitting on the tarmac at Ottawa it was evident that Air Canada were not going to get me there that evening so I came home for the night.

I flew out this morning and was met at Calgary airport by Barry Rumbold.  We then set off to chase our train which had left Calgary around 11:30.  We made contact in the Banff area but the Superintendent, Mike Stroik, did not want to stop the train so we went on to Field.

The train was Extra West CP 5943 with three gleaming red CP units on the head end and around 50 grain cars, including an unusual slug of boxes on the rear. The train had been made up specially to convey two business cars, Killarnay and Van Horne on the rear.  At Field I met Mike Stroik and Mack Aberdeen, Superintendent at Revelstoke as well as Al Hill, Vice President, Operations and Maintenance for the Heavy Haul Division, Keith Post (Director, Transport Canada Calgary Office), Ray O'Meara and Mike McLearn who had come through from Calgary. The stop at Field was merely to change crews  and we were quickly on our way down through the Kicking Horse Canyon.  The weather was dull and overcast and there was nothing exceptional in the run to Golden.

At Golden the train was put into a siding next to a street and we were met by a fleet of cars to take us to the new car repair shop which has been open a little less than two years.  It is a remarkable facility in that the coal cars are maintained on a programmed basis.  Mileage records are maintained by computer and cars are brought in by mileage.  In the shop they do a complete tear down including truck disassembly.  This is the first installation which maintains cars on a programmed basis.  The results have been very worthwhile in a reduction in the number of cars set out on the road.  It has also resulted in a reduction in the time taken to examine trains in the yard at Golden as they make their way through empty to the loading point.

Dinner was served on the Van Horne.  Duck a l'Orange and Kiwifruit cheesecake.  We stayed the night at Mary's Motel which is a couple of blocks from the railway.

Wednesday 22 March 1989

Although I was really tired, my body was on eastern time and I woke up early.  This was a good thing as we had to be on the cars for an 06:00 departure. It was mild and misty with a little residual snow on the ground.  The plan was that I should ride all the way from Goldenon the head end, through the new tunnel and detrain on the other side at mile 95.1.  I later found out that this option precluded breakfast!  We had the same consist and were quickly on our way, the west switch at Golden was passed at 06:25.  It would have been sooner but there was a problem in opening the main line switch which cost us five minutes.

5943 rode well and the track is good.  There is quite a bit of double track west of Golden now and some track bed has been cleared for more.  We held the main for VIA 2 with 6425 and 6635 and were quickly through to Rogers which looked strange without a string of pusher locomotives waiting for an assignment.  On the main line, we passed a shifted load detector as well as a hot box detector and were quickly into the short tunnel.  This is curved at both ends so it is not possible to see right through.  Climbing still, we traversed 4,000 feet of viaduct which was constructed in order to avoid construction in the unstable side hill.  Then came the big tunnel.  Again, the entrance and exit are curved but there are long straight stretches inside.  The first signal can be seen for two and a half miles.  Next follows an approach signal which will turn green when the central door is opened,  The ventilation in the tunnel is good and with full lighting, it is not as daunting as the Connaught Tunnel or even the Severn Tunnel.  We ground through at around 23 mph. and were glad to reach the open air even though we were greeted by a snow squall.

We stopped at mile 95.1 and were greeted by Jim Eisler, Director, Transport Canada, Vancouver, who accompanied us for the rest of the trip.  The train crew drew forward to detrain the tail end group who had been given breakfast, and our train then made its way through to Revelstoke.  The coal train behind us did not have very much luck.  The lead unit quit at Rogers.  It was equipped with Positive Traction Control (PTC).  There were only four units in total and it could not attempt to restart the climb until a supervisor had been able to restart the engine.  This is a far cry from the thirteen units that were used on the old grade.

We drove up to the Fan House which provides the considerable draft to keep the tunnel clear of fumes.  It is an impressive, large, building and much of the operation is controlled by computer.  The restriction in the capacity of the tunnel is the ability to clear the air and not the signal system as such.  The computer can override the signals to ensure that trains are not too closely spaced.  Emergency power is provided by a GM 710 diesel which has an extremely noisy air motor to start.  While other railways are buying locomotives with 710 engines, CP is staying with the 645 - except for the tunnel!

We met up with the train at Revelstoke and were our way at 11:00.  The run through to Kamloops was notable for the large number of meets with eastbound trains, about eight in all.  The dispatcher did a good job but even so there was some slow running as we entered and left sidings.  I was ready for lunch!.  The weather was now sunny if cold and it was pleasant watching the world go by from the back platform.  Sicamous was beautiful and we were treated to an unusual view of two rainbows.  Sicamous also provided the spectacle of being chased within yard limits by an SD 40 which wa anxious to get on with its work.

Mack Aberdeen left us at Kamloops and we were joined by John Pendelton.  Ray O'Meara was in his element as he had been Superintendent in Vancouver before John.  The weather stayed sunny and we were treated to some interesting effects on the other side of the canyon as the sun sank lower and lower. There were a number of bald eagles soaring above the river.  A short but heavy shower of rain came just before it became dark and then we were able to see the caboose lights of a train on the CN on the other side of the canyon. We seemed to catch up then fall behind again so I presume he was running at about the same pace as we were.

Dinner was an excellent piece of prime rib of beef followed by Black Forest cake.  The Lobster Bisque to start was excellent. It was probably a good thing that I didn't have any breakfast.

We were all tired and I dozed off a little as we ran through the canyon and into the lower mainland.  We reached Coquitlam Yard around 01:00 and decided that we would get more sleep by staying on the cars.  I slept very well in the Killarney.  I was in bed by the time the switcher had coupled up to spot us in a quiet part of the yard and must have nodded off as soon as the car had come to rest.

Thursday 23 March 1989
Up early again with breakfast at 06:30.  We left at 07:00 for the ride to Roberts Bank.  This is impressive but essentially very simple.  We were in luck in that a coal train arrived just after we did and were able to watch the complete operation.  The train crew spots the first car and then hands over to a longshoreman who controls the movement through the unloading shed.  The train is moved through by two winches which lock onto the coupler.  The winches are located either side and work alternately.  Two cars are unloaded two at a time by rotation.  As we were on our way out two additional trains arrived.  I had seen 30,000 tons of coal arrive.

We drove straight back to the airport  where Canadian Airliunes International managed to screw me up. I had been booked on a flight to Toronto which connected to the last flight to Ottawa.  The Toronto flight was badly delayed and the original intention had been to send me to Toronto and get Canadian to find me a hotel and put me on the first plane out next morning.  This would have given me about three hours sleep and I was already very tired.  I found a friendly supervisor who was prepared to find me a hotel in Vancouver book me out the next day.  The problem was that all the flights were booked.  I offered to upgrade whereupon he booked me in Business Class but didn't make me pay for it.  I spent the night at the Richmond Inn and slept for nine and a half solid hours!  As it turned out I got home late afternoon on Good Friday.

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