Tuesday 31 October 2023

USA and Canda Trip Report 4th - 15th June 2023

VIA rain F40PH 6414 with a HEP rake of Budd built stainless steel coaches is seen on it's approach to Montreal.

Sunday 4th June

MBTA GP40MC 1134 at Boston North Station.
It was a long day of travelling to reach Boston. The fact that I began by travelling 90 minutes in the opposite direction did little to help, but by the time I had got around to booking an indirect with Lufthansa via Munich reduced the cost considerably. As a bonus Lufthansa had at least swapped my booked plane with their newly restored A380 which was to resume the Munich - Boston route just 3 days before my trip.

The journey was fairly straightforward and all worked to plan- I even got to use the stairs on the aircraft as I had selected a seat in the small economy cabin at the rear of the upper deck. Passport control was a breeze and it was waiting for my bag which delayed my exit from the airport. There is a free bus to the South Station and once there I decided to walk to the North station for my onward train. After all day flying I wanted to see the city and maybe pick up dinner - even if it was raining.

MPI MP36PH-3C 2001 and F40PH-3C 1064 pass on the approach to Boston North station.

My pre-paid sim for mobile data was not working very well/at all so I used the WiFi at South Station to download a map- even with it I managed to get lost! When I did finally reach the North station it turned out that there was a train in 8 minutes or 2 hours. It was late already so I chose the former. I would have to look for food at the other end.

F40PH 1061 awaits departure from Boston North Station.

The conductor on the MBTA (Massechusets Bay Transportation Authority) train to Waschuset, headed by GP40MC 1126 was very friendly and charged me the discounted (senior) rate since I was from London! I disembarked at Waverley to find, unsurprisingly that almost everything was shut. Fortunately not absolutely everything since I was able to buy some cookies and more importantly use the WiFi at a large supermarket to download directions to my AirBnB! A lesson to come prepared even when you think you have got your internet access sorted!

Monday 5th June

The Ashmont - Mattapan 'High Speed Line' still utilises PCC tramcars dating from the 1940's, some of which have been recently refurbished. 3263 approaches the stop at Butler.

The day dawned as gloomy as forecast and another GP40 took me in to Boston. I purchased a $22.50 7-day zone 1A ticket which would cover the whole central Boston area (no such ticket applies to any other zone unfortunately) and headed onto the painfully slow 'Red Line' of the 'T' subway.

UTDC built 1700 series train on the 'T' Red line at JFK/U Mass. All cars on the Red line are scheduled to be replaced by new stock from CRRC in the near future.

Boston South station featuring MBTA F40PH
1052 and Amtrak ACS64 628.

The Ashmont-Mattapan section of the Red Line is operated by vintage PCC streetcars and this became my overcast morning plan. This route has largely avoided modernisation and is one of the very last routes which was built for these cars and still uses them (as apposed to routes where they have been introduced as heritage vehicles). Three vehicles were operating the service, one of which had clearly been rebuilt recently with AC traction gear. The 'Ashmont - Mattapan High Speed Line' is fully segregated which limits the photographic potential somewhat - however the advertised frequency of 'a train every 22-26 minutes' was actually more like every 8. I had not had any trouble with photography so far but a man on one tram took great offence to my camera being out. I needed to 'respect peoples privacy' even though I was only trying to take a picture of the metro out of the PCC window!

2368 approaches Milton bound for Mattapan.
Refurbished GP40MC 1125 in MassDOT livery
at Boston North Station.

A few small breaks in the cloud never amounted to much so I headed to South Station to find some MBTA trains within zone 1A. From South Station it seemed to be around a 50/50 mix of EMD F40PH's and the newer, but very good sounding HSP46 from MPI. I managed to overshoot my ticket on one line when it turned out that the train didn't actually stop at the last zone 1A station. It wasn't a huge trouble though with friendly conductors on the trains and a return service back in 10 minutes. One passenger was concerned when I had got off the train and crossed back to the Boston bound platform and pulled up in his car to check that I was alright and not too lost- I found most people to be very friendly here!

F40PH 1066 at JFK/U Mass

My next trip out of South Station took me to JFK/U Mass, it would have been another winning F40PH, except it failed and everyone was transferred to another set after departure time. On arrival there were lots of college kids on the platform, when I took my photo one asked if I was a 'buff' or simply taking photos- when I confessed that I did indeed a liking for trains I was surprised that he then went on to recommend some spots to see some freight before jumping on his train! Would that happen at home?

For the evening peak I headed to Lansdowne to photograph the Framingham/Worcester line alongside Interstate 90. What I had not anticipated was that the Boston Red Sox were playing baseball at their Fenway Park ground, right next to the bridge I was standing on! It wasn't a problem but I did learn that the game was a big deal. As for my priorities, I discovered that this line seems to be solid HSP46's, which wasn't really my desire.

MP36PH-3C 2023 alongside I-90 and Fenway Park on the Frammington Line
Mixed MBTA traction at Boston North Station.
1028 and 1127 wait their departures.

By the tail end of the evening peak there was a big gap in trains back into town, so I took the nearby Green Line of the 'T', this line being effectively a buried tramway. I ate at 'Tip Top Tap', less than a 10 minute walk from the North Station and somewhere I had walked past the night before, just wanting to find the station at that point. I don't 'do' beer like some do, but there was a large selection on tap here and the food was good too (although American prices were taking some getting used to!).

Again it was GP40 1126 that took me back to Waverley. While I am largely here for the F40PH's, I must say I'm becoming rather fond of these EMD GP40's. Between the station and my accommodation was an excellent liquor store where I may have purchased a 'hard cider' to accompany some more of my supermarket cookies and to start writing this report.

Tuesday 6th June

GP40MC 1135 approaches Manchester-by-the-Sea having just crossed the harbour bridge, bound for Rockport.
Kinki Sharyo type 7 car,  3604 leads a 'T' Green Line train over
the Charles River as it approaches Science Park/West End. 

It was an early start this morning as I had committed to try a drone shot I had seen from Manchester-by-the-Sea on the Rockport line. If it didn't work out it would at least be a decent rain ride. Today's weather forecasts were mixed for the morning but all agreed it would rain later. On my way in to Boston with my now declared 'pet' loco 1126 the sun was trying to break through, but everything was very hazy.

American railways inflexibility reared its head again in buying my ticket; Could I buy one direct to Manchester (via North Station)? The conductor was not sure. She possibly could sell it, though she wasn't sure if the crew of the next train crew would accept it. It would be easier to buy the two journey legs separately.

GP40MC 1134 on the Rockport line between Beverley Farms
and Manchester-by-the-Sea.

Between the trains I popped out for a few quick pictures of the Green Line trams before another GP40, 1133 took me on to Manchester. We were due to pass another train here, but it was nowhere to be seen. If it were late it would afford me another attempt at my shot- and it turned out it was. Very late in fact, it had not left Rockport due to a mechanical problem. My train was turned short to provide a stock step-up, still leaving some 30 minutes late for Boston. 

I went for a long walk to try some other locations, which turned out to be less accessible than hoped, before lunch in delightful Manchester before another GP40 back to Boston- these seem to be staple traction on the Rockport line, though one HSP46 and an F40PH were also seen.

NPCU 90213 approaches North Station with a 'Downeaster'.

While really a shot for later in the day I headed straight to the footbridge outside North Station as there was still some light in the sky and it wasn't yet raining! The rain never did come and I therefore stayed in position here for many hours. Just when I was thinking about leaving another enthusiast turned up, a British ex-pat and another James (nice to meet you!). As well as the regular passage of MBTA commuter trains, Amtrak's 'Downeaster' also passes. These sets are still P42DC powered (I had half expected 'Chargers') with ex-F40PH NPCU baggage cars top and tailing. 

GP40's 1133 and 1122 line up at Boston North Station.

After some while longer at the spot it really was time to move on and get some dinner, the light was certainly not going to improve now! I headed to a recommended Italian trattoria in the North End neighbourhood and enjoyed a wander around this area, and taking in the weird red sunset before again taking the 20:50 train back to Waverley (or is it Waverly? - a subject of much local debate apparently). Today it was not 1126, but F40PH 1061 providing power, my 'pet' GP40 not being far away in the next platform to watch over proceedings. All I really needed now was a shower, but the liquor store was so inviting that I may have picked up another iteration of the local Massachusetts 'Stormalong' cider.

GP40MC 1126 departs Boston North station in a brighter moment. 

Checking the news later I found the reason for the hazy conditions- it wasn't cloud at all but smoke from Canadian wildfires in Quebec. It all made sense now. I had seen all this before, only last time it was crop burning in the Punjab which had spread smoke across northern India  and made photography very challenging when I was there last November.

A hazy Boston sunset from the North End.

Wednesday 7th June

F40PH 1074 passes non-stop though Hyde Park on the North-East Corridor.

An Acela Express speeds through Hyde Park led by 2079. 
These high-speed sets are set for replacement from 2024.
My alarm was set a little later this morning, which may have been a mistake as it dawned actually sunny- the haze had gone! I had two options this morning -to head west to Ayer, where I might see some freight, or back to Boston in the hope that I might get a few sunny MBTA photos, something I was still rather lacking. 

In a change to what I had been used to, an F40PH, 1061, pushed me into the city today- on a full and standing train. Wanting to get south quickly as the sun was already disappearing I alighted with many others at Porter to take the terribly slow Red Line direct to South Station. From here there was soon a train to Fairmont, from where I made the short walk to Hyde Park Station which I had discovered the other day. In addition to MBTA trains I should also be catch Amtrak on the North East Corridor here, and no sooner had I arrived than an Acela sped through to prove the point. I spent a few hours here in increasingly cloudy conditions but did manage one or two good shots.

ACS-64 640 leads an Amfleet rake through Hyde Park with a NorthEast Regional service. 

It was now time to think about my onward connection, so I headed back to Fairmont, effectively a 45 min commuter line worked by big push-pull diesels, and included in my 1A rover, where my final F40PH, 1057, took me back to South Station. The one coach in use off-peak (since every vehicle requires a conductor for the doors) was very noisy from an arguing group of girls.

MP36PH-3C 2021 pushing to South Station at Hyde Park.

I had never much liked South Station. While it once boasted the largest trainshed in America, today it is a dark, dingy construction site which is rather warm and with an unpleasant aroma of hot cooking oil. I liked it even less when I turned to the departure screen to see my train 'Lake Shore Limited' to Chicago showing 'cancelled' and 'replaced by bus'. It was boarding now and I was advised to get on right away- I had hoped to buy food for the journey or use the on-board cafe. the Amtrak staff did not seem bothered that the train was now a bus, the only reason I could gleam was 'Track work- they do this every year.'

Coach it was, and to be fair it was fine. The driver of the express vehicle to Albany was great, and in 2h 45 we easily beat the train time by some 2 hours. It turned out that the driver had been doing the run all week, and when I cross-examined my ticket it did indeed say 'Amtrak Charter' and 'one throughway place'. I can't say that was really clear when I booked it- or I wouldn't have!

Amtrak P32DC 714 in 'Phase III' livery leads the Lake Shore Ltd away from Albany-Renssenlare. The train has re-tractioned here with an electric capable loco in order to work into New York Penn Station. The consist is a mix of 'Vieweliner' and 'Amfleet' vehicles.

The smoke was back in Albany but never the less I photographed a couple of upcoming departures to New York behind P32DC's, all of which now appear to wear the Heritage 'Phase III' scheme.

P32DC 714 with Albany in the background. 

The walk from Albany-Renssenlare station into Albany itself is not a pleasant one. A long concrete path alongside the freeway over the Hudson. I was tired and hungry so after pausing for a Dunkin' Donuts, just as they were closing, it was another blow to reach my AirBnB which was not in the best part of town and then discover that I couldn't get in! Then it started to rain. These trips occasionally have their low points, and this was certainly one of them. To compound things, my mobile sim I bought for the trip, just in case of these issues, was not working and my battery was on 10%.

CSX GP40 6214 shunts at Albany-Renssenlare. My first 
freight train of the trip!

Against all of my usual convictions I found myself in an Irish bar. They had beer, food, WiFi and somewhere I could charge my phone. Eventually I got chatting to the bartender who wanted to go to Europe one day. I asked what I should see in Albany. 'In Albany?! There isn't a lot in Albany.' Another gentleman was discussing the smoke. He had lived 'many years' and never seen anything like it. Pictures were coming through from New York City where they clearly had it worse with views of orange skies and reports of cancelled flights. It may get worse before it gets better they said- not great for my trip, or anyone else really! 

Having failed to contact my original AirBnB host I conceded and booked another. It was twice the price and I'm not sure I would agree with the owners description of the place as 'cosy'- but it was a bed. It had not been a good afternoon and I missed the warmth and pleasantries of Boston.

Thursday 8th June

Rather shabby Canadian National GP38-2W locomotives 4802
and 4793 head a mixed consist through Dorval.

I treated myself to a lie in because, as concluded last night, there really isn't a lot to do in Albany! Breakfast was at a nice pancake restaurant after which I had a quick wander around the city. 

Albany had one last attempt at thwarting my departure when the keycode would not open my accommodation door to retrieve my bags! Fortunately my host quickly rectified this and after another jaunt over the turnpike I was back at Albany-Renssenlare station for my train- which was a train- and shown on time!

Passengers were not allowed on to the platform to board until the train had arrived and other passengers had disembarked, so I don't know which P32AC brought it in- but P42DC 93 backed on to take us forward. I wasn't able to get a photo, but did get a good seat on Train 69 'Adirondack' to Montreal. 

I am not really sure what, if any, scenery I was expecting on this trip, so I was pleased when the weather picked up, the smoke cleared and we spent a large part of the run along the shores of Lake Champlain looking across its shores to Vermont. I treated myself to lunch in the cafe car today. I wasn't expecting great things of the Beef Angus Burger', knowing it would be microwaved, but it was palatable, though all very over-packaged.

Canadian customs took around an hour at the fairly remote border stop of Rouses Point. Each passenger was quizzed on their plans for their time in Canada before being stamped in. I passed some time listening to the couple behind me discussing the volume of ballast that the railway from New York to Montreal must consume, and whether it equated to a 'mountains worth'- I think they concluded it was a lot, but not a mountain!

Via F40PH 6437 wearing the 'Love the way' wrap heads east at Lakeshore.

Arrival into Montreal Gare Centrale was approximately half an hour early, and there was some late evening sunshine to enjoy. There was no reason to stay here where the platforms are all underground and inaccessible, and the departure boards seemed to be showing all of the local EXO and Via trains being delayed. Instead I walked over to the station at Lucien L'Allier, past the attractive facade of the former Windsor station, the building now in use as office accommodation. Finding the uninspiring platforms at Lucien L'Allier proved to be slightly difficult, and when I did arrive I found them shut up, devoid of both of people and trains! With the next train not due for several hours, by which time there really would be no daylight I gave up on any prospects of photographing a train today!

Tonight was my last Air BnB accommodation, and after my disaster in Albany I was pleased to find that not only could I check into my room, it was in a lovely flat in a great part of town. I had by good fortune booked in the Mont Royal area and I got a good vibe about the place as soon as I emerged from the Metro! The area was buzzing with restaurants and bars and had been temporarily pedestrianised. This helped both with the walk to my AirBnB and with finding somewhere to get some food. It still wasn't late so I found a bar with live music to pass a little more time.

Friday 9th July

F59PH 1346 leads an EXO train across the Lachine canal working from Gare Centrale to Mascouch.

I only had one full day in Montreal so I needed to use my time wisely to explore as many of the locations I had planned as possible. Of course what I could really have done with was some sunshine, but once again this was in very scarce supply! I headed down to Lucien L'Allier and picked up the EXO train times. Even at the tail end of the morning peak there wasn't a lot of activity, so I picked up ALP-45DP 1357 to Dorval where I had been recommended to start my day. 

EXO F59PHI working the off-peak Vaudreuil line service is seen between Baurepaire and Beaconsfield on the CP tracks.

Canadian Pacific GE AC4400 CW8209 and 8549 pass Dorval.
This location is probably about as busy as Montreal gets with both the Canadian National (CN) and Canadian Pacific (CP) lines running side by side. It is however very frustrating to cover photographically, the northern CP lines, which also take EXO trains may only be a few meters away form the CP lines, which also take VIA trains- but in effect the two sets of platforms are totally different stations which take several minutes to walk between! This layout makes covering the different routes very tricky, generally positioning ones self for passenger trains and hoping freight also turns up in the right place! 

 I soon got frustrated with Dorval and was pleased when the next EXO train arrived behind F59PHI 1325 to take me on to Baurepaire. Having been travelling solo so far I was also pleased to meet up with Jude Perkis on board who also happened to be in the area at the same time! We quickly dismissed the level crossing we had planned to use and instead settled on a footbridge which gave a good view of both the CP and CN lines. The big prize here was the CN executive train which had been making its way across Canada from Vancouver and was today heading from Toronto to Montreal. 

Ex-works AC44C6M 3309, recently re-built at Wabtec heads the CN Business Train.

Since my stint at Dorval all the freight traffic seemed to have dried up, but we did get a number of Via rail passenger trains, including one in actual sunshine, as well as F40PH 6443 working with 'Renaissance' stock. If there was a location for catching interesting VIA trains, this was going to be it. 

There are currently four types of stock working on the 'Corridor' between Windsor and Quebec City, with varying interesting histories:

-HEP - heritage stainless steel cars built by the BUDD company dating from 1947 and converted for 'Head End Power'.

-LRC - Bombardier 'Light Rapid Comfortable' coaches built form 1981, and working with similar ALCO designed LRC locomotives until their withdrawal in 2001. The coaches are now used as conventional loco hauled stock.

-Renaissance - Built from 1992 in the UK by Metro-Cammel for the proposed 'Nightstar' service through the channel tunnel. The coaches never saw regular use in the UK or continental Europe and were eventually sold to Canada in 2000 after the 'Nightstar' project was finally abandoned.

-Venture - New Siemens trains with coaches from the 'Venture' family to work in fixed formation with Siemens 'Charger' locomotives and currently being delivered. 

VIA F40PH 6443 works a Renaissance set from Ottawa as it approaches Beaconsfield. It's next stop will be Dorval before arriving at Montreal Gare Centrale. Note the significant size difference between the British loading gauge of the coaches and the American sized locomotive!

Of the four types both the 'Venture' and 'Renaissance' sets were at the time only working between Ottawa and Quebec (as well as work on the long distance Montreal - Halifax 'Ocean' for the Renaissance) with the Renaissance sets slated to be first for withdrawal as more Venture sets entered traffic. Therefore my day in Montreal was the only opportunity to see both of these and it was good to have got one in the bag fairly early. VIA usefully have a GPS tracker for their trains allowing you to check that the train you are after is roughly where it should be, or how much delay it has suffered. While it doesn't give an indication of stock just knowing where a train is proved to be invaluable.

F59PH 1349 departs from Parc with a service for Saint Jerome.

After the Executive train finally turned up around midday it was time to head back to Lucien L'Allier where I swapped Jude for his dad and a ride with one of the remaining EXO F59PH's, 1349 which had turned up on a convenient train to Saint Jerome. I had been keen to see one of these locos, which are slated for withdrawal in the next few years, so took it to Parc which I could do with my zonal ticket. I was by now very hungry having not found any amenities near the bridge earlier, and after a quick stop at my first Tim Hortons of the trip I then headed down to my evening spot near the Lachine Canal.

A  new VIA 'Venture' set built by Siemens is bound for Ottawa as it crosses the Lachine canal headed by driving trailer 2302. 'Charger' locomotive 2203 was providing the power.

This was a great location and another opportunity to use the drone, and if I didn't have any sun there were at least some great cloud formations. Several freights were seen as well as a couple of EXO F59PH's on the services currently running from Gare Centrale to Mascouch via this route rather than the Mont Royal Tunnel which is currently being converted for the new 'REM' service. Several P42's were seen with Via trains as well as finally catching my only sight of one of the new Venture sets. What I really wanted to see was another F40PH, and I had a train down as a good candidate just as it started to rain- this forced a rather prompt landing of the drone and a re-think of location. Of course the train was just what I wanted, 6414 with HEP stock- I didn't actually hate the result even if it wasn't what I had been aiming for. 

EXO traction at Lucien L'allier with F59PH 1330 
and ALP-45DP 1357.

Trains pretty much over for the day I walked along the Lachine canal into central Montreal. A fascinating walk with lots of railway interest including the freight branch to Ardent Mills and the branch into the docks. The walk was nicely timed to see some testing of the new REM light transit system and also to watch the departure of the 'Ocean' to Halifax. 

Back in town and with my phone rapidly running out of power I met up with Jude and his dad for dinner and a few drinks, it was certainly nice to have some company for dinner! 

Saturday 10th June

VIA P42 920 catches some light as is works in to Montreal on LRC stock.

Still hoping to see some well lit VIA trains in Montreal I got up at a reasonable time and headed to Gare Centrale. There is a park near to the station where a drone shot is possible of departing services- it would have worked nicely for a couple of departures around 09:00, but again the light didn't really play ball. 

I found somewhere for breakfast to pass the time until my VIA train, #65 to Toronto. The train was formed of P42 903 and LRC stock. Much as I'd have liked an F40 on Budd's I wasn't really disappointed as the P42's are likely to finish first and I had not previously ridden one of the LRC vehicles. I was allocated an aisle seat which wasn't ideal for watching the scenery, however I asked the coach steward if there was a chance to move and after an hour or so I was informed that nobody else was joining the train so I was free to occupy another seat if I wished. 

P42 909 shows its French side as it crosses the Lachine canal. 
P42 903 rests at Toronto Union having arrived with train 65 
from Montreal Gare Centrale. 

The train was fairly busy, and would have been more so had the inbound 'Ocean' from Halifax not been late and missed the connection. The run to Toronto is just over 5 hours, and today my train ran pretty much on time all the way- I wasn't sure if the journey would be a stagger, but it certainly wasn't.
I can't say I was massively impressed with the food offering, I ordered a cream cheese bagel and was slightly surprised to find that I received a bagel, and two pots of cream cheese- a DIY meal. At least I wasn't asked to pay service on it!

Charger 2203 pushes from the rear of a new VIA Venture set, seen from my drone crossing the Lachine Canal pushing out of Montreal towards Ottawa.
Bombardier 'Flexity' streetcar 5428 on Bathurst Street. 

The weather had broken early into the journey and I arrived into Toronto to a beautiful afternoon. 903 was photographed in its now slightly shabby looking 'Love the way' vinyl wrap (which I'm not keen on at all) before I made my way over to the bridge on Bathurst street to watch the trains and the trams while I waited for my companion for the remainder of my trip, James Hawkes who had now landed in Toronto.

By the time we had met up and found our accommodation (which was further than we thought) there wasn't all that much time left and thoughts of food overcame the plan to scale the CN tower. That would have to wait for another day. I'm not sure a meal in Chinatown was what I initially had in mind for dinner, but it was very enjoyable none the less. After long days of travelling for both of us it was never going to be a late night.

Sunday 11th June

Niagara- after dark at the America Falls from the Canadian side. 
'Glacier Park' brings in the empty stock for VIA's
Premiere train- The 'Canadian'. 

Having read the forecast and by now being used to the idea of poor weather on this trip I was unsurprised to wake up to a thoroughly grey morning. This was a shame as the morning shots from Bathurst Street should have been much more pleasing than we achieved last night. We watched the empty arrival and then departure of the 'Canadian' with it's impressive rake of stainless steel Budd cars including three domes bound for Vancouver then went to pick up our hire car. 

These long trips do need some occasional relief from the railways, and today was always reserved for the trip to Niagara Falls. There was one quick bit of relief from the tourist activities to watch Amtrak's Maple Leaf crawl out of Niagara station heading toward Toronto before heading back for a trip on the Niagara City Cruises boat to the bottom of the falls, which is an excellent (and drenching) experience! 

Triple F40PH Power as 6453, 6456 and 6421 back the 'Canadian' into Toronto Union.

During dinner the rain which had been forecast for later in the day well and truly arrived making it a fairly unpleasant drive to our accommodation for two nights in Hamilton.

Monday 12th June

P42DC 93 at Bay View Junction, now not too far from journey's end with the Amtrak 'Maple Leaf' service from New York to Toronto.

Some days you wake up, look out of the window and start to question whether there is any point heading out at all. Usually I would persevere, but looking at the rain this morning even I had concluded there was absolutely no point. Alas I didn't have my swimwear so the rather inviting hotel pool wasn't an option, so instead it was a leisurely breakfast at a nearby dinner- which was great except that they had run out of maple syrup!!! 

Sheltering from the rain at Toronto Union are GO Transit
MPI MP40PH-3C's 656 and 609.

What to do next..? Sit in the hotel maybe? Find a bar? Eventually we settled on a plan to take a trip on a GO train into Toronto and back to pass the time. I found an online ticket for two which seemed to give unlimited trips for about $15 each. Trips had to be booked 10 minutes before travel to generate a bar code. I think that's how it worked anyway- it seemed fairly hard work and I'm not really sure if I had done it right! It didn't ultimately matter as we never saw a conductor. 

MPI MP54AC 667 leads a GO service from Hamilton towards Toronto.

If anything, the weather in Toronto was worse than in Hamilton. We met up with Jude again (who was now in Toronto) for lunch in a shopping centre food court to keep out of the rain. 90 odd minutes later we were heading back to Hamilton as the weather finally began to lift. Our afternoon spot at Bay View Junction might just be back on, if not sunny it had at least become dry!

EMD GP38-2 2098 still wearing its Burlington Northern colours is on the rear of a light engine movement through Bay View Junction.
F40PH 6406 is in charge of a rake of Budd HEP's as it crosses
Bay View Junction with a train from Windsor to Toronto.

We had expected this to be one of the busiest spots we would visit in Canada, and while there were a few railfans watching the regular procession of GO's MP40PH's on their push-pull commuter trains the level of other traffic was disappointing. In around 4 hours we saw just a handful of freights, the most interesting of which was actually a light engine move featuring CN's ex-BNSF GP38-2 2098 which still wears its original Burlington Northern green livery. 

A few VIA trains west of Toronto provided a little interest, as well as the Toronto bound 'Maple Leaf' again. However if this was 'busy' there were some serious concerns over the locations we would be visiting for the rest of the trip. 

Looking the other way from Bayview Junction, VIA P42DC 903 rounds the corner with an LRC set working from Toronto towards London and Windsor.

Almost as disappointing as Bay View Junction was our evening meal. Having had some great food the previous night we had left things a little late today. I found a pizza restaurant which looked reasonable on Google (my internet working again since moving into Canada and out of the Huawei embargo) but neither of us had anticipated that it might be take-away only. Pretty hungry by this point our evening meal became take out pizza back in the hotel room. Lets hope for better luck (and weather) tomorrow!

Tuesday 13th June

F59PH 561 is seen at the head of the 'GO' trial service from London to Toronto between Gelph and Rockwood. Departing at 05:20 the train took just shy of 4 hours to make the journey, and ran for the last time on 13th October 2023. 
CN loco 4-8-4 6167 built by MLW in 1940 is plinthed in Gelph.
Withdrawn from normal service in 1959, the loco then
worked excursions until 1964, and has been on display since 1967.

Clear skies and and early start! A quick visit to Tim Hortons for some sustenance before the drive up from Hamilton towards Gelph. Our reward was the once-daily Go Service from London to Toronto, currently running as a trial (whos end has now been announced for October 13th 2023). The reason to put so much effort into this train over all the other frequent GO services it that it is exclusively worked by one, or often a pair, of the now rather scarce F59PH locos. This morning a single loco, 561 was providing the power and I was pretty pleased to finally have a railway photo from this trip that I could really be proud of!

Ontario Southland SW1200RSu's 1245 and 1249 preparing for duties from the shed at Salford.

Buoyed by our success we headed further west to Ingersol and the small village of Salford where we had pre-arranged a visit to the workshops of Ontario Southland Railway. Operating out of its Salford base to Ingersoll, Woodstock, Tillsonburg and St Thomas this short line is well known in North America for it's interesting collection of locomotives, and in particular it's EMD F-units which are still occasionally used on its scheduled freight trains. 

Ex CP power in the OSR shed at Salford with GP9 1591 nearest the camera with GP9u 8235 and GP7 378 tucked away behind. The leading two locomotives still wear CP orange. 

We were met by our contact Walter who could not have been more helpful in showing us around the storage lines and the depot. OSR's smart pair of SW1200RSu locomotives were preparing to work the Woodstock job while inside the shed there were all manor of interesting locos. Of course Walter knew what we had really come to see- the three F-units. These were parked up in the far part of the shed and had clearly not been used recently, however we were assured that they were in full working order. Wouldn't it have been lovely to see them on the Woodstock train rather than the small shunteresque locos.

One of three EMD F-units at the railway, 1400 rests inside the OSR workshop at Salford.

ALCO RS18u locomotive 182 works the OSR Tillsonburg job.
We bumped into one of the railways managers who was able to at least give us the good news that ALCO RS18u 182 was working the Tillsonburg job. I was keen to get out and see it before the cloud which was now rapidly approaching curtailed yet another day's railway photography. It is however always good to chat among railwaymen and seeing our enthusiasm in the F-units we were asked if we were around the following day. Of course we were booked to be 150 miles away the other side of Toronto, but if what I thought was being suggested was really a possibility, then that might have to change. A phone call was made to the next day's booked driver 'Do you mind taking the F's tomorrow?' - it looked like we had a hotel to change! 

OSR 1245 and 1249 are reflected in the days weather while laying over at the old Woodstock CP depot. The locos would shortly depart for Ingersoll to drop of wagons before returning to Salford.

Unfortunately by the time we had made it to the lineside the cloud had arrived again, but it was still good fun spending the remainder of the morning chasing the ALCO 182 and the little pair of locos in 1245 and 1249. With operations then finished for the day at OSR we set about trying to change our hotel through the chain we were staying in from what we had booked in Port Hope to somewhere closer to Woodstock. We had no success, so booked a new room for the night in Woodstock (and it looked much better than what we had originally tried to move to). 

CM SD70M-2 8875 leads 2222 with a westbound train.

With some of the afternoon still left it was time to make the best of it and try to finally get some big freight trains on camera. It didn't go amazingly well- we were about to miss a VIA passenger service at Woodstock but chased it nether the less just in time to see it pulling out of the station just as we approached in the car. A little frustrated with our luck and the full grey sky again prompted another change of location- but disaster. In my haste to move on I managed to reverse the hire car into a low line of rocks at the edge of the parking space. Not only did this scratch the rear bumper but I somehow managed to hit the rock at such an angle to seal the exhaust pipe shut. The frustrating afternoon has just taken a very bad turn as it now appeared we had an immobile car, a large bill and even less prospect of nice freight train photos! 

Fortune was sort-of on our side, if that was such a thing, as there were a group of builders working on Woodstock station. By borrowing a few of their tools it was just possible to prise the exhaust open to get the car driveable. I can't say I wasn't terrified of the cost of the damage to the hire car, as I really wasn't sure if I had taken out the additional insurance on it, but at least we were back on the road. 

CP ES44-AC 8782 leads UP 8219 across the Thames River outside Woodstock with a westbound auto train.

After a couple more disappointingly dull freight shots on the CN line, it was time to head over to the CP metals where we had still yet to really see anything, there being considerably less traffic on this route than the CN. James had managed to gain access to some real time information by this point and therefore could see that there was a CP train heading west towards us. How far away it was however we had no idea. With no location immediately to mind I had a look on Google and found a spot that looked promising just beyond the old CP Woodstock station. On arrival we instantly recognised it as a location we had liked in a magazine James had, but that we had concluded was too far from Hamilton for us to attempt on this trip. Well here we were, and a few minutes after arrival the clouds parted just briefly- if the train could just turn up now it would really turn around the fortunes of the last few days. In contrast to the luck we had suffered so far, incredibly, it did! 

With CP ES44-AC 8782 at the helm and Union Pacific 8219 tucked in behind it the auto train made a great sight but there was no point hanging around as we knew there was nothing more due now. 

CN SD70M-2 1918 leads an eastbound train towards Woodstock. The approaching weather is very apparent!

Another nice location was found back on the CN line but the sun didn't quite hold out for the freight train we saw there. Indeed as we were leaving the location another band of torrential rain rolled in and called time on the day. The rain was the sort that drenches you just crossing from the car to the hotel lobby, but did rescind just about enough for us to walk into town for dinner, which was again very enjoyable. 

Just after ordering James received a tornado alert on his phone- something neither of us had ever seen before. We jokingly(ish!) asked the waitress what was going on and were half re-assured when she told us she was petrified of tornados and that if she had been worried she would be running a mile! Apparently there had been sightings of a tornado not so far away in Ingersoll. What weather we were having this trip!

Wednesday 14th June

Undoubtedly the catch of the trip as the clouds finally part on OSR F-Units 1401 and 6508 as they pass Putnam with a rake of oil tanks bound for St Thomas.
ALCO RS18u 182 is caught shunting at Ingersoll.

Not the best hotel breakfast, but it was something. We headed straight out to the OSR shed at Salford and were pleased to see that it had not been claimed by a tornado overnight, and even more so that the matching pair of EMD F units 1401 and 6508 were outside and running. We were on! 

The staff made sure we had the information on what was going on - the F's would be working the job to St Thomas, but also at the shed was Walter (who had told us he was busy today!) and a couple of other photographers who had also clearly received the tip off that these locos were coming out, we understood for the first time in about 3 months. 

Another view of 1401 and 6508 working between Ingersoll and St Thomas for OSR.

What an excellent morning we had chasing the train through its various pick ups and shunts at Ingersoll, Putnam and finally St Thomas. I was ecstatic to even get a couple of well lit pictures. At St Thomas we enjoyed watching the locos shunting on the impressive trestle bridge before we repeated the chase back to Woodstock, this time with a lighter load of just a couple of wagons. 

Back at Bayview Junction MPI MP40 603 is at the head of a Toronto bound service.

At Woodstock there was a final surprise as ALCO 182 was also to be found shunting, in much better weather conditions than yesterday working the Woodstock job. Indebted to the OSR staff who had been brilliant and effectively put this service train show on just for us, a few tokens of gratitude were left at the depot before hitting the road again.

Canadian National SD70M-2 8954 leads SD40 5715 as they approach Bayview Junction from the east.

With slightly better weather and a bit more information on train running we wanted to have another go at the 'busy' Bay View Junction which was more-or-less on our route to Port Hope where we still had to be tonight. The location treated us a little better, but still did not really live up to our expectations. Having waited for the delayed Amtrak 'Maple Leaf' we were now going to be fairly late to our accommodation so broke the journey for food on the way. We had hoped that leaving much later would result in missing the traffic- but instead it just caused us to hit the overnight lane closures! 

OSR F-units 1401 and 6508 cross the agricultural lands of Ontario between Ingersoll and St Thomas.

Thursday 15th June

Canadian Pacific Heritage 'Maroon and Grey Block' Scheme SD70ACU 7016 makes a nice surprise at the head of a container train heading east from the golf course footbridge at Port Hope.
VIA P42DC 917 leads F40PH 6454 heading east at Port Hope.
It was good to see one of the few non-wrapped VIA P40DC's,
but without it this could have been my sunny F40PH shot!

My last day in Canada dawned bright and after a good breakfast (where I eventually managed to work out the waffle machine) it was time to check out the local vantage points. Like Dorval the CN and CP lines run more-or-less together here which should give us opportunities to photograph both. There are nice trestles on both routes near the pretty town centre, but the only trains were heading the wrong way. After dismissing the view here we headed to our morning location, a footbridge on the nearby golf course overlooking Lake Ontario. A nice spot, but we soon discovered it had a couple of drawbacks; firstly a freezing cold breeze was blowing off the lake which we were not dressed for, and secondly after several friendly conversations with golfers and even the lady with their refreshment trolley we encountered an ex-pat who happened to be one of the course managers who wasn't overly impressed with our presence. Having not been through any gates we had not really anticipated that the bridge was private property and that without being members of the golf club we were 'not insured' to be there! A bit of begging extended our stay long enough to catch a couple of trains but it was clear that our welcome was running more than a bit thin (and it was cold!) so it was soon time to move on.

Ex-Citirail GE ES44AS 2771 heads east at Lakeshore Road with a Canadian National train.

Our next spot really was the best of the trip, certainly in terms of weather and traffic, on the timber bridge of Lakeshore Road near Newcastle. The sunny morning had subdued by the time we had left Port Hope, but to our surprise the good light saw several resurgences, and while still not enough to get my perfectly lit VIA F40PH, I did achieve some pleasing shots of a number of VIA trains as well as some more CN freights. What more, it actually seemed to be fairly busy! 

Finally a CN in proper sun on the final day! ES44DC 2247 leads 2661 with the classic Lakeshore view.

Another of the patches of cloud was used in the early afternoon to head into Newcastle for some much needed refreshment and also to stock up on a few of the compulsory Canadian souvenirs (maple syrup, etc) before finding another nearby location for a couple more freights and a final trio of F40PH hauled trains. 

It was now really time to think about getting me back to the airport for my overnight flight home, but there was still time for a quick stop off at CP's extensive Toronto yard where we watched the 'almost' departure of a monster freight train as well as a bit of yard work with some shunters in rapidly fading light. 

P42DC 907 leads a Toronto bound train formed of LRC stock at Lakeview.

Dropping the car off at Toronto Pearson did mean facing the damage issue, but I was thankfully able to confirm that I had taken the insurance out after all which would limit my liability [the bill was a little over £100 in the end]. James left at this point as he was now pushing the check in time for the hotel for his final two nights in Toronto. 

My flight was fairly uneventful, but unsurprisingly late due to an 'issue with the aircraft'. This wouldn't have been so bad except that I was starving, most of the airport food establishments were closed, and the terminal was full as pretty much every other flight was also delayed, most by quite a bit more than mine! I couldn't even play on the Pearson 'express' travelators as these have sadly now been taken out of service... Eventually I boarded around 2am for the overnight flight, and that was the end of another big trip.

The final stop of the trip overlooking the CP Toronto yard where a pair of GP38-2's, 4447 and 3033 are engaged in shunting activities. The CN tower can just be made out through the haze. 


6508 and 1401, the Ontario Southland F-units coast through the Ontario farmland, taken by drone while heading back from St Thomas to Ingersoll.
VIA F40PH 6410 with a HEP rake heading towards Toronto
seen near Newcastle.

I am not going to pretend this trip was plain sailing, but in the end a lot was achieved. The weather isn't something that can be controlled, but we were dealt a bad hand by June 'if you had been here last week...' was a common response from those we met along the way! 

There were some great highlights- the cities of Boston and Montreal were really enjoyable and I really enjoyed the trains of the MBTA. There were some low points as well, my cancelled Amtrak train, the disaster of accommodation in Albany and of course damaging the hire car certainly stick in my mind. 

6508 and 1401 catch the light as they carry out some yard work at Ingersoll on the OSR.

The real stand out highlight was the hospitality we received at Ontario Southland Railway where I really did have to pinch myself a couple of times! I may not have got my perfect F40PH shot this trip, but I did get a pair of immaculate F-units on a revenue earning freight!

Despite being very expensive these days, this is a great part of the world, and I do hope to return at some point. By then the VIA operation will almost certainly be dominated by Siemens 'Venture' sets and who knows, maybe the greater Toronto 'GO' network will actually be electrified!?

GP40 1133 crosses the bay at Manchester-by-the-Sea with a Rockport to Boston train. This was one of the key shots I had in mind for this trip, and warranted bringing the drone along.