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Farewell to VIA trains 68 and 69

Farewell to VIA trains 68 and 69




            In December of 2011, I heard on the Canadian Passenger Rail Yahoo group about an upcoming change with VIA’s Toronto-Ottawa-Montreal corridor routes. One change was that VIA would discontinue trains 68 and 69 in late January of 2012. Just like when the Three Rivers and Enterprise were going to be cut, I decided to go for a last ride about a week prior to the last runs of 68 and 69.


            Having ridden train 69 in 2005 and 2010, I decided to ride train 68 to Brockville and spend the night there. The next day, I would do a little railfanning at the station before I caught VIA train 55 back home. The trip unfolded as follows.


January 17, 2012:


            I left home around 2:15 pm; more than four hours before train 68 departed. I left earlier so I could try to ride some H-4s on the Bloor-Danforth subway line as at least two trains had survived in service in 2012 and I had ridden one of them eight days earlier.


            I got off the Yonge train at Bloor and rode a train of T-1s three stops east to Broadview. I waited for an H-4 at the westbound platform since that would be my best shot to ride one. However, none showed up. I eventually rode an H-6 train to St. George and photographed it before I headed up to catch a train to Union.



            I waited for a few T-1s before a Toronto Rocket train showed up I got on the front car and rode to Union. I noticed that the train I was on was the first Toronto Rocket train to enter service. When I got to Union, I got off and photographed the Toronto Rocket.



            I filmed the train leaving before I walked up to Union Station. I still had over 90 minutes before my train left. I photographed the departures board since train 68 was going to be cut.



            I then walked around and went by the skywalk and photographed some VIA trains that were sticking out.




            I then went back to the station. I saw a screen for the arrivals that trains 61 and 55 were replaced by buses and train 57 was late getting into Toronto. I wasn't sure what happened though.


            I went logged on to the station's Wi-Fi and browsed the internet for a few minutes before I lined up to await boarding of train 68.


            Boarding began shortly after 6:15 pm. I took some photos of the train before I got on. The train consisted of a P42, a business class LRC coach, and three economy class LRC coaches. I noticed there wasn't any interesting equipment deadheading to Montreal as VIA uses trains 68 and 69 to move equipment between Toronto and Montreal. However, the last coach would remain empty so it was deadheading.



Sorry for the blurriness of the photos.



            I was one of the first to board my coach which was LRC coach #3324 which is an unrebuilt coach. This was the economy class coach that was closest to the locomotive. I gained a seatmate before we left. At one point, a baby started crying in the coach.


            Train 68 left on time. Shortly after we left, we passed a GO train and the Northlander. Another VIA train then passed by. It looked like a J-train. It was dark out.


            The train began picking up speed as we passed the TTC's Greenwood subway yard.


            A few minutes later, the mouse function on my laptop stopped working. I was able to get it working again a couple minutes later.


            I logged into the Wi-Fi on train 68 and learned what happened to train 57. It had struck a pedestrian west of Belleville.


            Another VIA train passed before we stopped at Guildwood. We departed a few minutes later. When we stopped in Oshawa, I noticed that a second platform was being built for VIA trains. We departed Oshawa a few minutes later.


            A couple freight trains passed.


            The baby started crying again. The train stopped at Port Hope. My seatmate got off there.


            After we left Port Hope, my cell phone stated beeping because its battery was running low. I began charging it.


            The train stopped in Cobourg. After leaving Cobourg, I noticed a lot of empty seats around the coach.


            I watched Unstoppable. The train stopped at Trenton Junction. While we were stopped, another VIA train passed going westbound. We departed shortly afterward


            Another westbound VIA train passed us. A little while later, the train passed non stop through Belleville.


            A westbound CN freight passed a little while later. The train passed through Nappanee. West of Kingston, VIA train #69 passed. A few minutes later, we stopped at Kingston.


            We sat at Kingston for several minutes. I noticed the coach had only six passengers on board. I knew there were some more in the coach behind me.


            The train departed at 9:16 pm. From the bus, I saw a Kingston Transit Orion 6. I went into the coach behind mine and saw no more than 15 people. All the passengers could have been accommodated in one coach. This shows why VIA is discontinuing this train.


            I chatted with various people from the CPTDB. The person serving snacks asked if I scared the people off. I bought a coke from him.


            The train stopped at Gananoque. No one got on or off. We soon departed. A few minutes later, we had picked up speed.


            Soon we were approaching Brockville. I readied my stuff in preparation to get off. Train 68 arrived on time into Brockville. I got off and photographed the train.



            It was really windy in Brockville! I took three blurry photos of train 68 before I got a good photo using a lamp post. As train 68 departed, I filmed it pulling out.



            I then walked to the station. There were two men waiting for a taxi. One cab came and one got in. I figured I might as well walk to my hotel since it was about 6 blocks away. As I walked I noticed the sidewalks were covered in ice. There was sand on the sidewalks, but at some points, it hardly helped.


            I saw the wind was blowing around recycling bins and garbage cans. It reminded me of something my sister told me she saw when she was still in elementary school. One day, some recycling bins were blown into the street and a Markham Transit bus passed over top them.


            When I was half a block from my hotel, the wind and ice made it all but impossible to move forwards and I kept slipping back. I eventually made it to my hotel.


            When I got to the lobby, I had to wait for two other guests to get checked in before I did. Once I finally checked in, I headed to my room. I phoned home and let my mom know I was in Brockville and how the weather was.


            I logged into the CPTDB and chatted. I also chatted with my friend Richard who I met on the Three Rivers almost seven years earlier. I found out he was an engineer in training with Amtrak now!


            I also watched TV and eventually called it a night.


January 18, 2012:


            I got up shortly after 9:00 am and got dressed. I went to have breakfast in my hotel's breakfast room. I then returned to my room and watched TV and worked on this report some more I then packed my stuff and prepared to check out.


            Checking out was quick. I walked to a mall across the street then headed to a Dairy Queen nearby. This Dairy Queen serves burgers and hot dogs, so I could have lunch. I then thought I had left my cell phone in my room, so I returned to the hotel. It wasn't where I thought I had left it, but it turned out I had it all along. I then returned to the Dairy Queen and had lunch.


            I then walked to the VIA station. It was cold not nowhere near as windy as the night before.


            I got to the station without incident. I photographed a mural on the side of the station before I went inside.




A CN freight passed, but I was unable to photograph it. It was led by two Gevos and had SD70M-2 #8002 running mid-train. A little while later, I photographed a local led by a GP9 and a GP38-2W.





            I went inside the station and has a massage in a coin operated massage chair. An eastbound freight raced past, but I was unable to photograph it. I heard train 57 which stops at 12:21 pm was running late. A little while later, I was barely able to photograph a CN intermodel as it raced past.




            Train 57 arrived 20 minutes late. As it pulled in, I filmed it. I was expecting the train would have an F40 and Hep2 coaches. However, it had P42 #913, a Hep1 baggage car, and five LRC coaches. After the train stopped, I photographed it.



            I filmed the train departing and took one more picture.



            I went inside the station and changed the battery on my digital camera. I then went outside and filmed train 56 arriving. As train 56 passed through a railway crossing west of the station, it barely cleared a car that was sticking out. I photographed train 56 after it stopped.



            I filmed train 56 departing. I then took one more photo.



            Meanwhile, the CN local I saw earlier was racing past. The GP9 was smoking like an Alco! I photographed it.





            A few minutes later, VIA train 54 arrived behind rebuilt F40PH-2 #6444. I filmed the train pulling in and then photographed it.




            I filmed train 54 departing and then took one last photo of it.



            I went inside the station for a few minutes and worked on this report. About 20 minutes before my train was due to arrive; I went outside hoping to film VIA train 61 as it raced through Brockville non-stop. However, I heard a boarding announcement for train 55 and moved to where it would stop. I filmed the train pulling it. I saw the train was being led by a P42 and had Budd coaches including a Hep1 coach.



            Even though I had an economy class ticket, I was seated in Business class Hep2 coach #4008! However, the coach was being used for Economy class passengers.


            I had an aisle seat. I noticed that a food car was blocking the aisle preventing most of the people from choosing a seat. However, another passenger moved it. This was a bad move by VIA considering they knew people were boarding that coach at Brockville.


            While we were in the station, VIA train 61 passed by, but I was unable to film it. Train 55 departed Brockville three minutes late.


            I worked on this report some more.


            The train stopped at Gananoque. Two people got off here. No one got on. I moved across the aisle to a window seat.


            I found an AC outlet under the seats and plugged my laptop in. I logged into VIA's Wi-Fi service.


            Train 60 passed, but I was unable to film it. We stopped at Kingston a few minutes later. While we were stopped, train 44 arrived led by rebuilt F40 #6436. I saw there was at least one rebuilt LRC coach in the consist. We soon departed Kingston.


            We overtook the intermodel that I photographed at Brockville earlier when we stopped in Belleville. We departed Belleville a few minutes later.


            Later, when we passed the Memory Junction museum, I filmed it. An eastbound CN freight passed by.


            A little while later, we passed through Cobourg. I saw a CN GP38-2W and GP9 #4140 in the yard near the station.


            The train slowed down as we passed through Port Hope.


            VIA train 64 passed. As it passed, I filmed it. I noticed a couple Budd coaches on the rear. Maybe VIA will use 64 to move equipment between Toronto and Montreal after trains 68 and 69 are discontinued.


            Shortly after 64 passed, we begun picking up speed again. VIA train 46 passed a few minutes later. I filmed it as it passed.


            We passed a stopped CN freight east of Oshawa. We stopped in Oshawa several minutes later. Once again, it felt good to be back in GO Transit territory. We departed a couple minutes later. East of Guildwood, a GO train passed.


            The train stopped at Guildwood. We soon departed. VIA train #66 passed. As it passed, I filmed it. I also filmed the TTC’s Greenwood subway yard as we passed.


            Soon, we were approaching Toronto. I readied my stuff to get off. Train 55 arrived 13 minutes late. I got off and took some photos.



            I also photographed VIA trains 95 and 61.




Again, sorry that this picture is blurry.


            I then went downstairs and phoned home. I let my mom know I was home. I had been hoping to catch a 5:30 GO train, but I just missed it. I then went and took a subway train to Finch. I met up with my dad and we headed home.




            Despite not finding an H-4 prior to going to Union and the weather conditions when I got off train 68 in Brockville, this trip was great. I wish train 55 had been on time though.


            On January 23, 2012, VIA trains 68 and 69 made their last departures from Toronto to Montreal. The next day, VIA move train 650 from Toronto to Kingston to train 68’s departure time.


            Since VIA used trains 68 and 69 to deadhead equipment between Toronto and Montreal, I made a tribute page showing some of the equipment I saw being moved. It can be seen here:            Trains 68 and 69 tribute


Update:           In early December of 2012, VIA restored trains 68 and 69 running on Fridays and Sundays departing at 6:00 pm from Toronto and 6:30 pm from Montreal.


            As for me, my next trip may be in a little more than a month should I decide to take the Northlander to Huntsville for a ski trip. Until next time…