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Farewell to Budd Equipment on VIA’s Ocean trip:

Farewell to Budd Equipment on VIA’s Ocean trip:




            Beginning in 2003, VIA Rail began equipping the Montreal-Halifax Ocean train with Renaissance cars. In 2004, there was still one trainset of older ex CP Budd built coaches on the route. That trainset regularly left Halifax on Wednesdays and Saturdays. It left Montreal on Thursdays and Sundays.


            In late winter of 2006, VIA announced that in early May, the Ocean train would be all Renaissance except during the summer when they would run an ex CP “Park” Dome observation sleeper on the rear of the trains. The rest of the coaches would used on other VIA trains like the Canadian. Upon hearing that, I began playing with the idea of riding the Budd trainset before it was removed. I also decided to fly down to Halifax because I wanted to fly out of the new terminal at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport. I ended up going in the first full week in April, as VIA had discounts on sleepers on the Ocean. My plan was to fly down on a Tuesday, spend a night in a Hostel in Halifax, then ride the Ocean to Montreal where I would change to VIA train 57 to Toronto.


April 4, 2006:


            I got up shortly after 6:00 am. My plane was to leave at 10:00, but of course, I had to allow extra time to get to the airport, check in, and clear security. I checked one bag when I got to the Airport. I explored the terminal a bit before I headed through security. I got through the metal detectors with no problem.


            After I cleared security, I went into a bookstore for a minute. Upon leaving, I saw an Air Canada Boeing 767 being pushed back. Closer examination revealed the plane was 604-C-GAUN, which is nicknamed the “Gimli Glider”. The plane earned the nickname on July 23, 1983 after it ran out of fuel in mid-air. However, the pilot happened to be an experienced glider pilot and flew the powerless jet for 13 minutes and made an emergency landing at the abandoned base at Gimli, Manitoba. After, the plane was repaired and returned to service.



The Gimli Glider, (the Air Canada jet with the dark tail), departs Pearson International on another routine flight.


When I got to the gate where my plane was to depart from, I saw another plane was just finishing embarking passengers. Soon, it left. After awhile, the plane I was to fly pulled up to the gate. This plane was an Air Canada Airbus A320. I took a picture of the plane as it was being loaded with food.



I decided to walk around the area. I saw once store called “Streetcar”. Another store had a picture of a PCC streetcar on it. As I walked around, I saw an Air Canada Airbus A340 being readied for a flight to Hong Kong.


Soon, I headed back to my gate. I then saw the plane Air Canada had painted to commemorate their 65th anniversary. I got a photo of the plane as it taxied past.



Soon, it was time to board the plane. I took my assigned window seat which happened to overlook the left wing. I stowed my carry-on bag and put on my seat belt. While waiting to depart, I saw that the plane was pretty empty. I later heard from one of the flight attendants that there were about 50 passengers


Soon, the plane was pushed back. I took one more photo of the plane commemorating Air Canada’s 65th anniversary. They showed a video detailing the safety features of the plane as we began to taxi towards the runway. When we took off, I filmed out the window as the plane began its take off roll and lifted off the ground and climbed. As the plane made a 180 degree turn towards Halifax, I could see GO Transit’s Willowbrook train yard and the VIA’s Toronto Maintenance Centre on the ground.


The flight was mostly uneventful, but we did hit a couple patches of turbulence. They weren’t severe, and I fortunately didn’t have to make use of the air sickness bag! During the flight, they showed the news on the plane’s movie screens. Soon, we landed in Halifax. I filmed the landing until we taxied off the runway. We were soon parked at the gate. I headed into the terminal where I took one last photo of my plane.



I then headed to the baggage carousel to pick up my checked bag. Fortunately, Air Canada did not loose my suitcase and it was one of the first to emerge. I then headed to catch a shuttle bus to downtown Halifax which is about 35 miles away! The airport is in the middle of nowhere!


I paid $12 for the shuttle bus which dropped me off a few blocks away from my hotel. As I started to walk there, I saw an articulated Classic which I got on and rode a couple stops to the Halifax Backpackers Hostel. Once I checked in, I dropped my stuff off and called home from a payphone. Next, I hopped on another Articulated Classic and rode across the bay to Dartmouth. Upon arriving at a transit terminal, I saw fishbowl bus #512 which I ran to. Once I got on the fishbowl, I snapped a picture of the Articulated Classic I had just gotten off.



The fishbowl left the terminal and began following the coastline. As we went along, I saw a railway yard with three CN GP38’s which I photographed.



I got off the fishbowl near a library and the Metro Transit ferry terminal. Once I got off, I took a couple photos of the fishbowl.



After the bus pulled away, I went inside and found an AC outlet to charge my digital camera’s batteries. After I finished charging them, I decided to ask where the Atlantic Maritime Museum was. As I walked to the ferry terminal, a homeless man asked me for money. I told him no and he didn’t ask me any more. I thought, “At least homeless people are smarter here than Tucson, Arizona!” I was reminded of that one guy in Tucson on my last trip who kept asking me for $10, even though I kept telling him no.


Upon getting to the terminal, I was told to get to the museum I’d have to take the ferry back into Halifax. Someone came along and pointed me in the right direction when the ferry docked. Just before the ferry docked, I saw a tugboat that was made to look like Theodore Tugboat from a kid’s show! A company in Halifax offers harbor tours with the tug, which must be popular with families.


I found the Atlantic Maritime Museum and began exploring. I found their Titanic exhibit on the second floor. They also had an exhibit on the 1917 explosion that devastated Halifax after the ammunition ship Mont Blanc caught fire after a collision with another ship and blew up. While visiting, I photographed various exhibits including a model of the Titanic.



While at the museum, I stopped in the gift shop. There was a macaw nearby which began to squawk and get on my nerves. I soon left the museum and started to walk around. I saw another articulated Classic bus. Shortly after that, I saw fishbowl #512 again.



After 512 left, another bus pulled up. I asked the driver how to get to the train station. He told me it was a few blocks away, so I decided to walk. Upon getting to the train station, I saw the Budd cars on the Ocean sitting there. I headed into the station where I photographed Glacier Park, the last car on the train. I then noticed train 14 arriving from Montreal with Renaissance equipment and filmed the train pulling into the station.



When train 14 arrived, I saw that it was being led by two F40PH-2s both in the Spiderman 2 advertising livery. The first unit, #6408, was the same unit that led the Enterprise when my friend Mark and I rode it in August of 2005. I then took a few photos of the Renaissance equipped Ocean after it arrived into Halifax.



After that, I walked to the other end of the station to photograph the rear of the Renaissance equipped Ocean and the front of the Budd equipped Ocean. I did so near a Tim Horten’s donut store. I also noticed that VIA F40PH-2 #6420 would be leading the Budd equipped Ocean the next day. 6420 is significant because it is one of two F40’s to have been modified with a third headlight. (The other is #6434).



After I took a couple of photos, I started to feel hungry. I walked downtown and eventually found an East Side Mario’s. When I paid my bill, my server gave me a roll of Gummysavers instead of the traditional after dinner mint! After I left, I took a bus back to the hostel. I stayed at the hostel for the rest of the night with the exception of heading to a store to buy a bottle of Pepsi. I eventually called it a night.


April 5, 2006:


I got up at 8:00 am and had breakfast in the hostel’s café. After breakfast, I packed my stuff and checked out of the hostel. I then walked to the bus stop to catch a route 7 bus to the train station. While waiting for the bus, one more articulated Classic bus drove past as I filmed it. One minute later, my bus came and I got to the train station early. While waiting, I took some photos of both the Budd equipped Ocean and Renaissance equipped Ocean.



After photographing the trains, I charged the batteries on my digital camera and my diskman while waiting for the train to board. Soon, I was allowed to board. I was in sleeping car #8202, “Chateau Bienville”. I took some interior photos of my sleeper and the Park car on the end of the train. My train’s consist was as follows: F40’s #6420 and 6412, Baggage car #8620, Hep1 coaches #8108 and 8107, Skyline #8512, Diner Louise, sleepers “Chateau Bienville”, “Chateau Angerson”, “Chateau Cadillac”, and “Chateau Closse”. Bringing up the rear was Dome-observation-sleeper “Glacier Park”. The baggage car was a former R.P.O. that VIA had bought from the U.S. and rebuilt as a baggage car. The rest of the coaches were all ex Canadian Pacific.


While waiting for departure, I took a few interior photos of my sleeping car and the Park car.




The Ocean left on time. As we left, I filmed the Renaissance equipped Ocean on the track next to us. I went up into the dome. Soon, it was time for lunch. There wasn’t much choice on the menu, (only two different items!) Also, meals weren’t including in the ticket price of the sleeper. I paid $12.00 for my lunch as we rolled past a CN freight yard. Before I left the diner, I took a couple interior photos of the car.


We soon stopped in Truro, Nova Scotia. When we left, I filmed the murals on the station wall and photographed the train at it took a curve to the left.



Soon, we went by a CN train yard. In the yard, I saw what I believe to be a local freight. That freight was pretty short; it had a locomotive, a covered hopper, and a caboose! Unfortunately, I didn’t get a photo of that train. Later, it started to rain, but the rain soon let up. The train crew began to take dinner reservations. I chose to have dinner at the second seating at 6:30 pm.


We soon arrived into Moncton, New Brunswick. This was a smoking stop. I used the time to photograph the front of the train and get a can of Pepsi from a vending machine in the station before I got back on the train.



As we left Moncton, I photographed a bus in the distance. I spent the time going between my room and the Park car. Soon, it was time for dinner where I paid $18.00 for a chicken dinner. While in the diner I took a video of tank cars that are on CN’s “Tank train”. These tank cars have pipes that connect the cars together for faster loading and unloading. I then headed back to the Park car as the sun went down. Downstairs, they were showing the movie “Cheaper by the Dozen”.


Upstairs in the dome, it was foggy and I could barely see the dome of the Skyline car six cars ahead. The fog soon lifted. We soon arrived in Campbellton, New Brunswick. This was another smoking stop. I used the time to take some more photos of the train.



After taking some photos, I headed back for the train. I got a little scare as the sleeping car attendant raised the stairs. I shouted for him to wait and he put the stairs down. Once I got back on the train, he told me he usually put the stairs up and that the train wasn’t about to leave.


After that, I went into the Skyline car and took an interior photo of it. I didn’t stay too long though and headed back to the sleepers and Park car.


The train soon departed from Campbellton. After we left, we crossed back into the province of Quebec and the Eastern Time zone. The train bypassed Matapedia station. On certain days, the Ocean runs combined with VIA’s Chaleur train which runs between Montreal and Gaspe. The two trains split in Matapedia. However, while the Ocean runs 6 days a week, the Chaleur runs only three. Today was not a day that the Chaleur was going to Montreal.


I asked the sleeping car attendant for a wake up call at 6:30 am before I made up my bed and called it a night.


April 6, 2006:


I woke up at 6:52 am, realizing I didn’t get my requested wake up call. I first headed to the Park car for a minute, then to the diner for breakfast. VIA train #20 heading for Quebec City passed us. I had been hoping to get a video of that train, but I wasn’t able.  I arrived at the diner and had the continental breakfast. After breakfast, I headed back to my room to pack up for when we would arrive in Montreal. Soon, we passed a yard with an AMT commuter train consisting of two ex Amtrak F40s and some ex GO Transit single level coaches.


We soon arrived at Saint-Lambert. After a quick stop, we were approaching the bridge over the St. Lawrence River. As we got to the bridge, we were passed by a CN freight with three locomotives, one of which being a former Conrail loco that was being leased by CN.


Once over the bridge, I filmed VIA’s Montreal Maintenance Centre, which is VIA’s major shop. Unfortunately, it wasn’t right beside the main line, but I did make out the equipment on Amtrak’s Adirondack which would be departing for New York later.


As we approached the station, I photographed various buses run by RTL, a suburban bus company in Montreal. Train 15 soon arrived at the station 16 minutes early! Upon arriving, I took a couple more photos of the Ocean before I headed up into the main concourse.




Once I got to the main concourse, I found a payphone and called home. After, I bought a bottle of Coke from a variety store in the station. I didn’t have much time to explore. I ended up spending a lot of time at an Operation Lifesaver exhibit.


Soon, I headed to wait at the gate where train 57 was to depart. A VIA employee asked to see my ticket. At first, I couldn’t find it, but soon, I located it in my suitcase. We were soon allowed to board. I was hoping that there would be Hep1 coaches in the consist, but the train was all Hep2 except for the baggage car. Train 57 (and its counterpart train 60) is the only Montreal-Toronto day train to offer checked baggage service. I was seated in Hep2 coach #4106. The coach filled up, but I was able to get a window seat.


The train left on time and I saw VIA train 33 bound for Ottawa as well as Amtrak’s Adirondack. One thing I noted about train 33’s consist was that while its economy coaches were LRC cars, the VIA 1 car was a Hep2 coach! I found that ironic because VIA 1 class Hep2 coaches are often sent out west to be used on VIA’s Skeena train, and to fill the voids, VIA 1 class LRC cars are used in Hep2 consists.


Several minutes after we left, I saw an ex CP Rail Alco RS-18u in a yard. The unit was still in CP colours, but was lettered for the shortline it now belonged to. The train stopped at Dorval station.



Between Dorval and Cornwall, I felt tired and decided to lie down across the two seats since there was no centre armrest. I noticed how comfortable the seats were and thought about how these coaches were once used on the Enterprise prior to being reequipped with Renaissance cars.


Outside of Cornwall, we stopped to let VIA train 52 stop at the station and pass us. I filmed the train as it passed. We then stopped in Cornwall. While in the station, I saw an school type bus painted maroon and lettered for Algoma Central. The bus had railway wheels added so it could travel along both road and railway. I photographed that bus.  We were soon underway again. When we got to Brockville, we ran past the platform then backed into the station. This was to allow VIA train 56 to stop at the station. During this time, I went into the last car that only had one person on board and photographed the interior. At one point, I saw an old Alco road switcher, but I was unable to photograph it. Train 57 stopped in Kingston for several minutes while a large crowd boarded.


When we left, I saw a switcher belonging to the shortline company Cando which owns two Shortline railways outside of Toronto. Again, I was unable to photograph the unit.


Meanwhile, I was hungry and bought lunch. The train stopped in Belleville. Between Belleville and Cobourg, we passed the Memory Junction railway museum. Approaching Cobourg, the CP main line parallels the CN line which we were on. I saw a CP freight with four empty flatcars bringing up the rear behind some auto racks. The last car was rocking quite a bit and I was a bit concerned. When we stopped at the station, the freight kept on going. I filmed the end of the train as it went by.


The stop was a quick one and we soon left. VIA train 60 passed us. Once again, I was unable to film it. We soon passed underneath the CP line and eventually, I looked to the right to see that CP freight as we passed it completely. Several miles away, I saw a couple people who were pushing a baby carriage and seemed to be walking along the CP line towards the oncoming freight. Presumably, they were able to get out of the way in time to avoid being hit by the oncoming CP freight, (I hope!)


Soon, we stopped in Oshawa. After we left, VIA train 64 passed. We also overtook a westbound GO Transit commuter train. We made a quick stop in Guildwood. After we left, I filmed the TTC’s Greenwood subway yard as we raced by. The train crew made an announcement that people continuing onto Windsor on train 75 could stay aboard since train 57 becomes train 75 upon arriving in Toronto.


A few minutes later, we arrived into Union station right on time. Upon disembarking from the train, I took two photos of the train before I headed downstairs.




Once we got downstairs, other passengers waited at the baggage carousel in order to retrieve their luggage. Since I brought both my bags as carry on, I just called my dad before I got on the subway to go home.




Overall, this trip was very good. The new airport terminal is very nice, and it was cool to see the Gimli Glider and Air Canada’s 65 anniversary plane. This may be the only time I’ll fly this year, as I will still take the train as much as possible. My decision to fly one way had nothing to do with Amtrak’s eastbound Sunset Limited arriving 12 hours late into Tucson on my last trip. VIA’s Ocean was a nice train and the Chateau sleepers were very comfortable. On May 4th, 2006, the last Budd Equipped Ocean departed Halifax, arriving the next day in Montreal. Also, in December of 2007, Air Canada retired the Gimli Glider after 24 years of service.


It will be a shame with the Ocean being all Renaissance except during the summer when VIA adds a Park car to the rear for first class passengers. Dome cars make a train trip more interesting. However, VIA does plan to temporarily bring a Budd Ocean trainset from November to early spring of 2007 while VIA overhauls its Renaissance trainsets. I may ride the Ocean again should that happen.


The biggest problems I experienced were not getting my requested wake up call and missed a chance to film various trains. Other then those problems, I had a good time. Both trains and the plane were very good at timekeeping. Halifax was a nice city, but I’m not sure when I’ll go back, or how I’ll get there. Chances are I’ll take the train, despite the Ocean being fully equipped with Renaissance coaches. Until next time…