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Niagara Falls Trip 2011:

Niagara Falls Trip 2011:




            One day when I was working, I heard on the radio that John Schneider and Tom Wopat who played the original Duke Boys in The Dukes of Hazzard would be performing at Fallsview Casino in Niagara Falls. I had seen John Schneider in 2009 the day after I got back from my 2009 Chaleur trip.


John Schneider seen back in 2009.


            They would be performing on January 21 and 22. I opted to go to the show on the 21st. My plan was to ride VIA train 97 to Niagara Falls on the 21st and spend one night at my aunt's house. I would catch the show that evening following a day of transit riding. The next day, I would take VIA train 92 home. However, after I had bought my tickets, I found out my extended family was having a party in Hamilton on the 22nd. I would see if I could get off in Aldershot which is the closest station to Hamilton. This would be the first trip I had taken after I got a laptop for Christmas which would allow me to write my trip reports a lot faster. This was also the first trip I had taken after my other aunt passed away from Cancer. The trip unfolded as follows.


January 21, 2011:


            I left home at 7:00 am. My mom gave me a ride to Finch. I rode an H-5 train to Union and after I got off, I filmed it leaving without problems.


            I went to Union after fighting my way though a crowd of people going against me. When I got there, I lined up what I thought was the line for train 97, but it was for the Northlander. I got into the right line. I saw on the departures board that VIA train 42 to Ottawa now had checked baggage. However, they misspelled the English word for “baggage”! It said “baggge” instead!


How much does to cost to check “baggge”?!?


            Boarding began around 8:15 am. I was seated in Amfleet 1 Capstone coach #82687. I saw the Northlander on the track next to my train, but it left to be moved to another track. I also saw VIA trains 82 and 86 arrive.


            The train left on time. As we left, I filmed train 82 in the station. A short while after we left, we passed the equipment for trains 56 and 42. I noticed there was a Renaissance baggage car on 42. VIA started running Renaissance baggage cars on the rear of train 42 and 45 because they can run at LRC speeds while HEP 1 baggage cars can't.


            As the train passed VIA's Toronto Maintenance Centre, I filmed it. I saw Strathcona Park in the yard as well as a Renaissance corridor set without a locomotive. I also saw several Rocky Mountaineer cars including some domes.


            The cafe car opened. I turned off my laptop and put it in my bag so it wouldn't be stolen. I went to the cafe car and bought a Caramilk bar and milk. I returned to my seat and took out my laptop and started working on the trip report again. The train stopped at Oakville and Aldershot. We soon departed Aldershot. The train then passed through the CN/Southern Ontario Railway yard in Hamilton. Just past the yard, I saw the base from a basketball hoop near the tracks by the base of an overpass!


            The train proceeded slowly through Hamilton before gradually picking up speed. The crew came through the coach handing out forms for people crossing the boarder. Since I was getting off in Niagara Falls, Ontario, I didn't need one.


            West of Hamilton, I saw a CN caboose in rough shape. I decided to walk through the train. I noticed only 2 of the coaches had passengers. The first two Amfleet 2 coaches were empty but would most likely be filled after the train crossed the border into the U.S. The train then made a quick stop in Grimsby.


            Soon, the train passed the St. Catherines Transit bus garage where I saw some Orion 5s parked out back the appeared to be retired. We then stopped at the St. Catherines station. The train departed.


            Since it was winter, ships were not going through the Welland Canal and the bridge was down. As we crossed over the bridge, I saw some construction equipment below. I think they were working on the nearby lock but I am not too sure. I then powered off my laptop and got ready to get off in Niagara Falls. Near the station, I saw a billboard advertising the Titanic exhibit that I had seen in Montreal on my last trip of 2009.


            Train 97 arrived into Niagara Falls on time. However, the train stopped short of the station for a minute. I'm not sure why it did, but after a little bit, we moved forward a few coach lengths where we were allowed to get off. Right after I got off, I took some photos.




            I then walked over and took a photo of the locomotive which was Amtrak P42 #185.



            It was cold out! However, I waited for the train to depart and filmed it pulling out. I took one more photo of the train as it crossed the bridge into the United States.



            I then walked back to the station and phoned my aunt. She said she would be there in a few minutes. I then photographed some buses parking in front on the Niagara Transit garage across the street.



I then made my way back into the station. I saw there was now a snack bar in one corner of the station. It wasn't there on my Surprise Niagara Falls trip in 2009. I didn't go inside the station building on my Dayton and Cardinal trips last year.


            My aunt soon arrived and I got in her car and we headed to a McDonald's for lunch, but lunch wasn't being served yet. So we drove around looking at the bus stops to check when the bus was due. We then headed back to McDonald's where I bought lunch and took it to go. I then headed back to my aunt's house where I got a key. I finished my lunch and worked on my report some more.


            Around noon, I decided to go out transit riding. I walked a couple blocks to a bus stop and waited for a bus in the cold.  After awhile, I walked a block further to a strip mall where I saw several people in a bus shelter. I also saw a Niagara Transit route map I noticed Niagara Transit had been re-branded Niagara Falls Transit. Soon, I saw Niagara Falls Transit Orion 5 #2063 arrive on the Brock Shuttle. I photographed it.



            A couple minutes later, Niagara Falls Transit Eldorado Ez-Rider #2983 pulled in on route 6. I got on and sat in the back. The route 6 runs through a few blocks where my late grandma's house used to be. This was the first time in years I had been through that part of Niagara Falls.


            I got off at Main and Ferry which is a hub for several Niagara Transit routes and photographed 2983.



I was hoping that I would see one of Niagara Falls Transit's few remaining Classics in service, but none showed up. I photographed NFT Nova LFS #2987 and then boarded LFS 2989.




            I rode 2989 to the VIA station and got off. I photographed it.



            I looked around the garage to try to see if I could spot any of the Classics. However I didn't see any. I saw Orion 5 #2267 turn into the garage and I photographed it.



            I then saw GO MCI Highway coach 2190 loading passengers outside the station. In 2009, GO Transit began running buses to Niagara Falls and in the summer, they run trains there as well. I photographed 2190.



            I noticed a man in a wheelchair getting on the GO bus. I then briefly went back into the VIA station before I headed out in search of an ATM. I stopped at a nearby variety store and a comic store before I found a TD Canada Trust and used the ATM. I then walked back and as I walked by the NFT garage, I got a glimpse of Classic 8937 inside. It appeared at the back of a line of Classics so I figured they were all in the garage.


            I then caught NFT Orion 7 #2679 to Main and Ferry. I got off and transferred to LFS 2987. I rode 2987 to Niagara Square mall. Niagara Square isn't a large mall though it does have a small food court and a few stores. I looked around the mall for a little before I had a massage in a coin operated massage chair near the food court. After, I saw I had just missed two buses. I waited for awhile. I did see an EZ-rider pull in on route 3, but it went out of service and laid over in the parking lot. Eventually LFS 2987 pulled up and I rode it back to Main and Ferry.


            At Main and Ferry, I got off and took a couple photos.



            I waited around and went into a couple pawn shops but I didn't buy anything. I saw on a TV in one of the stores a news story that repeatedly showed footage of a spectacular truck crash on Highway 401 near Kitchener. No one was seriously hurt in that crash, but I learned of a 40 car pile up on Highway 11 between Barrie and Orillia which killed one person. That pile up was caused by weather conditions. All the more reason to take the train!


            At one point, some teenagers in a car drove past and shouted something at me. I couldn't tell what they were saying but the tone made it seem insulting.


            A little while later, my aunt called me. I decided to have her pick me up at the convenience store at Main and Ferry. I then walked over to the store and went inside. I bought a Cash for Life lottery ticket, but didn't win anything.


            My aunt soon arrived and we went back to her house. I worked on this report some more and watched some TV. We headed out shortly after 7:30. We stopped at a nearby Subway restaurant for dinner and then headed to the Casino.


            Fallsview Casino is not just a casino. It has a hotel and various stores and restaurants. I went into the casino and did a little gambling but didn't win. I then asked an employee where to go for the show and she gave me directions. I saw a poster advertising the show and photographed it.



I then went to the hall and took my seat. Just like when I saw Weird Al Yankovic in concert back in 2008, photography wasn't allowed. I decided not to risk it.


            The show began at 9:00 pm. John Schneider and Tom Wopat opened singing the song “Just the Good Ol' Boys”; the theme song to the Dukes of Hazzard, but this was extended and slightly different. They sang more songs, mostly country themed, but they did their own version of the song “Baby it's cold outside” which I liked more than the original!


            John Schneider looked much like he did when I saw him about two years earlier (and in the above picture). Tom Wopat looked a bit different. They also told stories in between songs. They ended the concert by singing “Just the Good Ol' Boys” again which I liked. After, I went back to the casino and did a little more gambling I didn't win again. I won't say how much I lost though.


            I then went back to the area where the concert was held and saw a line. I went to investigate and saw John Schneider and Tom Wopat signing autographs. I joined the line and bought an autographed picture for $25. I was also able to get some photos of them unlike Weird Al back on my Orillia trip.




John Schneider and Tom Wopat soon left. I then went outside and took a couple photos of the casino.




            I then took a cab back to my aunt's house. It cost me $18. My aunt was still up and she thought the autographed picture I got was nice. I watched TV for a little while before I called it a night.


January 22, 2011:


            I got up and had breakfast, I got dressed and watched some TV and worked on my trip report some more. My aunt gave me a frame for the autographed picture I got the night before. I then finished packing.


            We left shortly after 1:20 and went to the nearby plaza where I went to the TD Canada Trust and withdrew money from an ATM. We then went to a Tim Horton’s drive-thru where I got a donut and a milk. We then headed for the VIA station. I noticed that a lot more NFT bus routes were running on Saturdays. In the past, there were only four routes running.


            When we got to the station, I got a surprise. I had thought the train would have LRC coaches. It had three Hep 2 coaches led by F40PH-2 #6414, the Lotto-Quebec unit. VIA 6414 is one of two remaining wrapped units as the others have gone in for rebuild. Surprisingly, the other remaining wrapped unit is 6408 which was one of the Spiderman 2 units! I photographed the train.




I then went inside the station to await boarding since it was cold out.  Boarding began shortly after 2:00. When I boarded, I asked the conductor if I could get off at Aldershot instead of Toronto to get to the party.  He said it was okay.


            I was seated in Hep 2 coach #4100, the second car of the train. The train departed on time. Shortly after we departed, the conductor gave a speech on what to do in an emergency. I also began working on my report some more. When the conductor collected my ticket, he confirmed that I wanted off in Aldershot instead of Toronto.


            Upon departing Niagara Falls, only coach 4100 was open. Train 92 runs in place of train 90 on weekends. Both trains 90 and 92 use the equipment from train 95 which gets into Niagara Falls the night before.


            As expected, the bridge over the Welland Canal was down. However, I saw a road bridge down the canal was raised even though there weren't any ships. I'm guessing it was closed for work.


            The train stopped in St. Catherines a few minutes later. Five people got on. We soon departed. The train ran through the Grimsby station non stop. I guess no one wanted on or off there. This was the first time I had ridden the route since my trip on the Three Rivers that the train I was on didn't stop at Grimsby.


            The train started getting jerky after passing the Grimsby station as we increased speed. I saw a burnt out house.


            The train passed the caboose I saw the day before and was on the outskirts of Hamilton. The train briefly slowed to a crawl. We then gradually increased speed as we passed a factory. The train then slowed to a crawl again. We then stopped completely. I almost wished I could have gotten off right there instead of Aldershot since we were close to downtown Hamilton.


            The train started moving again after a few minutes. The train passed the old CN Hamilton station which is no longer used by passenger trains. We then passed by the CN/Southern Ontario Railway yard. I saw various cars and locomotives. After we passed the yard, I began to get ready to get off at Aldershot. My train passed a CN local led by GMD-1 #1431 and GP38 #4700.


            Train 92 arrived into Aldershot 7 minutes late. I got off and took a photo.



            I filmed train 92 as it departed. I then took one more photo. I also saw another CN local with two GP9s.



I then bought a ticket for a GO bus to Hamilton. The bus came 10-15 minutes later. I photographed the bus before I got on.



            I sat near the back and the bus soon departed. A little while later, we arrived at the Hamilton GO Centre which is located in the old Toronto, Hamilton, and Buffalo RR station. I photographed the GO bus as well as a Hamilton Street Railway DE60LFr.




I then went inside. Hamilton Street Railway's name is a misnomer. They abandoned streetcars in the early 1950's and got rid of trolleybuses in 1992. However, there's talks of building a light rail line in Hamilton though.


            I went to the HSR map and tried to figure out where to go to the party. I had driving directions, but it didn't cover transit. After studying the HSR route map for several minutes and compared it to the driving directions, I finally figured it out.


            I went outside to catch the route 2 bus. HSR D40LF #0401 was already at the terminal on route 2 so I ran and caught it. I rode the bus to the intersection of John and Robert and got off and photographed the bus as it pulled away.




I then walked to my family's house. They are related to me as they are the son of my mom's cousin Maxine who passed away on October 3 of 2010; nine months after her husband Norm died.


            Their house was two blocks away and I was buzzed in as it was located directly above their place of business.


            My aunt who I stayed with in Niagara Falls was also at the party. I could have ridden down with her, but my VIA tickets were non-refundable. I didn't want the money to go to waste. She had brought my suitcase so I wouldn't have to carry it.


            My mom's cousin's son, Greg Sather, is building an N-scale model railway had he showed me a collection of CN, TH&B, and Saskatchewan grain hoppers he had picked up at a flea market.


            We talked a bit about trains both model and full scale. I mentioned the John Street roundhouse to which the THRA has been allotted three stalls. I mentioned how they moved CN 6213 to the roundhouse in 2009 and they had saved VIA LRC #6917.


            Other members of the Sather family were there too. We told some stories. I told them how several people; mostly telemarketers had been calling my cell phone looking for some woman named Hazel Warner. I also told them some of the ways I dealt with them.


            My parents and sister soon arrived to. I would be going home with them. I logged onto their Wifi and worked on this trip report until dinner. After dinner, I just hung around until 9:00 when I turned on America's Most Wanted until it was time to go.


            We left around 9:30. It had been snowing while we were there and we passed two car accidents. Fortunately, we got safely home after dropping my sister at her downtown Toronto apartment.




            The show in Niagara Falls was good and I'm glad I was able to get an autographed picture of Tom Wopat and John Schneider after the show as well as being able to take some photographs of them.


            My two train rides were good. Riding Niagara Falls Transit was also good, though I miss their fishbowls. I also wish I could have ridden one of the remaining Classics.


            This may be the last trip of 2011 as prior to my trip I had an interview with Canadian National for a conductor job! If that happens, SAIT may get a chance to partially redeem itself. If CN doesn't work out, I'll apply to Bombardier for a job on GO trains! If that also doesn't work out, my next trip would be in May or June. Until next time...