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Sarnia Orion 1 Charter:

Sarnia Orion 1 Charter:




            In early 2016, I learned that the TTS was chartering one of Sarnia Transit’s few remaining Orion 1 buses. As far as I know, Sarnia is the only transit property in Ontario to still use Orion 1s. I decided to go.


            Many other transit fans also were interested to the point the TTS added a second bus, a 30 foot Orion 5. I had seen the buses when I briefly visited Sarnia in 2012 and had been meaning to return.


            My plan was to ride VIA train #87 to Sarnia the Thursday before the charter as it was the only train that still served Sarnia; after trains 85 and 88 were cut back to London. I could have taken a train to London and taken a shuttle to Sarnia provided by the company “Robert Q”, but I prefer train travel obviously.


            I would spend a whole day in Sarnia fanning then attend the charter the next day. I would take train #84 back from Sarnia the day after the charter. The trip unfolded as follows:


April 7, 2016:


            I left home shortly after 3:30 pm. My dad gave me a ride to the subway. I got on a subway and rode to Union. I got there a little more than an hour before train #87 was scheduled to depart. I went by track 3 and photographed the rear of a VIA train on track #3.



            I then went to the skywalk and photographed a few GO trains and VIA train #75.





            I went outside and photographed a UP Express train.



            I then went to the Great Hall to await the boarding of my train. I photographed a couple more GO trains with new cab cars on the rear.




            I joined the queue line for train #87. Boarding did not begin until six minutes before the train was scheduled to depart. I was seated in coach #3321, a rebuilt LRC coach. I had a window seat on the right hand side of the train.


            VIA train #47 pulled in on the track next to us.  Train #87 departed one minute late. Shortly after leaving Union, we stopped to let a GO train pass. It had two F59PHs bracketing the coaches. I photographed the locomotives.




            We were soon underway and picked up speed. A UP Express train overtook us. A few minutes later, we overtook it as it slowed for its stop at Bloor station.


            As we passed the TTC's Mount Dennis bus garage, I filmed 12 D40LFs parked out back “behind the wall”. For the record, Mount Dennis was the last garage to run fishbowls including #2855, #2290, and #2291.


            The train stopped at Malton. I bought dinner after we left as I was feeling hungry. We stopped at Brampton. At Brampton, a GO train passed. We soon departed.


            Outside of Georgetown, we stopped because a GO train was using the platform. A few minutes later, we stopped at Georgetown. I saw a couple parked GO trains. One of them had a new cab car. I photographed it as we passed.



            A little while later, we stopped at Guelph. At Guelph, I filmed former CN steam locomotive #6167. a few people boarded at Guelph.


            We passed a GEXR freight outside Kitchener. We stopped at the Kitchener station a few minutes later. I was looking for where the future light rail line presently under construction would be. I may have seen it off to the North of the station, but I'm not sure.


            West of Kitchener, we slowed for track work. We soon reached track speed after a little while. The sun went down. The train stopped at Stratford. We departed a couple minutes later.


            We stopped at St. Mary's. I watched a DVD I had brought. We departed. VIA train #88 passed, but I was unable to film it. However, even if I had, it would have been dark.


            We passed by an airport which I believe was London's airport which meant we were getting close to London. The crew made an announcement for passengers connecting to train #79 that it would be right behind our train. We stopped in London a few minutes later. I saw the equipment that would be tomorrow's train #82 to Toronto on the track next to us. We departed London a few minutes later. I saw an LTC New Flyer XD40 from the train. We were less than 60 miles from Sarnia.


            West of London, we stopped in the middle of nowhere. We had stopped to allow a CP freight to pass a diamond in front of us. We were soon underway again. A little while later, we again stopped in the middle of nowhere. A freight train passed. I could see it was lightly snowing from the locomotive's headlights.


            We were eventually underway again. We stopped at Strathroy a few minutes later.  After leaving Strathroy, the crew announced we were running 20 minutes late.


            Although the train was scheduled to stop in Wyoming, Ontario, we bypassed the stop; presumably because no one wanted to get on or off the train there. We were soon approaching Sarnia. I readied my stuff in preparation to get off.


            However, we had to stop for a few minutes due to freight traffic. We were underway again. We passed by the Sarnia Transit bus garage before arriving at the station 30 minutes late. I got off and photographed the train.



            I then took a taxi to the hotel I was staying at. I checked in and went to my room. I went to a 7-11 a block away and bought some milk and a banana. I went back to my hotel and went online. I worked on this report some more before I called it a night.


April 8, 2016:


            I got up and got dressed. I went to the lobby for breakfast. After breakfast, I went back to my room and watched TV for a little while. I eventually headed out.


            I saw I just missed a bus on route #9. It was a Nova LFS. I walked over to a TD Canada Trust and used the ATM. I walked over to the Bayside Mall terminal. It was at this terminal where I rode an Orion 1 from on my 2012 Sarnia-London trip. I waited around and photographed a couple buses.




            I eventually boarded Nova LFS #152 on route #9. When the bus pulled into the Northgate terminal, I saw an Orion 1 on route 9 heading the other way! I got off the LFS but I was unable to photograph the Orion 1. I decided to wait for it to come back. While I was waiting, I photographed Sarnia Transit's newest bus; Nova LFS #161.



            When #042 returned, I photographed it.



            I boarded Orion 1 #042 and rode to the Murphy Road transit terminal and got off and photographed the bus.




            I filmed #042 departing. I then walked a block north and hat lunch at an Arby's. After lunch I walked back to the terminal. By chance, #042 showed up heading back downtown. I photographed it before I got on.



            I rode #042 back to the Bayside Mall terminal and got off and photographed the bus.



            I filmed #042 pulling away. I went inside the mall and bought a Coke. I then boarded an El Dorado EZ rider on route 1 and rode to the closest stop to the VIA station which was a couple blocks away. I went to the platform hopeful that I would see a freight train pass as Sarnia is on one of CN's main gateways into the United States.  While I was waiting to see if a freight train would show up, I photographed a van used by Robert Q to transfer VIA passengers to and from London.




            I went back onto the platform and met up with a local railfan. We talked a bit about VIA. He mentioned that Sarnia could get more VIA trains in the future in the form of RDCs running between Sarnia and London. VIA has been testing RDCs in the London area. I mentioned it would be nice if the International was brought back.


            Until 2004, the International ran between Toronto and Chicago. It stopped in Sarnia before heading into the United States through the St. Clair River tunnel. After the September 11th terrorist attacks, there were numerous delays at the border; even worse than the Maple Leaf. At one point, passengers were made to get off the train and be bussed across the border. This ultimately led to the demise of the International with the American portion being replaced by a train called the “Blue Water” between Chicago and Port Huron and the Canadian portion being replaced by trains 85 and 88 which were cut back to London in 2012.


            After awhile, a westbound CN freight passed. I photographed it.





            I eventually left the station and walked a bit before I caught a route #1 bus back to the Bayside Mall terminal and transferred to the route #12. I rode down by the waterfront and got off. I saw what looked like a disused spur line. I photographed the line and some ships from the waterfront.






             I went back to my room for a few minutes and went online.


            After awhile, I decided to go out fanning again. I went out and boarded Orion 1 #042 on the route #9 again and rode to the Murphy Road Terminal. I saw Orion 5 #053 was at the terminal. I photographed #042 and #053.




            I boarded #053 and rode to the Lambton Mall. I got off and photographed #053.



            I filmed #053 pulling away. I know that #053 is one of two 30 foot Orion 5s purchased from Orlando. At least four went to Canada including Welland Transit #101 which I photographed in 2013 and YRT #9401 which retired in 2009 but was bought by someone and is stored in downtown Toronto.


            I went in the mall and did a little shopping. I eventually caught a route #14 bus back to the Murphy Road Terminal. Along the way, we passed another Orion 1; #043, but I was unable to photograph it. I got off at the terminal and waited to see if #043 would come back. I waited for a few pulses of buses. The only Orion buses I saw were #053 and #042 which I photographed.




            I eventually walked over to a nearby Taco Bell and had dinner. After dinner, I returned to the terminal. I was heading back to my hotel. A Nova LFS on route 9 showed up, but went out of service at the terminal. The next bus on route #9 was #042 again. I photographed it before I got on.




            We soon headed out. The driver had a radio playing from a local radio station. Some of the songs that were played were okay; others not so much. Thankfully, the song that was playing at the wedding in North Carolina that was blocked out by a Norfolk Southern freight was not played while I was on the bus.


            I got off the bus and filmed it pulling away. I went back to my hotel and worked on this report some more. I went to 7-11 and bought some milk. I returned to my room and worked some more. I eventually asked for a wake up call at 8:30 am and called it a night.


Click here for the charter itself:       Charter