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Sarnia-London Trip:

Sarnia-London Trip:




††††††††††† In June of 2012, VIA Rail announced several cutbacks as a result of the Canadian government cutting VIA funding. Some of the trains affected were the Canadian going from three times weekly to twice weekly during the winter as well as the Ocean going from six times per week to three times per week during the off season.


††††††††††† Other cutbacks were in the Quebec City-Windsor corridor. VIA would be cutting trains 90, 92, and 95 between Toronto and Niagara Falls as a result of GO Transit now running to Niagara Falls. My previous trip to Chicago enabled me to get one last ride on train 95.


††††††††††† However, another two trains that were affected were VIA trains 85 and 88 between Toronto and Sarnia. The trains would now be terminated in London which would leave Sarnia with only one VIA train daily. I decided to take a ride on trains 85 and 88 before this was to happen.


††††††††††† My plan was to ride to Sarnia on train 85 and then return to London on train 88 a few hours later. I would overnight in London before I returned home on train 72. I chose to go on July 24-25; less than a week before the cuts to trains 85 and 88 were to happen. The trip unfolded as follows.


July 24, 2012:


††††††††††† I left home around 9:00 am. My mom gave me a ride to Finch. I went into the station and bought a can of Pepsi because I was thirsty. I headed onto the platform. I saw that a train of T-1 subway cars was leaving next, but the train after was an H-5. I decided to wait and take the H-5 as they are starting to become rare. Before my train left, I saw the first set of Toronto Rocket subway cars pull in on the opposite track.


††††††††††† My train departed and we arrived at Union Station about 30 minutes later. I filmed the H-5 train I had ridden on pulling out. I also photographed another H-5 train going North as well as the first Toronto Rocket train when it pulled in.




††††††††††† I then headed to Union Station. Before lining up for train 85, I walked over to the skywalk and photographed the Canadian after it arrived from Vancouver.



††††††††††† I then walked back and joined the cue line for train 85. Boarding began after 10:30 am. When I got to the platform, I saw the Canadian had left for VIA's Toronto Maintenance Center for servicing in preparation to become tonight's train #1. Despite the fact I was going to Sarnia, I was seated in HEP2 coach #4120. If you read my report on the London Classic charter, you'll know that train 85 usually runs with a locomotive, a HEP1 coach and a HEP2 coach. VIA should put people travelling longer distances in the HEP1 coach since it's intended for long distance travel like on the Canadian or Ocean.


††††††††††† Train 85 departed on time. 12 minutes later, we slowed down. VIA train 84 passed but I was unable to film it.


††††††††††† After we crossed over the CP main line, we picked up speed. As we passed through GO Transit's Weston station, I saw an ex GO Transit 1400 series coach in a lot near the station, but I was unable to photograph it.


††††††††††† I bought lunch when the attendant came by with the food cart. We stopped at Brampton. We soon departed. A few minutes later, we stopped at Georgetown.We departed Georgetown and proceeded slowly. After awhile, we picked up speed again.


††††††††††† We passed through Acton behind the Old Hyde House. We were running beside Highway 7. A little while later, we stopped at Guelph. I gained a seatmate at Guelph. When we departed, I filmed former CN 4-8-4 #6167 on display at the station. West of Guelph station, we passed a CN rail maintenance facility and three tank cars on a siding. We soon picked up speed.


††††††††††† We passed by a grain elevator that had a Chinese lantern hanging from it for some reason. I could hear someone playing Angry Birds on their cell phone near me; I recognized the theme.


††††††††††† Outside of Kitchener, we passed a GEXR freight train. We passed by a damaged tank car on a siding. Shortly after that, we stopped at Kitchener. My seatmate moved across the aisle at Kitchener. We departed Kitchener a few minutes later. We soon picked up speed again. I went into the HEP1 coach which was #8112, an ex CP coach. I filmed the HO scale models in the display cases. I saw that coach was full. I returned to my seat and worked on this report some more.


††††††††††† The train stopped at Stratford. I gained another seatmate at Stratford. We soon departed. We passed behind the Stratford Transit bus garage and picked up speed.


††††††††††† Even though train 85 doesn't have WI-FI, my seatmate managed to find a network so I logged in too. The train stopped at St. Marys. We soon departed and picked up speed. I noticed the track was a bit rough. We seemed to kick up dust. I saw a fox in a farmer's field.


††††††††††† Later, I could see London's airport. I saw a Cessna take off. As we passed by the EMD plant, I saw a Kansas City Southern SD70ACe out front. I'm surprised since the factory was apparently shut down last fall following a lockout. We passed over the CP main line. Unlike last time, we weren't held up by a CP freight crossing the diamond. We passed over Dundas Avenue. In a CN yard, I could see a CN SD70M-2 and a SD70 still in the Illinois Central livery. I also photographed a CN GP9 and GP38-2w.




††††††††††† A few minutes later we stopped at London. I watched Unstoppable on DVD. We departed London a few minutes later. I filmed the yard where I had seen some ex London Transit Classics. I noticed a couple had been repainted. A CN freight passed.


††††††††††† We soon took the branch of the line that leads to Sarnia. This was the start of riding trackage that I hadn't previously ridden. We slowed as we passed over the CP diamond.


††††††††††† The train passed through Strathroy non-stop. The station in Strathroy isn't staffed and so presumably no one wanted on or off the train, so we kept going. We picked up speed again.


††††††††††† As we passed through a crossing, I saw someone with a camera. I wonder if he's a railfan trying to get some last photographs of trains 85 and 88 west of London.


††††††††††† From the train, I could see a wind farm with four wind turbines, but only three were spinning. We also passed a field with lots of solar panels. We passed a Procor plant on the outskirts of Sarnia as well as a railway yard where I saw a CN Dash 9 and a BC Rail unit doing some switching. I readied my stuff in preparation to get off.


††††††††††† Train 85 arrived into Sarnia 10 minutes early. I got off and photographed the train.





††††††††††† I have now ridden VIA's whole Quebec City-Windsor Corridor. I left the station and phoned my mom to let her know I was in Sarnia. I saw the equipment from train 85 depart the station.


††††††††††† I went out looking for a bus stop to try to ride Sarnia Transit. It took me a little while, but I found a bus stop. While I was waiting for a bus, I photographed an EZ-rider going the other way.



††††††††††† I walked over to a convenience store and bought something to drink. I walked back to the stop. The bus soon arrived. It was a 30 foot SLF. York Region Transit had retired their SLF fleet in 2010 so it was good to ride one again. However, I was more interested in seeing if I could ride a Sarnia Transit Orion 1.


††††††††††† I rode the SLF to a terminal downtown and photographed it.



††††††††††† I then photographed a Sarnia Transit 30 foot Orion 5.




††††††††††† YRT had retired their only 30 foot Orion 5 back in 2009. However, I was more interested in an Orion 1. As luck would have it two showed up! I photographed them before I got on the lower numbered Orion 1 which was #041.




††††††††††† I then rode 041 to the Murphy Road terminal. I got off and photographed 041 and Sarnia Transit 30 foot Orion 1 #13. I also filmed the two buses pulling away.




††††††††††† I waited for a route 1 bus to go back to the VIA station. The SLF I rode earlier showed up and I photographed before I got on.



††††††††††† The bus soon departed. From the bus, I saw Sarnia Transit 30 foot Orion 1 #13 but was unable to photograph it.


††††††††††† At one point the bus was on a four lane road. A grey SUV pulled up and the driver started talking with the driver of the bus! I think they were related. At one point, the driver of the bus actually got our of the bus to have a conversation with the driver of the SUV who was still stopped beside the bus! I didn't photograph that, but thought that if this had been a TTC bus, someone would have.


††††††††††† In 2010 and 2011, several TTC employees had been photographed doing stupid things like sleeping on the job or texting while driving a bus! The transit union representing TTC employees blamed the people taking pictures leading to some confrontations between me and some TTC employees. However, it's important to note that the TTC never banned photography as a result. It is still completely legal to photograph TTC vehicles for non-commercial reasons as it always was so I had a HUGE LOOPHOLE. That may have been a factor in the incident involving the driver of TTC fishbowl #2855 which led me to my Michigan trip last April, but like I said in that report, I was 100% completely in the right.


††††††††††† I got off and filmed the SLF before I walked back to the VIA station. I had 90 minutes before my train to London was to depart. I photographed some end cab switchers I could see from the parking lot.



††††††††††† I then went onto the platform of the station. The equipment from train 85 had been wyed and was sitting in a siding just east of the station. It would become that evening's train 88 back to Toronto. I photographed the train.




††††††††††† I then went back inside the station and worked on this report until just before 6:00 pm. I then went outside the station. About 30 minutes before the train's scheduled departure, the equipment was backed into the station. I filmed the train backing in and then photographed the whole consist.





††††††††††† Boarding began about 15 minutes before the train departed. Once again, I was in HEP2 coach #4120. The HEP on the train kept cutting out briefly, but soon it stopped.


††††††††††† Train 88 departed on time at 6:37 pm. If you ask me, 6:37 is an odd departure from an origin station. I know this train used to be the International, but VIA's changed the schedule for the train a few times since they assumed operation of the Toronto-Sarnia portion of the route in 2004. VIA could have changed train 88's departure time to 6:35 pm or 6:40 pm; a 2-3 minute difference.


††††††††††† Once we were beyond the CN yard, the train really picked up speed. After awhile, we were in farmland. The train passed through Wyoming, Ontario.


††††††††††† A little while later, we stopped at Strathroy. We picked up a couple passengers at Strathroy before we departed. We picked up speed again.


††††††††††† We slowed down as we passed over the CP diamond. Once we were past the diamond, we picked up speed again.


††††††††††† Soon, we were approaching London. I saw a London Transit D40i in service. I readied my stuff in preparation to get off in London.


††††††††††† Train 88 arrived into London one minute early. I got off and photographed the train.



††††††††††† I then sprinted a block east to catch train 88 as it departed. While waiting, I saw the equipment that will become tomorrow's train 86 to Toronto. I noticed there were two rebuilt LRC coaches in train 86's consist. I quickly photographed train 88 before I filmed train 75 arriving from Toronto.





††††††††††† I took one photo of the rear of train 75 before I filmed train 88 departing. I then photographed train 86.




††††††††††† I sprinted a few blocks west and filmed train 75 as it departed London. After, I saw a hot air balloon. I photographed it.



††††††††††† I then walked a few blocks and had dinner at a McDonald's at Dundas and Richmond. I saw some new London Transit XD40s in service but was unable to photograph any. The XD40s are pretty new and have retired all of London's remaining Classics so London is now 100% low floor.


††††††††††† I caught a D40i on route 2. While I was on the bus, a loud man got on and pointed out how a girl seated behind me had a large tattoo on her thigh. He said that this was the party bus. Some passengers and the driver were a bit annoyed with him, but the driver wasn't annoyed with him to the point of making him get off the bus. When this man did get off the bus on his own initiative, many people were relieved.


††††††††††† Like when I visited London last October, I was staying at the Knights Inn on Dundas. I checked into my motel. I phoned home to let my mom know I was in London.


††††††††††† I had quite a time trying to get the WI-FI working in my room, but it eventually worked. I went online while I worked on this report some more.


††††††††††† After 11:00 pm I went out and got some milk from a nearby Tim Horton's. The person who took my order noticed the shirt I was wearing which was what I had bought on my Washington-Cleveland trip at the National Capital Trolley Museum. We talked a bit about trains. He's travelled a lot on VIA Rail and has covered most of the network. He left to serve other customers. I decided it was time to return to my motel.


††††††††††† Once I got back, I worked on this report for a few more minutes before I set the alarm on my phone for 8:45 am and called it a night.


July 25, 2012:


††††††††††† I got up around 8:45 am and got dressed. I went to the lobby for breakfast. After breakfast I worked on this report and finished packing. I then checked out of my motel and caught a bus downtown. I got off and stopped at a TD Canada Trust and withdrew money from an ATM.


††††††††††† I then headed to the VIA station making a detour though a mall. I arrived just under an hour before train 72 was scheduled to depart.


††††††††††† I logged into the WI-FI service in the station and worked on this report some more.


††††††††††† While I was waiting, I saw an eastbound CN freight pass. I got ready to board train 72 which was expected to be on time.


††††††††††† Train 72 arrive behind F40PH-2 #6404. I photographed it before I got on.




††††††††††† I was seated in LRC coach #3368, an unrebuilt coach. There were no rebuilt coaches in the train. The train departed one minute late. We passed behind the London Transit bus garage.Moments later, I saw three tank car bodies on their sides but I was unable to film them.


††††††††††† The train passed through Ingersoll non-stop. A few minutes later, we passed a westbound CN freight.


††††††††††† A little while later, we stopped at Woodstock. We soon departed.


††††††††††† Outside of Brantford, the train stopped for a minute before we started moving again. A little while later, we stopped at Brantford. We departed a couple minutes later.


††††††††††† A little while later, we passed over highway 403 and passed through Bayview Junction on the outskirts of Hamilton. A few minutes later, we stopped at Aldershot.We departed a minute later.


††††††††††† I attempted to film train 73 as it passed by. A few minutes later, we stopped at Oakville.


††††††††††† Later when we passed VIA's Toronto Maintenance Centre, I filmed the equipment in the yard as we passed. I noticed private car Pacific in the yard. Moments later, we passed a CN freight. Most CN freights bypass Toronto with a few exceptions. Moments later, we passed the equipment from VIA train 53 as it deadheaded to the Toronto Maintenance Center, but I was unable to film it.


††††††††††† Soon, we were approaching Toronto. I readied my stuff in preparation to get off. Just outside of Union Station, the equipment from VIA train 51 as it deadheaded to the Toronto Maintenance Center, but I was unable to film it.


††††††††††† Train 72 arrived into Union Station 13 minutes late. I got off and took some photos.




††††††††††† I then took a photo of the new roof being built over a portion of Union Station as well as one last shot of train 72.




††††††††††† I then went downstairs and headed to the subway. I rode a train of T-1 subway cars to Finch. I then caught a VIVA bus back home.




††††††††††† Despite the reasoning behind why I took this trip, it was enjoyable. I liked getting to ride an Orion 1 and an SLF again in Sarnia. I may have to go back to Sarnia some point in the future for a few days.


††††††††††† All three train rides were uneventful. My stay in London was all right. It was interesting meeting another railfan by chance at the Tim Hortonís near my motel.


††††††††††† As for me, Iím looking into my next trip some point in August. Until next timeÖ