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Timmins Trip 2005:

Timmins Trip 2005:




            In 2000, GO Transit retired their last 17 General Motor “fishbowl” buses. Over time, I began to miss those buses. In late spring of 2003, I found out that four of the buses were bought by Timmins Transit in Northern Ontario. I wanted to go there to ride those buses. Timmins is the home town of country singer Shania Twain, so in March of 2005, I decided that I would “Come on over” to Timmins in July.


My original plan was to ride Ontario Northland’s Northlander passenger train overnight, but in May, ONR changed the schedule to a day train which made things better. My new plan was to ride the Northlander up on Wednesday July 6th and come home two days later on the 8th by riding a highway coach to Sudbury, then ride VIA’s Canadian back to Toronto. However I was scheduled to work on the 8th which left me with two choices: either swap shifts with a co-worker, or go two days earlier to work alongside the Canadian’s schedule because it comes into Toronto on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. I chose to go two days earlier since I’ve wanted to go for two years and figured I’d get there sooner and save the hassle of switching shifts with a co-worker. After booking my hotel and VIA Rail ticket, I had to wait until the day of departure to book my Ontario Northland tickets.


July 4th, 2005:


            I got down to Toronto’s Union station at 8:15 am and bought my ticket to Timmins. While I was waiting, I decided to pick up my ticket for another train trip I would be taking a week later on board Amtrak train 286.


Soon, it was time to board. I found myself waiting in line to board the wrong train, but quickly realized this and was able to get on the right train! There was a fair sized crowd boarding in Toronto. For those who aren’t familiar with the Northlander, a typical trainset consists of a locomotive which is either a GP38 or a rebuilt FP7, a generator car converted from an F7B unit, two former GO Transit single level commuter coaches rebuilt into long distance cars, and a lounge car which is also a rebuilt ex GO Transit car. The Northlander I rode that day had one extra coach on the rear of the train.


            We left on time and I saw a CN GP9 and GP38 doing some yard work shortly after departure. A little while later, the lounge car opened. I spend a lot of time in my coach occasionally heading into the lounge car and other coaches. We stopped at various stations including Washago, Bracebridge, Gravenhurst, and Huntsville. The train then passed through the small town of Burk’s Falls. We stopped in South River. Later we took a siding while we waited for a freight train to pass us. As we approached North Bay, we passed the Toronto bound Northlander. In North Bay, passengers were allowed on the platform for a few minutes. I used that time to take a couple photos of the train.



            Up until North Bay, we had been running on CN tracks. Upon leaving North Bay, we were now on ONR tracks. We stopped at Temagami. By now, several little kids were on board. One was going to Timmins with his grandmother. At one point, the train passed by about six boxcars that were derailed and scattered beside the line! Some were even on their sides! I took a picture and a video of that site!



            We passed Cobalt station since nobody on the train was getting off there and no one wanted to get on as well. We passed some freight yards and I saw some of the coaches Ontario Northland had bought off of BC Rail. At one point, I even saw a steam engine on an isolated section of track at the Englehart station. We stopped at Swastika, (ugh, there’s a town called that!) Next was my stop at Matheson, where I would board a connecting bus to Timmins. When I got off, I took a couple photos of the train before I got on the bus.



The front of the Northlander, with a kid getting in my shot, sorry.



            After taking the two photos, I got on the bus and filmed the train pulling out. The kid who was also going to Timmins was looking at the video screens of the highway coach and wanted to know how to turn them on. I filmed the train leaving the station.


            As the bus pulled out of the station, I saw a Toyota car painted orange with a silver spoiler and the number 01 on it like the General Lee on the Dukes of Hazzard. However, the orange was a lighter shade than the real General Lee.


            Minutes later, we were stuck in traffic caused by road work. The kid and I decided to pass the time by playing “I Spy”. I got bored of that in a little while. The kid went to see his grandma, but a minute later, he was back and he started to bother me by telling dirty jokes and acting like a drunken guy. I told him to stop bugging me or I would tell his grandmother. He immediately said, “Grandma, don’t listen to what this guy is saying!” As he continued to get on my nerves, I could almost hear one of my friends back home saying, “Slap him Tommy, slap him!” I didn’t listen to the voice in my head, and was thankful when the kid and his grandmother got off in South Porcupine, which is outside of Timmins. The rest of the ride to Timmins was uneventful. At the bus station, I called a taxi which took me to my hotel, a Howard Johnson. I checked in, got settled in my room, called home, then I headed out to supper at the McDonalds in the Wal-Mart store next door to my hotel. It was pretty convenient since I happen to work for Wal-Mart. After getting dinner and browsing the Electronics department, I headed back to my hotel to call it a night.

July 5th, 2005


            I got up at 9:00 am and had breakfast in the hotel restaurant. After breakfast, I called a number I was given by a Timmins Transit employee and arranged to have a garage tour in the early afternoon. I packed my camera and several batteries and caught a bus, a newer Orion 6. Upon getting downtown, I soon found the first fishbowl, #76. That bus was bought from Victoria, British Columbia with three others. After waiting around the Timmins Transit terminal, I got on route 32.



            Timmins Transit Route 32 goes past the bus garage, but on the way, I caught a glimpse of a 30 foot fishbowl in a driveway, so I got off the bus and went to check it out. The bus was ex Stratford Transit #7323 which had been converted to a camper. That bus’s sister #7322 is privately owned in Toronto and is operational.



This is ex Stratford, Ontario GM #7323. Its centre doors were replaced and interior has been modified as a camper.


            After taking two pictures of 7323, I headed back to the bus stop. While I was waiting, I photographed Timmins Transit bus #74, their lone El Dorado low floor. Finally, the next route 32 bus came and I rode it to the garage.


            While at the Garage, I saw Timmins Transit bus 70, an ex GO Transit fishbowl, moved to another location of the garage. That excited me since this was the first time in five years that I had seen a GO fishbowl moving under its own power.



            After taking a couple more photos around the garage, I went inside the office and waited for Percy Beaudion who would give me a tour. When he showed up, he showed me the employee lunchroom and his office before we headed out to the yard out back.


            In the yard, I saw various buses including former TTC Flyer D800B #8257, which is owned by the Canadian Transit Heritage Foundation. I also saw three of their other buses which were all fishbowls: Buses 720 and 724 from Oakville Transit, and Timmins Transit #67, which was ex St. Johns Newfoundland bus #275. Besides the CTHF’s buses, I saw some other retired fishbowls from Timmins Transit One bus was stripped and appeared to have had the Jaws of Life taken to it by the fire department for practice on what to do in the event of a real bus accident. There were also five other ex GO Transit fishbowls that were in the yard that were still in the GO Transit livery. Four of them had been stripped of parts.



            Also at the garage, I saw all four of the ex GO Transit fishbowls that Timmins Transit used in revenue service. Two of them were being serviced while another was waiting to have its engine rebuilt. One was road ready, and although it wasn’t going into service later, Percy did give be a private charter on it for free! I was much thankful. The four ex GO fishbowls currently in service with Timmins Transit had their sealed windows replaced, but other then that, not seriously modified from when they were in service with GO Transit.



            After the tour, Percy gave me a ride back downtown where I stopped at a Wendy’s for lunch. After lunch, I took a long ride on fishbowl #78, another ex Victoria fishbowl to South Porcupine and back. I hoped that I wouldn’t run into that kid I saw the day before on the Northlander and the connecting bus. Fortunately, I didn’t see him again. When I got back downtown, I took a picture of bus 78. The driver covered her face when I took the photo.



            Next, I wandered over to where I could get a tour of a gold mine, but it was about to close. So I decided to head back downtown. After stopping at a Shopper’s Drug Mart, and getting dinner from a Subway restaurant, I rode one more ex Victoria fishbowl, (#77). Finally, I caught Timmins Transit’s only El Dorado bus back to my hotel. I got off at a mall about a block away because I saw that there was a carnival in the parking lot. Unfortunately, it was still in the process of being set up, so it wasn’t open. I went back to my hotel where I asked the front desk clerk to give me a wake up call at 7:00 the following morning. I then called a taxi to pick me up at 7:30 am the next morning to head to the bus station. Before I called it a night, I called home.


July 6th, 2005:


            After getting the wake up call, I finished packing and ate a cereal bar I had bought the day before. I checked out of the hotel and waited for the taxi. When I got to the bus terminal, I was early, so I bought a carton of milk from a place across the street. My bus to Sudbury was scheduled in at 8:20, but was a few minutes late. I knew timekeeping was important based on the assumption that VIA’s Toronto bound Canadian was on time, though more often then not, it runs late.


            This bus had a digital clock on board which I paid much attention to. The bus passed by where all Timmins Transit routes converge and I saw fishbowl 73 in service, so I got a quick shot of it from the bus. The bus was a local and stopped at several places including Gogama, Cartier, Levack, and Chelmsford. At one point, we stopped at a little restaurant and store. I just bought a bottle of Pepsi and a chocolate bar and got back on the bus. By looking at the clock, I could tell we were still behind schedule and it was going to be close if the Canadian was on time.


            However, things turned in my favor when the bus arrived at Sudbury. About a week earlier, I had called a local cab company to have a taxi waiting for me at the terminal. It was there, so once I got off the bus, I grabbed my luggage and ran through the terminal to my waiting taxi. After a 16 minute ride to the Sudbury Junction VIA station, I saw some people waiting on the platform which was a very good sign, even though it was less than 20 minutes before the Canadian’s scheduled arrival. I paid my fare, then got my luggage and waited for the Canadian to arrive. While waiting a couple CN freight trains and a train maintenance crew passed by. Finally, the Canadian arrived, almost an hour late.  I took a video of the train arriving before I got on.



            I was seated HEP1 coach #8129, the coach behind the baggage car. I stowed my luggage and relaxed. After my ticket was taken, I headed to the dome car which was three cars behind my car. I got something to eat from the snack bar and watched the view from the dome. At various points we took sidings while waiting for various freights to pass. I took one picture from the dome of the back end of the train which was for sleeping car passengers.



The train I rode was 19 cars long, but I’ve seen it with 30 cars. One of my friends out west told me he once saw it with 35 coaches!


The time passed. I grabbed some dinner. The train stopped at Parry Sound and Washago. The Canadian actually overtook at least one of the trains that had passed by Sudbury Junction while I was waiting for the train. Finally, we arrived in Toronto two hours late. I called home, and then took the subway to return home.



Closing thoughts:


This trip was quite enjoyable and everything seemed to go perfect for me with the exception of the little kid who bothered me on the bus I rode from Matheson to Timmins. The day after I got back, terrorists attacked London, England hitting three subway trains and a bus. I would later find out, I could have just ridden to Gogama, and picked up the Canadian there, though the timing would leave less than 10 minutes if the train and bus were on time, but I believe the bus station in Gogama is across the street from where the Canadian stops. If I decide to go back to Timmins, I may try riding the bus to Gogama, but only if the Canadian is running late. Until next time…