Sunday, 11 November 2012

Lest We Forget

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years contemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them

The above verse from Laurence Binyon's "For the Fallen" was once again read just prior to the March of the Veterans in Charlottetown earlier today.  Take time to remember both the fallen and the living.

Saturday, 10 November 2012

Save the Northern New Brunswick Trains

I stumbled across a fantastic group on Facebook the other night, entitled Save our Trains in Northern New Brunswick.  Less than a month ago, the Ocean was reduced to three days a week from six.  With the state of Acadian Lines and the lack of regional airports it would become difficult for those residents to travel should they lose the train as well.  I know Charlo, Bathurst and Mirimichi all offered regional flights but Charlo's flights have since been moved to Bathurst.  All of this has several of my undergraduate friends studying in Charlottetown but spending the rest of the year living at home in Northern New Brunswick and on the Gaspe worried.

Worst yet, CN has begun the process of abandoning the INR line between Moncton and Campbellton due to increasing maintance costs and decreasing customers.  They would like to up and leave by 2014.  Rail service in Eastern Canada is certainly a shadow of its former self, with CP selling off its lines east of Megantic, QC in the early 1990's and CN abandoning or selling everything east of Montreal but the ICR and   NTR in NB, and the Amherst-Halifax line in NS.

This was the state of passenger service in 1989.  At this time, CN had just abandoned the NFLD railway and Charlottetown and Fredricton were connected with a bus service.  The entire system of PEI would be abandoned by the end of the year.

The site also has some fantastic historical photos, many of which I have never seen before.  Most focus of the northern part of the province, particularly Campbellton, but there are a few Gaspe and even some Tide Head shots as well.

Monday, 5 November 2012

Train Schedule on the Gaspe

I've been doing my research to determine how many trains once traversed the Chandler and Cascapedia Subdivisions as well as when and how often.  I had it narrowed down, mostly from captions on photos, or talking to Dominique the Stationmaster, Peter the Engineer and Boyd the Conductor in New Carlisle over the years.  When I received my 2012 Trains en Gaspesie calender, there was a booklet in the envelope, which outlined the history of the line, bilingual I might add.  To my surprise, there was a paragraph on train numbers inside!  This, for the most part, finalized what I knew about movements on the line, which I summarized in the table below.

Matepedia -Gaspe           (daily)
Matapedia-New Carlisle

New Carlisle-Gaspe 

No records
Matapedia-Gaspe   (Monday-Saturday)

Matapedia-Gaspe (Sundays)
same as above
118/119 (daily) between Matapedia-Gaspe

621/622 (daily) between Montreal-Gaspe

630/631 (daily) between Matapedia-Gaspe
-used railliners 
Matapedia-New Carlisle

New Carlisle-Gaspe

-same as above
-sometime in this period 630/631 was dropped 
-same as above 
-sometime in this period 747-748 was dropped
-towards 1980, all freights renumbered to 594/595
621/622 became 16/17  (Montreal-Gaspe)
“The Chaleur”
-originally ran daily, but was cut to six days by 1998, later to the current three
594/595 (daily) ran from Campbellton, NB-Gaspe           

This information is accurate to the best of my knowledge.  It's simply amazing for a line of 202.4 miles to have five separate freights daily.  They really were busy up until the late 1970's it seems.  It should be noted that the Cascapedia Subdivision is 98 miles long, running between Matapedia and New Carlisle and the Chandler Subdivision is 102.4 miles long, stretching from New Carlisle to Gaspe.  During the 1980's until 1998, it was rare for a freight to travel past Chandler more than once a month or so.  At that time copper ore from Murdochville was loaded into 40' boxcars at Sandy Beach (Gaspe) and the main shippers were by far Gaspesia Paper in Chandler and Smurfit Stone in New Richmond.

Now all I have to do is determine things like times, common consists, commodities hauled and so fourth between 1970 and 1980, which is the specific period I would like to model.

Saturday, 3 November 2012

Gaspesie - First Diesels and the Railliner

Most are unaware that the Gaspe was used by CN for the better part of the twentieth century as a testing ground for new equipment.  Although PEI was the first province to fully dieselize, the first diesels were tested on the Gaspe in the fall of 1951.  A year prior, CN ordered fifteen H10-64 locomotives from the Canadian Locomotive Company, a subsidary of Fairbanks-Morse.  7600 through 7614 were delivered the next fall and exclusively assigned to the Gaspe.  I don't think I have to comment on the result of the testing..

There is actually a photo of my grandfather which I must make a copy of, where he is peeking out of the cab of 7600 in the siding at Point a la Croix.  He always spoke very negatively of the early diesels however, as did most people.
"The Fairbanks-Morse engines were junk," he would say, "they were always breaking down from electrical problems that we [the head end crew] didn't know how to fix like we did with the steam engines. The 1800 HP MLW's [RS-18] were a much better engine, they were real workhorses, if you started with four on the head end of a freight in Matapedia you were lucky to have two still running past New Carlisle, but yet the two worked on.   The 3000 and 3600 HP [C630M and M636] to follow were great pullers and the 5300's [SD40-2W] were a great, heavy engine." - L.K. Main
To him, the later MLW's and first/second generation GMDD's were great engines, but nothing compared to the steam engines for him.

The first "railliners" or Budd Rail Diesel Cars were tested on the coast as well.  These self propelled passenger cars would run in consists usually ranging from one to three cars.  A good example is shown here, in a post by Steve Boyko.  My grandfather actually drove these for the better part of two years.
"Those railliners were a scary thing, you would ride with one hand on the throttle and the other on the door handle.  There was no crew protection." - L.K. Main
I have yet to see a photo of a frontal collision, but I would imagine that it would not end well for the crew as track speed for the railliners varied between 10 and 45 miles per hours.  After VIA Rail was created in the late 1970's, they were passed on to VIA who continued to run them daily as train 621/622 up until the VIA cuts of 1983.  Gramps never worked for VIA so he was taken off the passenger trains presumably in 1979.

Trains en Gaspesie

T rains en Gaspesie is a web site maintained by Andre Berthelot and Bernard Babin.  Although I have never met either man personally, I have exchanged many emails with Bernard.  It turns out he grew up in New Carlisle West, several houses down from the site of my grandmother's family homestead, long gone.  The tracks ran right behind his house and there was a level crossing, now an overpass, to the west of the house he grew up in.  Below is the crossing in question, a steel overpass built in 1986 at the town's western limit.

Unfortunatly, there used to be another Trains en Gaspesie, hosted by a different website.  Last year however, that company went under as did their site.  Recently, they were able to reconstruct the site using a different host.  There still isn't the volume of content that there once was, but more photos are constantly being added.

Bernard also works to produce a calender each year with historic or more recent photos of operations on the line.  I believe last year was the first one and one other calender similar calender was released years ago by the Rotary Club of New Richmond, but it lacked the historical content of Babin's work.  I encourage anyone who has the chance to purchase a copy. This year, the calender came with a separate booklet to go with the theme of "100 years of passenger service on the Gaspe" highlighting the achievements of the line.

Bernard and Andre also have their own Youtube sites:

Friday, 2 November 2012

So it's been a while.

Well I guess its been a good while since I've posted here and I would like to change that.  Since we are getting into late fall here and fly fishing wrapped up on Wednesday, that shouldn't be an issue.

I'm starting to get the feeling that I'm taking on a few too many projects, however I'm ok with that.  Currently I still have those locomotives for a man in England to finish.  After waiting all summer, I finally got the steps that were backordered and both the SD40-2W and the SD40U are nearing completion.  As for myself, I still have a small fleet of RS-18's that I would like to build and currently have two on the go as well as an SD40 and a SD40-2W for myself.  I also have three Kaslo kits, an M420W, an HR-412 and a GP9RM.  The GP9 might be a little out of my era but they look so cool.  Also recently acquired was a Kato F40PH, earmarked to become a VIA unit prior to the rebuilds. I'm thinking 6424, as I've seen that one so much.  I always wanted to do one, and now Kaslo has come out with a metal etch kit with all the fine details.  The Kaslo kits and F40 however will have to wait for a while, the price was right at the time sort of thing.

I haven't put much time into the layout lately as I've been scratchbuilding and fishing lately, so hopefully that will change.  One thing I have been doing is researching the Gaspe line, as I want to model it at some point.  Currently, the future of the line is, in my opinion, still very much up in the air.  The Chaleur is running as far as New Carlisle and I believe it will be a year this November since it has traveled to Gaspe.  In my research I have found some neat things I never knew existed, such as a feed mill in Caplan and both a Fina (later Petro Canada) and a Texco oil storage facilities right in New Carlisle.  One major help was the New Carlisle stationmaster, who allowed me to look through a dozen or so photoalbums of hers dating back to 1986.  She even agreed to scan and email me copies of any photo that interested me.  Below is one of them...
...the derailed cars block the view of the tanks, but notice the Texaco sign on the long since demolished building.  Today, all that remains is the chain link fence that once surrounded the tanks.  I found out a lot more about the track layouts at both Gaspesia Paper in Chandler and Smurfit Stone in New Richmond.  Both buildings are now gone but there were some great photos online showing what they once looked like.  Other stops along the line include a fertilizer depot, several other oil storage facilities, lumber mills and a few other feed mills, even a small grain elevator.  These will someday make for great switching points.

New Carlisle still a busy place in 1988.  This is much as I remember it until the late 1990's when CN finally up and left.

I actually made three trips up this summer, with my grandfather's fall being the reason.  The only good thing to come out of this was that I had the chance to travel right around the coast for the first time, from New Carlisle to Gaspe, from there right around the tip through Forillon National Park to Ste Anne des Monts, down the Cascapedia River Valley and back to New Carlisle, all in all a 14 hour trip.  Since the rail line runs parallel to most of the road, I was also able to photograph most of the bridges along the way.

Three M420W's and two plows weight in the siding at Gaspe for the Chaleur in 1995.  

The only down side of it all was that my grandfather, the main source of my knowledge of the line, passed away this summer, following complications from a bad fall at the age of 90.  Here he is departing Campbellton, NB, abord RS-18 3624 which would lead train 594, his last.

He never liked to talk about his work very much, he was a funny guy that way.  He never liked his job from what I could tell.  He blamed the dynamic brake handle for causing a bad cord in his hand and his bad hearing on the whistles, even though I'm told his mother was also deaf.  The only thing he did like were the steam engines, he said missed working on those.  I guess its like dad always said, "The Merchant Navy was a service and the railroad was just a job."  He never spoke much of the Merchant Navy much either, other than the ship he was assigned to, the SS Ganondoc.  This clip, which my cousin discovered this past spring, is the most I have ever heard him speak of the war.  

It looks like we will be travelling to the big city of Toronto for Christmas this year so I hope to have a chance to do some railfanning, as well as visit the train store once again, as three years is a long time.