Thursday, March 27, 2014

Cool Chromes -- VIA's Yellow Nose F40s

VIA Rail Canada; Lake Louise, Alberta; September 1988
The current F40PH paint scheme
VIA Rail Canada is the national railroad passenger carrier in the Great White North. After its inception in 1976 when it took over passenger operations from Canada's freight railroads (primarily Canadian National and Canadian Pacific) it set about to modernize its locomotive fleet. Much like Amtrak in the U.S., VIA settled on the F40PH locomotive from the Electro-Motive Division of General Motors. The locomotives came in an attractive silver and blue scheme with a bright yellow nose (such as No. 6404 above at Lake Louise, Alberta). In the years since, the F40 fleet has been thinned due to age, and the survivors all wear VIA's new scheme (inset). Here are a few of my favorite photos of the old paint scheme that served the F40 fleet so well.

We'll start in the Maritimes with the Ocean, VIA's train from Montreal to Halifax. Here No. 6409 is leading the eastbound train at Beaver Brook, New Brunswick. The "Canada" under the headlight was a later paint scheme modification, moving "VIA" to above the headlight, a positive development for the paint scheme.
VIA Rail Canada; Beaver Brook, New Brunswick; June 20, 2005
Sticking with the Maritimes, we next see the Bras D'Or, a fairly short-lived train that ran from Halifax to Sydney, Nova Scotia. Largely a tourist train, the once a week trip headed out of Halifax one day and returned the next through some spectacular oceanside scenery, We see the train at Boisdale in July 2002.
VIA Rail Canada; Boisdale, Nova Scotia; July 2002
LRC trainset with original locomotive
VIA purchased several sets of low-slung railcars with matching low-slung locomotives (for taking curves at higher speeds). The cars on the LRC train sets (Light Rapid Comfortable) would outlive the locomotives by quite a bit, so F40s could often be found towering over the trailing consist. Interestingly, even though the F40s had a much higher profile than the LRC locomotives, the higher speed limits for LRC trains on curves remained in place. F40 No. 6434 is dashing through the snow with an LRC trainset at Ile Perrot, Quebec, just a few minutes away from its destination in Montreal.
VIA Rail Canada; Ile Perrot, Quebec; December 12, 1997
Let's head to western Canada for a couple of shots. We'll start off in Revelstoke, British Columbia, as the Canadian makes is after-dark station stop. In the 1980s the Canadian railroads remained far friendlier and accessible than the U.S. railroads, which were beginning to clamp down on access due to liability. We went to the end of the platform with our flash gear before the train's arrival and asked an employee "where will the locomotive stop when it gets here?" His reply: "Where would you like it to stop?"
VIA Rail Canada; Revelstoke, British Columbia; September 1988
There is no scenery in North America quite like the Canadian mountains of Alberta and British Columbia. F40 No. 6428 pauses with the Canadian at Banff, Alberta, the gateway to the heart of the Rocky Mountains.
VIA Rail Canada; Banff, Alberta; September 1988
Certainly a favorite train for both photographers and riders is the Chaleur, a try-weekly train that runs on the Gaspe peninsula in Quebec. The train leaves Montreal combined with the Ocean for an overnight run to Matapedia. At daybreak the train is split, with the Ocean continuing to Halifax and the Chaleur proceeding to Gaspe. Adding to the train's charm is the equipment -- the coaches are all stainless steel cars produced by the Budd Company in the 1950s. There are several high bridges on the route, including this one at Ste. Therese, Quebec.
VIA Rail Canada; Ste. Therese, Quebec; July 2002
At Gaspe the train turns on the wye and pauses for a few hours before returning west, making it a perfect train for a day trip of either photography or riding. The train has discharged its passengers and is backing into the station for the lunch break after turning in the photo below. Alas, as this is written, the track on the Gaspe peninsula has deteriorated to the point where the Chaleur is now suspended. It's future is very much in doubt.
VIA Rail Canada; Gaspe, Quebec; July 2002
VIA has never been shy about painting its locomotives into rolling billboards. Everything from hardware stores to television stations to beer have been on the sides of F40s. I have had bad luck shooting most of these schemes, but the one scheme I did see (and I saw it a few times -- six F40s got the treatment) was for the Spiderman movie. We'll take a look at Spidey rolling through Bayview Junction near Hamilton, Ontario, to bring an end to our look at the yellow nose F40s of VIA.
VIA Rail Canada; Bayview Junction, Hamilton, Ontario; January 30, 2005

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