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NickD
NickD MegaDork
12/8/22 8:34 a.m.
Pete Gossett (Forum Supporter) said:

I noticed the other day that Amtrak has signage up in town, then saw an article that a tentative agreement had been reached between them, CSX, NS & the Mobile port authority to finally return service to the coast. However, they only have 6-months to complete the agreement. This seems a bit presumptive on Amtrak's part, but I hope their confidence proves to be true. 
 

Apparently there has been some sort of deal struck after the last set of hearings, but the details are confidential at this time.

In a joint statement, Amtrak, CSX Transportation, Norfolk Southern, and the Alabama State Port Authority say they have “collectively reached an agreement to support passenger and freight service in the Gulf Coast Corridor. … Due to the confidential nature of the settlement agreement, the parties are not able to provide further comment on its terms at this time.”

https://www.trains.com/trn/news-reviews/news-wire/amtrak-freight-railroads-say-they-have-a-deal-on-gulf-coast-service/

I'm curious how Amtrak is going to handle added routes, when they are struggling with equipment shortages currently. They have laid off a lot of their mechanical staff, they still haven't even chosen a replacement for the Amfleet coaches, the P42s are starting to develop mechanical troubles in their old age, and the new Siemens Chargers are having a lot of teething issues. Turns out that DEF systems are as much a clusterberkeley in rail service as they are in pickup trucks, and in the northwest they are sucking snow in and shorting out electrical components. It's actually gotten to the point where BNSF is demanding that in the winter, Amtrak doesn't dispatch the Empire Builder with solely Siemens Chargers for power. BNSF wants either a P42 and a Charger or solely P42s on the head end because they've had to rescue it several times when the Chargers have conked out.

Pete Gossett (Forum Supporter)
Pete Gossett (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
12/8/22 1:40 p.m.

In reply to NickD :

As much as I hope it all works out, my hunch is they could probably handle the traffic with a resurrected RDC or two. 

NickD
NickD MegaDork
12/8/22 4:28 p.m.

As I mentioned, I purchased that book on the later years of the D&H, and they go pretty in-depth on the explanation of how the D&H ended up outside of Conrail and was supposed to be the token competition. Wow, what a mess.

The whole problem started just after 1958. The New York Central's stocks dropped badly, causing president Robert Young to commit suicide, and putting Alfred Perlmann in charge. Perlmann immediately realized that the New York Central could not survive as it was and began hunting for merger partners. Having been in charge of the C&O previously, and knowing that the C&O was quite healthy, he approached the C&O with the idea of a three-way merger: the NYC, the C&O, and the B&O. The B&O also had a controlling interest in the Reading, which in turn had a controlling interest in the CNJ, allowing the Reading and CNJ to bridge the gap between the B&O and NYC in the New York City/New Jersey area. Unfortunately for Perlmann, the C&O just wasn't that interested. The NYC's state of fragility and it's many passenger service obligations turned off C&O shareholders, and there were also concerns about the B&O's level of debt as well. The Pennsylvania Railroad, under James Symes, also screamed bloody murder that the merger, if pulled off, would lead to the PRR's demise. Perlmann spent quite a bit of time flying back and forth to Switzerland, trying to garner support from the C&O's foreign investors, but wasn't able to convince them, and the merger was dumped. Ironically, today, CSX, heavily comprised of the B&O and C&O, ended up with the majority of the New York Central after splitting Conrail, so the concept was sound, but the turmoil from the NYC and B&O's financial conditions probably wouldn't have worked well at the time.

At the same time, the PRR was also not in great shape. It was for all intents and purposes, a 1920s railroad running in the 1950s. There were almost no hump yards, all their interlocking towers were still manned, there was no Central Traffic Control, and they were still holding onto 4-track mainlines even without the traffic to warrant keeping them. The PRR also owned the Detroit, Toledo & Ironton, which it had paid dearly for to buy from Henry Ford, and they owned 97% of shares of the Lehigh Valley, which was the "one road too many" of the East and was in quite poor shape, and they also had 44% of the Norfolk & Western's shares. The N&W, like the C&O, was heavy on freight, light on passenger obligations and had no money-draining commuter operations, and so was quite healthy. The N&W shares that the PRR owned were keeping the PRR afloat in the 1950s, and the PRR was even paying dividends solely off the money that the the N&W shares were paying them. With the NYC-B&O-C&O merger dead in the water, the NYC approached the PRR about a merger between the two.

On December 1st of 1959, the Norfolk & Western bought up the Virginian Railway, the "richest little railroad in the world" which possessed a 55% operating ratio that was the envy of the industry. The Virginian had long been a thorn in the side of the C&O and the N&W and the N&W was only to glad to scoop it up. Also, shortly after the N&W had purchased the Virginian, the Erie Railroad and the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western announced a formal merger, after years of consolidating operations, and became the Erie-Lackwanna Railroad. Then, just three months later, the N&W also made the announcement that it intended to also merge the Nickel Plate Road into them as well. Through negotiation with the ICC and other railroads, this merger also grew to include the Wabash, the Wheeling & Lake Erie, the Akron, Canton & Youngstown, and the Pittsburgh & West Virginia, and the N&W also purchased the PRR's 111-mile line between Sandusky and Columbus, making this the first modern mega-merger. In response, the C&O acquired a controlling interest in the B&O and began consolidating operations between the two, although they didn't dive into an exact merger. 

The PRR's hold on the Norfolk & Western caused a lot of consternation at the ICC though. The N&W/NKP/WAB merger paperwork hit the desk at the ICC almost the same time as the PRR/NYC merger paperwork and they were worried the PRR/NYC merger would end up with control of the N&W after the merger and make a giant railroad that would shut out every other competitor. The ICC gave the N&W the go-ahead after two years of proceedings, and the NKP, Wabash, W&LE, AC&Y, and P&WV all ceased to exist on October 16th 1964, rolled up into Norfolk & Western. The ICC also added a provision that at any time within five years after the merger, the Boston & Maine, Delaware & Hudson, and Erie-Lackawanna could seek inclusion into the new N&W system and that N&W would have to buy out their stocks at a rate set by the ICC.

No sooner had that merger cleared, the N&W and the C&O, and the B&O with it, began talks of a merger. The two were concerned that once the merger between the PRR and the NYC went through, they would be facing a giant railroad that had the potential to clobber both of them. They believed they would be more likely to get the ICC to approve this merger if they included the various smaller lines that would be hard-pressed to combat with the NYC/PRR conglomerate and the merged NYC/PRR. So, they set up a holding company that was originally called DERJCO, standing for Delaware & Hudson/Erie-Lackawanna/Reading/Jersey Central Company. They then decided that was too hard to pronounce and renamed it to Dereco. The idea was that the Dereco lines would operate as feeder lines for the two major systems and handle local traffic. The CNJ and the Reading were already controlled by the B&O, and so had no real say in the plan, but they had to convince the independent D&H and E-L to join in. The day after forming Dereco, the N&W and C&O met with Erie-Lackawanna representatives and hit them with a rather heavy-handed "take it or leave it" offer, which irked the E-L representatives and caused them to walk out, putting the brakes on the Dereco idea.

Then, on September 28th, 1965, the Erie-Lackawanna did an about-face and petitioned for the N&W to buy out the E-L under the 1964 N&W/NKP/WAB merger. By this point, the NYC/PRR merger was still ongoing but the ICC had moved to force the two railroads to also include the bankrupt New York, New Haven & Hartford into the merger as well. The Erie-Lackawanna was now going to lose it's friendly interchange partner into New England, and was going to have to try and compete against the giant merged NYC/PRR. The N&W knew that the E-L's otherwise healthy finances were being bled dry by NJ commuter obligations though, and wanted nothing to do with E-L, and so a series of court cases dragged on for two years, with the N&W fighting to keep the E-L out and the ailing E-L trying to get the 1964 agreement honored. Finally, after going all the way to the Supreme Court, the N&W was forced to take in the E-L, the D&H and the B&M, if those railroads wanted,and the N&W would have to buy them out prices set by the ICC . The E-L of course wanted in, and the D&H hoped that the cash infusion would do them good, although the D&H was still fairly profitable at the time. The Boston & Maine though foolishly held out, hoping for a better offer from the N&W for the buyout, oblivious to the fact that the ICC was the one who had set the rates. When the B&M went bankrupt in 1970, they tried to take the offer they had been given, only to learn that the ICC provision was only good for five years and had expired the year before, meaning that the N&W was no longer obligated to buy them out. And the N&W indeed, did not buy the B&M out. Due to the precarious financial situation that this unexpected buyout placed the N&W in, the merger with the C&O was placed on temporary hold.

At the same time as the ruling on E-L's inclusion into Dereco, the ICC came out and said that as a part of the PRR/NYC merger, the PRR would have to sell off all of the N&W shares, the same shares that had been keeping the PRR's head above the water, within ten years of the merger date. The PRR was also supposed to either sell off the Lehigh Valley, or set it afloat as an independent railroad, but they never actually did that and likely no one would have wanted the LV anyways. The ICC also forced NYC and PRR to take the bankrupt New York, New Haven & Hartford in one year after the merger date. The resulting giant, called Penn Central, came into existence on February 1st, 1968.

The D&H's hope for an influx of cash under Dereco never really came true. N&W viewed the E-L as the real prize of the two, since the eastern end was quite well engineered and it's route to Buffalo had massive clearances and bypassed most cities, making it good for long-haul runs. The D&H was viewed more as a nuisance, and so under the Dereco arrangement, the D&H was basically placed under the E-L's control. A lot of D&H management was siphoned off to the E-L during this era, and being sent to the D&H was viewed as a sort of exile or punishment. The irony was that the Erie-Lackawanna was bleeding cash at a rapid rate, thanks to those NJ commuter operations, while the D&H was still turning a pretty decent profit. Meanwhile, by 1970, it became obvious that Penn Central wasn't the boogeyman that C&O and N&W had thought it was going to be, and so both railroads quiety dropped their plans for a merger entirely.

The early '70s were a mixed bag for the D&H. Being partnered with the E-L under Dereco allowed smoother operation of run-through services. Even though B&M wasn't part of Dereco, there was still a close relationship with them , resulting in freight coming out of Chicago on the E-L, then transferring to the D&H at Scranton and then transferring to the B&M at Mechanicville and heading to pretty much anywhere in New England. While coal, particularly anthracite traffic fell off, paper products from New England continued to be a big industry, and was one of the primary cash cows of the D&H. Also, as Penn Central immediately fell into chaos, many customers chose to divert traffic off of the PC and over the E-L/D&H/B&M routing for more secured delivery in exchange for a somewhat slower and more expensive shipping. The mysterious burning of the Poughkeepsie Bridge broke the link between Penn Central and the Lehigh & Hudson River, forcing more traffic over the D&H, although at the expense of the L&HR (the book recounts that when the fire broke out, the L&HR president called the D&H and said "Well, the Poughkeepsie Bridge is burning, we're finished"). But on the flip side, the decaying service of Penn Central also drove money customers completely away from rail travel. Also, by 1974, every single American interchange partner with the D&H was completely insolvent (CP and CN north of the border were still in the black). The CNJ was bankrupt for the third time in 1967, and pulled completely out of PA in 1972, severing it's link with the D&H. The Penn Central went bankrupt in 1970 and the federal government soon made it so that while all other railroads had to pay the PC, the PC didn't have to pay any other railroads on their debts. They also idled the Sunbury line, severing the former PRR link to the D&H. The immediate ripple dragged other railroads down. The Lehigh Valley, still controlled by Penn Central, had always been a superfluous railroad in the markets it served and had been gutted by the loss of cement traffic due to the ICC deregulating cement haulage on the highways, and it bankrupt one month later. The Boston & Maine went bankrupt in 1970 after foolishly missing the train (pun intended) to join Dereco. The Erie-Lackawanna was devastated by Hurricane Agnes in 1972 when it wiped out 135 miles of it's mainline, and was dumped from Dereco by N&W.

The solution for the northeastern collapse actually came from an earlier proposal by Union Pacific, of all railroads. Uncle Pete had been watching the rapidly deteriorating situation in the north east and was concerned, since 25% of their interchange traffic came and went from that region. They knew that if things came completely undone in the northeast, it stood to effect them as well.  UP's suggestion was that the federal government revive the United States Railway Administration concept and use it to hammer out a plan with the northeast. The original idea was to merge Penn Central with most of the smaller railroads (Reading, L&HR, LV, CNJ) to form Conrail and leave the Erie-Lackawanna as a competitor to Conrail to prevent a monopoly.  Erie-Lackawanna at the time covered most of the same regions, was making advancements in piggyback train technology, and was starting to show signs of being a profitable railroad. The costly New Jersey commuter operations would be handed off to Conrail and subsidized by federal and state governments until a new operator could be found (what became New Jersey Transit). Unfortunately, Hurricane Agnes destroyed that plan at the same time that it wiped out the E-L's mainline.

The USRA's backup plan involved Chessie Systems. A holding company that jointly operated the C&O, B&O and Western Maryland with the C&O basically in charge, Chessie Systems was going quite strong at the time, and served a fair amount of the markets that Conrail would also serve, as well as being roughly equivalent size. The idea was that Chessie Systems would be handed the Erie-Lackawanna from Sterling, Ohio east (the west end would be abandoned) as well as the Reading to "fill in the blanks" in the Pennsylvania region. Chessie Systems was on board with the plan, and sat down to make labor agreements with E-L and Reading employees. Again, the E-L was the wrench in the works. Chessie Systems wanted E-L and Reading employees to operate under C&O's more modern labor plans, with three-man crews, but neither railroad would budge. Chessie Systems tried extending an olive branch, by instead offering them the B&O's slightly more onerous labor agreements, which were still better (from a business sense) than the E-L's, which required 6-man crews. Reading was willing to come to the table, but the E-L refused to even negotiate with Chessie Systems, and the federal government tried to take the stance that it would be easier to convince Chessie Systems to agree to the E-L's demands than the other way around. At the eleventh hour, Chessie Systems stunned the USRA when they walked away from the deal, leaving them with no railroad to fulfill the requirement of offering competition to Conrail.

At the same time, the D&H was trying to get a loan from the USRA. The D&H had seen that with the formation of Conrail, they could form a vital link as N&W and Chessie's bridge line to New England and Canada, and so was interested in staying independent from Conrail. D&H wanted a $37 million loan to purchase the Wilkes-Barre branch from Penn Central to make new connections, to purchase 20 new EMD GP39-2s, and to refinance long-term debts. The USRA instead chose to use the opportunity to strongarm the D&H into Conrail's competition. They threw down the terms of "take a $26 million loan and become Conrail's competition or go bankrupt", knowing that they had the D&H over a barrel. Everyone knew that it was a bad plan, that the D&H wasn't large or strong enough to function in that role and that the whole thing was thrown together too fast and without enough thought, but there wasn't another option at that point in time. The D&H took the deal, receiving $11 million less than they needed, and almost overnight the D&H went from a 700 mile bridge line to a 1400 mile railroad. The problem was, none of it was well-thought or enforced. The D&H was handed trackage rights to locations like Philadelphia, Buffalo, and Potomac Yard in Alexandria but was only allowed to serve trains to the terminals. They were not allowed to pursue customers anywhere along those trackage rights. Those rights over Conrail also had no way of ensuring fair treatment, and Conrail had no intentions of playing nice. D&H trains were stuck in yards for hours on end, thrown in every passing siding they came to, and there was nothing the D&H could do about it. Also, while Conrail was given billions of dollars that they never had to pay back, the money that the D&H was given was a loan that had to be paid back. And even then, it wasn't even the amount of money that the D&H had needed to keep running with what they had, let alone when they doubled in size. The whole thing was basically guaranteed to fail, and resulted in D&H coming back several times for further loans and then eventually being put up for sale by N&W and sold to Guilford Rail for $500,000.

NickD
NickD MegaDork
12/8/22 7:51 p.m.

One of the biggest examples of the poor planning that led into the D&H's "competitor" status was the Apollo piggyback trains. These had been the Lehigh Valley's pride and joy, an intermodal train that ran from Chicago to Oak Island. They came out of Chicago on the N&W, then were handed off to the LV at Buffalo over the former NKP. LV then took them the rest of the way to Oak Island. The USRA viewed the Apollo as a carrot for the D&H, to balance out the bankruptcy stock. The D&H had trackage rights on Conrail to Buffalo over the former Erie from Binghamton east, and then down to Oak Island Yard on the former Lehigh Valley from Allentown, so they just had to make the interchange with N&W. Unfortunately it played out very differently in real world scenarios.

First, Conrail could make the same Chicago-New York run a by itself, while the D&H and N&W were sharing their profits. 

Second, the move required 382 miles of expensive trackage rights from Conrail from Bison Yard to Jefferson Junction. Clearance issues on the Belden Tunnel east of Binghamton required the trains to stay on Conrail rails further than the interchange point. Then it had to go up the D&H's Penn Division, a route that was slow, curvy and 15 miles longer than the original LV division..also, there was Mount Ararat in the way, which required helpers to get over.

Third, the D&H got killed on crew changes. The D&H was still running five-man crews and had to change crews at Hornell, Lanesboro, Dupont and Allentown, meaning there was 25 paid employees on the job, not counting the helper crews at Ararat. Conrail meanwhile had 3-man crews, and on the same Buffalo-New York segment changed at Syracuse and Selkirk. That was just 9 men and no helper crews, thanks to that NYC Water Level Route.  It got worse later on when Conrail went to 2-man crews and dumped the change at Syracuse. 

The D&H busted their ass running the Apollos as best they could, assigning the best motive power and stretching their staff thin to make sure that those trains always had crews available. They fought tooth and nail with Conrail over dispatching and tried to keep on time as best they could. And then after a year of running them, they started doing the math and realized it cost them $231 per loaded container moved, and revenues were only $174 per container. Multiplied by the 51,480 containers the moved, and the Apollos cost the D&H $2.9 in the first year. There was also a a bad effect on morale, with all the hard work going towards an effort that was costing them badly, instead of developing more profitable businesses.

The D&H ended up filing for approval to add an $80 surcharge to either drive off customers and allow them to end the service or make it profitable. The ICC held up the surcharge approval process though, and the continued unprofitability was used to remove president Bruce Sterzing later on. Conrail took the study on the Apollo profits and ran to the USRA and basically said "Look, the D&H is losing their ass, they shouldn't be handling this thing." The USRA then felt that Sterzing was being an ineffectual leader and forced him out.

NickD
NickD MegaDork
12/9/22 4:10 p.m.

What's particularly inane about NS's relationship with the D&H is that they owned the D&H, then sold it off, and then ended up buying back part of it for considerably more than they sold it for.

The N&W owned it under Dereco, as I mentioned above, and it was in okay shape. Not great but better than literally every other surrounding railroad. Then it got run down pretty bad after it was forced to compete with Conrail. Then they sold it to Guilford, who either raped and pillaged it or tried to make necessary cutthroat changes to save it, depending on who you talked to, and then intentionally bankrupted it and kicked it out the door over union disputes. Then after NYS&W ran it as directed service operator, it went up for sale and NS never even made a move on it (bizarrely, Guilford actually bid on the railroad they had just bankrupted and evicted though). CP bought it and then could never get the southern end to do much, and so they sold the lower 282 miles to NS.

If you're hoping for an NS heritage unit in D&H colors though, sadly that won't happen. CP still owns the D&H name and rights, they just sold some trackage to NS. Technically the D&H still exists, it just doesn't own any equipment or have any public identity.

NS got really close to a D&H heritage unit with their first AC44C6M rebuild (a DC Dash-9 rebuilt to AC44CW specs) which wore a fan-designed gray, blue and yellow livery. Shortly after rolling out, it went back into the shop and had the yellow replaced with black, and while NS said the reason was for legibility, the rumor is that CP threw a fit and said it was trademark infringement.

NickD
NickD MegaDork
12/9/22 9:35 p.m.

I wasn't sure I'd make a post about this, but I guess it's an amusing example of how hit-or-miss railfanning can be. I had today off because I had vacation time to burn before the end of the year. I had some stuff to do, but I figured I would go to Utica in the morning and catch NYS&W UT-1 in action on the Utica Branch. I really wanted to see them run up Schuyler Street, and in particular I was hoping to catch them switching cars into F.X. Matt Brewery. I know that UT-1 runs every week day and goes on call around 9:30am.

I go down and park by the old DL&W freight house that NYS&W operated out of, and I can see GP40 #3040 at the west end of the yard. The lights are on and I can hear it idling, but there's no other signs of activity. 

While I'm standing there, Mohawk, Adirondack & Northern C424 #2453 comes up out of the east end of the yard with a string of tank cars. I know the MA&N fairly frequently makes runs west to Rome to deliver tank cars to an olive oil plant. Also, around this time of year, the MA&N stores cars on the line north to Boonville. So now I'm thinking may chase the MA&N to either Rome or Booneville, because those are rarer opportunities. The MA&N doesn't really seem to operate on a fixed schedule.

Then the #2453 shoves the string of cars back down into the east end of the yard, uncouples from them, runs back east and putters around a bit before shutting down. Ooookay, guess they aren't going out.

It's about 10:30 now, and I start seeing guys in hi-viz vests wandering around the west end of the yard, throwing switches and walking around cars. Okay, looks like the NYS&W is getting ready to go. And then, nothing. There's guys around, the locomotive is running, but nothing is moving. I wait and wait and wait.

Then I see a huge plume of smoke from the east end of the yard by the MA&N shop. Maybe they are going out. I drive down that way, and #2453 is still sitting where they shut it down. But C424 #2456 is idling outside the shops, coupled to M420W #2042, which is not running. But no one around, and no other signs of activity. In retrospect, I wonder if the Adirondack was running a Polar Express train tonight and MA&N was preparing #2456 as protection power.

I go back and check on the NYS&W side of things and now I see no one, although the #3040 is still idling away. At this point, I've been here about three hours and some CSX and Amtrak trains have gone through, but neither operation I want to see seems to be doing anything, and I still had other things to do. So, two swings, two misses. And sometimes that's how it goes.

NickD
NickD MegaDork
12/9/22 10:12 p.m.

On the subject of the MA&N, they finally repainted and renumbered the #805. MA&N, as part of Genesee Valley Transportation, uses the white, gray, yellow and red livery of GVT and the GVT numbering system, which has the first two digits for the horsepower and the last two digits are the last two digits are the last two digits of the original owner's number. So MA&N #2042 is a 2000hp M420W and was originally BCRail #642. The #2456 and #2453 buck the numbering trend, wearing their original Erie-Lackawanna numbers, but have the GVT look.

MA&N #805 has long been the outlier. It still wore the BCRail two-tone green lightning stripe livery, albeit quite weathered and with Mohawk, Adirondack & Northern lettering, and it still had it's BCRail number. The #805 is also the least frequently seen of the MA&N's power and I had honestly assumed it was out of service. The last time I personally saw it run was in high school, when it smoked out the entire athletics field during gym class when it went by.

Well, recently GVT had it repainted, but not into the GVT corporate look. Instead, since it was the first of four C425s acquired by GVT from BCRail for use on the MA&N, they decided to repaint it in fresh BCRail colors and renumber it to it's original Erie-Lackawanna number of #2455. And, wow, is it sharp.

 

NickD
NickD MegaDork
12/10/22 1:55 p.m.

BCRail ended up with a bunch of C425s in 1975 after the bankrupt Erie-Lackawanna was unable to make the payments and they were repossessed. Then fifteen years later, they were repatriated to the US by Genesee Valley Transportation when they purchased several and moved them down to Utica for their new Mohawk, Adirondack & Northern line. 

NickD
NickD MegaDork
12/10/22 1:56 p.m.

NickD
NickD MegaDork
12/10/22 1:56 p.m.

NickD
NickD MegaDork
12/12/22 12:18 p.m.

Four of BCRail's GMD GF6C electrics lead an empty coal train downgrade on the BCR's Tumbler Ridge Subdivision. In the early '80s, BCRail built an electrified 82-mile subdivision to serve two coal mines northeast of Prince George. Due to close proximity to W. A. C. Bennett Dam, steep grades, and heavy trainloads, the decision was made to build the line to use electric locomotives. EMD, with a partnership with ASEA, designed seven 6000hp C-C locomotives that ran on 50kV AC catenary.

NickD
NickD MegaDork
12/12/22 12:24 p.m.

NickD
NickD MegaDork
12/12/22 12:32 p.m.

GF6C #6001 doing early testing on the Tumbler Ridge Subdivision. You can see someone checking either the axle bearing or traction motors or brake shoes on the rear truck. The three SD40-2s on the back are likely being used to simulate a load by putting them in dynamic braking mode. A couple years into service, the GF6Cs started burning up traction motors, and GMD downrated them to 4000hp to keep them together.

NickD
NickD MegaDork
12/12/22 12:39 p.m.

Sadly the Tumbler Ridge Subdivision ended up being quite expensive to construct, and was also never quite as profitable as BCRail had hoped. When one of the mines closed, BCRail began to throw in the towel and eventually idled the line and tore down the catenary in 2000. The Tumbler Ridge Subdivision has seen various spurts of activity over the years in the Canadian National era of ownership, although it serves entirely different mines now and has loadouts in completely different location.

NickD
NickD MegaDork
12/12/22 2:50 p.m.

An interesting caboose, modified to serve as a maintenance and test platform for the catenary at Tumbler Ridge.

NickD
NickD MegaDork
12/13/22 10:06 a.m.

British Columbia Railway, or the Pacific Great Eastern as it was originally named, was supposed to build an extension that would connect to the Alaskan railroad network. Sadly, due to the PGE's own economic frailty and mismanagament and the expense of construction, they stopped construction after getting within one hundred miles of the Rubicon. To this day, Alaska's rail network remains entirely disconnected from the rest of the North American rail network. That connection has been talked about for over a century, and even as recently as 2019 there were plans to try and build to connect to the Alaksa Railroad.

02Pilot
02Pilot PowerDork
12/13/22 10:12 a.m.

I just read this BBC piece on the Skeena that links Jasper and Prince Rupert. Is that the track that was supposed to connect to Alaska?

NickD
NickD MegaDork
12/13/22 11:02 a.m.

In reply to 02Pilot :

It was actually the line out of Fort St. John north to Fort Nelson, now the Fort Nelson Subdivision. It was supposed to go north into the Yukon and then head east into Alaska, presumably to Fairbanks. The later line to Dease Lake also would have been within striking distance but was never finished. They graded the entire line to Dease Lake, but only laid track as far as Jackson Creek. The grading was double what was budgeted, the world demand for copper and asbestos was on the decline, and the Cassiar Highway to Dease Lake had already seen significant upgrades, making the rails to Dease Lake rather superfluous.

02Pilot
02Pilot PowerDork
12/13/22 11:28 a.m.

In reply to NickD :

Got it. They would have crossed at Prince George, where the Skeena stops for the night.

NickD
NickD MegaDork
12/13/22 12:39 p.m.

In reply to 02Pilot :

Vancouver to Prince George was the original Pacific Great Eastern route. The PGE was chartered in 1912 as a private railroad that would offer service from Vancouver north to Prince George, where it would make a connection with the Grand Trunk Pacific Railroad. The Grand Trunk Pacific, along with the Grand Trunk Western, Grand Trunk Eastern and Central Vermont were all owned by parent company Grand Trunk Railway , which became part of Canadian National after WWI. GTP's western terminus was Prince Rupert, which was less than ideal, so by working with PGE they could access Vancouver, which was a much better terminus. 

Rather than start from Prince George, where they could have immediately started handling interchange traffic while they built south, they took over the Howe Sound & Northern Railway, which had built 9 miles north of Squamish and went from there. By 1915 they had built tracks 176 miles north to Squamish, but the railroad was running out of money, and that same year defaulted on the bonds. In the 1916 provincial election campaign, the Liberal Party claimeed that some of the money advanced to the railway for bond guarantee payments had instead gone into Conservative Party campaign funds. In the 1916 election, the Conservatives, who had won every seat in the legislature in 1912 election, lost to the Liberals. The Liberals then took the railway contractors to court to recover $5 million of allegedly unaccounted funds. In early 1918, the railway's backers agreed to pay the government $1.1 million and turn the railway over to the government.

When the government took over the railway, two additional separate sections of trackage had been completed: A small twenty-mile section from Horseshoe Bay south to North Vancouver, and one between Squamish and Clinton. By 1921, the provincial government had extended the railway to a point 15 miles north of Quesnel, still 80 miles south of the promised connection to Prince George, but it was not extended further. The track north of Quesnel was later removed. Construction of the line between Horseshoe Bay and Squamish was given a low priority because there was already a barge in operation between Squamish and Vancouver, and the railway wanted to discontinue operations on the North Vancouver-Horseshoe Bay line. However, the railway had an agreement with the municipality of West Vancouver to provide passenger service that it was unable to get out of until 1928, when they paid the city $140,000 in support of its road-building program. The last trains on the line ran on November 29, 1928, and the line fell into disuse, but was never formally abandoned.

For the next 20 years the railway ran basically from nowhere to nowhere. It did not connect with any other railway, there were no large settlements on its route, and it existed mainly to connect logging and mining operations in the province interior with the coastal town of Squamish, where resources could then be transported by sea. The government still intended for the railway to reach Prince George, but the resources to do so were not available, especially during the the Great Depression and WWII. The continual failure to deliver on it's promises and it's continued weak financial statement caused the PGE to be given nicknames like "Province's Great Expense"," "Prince George, Eventually", "Past God's Endurance", "Please Go Easy", and "Puff, Grunt and Expire".

In the post-WWII era, the PGE got a new lease on life. Track was relaid north of Quesnel to a junction with the Canaddian Naitonal at Prince George. That line opened on November 1, 1952, forty years after construction on the PGE began. Between 1953 and 1956 the PGE constructed a line between Squamish and North Vancouver, using their former right-of-way between North Vancouver and Horseshoe Bay. Proving that people are the same in every era, residents of West Vancouver were not pleased about this development, since they had believed the line was abandoned and encroached on the right of way. That line opened on August 27, 1956. By 1958 the PGE had reached north from Prince George to Fort St. John and Dawson Creek and met the Northern Alberta Railway, a jointly-owned CNR/CPR line.

In 1958 British Columbia premier W.A.C. Bennett promised that he would extend the railway to the Yukon and then Alaska, and further extension of the railway was undertaken in the 1960s. A 23-mile spur was constructed to Mackenzie in 1966. A third line was extended west from the mainline north of Prince George to Fort St. James, completed on August 1, 1968. The largest construction undertaken in the 1960s was to extend the mainline from Fort St. John 250 miles north to Fort Nelson, less than 100 miles away from the Yukon. The Fort Nelson Subdivision was opened by Premier Bennett on September 10, 1971 but the opening of the line was overshadowed by the inaugural train derailing south of Williams Lake, south of Prince George.

In 1972, the Pacific Great Eastern ceased to exist, as the railway's name was changed to the British Columbia Railway. The British Columbia Railway would ultimately be as profitable as the PGE wasn't, posting profits in every year from 1972 to 2000.

02Pilot
02Pilot PowerDork
12/13/22 1:14 p.m.

In reply to NickD :

It seems as if the government has been involved in keeping passenger service alive on the Skeena route as well, to the primary benefit of the local communities. From the BBC article:

As the sun began to drop, turning the lakes to molten lava, the train slowed into Prince George for its obligatory stopover. After most passengers disembarked, tourists filtering off into nearby hotels, I spoke to train engineer Ed Neis and discovered that the Skeena was once an overnight service. "We had a cook car on here, we had roomettes at the back, it was beautiful. I think they phased it out in 1993," said Neis. "The downturn in the economy was bad, and so the railways got together with the local mayors and made an agreement with these communities to bring business to them. They agreed that this train would stop over in Prince George. If we put it straight through again, the ridership would shoot up."

NickD
NickD MegaDork
12/13/22 2:01 p.m.

BCRail was also noteworthy for, from 1974 to 2000, being the only North American Class I railroad that was offering regularly-scheduled passenger service pulled by a steam locomotive. They leased Canadian Pacific Royal Hudson #2860 and Canadian Pacific 2-8-0 #3716 and ran regular trips from Vancouver to Squamish and back behind the steam locomotives. By the end of 2000, the #2860 and the #3716 were both out of service and the operation ran for another year behind an FP7 before being discontinued.

I must admit, I find the streamlining efforts of Canadian Pacific to be of questionable intent. CPR Royal Hudson #2839 received the nickname "The Beer Can" when it was running on the Southern Railway, and it is an apt comparison. The 4-4-4 Royal Jubilees, the later G3g Pacifics, and the P2h Mikados had a similar look that I don't care for. 

NickD
NickD MegaDork
12/13/22 4:39 p.m.

The Canadian passenger train I really wanted to ride was VIA's Canadian, which is Toronto-Vancouver service, covering 2,775 miles over 3 days and 22 hours. It has sleeper cars, a dining car, conventional dome cars, panoramic roof cars, and even an old Park-series round-end observation/dome car. 

Sadly, I think I might have missed the window or might end up waiting a few years to attempt it. Covid seems to have really screwed that service up. On top of the difficulty of crossing the border into Canada, they require wearing masks at all times regardless of vaccination status, shower usage has to be scheduled with the concierge for disinfecting, they've temporarily discontinued the panorama car, the dome cars have their seating reduced, and all onboard activities/performances have been put on indefinite hiatus. Also, system-wide, VIA Rail is requiring attaching a "buffer car" behind the Park-series roundtail observation cars, which kind of negates the point of a roundtail observation car.

02Pilot
02Pilot PowerDork
12/13/22 4:59 p.m.

In reply to NickD :

I've wanted to ride that one for some time as well. I could either take Amtrak up to Montreal, then connect from there, or get myself to Halifax, NS and ride all the way across the country (seeing the train parked at the station in Halifax years ago was what sparked my interest, seeing the domes and observation cars). Too bad about the current state of affairs; hopefully things will get sorted out sooner rather than later.

NickD
NickD MegaDork
12/14/22 8:40 a.m.

The whole "buffer car" situation is really ridiculous. VIA Rail is saying that there are structural issues with the old stainless-steel cars that were updated to HEP and that as a precaution they are placing an empty sleeper car between the locomotives and the first car of the train and on the rear of the train behind the last occupied car. So that means that on any train equipped with a Parks-series round-end/dome observation car, you pay extra money to get a nice view of the vestibule of an empty sleeper car behind you. Really, at that point, just dump the Parks-series cars for the time being. From what I've heard, they're even employing buffer RDCs on the Sudbury-White River RDC run.

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