VIA Rail consist summaries

One of the first things that occurred to me when I first started leafing through Eric Gagnon’s excellent VIA Rail book “Trackside With VIA” is just how much great data he has provided inside. This is easily the largest collection of consist information I’ve ever had the chance to look through. What’s even better is that those consists are backed up with dates, train numbers and directions. This evening I started copying those consists into a little database to start playing around with them.

Years ago I had been curious about designing a layout inspired by the British “terminus to fiddle yard” approach. I wanted it to be passenger operations focused and thought I’d add in that it should be Canadian. My first thoughts were to set it in a late-eighties or early-nineties GO or STCUM/AMT scenario and I keep coming back to that. In fact though I settled on VIA thanks to a neat picture taken in one of VIA’s coach yards. I looked at the picture and the trains inside and thought about how many different operations one could model and represent and the idea sort of took place there. I tried researching this subject and learned a lot but not quite enough – that was until I picked up Eric’s book. I was thinking about that idea again today and thought I’d start copying in the car and engine numbers provided into the book.

I’m hoping that as I start to key in these trains, locomotives, cars, dates and directions some trends will start to appear. On the surface I’d expect to see some trends in train design and composition. A little deeper into the data I’m interested in seeing if any trends regarding turnaround time for individual cars starts to appear. For example: How long does a car stay at rest at it’s terminal station? For instance, if a coach arrived on an eastbound train how long until we could see it leave on the next train out?” I don’t know enough about VIA operations to know if cars stayed within a region or not. I’m trying to apply what I know about larger operations. Given the data’s perspective in Eastern Canada cars noted in the book terminate in Montreal. If a car moves to Montreal in the data and doesn’t re-appear for some time did it just sit in Montreal or did it head further east on a train to the Maritimes, Quebec City or northern Quebec?

I’ve always considered the golden age of Canadian railroading to be during the nineteen-seventies and it’s great that Eric divided his book accordingly. I’ll be using the data from his 1976-1981 section to play around with. I had a little time to start working on this and so far I’ve captured the period July 7, 1975 to June 19, 1976. I brought in all the data he’s provided and a field for:

  • Car or locomotive number
  • Reporting marks (some of the entries show CN or CP power)
  • Location where provided
  • Date
  • Train number
  • Direction

I hope this will provide some decent flexibility with the data and I’ve already given in to temptation to see if anything interesting starts to emerge. I’ll start a new post for what I’ve seen in a few minutes.

My apologies too. I linked to that picture on in this post. I love the treasure trove of photos shared on that website but I hate the pop-ups.

Categories: How I think, via rail

4 replies

  1. Good stuff, Chris. Indeed, one of the uses of the consist data is to establish frequencies and daily use of the CN/VIA equipment. I was surprised to see that the cars turned back fairly often, although not always the same consist. There was much less of a ‘trainset’ approach, and cars were mixed and matched in the coachyards. Today’s VIA coachyards are less randomized, and cars seem to stay together a bit longer. It’s indeed possible that some of the cars arriving in Montreal either laid over there or were used on one of CN/VIA’s other services between trips back along the Kingston Sub.

    Anyway, I’m glad the book is providing some useful feedstock for what looks to be a very interesting study you’ve embarked on. The paint transition data will provide some assistance with paint schemes, as I didn’t list this information directly. Having said that, some of the 1976 consists show cars/locomotives as ‘VIA’ for their first sighting by me in the VIA paint.


    • I’m really interested in seeing how cars moved based on what I can observe from the book’s data. I’m approaching this from having spent some time looking into how commuter railroads operate where the consists are not only a great deal more predictable but they are pretty much also fixed into one train set. A couple of Model Railroader articles on designing layouts based on passenger operations seemed to indicate that there could be some opportunity for switching in coach yards. Those articles were written for the 1950’s-era modeller but I have a feeling that it may apply equally well into later periods. I have a feeling that we may start to see groups of coaches that “always” appeared on certain trains but I’m also interested to see how quickly a car would return on the next train in the opposite direction and how cars were distributed. I would assume that we’d see more variety in applications for VIA’s blue fleet and to that same end I’d assume that the corrugated cars should be fairly predictable on named trains.

      • Sounds good, Chris. Take a look at some of the Corridor consists, and even the Canadian running on the Kingston Sub after November 1981 will have some interesting data for you to mine. Look for days when I was out for a few days in a row – they’ll no doubt be more interesting and useful.

        Also, I picked up a few GO Transit photos I’m going to snail mail to you – enjoy!

      • Wow I’m sure looking forward to the GO photos. I see more and more of them showing up on eBay lately. Not so many of the F40’s though. Perhaps they just weren’t as interesting to railfans then as the APCU’s and GP’s I guess.

        I will keep an eye out for successive days in your notes. Stay tuned. I’m going to try and key more in every day until I have that first period, during the seventies, finished.

        Thanks for gathering this great stuff in the first place.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: