Commuter Rail

You could GO home

On a nicer summer afternoon I would ride down from “the mountain” and get off my bus around GO Transit’s former Toronto, Hamilton & Buffalo Hunter Street station. I consider the station itself to be one of the most attractive pieces of railway architecture anywhere and it’s preservation a real tribute to the attitude of “doing it right” in so many ways.

GO trains leaving Hamilton for Toronto exited the station and into a tunnel, under the City, and my walk home would take me over that tunnel’s entrance. Most days I could time a walk to match the departure of an evening train and this evening was no different. These three photos remind me of just such a time.

I remember thinking I should probably get around to “someday” spending more time photographing GO’s F59’s but they just seemed ever-present and as permanent part of the landscape that there was never a rush. Not many years after I took these photos I’d be proven wrong. Come to think of it, I’ve probably taken more photos of these GO diesels in Montreal commuter service than I did when they were on home turf.


RBRX 18524 (former GO Transit) at Dorval, Quebec, in AMT service. November 4, 2010.

We’ll always have Dorval

My “stuff” purge continues to inch its way through my photo collection. Rather than prints in albums I’ll never open I figure I’ll scan them and keep digital copies. This evening I grabbed a small album of photos I took on a trip to Montreal to ride and chase AMT commuter trains. I’m so proud of the way Montreal’s commuter rail provider has modernized and how much more mature it is now. If I were using it to travel to work, today’s is the better option. Mind you, it’s not the same for those of us who’d drive all that way just to watch their former fleet in action. These photos were all taken on a single afternoon in July 2000. There is so much I didn’t get a chance to see that day but even in these photos I am reminded of the variety that awaited the commuter rail junkie when he walked through the sliding glass doors at Lucien l’Allier (“LuLa”) and into paradise.

AMT July 22 20000029

Above is one of my favourite train photos, of all those I’ve taken. I’m at LuLa and have wandered pretty far down the platform to take this one. On the point of our train is an F40 leased from VIA Rail, number 6455.

AMT July 22 20000004

Walking back toward the station here’s a closer photo of 6455. In VIA service this engine would have worn the Government of Canada wordmark and the Canadian flag in several locations. I don’t know if it was official or not but it’s hard not to notice that someone has applied strips of tape to mask almost all the flags on this engine.

The Montreal commuter rail fleet was always a study in contrasts. No more evident is that than in the first car behind 6455. This coach was built by the Canadian Car and Foundry for Canadian Pacific Railways. It has spent its entire life in suburban services. When it would have entered service, it would have been pulled by CPR steam engines.

The balance of the train is made up of, then, AMT’s newest coaches. Built by Bombardier and of similar design to Amtrak’s Horizon fleet coaches these cars were gaining popularity with other commuter rail agencies (Conneticut’s ConnDOT and Boston’s MBTA immediately spring to mind). This was the first time I’d seen them up close and I still like their subtle lines. Lovely riding cars too – in my opinion.

I’ve always thought I’d someday like to build a model railway to showcase commuter train operations in and out of this station and every trip with a camera has provided an opportunity to record a few more random details. I wonder how many times I’ve photographed these same lights?

I rode the rain out to Dorval station that afternoon. Stepping down onto the platform I turned to grab a quick photo of the tail of my train as it departed. Moments later an inbound train arrives on the opposite track led by former CP Rail #1301. It was leading a train of former GO Transit, single level, cars. The entire train was decorated for the Rivertrain service. I believe this was the last time I’d see an FP7 in AMT service.

Thanks for following along on this adventure. I may very well have shared a few photos from this in previous posts but it’s nice to present the entire afternoon. I’m proud of these photos and considering it was me snapping that shutter, they turned out okay. As for the camera, it couldn’t of been more humble: a disposable I bought at a Jean Coutu store.

New year. Same great Montreal.

This year started with a quick run to Montreal to drop my kid back off at school. Though I really hadn’t intended to spend any time trackside there were a few occasions where chance afforded me just that kind of opportunity. It’s been just over a month since I was in the city and I’d forgotten that I’d grabbed a few train photos while there – until now. I didn’t take many and here some favourites I’d like to share.


Most of the morning trains are finished for the day but waiting at Lucien l’Allier were these two train sets.

As I stood on the platform admiring the view it occurred to me I had the time to run about a block along the line to Guy overpass. From here, there’s a terrific view into the station and I managed to get there just quick enough to catch 1330 shoving its train out. Despite the backlit conditions, I really rather quite like these two photos.

Later that day and it’s time to start heading back the hotel and, ultimately, my car for the drive home to the Island. Again, my connections take me right through LuLa and timing provided a quick pause to check out the evening’s trains. 1330 is still working and on the adjacent platform is one of AMT’s new ALP45DP engines. Though I don’t have a photo, about an hour after I took these I was pulling into the parking lot of superb Montreal hobby shop Hobby Jonction, just in time to watch perhaps the same ALP45DP shoving a train west.

On that same camera role a few “firsts” for me. Despite the popularity of taking “selfie” photos I do not like having photos of myself. Then, there was this moment where I had a bit of time on my hands and broke the selfie ice with this:


Kind of in focus? Check.

Smiling? Check.

Not too creepy? Well, two out of three eh?

Let’s call this a win. I haven’t taken any others since but it’s neat to pretend I’m doing something cool for a change. Of course, this sort of stuff is just a gateway isn’t it for other popular photographic activities. A few hours after taking my first selfie I took this one, of a truly excellent coffee I was enjoying at Eva Bee:


My kid raves about this crazy store. It was a blast visiting for the first time. I have no idea how I could possible describe the experience or what the store is really all about. What I do know is the people are super cool, the music was fun, and this coffee was one of the finest I’ve ever enjoyed. It’s likely the most grand coffee presentation I’ve ever been offered and this cost about two dollars – for everything. I felt almost guilty. Needless to say coffee this good was a welcome invitation to lunch and soon this platter was joined with more. The food is all local and made to order. Everything was terrific.

Great food and commuter trains. Most of all, I was invited on a road trip by my kid and I’m so grateful to have been a part of that. Thanks for bringing me to your Montreal Des! I had a blast and can’t wait to go back. Hopefully for longer next time!


Beaconsfield magic

High on the adrenaline rush of trains already sighted, we were pacing that AMT West Island train and the temptation to indulge in a chase was too great. Between stations there would be no way we could keep up but the traffic was moving really nicely and, unlike the train, we didn’t need to stop at every station. I reasoned we could run as far as Beaconsfield and that distance might give us just enough time to park the car, grab the camera, and get out onto the platform in time for the train to arrive. With only minutes to spare we wheeled into the parking lot and with the car barely stopped we ran onto the platform in a manic style that really only those that have gone train chasing can truly know. We were in luck. The train hadn’t arrived yet and for those waiting on the platform, our mania provided a little evening rush hour entertainment. The evening’s sunset was just beautiful and I’m pretty proud of this set of photos.

Walking back to the car I remarked that it would be evening cooler if we got to see one of the evening VIA trains. No sooner did I finish that comment did it appear.

What a great pile of fun!

Not done yet

Still on Autoroute 20 we continued our drive west across Montreal Island. It was around six o’clock and I hoped that we might see one of AMT’s West Island trains rushing commuters home.

“Hey Dad!” was the battle cry in the car and then the train appeared beside the car. Emi still had the camera in hand and she grabbed this shot:

DSC02108Another great photo Emi.

She’s shooting this through our bug-stained windshield and into the sun. You’d never know it. Heck, with this kind of talent on the camera I really don’t think I need to be a part of that at all. The future of railfanning in Canada? The kids are going to be okay and everything is going to be fine.

Montreal electrics in 1989 video

Just a superb video of one of my favourite subjects anywhere.

I highly recommend subscribing to fmnut, he’s posting some really amazing video footage and it’s a real treat just picking things off at random from his channel. Lots to inspire here.

Tempo hoods in N and coming soon in HO

N scale Tempo RS18 short hood and long hood end now available on Shapeways.

Last week I finished the CAD design to print a short hood and long hood end for one of CN’s RS18 Tempo diesels. These ends are designed to fit onto a Atlas or Kato N scale RS11 shell. Simply cut off the old and glue on the new. These ends can be used on models of 3150, 3152, 3154, and 3155. 3151 and 3153 were involved in wrecks and when rebuilt had their HEP generators removed so the detailing on the top of the hood was changed. I’ll be adding a different hood end for these two units.

I’m a pretty big fan of these and have wanted a pair for some time. The pair I’m particularly interested in are 3152 and 3154 since both have served in both Tempo and GO Transit service. I’ve blogged about the prototypes often here on Prince Street and most of those posts should be tagged with “Tempo” so searching for them should be easy. For more information, check out the CN SIG’s page:

Toronto railroading in the 70’s – now that’s what TV is for

I am slowly getting caught up on emails in my inbox and in that stack was an update from Trevor Marshall’s blog, titled Traintown Toronto. The post title was really catchy but I really couldn’t figure out what he was writing about. Never one to avoid this kind of temptation I took a look at the post and sure am glad I did. Trevor was introducing a video that Green Frog Productions have released featuring railroading around Toronto in the 1970’s. I’m not a huge collector of train movies and really haven’t spent much time researching them but this is one I’ll be adding to my collection for sure.

Here’s the link to the Green Frog website and also a quote from them describing the video:

The two friends came early and stayed late for a day, or maybe a few days, on the sunny side of the tracks of the Toronto Terminals Railway in the early 1970s, recording the passage of a wide spectrum of passenger trains, switching moves, and some freight traffic into and near the vibrant Beaux-Arts Toronto Union Station, opened in 1927.

Green Frog were kind enough to actually post a preview of the video on their website and you can watch it on Youtube:

Okay, so I was barely a minute into the video when a pair of Tempo RS18’s appear in the video and I’d already loaded the DVD into the website’s shopping cart. What else is in the preview?

GO Transit GP40TC shoving a short, three-car train of the single-level cars. The video promises shots of the self-propelled versions of these same cars.

The Empress of Agnicourt (CP’s RSD17) appears on a transfer move. I’ve seen photos of this unit working as far west as my beloved Hamilton and I sure wish this video chased one of these trips.

Of course, there’s also tons of pre-VIA passenger action too.

This evening didn’t start too well and about the time when I managed to drive my saw through it’s own cord I was starting to run out of expletives to aid in my narration of how things were going. Since then I’ve made a nice sandwich with some leftover beef from the weekend’s roast, watched a couple of episodes of Life on Mars and am finishing a lovely glass of port. Having discovered this cool DVD, things are turning around for sure!

GO Transit decals for N – available NOW for purchase

I am really excited to write this post. I was on the Highball Graphics website today when I saw their announcement for GO Transit decal sets to letter just about any GO Transit diesel and all the sets are available in N.

This is huge news and something I never expected to be reading. Just check out these exciting listings:

Great for models using either the Life-Like first generation F40 or Kato’s later phase model

APCU and APU FP-7’s
Intermountain’s beautiful FP7 for a powered model or to have an unpowered model in line with the prototype start with Model Power’s though I’m not sure how hard it would be to work with that metal shell Model Power used or how free-rolling it is. I was always tempted to stretch a Kato shell, though something in me always wants to pursue the harder road.

GP40’s both the -2W widecabs and the ex-Rock Island units
The Atlas GP40 is an obvious starting point here being plentifully available, un-matched smooth running and a beautifully detailed model. I had one of these and sold it for not much money at all when I started to give up on ever modelling GO in N.

Kaslo produced a beautiful kit for this model and they are still available.

So, now we just need coaches. Athearn hasn’t produced their Bombardier cars in a long time though they have teased us with several “announcements” to re-run them in the future. Of course, with this excellent announcement in N for the decals you should be able to piece together these sets to repaint the Athearn cars no matter which scheme you find and purchase. For the single-level cars you’re still on your own but they might not be as tricky to build as first thought and the trucks, at least, are available from Kato.

GO Transit in 1:450 – cool!

I found a neat new blog tonight written by a T gauge (1:450 scale) modeller. He’s doing some neat work and like many in the T gauge scene he’s using to print a lot of his stuff. Scrolling through his blog I saw this post and simply had to pause to reflect on what it is:
A New Tool (or Toy)

The blog post itself is about macro lenses for cameras but the big story in that post is a photo of a Bombardier bi-level coach just like those cars that make up the backbone of GO’s fleet. He also shows a test print of what looks like a MP40 shell. In his Shapeways shop he’s also got an FP7 shell available which could easily be modified to make a little 1:450 APCU (control cab). This is kind of fun to think about. A quick estimate would show that the coach would work out to just under two inches in length so a dozen cars would be two feet. You certainly trade off in how you design your layout but I’ll confess that it’s fun to think about a GO inspired layout in T. I bet you could easily model Hamilton’s Hunter Street station in about four square feet of space and have enough room to actually include the trains loading in the station as well as the layover tracks. With a little more imagination you could think about a model of Willowbrook too!

If you’re new to T; it’s currently considered the smallest commercially viable model railway scale. There are a few really engaged, albeit smaller, manufacturers already producing items in this scale and some terrific websites as well. If you’re curious to learn more about the scale, I strongly suggest starting here:

I’m going to bookmark his blog and keep checking in to see if anything comes of these models.