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.

1988 and yes, that’s an RS18 leading that commuter train!

This photo appeared on the Canadian Railway Observations Facebook page this evening and I was really excited to see it. I have seen RS18’s on the point of Montreal commuter trains before, well photos anyway, but this might be the most “modern” one I’ve ever seen. I have had the pleasure of standing on that platform though.

Here’s a link to the photos on

Out of curiousity I took a quick look around the web to see if I could find anything else on that engine and I found this photo of it in maroon and grey colours on the CPR Diesel Roster website:

CP Commuter trains in Montreal – operations

Good evening. It feels like with the house move and a busy summer that I’ve really been neglecting this space and I’m keen to back into my usual threads. Now that we’re easing our way into fall I’m excited to share something that I really want to learn more about: Montreal commuter operations during in the era just before MUCTC.

My focal point here is the CP Lakeshore operations from Windsor Station (Lucien l’Allier) and westward.

There have been some exciting examples of rolling stock operated on this line and I’ve been buying up prints and slides as they become available. I’ve been bookmarking websites and similar content online for future reference. During the CP years it’s remarkable that while the coach fleet remained relatively homogeneous the motive power was anything but. The classic units on these trains would appear to be CP’s FP7’s. That said I have a nice slide of a maroon and grey RS18 leading a train of gallery cars and I’ve seen shots of sw1200’s, an FPA4 and RS10’s. While later than I’m concerning myself with I’ve also heard of chop-nosed GP-9’s borrowed from CP and LRC engines in AMT service.

The RDC’s. I’m really fascinated with the RDC’s that seem to have been the predominant feature of these services during the late 1950’s and throughout the 1960’s. I guess most commuter trains were RDC operations. The 800-series lightweight cars would have been around too. I wonder what hauled those trains? FP7’s? I don’t know. Maybe you’re readying this and you do. I’d love to learn more and to hear from you.

How did they turn locomotive-hauled trains before push-pull operations started? Trains of 800-series coaches would have been locomotive-hauled but were not run in push-pull operation. With that in mind I’d like to know what happened with them when they needed to reverse at the end of their run. On arrival at Windsor did a switcher pull the coaches and move them onto a new line where a replacement engine would lead the train outbound? Did the entire consist back out of the station carefully to a wye and the entire lot get turned? I remember reading about the Grand Trunk operations into their Bush Street, Detroit station in the seventies. In that example one train pulled into the station. Once it was empty a spare engine coupled to the back of the train and that new engine would be the power for the next train out. Once that train had left the engine that it had arrived with (the old one) became the spare that would cycle onto the next inbound train. Neat system. Did CP try the same gig at Windsor? I imagine that most of CP’s trains were FP7-led so this wouldn’t work. What do you think?

Next steps. I have some timetables and am starting to put together some consist data. I’m thinking about creating some timelines to document what types of motive power were recorded on what trains. As a modeller’s aid this might be really handy when trying to justify the purchase of a neat model.

I’m excited about this and getting back into some commuter rail research.

Here we go!

AMT #705 – July 22, 2000

So far I’ve managed to scan in the photos I took on July 22, 2000 of the AMT train I rode out to Dorval. Our train was lead by leased VIA #6455 and classic ex-CP #836 was tucked in behind. The balance of our train was made up of what was then the newest cars on AMT’s fleet. These being a series of cabs and coaches built by Bombardier and similar to the Amtrak Horizon cars and most commuter rail fleets un and down the American east coast. Why these cars aren’t available in model form is beyond me. Heck it seems like every second week we get yet another Dash-something-or-other but these cars are still missing from most ready-to-run product lines. Since they vary so little from commuter agency to agency I would think they would be an easy home run for someone (ideally) like Kato to release.

But I’m getting away on a tangent…

Our train would leave Lucien l’Allier led by #6455. It’s return trip downtown would be with #6455 pushing and cab #705 in the lead. Before all this excitement occurred I invested some more film and just finished scanning in those prints.