Hudson Bay Line to Churchill/VIA Service Suspensions

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Re: VIA Train to Churchill Suspended Indefinitely

Postby Gilbert B Norman » Thu Aug 31, 2017 3:46 pm

The New York Times has an article appearing today reporting on the hardships that the loss of rail service - freight and passenger - has brought to Churchill. The article reports there is some speculation that the private sector operator, Omnitrax, may not rebuild the line (this "threat" likely is a ploy to get public funds on the table.

Meantime, a set of VIA equipment remains captive:

http://nytimes.com/2017/08/30/world/can ... rctic.html

Fair Use:

CHURCHILL, Manitoba — The last train to Churchill sits beside the town’s antique station, settling into place week after week.

It arrived on May 23, the morning when floods washed out the track connecting this frontier town in northern Manitoba on the edge of Hudson Bay — and it hasn’t moved since.

Once a symbol of expansion and hope, the passenger train has become a painful emblem of lost jobs, empty hotel rooms and mounting hunger for the town’s residents, and a bellwether of climate change for scientists
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Re: VIA Train to Churchill Suspended Indefinitely

Postby jp1822 » Thu Oct 05, 2017 6:09 pm

Didn't realize it's been nearly 20 years since Omnitrax bought the line. Didn't think they had it for that long! Some, including Omnitrax, had thought the port at Churchill was going to have a breath of new life put into it. But that never transpired.

Unfortunately this was a route I always wanted to take a trip on but due to VIA's re-scheduling and frequency changes by 2010 I never took the trip, and likely never will now. The Park Car addition/expansion was a nice feature that VIA added. The train did bring a fair amount of tourists in during whale and polar bear season. Not sure if this was true or not, but someone said VIA was limited as to how many people they could bring up to Churchill due to a small number of hotels and other facilities.

I did come close to booking when the "Northern Spirit Sleeper Cars" (ex-Amtrak 10-6 Heritage Sleepers) were being used. But then I read that these cars were freezing up and bad-ordered en-route. Chateau sleepers were eventually assigned to the Hudson Bay train. I remember last seeing the Northern Spirit Cars at Toronto, after sitting in the Winnipeg yard for years. Not sure of there current disposition.

Can't imagine this route being operated by anyone without public/government support as freight traffic is very light, repair work and track maintenance expensive, and the major traffic centered on supporting Churchill's population and tourism (seasonal at best). Omnitrax was trying to sell to First Nations, and I think some sort of government subsidy would have played a role. Something though is bound to happen as airlifting supplies and people in/out can't be sustainable.

Will be interesting to see how they get the VIA train set out......
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Re: VIA Train to Churchill Suspended Indefinitely

Postby Gilbert B Norman » Tue Oct 10, 2017 7:25 am

TRAINS Newswire reports that service to Churchill is no longer "suspended", but rather "discontinued":

http://trn.trains.com/news/news-wire/20 ... in-by-ship

Fair Use:

VIA announced Wednesday that it will drop one of two weekly round trips south of Thompson, Man., to Winnipeg, Man., starting Nov. 1. Tri-weekly service north of Thompson — now truncated to Gillam, Man. — is being maintained, as is the weekly round trip as far south as The Pas., Man. The rail line provides the only all-weather access to First Nations communities along its northern Manitoba route.

The adjustments mean only one set of equipment will be needed to protect the service. The sole Winnipeg departure now leaves Wednesdays from Winnipeg for Gillam, makes a Friday round-trip from there to Thompson, then a Saturday round-trip to The Pas, and finally leaves Gillam early Monday for Winnipeg, arriving Tuesday.


A tri-weekly schedule to provide "remote area" service (Sleepers. Diners, Domes are surely "Adios) Winnipeg-Gillman that will require only one set of equipment will be instituted as outlined in the report. Further, VIA will recover its stranded equipment at Churchill by ship.

Not surprising, the indigenous population plans protests (could they be giving the Polar Bears "get out of jail free" cards?), but it would appear that this line with marginal freight traffic potential will only be restored if it is acquired by the public sector.
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Re: VIA Train to Churchill Suspended Indefinitely

Postby Tadman » Thu Oct 12, 2017 9:33 am

Crud. I travel a lot and one of my favorite things to do is take a train to nowhere. Since the train won't actually terminate in a rocky field, I usually pick a service that ends somewhere very far north in a quiet town. I turn around and take the same train home. I've done this in Narvik, Seward, Aberdeen, etc... and have plans to do so in Bariloche this month. I was about to buy tickets to Moosonee when that got sacked. I was too young to ride the BCRail RDC's. I've been trying to figure out how to ride the Tshuiten train. Churchill was on my list and it looks like that hope is kaput.
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Re: VIA Train to Churchill Suspended Indefinitely

Postby ExCon90 » Thu Oct 12, 2017 2:55 pm

If you get a chance, go beyond Aberdeen to Thurso and Wick. I've never been north of Inverness, but those points are almost literally at the end of the world (I believe one of them is the station for John O'Groats). Don't know what's there in the way of amenities for travelers, but last time I checked there were at least 2 trains a day (dmu's).
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Re: VIA Train to Churchill Suspended Indefinitely

Postby Mark0f0 » Tue Oct 17, 2017 10:43 pm

http://www.viarail.ca/en/about-via-rail ... its-schedu

In the spring of 2017, the service on the railway from Amery (northeast of Gillam, MB) to Churchill, in Northern Manitoba, was suspended indefinitely due to flood damage. A VIA Rail train was in Churchill at the time of the flooding, and has remained there. Within the next few days, this equipment will be shipped by sea to Montréal for maintenance.
As rust has already begun to form on exposed metal, recovering its assets at this time will enable VIA Rail to avoid the increased costs and time that would otherwise be required to repair the equipment and return it to service when the infrastructure repairs are completed and service can resume safely.Should the equipment remain exposed to the elements much longer, it would require a comprehensive overhaul to ensure its safe return to operation. This process would not only be extremely costly but would take several months to perform, having an impact on service for an extended period of time.


How exactly would rust form on exposed metal? I don't understand. What's the difference between having the equipment sitting in the rain of Toronto or Montreal, and having it sit at Churchill?

I can understand that VIA wants its engines and cars back instead of being abandoned in Churchill, away from potential vandalism and contributing to services elsewhere, but the offered reasoning seems bizarre.
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Re: VIA Train to Churchill Suspended Indefinitely

Postby Backshophoss » Tue Oct 17, 2017 11:49 pm

Being exposed to the salt water laced air from the Harbor will find it's way to start the rust and corrosion problems on the stainless steel car sides and on internal surfaces in the cars and the F40's stranded there. By now,the wheelsets will be totally rust covered,there could be signs of corrosion in all the battery boxes on that set of equipment and in the windings of the main altenator,HEP altenator, and traction motors in the F40's and could be present in the air brake systems as well. rust could be present under the "Canada 150" wrap on one of the units. Rust and corrosion can be inside the prime movers and gen-set engines to boot.
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Re: VIA Train to Churchill Suspended Indefinitely

Postby mdvle » Wed Oct 18, 2017 9:32 am

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Re: VIA Train to Churchill Suspended Indefinitely

Postby electricron » Wed Oct 18, 2017 9:42 am

Where's all the rust I was reading about was spreading throughout the abandoned train waiting in Churchill? If there was internal rust, there should also be external rust.
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Re: VIA Train to Churchill Suspended Indefinitely

Postby Backshophoss » Wed Oct 18, 2017 4:46 pm

Since the stranded set is now taking the"long way around" back to Quebec cruise,hopefully the amount of rust and corrosion will be kept to minor levels on the cars and locos. Wonder what VIA's MMC will find when the set finally arrives there.
Omnitrax is working to "break" the contract,cut the losses and RUN, the entire summer work season was wasted on politics instead of repairs,and holding the city of Churchill hostage to boot!
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Re: VIA Train to Churchill Suspended Indefinitely

Postby electricron » Wed Oct 18, 2017 4:59 pm

Backshophoss wrote:Since the stranded set is now taking the"long way around" back to Quebec cruise,hopefully the amount of rust and corrosion will
be kept to minor levels on the cars and locos. Wonder what VIA's MMC will find when the set finally arrives there.
Omnitrax is working to "break" the contract,cut the losses and RUN, the entire summer work season was wasted on politics
instead of repairs,and holding the city of Churchill hostage to boot!

There you go again, the construction period that far north is during the winter season - not during the summer season!
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Re: VIA Train to Churchill Suspended Indefinitely

Postby R36 Combine Coach » Sat Nov 18, 2017 10:04 pm

I wonder if a Sunset Limited situation would occur here? ("indefinitely" being 5, 10, 15 or more years)
Since my friend continues to chain smoke nonstop, she is probably an Alco.
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Re: VIA Train to Churchill Suspended Indefinitely

Postby jp1822 » Sun Nov 19, 2017 11:00 pm

Passenger train service to Churchill has gone the same way as service on Vancouver Island (The Malahat) and the Gaspe Penninsula (The Chaleur). Remote service trains are slowly being discontinued.
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Re: VIA Train to Churchill Suspended Indefinitely

Postby R36 Combine Coach » Mon Nov 20, 2017 1:13 am

jp1822 wrote:Remote service trains are slowly being discontinued.
That leaves the Sudbury-White River line. Is the RDC operation safe for now?
Since my friend continues to chain smoke nonstop, she is probably an Alco.
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Re: VIA Train to Churchill Suspended Indefinitely

Postby Ken V » Tue Nov 21, 2017 12:56 am

The Sudbury - White River train should be safe for now since it operates over the CPR transcontinental mainline. The suspended services all operated on short lines and were cut due to unsafe track conditions. There have been rumours that the RDCs could be replaced by a conventional locomotive and coaches so that the RDCs could be freed for use in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.

There is also a remote service in northern Quebec between Montreal and Jonquiere/Senneterre that should also be safe. These run on CN secondary mains which are in decent condition.
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