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Date: 10/20/15 20:53
Ferrovoir Tshiuetin Transportation
Author: tq-07fan

So you have been thinking about riding the Tshiuetin Rail Transportation to Shefferville but you were not sure where to start? It's easy! First contact Tshiuetin Rail Transportation, I bought my tickets over the phone. The lovely young lady who does the ticketing speaks excellent French and English. If pay with a credit card, you will receive a conformation email but your tickets will be waiting for you when you get to the train, it's that easy. Make a reservation at one of the hotels in Shefferville, I stayed at the Hotel Royal and made the reservation there by phone. Next thing is get to Montreal, easy. I took VIA train 601 from Montreal to Jonquiere, easy. I then took an STS transit bus to Chicoutimi and stayed at the Hotel Du Fjord, across the street from the transit bus terminal and less than a block from the Intercar Terminal, EASY. From Chicoutimi I took the less than daily trip transferring at Tadoussac to Sept-Îles, easy. I stayed at La Hotel Gouverner in Sept-Îles, it's about a twenty to thirty minute walk from there to the QNS&L / Tshiuetin transportation station on Rue Retty, it's a flat and easy walk, both ways! I actually booked my room for the Sunday night and the Tuesday night at the Gouvernuer. They had no problem with storing my big roller case in a secure room so I did not have to drag it onto the train, so that was way easy. Walk to the station and enter into the door under the Tshiuetin Transportation sign. Show your ID and you will be given your prepurchased ticket. If you are unsure about when you will be riding you can even buy your ticket there onspot. They start the ticket selling and collection process around 6:30 am. I know that if you look at the website it shows that the ticket office opens at 8:00 am same time the train leaves but that one is at the counsel office location, if you are in Sept-Îles early you can purchase your ticket there. The whole ticketing process was very easy, or at least I thought so. For me I took only a reusable shopping bag with sleeping clothes, a change of underwear and a pair of flip flops since you'll be on the train for so long. I did make the mistake of bringing a tri-pod. I had hoped to get a picture of the train under the Northern Lights but the Northern Lights weren't exactly on that night and there really is not a good shot at night at the Shefferville station so the tri-pod was a waist of time,plus extra weight. The schedule is really only correct at the departure time, 8:00am from Sept Ilse on Monday and Thursday and 8:00 am from Shefferville on Tuesday and Friday. After the train leaves the initial station there really is no schedule although the plan is to get the other end in twelve hours. You may see other 'stations' listed on the schedule in the CTSG. In reality these are all flag stops and there ain't much to most of them. This is where the whole no schedule thing happens. It takes time to unload stuff from the baggage car and many times the stops require two stops to spot the passengers and their baggage at a safe or designated place. Passengers are a mix of many First Nations people, hunters and fishermen and women, QNS&L employees and sometimes a few curious people who have to connect all the dots on the map like me. We arrived around 10:30 pm both ways. On the way up I asked the guy sitting in front of me if the train was always late and he said "Sometimes it's late, sometimes it's early and sometimes it really late, like 2am in the morning." The train crew from Sept-Îles to Emeril Junction is partly QNS&L employees but from Emeril north to Shefferville it is all Tshieutin Transportation crew made up of First Nations people. Not everyone can speak English on the train but there are enough that you can get by. Caroline who works the cafeteria car speaks very good English, is quite helpful and also fun to talk to. While I'm on the subject of food service I should mention that unlike most any other North American passenger train you are actually better off buying your food on the train then to buy it before and bring it on with you. Sept-Îles is so far away from anything that the transportation costs raise the price of the food (example, 2 big Kit Kats for $3.69 ON SALE!). Tshieutin sources their food locally from a place in Sept-Îles. You can get a good meal on the train for less than what you would pay at most restaurant type places in Sept-Îles, plus it's fresh. There was a steady flow of passengers buying stuff in the cafeteria car on both days. If something looks good to you don't wait too long though because unlike the overpriced crap on Amtrak, some items here actually sell out! I missed out on this good looking yogurt parfait thing but the cake was a good tasting substitute. You can bring your food back to your seat or eat it at the tables in the dining car which is kept very clean like the rest of the train. That was another thing that I was impressed with and even told the crew I was not used to. The crew on Tshiuetin keeps the train clean, cleaning restrooms, sweeping and even mopping if needed while it's in motion. How many times have you seen that on Amtrak? Seats in the coaches are bit worn but still comfortable, I was able to sleep most of the way from Emeril to Schefferville going up and sleep some on the way back. Coaches and Seats are unassigned, if you see an empty seat and you want to sit there it's yours. For the best views sit on the West side of the train if you can.

The first day on Tshieutin Transportation, going north, you almost feel like you are there to observe as it is your first time but on return you feel more involved almost like a regular. Oh there are many 'regulars' on the train. I would say well over half to eighty percent the people must ride frequently enough that they know the crews and each other's names. There are a lot of the younger First Nations people who ride who also know at least some English as well. I know some French, I can read it OK, speak some but have trouble understanding when spoken to. Having the number of people who could speak in English aboard was a great plus, no one leaves you hanging and feeling confused. Of course too many people here on tranorders are only concerned about the VIA Rail Canadian. Take a look at the threads on the Canadian Board and I would guess not more than three weeks go by without some a question or post related to the Canadian. Tshiuetin is not the Canadian, in fact it is one of those great holdouts for how things used to be all over Canada. Shefferville is like that as well, there are flat screen TVs but Shefferville but if you took them out it would be a bit like the clock stopped in 1982 when the big mining operation shut down. Andie, who I walked with to the station in Shefferville in the Morning going back perfectly summarized Shefferville as being somewhat like 'Back to the Future.' We ended up getting picked up by some of the other crew and given ride for the rest of the way to the station. I would guess the station is a mile or so away from town. The night before I was walking on the road to town and was given a ride by a First Nations family and was very grateful for it as I would have went to the wrong place in Shefferville, not a good thing at 10:30 pm in the dark. Because of that I do not know if there are an taxi cabs in Shefferville if you are not into walking. Too many people, especially those from the US dwell on the scenery on the Canadian, on particular the Canadian Rockies part. Sure it is nice but I think it is too in your face and to me rather overrated. The scenery you see on the Tshiuetin is unreal, so many lakes and the River Moisie. In the whole 359.6 miles you cross no railway crossings at grade with flashers or gates. In fact the only paved road you cross in the Trans Labrador Highway, no crossing protection just the semi trucks put their flashers on so the car behind hopefully won't rear end them. What you are seeing is land that is largely untouched. The QNS&L itself was not built until the early 1950's so it is comparatively new and before that these people had almost no way out. I found the whole ride to be soothing, just thinking of how big the World is and how much of it is still out there left more less untouched. That is most of the reason for the train's existence of course. There camps and other dwellings along the tracks. There are also stops where you will see four wheelers and side by sides parked where someone has rode the train somewhere and left their 'vehicle' at the 'station.' Train time is the big excitement for a surprising amount of people who live along or near the route. You'll be riding and see absolutely no visible sign of people beyond the telephone poles and there a couple of friendly people will be waving at people including you on the train. While the Canadian may be an experience to some, merely a rail travel experience, Tshiuetin is an experience in a whole way of existence where the train is not some kind of novelty but where the train is reality, it is the lifeline and in many ways the only connection to the outside World.

My experience was two weeks ago, up on October 5th and return on the 6th. I know that I rambled on with the text part of this a bit longer than normal but, I enjoyed the experience that much. Yes, I would gladly do it again...  

1) Enter into the station and a whole new rail experience when you pass under this sign in Sept-Îles.
2) Tshiuetin Transportastion leaving Sept-Îles on Thursday October 8th. I rented a Volkswagon Jetta and got this money shot.
3) Schefferville, my actual return train on Tuesday October 6th. Transport Canada is in the yellow high vis stuff and talking to the crew.

Date: 10/20/15 20:57
Re: Ferrovoir Tshiuetin Transportation
Author: tq-07fan

4) Shot through the gate at the QNSL station in Sept Iles.
5) Looking toward the rear.
6) You come out of a tunnel and cross the Moisie River. My friend Steve told me that the road to this point had been washed out several years ago and he was insure if it had ever been fixed this is as good as I could do for the classic shot at this location.

Date: 10/20/15 20:59
Re: Ferrovoir Tshiuetin Transportation
Author: tq-07fan

7,8) Scenery, which is spectacular.
9) Saumon QC

Date: 10/20/15 21:03
Re: Ferrovoir Tshiuetin Transportation
Author: tq-07fan

10) QNSL Work Camp, I forget where exactly but I will try and look it up later.
11, 12 scenery

Date: 10/20/15 21:09
Re: Ferrovoir Tshiuetin Transportation
Author: tq-07fan

13-15) Scenry. Although it looked like the open wire codeline appeared to no longer be in use the power is definietly on. This is very remote so the railway has to provide it's own power. This two phase 23kv line follows the QNSL all the way to Labrador City.

Date: 10/20/15 21:12
Re: Ferrovoir Tshiuetin Transportation
Author: tq-07fan

16) Mai, one of the few things I was surprised by is that we stopped on the main so the head end crew could eat lunch, I guess.
17) Eric is one of the larger stations on the route.
18) Schefferville, this is as good as it gets for a night shot.

Date: 10/20/15 21:15
Re: Ferrovoir Tshiuetin Transportation
Author: tq-07fan

19) Schefferville, the hallway inside the Motel Royal.
20) The outside of the Motel Royal, after a quick sleep.
21) City Hall or something.

Date: 10/20/15 21:17
Re: Ferrovoir Tshiuetin Transportation
Author: tq-07fan

22-24) Walking throgh Schefferville in the morning on the way back to the train. Andie and I got picked up by some other crew members on our way back to the train.

Date: 10/20/15 21:19
Re: Ferrovoir Tshiuetin Transportation
Author: tq-07fan

25) Tshiuetin Return Ticket.
26) Tshiuetin Station
27) Interior of the coach I rode both days.

Date: 10/20/15 21:22
Re: Ferrovoir Tshiuetin Transportation
Author: tq-07fan

28) Sunrise in Schefferville from inside the train.
29-30) Is it a dream or is it Schefferville?

Date: 10/20/15 21:24
Re: Ferrovoir Tshiuetin Transportation
Author: tq-07fan

31) Knob Lake
32) Menihek Station, this is on the Tshiuetin owned part of the line.
33) Ex Conrail caboose at Esker used by Tshiuetin in freight and work train service.

Date: 10/20/15 21:26
Re: Ferrovoir Tshiuetin Transportation
Author: tq-07fan

34) Esker
35) One of the many beautiful lakes all along the route.
36) Coach seat.

Date: 10/20/15 21:29
Re: Ferrovoir Tshiuetin Transportation
Author: tq-07fan

37) Emeril Station
38) Trans Labrador Highway, the only paved highway that you cross at grade.
39) Oreway

Date: 10/20/15 21:32
Re: Ferrovoir Tshiuetin Transportation
Author: tq-07fan

40) A four wheeler left alnog the tracks while the owner goes somewhere. Seriously, there is no one out here to steal it.
41) One of the other large stations along the line.
42) People at Eric who have come out just to see the train go south.

Date: 10/20/15 21:38
Re: Ferrovoir Tshiuetin Transportation
Author: tq-07fan

43) Eric also had an area to unload trucks, I did not find out what they were going to but we stopped there both ways for passengers.
44) Two Big John sandwichs, a bag a of chips and something to drink for under $10.
45) Interior of the dining car. Coffee and tea are on the right.

Date: 10/20/15 21:45
Re: Ferrovoir Tshiuetin Transportation
Author: tq-07fan

46) Cafeteria Line for the dining car.
47) Steam locomotive outside the QNSL station in Sept Iles.
48) Sept-Îles, QC Rue Maltais et Boulivard Laure. This is the last fuel de circulation / stop light in Quebec going east on Provicial route 138. A couple of kilometers beyond this is where the QNSL passes under 138 where shot 2 was taken. Beyond that is Havre Sainte Pierre and not much else. Really you are on the edge of civilazation here and the QNSL and Tshiuetin escape civilazation, almost.

Sorry for posting so many pictures. Took plenty more but this is some of the better ones from the trip on Tshieutin.

Thank you for looking!


Date: 10/20/15 22:15
Re: Ferrovoir Tshiuetin Transportation
Author: CP9300

Very cool to see a seldom shot and truly remote area of our country. Thank you for sharing these.


Date: 10/20/15 22:24
Re: Ferrovoir Tshiuetin Transportation
Author: Wurli1938

Great posting and great pictures of an area that few will ever see. 

Date: 10/20/15 23:26
Re: Ferrovoir Tshiuetin Transportation
Author: CA_Sou_MA_Agent

Thank you very much for the excellent trip report! 

I rode the line in 2002 when the passenger service was still operated by QNS&L and still offered service to Labrador City.  

You're right.  The trip was interesting enough that I wouldn't mind doing it again. 

I, too, enjoy riding off-the-beaten-path trains in Canada that are, unfortunately, disappearing.  The BCOL RDCs, the Algoma Central and the E&N are good examples.

Looks like they've repainted the Hotel Royal since I was there.  Schefferville had a lone taxi and we used it rather than walking.  The train station is not really where the rest of the town is.

The train I rode was using cars that had Southern Railway heritage, but it looks like the cars you rode are Amtrak hand-me-downs and may have some varous backgrounds. 

Now we have to figure out a way to ride the Cartier Railway and the Romaine River Railways! 

Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 10/20/15 23:55 by CA_Sou_MA_Agent.

Date: 10/21/15 00:12
Re: Ferrovoir Tshiuetin Transportation
Author: CA_Sou_MA_Agent

Re my previous post, here's a reproduction of a trip report / article I wrote for the now-defunct Rail Travel News (issues 653 and 654) about a ride I made on the QNS&L in 2002:  


On Saturday August 24, 2002 I embarked on a two-week vacation ("holiday" for any Brits that may be reading) that allowed me to log some new rail miles involving Amtrak's new "DOWNEASTER" between Boston and Portland, ME; VIA Rail Canada's "BRAS D'OR" cruise train in Nova Scotia and a ride on the remote Quebec North Shore & Labrador Railroad.

By taking advantage of a Southwest Airlines "Rapid Rewards" freebie ticket, I flew from California to Rhode Island on flight 251 ONT-LAS-BWI (N772SW), connecting to flight 2109 BWI-PVD (N376SW). Upon arrival at Providence's Theodore Francis Green Airport, my original plan was to taxi to the Amtrak station for a quick jaunt up to Boston. However, on the plane I befriended a seatmate who happens to live about eight miles from me, and he offered a ride into Boston. My intended destination was Boston's Logan Airport to rendezvous with a friend who would be joining me for a portion of this trip. After being dropped off at the MBTA's "Broadway" subway station, I negotiated my way to Logan Airport by using the Red, Orange and Blue lines, transferring at the "Downtown Crossing" and "State" stations. At Logan, I met my friend Candy near the baggage claim area and learned of her experience with "the Friendly Skies"(tm). Her flight from SFO encountered a three-hour delay, a mechanical problem and a change-of-aircraft. She's a flight attendant, so she's probably used to events like that, but, in this case, the experience wasn't part of earning a paycheck! Comparatively, I guess my journey was uneventful. After some drinks at the Hyatt Edgewater's lounge and a late dinner at "Assagio's" in Little Italy, we returned to the hotel for some well-deserved rest.

The next moring we taxied our way to Boston's North Station. I was truly amazed that our cab driver not only wasn't wearing a turban, but appeared to be born-in-the-USA! How often does THAT happen in this day and age in a large metropolitan city? Our intended goal was to catch Amtrak Train 683, the northbound noon departure of the "DOWNEASTER" to Portland, ME. I noticed Amtrak appears to have a very subdued presence at North Station -- only a small ticket window with the word "DOWNEASTER" displayed above. I couldn't find Amtrak's new "three-sheets-to-the-wind" logo anywhere. MBTA purple reined supreme, and the station has a "no-nonsense" approach of being functional primarily for commuter trains. No "Metropolitan Lounges" here. Our train consisted of Genesis engine 808; Business Class car 82511; three Metroliner service coaches -- 44926, 44980, 44916; food service car 48143 and "cabbage car" 90213. This would be Candy's first experience with Amtrak, and I wanted it to be a pleasant one. Mission: IMPOSSIBLE? It didn't take me very long to realize that there was a very large group of passengers boarding our five car train and a train crew who wanted to wedge everyone like sardines into three cars. They were supposedly saving the other two cars for "downline passengers", but I couldn't help but wonder if the "true" reason for compacting everyone into three cars was to make things easier FOR THEM. After all, they wouldn't have to walk as far when collecting tickets and they wouldn't have to open as many vestibule doors. After failing to find two seats together facing forward, I tracked down the assistant conductor and suggested they open up one of the closed-off cars. He announced that this was a decision he couldn't make without first consulting with his superior, the conductor. The conductor was about eight car lengths away near the waiting room. I said "Why don't you radio him and ask him if you can open up another car?" He responded with "This is North Station. I can't discuss such trivial matters over the railroad operations frequency!" ... or words to that effect. So I said, "Okay. Let's go ask him in person." So we walked all that distance and asked the conductor. He had no problem with my suggestion and the car was finally opened up. Better still, he later advised us that the PA wasn't working in that car. Maybe THAT'S why they didn't want to use it. As for me, I enjoyed the absence of the PA announcements. Save for about five other passengers, Candy and I had the car all to ourselves, and it was a very pleasant atmosphere. Most of the passengers who were wedged into the other cars like sardines remained there. Go figure.

Candy told me that, on an earlier visit to Boston, she rode an MBTA commuter train to Salem, MA. That's on the Rockport Branch. I haven't ridden that line yet. OH NO! She has mileage that I don't have! AHHHHH! We're going to have to correct that situation --- and soon!

As Jack Turner described in a recent RTN article, the routing for our northbound "DOWNEASTER" was MBTA's Lowell line as it exited Boston and then the 2.99 mile Wilmington Junction Branch, nicknamed the "Wildcat", to transition over to MBTA's Haverhill/Reading Line. Since I'd previously ridden the Lowell and Haverhill/Reading Lines, my "new mileage odometer" was on while we were on the "Wildcat" connector and, of course, after we departed Haverhill. It was a pleasant trip. The track quality was good, as I guess it SHOULD be, what with all the debate about the size of the rail and other "nit-picking" issues advanced by Guilford Rail Systems. I told Candy the story of how the inauguration of this train was tied up in litigation for some fifteen years (or more?), and she just shook her head in disbelief. We made a brief stop at the "new" Old Orchard Beach station, one of the few locations where we were right on the coast line. Upon arrival in Portland, we used a small portion of the former Maine Central's Mountain Division to gain access to the new Sewall Street Station. There are no luggage lockers at the station, another spillover effect of September 11th. Since we were leaving later that evening on the overnight ferry to Nova Scotia, we taxied our way to the ferry terminal and, after a thorough inspection, handed off our luggage to be held in a staging area for later reclaimation.

After having a late lunch and brousing around the restaurants and shops of old Portland along Commercial Street, we boarded the "SCOTIA PRINCE" (1) later that evening for an overnight cruise to Yarmouth, Nova Scotia. This ship is huge and is used in the winter months on cruises in the Carribean and Mexico. The passengers were a mix of people who, like us, were using it as transportation to Canada, and others who remained on board for the round trip, using the ship as a vacation destination in and of itself. Gambling is offered on board. Need I say more? Our stateroom was in the deepest bowels of the ship, even below the deck where the automobiles, busses and trucks were stowed, and a little too close to the ship's engines. Weird vibrations and mysterious banging noises were heard all night, and a bad thermostat resulted in a hot room. Oh well. Next morning we met a retired couple who had just bicycled from Seattle to Boston and were now continuing their adventure in Nova Scotia! At Yarmouth, the Canadian Customs officer was curious as to why I would be staying in Canada longer than my traveling companion. That was easily explained. Candy had some time constraints and schedule conflicts and I had to stay in Canada long enough to ride the Quebec North Shore & Labrador Railroad!

I'm kicking myself that we didn't make this trip about twelve years earlier. The VIA RDC Budd car that ran over the old Dominion & Atlantic "EVANGELINE" route from Yarmouth to Halifax was a victim of the January 15, 1990 "bloodbath," when many secondary trains met their doom. The tracks were torn up almost as soon as the last run made it to Halifax. If I'd made this trip even earlier, say, in the 1960s, I would have had a choice of TWO rail routes linking Yarmouth with Halifax. Canadian National Mixed Train # 244 would have met my needs quite nicely! Instead, today's "progress" would be represented in the form of an eight-passenger highway van operated by Campbell's Shuttle Service. YUCK! Besides the two of us, there were four other local passengers. As characteristics of our jobs, Candy and I log a little too much time in these types of vehicles, so we were wondering when the fun was going to begin. If I had to do it again, I would've rented a car at Yarmouth.

We followed what was left of the Canadian National's Yarmouth and Chester Subdivisions, long since ripped up. The Yarmouth Sub ran from Yarmouth to Liverpool and was abandoned in 1983. The Chester Sub ran from Liverpool to Southwestern Jct., near Halifax, most of it being abandoned in 1991. Officially, mixed trains M243 and M244 were discontinued in the fall of 1969, but crews were known to take riders as late as 1975, that is, until CN management learned of the practice through a mention of it in the January 1976 issue of TRAINS magazine. Naturally, THAT brought a stop to it all!

Interestingly, Yarmouth was served by both CN and DAR (CP), with the two railroads coming into town from opposite sides but not physically connecting with each other. Columbia, MO was like that, too. The N&W (Wabash) came in from the north and the M-K-T came in on the south side of town, never physically connecting or interchanging traffic. Are there any other examples of this?

Our van made a rest stop at a Tim Horton's doughnut shop in Liverpool, where I noticed the CN depot had been converted to a museum. After a long day, we finally made it to Halifax and checked in at the Delta Barrington Hotel, in the heart of downtown.

Tuesday, August 27 found us renting a Ford Explorer in Halifax that we would be driving to Sydney. I had reserved a compact car, but they didn't have one to rent, so we got a free upgrade to the SUV. No complaints here. It was pleasant making our way to and across Cape Breton Island, checking out different scenery than what we would see coming back on the VIA train the next day. I took some pictures of a Cape Breton & Central Nova Scotia (CBNS) unit ballast train near the Canso Causeway, but it had nothing more than leased motive power. Nothing was lettered for CBNS. The MLW / Alcos are gone. After a late dinner in Sydney, we grabbed some rest at the Cambridge Suites Hotel, just up the road from where VIA's "BRAS D'OR" would depart the next morning. As part of an agreement with VIA, the car rental company didn't access a one-way drop off charge and allowed us to leave the vehicle in the hotel parking lot. Wednesday brought the forth consecutive morning of getting up before the rooster crows. Candy and I were beginning to wonder if we'd need a vacation to recover from our vacation!

After our taxi delivered us at the VIA station, I concluded that the daily-and-since-discontinued VIA trains comprised of Budd RDC cars (another victim of the 1990 "bloodbath") must have gone a little deeper into the city of Sydney. Today's once-per-week westbound departure of train # 619, the "BRAS D'OR" (2) consisted of F-40PH-2 6432; baggage 8623 (ex UP 5905); coach 8130 (ex ACL 224); coach 8119; Skyline Dome 8503, and sleeper buffet-dome lounge observation 8704 "Evangeline Park." The last three cars were from the original 1954 car order placed by CP for "THE CANADIAN." Those cars still look sharp after 47 years. There were enough passengers to fill perhaps one and one-half coaches. Candy and I noticed that we appeared to be the youngest passengers aboard, and we're not exactly "spring chickens"! Meals were served at our seats, and the food was actually quite good. My traveling companion was drawing some comparisons to our meal service and how the airlines handle it. The service carts used by VIA are the same as those used on planes. Our car attendant appeared to be having some trouble manuveuring it down the aisle, let alone getting it through the vestiblule to the next car. The meals looked as if they were prepared by an airline catering company. They probably were.

I made a point for us to ride this train, as rumor had it that 2002 will probably be its last year of operation. As you read this, the train will probably have made its last run. CBNS assumed operation of this line from CN on October 1, 1993, but now wants to abandon everything east of Port Hawkesbury. At the east end, Devco is still operating, and became the Sydney Coal Company in February 2002. Their operation is much reduced due to the closure of the coal mines. They still roster eight GP38-2 units, but only operate 4-5 at any time, hauling coal from the port to a power plant. In addition to the coal mine closures, the large steel mill at Sydney has been closed and razed. This area appears to be Canada's "Rust Belt." If CBNS abandons the east end of their line, the Devco operation will be an isolated operation. Much of the downturn in traffic over this route was caused by the abandonment of the rail-ferry operation at North Sydney. When rail operations ceased on the Island of Newfoundland, the line we were riding today lost an important revenue source in the form of "bridge traffic." Similar to the plight of the passenger train in the 1960s, when one rail line is abandoned, it often adversely affects others.

While the scenery was nothing short of spectacular on CBNS' Sydney and Hopewell Subdivisions, the track was not in the best of shape and, unfortunately, ridership on the "BRAS D'OR" has never set any earth-shattering records. What a shame. Great scenery and 1955 Budd stainless steel dome cars are a WONDERFUL combination! The trip reminded me of one of Clark Johnson's HIGH IRON TRAVEL "Explorer" trips. (3) The relaxed schedule allowed us to make special stops for pictures at Iona and to investigate the station-turned-into-railroad-museum at Orangedale. We also made the usual stop at Port Hawkesbury.

At Port Hastings we returned to the mainland by crossing the Canso Causeway. Before its completion in 1954, trains had to be loaded onto a fleet of ice-breaking ferries for the two-mile trip between Point Tupper and Mulgrave, then reassembled on the opposite shore, an operation taking an hour or more. The stormy waters of the Strait of Canso made this one of the few places in Canada where train passengers could (and did) get seasick. Construction of the 4500 foot causeway greatly simplified the trip. Ten million tons of rock were blasted from nearby Cape Porcupine and dumped into the strait, which is more than 200 feet deep midstream, forming an 800-foot-wide base and a surface that accommodates a two-lane highway, the rail line and a pedestrian walkway. At New Glasgow our train wound its way through the old part of town on a narrow right-of-way, reminding me of ATSF's Pasadena Subdivision in South Pasadena and Highland Park.

I kept promising Candy that our snail-like pace would markedly improve as soon as we transitioned to CN's Bedford Subdivision at Truro. As it turned out, numerous slow orders due to track work, and a meet with a westbound container train at Milford changed all that. Thanks to the 360-degree viewing in the dome, she was able to see what well-coordinated meets by opposing trains in CTC territory are all about. It works well as long as everyone obeys the signal indications. She was aware of an incident at Atwood, CA on April 23, 2002 involving a Metrolink commuter train and a BNSF freight where that was not the case. There were some local railfans in the dome who pointed out the location at Stewiacke where a teenaged boy tampered with a switch and derailed the westbound "OCEAN" on April 12, 2001 (4.). While making for interesting conversation, this didn't necessarily offer assurance to my traveling companion of the safety of rail travel! Since this was her first exposure to VIA and Canadian passenger trains, she also noticed the "Passengers will please refrain..." notices posted in the restrooms. She was at once amazed and repulsed when I explained that the toilets in the VIA cars still dump directly onto the track --- a system that's as reliable as gravity. I think we've all experienced the fragrance of walking through a Superliner car with a retention tank that needs to be emptied. She said, "But what about when people walk along the railroad tracks? That's so gross." I said, "People shouldn't be walking along railroad tracks in the first place. What better incentive to stay away?" There were a lot more passenger trains in, say, the 1940s "leaving their mark" along the right-of-way than there are today, but no one got their feathers ruffled over it back then. Why is is such a big issue now?

While the train was running alongside the west shore of Bedford Basin, I remembered seeing a map at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic (5) the previous day that illustrated shipwrecks and their ladings that have accumulated at the bottom of the basin. According to the map, somewhere on the bottom of Bedford Basin are a bunch of Volvo automobiles. I'd like to know more about THAT story.

Before long we were pulling up to the bumper post at the station in Halifax. It was great trip, with spectacular scenery, a friendly crew, good food and drink, good company, good conversation, ex-CP equipment, direct dump toilets and a "Park" car thrown in just for good measure. What could be more "Canadian" than that?

The following day, August 29th, I said goodbye to Candy and would continue my Canadian adventure with a ride on four ferries and the Quebec North Shore and Labrador Railroad.


(1) http://scotiaprince.com
(2) http://www.viarail.ca/trains/en_trai_atla_hasy.html
(2) http://www.photosbystevenjbrown.com/via/brasdor/brasdor.html
(2) http://www.billwood.com/trains/brasdor/
(3) http://www.highirontravel.com
(4) http://www.trainscan.com/news/scan/s0105/#STEWIACKE
(5) http://museum.gov.ns.ca/mma/

Thursday, August 29, 2002 saw me saying goodbye to Candy as she had to return to California for some other commitments. I rented a car and spent the day exploring the environs between Halifax and Truro, managing to get an excellent photo of VIA's train # 15, the westbound "OCEAN" running along Shubenacadie Lake near Sandy Cove.

On Friday I went to Halifax's airport and met Linda, an accountant friend of mine who would be accompanying me for the remainder of the trip. Linda and I have some history in accumulating rare and interesting railroad mileage in North America. Thanks to her association with me, her introduction to North American passenger railroading has included the following:

<> the Napa Valley Wine Train;

<> riding a Trains Unlimited Tours special train on FerroMex between El Fuerte, SIN and Nogales, SON in Mexico. The most memorable event of that trip was when our train "tee-boned" a bus at a grade crossing at about 40 mph, killing eight bus passengers;

<> riding a rare-mileage excusion over the Puget Sound & Pacific Railroad between Aberdeen and Centralia, WA;

<> logging mileage on Metrolink's San Gabriel, River, Valley, Orange and Olive Subdivisions, and BNSF's San Bernardino Sub.

Linda is fluent in French, and that would come in handy while we were in Quebec. Most Quebecois are bilingual, but they're more comfortable speaking French and, without the problem of things getting "lost in the translation," I was able to negotiate a few things that I probably wouldn't have been able to pull off by speaking only English.

We would be logging quite a bit of miles in our rental car, picking it up in Halifax and turning it eight days later in Montreal. One of our first orders of business was to drive to New Glasgow, so she could recuperate from her long transcontinental "red eye" flight and also for us to be in position for the ferry to Prince Edward Island the following morning.

Even though the five-year-old Confederation Bridge connects PEI with New Brunswick, ferry service continues to link the east end of the island with Nova Scotia. We rode Northumberland Ferry Lines' "HOLIDAY ISLAND" between Caribou, NS and Woods Island, PEI. Once on the island, I was again reminded that I was making this visit to PEI about thirty years too late. Evidence was still apparent of Canadian National's presence on the island in the form of visible rights-of-way and depots converted to other uses. For example, the depot at Iona has been relocated and now houses "Happy Red's Dairy Bar / Folk Art Store -- 'Home of Cap'n Grumpy's Lobster Tings" along the Trans Canada Highway into Charlottetown.

Had I vistied this island in the late 1960's, I could have ridden trains 115-116, that ran from Moncton to Charlottetown, being loaded onto a ferry mid-trip. They were discontinued October 26, 1968 or possibly survived a few months longer, as winter road replacement was the emphasis of the service in the final years.

The Borden-Summerside-Tignish set of four mixed trains were gone by the timetable of October 26, 1969. Mixed trains M235-M236, that ran Moncton-Sackville-Borden-Charlottetown (ex Sunday) and shown in the April 1969 timetable, were gone by the fall of 1969.

The "Rails-To-Trails" people have been busy on PEI, converting much of the right-of-way into hiking trails. The depot at Borden, a wooden caboose at Wellington and some other rolling stock and buildings contribute to a small recognition of the existence of the railroad. It's noteworthy that this entire Canadian province has basically kissed off its railroad. Will that phenomena spread like a cancer? Let's hope not.


Posing in front of the Confederation Bridge at Cape Tourmintine, New Brunswick. The date was actually 08/31/02

After paying the $37.75 (CDN) toll and driving across the impressive 12.9-kilometre Confederation Bridge back to New Brunswick, Linda and I logged some serious highway mileage to Matane, Quebec to be in position for another ferry departing the next morning, Sunday September 1st. The "N.M. CAMILLE-MARCOUX", a 1974 product of Marine Industrie Limitee of Sorel, Quebec, took us across the 55.3-kilometre width of the Gulf of St. Lawrence to Godbout, on the north shore (1). The ship has a capacity of 600 passengers and 120 vehicles. While on board, I spoke briefly with the man who just happens to be in charge of maintenence for the Quebec-Cartier Railroad.


"N. M. CAMILLE-MARCOUX" Ferry at Godbout, Quebec. The date was actually 09/01/02.

After a leisurely drive to Sept-Iles, Linda and I were ready to log some new mileage on the Quebec North Shore & Labrador Railroad (2), a line built in the early 1950s to tap iron reserves in northern Quebec and Labrador. The railroad operates a 260.6 mile line between Sept-Iles and Carol Lake (Labrador City), in addition to a 129.2 mile branch to Schefferville, Quebec.

A few weeks previously I had made a few phone calls to a travel agency in Sept-Iles that handles ticketing for QNS&L and learned of the railroad's basic up-one-day-back-the-next schedule. I booked Linda and myself on Monday's northbound summer seasonal train to Labrador City, with a return on Tuesday's southbound train. To complicate matters, for the first time, these trains were only operating every OTHER week this year! I planned Wednesday to be a "free" day to goof around in Sept Iles and environs (it turned out the weather was lousy that day). On Thursday, we'd journey northbound on the weekly train to the dormant mining town of Schefferville, Quebec and wrap things up by returning the following day, Friday, September 6th.

Monday and Tuesday's train to/from Labrador City consisted of SD40-2CLC # 315, baggage 13521 (ex VIA/CN 9601); head-end-power car 13520; food service-coach 13515; smoking coach 13519; and coach 13517. Except for 13521, all of the cars were built by ACF and had Southern Railway heritage. They had recently been refurbished and were actually very nice. The food service car was similar to an Espee automatic buffet car, with vending machines occupying about half the car. One could practically cut the air with a knife while walking through the smoking car. My biggest complaint was that the dutch doors have been welded into one piece, making "vestibuling" impossible. The RDCs are no longer running and the former Wabash ACF dome car has been permanently removed from service. Apparently, Transport Canada was concerned about issues involving emergency escape capabilities and safety glass in the dome.

The QNS&L public timetable yields rather cryptic information at best. No train numbers are shown, nor are intermediate times at stations or arrival times at end points. The only thing shown is the departure time out of the originating city. Also, the timetable stated that the Monday-Tuesday summer seasonal daytime trains to/from Labrador City would cease operating at the end of August, yet here we were riding them on September 2nd and 3rd. I later found out the operating crews don't even use train numbers to refer to the trains. They just use the lead locomotive number as a reference when calling the dispatcher. For anyone planning a trip to ride the QNS&L, I'd strongly suggest calling the travel agency in Sept-Iles, Vacances Inter, Inc., to inquire about the latest operational strategies. Ask for Celine. She was very helpful and handled ticketing with a credit card over the phone, in addition to having the tickets waiting for us at the front desk of our motel. Their phone number is (418) 962-9411.

Riding the QNS&L is, in some ways, similar to riding "Mr. Toad's Wild Ride" at Disneyland. How so? On the Disneyland ride, things are bland and boring until you punch through the set of double doors and the "magic" of the ride really takes off. On the QNS&L, things are rather bland and boring until you exit a 2,197 ft. tunnel at Milepost 11.5. Immediately after exiting the tunnel, the line crosses the Moisie River on a 900 ft. bridge soaring 155 ft. above water level. Then the train twists and turns along a narrow rock shelf for about 15 miles, opposite from sheer rock faces 2,000 ft. high. It kind of reminded me of Union Pacific's route through Feather River Canyon in northern California, without State Highway 70.

When the QNS&L was constructed in the early 1950s, it penetrated an area so wild and isolated that surveying crews had to use helicopters hovering at treetop height to lay out the route. Over a period of three years, the longest peacetime airlift in history ferried 170 million tons of machinery to 13 airstrips in a region where temperatures can vary from -55 degrees to +100 degrees F. The line includes two tunnels, 19 major bridges and over 200 miles of track laid across muskeg. Jules Timmins, a noted mine owner, drove the last spike on the railroad on February 13, 1954.

At MP 68.6, one can catch a brief glimpse of the 200 ft. high Tonkas Falls. On the Menihek Subdivision, the track runs alongside Menihek Lake for 70 miles. At MP 329.5, the line crosses over the top of Menihek Dam. The best viewing can be obtained by sitting on the left-hand side of a northbound train.

Weather extremes were made evident when I noticed snow sheds made of corrugated metal that have been erected over the dual control power switches at Ross Bay Junction and Premio siding. This railroad is unique in that 260 car, 22,000 ton iron ore unit trains with mid-train helpers are being operated with a one-man crew. As an added safety feature, the location of trains is monitored with GPS sattelite technology. Helicopters are used for track patrols and other miscellaneous chores. On Friday's train, a medical emergency required a coordinated meet between the train and a helicopter so a passenger could be airlifted to a hospital in Labrador City.

Thursday and Friday's train to/from Schefferville was the same as Monday's consist, except the following cars were added: coach 13516; food service-coach 13513; coaches 13512, 13518, boxcar 1695 and mechanical reefer 1559. The reefer is used for transporting animal carcasses that hunters have bagged and processed meat from a facility in Schefferville.

It was quite a sight seeing seven passenger cars practically filled to capacity with an eclectic mix of hunters, fishermen, miners, natives (Indians) and, of course, a few railfans, including one from Belgium.  The railroad serves a region inhabited by the Inuit, Naskapi and Montagnais indigenous peoples, formerly referred to as "Indians" in a more politically incorrect time. One of the security guards on the train was fluent in the Montagnais language, and the signs in the vestibules advising passengers not to loiter there were printed in three languages -- French, English and, I assume, Inuit.

Schefferville is one of those towns like Lynn Lake, Manitoba -- at the "end of steel" and definitely off the beaten path, owing its existence solely to the ore mined out of the earth. Even though there's an estimated 200 million tons of iron ore within a two mile radius of the town center, the mines have closed and the vastly shrunken populace is more or less waiting to see what the future will bring. It may be a long wait. I heard several reasons why the mines have closed; everything from an undesireable, low-grade ore in the area, to the difficulty of performing mining operations in the winter to the high compensation requirements demanded by the Natives for any new mining activities.

The QNS&L has yanked out the CTC and further downgraded the 129.2 mile line from Ross Bay Jct. For a variey of reasons, Schefferville and the railroad serving it have a somewhat cloudy future. The railroad continues to serve a vital role, as, like Churchill, Manitoba, there is no highway access into the town and everything must be brought in by rail.

Linda and I spent Thursday night at the Hotel Royal, a building with as much charm and character as its patrons and employees. Due to the harsh climate, the building is entirely self-contained with several drinking and eating establishments all located within the same complex. For example, one higher-priced, "high class" restaurant was directly across the hall from a cheaper, more spartan cafe.


The local natives welcome Linda and me to Schefferville, Quebec and the Hotel Royal. The date was actually 09/06/02.

After breakfast Friday morning, September 6th, I posed for some pictures in front of the hotel with the Schefferville Welcoming Committee -- a group of local Natives who, unlike me, weren't bothered by the bone-chilling cold. But, then again, I hadn't partaken of their special "anti-freeze" elixer! Over breakfast, the conductor told us about a local guy nicknamed "King Can" (based on the size of the drink he prefers), who doesn't let the cold weather bother him. The conductor claims to have seen him sitting outside the hotel in howling, forty-degree-below-zero blizzards, sipping away on his can of beer as if he were in Miami Beach in August!


The southbound QNS&L train prepares to depart Schefferville, Quebec. The date was actually 09/06/02.


Thanks to Linda's fluent French, she arranged for us to ride in the cab of the locomotive on the southbound train out of Schefferville, Quebec. Here, she could easily pass for a female Conductor or Head Brakewoman! The date was actually 09/06/02.


Okay, now it's MY turn to pretend to be the head brakeman, assistant engineer, conductor ... whatever! The date was actually 09/06/02.

The train crews were very friendly and Linda's ability to speak fluent French helped when ordering meals at restaurants. It earlier came in handy when the employees at the "Mickey-Dee's" in Sept-Iles were trying to short-change us. I figured she's about ready to take on the rudest cab driver Paris has to offer if the situation demanded it!

On the drive Friday night from Sept-Iles to Godbout, I discovered, the hard way, that the local police can take radar readings while passing on a two-lane road. I was able to talk my way out of a ticket, but I definitely slowed down after that. As the cops were walking back to their patrol car, I asked Linda if she wanted to drive.

Linda and I were treated to two more ferry rides on Saturday, September 7th as we progressed toward Quebec City and Montreal. At Baie-Ste-Catherine, we rode the ferry "JOS DESCHENES" across the Saguenay River to Tadoussac, on the opposite bank. Perhaps one day a bridge will be built, but I like the ferry operation just fine. Just before arriving in Quebec City, we scoped out Montmorency Falls at Beauport. So where's the dinner or tourist train that could operate between Quebec City and this unique location? There's a large population base and someplace interesting to take them to. (3)

At Levis, we parked our car next to the VIA station that no longer serves trains and rode the ferry "Lomer-Gouin" across the St. Lawrence River to the Old City sector of Quebec City, with the stately Hotel Chateau Frontenac dominating the scene. Sadly, with the abandonment of CN's Montmagny Subdivision between St-Charles and Charny, VIA trains no longer call at Levis, and I noticed another right-of-way that's been converted by the "Rails-To-Trails" people. The trains now use a more direct route that bypasses Levis. Fortunately, on May 31, 1991 I rode the westbound "OCEAN / CHALEUR" through Levis, or at least I think I did. The train passed through in the wee hours of the morning and I was asleep at the time. It was also sad walking around the Hotel Chateau Frontenac and noticing how the name "Canadian Pacific" has been so thoroughly eradicated from the property. The historic CP hotels across Canada now operate under the "Fairmount" name, and the word just doesn't seem to have the same ring to it.

Now it was time for us to log some miles toward Montreal in preparation for returning home the following day. Linda would be flying directly out of Montreal while I would be taking a Greyhound bus to Albany, NY to take advantage of that freebie ticket I had on Southwest Airlines.

While driving along Highway 20 to our motel in Dorval, I noticed a former VIA LRC locomotive parked at the Canadian Allied Diesel facility and painted in some unusual paint scheme. In 1999, there was talk that VIA Rail was going rebuild the LRC units with CAT power plants, and new electrics and wiring. Canadian Allied Diesel was going to do the work, and they acquired 6908 for evaluation. In the meantime, VIA changed it's mind. So, this unit, which is nothing more than 4 walls and a roof, has been decked out in the corporate colors, renumbered 2000, the logos of the various companies that were to have been involved affixed to its side, and parked adjacent to the Highway 20 as a mobile billboard of sorts.

For you "numbers" people, as information, on September 8th I rode bus fleet # 6454 that protected the "local" stops for Greyhound schedule # 4007 from Montreal directly to Albany's airport. I forgot to get the odometer reading and the driver's hat badge number. I guess one can really get carried away with this "numbers stuff," eh?

Another bus ran nonstop to New York City for the large number of people wanting to go there. Thus, there were only a handful of passengers on my bus, which makes bus travel almost bearable. I can handle a bus ride of four or five hours. I'm not so sure about a coast-to-coast trip. The price was right. Obviously, I would've preferred sampling the new sleeping cars of VIA Rail's overnight "ENTERPRISE" to Toronto and flying out of either there or Buffalo, NY, but that would've required an additional day. Maybe next time.

Later that day I flew Southwest Airlines flight 2204 ALB-LAS (N729SW), connecting to flight 1229 LAS-ONT (N738WN), concluding a memorable two-week vacation that yielded some new, interesting mileage to some definitely off-the-beaten-path locations. I never thought I'd visit Lynn Lake, MB a second time, but I did. Maybe I haven't seen the last of Schefferville, QC either!

The author wishes to thank John Godfrey, Earl Roberts, Bill Linley and Gerry Gaugl for assistance in the preparation of this article. The SCENIC RAIL GUIDE TO CENTRAL & ATLANTIC CANADA, by the late Bill Coo, also provided technical support.


(1) http://www.traversiers.gouv.qc.ca/indexa.htm
(2) http://www.cwrr.com/Canpass/maps/qnsl_map.gif
(2) http://www.photosbystevenjbrown.com/qnsl/qnsl.html
(2) http://www.billwood.com/trains/qnsl/
(2) http://www.cwrr.com/Canpass/qnsl/qnsl.html
(2) http://www.cwrr.com/Canpass/qnsl/sep_lab.html
(3) http://www.sepaq.com/En/?Reseau=CT&amp;Module=&amp;Etablissement=PCM&amp;Page=BIEN#0


Edited 4 time(s). Last edit at 10/23/15 20:21 by CA_Sou_MA_Agent.

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