INTERNATIONAL SUPPLEMENT TO BLN 1242 3 OCTOBER 2015
BRANCH LINE NEWS
This newsletter covers the World outside the British Isles from information
supplied by members.
Opinions expressed are not necessarily those of the Compilers or of the Society.
INTERNATIONAL NEWS TEAM:-
International Editor (to whom all email and postal contributions should be sent):
Paul Griffin, 7 School Bell Mews, Church Lane, Stoneleigh, COVENTRY, CV8 3ZZ
Email: [email protected]
Deputy International Editor: Derek Woodward, 68 Church Street, Matlock, DERBY, DE4 3BY
The Budapest to Sofia service at the Romanian border station of Golenti. The Romanian diesel will shortly be replaced by
the Bulgarian one on the left.
 Belgium - Railbike operation on the Kapellen-Brasschaat line
On 29 August your correspondent visited the relatively new railbiking (velorailing in France of course)
operation on the branch that formerly served the military site at Brasschaat.
It is easily reached from the NMBS station at Kapellen (line 12). The short section of the branch alongside
the main line north of the level crossing at Kapellen appeared to be still in use as a siding. The
recommended way to reach the railbiking base is to follow Koning Albertlei for a short distance until it
crosses the branch route, then turn right to follow the rails (still in place but clearly unvisited by a train for
many years) for about 1km. On the day of his visit all available railbikes were in use so a reservation is
highly recommended (possible via a link from http://www.spoorfietsen.be). There are two types of railbike
– the standard version (EUR 30) takes 2 cyclists and 2 adult passengers (maybe 3 at a pinch) and the large
group version (EUR 80) 4 cyclists and up to 8 passengers. If you are really keen to do all available track you
will need to hire both versions as they are directed to separate tracks at the terminus points. The main
track is single with no passing loops
so departures are only possible at
designated times (10:00 and 14:00
at weekends and holiday times,
The available track runs broadly E-W
and is stated to be 5km long and
marked with posts at 0.5km
intervals. It passes through mainly
wooded countryside and gradients
are very moderate. There are two
road crossings where cyclists have
to raise a pair of barriers across the
track, as well as a number of
footpath crossings where trackside
signs advise caution. At one of the
road crossings there is a pillbox
bunker next to the track. The scenic
highlight is the causeway crossing of
the anti-tank canal whose
construction dates from 1939. All
the rails in the military camp area
shown on a large-scale map still
appear to be in place. Broadly it was
a triangular arrangement. Railbikes
coming from Kapellen take the north
curve (the south curve is completely
overgrown) to pass the junction
with the third side of the triangle,
running N-S. The crew then has to
reverse the railbike using one of the
3 turning platforms (very easy to
operate) and if necessary set the points for the final short run (200 metres or so) south into the Perron
Nord terminus. This large house is now a popular café run by the same organisation as the railbiking; it is a
social enterprise aimed at bringing disadvantaged people into regular work.
Picture of Brasschaat Perron Nord taken from the old control tower. In the right background a railbike is on the turning
platform. In the left foreground is a line of standard bikes; on the right is the line for large group bikes.
The terminus is next to the former military airstrip which is now in use for leisure flying. It was possible to
climb the abandoned control tower where some of the equipment was still in place. The nearby “Gunfire”
artillery museum is only open on certain weekdays. A short inspection south of Perron Nord showed the
two diverging tracks south of the triangle still in place, and “beware of trains” signs where the SE branch
once crossed the N-S road running parallel to the airfield.
The railbike operation appears to be run with a very small staff. In the UK you can imagine that staff would
have to operate the turning platforms and points and patrol the road crossings, but all of these were self-
service. Our member’s railbike was first back at the Kapellen base (so claiming the full extent of available
track on the standard railbikes line!) but they found themselves behind a locked gate so had to wait for
some 10 minutes to be let out.
 Croatia – Cut-off contracts signed
BLNI 1233.171 covered the history of the proposed cut-off for Zagreb to Bjelovar services, commenting
that no work appeared to have started. That seems likely to change soon with the announcement that
contracts for the construction of the 12.2 km cut-off linking Gradec on the Zagreb – Križevci – Hungary line
with Sveti Ivan Žabno on the Križevci – Bjelovar branch were signed by infrastructure manager HŽ Infra,
Comsa and HF Wiebe on 26 August. Work is scheduled to start in October for completion in late 2017. The
new link will cut Zagreb – Bjelovar journey times from around 105 min to 60 min by eliminating the
reversal at Križevci. The single track unelectrified line will be suitable for 22.5 tonne axle loads and a
maximum speed of 120 km/h, except for a curve north of Gradec where trains will be limited to 100 km/h.
There will be stations at Lubena, Remetinec, Križevački and Haganj. The Križevci – Sveti Ivan Žabno line will
also be modernised for use by local services between Bjelovar and Križevci.
 Finland - Services cut and two passenger lines to close
The Ministry of Transport and Communications and national train operator VR Group announced on 15
September that they have reached a four-year agreement on the operation of public service obligation
passenger services. From 27 March 2016, 28 of Finland's most lightly-used stations will close and
passenger services will be withdrawn on several branch lines including Joensuu - Nurmes and Seinäjoki –
Haapamäki. Some main line stopping services such as Lahti - Riihmäki will be reduced while in Helsinki Line
Y suburban services will be withdrawn and Line H will be merged with Line R. However, the agreement also
includes provisions to accommodate rising demand in some areas, such as a new Riihmäki - Helsinki
express commuter service.
 Finland - Vantaa Airport Ring Line (Keharata)
The Helsink airport at Vantaa has joined the Finnish railway network. Originally intended to open in 2014
but delayed by contaminated ground, the new line opened on 1 July 2015 as an extension from
Vantaankoski, via the airport, to a southward facing junction over the main line north of Hiekkaharju to
join the local lines between the southbound and northbound tracks. The new line is double track 18km
long of which 8km is in tunnel. Five stations have been built- Vehkala, Kivisto, Aviapolis, Lentoasema (this is
the airport) and Leinela. Provision has been made for three further stations at Petas, Viinikkala and
Ruskeasanta. Vehkala, situated in a barren no building landscape with intended P&R is the best for
The airport station of Lentoasema is 45 metres below the surface, in the 8km long tunnel. It comprises an
island platform 230 metres long capable of taking three Sm5 FLIRT trains on each platform. The fleet of 41
120kph FLIRTs are owned by Paakaupunkiseudun Junakalusto Oy and operated by VR for the HSL Regional
Transport Authority. At each end of the platform are three escalators and two large lifts. The airport
station itself was not ready for opening on 1 July, so until 10 July passengers to/from the airport had to use
Aviapolis station and travel on a free Finnish Transport agency shuttle bus running every five minutes.
Initially the Tietotie access to the airport station from the west end of the platform is in use which involves
a long walk through a bare rock tunnel then a series of escalators, again through bare rock, to the surface
thence a long walk or a free five minute bus ride to the terminal 2 arrival floor. Platform to Terminal took
the author 15 minutes with hand luggage and a no delay bus departure. By the Autumn of 2015 the second
access, from the east end of the platform, giving direct access to Terminals 1 and 2, should be opened.
In January 2015 the new concourse at Tikkurila was opened above the platforms, with travel centre,
waiting lounge, supermarket and restaurants, providing a connection from the Ring Line. A new bus station
is adjacent. All long distance services from Helsinki, except for those to Turku, stop here, including those to
Russia, together with all local services on routes H,I,K,N,R,T and Z. Route I, which terminated at Tikkurila
has been extended anti-clockwise along the new line to Helsinki, and route M terminated at Vantaankoski
is re-lettered P and has been extended clockwise along the new line to Tikkurila and on to Helsinki.
Tikkurila to Lentoasema will be 8 minutes. Helsinki to the airport via Vantaankoski is 32 minutes and via
Tikkurila 27 minutes. Trains will run each way every 10 minutes for most of the day providing a 5 minute
frequency to/from the airport and Helsinki (usually platforms 1 and 18). The frequent Finnair coach from
Helsinki station to the airport takes 30-35 minutes and the frequent service bus route 61 from Tikkurila to
the airport takes 20 minutes. They are both likely to lose some passengers but the train will be quicker and
the coach will be the more comfortable and with stops at the door of both terminals with a fare slightly
higher than for rail.
A consequence of the new line is that whereas all local electric units faced in the same direction, this
enabling markers on each station platform to indicate where passengers should stand for the ‘buy tickets
on the train’ coach, the new line being a loop will have trains ‘the wrong way round’.
The first train on 1 July was at 03:59, but the author waited until mid-morning before travelling in both
directions. The line was very well used, causing punctuality problems with families trying the new service.
Hospitality girls employed by HSL, the Helsinki Regional Transport Authority, handed out purple balloons
and sachets, both printed with a stylised map of the new line, with the sachets containing sweets. It is
rumoured that the Sm5 trains will have their white with horizontal green and blue lines livery changed to
 France - Heritage news
The Association Voies Ferrees du Velay are a heritage group who ran trains between St-Agrève and
Dunières in central France south of Lyon. The track bed is owned by four local communes. This is the latest
position: Dunières to Montfauçon was lifted during the summer of 2015 (understandably refused to the
IBSE Central France Tour in July 2014) and services ceased Raucoules-Brossettes to Montfauçon in July
2015 due to condition of track (so fortunate that the IBSE tour covered this section of line a year earlier).
22 July 2014, and the first day of the IBSE Central France Heritage lines tour has reached a very foggy
Montfauçon with the wonderfully characterful Billard railcar. There was time in the schedule to continue to
Dunières but this was eventually refused due to condition of track
The 13km from Raucoules-Brossettes to Montfauçon will also be lifted and Raucoules-Brossettes to
Dunières made into a cycle track. This leaves the 26km from Raucoules-Brossettes to Tence and St-Agrève
for heritage trains. Work has started on a new depot at Raucoules.
Further north, in Picardie, and updating BLNI1233.178, the first metre gauge train since 1953 entered the
old station at Crèvecoeur-le-Grand (Oise) on 24 August. The last standard gauge freight train departed in
1990. The purpose of the train was to distribute ballast over the 500-600 metres of newly laid track. After
tamping the ballast the official inauguration will be as scheduled during the week end of 17th-18th
October. Basic information on both the above items from the September 2015 SNCF Society newsletter.
BLNI 1233.175 reported that the Train à Vapeur Thouarsais (formerly Train à Vapeur de Touraine) had seen
timescales slide for their project to start a tourist operation over the freight line from Thouars towards
Arçay and Loudun. Worse was to follow when the community of communes of Thouarsais decided that the
project could not be afforded and will be abandoned. That leaves Steam Train Touraine largely moved to a
new base from which they cannot run trains.
 France – Threatened and reopening services update
According to l'Echo du Rail, "local sources" put the threat to Neussargues - Sévérac-le-Château – Millau –
Béziers at December 2016. It seems likely that intense lobbying on the future of this line is taking place and
no-one really knows what is happening.
l'Echo du Rail also believes Morlaix - Roscoff is at risk because several metal bridges are heavily corroded
and need "work" . A local lobbying group has been set up.
The landslide at Alleyras has severed the Cévenol line between Langeac and Langogne, so trains have been
running between Clermont-Ferrand and Langeac and from La Bastide to Nîmes with a bus connection in
the middle. Despite the fact that legal action is being taken against the owners of the land on which the
landslip originated, SNCF have decided that from 27 September the IC train pair will be replaced, from
Clermont-Ferrand to Nimes, by a bus, increasing journey time by 30%. This is widely seen as a tactic to
discourage usage of the service, and another nail in the coffin for the line.
Regarding the Belfort-Delle reopening, construction work has started with a reopening date of 11
December 2017. The 22km line was abandoned in 1992. The construction works involve rebuilding and
electrifying the single-track line, which will have six new stations including an interchange with the Rhine-
Rhône high-speed line at Belfort-Montbéliard TGV station.
 France – Contournement de Lille completed
The Lille area represents a considerable bottleneck to the movement of freight to/from French ports such
as Dunkerque and Calais to the East of France, Germany and Switzerland, especially at peak travel times
during the week.
The Contournement de Lille (literally Bypass of Lille) has created an alternative route from east of Aulnoye
to north of Lille. This involved building three computerized signal boxes in Aulnoye-Aymeries, Honnechy
and Maurois, an upgraded electrical sub-station in Hechy, a new platform at Busigny to allow freight to
pass through more easily, and two new curves. These are the Raccordement d’Aulnoye-Leval (also referred
to on some maps as the Raccordement d’Aulnoye-Aymeries), which avoids Aulnoye, and the
Raccordement d’Honnechy, which avoids Busigny and is actually a reopening. Together they form a route
avoiding Valenciennes. Both curves entered service in May 2015. The sub-station at Hechy was the final
piece of the jigsaw and has just opened. An earlier scheme saw the construction of four new computerised
signal boxes between Somain, Lourches and Cambrai.
 Germany - News from around the Länder
Baden-Württemberg – BLNI 1206.137 reported that progress was being made towards reopening the
western part of line 4810 from Weil der Stadt to Calw. Appointment of an infrastructure manager is now
being tendered and it is planned to reopen to passenger traffic from December 2018. Current thinking is
that hydrogen fuel cell powered LINT multiple units will be used.
Hessen/Rheinland Pfalz - Movement on the Aartalbahn. Line 3500 (the Aartalbahn) runs from Wiesbaden
53.7km north to Diez on the Koblenz to Limburg line. From 1985 to 2007, the southern end was operated
as a heritage railway with historic trains, but currently, two bridges are unusable. At the end of August
2008, the Northern Rhineland-Palatinate Public Transport
Association decided to reactivate the Limburg–Zollhaus
section in 2014, subsequently deferred to 2015 and probably
to be deferred again. Meanwhile a draisine operation is
active on this northern section. On 1 April 2015 a train
conveying stock ran – the first for five and a half years. News
also that a grant of €1M for the Nassauische Touristikbahn
has been agreed. The museum operation now intend to
restore the southern part of the line from Wiesbaden, initially
to to Bad Schwalbach next year, then to Zollhaus.
Nordrhein-Westfalen - First mentioned in BLNI1229.110, line
2262 from Oberhausen-Osterfeld - Bottrop Nord has been
approved for closure from km2.830 to 12.104 by the EBA,
and the closure must be by 31 December 2017.
26km south of Hagen on the line to Marienheide is
Oberbrügge from where line 2814 goes west 6.6km to Halver.
Plans to resume mining here have come to nought but
Draisinenbahnen Berlin-Brandenburg started draisine rides
on 21 June from the station at Oberbrügge with departures at
10:00, 13:00 and 16:00 and ‘public tours’ all year round.
Reservations are possible via booking request on the Internet
Rheinland-Pfalz - The zoo in Worms has a children's railway, "Emma". Entry into the zoo is 6 EUR.
The Herxheim branch (St. Christopher-Straße 4-6, 76863, Herxheim) of the furniture store Ehrmann Gilb
operates a children's railway on Saturdays, available for adults as well. The ride is free. Contact
[email protected] for times.
On the Mainz - Worms – Mannheim line two new stations opened 15 June at Dienheim and Frankenthal
Sachsen - Leipzig trams - the planned December closure of the Kreuz Connewitz to Markkleeberg West
section (line 9) including flat crossing over DB Netze will now happen on 28 November with Friday 27
November being the last day of operation. Line 9 then moves from Thekla to Klemmstraße.
Sachsen-Anhalt - Tourist trains funded by Sachsen Anhalt are planned between Lutherstadt Wittenberg
and Bad Schmiedeberg in 2016 and again in 2017 for the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. On an
historical note the Reformation is often dated to 31 October 1517, the eve of All Saints' Day, in Wittenberg
(subsequently renamed Lutherstadt Wittenberg) where Martin Luther nailed his Ninety-Five Theses on the
Power and Efficacy of Indulgences to the door of the Castle Church.
Drei Kronen & Ehrt is a former pyrite mine in the Harz Mountains between Elbingerode and Rübeland,
operated as a visitor attraction complete with working railway. See http://www.grube-einheit.de/. The
mine will close on 31 October and anyone wishing to travel the mine railway should visit before this date.
The site is reached by bus 258 from Blankenburg or 265 from Wernigerode, alighting at the bus stop
Rübeland Drei Kronen Ehrt. The bus schedules can be found at http://www.hvb-harz.de/.
Schleswig-Holstein - Line 1112 starts at Malente-Gremsmühlen, a now disused station on the Lubeck – Kiel
line and runs north 17.3km to Lütjenburg, which is a few kilometres from the Baltic. The operator
Draisinenbahnen Berlin-Brandenburg is suggesting a possible draisine operation for the line to commence
 Hungary/Romania/Bulgaria - Europe Trip – 30 May to 6 June Part 1
Our member flew with Ryanair, for the first time ever, to Budapest from Manchester. He was not overly
impressed with the carrier, but at least arrived on time. In view of his long overnight to come, he had lunch
at the airport and was able to pick up supplies from the Spar in the terminal, which was useful. It was the
first time he had flown to Budapest since Terminal 1 closed, and was disappointed that the short walk to
Ferihegy station was replaced by a bus journey from Terminal 2.
An IC service was taken from Ferihegy to Szolnok; no reservation was held but the conductor didn't seem
to mind. There then followed a series of journeys over the plains of southern Hungary in class 416 DMU's
via Szentes, Hódmezövásárhely, and Szeged to Békéscsaba, which enabled our member to clear that part
of the country. The final leg of the journey involved a replacement bus service between Szekuttas and
Orosháza. On arrival at Orosháza it was a surprise to see that the onward train appeared to consist of a
class 418 on the rear and two more on the front sandwiching two coaches. In fact the rear loco was left
behind, but it was still an unusual formation. Another loco-hauled train (single engine only) was crossed on
the way to Békéscsaba, so it looked as though this was the standard method of operation during the
period of the engineering works.
Pair of diesels on a two coach train, having arrived from Orosháza at Békéscsaba in the late evening. Would normally be a
unit, but engineering work split the line from Szeged into two parts, so diesels were operating the eastern end.
Békéscsaba station is currently undergoing major rebuilding work and most of the buildings are shut. Our
member had an hour here and, fortunately, there was a very quiet bar just outside, so he was able to have
a leisurely beer whilst waiting for the late running overnight train to Sofia.
The second day was spent mainly on the Budapest to Sofia service. A 30 late departure from Békéscsaba
was compounded by an additional 15 minutes delay due to customs checks at Lokoshaza. The train rather
surprisingly ran into the yard at Curtici, 10 or so tracks away from the single platform station. It was
assumed that this was done because the train splits here into Bucharest and Sofia portions. The Bucharest
portion was taken off the front and shunted into the adjacent track and, after a lengthy wait with lots of
staff messing about, the Sofia portion surprisingly reversed back to the north end of the station layout and
then ran on to the track that the other portion was just vacating. The reason for this strange manoeuvre
became apparent as two coaches from the other portion, that had been taken off and left in front of us,
were passed. Having left Curtici around 75 minutes down, your reporter decided to get some sleep,
vaguely noticing Arad and Caransebeş as he dozed. When he eventually came to, dawn was breaking as
the train passed through the hilly area around Băile Herculane, and the train had somehow caught up time
and was only 20 late. The scenery soon changed, with the Danube coming alongside, before the line
turned away and started a tortuous climb through Valea Alba, providing splendid views looking back over
the route just taken. The scenery was less exciting onwards to Craiova, where the electric loco was
swapped for a diesel. There is no sign of any electrification work on the Calafat branch and indeed the
track quality was really poor, with a very slow trundle across the wide-open plains between Segarcea and
Golenţi and only the occasional derelict village and herd of goats to break the monotony.
On arrival at the new station at Golenţi, there were no Romanian customs staff present, so an on time
departure was achieved with a Bulgarian diesel taking charge, despite the fact that the onward stretch of
line was electrified.
View from the Budapest to Sofia train crossing the New Danube bridge.
After crossing the impressive new Danube road/rail bridge the rebuilt station at Vidin was reached, The
train ran into the international platform, separated from the rest of the station by a high fence and, after a
quick customs inspection was completed, the stock was shunted across to one of the domestic platforms,
on to the front of a local train, which took 5 hours to cover the 285 kilometres to Sofia. It had been a long
journey, 16 hours in a basic Bulgaria Railways couchette with no refreshments other than a black tea
provided by the sleeping car attendant in the morning, but very interesting nonetheless, the highlights
being the Danube bridge, only used by this one passenger train a day, and the final approach to Sofia, with
great views across the capital city to the snow capped mountains beyond. Our member was therefore glad
to retire to his hotel, which was adjacent to the station, but this wasn't the end of the day's travels. Just
before leaving the UK a report had been received regarding possible Bulgarian closures, which suggested
that two lines were particularly threatened, these being the narrow gauge line to Dobrinishte and the
short branch from [Sofia] – Volujak – Bankja. As it happened there was a Sunday early evening round trip
over the latter, so after freshening up and having a meal at a pleasant restaurant across the square from
the hotel, your reporter decided to take advantage of it. He nearly missed the train, however, as the
departure boards showed it leaving from 4, and the first sign he saw was to track 4, a west facing bay on
the south side. Nobody else was around and, at the time of its expected arrival, a modern low floor EMU
ran into the other side of the station, at which point he had his suspicions and hurried off towards it. It
turned out that it was the Bankja train and was in platform 4, a different place altogether. Fortunately he
had just enough time to get there before it left (Sofia Central is in the middle of a massive rebuild at the
moment so it's a bit of an obstacle course) and was also lucky that the guard was kind enough to mention
that the return departure had been brought forward 15 minutes and that the last train of the day had been
cancelled. Both services were lightly loaded, and the line unremarkable, except for a very nice station
building at the terminus, but the journey was livened up by the eccentric driver who played his heavy
metal music very loudly with the cab door open, but on the way back closed it so he could have a smoke!
 Poland – More on the Pomeranian Metropolitan Railway
BLNI 1241.340 reported the opening of this new railway with services commencing 1 September. Several
members wasted no time before visiting and have brought to light additional information.
Gdansk Wrzeszcz has three modern such platforms, numbered Peron 1 -> 3 from the west side. There are
signs pointing to ‘Peron 1,2,3,4’ with the 4 crossed out. However our member cannot see where a platform
4 could be built as a new building is under construction immediately on the east side of the line. Platform
utilisation is that airport trains use the west side of P1; southbound PKP trains use the east side, and
northbound PKP trains use the west side of P2. The new flyover starts just south of Gdańsk Zaspa and the
single track climbs steeply parallel to the island platform and one track away from it, crossing the PKP lines
on a modern bowstring girder bridge just north of the station. A physical connection exists where the two
tracks of the airport line come together. It is unclear at the moment whether the flyover line is in use yet.
The airport line is both steep and sharply curved. All the stations have side platforms. As with the airport,
although money has been lavished on the stations, customer comforts are minimal. There are no shelters
and few seats. Curiously, although the line is planned for electrification there appeared to be no passive
provision for electrification, such as pre-formed mast bases. Rather surprising as it is surely much cheaper
to have done this when the line was being constructed rather than after it is in service. A new tram line
terminates at Gdańsk Brętowo, with the tracks set into paving at the same level as the platform. The line
leaves the central reservation of the road named Rakoczego and curves sharp right on a concrete viaduct
to reach the station. Both Gdańsk Jasień and Kiełpinek are provided with ample parking. The freight branch
which diverges west of Gdańsk Matarnia (not Mazarina), at a location which may be called Gdańsk Firoga
(this name taken from Wikipedia), was shiny. Does this mean that freight traffic now runs this way rather
than from the Kartuzy direction? Gdansk Port Lotniczy (the airport station), to our members surprise, is on
a viaduct, with side platforms. It is connected to ground level by an excessive provision of 3 staircases and
6 lifts as well as an overhead covered walkway to the terminal building. There are no ticket machines, so
the only way to buy a ticket is from the train crew. Rather surprisingly, there is no provision to terminate
and start trains at the airport.
A service to Gdansk awaits departure from the new Gdansk Port Lotniczy station
The line continues as double track all the way to the north junction with the line from Kościerzyna. The
south curve is single track and was somewhat rusty, although that will change from 1 October. Owing to
engineering work the line becomes single approaching Gdansk Osowa. Osowa is in the process of a major
rebuild with island platforms flanking a double track main line with loops. Only the western island (peron
102 & 104) exists at the moment, with no facilities or shelter whatsoever; the rest of the station is a
building site; the access to the platform is through the site. The SKM PDF timetable plus a link to a map for
services from 01 October to 17 October confirms the start of services from Gdansk to Kartuzy on 1 October
(a Thursday!). These also will be the first scheduled services via the south curve at Osawa. Once off the
curve Kartuzy trains will travel south down the Gdynia – Somonino – Kościerzyna line, but instead of going
to Somonino and reversing (which is what recent summer only services have done), a new connection
south of Borkowo will allow trains to join the former freight line to Kartuzy (line 229) which offers a more
Reopening of Kartuzy to Somonino is scheduled for the December timetable change (13 December 2015)
as part of a SKM service to Kościerzyna. Through services from Gdansk to the airport were promised from
1 October, but the timetable pdfs show only a few peak hour services after this date.
At Gdynia Główna all trains to and from Kościerzyna use Perron V, the westernmost island platform, with
the exception of R90987 arriving Gdynia at 10:34. This uses Perron III and presumably therefore the flyover
line south of the station.
 Romania – Re-openings after the Regiotrans problems
Three branches have been reopened by CFR following the partial collapse of Regiotrans.
T213 to Radna to Timișoara, from 11 September. T308 Sighișoara – Odorhei reopened with four train
pairs and from 4 September the electrified branch T517 from Pașcani to Târgu Neamț. In the NE of the
country a train pair is now running [Suceava] – Cacica – Gura Humorului – [Ilva Mică]. The Cacica to Gura
Humorului section has been freight only recently. Details of the times in EGTRE.
And, included in this item despite not being a reopening - the Abrami – Popeşti freight only line has been
leased to Via Terra Spedition, so presumably has a future.
 Switzerland - Corrections and further information on item 1241.343
A member very knowledgeable on Swiss railways has commented on this item. Firstly that the link
between the new platforms at Zürich (31 and 34) has always been scheduled to open 13 December 2015.
It is true that some remedial works were required on the bridge but these have been completed and there
was sufficient time to carry them out without delaying the project.
Secondly, the route described for the S3 ex Basel is the regular one with Wolf Depot on the right. The
diveunder referred to is only used by football specials. As Basel supporters have a reputation the same as
Milwall at their worst, these trains are not recommended. The route is described more fully in EGTRE.
As regards the deviation between Brig and Martigny, there was a major deviation completed in 2004
(opened 06 November 2004). Kilometre distances are as follows:
Old Line: Salgesch 112.32, Leuk 117.53
New line: Salgesch 112.32, deviation point 112.42, deviation point 117.00 and Leuk 117.53
This means the line is 40m shorter than previously. The new section is 160 km/h double track including
tunnels of 2799 and 1365m. The original line curved round the side of the hills in the area and was the last
section of single track between Lausanne and Domodossola. There was a realignment between Raron and
Visp in March 2002 (exact date unknown to our member) which reduced the distance by 10m.
 Vatican City/Italy – Vatican City railway tourist trains
The short branch from Roma S. Pietro to Città del Vaticano is used on Saturdays during September -
November 2015 by tourist trains operated by Trenitalia. There are two packages but only one starts from
the Vatican City. The €40 price includes a visit to the Vatican Museums in Rome, the train journey from
Vatican City to Castel Gandolfo, a visit to the Pontifical Villas of Castel Gandolfo and return. The train
departs 10:57 and details and bookings may be made by the Vatican Museums website (control + click to
follow the underscored link).
REST OF THE WORLD
 Australia - Overland to end
It appears that GSR's Overland service (Melbourne - Adelaide) will cease operating at the end of
December. This is based on a post to the South Australian Railway Enthusiasts group on Facebook - the
poster had contacted GSR and been given the following information about the last few scheduled services
from Melbourne to Adelaide: 29/12 service MEL - ADL is a bus. 26/12 is Not running /cancelled. 22/12
will be the last actual train MEL – ADL. 19/12 will be a bus. On this basis, he expects the last Adelaide -
Melbourne service will be on 21 December. It is possible that there will be a campaign to save the service,
and the state governments will put some (more) subsidy into it, but don’t rely on it.
 Australia – Ghan and Indian Pacific trains suffer subsidy cuts
Great Southern Rail (GSR) is set to halve the frequency of services on its iconic Ghan and Indian Pacific
trains after the Australian federal government announced that it would cut its subsidy by $A 9m ($US
6.6m) from July 2016. GSR will reportedly be able to offer a 20% concession to senior citizens and veterans
(Australian citizens only unfortunately) and as a result expects demand for its services to fall by 20%.
Between 40-50% of all travellers on GSR's trains currently receive a discount, with 95% of passengers
receiving a discount of up to 30%. Seniors can receive discounts of up to 55% while veterans, which make
up 2-3% of all passengers, receive reductions of up to 88%. GSR plans to scale back its Alice Springs –
Darwin Ghan service to a weekly from a twice-weekly service at present. It expects to introduce longer
trains to meet demand. Similar cuts to the Indian Pacific between Sydney, Adelaide and Perth are
 Ethiopia - Addis Ababa Light Rail commences operations
The new 17km north – south light rail line in Addis Ababa commenced services on 20 September. The east
– west line will follow soon. Fares are collected by an electromagnetic card which must be swiped before
joining and after leaving the train. There will be 39 stations, equipped with 22 lifts and escalators.
 Israel - Ashkelon-Beer Sheva line completed
A milestone was reached in the construction of Israel's 70km Ashkelon- Beer-Sheva line at the beginning of
August when the signalling system was activated making the line operational. Before the official opening in
September 2015 freight trains will run over the line to bed in the track. Initially passenger trains will call at
Ashkelon, Sderot, Netivot, and Beer-Sheva, with a further station at Ofakim due to open at the end of the
year. From next year the line will be used by 25 trains per day in each direction.
BLNI – Canada Extra September 2015
[A67] Canada - Report on a recent visit to Canada.
Halifax – Montreal and a Canadian PSUL!
On 1 July your correspondent was aboard train 15, The Ocean, from Halifax to Montreal Centrale. Whilst
Halifax station is a very imposing building and well maintained one has to wonder why it needs 5 platforms
when it only deals with 3 arrivals and 3 departures a week. Waking early from his slumbers the following
morning he was interested in discovering what happened to the train in the outskirts of Quebec as a
member of the dining car staff had advised him that the train would ‘go to Sainte Foy and then push back
to the junction.’ On arrival at Joffre the train duly took the Quebec branch and came to a halt at Sainte Foy.
After the station work had been completed the train reversed and was PUSHED back to the junction at
Joffre at around 20-30 mph with no locomotive on the front! After another reversal at Joffre and then
routed by the direct line to West Jn, the train continued to Montreal.
On 7 July he travelled on the 13:00 Montreal GC to Quebec Gare du Palais wondering if there was a third
side of a triangle at Quebec between West Jn and Charny, as this was not shown, probably as a printers
error, on his Canadian Railway Atlas. Sure enough, the train proceeded directly from West Jn to Charny,
thus Joffre to West Jn would qualify for a Canadian version of PSUL as it would appear to be used only by
the Halifax to Montreal service. One question remains, which way does train 14, the Montreal to Halifax
service, go? Does any member have any knowledge of this?
The Montreal – Quebec service travels over a number of lines on its journey from Sainte Foy to Quebec
Gare du Palais. The current route is Sainte Foy, Cap Rouge East Jn, Cap Rouge North Jn, Allenby, Hedley,
Limoilou, over the river bridge and then via the right hand branch at the junction into Gare du Palais.
Gaspe – Montreal
There are still no services on the Gaspe branch. The VIA Rail timetable still says this is for infrastructure
repairs but it has now been going on for over 2 years as neither were there any services when your
correspondent last visited.
However this item was found on the VIA Rail website. NOTE: VIA Rail Canada announced on August 22,
2013 that as a result of Société du chemin de fer de la Gaspésie (SCFG)’s rail infrastructure problems,
service between Matapédia, New Carlisle and Gaspé is suspended. SCFG has not yet confirmed when the
necessary upgrades will be completed. Until such time, in order to ensure the safety of passengers, VIA Rail
will cease operating the service between Montréal and Gaspé.
SCFG’s website still mentions the l’Amiral service which started a couple of years ago in connexion with
cruise ships arriving off the peninsula. A note on the l’Amiral site says that due to the condition of the track
all 2015 services have been suspended.
Editor’s note: The latest from the Gaspé branch is that a recent inspection conducted by Transports Québec
found that, in googlish, ‘a portion of the tracks must be moved and rebuilt in the sector Douglastown’.
Fortunately the cost is believed to be relatively small, but it is yet another problem for the railway, on which
the Haldimand railway bridge is deemed unsafe and is therefore preventing traffic between Gaspé and
Percé. The CAN$1M project lasting two months to repair the Haldimand bridge has yet to be funded as
Transports Québec does not have the money. In fact the full upgrade of the Gaspé branch is estimated at
CAN$107M. VIA Rail has always maintained that trains would only return to the branch if the railway was
Your correspondent had not been to Montreal for 19 years so this was an opportunity to complete the
Metro system with a visit to Montmorency. Various schemes exist for extensions to the system, with the
blue line eastern extension to Anjou seemingly the most advanced. Five more stops are expected to be
added to the Metro line, likely near boulevards Viau, Pie-IX, Lacordaire and Langelier, with a terminal in
Anjou. From current available information it would appear that the stations Viau, Pie-IX and Anjou, which
have the same names as current Metro/AMT stations, will not be interchange points but built on new
sites. Other possible extensions are to the yellow line towards Longueuil and to the orange line turning it
into a huge circle line by joining Cote-Vertu to Montmorency. A possible branch to Le Carrefour is also
AMT, which is the Montreal equivalent of GO Transit in Toronto, operates commuter and some suburban
services on 6 lines out of Montreal. The latest to be opened was the line to Mascouche on 1 December
2014 and two new stations on this line at Pointe-aux-Trembles and Sauve were opened on 6 July 2015.
A new line was built by AMT from Le Gardeur on the CN line running north of the St Lawrence River inland
to a junction approximately one third of the way between Terrebonne and Mascouche on the Chemin de
fer Quebec-Gatineau (which the 1991 First Edition of the atlas shows as being owned by CP.) There is a
new Mascouche station about halfway between the new junction and the original station of that name
which is where the AMT route terminates.
Levis and the Waterfront line
Levis station was on the south shore waterfront line of VIA Rail in Quebec and was on the route of the
Halifax – Montreal service until VIA Rail operated its last passenger train from Levis on 24 October 1998.
From that date the service was diverted via Joffre to Sainte-Foy, although some authorities say it ran only
to Charny originally. (See above). Today Levis station building is a National Historic Site of Canada and still
has it’s VIA Rail signage. It has now been superseded as the ferry terminal for the boats to Quebec by a
new building but is being restored.
Quebec – Reseau Charlevoix
Not being aware of any suburban or light rail services around Quebec, your correspondent was somewhat
surprised to come across this line. Travelling seawards along the road on the north side of the St Lawrence
River, he noted a single line of rails running parallel with the road. After having taken refreshment at the
village of Ste Anne du Beaupre the rails were inspected and he came to the conclusion that the line was
probably used, though perhaps infrequently. Imagine his surprise when getting back into his car a two-car
DMU appeared on the scene carrying passengers!
He was unable to discover at that point what the train was but later when partaking of the teleferique at
the Chutes de Montmorency (next to the bridge across to the Ile d’Orleans) there was the terminal station!
Well, a gravel platform next to a single line. The booking desk is inside the Parc offices/shop building. The
line runs in two parts along the old Canadian National line from Quebec to Clermont. The first part runs
from La Chute Montmorency (wrongly claimed as being in Quebec City) to Baie St Paul and the second part
from there to La Malbaie. Services run on Wednesdays to Sundays only until 11 October, three return
journeys from La Chute to Baie St Paul and four return journeys from Baie St Paul to La Malbaie, with a
Mondays only return from Baie St Paul to La Chute until 7 September. There are buses from Quebec to the
Ile d’Orleans, get off before the bridge and it’s about a 20 minute walk. In winter, only a short section from
Baie St Paul to Gare du Massif is operated. The full journey is 125 km, takes 12 hours and the return
journey can only be done from Quebec on the 08:30 departure from La Chute, costs CAD 108.70 (plus
Canadian taxes of around 17%).
The new atlas shows the Chemin de fer de Charlevoix (CFC) being a short line running from Limoilou Est
Junction to Clermont along the CN line north of the St Lawrence. Montmorency, the current western
terminus of the passenger service is clearly shown as is an intermediate station of Villeneuve between
Montmorency and Quebec. The question is why, as it is only a matter of a few hundred metres from
Limoilou E Jn to Gare du Palais station in Quebec, don’t the CFC operate their passenger service that far?
Perhaps it’s one of those many hurdles that somebody else’s stock has to jump over before they can run
on the national network. Information would be welcomed.
Prince Edward Island Railway
Having family resident on the island, visits tend to be more frequent to this part of Canada. There used to
be an intensive rail service from end to end but now all that remains is the track bed, known as the
Confederation Trail and used as a footpath/cycleway and snow mobile trail, and the PEI Railway Museum
situated at Elmira Station at the eastern end of the island where there is a 7.25” miniature railway.
Where the trackbed crosses the various roads there is generally no trace of the wooden station buildings
which used to serve the railway. However our member has found a website,
www.rrshs.org/Struct.index/strucindex.htm, run by the Railroad Station Historical Society, Inc, where
details of the whereabouts of the buildings can be found. Be warned though as the list for PEI has not been
updated since 21 April 2003 and is out of date in various places. For example, the station building at
Murray River was recently offered for sale, as long as the purchaser removed it (quite common on PEI
moving whole buildings!) Unfortunately no buyer was found and it is thought it was destroyed.
The stone built stations in the west are used for other purposes – Alberton is the Tourist Information
Centre, Summerside is the Library, Kensington is a restaurant and Charlottetown is the HQ of the Workers
Compensation Scheme of PEI.
In Ascension Road, Tignish, there is the overbridge where the line crossed the road but the site of the
terminus in Tignish itself has been built over. At Alberton, the route of the freight spur to Northport can be
traced but this is not part of the Confederation Trail. The Trail has been extended over the last two years
and the only sections of line now not included are Lake Verde to Maple Hill, Lake Verde to Vernon Bridge
and the Cape Traverse branch. The route of the Cape Traverse branch, the original ferry terminal, will
probably never be included as this line closed in 1915 when the ferry terminal was moved to Borden. This
was the only part of the original railway not to be converted from 3’6”gauge to standard gauge.
[A68] Canada - The Deux-Montagnes line in Montreal
With an on-time arrival on the ‘Ocean’ from Halifax, your scribe (not the one in A67, but an earlier
traveller) had sufficient time to indulge in a little exploration of the Montréal suburban railway system.
Two electrified suburban services depart from the awful underground platforms at Montréal Gare Central.
If you thought Birmingham New Street at platform level was bad, Montréal Gare Central would appal you.
Platform level at Montréal Gare Central. A train for Toronto via Ottawa is about to depart.
Fortunately the time spent on the platform is minimal as the stairs accessing the platforms are only
opened just before departure. The chosen service was the 10:30 Montréal to Deus-Montagnes, and two
tickets (one out and one back) were easily purchased at the Banlieue ticket office on the main concourse.
Trains are owned and managed by Agence Métropolitaine de Transport (AMT) but operated by Canadian
National's Montrain division. The tickets have to be electronically validated prior to departure using one of
the machines by the steps down to the platforms. The train turned out to be a rather lengthy EMU.
Services outside the rush hour are hourly on weekdays, but a reduced frequency applies at weekends
despite this being by far the busiest of Montréal’s suburban railways. The line was created in 1918 as a
Canadian Northern Railway (CNoR) service. Canadian National Railway (CN) ran the line starting in 1923
following the merger of CNoR into CN. CN transferred the Deux-Montagnes Line to the Société de
transport de la communauté urbaine de Montréal (STCUM) on 1 July 1982. The line was refurbished from
1992 to 1995 including conversion to 25 kV AC 60 HŽ and transferred to the AMT on 1 January 1996.
The trains set off through the Mont Royal tunnel, built so the CNoR could gain access to the downtown
area. In 1918 the electrified (2400 V DC, double-track) 5.15 km long tunnel was commissioned and dubbed
Montreal’s first subway. Because the tunnel is on a steep grade and inadequately ventilated it was decided
from the very beginning that the locomotives would be electric. The structure gauge of the Mont Royal
Tunnel limits the height of bi-level cars to 14 ft 6 in or 4.42m. In order to finance the project, Canadian
Northern built a ‘model city’ north of the tunnel, modelled after Washington, D.C. The Town of Mont-Royal
has grown to be an upper-income neighbourhood today. Construction began in 1912 and finished in 1918.
Tunnel Terminal was replaced by Central Station in 1943.
The train emerges from the Mont-Royal tunnel at Gare Canora, originally called Portal Heights. This is the
first of twelve suburban stations, all of which are built to a similar pattern with bus stop shelters and
electronic indicator displays. Much use is made of deep blue paint for above ground structures, giving the
stations a distinctive appearance. Next comes Mont Royal and between here and Montpellier a new bridge
has been built to replace a flat crossing, and under which the line now runs. This was started in 2010 and
allows commuter trains to pass below the freight trains that currently use CN's Saint-Laurent subdivision.
The overpass was a prerequisite to increased commuter train frequencies on the Deux-Montagnes line as
well as the commissioning of the Mascouche Line. The $60 million project was completed by the end of
2013. Before the bridge at Jonction de l’Est a new, electrified, east to north curve allows trains from Gare
Central onto the CN line, and the new Mascouche line uses this for 30km to Repentigny. New track has
been built from Repentigny to Terrebonne along the Quebec Autoroute 640, before joining the former
Canadian Pacific (now the Chemins de Fer Québec-Gatineau) line to Mascouche.
To ease overcrowding and attract new users on the Deux-Montagnes Line, the AMT plans to carry out
several projects. One is to extend the double track from its current endpoint at the Bois-Franc station to
the Roxboro-Pierrefonds station. Construction should have begun in 2013 for completion in 2015, but little
evidence of construction work was noted. Currently, there is a second track from Bois-Franc to slightly past
Saraguay (about half way between Bois-Franc and Sunnybrooke), but it is not electrified and is used by CN
freight trains serving industries along the Doney spur. A new train station is planned at Autoroute 13
(between Bois-Franc and Sunnybrooke stations) subject to an increase in the line's capacity, pushing its
commissioning date beyond 2015. On 28 February 2014, the AMT announced that it had purchased the
Deux-Montagnes line from CN for a sum of $92 million. The agreement gives CN trackage rights for freight
trains outside two rush-hour exclusive time windows.
Deux-Montagnes is the end of the line for passenger services, a huge car park giving testimony to the lines
commuter importance. The track continues a further mile to a yard serving a big factory, and the
headshunt is some 2.5 miles distant. Beyond this the line is abandoned and the formation built over in
[A69] Canada – Travelling on the ‘Canadian’
Three times a week from 7 May to 15 October train number 1, the ‘CANADIAN’ departs from Toronto
Union at 22:00hrs for a journey of (according to the last Thomas Cook Overseas Timetable) 4466km,
ending four nights and three days later at Vancouver Pacific Central station. What could be more exciting?
Alas, the journey did not start well. Much relieved at being reunited with his luggage after two days
without it courtesy of FirstAir – a nerve-wracking four hours before scheduled departure time - the news at
Toronto Union station was that departure would be delayed 2½ hours until 00:30. This was due to late
arrival of the incoming service and the need to give the train crew a break. It should not have been a
surprise – the Canadian has an awesomely bad reputation for timekeeping. Fortunately the Business
Lounge was made available with free sandwiches and drinks (non-alcoholic) to while away the time. In fact
boarding was slightly later than promised, but in due course carriage 122 was located and our intrepid
(and rather tired) member was shown to his tiny one berth sleeper (classified as Sleeper Plus by the VIA
booking system). This was to be his ‘home’ for the journey and he lost no time in pulling down the bed and
getting his head down. Departure was, he noted drowsily, at 01:19.
To describe the journey in full would require a small book, but some features of the journey are worth
mentioning. The same two VIA locos work the entire journey, refuelling eight times en-route, with
approximately 30 minutes being scheduled for each. This affords an opportunity for smoke breaks, a stroll
on the platform (if there is one) and in the case of Hornepayne, a first chance for our member to
photograph and get the numbers of the locomotives, the previous refuelling halt having coincided with
breakfast in the restaurant car. All meals are included, and very nice they are as well.
The railway station of Hornpayne (pop. 1050) at a refuelling break. Note the derelict old station building and absence of a
platform. Also visible are two of the three dome cars on the 22 coach train.
Before Hornpayne there had been a flurry of interest at Oba where the CN line used by the Canadian is
crossed by the Algoma Central Railway, previously taken by our member on a memorable journey from
Sault-Ste Marie to Hearst reported in BLNI 1215.303. At the time of this particular journey (early
September 2015) no services were running north of the Agawa Canyon due to financial issues with the new
operator. By this time it was apparent that freight trains were always given priority, and a slowing down
and lurch as the points ( sorry – switches) were crossed for the train to enter a loop always signalled a
wait. Freight trains, usually worked by pairs of diesels, are enormous, between 160 and 165 wagons (many
with double stacked containers) being typical. They seem to go on for ever. Despite allowance being made
in the timings of the Canadian, delays awaiting the passing of freights are the primary cause of late
running. Winnipeg marks the transition from the rugged landscapes of the Canadian Shield, to the
undulating landscapes, much transformed by man into endless cereal monocultures, of the Prairies. The
Canadian is allowed 3 hours and 45 minutes in Winnipeg for servicing, during which a range of city tours
and activities are offered. IF the train is on time, which it wasn’t, being almost four hours late still.
Nevertheless, those who had signed up for the short city tour by coach (for extra fee) were rushed off the
train, while the servicing and refuelling was undertaken as fast as possible. Enquiries about when the train
might leave were invariably met with ‘as soon as possible’, discouraging our member from venturing out of
the station to look at the adjacent railway museum. In the event the train continued an hour and a quarter
late on its scheduled time. There has been speculation that VIA Rail would like to re-route the Canadian
between Toronto and Winnipeg via the CP lines through Thunder Bay, this being a more densely populated
route. This would, of course, make most of the previous 1943km travelled by our member on this train
freight-only, unless a replacement service for local communities was introduced. Informed opinion, and
the belief of the train crew, is that this diversion won’t happen anytime soon.
Eight hours later the Canadian stopped at Melville, an important junction station where CN and CP lines
converge and they have separate, but adjacent yards. In the leisure car the train crew had posted some
rough details of the day’s highlights, and it appeared that from here-on the train would be in ‘Potash
Alley’. Although obviously not a formal name, it is none the less appropriate as this area is a major world
centre for the production of potassium, more commonly known as potash, and mined by the mining giant
PotashCorp at depths of over a kilometre. That creates a lot of spoil, and as the train progressed
westwards towards Saskatoon, several huge mines with attendant spoil heaps were observed to the south.
All these are connected by rail to both CN and CP networks, creating considerable interest for our member
with the associated junctions and freight trains. There are more potash mines in the area of Saskatoon, but
it was dark by the time the Canadian reached this city.
The following day the call at Edmonton proved to be of interest. The station is on a short branch accessed
by a triangle, and sported a small station building and a long fenced off platform set in a wilderness of
tarmac. The train runs past the East junction of the triangle to the West Junction before reversing back into
the station. Here the train is split, and the locos take about a dozen carriages out of the station, then
reverse them back in onto the adjacent track to pick up a dome car and two carriages for the popular and
scenic section over the Rockies. It is assumed that the eastbound Canadian proceeds to the East junction
to reverse in and drop off to the carriages, so, as with so many North American rail routes, you really have
to do the train in both directions to get all the available track done. Edmonton had an extensive network
of railways, easily followed on ME Maps and all seemingly in use, though there was one curve connecting
CN and CP tracks only showing gleams of metal through a light covering of rust.
The train was soon winding through the front ranges of the Rocky Mountains in increasingly spectacular
scenery. Jasper is the major town, despite having only 4000 permanent inhabitants and is an important
railway centre. It is also the location of another servicing stop, lasting 1½ hours (if on time, or 45 minutes
on this occasion), during which you can leave the train to have a walk around.
Jasper was created as a railway siding in 1911 by the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway. It was originally called
Fitzhugh, part of the Grand Trunk Pacific's alphabet line, but was renamed in 1913 when the town site was
surveyed. By 1913 both the Grand Trunk and the Canadian Northern Railway called on Jasper. By 1923 the
CNoR and the GTPR were taken over by the Canadian government and merged into the Canadian National
Railway, which continued to use the old GTPR station until it burned down during the winter of 1924-25.
Taken from Passenger Trains over Unusual Lines at http://www.psul4all.free-online.co.uk/wbe.htm
The current station was constructed by the CNR in 1926 and was declared a heritage railway station in
1992. It was crowded with passengers waiting to board for the overnight journey to Vancouver. Outside
plinthed steam engine 6015 (a CN 4-8-4) dominates the view and it is an easy walk to the front of the train
down Connaught Drive for a photograph before a call at the liquor store for something to improve sleeping
on the train, which wasn’t getting any easier after three nights. Leaving Jasper the Canadian crosses the
Yellowhead Pass, then runs alongside Moose Lake. At this point gricers need to pay attention because at
Redpass (not Red Pass as shown on the map heading) the line divides, with the Albreda subdivision on the
left and the Robson subdivision on the right. The Robson subdivision is the usual route westbound, and so
it proved on this occasion. The two lines come together again about 30 miles later at Charles, so it’s a lot of
track to be unsure about whether you’ve done it or not. En-route down the Robson subdivision the
triangular junction giving access to the Prince George line is passed on the right – of which more in another
There followed a fourth night on the train as it travelled deeper into the Rockies through Kamloops, with
breakfast being served as the train started to leave the Rockies behind and descend gradually towards
Vancouver alongside the Fraser river. The train crew’s prediction of an on-time arrival was beginning to
look like a possibility.
Taking the southernmost line past extensive freight yards, the Canadian proceeded slowly through the
outer suburbs of Vancouver towards the New Westminster Bridge, from where, the train crew advised, it
would take about 45 minutes to Vancouver Pacific Central. Approaching at ninety degrees to the bridge
along the river side affords fine views of the bridge.
The New Westminster Bridge (also known as the Fraser River Swing Bridge) crosses the Fraser River and
connects New Westminster with Surrey, Vancouver. Constructed in 1904, it was originally built with two
decks with the lower deck used for rail traffic, and the upper deck used for automobile traffic. With the
opening of the much higher Pattullo Bridge alongside in 1937, the upper deck was removed and the bridge
was converted exclusively for rail use.
The New Westminster bridge is seen from the SkyTrain behind
and below the much higher Pattullo Bridge.
The run into Vancouver was enlivened by frequent glimpses of the TransLink operated SkyTrain, which is
the rapid transit system of Vancouver, well reported in these pages previously, but so named because for
much of its route the line is elevated and as a consequence extremely obvious to the observer. The
Canadian did not run directly into the station. Instead it ran directly into a yard on a branch parallel to and
south of the branch on which the station stands, before being reversed around the sides of no less than
two triangular junctions into the platform at Vancouver Pacific Central station. The Canadian’s 22 carriages
are too long to fit into the platform, so before passengers are allowed to disembark, the train is split and
the back coaches pulled out of the station and reversed back in to the adjacent platform. There cannot be
many trains that arrive at their destination in two separate platforms. And only eight minutes late after a
journey of 4466km. The seven platforms are used by the Canadian as well as the Amtrak Cascades service
and more recently one of the Rocky Mountaineer trains. The majestic station, opened in 1919 by the
Canadian Northern Railway, is in the Neoclassical Revival style and is also, rather ironically, extensively
used by several bus companies. A short walk brings one to the SkyTrain station Main Street – Science
World, from where westbound trains go into the downtown area to the end of the line at Waterfront
Station (formerly the Canadian Pacific station), offering connections to the Seabus, Canada line, West
Coast Express commuter trains and bus lines. The morning arrival would ensure plenty of time for a
thorough investigation of these using a day pass ticket (for TransLink) and a single ticket for the sampling
of the West Coast Express.
Vancouver’s Pacific Central Station, western terminus of train number 1, the ‘Canadian’.
[A70] Canada – Notes from Vancouver
Arbutus Corridor, Vancouver: The battle between Canadian Pacific and the City Of Vancouver goes on! A
brief recap of the line’s history may clarify the context. Built as part of the Vancouver & Lulu Island
Railway, the line was leased to CPR and opened on 30.06.1902. CPR in turn leased the line to BC Electric
from 19.04.1905, who operated electric interurban cars from 04.07.1905 until 18.11.1956. Freight
operations continued under BC Electric and its successor BC Hydro, until eventually handed back to CP Rail
from 01.01.1986. The last train ran on 01.06.2001, since when the line has been dormant, but never
officially closed. The arguments began when CP published its intention to reactivate the line for wagon
storage, an unpopular move given that it passes through pleasant residential areas. The City Council is
pursuing legal action opposing this, on the grounds that the line is effectively abandoned, but CP has
meantime been pressing ahead with vegetation clearance, and has installed trap points dividing the line
into level sections where wagons could be safely isolated in between the numerous open level crossings.
The only concession by CP thus far has been to acknowledge that the northernmost 0.32 miles has indeed
been abandoned, as the land was returned to the Squamish First Nation since the last trains ran. No doubt
the story will continue.
Skytrain: Construction of the 6.8-mile Evergreen Line continues apace, with test running having begun
between Loughheed Town Centre and the first station, Burquitlam. Although much of the remainder of the
line is also complete, tunnelling for the underground section between Burquitlam and Moody Centre has
unfortunately encountered delays through ground instability, and as yet there is no indication of a likely
opening date. The infrastructure includes a stub junction just west of Coquitlam Central station, intended
as the starting point for a proposed future branch line to Port Coquitlam. Along with other future
proposals, however, this is now in jeopardy due to defeat, in a referendum, of a proposal to fund transport
developments through a 0.5% increase in sales tax. Projects would have included westward extension of
the Millennium Line, and three new light rail lines serving Surrey.
[A71] Canada – Prince Rupert, and its three stations
After his epic journey on the Canadian, our member flew from Vancouver to Prince Rupert, a two hour
flight to this coastal city and port. The airport is actually located on Digby island, from which an included
bus transfer by ferry is made into Prince Rupert itself, the mainland ferry terminal offering a view of the
VIA station, shared with BC Ferries. From here it was a 3km ride to the bus depot, not far from our
member’s hotel. Suitably checked-in, it was time to explore and try to resolve the confusing nature of the
maps when it came to the whereabouts of the VIA station, several maps showing it a short distance away
on the waterfront. A metal bridge and staircase gave access to the waterfront from a small park on the
clifftop and a five minute walk brought our member to what was very obviously the old Prince Rupert
station, now boarded up and derelict, though the railway lines behind it were still obviously in use as a
By the site of the old CN dock is the old Prince Rupert VIA station, now closed, boarded up and derelict
The Wikipedia entry (which obviously hasn’t caught up with the relocation of station facilities) reads, ‘the
station building was designed by the CNR Architectural Division in Winnipeg and constructed between
1921 and 1922 in a Modern Classical style adjacent to the waterfront. The station was declared a national
historic site in 1992. Services include car rental, telephones, vending machines and washrooms’.
However, of far greater interest was the presence, less than 100 metres away, of ANOTHER railway station
building. This was in much better condition, though the woodwork was in need of a coat of paint, and was
labelled Kwinitsa station. A sign in the window said museum open. How could one resist?
Our member was addressed by a rather bored looking young man as he entered, who volunteered the
information that entry was by donation. A suitable amount having been placed in the box, exploration
commenced and the history of the site was revealed. An extract from a newspaper article tells the story
‘Kwinitsa Station once stood halfway between Prince Rupert and Terrace, and the story of its construction
and ultimate move to Prince Rupert serves as a reminder of how vital the railway was in opening
Northwestern BC and creating the City of Prince Rupert. The little white station with its distinctive bell-cast
roof was one of hundreds of virtually identical stations built along the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway
between Winnipeg and Prince Rupert.
Kwinitsa station building before it was moved from Kwinitsa Kwinitsa station building is today by the waterfront in
Prince Rupert and serves as a railway museum
Today it is one of only four surviving. It was built in 1911, one of the so-called “Type E” stations. The Grand
Trunk Pacific had six basic designs, “A” through “F,” of which the Type E was the most common. It was built
three years before the last spike was driven at Fort Fraser in 1914. The construction of the Grand Trunk
Pacific in British Columbia, undertaken largely in a bid to attract government concessions, was a haphazard
and mismanaged affair - “the story of a thousand blunders,” as it was famously described in 1909. By 1919
the railway had collapsed, and was taken under the Department of Railways and Canals pending the
creation of the Crown Corporation of the Canadian National Railway. Under CN the rail line and city found
its purpose, connecting with the steamships and creating a transportation hub for the settlements and
industry of the Northwest Coast. This was the era when Prince Rupert became the “Halibut Capital of the
World,” and the little stations such as Kwinitsa were a vital part of the network. The station agents, “were
literally the ‘eyes and ears’ of the railroad,” ready to take train orders to relay to passing trains and
reporting train movements and conveying train orders from the dispatcher to the train crew. The agents
were an independent indispensable part of railroad operations. The small stations grew redundant in the
second half of the 20th century with the introduction of a Central Traffic Control system. Realizing that not
just Kwinitsa, but a whole way of life in the little stations along the western line was at risk of being lost
and forgotten, Prince Rupert residents began to discuss ways of saving Kwinitsa.
Ron Denman, then curator of the Museum of Northern BC, formally requested the City of Prince Rupert
acquire the station and move it to Prince Rupert to become a railway museum, and a Kwinitsa Relocation
Committee was subsequently formed. By the time the move actually took place, the station perched on a
barge behind the tug Coast Isle with Jack Mussallem at the helm, a staggering number of local businesses
and individuals had thrown their support behind the project. Kwinitsa Station arrived on the Prince Rupert
waterfront, at the site of the old CN Dock, on Canada Day 1985. Today the popular Kwinitsa Station
Railway Museum is administered by the Museum of Northern BC, and houses exhibits celebrating the life
of the railway families, and the very early history of Prince Rupert as a railway town.’
In a small station such as Kwinitsa, the telegraph operator was also the station agent. Such a person was called an
agent/operator. Not only was he responsible for receiving and conveying train orders, he also had to sell tickets, receive
mail, load baggage and freight, send telegrams and direct passengers; this, in addition to routine paperwork and the
maintenance of his equipment and his office. The agent/operators duties were sometimes overwhelming. Kerosene
lamps, coal stoves, bluestone batteries all demanded regular attention, as did the railway’s customers. And to keep him
on his toes there was always the spectre of the superintendent who might materialise unannounced at any time. These
brief visits could be thunderous, and sometimes ended in a dreaded ‘demerit’. The cartoon dates from the 1930s. Text
from the information board by the picture in the museum.
[A72] Canada – Travelling the SKEENA
Trains 5 and 6 travel between Prince Rupert and Jasper, with a compulsory overnight stop in Prince
George. On day one (from Prince Rupert) the train covers 751 km, and on day two 409km. That’s a lot of
new track to grice, though at the far end there is some duplication with the route of the Canadian into
Jasper. The Skeena, also referred to by the conductress as ‘the Rupert Rocket’, leaves Prince Rupert three
times a week at 08:00, and a taxi from the hotel took only five minutes to reach the VIA station, a modern
building adjacent to the ferry terminal set in forest south of the town. Baggage was promptly placed on a
trolley on arrival and would go in the baggage car at the front of the train. It quickly became obvious that
the number of passengers was going to be very limited, and when the empty stock pulled in from where it
was stabled (presumably nearer the old railway station) it was small group that queued by the locked gate
to get on. There are two classes in the summer months. Economy – which is seating only in the front
carriages - and touring class, who have seats in the panorama car and dome car as well as all meals. On this
day, in early September, there were 11 passengers in touring class and a similar number in economy. The
two conductresses took over a bay at the front of the panorama car, in a position designed to forestall any
attempt by economy class passengers to access the touring class area of the train, for which higher prices
were payable. The problem with photography with panorama cars and dome cars is reflections from the
windows, but, unlike on the Canadian, it IS permitted to stand in the vestibules, and have the top part of
the door open, thereby allowing high quality photographs to be taken. And with two days of sunny
weather coming up, this opportunity was taken full advantage of by our member. A single VIA locomotive
is all that is necessary for a train of this length, no. 6425 doing the honours throughout. One of the
conductresses gave a commentary at places of interest, and almost immediately announced that today the
train would be passing through four subdivisions. A subdivision represented the distance a steam engine
could travel before coaling and watering were needed and reflected the nature of the terrain, which
obviously meant that there was no standard length. The beginning and end of a subdivision was referred
to as a division point, and would be a yard or station. Mileposts began again at 0 at each division point.
Several subdivisions would form a division, under the control of a superintendent. That is how our member
understands it – those more knowledgeable can doubtless add more. So, the first 93 miles of the day
would be on the Skeena subdivision, the division point being the town of Terrace. Initially the line runs
along the shore of Chatham Sound passing Ridley Island with its massive terminals built in the 1980s for
loading and offloading coal and grain, the source of most of the line’s traffic. A little further is Port Edward
with it’s paper mill – conveyance of timber and timber products being another major income stream for
the CN Railway. The sea is left behind and the train now starts to follow the valley of the Skeena River. At
MP 48 the station of Kwinitsa is passed, now minus its station building of course, as that is now a railway
museum in Prince Rupert. Terrace is the first stop, one of only three major population centres on the
The station building at Terrace Bilingual train times (not many!) in typical 12-hour format.
The branch line to Kitimat goes south over the river after the town. The train will be travelling the Bulkley
subdivision for the next 132 miles. There are glimpses of the Kitselas Canyon below and several short
tunnels before passing through forest with glimpse of remote communities until at MP62.3 the railway
crosses the Skeena River on a 288 m. long bridge. A brief call at New Hazelton (population 627), then the
tunnels taking the train past the Bulkley Canyon. Some fine trestle bridges follow, one curving nicely and
affording excellent photographs of the train. After Moricetown (pop. 227) its eyes right to see the glacier in
Hudson Bay Mountain. This is one of the best views of a glacier from a train in Canada. Only 4km to
Smithers, pop 5,800 and a stop for the train with opportunity to get off and photograph the station, built
in 1918. This is another division point – from now on it’s the Telkwa subdivision. A long run now through
increasingly open countryside past Houston, Rose Lake and Burns Lake. Endako marks the end of Telkwa
and the start of the Nechako subdivision – the last of what was proving to be a long day, not helped by two
30 minute waits in loops awaiting freights which meant the train was now almost an hour late. Still,
interest as the train reached MP93.3 near Fort Fraser, as it was here that the last spike to complete the
Grand Trunk Pacific Railway was driven on 7 April 1914. It was full dark by the time the train arrived at
Prince George, and, after collecting his baggage from the baggage car, our weary member trudged the ten
minutes or so through the deserted streets to his hotel.
A late start the following day, as the train was scheduled to depart at 09:45. With Prince George shrouded
the opportunities for sightseeing were limited, and our member walked to the station early to observe the
departure of train number 5 to Prince Rupert. Prince George VIA station is a large building shared with the
tourist information office. Perhaps this is indicative of the size of the city – Prince George has over 70,000
inhabitants and is the largest city in northern British Columbia, sporting three pulp mills and an oil refinery
as well as an important railway junction.
Train number 6 left ten minutes early, as all passengers were accounted for, and with the prospect of
avoiding a lengthy wait for an oncoming freight to pass. Within a minute the train is onto the CN Rail
Bridge, locally referred to as the ‘half-mile bridge’. This is a truss bridge over the Fraser River built in 1914
by the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway, whose arrival led to the founding of the City of Prince George near the
fur trading post Fort George. The bridge is the reason the city is here.
The VIA station at Prince George can just be seen in the top left hand corner of the picture. Trains leaving the station and
huge yards go straight onto the 810 metre long CN Rail Bridge over the Fraser River.
On the other side of the river are junctions for railways heading north and south, but the train continues
towards Jasper on the Fraser subdivision, passing many remote communities and attractive lakes. A large
group who had been celebrating a little girl’s birthday had joined the train shortly before departure, and
arranged for the train to stop near a large road to set down the birthday girl and parents. The rest of the
group got off at the station of Penny, once a bustling sawmill settlement but now one of the most remote
stations on the line with just a few summer cottages. After 140 miles McBride was reached. The little town
owns it’s existence to being a division point and the station building, dating from 1919, is an elegant, listed
structure now used as a visitor centre and art gallery. There was time for a quick look round before setting
off into the Tête Jaune subdivision.
McBride railway station is a division point, with the Fraser subdivision ending (MP43.4) and Tête Jaune subdivision
commencing (MP 0.0). Note that the ‘mile pole’ does double duty. The small park by the station building contains ex CN
caboose 79040 built at CN Fort Rouge in 1956, and the end of this is visible on the left. By the loco baggage is being
After 10 miles the Raush River bridge, second longest on the route was crossed before passing through
Dunster with its little general store and post office. The conductresses were in constant radio
communication with the driver (sorry that should be engineer – we’re in North America now), and now
wanted to know what route would be taken at Tête Jaune Cache. The route description rather
enigmatically states that ‘the train may loop south for 22.5km at junction’. Reference to the map in item
A69 reveals that by turning south at the junction it is possible to get onto the Albreda subdivision line from
Charles to Redpass by using the South Connecting Line. It’s an alternative, and much longer, route to
Jasper than on the direct Robson subdivision line, and the two conductresses did not want the train to go
that way – though our member wouldn’t have minded. In the event, the direct route on the Robson
subdivision was taken, and ahead the cloud topped bulk of Mount Robson was clearly visible making for
great photographs – the train even stopping by one gully offering especially fine views and causing a
photographic frenzy on board. Now passing Moose Lake, it looked like Jasper was going to be reached
ahead of schedule, but as so often, things didn’t go as planned. The Skeena was stopped outside Jasper
station because the late running eastbound Canadian, train number 2, was occupying the only platform.
The decision was taken to enter the yard, reverse around the wye (North American terminology for a
triangular junction) and return to the same junction. To our member’s surprise, the train was now
propelled onto the track adjacent to the Canadian and stopped with the Panorama car opposite the
Canadian’s leading locomotive. This encouraged one of the conductresses, facing a 9 hour drive to
Vancouver, to shout to the Engineer words to the effect of ‘shift your b****y a**e’. He just grinned and
shrugged his shoulders. In the event the Canadian departed ten minutes later, and the Skeena pushed
forward past the junction at the north end of the station to reverse and pull into the platform, a nice piece
of micro-gricing for those into such things, and a fifteen minutes late arrival. All in all a marvellous two
days, and a great culmination to our member’s Canadian railway odyssey.