|VIA Rail FPA-4 #6793 trails on an equipment move from Toronto Union Station to the VIA servicing facility at Mimico on August 4, 1986. Uncredited slide from my collection, but I believe photographer is either Reg Button or Bill McArthur.|
A busy day for me yesterday didn’t leave any time for a Throwback Thursday, but to make up for it, here instead is FPA-4 Friday - a look back to the summer of 1986. It’s August 4th of that year and we are at Bathurst street in Toronto, Ontario, on a bright and sunny morning. Through the viewfinder we observe this rather odd, “everything but the kitchen sink” consist that includes VIA FPA-4 #6793, three RDC’s, and FP9 and even an Ontario Northland coach. The oddball collection of equipment is in fact an equipment move from Toronto Union Station to VIA’s Mimico servicing facility, located a few miles down CN’s Oakville subdivision, west of Toronto. It appears that three separate trains have been combined to ferry the consists to Mimico for servicing before heading out on other trains later in the day. We can guess that the FP9 and three cars on the west end of the move are from a westbound train, perhaps from up north judging by the ONT coach in the consist (perhaps VIA equipment had been used on that day’s Northlander?). The RDC’s are likely off of an eastbound train in from Niagara Falls, as they were common on VIA trains in the area until LRC/HEP-II cars took over and the RDC’s were retired. And the 6793 and two east-end cars are also likely off of an eastbound, perhaps the morning Sarnia train (#84) that came down the Guelph sub by way of Stratford, Kitchener, and Guelph. Any way you slice and dice it, there’s a lot to look at in this photo!
What has happened in the intervening 29 years? A lot, as it turns out. The most obvious change in the photo is the equipment – the “Blueline” coaches, the FPA-4, the FP9, and almost certainly the RDC’s were phased out and replaced by VIA’s current roster of GE P42DC’s, GMD F40PH-2’s, LRC coaches, and Budd-built HEP-II cars. A handful of RDC’s are retained for the Sudbury-White River operation, in a modified paint scheme with silver ends instead of yellow. Another major change is that the tracks in the background diverging to the right, the CN Weston subdivision has been greatly modified to incorporate a major grade-separation project, and the tracks have been lowered significantly in this area. The area in general now is considered the Union Station Rail Corridor, and operated by provincial transit authority Metrolinx (operator of GO Transit as well). In fact, Metrolinx now owns the Oakville subdivision all the way from Union Station to Burlington West, about 32 miles (though CN still serves local customers on the line, primarily at night). Some tracks at left have been removed (as has the freight yard in the distance at right), and the building in the centre has been demolished; high-priced glass-exterior condos now dominate the area. One thing that hasn’t changed? – the signal bridges. All three signal bridges that the train is passing under still stand, though plans to replace them with the modern aluminum structure, LED-lit “Darth Vader” signal bridges probably aren’t far off.
What about VIA 6793? – well, the engine not only dodged the scrapper’s torch, but evidently earned a vacation, now enjoying the Arizona sunshine as Grand Canyon Railway 6793. Painted in a bright silver and gold paint scheme, the engine now hauls trainloads of tourists in and around Williams, AZ. I bet it doesn’t miss the cold Canadian winters! A number of ex-VIA FPA-4’s survive in the US, on shortlines/tourist operations such as Grand Canyon Railway, Napa Valley Wine Train, New York & Lake Erie and Cuyahoga Valley to name a few.
‘Til next time,