Climb on up and lets embark on a journey through the beautiful wilderness of the North, captured through the many camera lenses of Mike Robin. Join us as we witness first hand, the day to day operations of the North's legendary Ontario Northland Railway. Ready to go? Well, put on your bug spray because we're heading North!
APCU's 220 and 221 (which began their lives as Amtrak F40PH's) are captured being worked on by Techs from NRE on 2 Track at Cochrane Shops April 6th, 2019.
Jonathan gives a thumbs up from the cab of GP38-2 1800 as he rolls the unit along 2 track passing GP40-2 2201 at Cochrane Shops April 6, 2019.
GP38-2's 1802 and 1806 captured on Tracks 3 and 4 at Cochrane Shops April 6, 2019.
Today's "Saturday Shops Shot" features the line-up for an obviously heavy 313 as all 3 of ONR's GP40-2's are captured m.u.'d on 3 track at Cochrane Shops April 13, 2019.
A definite sign of spring as loads of brand new ties arrive at Cochrane April 12, 2019.
Working the 4pm Yard Job at Cochrane April 12, 2019.
Northbound 213 rolls into the Cautionary Limits of Cochrane Yard on a very rainy April 12, 2019.
The morning Bear rolls through Clute (mile 9 of the Island Falls Subdivision) Friday April 19, 2019.
It's a big wave and a symphony of horns as Peter hauls the morning's 421 Polar Bear past Clute located at mile 9 of the Island Falls Sub April 19, 2019.
GP38-2's 1805 and 1802 are captured on Cochrane's shop track after arriving on 620 from Moosonee April 20, 2019.
Polar Bear Express Line Car 264 is captured at Cochrane Shops on April 20, 2019. Here you can see where the power and air lines are hooked up to the car thus providing air and power to the entire Polar Bear consist coupled to the 264 while weekend servicing is performed. The APU you see ahead of the 264 is shut down.
Shops Crews are captured sanding GP40-2 2200 at Cochrane April 20, 2019.
A roster shot of coach 652 captured at Cochrane April 21, 2019.
A roster shot of APU (Auxiliary Power Unit) 204 captured at Cochrane Shops April 21, 2019.
A roster shot of APU 202 at Cochrane Shops April 20, 2019.
The old guard of ONR 850 series coaches (ex-VIA) and spare baggage car are captured standing by ready for the call to duty on steam 3 at Cochrane April 20, 2019.
May is turning out to be another busy month! Stay tuned for "May 2019 in Pictures" coming soon!
Ontario Northland's Heritage liveried SD40-2 1730 was sitting in Englehart on May 5, 2019 which allowed myself the opportunity to address the many requests for a view of the topside of the unit for the railroad modelling enthusiasts.
This first photo begins with a view of the Engineer's side of the unit where you can see the the fans, horn, and rear pilot. As you can see the walking areas are all painted a flat black.
This second photo focuses on the details of the long hood and gives you a peek at what the exhaust looks like. You can also see the piping for the horn.
In this photo you get a clear view of the top of the cab. You can see the radio and CDU antenna, the snow shields, and you'll notice the the top of the nose is also painted flat black.
We now look at the Conductor's side where you can see a clearer view of the top of the nose and a really good view of the piping from the original horn location to the later horn location.
In this photo we're at the midway point on the Conductor's side of the unit.
And we wrap it up with a view of the rear section of the Conductor's side of the 1730.
A big Thanks goes out to everyone at Ontario Northland Englehart for their cooperation in capturing these images.
The Polar Bear Express train which travels between Cochrane and Moosonee can best be described as a true necessity and a vital part of the Northeastern Ontario infrastructure.
This train service isn't seen as an "option" for travel, much like passenger rail services in more southern parts of North America. The Polar Bear is rather an important link to the north since there are no roads beyond mile 93.5 of the Island Falls Subdivision which is only half way to Moosonee from Cochrane. The only travel options aside from the train beyond 93.5 are via a winter road which is only open 2 to 3 months per year, or via airplane which is very very expensive.
With very limited ways to get from point A to point B in this part of Ontario, the Polar Bear has evolved over the many decades into a very diversified service. Baggage is one of those services that have changed with the times. We had an opportunity to have a look at Polar Bear baggage car 413 on May 4th, 2019 and one of the special touches that are unique to 413.
First, for all of the rivet counters, baggage car 413 was purchased by Ontario Northland from Via Rail back in 1983. It's Via number at the time of the sale was 9604 and the car was originally built by National Steel Car back in 1954.
Since the car was obtained by Ontario Northland, some unique changes have been made to it. In the photos on the left you'll see one of the adaptations that have been made which is a cute little addition to the car affectionately nicknamed "The Pound".
On the top left, you can see the hefty partition built to protect the area where pets are kept. This closed off area serves as a more private area for pets and also serves as a fail safe should a pet get out of his or her cage or kennel. Passengers can also visit with their pets without having to deal with the busy operations of loading and unloading at the many stops the Polar Bear Express makes on it's 186 mile journey.
In the left middle photo you get to see some of the extras that can be utilized by passengers caring for their pets which include clean bowls for food and water, some rags, water, and cleaner for those little messes that can happen, and even a little toy for some entertaining of your pet.
In the bottom left photo, you'll see exactly how spacious and private "The Pound" is. It's kept very clean and comes complete with plenty of room to spend some quality time with your pet.
In a future blog we'll take a look at some of the other unique adaptations made to 413 exclusively for Polar Bear Express service.
Kicking up the snow as the local Section inspects the consist while they're "in the hole", southbound 422 Northlander roars through Val Gagne, Ontario located at Mile 76 of Ontario Northland's Ramore Subdivision November 18, 2011.
Photo Number 88: Drift Clearing at Mile 3
A shot from January 2005 where I catch a side view of 421 Little Bear lead unit GP38-2 1800 clearing out drifting snow accumulated during a blizzard at mile 3 of the Island Falls Subdivision.
Photo Number 87: Rolling In From Hearst
Thundering past Kapuskasing Subdivision's Mile 82, southbound 516 with GP40-2's 2201 and 2202 providing the muscle, makes it's way to Kapuskasing from Hearst to meet up with 313 from Cochrane June 26, 2011.
Photo Number 86: The Mixed
It's August 2003 as I meet up with the power for a Monday morning 421 being lined up by Trainman Phil to pick up the mix of 45 foot trailers on piggyback cars and private vehicles tied down on "chain" cars both of which are loaded at Cochrane Yard's ramp located on the former CN side.
Photo Number 85: It's Cold... Damned Cold
It's January 26, 2004 and the morning's GP38-2 & FP7au Little Bear power await her crew as a snow fighter works the Shops. Yup, that's ice fog. That morning's temperature was a chilly -40 Celsius....BRRR!!!
Watch for "The Top 100 Photos of All Time Part Four" coming soon!
On Friday April 19, 2019 I was given the opportunity to take a look at the interior of one of Ontario Northland's newly built accessibility coaches numbered as the 660 series at Cochrane Shops. 2 in total were built. Today we look at the 660.
The cars are absolutely spacious, maintaining that quality design of the 650 series coaches, but with newly implemented elements that will accommodate anyone with mobility issues.
On the top left is one of the features of the car which is a wheelchair lock down with a permanent table.
In the October 2018 issue of the ON News, a write up on the 660 reads that this newly built car was designed based on the Canadian Transportation Authority Code of Practice - Rail Car Accessibility and Terms and Conditions of Carriage by Rail of Persons with Disabilities, and CSA Standards.
On the middle left is the newly designed accessible washroom with a ton of space and a power assisted door. The photo doesn't do this washroom justice because it is huge! On the other end of the coach is the regular, smaller washroom.
There are also more specialized storage areas that are exclusive of the 660 series coaches.
As you can see on the bottom left, the safety features and emergency exits are similar to all other 650 series coaches and are supplied in seat pockets at every seat. These same guides are also posted on the walls at each end of the car.
Today, both the 660 and the 661 are busily working the 421-622 Polar Bear Express with one of these cars always included in the consist.
Memories of days of old were relived on this particular Little Bear trip March 2002 as 2000 series FP7au's were run 'back to back' much like they did when they were the 1500 series FP7a. The Bear is seen here exchanging waves between a Car Man and the Head End Crew as it rolls into Cochrane.
Photo Number 93: Say Cheese!
The southbound Polar Bear Express rolls out from the bushes, comes to a halt, and poses for us on The Moose River Crossing at Mile 142.5 of the Island Falls Subdivision during a torrential downpour June 2002.
Photo Number 92: Go Bear Go!
A shot from August 16th 2005 as we capture the northbound 423 Polar Bear Express racing past mile 5 of the Island Falls Subdivision.
Photo Number 91: Say Hello to Choo Choo!
A fun photoshoot for Ontario Northland from way back in June 2003 featuring Polar Bear Express mascot "Choo Choo"
Photo Number 90: Hello Down There
Here's a photo snapped from one of Cochrane Yard's gigantic snow banks February 2002. This time featuring GP9 1605 and today's Yard Crew as they run around the recently arrived Little Bear's freight traffic in order to await inspections of the cars and spot 622's freight consist.
Stay tuned for the Top 100 Part Three! Coming Soon!
Anyone who worked, photographed, or modeled the railway in Northern Ontario over the last few decades likely would have met and/or befriended Stephen Thompson.
Steve sadly passed away on December 26th, 2018 in North Bay.
A Graveside Gathering will be held on May 7th, 2019 at 11:30 am at the Terrace Lawn Cemetery on the corner of O'Brien and Airport Road in North Bay. It's very easy to find. Simply turn off Highway 11 at Airport Road, drive to the first traffic light, turn right on O'Brien and you will see the Cemetery right away on your left.
To quote one of Steve's very good friends Val Croswell, " The railroad fraternity was very important to Steve's parents as they were deeply involved in the organization of the NMRA and attended many conventions in the US and Canada. They even hosted one in North Bay. Steve's friends were also in the "Train World" with model railroaders chasing trains for photos and video in order to enjoy and preserve that industry."
Everyone is welcome to join us in North Bay at the Terrace Lawn Cemetery as we honor our good friend Stephen Thompson.