Niagara Falls Classic Charter:
In early summer, I heard the Toronto Transportation Society was going to Charter one of Niagara Falls Transit’s few remaining Classics. Their bus of choice was #8937 which is the only one to have been painted in the new Niagara Falls Transit livery. I saw 8937 when I was being cleared for Canadian customs on my Boston trip earlier this year. I paid for the charter during my trip to Sudbury and North Bay.
The date of the Charter was August 27. My plan was to take the 9:00 am GO train from Union Station to Niagara Falls then attend the charter. GO Transit started running trains to Niagara Falls on Friday evenings and weekends during the summer a few years ago.
Once in Niagara Falls, I would attend the charter before taking the Maple Leaf home. The trip unfolded as follows.
August 27, 2011:
I got to Union station around 8:30 am. I lined up to buy a ticket to Niagara Falls. I then bought a chocolate bar around the time boarding commenced. I was seated in GO bi-level #2744, the 6th car behind the locomotive. The train had 12 coaches pushed by an MP40. We left 3 minutes late.
The train stopped at the Exhibition station. As we passed VIA's Toronto Maintenance Centre, I filmed it. The train stopped at Port Credit and Oakville. VIA train 70 passed west of Oakville, but I was unable to film it. The GO train stopped in Burlington.
At Bayview Junction, we stopped for a few minutes to let a freight train pass. We were underway again. We passed through Grimsby non stop. We stopped at St. Catherines.
bridge over the
I recognized the coaches on 92 were the same coaches from train 25 on my Quebec City trip because the Renn cars are semi-permanently coupled together so VIA avoids separating them if possible.
There were a lot of people in Niagara Falls. I went into the station and phoned VIA in regards to train 98. As a result of Hurricane Irene bearing down on cities like Washington DC and New York, Amtrak had canceled many trains including train 63 from Albany to Niagara Falls, New York. I was unsure what would happen with the Canadian portion of the route. I figured either I would be bustituted, VIA would run the Amtrak equipment from Toronto to Niagara Falls, or VIA would run a train of its own equipment in place. A quick call to VIA said I would be on a train this afternoon. Had I been on a bus, you wouldn't be reading this report!
Our charter bus was parked in front of the Niagara Falls Transit garage. As expected, it was Classic 8937. I photographed it.
I took some pictures of buses in and around the Niagara Falls Transit garage.
Meanwhile the GO train I took to Niagara Falls departed. I took one more photo of VIA train 92.
I then went across the street again. I took a couple more photos after I checked in for the charter.
I pulled out my laptop and worked on this report for a few minutes. We were at the bus terminal which is next to the Niagara Falls Transit bus garage and across from the train station. Just then, the bus station's P.A. came on and I heard a young child on the radio! I then heard an adult come and was talking with the child. They seeming didn't notice their conversation was being heard on the P.A.
We then went to our charter bus which was moved I photographed it.
It took several seconds for the driver to open the doors, so someone pushed the front doors and they opened. We then got on the bus and we headed of.
We saw some ex GO Transit buses as we drove down River Road. We then drove by the falls. I took some photos of the falls and an old barge that was stuck right above them. The barge has been there for almost 100 years. It got there after it broke free from a tugboat further up river. There were two men on board who thought they were going to die as the barge drifted into the rapids and towards the falls before it got stuck on some rocks 760 meters from the brink of the falls. They were on the barge overnight before they were rescued.
Our first photo stop was the Niagara Parks Commission garage which operates the People Mover which uses Orion 4 buses. People Mover was the biggest customer for the Orion 4. They operate with a bus and a trailer bus! This is quite a unique operation. I took some photos before we got on an Orion 4 with a trailer.
We rode the Orion 4 around the garage and then stopped. The person driving was the trainer for the People Mover and she had actually trained our charter driver when they both worked for Laidlaw! We brought our charter bus over and posed it with the Orion 4 and trailer. I also took some interior shots of the Orion 4.
We then moved the Orion 4 back inside the garage. I took some more photos including some interior shots of the trailer.
The Niagara Parks Commission is buying some buses from Nova including 9 articulated buses and two 40 foot LFSes. We then headed out and went to the southern most people mover station and photographed our bus with the next people mover bus and trailer.
We then went to a nearby lot with some highway coaches and GO Transit buses and took some more photos.
Our next stop was our lunch stop. We pulled into the parking lot of a school and we went out to various restaurants within walking distance. I photographed 8937 before I went to a Wendy's and bought lunch.
After I bought lunch, I returned to the bus. We then headed to Main and Ferry where we waited for several Niagara Falls Transit routes to come. I took some photos.
We then left after all the buses left. As we passed near the Fallsview Casino where I had seen John Schneider and Tom Wopat earlier this year, we saw two ex GO Transit Orion 5 suburbans. I photographed them.
We then stopped to let us off so we could pose our bus with Niagara Falls in the background. At one point, a woman who was not part of the charter group posed for someone with her right by 8937. I photographed 8937 and some People mover Orion 4s.
We then walked back and got on 8937. I took a couple more photos first.
Our next photo stop was at the Spanish Arrow car which goes above the whirlpool. We had been given passes to ride the People Mover and we would go for a ride. I took some photos before we got on the People Mover.
I chose to ride in the trailer. We rode to Queenstown Park where I photographed the Brock Monument. When I was younger, my family and I had picnics at Queenstown Park and I climbed the Brock Monument a few times.
We then headed back the way we came. I photographed the floral clock.
We passed by the Adam Beck power generating station. Sir Adam Beck once envisioned linking Ontario with electric railways over 100 years ago. The Halton County Radial Railway Museum named their newest car barn after him.
We got back to where we got on the people mover. We took some more photos.
I photographed the Spanish Arrow car and the whirlpool.
This was where we were to have our group photo. Moments after, Niagara Falls Transit Orion 5 #2266 passed.
We then got back on 8937 and we headed out. We had one more photo stop near the former CN yard which is mostly abandoned. The bus actually stopped on a disused spur track leading into a warehouse.
We then headed back to the Niagara Falls Transit bus garage. We photographed 8937 before we were allowed in the back.
Meantime, the Maple Leaf pulled into Niagara Falls. What ended up happening was the train was run from Toronto to Niagara Falls, New York where it was terminated. I filmed the train pulling in.
I then entered the yard and photographed various buses including three brand new Orion 7 buses for Niagara Falls Transit that were still plain white.
I got to go inside one of the new Orion 7s and it smelled of new car smell. I then took one more photo of the Orion 7s and then headed out and noticed Niagara Falls Transit Orion 5 #2062 had been pulled out of the garage and posed with 8937.
I then went across the street and photographed the equipment on the Maple Leaf.
I went inside the station to await boarding of VIA train 98. At one point, Doug Shields came in and told me that I should line up for the GO bus since it would be full. I told him that I was going on the train. I photographed a GO Transit Double Decker and a Niagara Falls Transit Orion 5.
I went back into the station and waited. Boarding began just before 5:30 pm. I was seated in Amfleet 1 coach #82995, a former cafe car that was rebuilt into a coach. I was the first to board that coach. I sat down and worked on this report some more. Someone from the charter also boarded the train and sat across from me. The train left on time.
The bridge over the Welland Canal was down. A GO train passed a few minutes later. The train stopped in St. Catherines where the person from the charter got off. I went to the cafe car for dinner. I ate my dinner at my seat. The train passed through Grimsby non-stop.
At one point, we passed a yard with three ex St. Catherines Transit Orion 5s which I filmed. A little while later, VIA train 95 passed consisting of a rebuilt F40PH-2 and some Hep2 coaches.
We were traveling slowly as we passed through Hamilton. I filmed the former Hamilton CN station as we passed. We then passed through the CN/Southern Ontario Railway yard.
I decided to watch Unstoppable. We stopped at Aldershot. While we were stopped, a CN freight passed us. As we left, we passed a westbound GO train. We stopped at Oakville.
East of Oakville, VIA train 79 passed us. As it passed, I filmed it. As we passed VIA's Toronto Maintenance Centre, I filmed it. I saw the Canadian in the yard led by rebuilt F40PH-2s 6454 and 6416.
We arrived into Union station 5 minutes late. I got off and took some photos.
I then went downstairs and phoned home. I then went to the subway. While waiting for my train, I heard another train coming the other way. I looked down the tunnel and saw it was one of the new Toronto Rocket subway trains! I filmed the train pulling in and then photographed the Toronto Rocket.
The first Toronto Rocket arrived in January and was unveiled to the public. However there were delays in the new trains entering service. In the meantime, more Toronto Rocket trains had arrived. The first train finally entered service in mid July. A second train entered service a couple weeks ago. This was the second train to have entered service. In the meantime, other Toronto Rocket trains are being tested.
I had been hoping to ride either a Toronto Rocket or an H-5 train home, but a T-1 train arrived first. I got on and the train left. However, when we arrived at York Mills, there was a problem. As a result of an “unauthorized person at track level” at Sheppard station; one stop ahead, power had been cut between Finch and Lawrence; one stop behind us. A couple minutes later, most of the lights on our train and a train going the other way at York Mills went out. We were told it would be a few minutes, but then the motorman of the subway applied the hand brake on the front car of the train. I decided to attempt to ride the 97 Yonge bus the rest of the way. I took one more photo of the subway.
At the bus terminal, several buses came, but not the route 97. Several displaced subway passengers started crowding the platform. A supervisor showed up, but she didn’t appear to be much help until she announced the problem was clear and subway service had resumed. The other subway passengers and I made our way back to the platform. At one point, I considered going down the up escalators but didn’t.
By the time I got to the platform, the train I had ridden on was gone. The next train came a few minutes later, but it was packed. I did manage to squeeze on and ride the last few stops to Finch where I met up with my mom and let her know what happened. We then headed home. I had been gone for 13 hours and 15 minutes.
Aside from what happened on the subway on the way home, this was a good trip. Riding the GO train to Niagara Falls was cheaper than VIA, but not quite as comfortable. The charter was good and I had no problems. The Niagara Parks Commission went above and beyond to accommodate us. Riding the truncated Maple Leaf was interesting since I was the first one in the coach so I was free to choose whatever seat I wanted.
As for me, my next trip won’t be until late October when I go to London for another TTS charter. Until next time…