TTS Christmas Lights Charter 2014:
For the last few years, the Toronto Transportation Society (TTS) has had a charter in December every even numbered year. For 2014, they would be chartering an ex GO Transit 1400 series coach in Niagara Falls. Niagara Falls has always had a festival of lights in December. In years gone by, my family and I had driven past it. Having family (past and present) in Niagara Falls helped. However I haven’t been by the festival of lights long before my grandma died in 2006. So this would provide me chance to see them again.
My plan for the trip was to ride Amtrak’s Maple Leaf to Niagara Falls, Ontario. I would meet up with my aunt and go out for lunch before returning to the train station to meet the charter. After the charter, I would take Megabus home as the charter ended hours after the Toronto bound Maple Leaf’s scheduled departure. The trip unfolded as follows:
December 13, 2014:
I got to Union station just before 8:00 am. I noticed on the arrivals board that the eastbound Canadian was arriving at 2:30 pm; five hours late. I joined the line for VIA train #97.
Boarding began shortly thereafter. I was seated in Amfleet 1 coach #82765. I pulled out my laptop and worked on this report some more. The HEP went out for a minute but came back on.
The train departed on time. A VIA conductor asked if I knew about the safety window as I was seated next to one. I told him I did. As we passed by VIA's Toronto Maintenance Center, I filmed the equipment in the yard including a two car train of DMUs for the Toronto-Pearson Express which is supposed to start service next year. I also saw ex BC Rail lounge car Glenfraser and the LRC locomotive owned by the TRHA which is still in the yard. I also noticed an LRC coach with a green tail light instead of red. An eastbound GO train passed us a few minutes later.
The trains stopped at Oakville and Aldershot. As we passed the CN yard in Hamilton, I saw a switcher from CIT, but I was unable to photograph it.
A couple eastbound CN freights passed. The train stopped at Grimsby. I went to the cafe car and bought a chocolate bar. I returned to my seat and worked on this report some more. Another CN freight passed us. It appeared to have a BNSF locomotive in the consist.
The train stopped at St. Catherines. After we departed, I went to the cafe car and bought some milk. The train passed over the Welland Canal. I worked on this report some more.
Soon, we were approaching Niagara Falls. I readied my stuff in preparation to get off. Train #97 arrived on time, but made a double stop. I got off and photographed the train.
I then filmed the train departing. I then went into the station and phoned my aunt. She came several minutes later. She said she would have been there sooner, but she was delayed by being blocked by a taxi and got caught by a freight train at a railway crossing.
We headed back to her house after we stopped at a convenience store near her house. We went back to her house where I watched TV and stuff. We headed out again at 12:30 and stopped at a McDonald's for lunch.
After lunch, I logged into the Wi-Fi at McDonald's and worked on this report for a few minutes. We then left and headed back to the bus station. We got there at the same time as a GO bus from Toronto. I knew there would be people who would be on the charter would be on that GO bus.
I said goodbye to my aunt and went out and found Kevin Nicol and Doug Shields. I checked in with Doug and waited for the charter bus to arrive. When it did, I photographed it.
We had bus #52 from Discovery Tours which is ex GO Transit #1415. The bus still has its GO Transit rollsign. I could make out the old GO number on the inside of the bus. We soon headed out.
Our first photo stop was with Niagara Falls in the background. We photographed the bus as well as a couple passing WEGO buses.
We got back on and headed off. The next photo stop was a short drive away at the Table Rock WEGO station which is located near the top of the Horseshoe Falls. We got off and photographed the bus as well as some other buses in the loop. I also photographed the falls.
I photographed the Niagara Incline Railway.
We stayed until 3:00 pm. At 3:00 pm, three WEGO buses came. We photographed them.
We then got back on the bus and headed out. We arrived at our next photo stop a few minutes later.
We then headed out to Main and Ferry. I photographed the bus.
We waited for the next pulse of buses to arrive. When they did, we photographed them. They were all Orion 7s.
A bus driver asked what we were doing. Someone told her why we were all taking pictures. I also noticed that Niagara Falls Transit had renumbered the routes in Niagara Falls. They were numbered in the 100 series.
We then got back on the bus and headed towards Welland. I noticed the driver had a little difficulty making right turns. We went to the main terminal. We got there in advance of the next pulse. We were hoping that one of the Ex London Transit Commission D40i’s would be running (at the very least) in service, but when the buses arrived, it wasn’t. However, Welland Transit’s XD35 #1154 was running though. I photographed it and the other buses including a regional bus.
Here’s Welland Transit’s XD35.
We made our way back to our bus. I photographed it before I got on. We apparently missed one Regional bus.
We then left Welland and made our way back towards Niagara Falls. Along the way, we had a photo stop at a future Niagara Falls Transit bus garage with would also maintain the WEGO buses. Someone pointed out the garage is in the middle of nowhere.
We then left and headed towards Niagara Square Mall. This would be our dinner stop. However, it was just after 4:30 pm; a little early for dinner. There were three Niagara Falls Transit buses laying over including a Nova LFS. I photographed the buses as well as our charter bus.
I went inside the mall and looked around. The food court in the mall only had three restaurants. However, one was a Subway restaurant and the only thing there that suited me. I worked on this report for a few minutes before I bought something from Subway to eat on the bus at the bus was leaving at 5:05 pm.
I then got back on the bus. By now it was dark. The bus soon left. As we left, I saw a Harvey’s across the street from Niagara Square Mall.
We drove down McCloud Road and passed a few fast food restaurants that would have made a better dinner stop for the charter. We also made a wrong turn prior to getting to the next photo stop.
Our next photo stop was on a residential street by a house on a corner with an impressive light display.
We then got back on the bus and headed out. Our next photo stop was a block away from Main and Ferry.
We then got back on the bus and headed out. We then had a stop in front of Fallsview Casino where in 2011; I had seen John Schneider and Tom Wopat perform.
We then posed the bus with the Skylon Tower.
I remembered when I was a kid, my mom used to sometimes call the Skylon Tower the “Bug Tower” because the elevators kinda looked like bugs. However, I’m not sure if she started it or my sister or I did.
A WEGO bus passed. I attempted to photograph it, but it came out blurry. We then got back on the bus and headed out.
We then drove to a bus loop near the foot of Clifton Hill. This was near the start of the Festival of Lights. I photographed the bus and various light displays.
We then got back on the bus and had another photo stop at the Table Rock WEGO station.
We then got back on the bus and drove down past the light displays. There were a few new light displays and some old ones. At least one light display was no longer there: A light display of various Disney movies and TV shows. I filmed various light displays as we went by.
We drove past the entrance to Dufferin Island, and saw cars were bumper to bumper. We decided against going to Dufferin Island on the way back as a result of this.
We drove to the western WEGO station near the Niagara Power Generating station which in years gone by used to have lights on the two towers depicting bells with an animated clapper.
On the way back, I attempted to film a life sized moose light display near the entrance to Dufferin Island.
Our last photo stop was by the bottom of a hill below the Skylon Tower. I photographed the bus and various light displays as well as a horse drawn carriage and a WEGO bus.
The group photo was taken here as well. I also attempted to take an unofficial group photo. As you can see, I had limited luck.
I saw some pot lights kept blinking on and off in rapid succession. I attempted to film them.
At one point two other people on the charter had a little snowball fight. One of them mentioned that this was one of the few TTS charters where people had a snowball fight!
I remember that the times I spent New Years Eve in Niagara there was a celebration down there. One year when I was a kid, I saw some people making a large snowman they had named “Gaylord”. One even stuck a cigarette in its mouth! I remember thinking it was impressive but by the next morning, “Gaylord” was gone.
We then headed back to the bus station. We thanked our driver and our ambassador from Discovery Tours. I got off and attempted to photograph the bus. Unfortunately, the photo was a bit dark.
I went across the street to the bus station. It was at that time I heard the familiar sound of a P42 and saw the Maple Leaf was still in the station! It was supposed to have been in Toronto at that point. I walked over and photographed the Maple Leaf.
I saw our charter bus departing and attempted to film it. I then walked back to the bus station and waited for my 8:30 pm bus back to Toronto. Some people were taking GO Transit which left 3 minutes before our bus, but GO would take longer than Megabus.
When my bus arrived, I photographed it.
I got on the bus which was pretty full, but I did find a window seat. The bus left on time. The Maple Leaf was still in the station.
I saw there were no AC outlets on the bus. We stopped in St. Catherines and Grimsby before we headed non stop to Toronto. People were allowed to get off near Union Station. I chose to and took one more photo of the bus.
I then phoned home and let my dad know I was back in Toronto. I then walked to Union Station and saw the Maple Leaf was scheduled to arrive in about 13 minutes; over 2 ¼ hours late. If anyone was connecting with the Canadian, they would have missed their connection.
I went to the subway and rode to Finch. I then met my dad and we headed home.
It was good to see the Festival of Lights again after so long. The charter was good aside from the dinner stop which I found to be a bit early and only three options. The TTS could have gone down McCloud Road for more options. However, it was good to ride a GO 1400 series MCI again since GO retired them years ago.
I’m not sure if I had known the Maple Leaf would have been that late if I would have come home on the train as well. I would have been able to eat dinner at a more convenient time and would have had AC outlets which the bus lacked.
As for me, I’m done traveling until 2015. At present, I’ve got at least 2-3 trips planned for 2015. Until next time…