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Canadian Intercity Finale

by Chris Guenzler

After returning from my 33 Day Train Trip in August when I thought that I was going to finish Canada, I started to make my plans to get that missing 114 miles of the Algoma Central. I also now had a chance to use a 50% off voucher that I had received on the Ontario Northland. Getting to Sault Ste Marie was not a problem after my excellent night time Amtrak agent, Marty got me phone numbers and I made a few calls which set everything up. I bought a two region See-America Ticket and then had to enjoy and endure life.

Surfliner 583 12/25/2000

Following a wonderful Christmas meal with my family, my brother Jon drove me to the Santa Ana Station, a job that my father had always done before. Train 583 arrived on the mark and AC John Kennedy and I discussed the recent loss of my father. We arrived in Los Angeles early and I headed into Union Station to wait for my next train.

Southwest Chief 4 12/25/2000

I am in my been here - done that before mood as I got my boarding pass from station services. The Westbound Chief was late arriving on this date so our eastbound train wasn't ready for boarding until ten minutes after departure. My conductor out of LAX is Castro Landers who tells my coach attendant to take good care of me. We departed twenty minutes late and after adding our express cars in good and quick fashion, we headed out only to return to Union Station when one of the road railers was giving the train problems. Once that was taken care of, we departed Union Station 1 hour 25 minutes late. We raced down to Fullerton where I called it a night and slept soundly into Arizona.

12/26/2000 I awoke to snow on the ground before I enjoyed a French Toast Breakfast. Other than through the Little Colorado Desert we had snow covered ground the rest of the day. As we entered New Mexico, the weather was so bad that the Indian Guide did not make the train in Gallup. It was snowing in Albuquerque keeping away all but the bravest Indian jewelry sellers.

The Chief looked more like the Empire Builder in this setting. The snow gave the scenery a different character than normal especially through Apache Canyon. I was back in the dining car by Las Vegas having a New York Strip and a Turtle Ice Cream Cake for dessert. The evening was spent in the lounge car watching Rocky and Bullwinkle and The Crew. It was a restful day of train riding and just what I needed after the last two weeks of my life. I try to fall asleep after La Junta but the rough tracks bounces me around for about an hour before I succumbed and received another good night sleep on the Chief.

12/27/2000 I awoke just west of Lawrence, KS and had pancakes for breakfast. The Chief stopped for its 1000 mile inspection and the adding of more express cars at De Soto. We ran into BNSF Argentine Yard to refuel the train. This is a first as we had always refueled on the pads on the Mainline. This gave me a new route and a different view of this vast yard. We proceeded to Kansas City where a new policy does not let through passengers detrain. We left KC over two hours late with me having only one question. Would we get to Chicago in time for me to make the 6:30 train to Kenosha out of the CNW Station? Only time would tell. It's a beautiful clear day as we headed to Chicago and as we crossed the Missouri River there was pack ice floating down its course. Near the Des Moines River I spotted three bald eagles sitting high atop of the line side trees. This river and the Mississippi River were frozen solid as we crossed it and entered Illinois. The sky became overcast as we made our way to the Windy City. At Naperville, I helped a young lady get her hard drive off of the train in my shorts and short sleeves with the cold feeling really good. As we wyed into Chicago, we dropped off our express cars and backed into Chicago Union Station, one hour forty minutes late.

Metra 349 Express to Kenosha 12/27/2000

I went up to the Food Court for a pair of Gold Coast Char Dogs to go and made my way the two blocks to the CNW Station where I bought a round trip ticket to Kenosha. I went to the cab car because I knew it had room for my luggage. The train filled up and we left on time out into the night. Once we reached Waukegan I rode new mileage the rest of the way to Kenosha. I detrained, dragging my luggage down the stairs before I walked along the streetcar tracks past the car barn of the new Kenosha Trolley to 6th St and the Holiday Express at the Harbor. I watched Mario Lemieux's first game of his return to the NHL before calling it a night.

Metra 316 12/28/2000

This day was going to be the longest and most varied day of transportation of my life. I hoped that my plan would all work out. The Metra Train was a nice and relaxing on time early morning trip back to Chicago across the snow covered grounds of very southern Wisconsin and northern Illinois. I walked back to Union Station through the snow flurries which was quite enjoyable. Hot cakes and sausage for breakfast, the quick post card sent and then I went downstairs to await my last train of the day.

International 364 12/28/2000

I boarded the rear Superliner Coach for my trip to Kalamazoo, MI expecting just a normal trip. Instead we made a reverse move at Porter, IN due to frozen switches. Right before Niles, MI I had to wake a passenger who was going to Niles. Due to our lateness, we had to go into the hole at Lawton for the westbound Amtrak 361. We arrived in Kalamazoo only 30 minutes late where I trudged through the snow to get a picture of the train. I purchased a sleeping car room on the Zephyr out of Denver on my return towards home. I then waited patiently as I went from the world of the train rider into the darkened world of that of the bus rider.

Indian Trail Thruway Bus / JJ Limo / Taxi Cab Ride 12/28/2000

With my wait for the bus shortened by the late running train, I was thrust into the world of the bus rider joining the odd assortment of characters aboard. The bus arrived late and we left almost an hour late. The bus was full and at Grand Rapids we dropped off and picked up more characters. We made all the stops off the freeway and down the back roads. There was the remains of a major accident when we pulled into a McDonalds for Dinner. My driver Steve called JJ Limo to make sure they will be at St. Ignace to meet me when we arrive. After Traverse City, Steve keeps conversation going with me that helps break up the rest of the trip. The crossing of the Mackinaw Bridge was the scenic highlight of the trip and once across we entered the Upper Peninsula of Michigan pulling into St Ignace. I debussed and was met by the driver of JJ Limo, a van that took me to Sault Ste Marie, MI. On the way there, he called a Canadian Taxi Cab Company who sent a driver over to the first exit in Michigan to wait for me. We pulled up, switched my bags into the taxi and off we went across the International Bridge, through Canadian Customs (just a single question) to the Quality Inn across the street from the Algoma Central Train Station. As I took a waterfall shower I thought, I love it when a plan comes together. On the van ride I passed from Day 2170 to Day 2171. It is not too often that I am awake when that happens and usually on a train when I do.

Algoma Central 2 12/29/2000

A mostly clear day greeted me as I walked across the street to the depot. I left my bags and walked into the mall across the parking lot to get some Canadian Cash for my stay in Canada. Back at the station, I bought 34 postcards to send to people and then went outside into the cold morning air to wait for the train to back in. Every so often I would go back into the depot where on one occasion, I spotted two ladies in the closed gift shop. I managed to gain entry and bought three Algoma T-Shirts. As I was doing this the train backed in and I exited to board the last coach, stored my luggage before returning outside to photograph the train. I was disappointed by the fact that the railroad's F-units weren't on this train but the extra horsepower of a freight unit might come in handy.

The train departed on time, passing through the industrial areas and under the International Bridge that I had crossed earlier this morning. We passed by Algoma Steel, through the railroad's yard and by the shops. We climbed out of town and had a great view of the town off to the left. We ran parallel to Highway 17 for a few miles and further up the line near MP 20 crossed the Bellevue Valley on a trestle 810 feet long and 100 feet high. The train ran above the Ghoulais River Valley before crossing its namesake river at MP 31. The train passed through Searchmont and about ten miles later passed Little Achigan Lake on the left then crossed a fill with Achigan Lake on the right. Both of these lakes were frozen. We also made our first of the many passenger drop offs of the trip.

Frozen lakes are the order of the day as Ogidaki, Trout, Spruce, Mongoose and Rand Lakes were all in that condition. The train twisted and turned as it climbed and descended into each of the valleys where these lakes were. There is another impressive bridge over the Batchewanna River but that is just a preview of what is to come on this line. The most spectacular and famous structure on the Algoma Central Railroad is the 130 feet high, 1550 feet long curving to the right trestle of the Montreal River. There's a power dam underneath that supplies power to the Sault Ste Marie area. It is a very impressive work of engineering and I am very glad that I have finally managed to cross it.

I talked to our conductor about the possibility of riding up in the engine from MP 102 to MP 114, that magical milepost where I would finish riding all the Intercity miles in Canada to make my trip even more special. He called the head end on his radio who said "Send him up!" I walked through the train and out onto a GP-35m that was pulling our train. I was greeted warmly and was given the fireman's seat. My first views were of Lake Superior off to the west, the first time in my life that I ever saw it. We curved to the east and started our descent into Agawa Canyon. It was totally incredible with me clicking off picture after picture. We made our way to the canyon's bottom and we arrived at Canyon Siding with everything blanketed by snow and the train being the only sound. We came to the MP 114 sign and the spot where I had detrained from the southbound train last August to catch that northbound train that day and with that I had now completed every Intercity mile in Canada. Boy, did I feel great.

The train just kept going with the engineer congratulating me on what I had just accomplished. I continued to shot pictures all the way to Eton before returning to my coach seat after the most beautiful cab ride that I have ever had on any railroad. A special thanks to the employees of the Wisconsin Central for the very special moment of my personal historical trip. I will never forget it.

As the train headed to Hawk Jct, I started to address and fill out those post cards. I detrained at Hawk Jct for a few photos and finished the post cards as we headed north. At Franz, we met a southbound freight and waited for a CP Rail freight to cross at the diamond before continuing north. We lost the last light of day at the 2nd Oba Lake bridge and it was pitch black when we crossed the CN main at Oba. From there it was a nice relaxing night run the rest of the way into Hearst, where we arrived early. I had a short block walk to the Queen's Motel and I stayed for a two night and one full day of rest in Hearst, ON.

I shot the Wisconsin Central and Ontario Northland engines during my stay. Oh yes, all the post cards got mailed from Hearst.

Ontario Northland 422/698 12/31/2000

My 43rd birthday started off at 2:00 am with a wakeup call for a 2:40 taxi to drive me down to the bus station to wait for the ONR Van to Cochrane. A gentleman waiting for a bus from Ka, ON let me wait in his van to get out of the -2 degree C morning air. The van arrived shortly and I stayed up the entire trip to see places like Moonbeam and Smooth Rock. The trip took 2.5 hours down the frozen Ontario Highway. We pulled into Cochrane and I bought my ticket using the discount coupon from last summer. I bought an ONR Sweatshirt before boarding the train pulled by two F-units.

The train left Cochrane on time with me napping as far as Englehardt. Just south of there, the lead unit started putting out great amounts of smoke making it look like we had a steam engine pulling our train. The smoke filtered into the smoking car which the passengers didn't even notice and the lounge car which the attendant did. I smelled it and knew that we had an engine on fire. The train came to a stop right next to the fire station in the Armstrong Township whose equipment and others from the surrounding area assisted in putting out the fire. The fire was a first for me in 586,000+ rail miles. The burned engine was set out on the connection to the Earlton Spur and we proceeded south after taking a 55 minute hit. I thought the ONR would give me uneventful trip on my birthday. I was wrong.

On the move once more, we stopped at New Liskeard before the frozen Lake Temiscaming came into view. The Cobalt depot had about three feet of snow atop its roof making it a X-mas post card scene. The Canadian Shield has a very different look to it as the snow exposes very little rock. It was an overcast day with the sky just a tad darker than the white snow. The evergreens had their leaves all covered with a layer of snow while the annuals had only their bare branches covered. Of course the roots are all buried in snow, so I covered it all, roots to branches.

There was a surprise for me as the Montreal River was flowing while every other water body was frozen. It was the first river that I had seen flowing since the Missouri River back in the Show Me State. There's been a baby crying in my car almost the entire trip. I thought that maybe I should start a pool to see how short of Toronto the baby would stop crying. The safe bet would be Toronto. I really have not had all that many little ones in tears and cries in all my miles. I always have my music which goes up to full volume when activities of this kind takes place aboard. This time its UK Live to keep me in my good mood. At North Bay, I detrain for a picture of the train finding a nice high snow pile to stand on. From North Bay to Toronto the train took the CN the rest of the way to Toronto.

For most of the rest of the trip I watched a pair of movies. Snow Day which I always enjoy and Enemy of the State with Will Smith. That passed the time to within 38 miles of Toronto where Alice Cooper Live took me the rest of the way to the city. We had no delays since it was Sunday and didn't have to share this trackage with GO Transit on this day. We arrived a mere 5 minutes late and I went out in front of Toronto Union Station to find a cab.

Toronto 12/31/2000

With not a single one to be had, I walked the mile to the Executive Motel Inn. I found an excellent deli a block away having a French Dip Sandwich to go as my birthday meal back in the room where I watched some football on the Tele. Thus I spent an uneventful 43rd birthday and New Year's Eve 2000, the end of the True Millennium.

The International 363 1/1/2001

A walk and a comical cab ride returned me to Toronto Union Station on the first morning of the year 2001. We left Toronto on time before making our station stops at Malton, Brampton and Georgetown. We came to a stop at CN Silver to get authorization to continue onward. While we were waiting for this to take place, a CN freight train came flying by us going in the same direction that we were. We backed up to a crossover where the electric switch was frozen. More joys of winter railroading. We sat and waited for a maintainer to come out and work on it. Being New Year's Day probably did not help make this situation any better. Once they fixed our problem it led to another. We had to clear the mainline now for Via Train 682 from Sarnia, Ontario on its way to Toronto. We pulled forward onto the diverging route at the junction, let 682 pass by before backing back onto the main and continuing our journey west. Total time lost by all this was two hours twenty-two minutes.

The International experienced no further delays and passed through the St. Clair Tunnel under the United States/Canadian Border before backing into the Port Huron Amtrak Station for US Customs. As I always do, I lay out my birth certificate, driver's license, itinerary, social security card and my work identification card on the folding table at my seat. The questions were quick and the agent thanked me for having everything out and wished that everyone did like I did to speedup this whole process. We left Port Huron minus two passengers that Customs detrained down one hour and fifty two minutes.

The train ran fast across snow covered Michigan reaching Kalamazoo before total darkness took hold on the first day of 2001. I completed the circle via bus, van, taxi, train, van, train and train. By doing it this way, it was the easiest way to complete my goal of riding every Intercity route in Canada. But with that goal completed it was now time to start some other new goal. The rest of the trip to Chicago was in darkness and we arrived at Chicago Union Station one hour and fifteen minutes late. I walked the six blocks to the Downtown Quality Inn where I would spend the next two nights.

Chicago 1/1-2/2001

My two days in Chicago were all planned out in advance so I could finish up riding the rest of the Metra System. I was up at 5:30 A.M. and walked to La Salle Street Station for the first commuter train of the day to Blue Island. I needed the Mainline segment to Blue Island but I was routed down the suburban line instead. The crew advised me of which number trains went that way so I knew I could do it later that afternoon. I boarded a Metra Electric train at Blue Island that gave me this branch line to the IC Main for the trip to Randolph Street. I walked across the street to a Dunkin Donut Shop for breakfast. I next boarded a South Shore Train for the South Bend Airport. The South Shore, although not part of Metra, was a line that I always wanted to ride as it was the last of the great interurban lines in America. We ran late due to adding cars to take out to the railroad's shops. At Shops, we had a resistor problem which took thirty minutes to repair so I had only ten minutes at the South Bend Airport before my return train to Chicago left.

The westbound ran perfectly on time and all too soon I was back at Randolph Street Station. I tried the CTA for the first time, taking the subway back over to La Salle Street Station. With time to kill, I walked over to Union Station to Gold Coast for a Char Steak Sandwich and bought John Grisham's "The Brethren."

Back over to La Salle, I took the 3:45 PM mainline train to Blue Island where I shot the commuter action before returning to Chicago on the 5:00 PM express back into town. I enjoyed a nice walk back to the hotel with only one more piece of Metra to finish.

1/3/2001 Up early once more, I walked over to the CNW Station to board the 5:53 A.M. train to McHenry. We made a predawn journey and the sun was barely up when we arrived on time at McHenry where I completed riding the entire Metra Rail System.

Upon my return to Chicago, I visited a Walmart to buy a few items that I would need for the rest of my trip before I returned to the hotel to pack up and check out. The Quality Inn has a great price plus an excellent location for all my rail activities I do in Chicago. It got colder and windier since I was out earlier so I walked at a more brisk pace than normal back to Union Station. I had a Gold Coast Char Hamburger for lunch, read some of the Brethren, chatted with a woman from Oregon and Steve Miller Live was listened to before the boarding of my next train.

California Zephyr 5 1/3/2001

I was boarded in seat one at the forward end of the car. There is no table but the ample leg space made up for it. We left Chicago forty five minutes late waiting for baggage off of a late running Lake Shore Limited. I read more of the Brethren, had a steak dinner with a Turtle for dessert before returning to the book prior to calling it a night. At Omaha I was waken so they could move a single guy who was sitting across from me so that a couple could sit together. The funny thing was that they did not know each other and were going to different destinations.

1/4/2001 I fell back to sleep and awoke in western Nebraska, had a pancake breakfast and continued with the book. At Denver I detrained to board a sleeping car for the rest of my trip to Sacramento.

West of Denver starts the most beautiful train ride in the United States, one that I've been on many different times in all four seasons. It is one trip that I enjoy every time that I take this route. We meet coal trains at Rocky, Plainview and Rollinsville. I had an Olympic Burger and Turtle while passing through the Moffat Tunnel.

I shot pictures as we passed through Byres and Gore Canyons. I finished the Brethren in Red Rock Canyon. We passed the eastbound CZ at Dell before I enjoyed Glenwood Canyon from the lounge car. Dinner was a Prime Rib and Turtle as darkness took hold. De Beque and Ruby Canyons were passed through under the light of a bright half moon. I retired to bed on my last night on a train on this trip.

1/5/2001 I slept soundly for over ten hours except for a brief period in Salt Lake City. I was up by Elko, NV and enjoyed Palisade Canyon with another pancake breakfast. As the sun rose, the darken landscape transforms itself into the usual light dirt brown tumbleweed northern Nevada scenery with a light dusting of snow on the peaks above the valley. After a quick station stop in Winnemuca, I decided that since the scenery outside was so outstanding (Ha!Ha!), I took a nap that lasted almost to Sparks where I ventured off the train to photograph and buy a world edition of the LA Times. At Reno, I was then given a USA Today. From Reno to Truckee, I caught up on the happenings of the real world. It became lunchtime as the train climbed Donner Pass, so as we ascended I enjoyed a Chicken Sandwich and my last Turtle of the trip passing through the Summit Tunnel. The Zephyr descended the west slope of Donner Pass and we passed our eastbound counterpart at Cape Horn which was carrying a pair of private cars on its tail. We stopped briefly at both Colfax and Roseville before we arrived in Sacramento where I detrained from the Zephyr, fifteen minutes early. I called my brother Bruce to come pick me up and went to Old Sac and the Gift Shop at the California Railroad Museum then back to the station where my nephew, Eric picked me up and took me to their house for a one night stay.

San Joaquin 702/ Thruway Bus/Surfliner 578 1/6/2001

As I said goodbye to my brother Bruce at the Amtrak station the next morning, I am in my I want to be home mood but I have no ruby slippers to pull it off with, so patience and the train/bus/train thing will get me home to Santa Ana. Other than detraining at the Stockton Ace Station for a picture of the train, I just sat back with my headphones on and headed south down the length of the San Joaquin Valley. At Bakersfield I transferred to the bus that got me to Los Angeles. This was the earliest ever that I arrived in LA and allowed me to stroll slowly to Surfliner 578 and the quick trip back home to Santa Ana where my mom picked me up after I had alerted her via the Railphone on the train. Thus ends an excellent trip and the planning would start for my next rail adventure.