By Train into the Wilds.......

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NS VIA Fan

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There's been a lot of VIA passenger trains that have disappeared over the last four decades including such notables as the Super Continental, Cavalier and Atlantic.....but a pair of nondescript locals that have survived are the remote services between Montreal and Jonquiere/Senneterre. It's been awhile...…..but I had the opportunity a couple of weeks ago once again for a train ride into the Wilds of northern Quebec.

Departure from Gare Centrale, Montreal was at 8:15 on a Friday morning in light snow but as we headed northeast.....it cleared into a sunny but cold day.













Here's the VIA stop at Garneau Yard (looking more like an airport control tower!)



Consist for combined trains #601/603:
6424 F40 Locomotive (to Jonquiere)
Baggage (to Jonquiere)
Coach (to Jonquiere)
Coach (to Jonquiere)
6413 F40 Locomotive (to Senneterre)
Baggage (to Senneterre)
Coach (to Senneterre)
Coach (to Senneterre)

In the consist above...... #603 is being hauled directly behind #601 with the F40 locomotive positioned mid-train. At Hervey Jct. the trains are separated......we pull forward and continue to Jonquiere and #603 led by 6413....heads off to Senneterre.



Shortly after Hervey Jct we arrived at Riviere-a-Pierre. The roads end here and the station parking lot was full. We had about a 20 minute stop while a coach and a half fill with passengers and the baggage car is loaded with boxes and coolers along with other supplies needed for a weekend or a week or two in the woods.



 
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NS VIA Fan

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We followed along a river for miles through beautiful, rugged country. Winter lasts 4 months here but summers are warm with swimming and boating on the many lakes and the fall colours can be especially nice for a train ride.







There were numerous stops in the next 100 miles where the train (or a snowmobile) is the only access. Some stops are a minute or two and only a mile apart at a small shelter or a path through the snow to a cabin in the bush. Passengers and their gear are just off-loaded at the side of the track. And in the reverse.....the trains will stop just about anywhere to pick up someone to take them into the larger communities for appointments or supplies......and more so along the isolated old National Transcontinental Railway route #603 follows between La Tuque and Senneterre.

















Stadacona at Mile 76.4 was busy with a large group met by snowmobiles.




 
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NS VIA Fan

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I sat with a couple that were heading in for a two week stay. Here's their cabin.......it's off-grid but they have solar power and there's wood for heat and cooking. (and now.....a good place to be during Covid-19 !)





At Lac Brochette we're out of the woods......the roads reappear and we're soon into the Lac St Jean Region where the Lake is 30 km across here.





Arrival in Saguenay-Jonquiere (metro pop: 146,000) is just short of 2 hours late because of the many stops we've made.......at the modern VIA Station shared with the local transit authority. It's an industrial city with hydro-electric developments and aluminum smelting.......and the Saguenay Fjord is a cruise ship destination.













I grabbed a taxi to the Marriott 'Delta-Saguenay' for the night. This area of Quebec is very French but I had no problem with my limited French. The taxi driver knew a word or two in English and me .....a word or two in French and the hotel staff was fully bilingual.





(Does your local Marriott Hotel have a parking lot for snowmobiles? Winter sports are big here and trails lead from the woods directly to the hotel)


 
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NS VIA Fan

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I could have stayed over until VIA returned to Montreal on Sunday.....but on Saturday morning I took a bus to Quebec City. 'Intercar' has 4 buses each way daily that take about 3 hrs down the #175 Freeway. In Quebec City.....buses share VIA's beautifully restored 'Gare du Palais'

















I was continuing onto Montreal that evening on VIA so I had the afternoon to walk around the city......and there is just so much history in Quebec City to take in. It's a walled and gated, fortified city with some of the original buildings dating back to the 1600 and 1700s. Fascinating for a history buff...... and it's no Disney re-creation!














 
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NS VIA Fan

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The iconic Canadian Pacific Railway's Chateau Frontenac Hotel.....now a Fairmont (and not it's usual photogenic self with the scaffolding covering the face during a major renovation) .......sits high on a cliff along the boardwalk overlooking the St. Lawrence.



Now a walk through the Battlefields on the Plains of Abraham where back in 1759.....the British forces under General James Wolfe defeated the French led by the Mauquis de Montcalm.....and the surrender of Quebec to the English. But it's still a very French city.......look across the street in the photo below. That's the Assemblee Nationale Quebec's Parliament with the Fleur-de-Lis Flag flying from the tower.







(And to put a VIA twist to it......occasionally you will find Sleeping Cars Wolfe Manor and Chateau Montcalm together on the Canadian.....leading some to call it a Plains of Abraham consist.

The narrow, cobblestone streets are lined with shops and restaurants and in summer......outdoor cafes and bars. Just so very European!
















 
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NS VIA Fan

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I also took a short ferry ride across the St. Lawrence that offers a great view of the city:








Then it was time to make my way back to Gare du Palais and a Business Class ride on VIA #29 to Montreal......then onto Toronto the following day. I previously posted that Trip Report here:











>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Now lets go way back to February 1976 and I took almost this same trip except the train ran overnight......and continued another 9 miles beyond Jonquiere to Chicoutimi.

Departing Montreal at 8:20pm.....we were hauled 5 miles out of Central Station through the Mount Royal Tunnel to Eastern Jct. by ancient GE Box Cab Electrics. (Today's train runs around Mount Royal (not through it) via CN's Taschereau Yard.....adding about 9 miles to the trip.)




CN #73 Montreal - Chicoutimi, Feb. 20, 1976

6712 GE Electric (cut off at Eastern Jct)
6714 GE Electric (cut off at Eastern Jct)
6787 FPA4
6636 F9B
9332 Baggage
1815 Allendale 8Sec, 2Comp, 1Dr.
1087 Cape Breton 2Bdr. 2Comp Buffet Lounge
5227 Coach
5298 Coach (off Arvida)
5187 Coach (off Jonquiere)
5287 Coach (to #75 at Hervey Jct to Senneterre)
431 Dinette (to #75 at Hervey Jct to Senneterre)
1807 Campbellton Sleeper (to #75 at Hervey Jct to Senneterre)

I remember the train was packed on that Friday nite and Buffet Lounge Cape Breton was doing a great business! I had a Lower Berth in Allandale.....an old Heavyweight Sleeper built in 1929 but fully modernized, warm and comfortable!

Arrival in Chicoutimi was at 7:45 on Saturday morning and I walked the short distance to the Voyageur Terminal for the 9am bus to Quebec City (and on an almost identical schedule as today!)





We arrived in Quebec City at noon with plenty of time for me to get CP Rail's RDC 'Dayliner' at 1:30pm to Montreal via Trois-Riviere......arriving there at 4:50pm.


 
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jiml

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Usual great pictures and insightful commentary. Chuckled out loud at the Plains Of Abraham consist - didn't think of that possibility until you raised it.

How is food service provided on those trains, presuming there is some? (That's a long trip with nothing - especially 603.) Jonquiere is on my list - especially if I wind up with a Marriott cert to burn late this year (which now seems likely).
 

NS VIA Fan

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How is food service provided on those trains, presuming there is some? (That's a long trip with nothing - especially 603.) Jonquiere is on my list - especially if I wind up with a Marriott cert to burn late this year (which now seems likely).
Go for it!.....I think you might really enjoy this trip. I liked the winter ride but summer and especially the fall colours would be nice.

One coach on each train has a serving pantry and the 'Corridor Menu' is offered:

https://www.viarail.ca/sites/all/files/media/pdfs/menus/111140657-1_VIA_Economy_Menu_Change-Cosmetique.pdf

I had breakfast in Central Station before boarding at 8:15am......and then early afternoon I had the Turkey on Multigrain which was just fine. Coffee and juice are always available. Supper was at the Boston Pizza Restaurant in the Marriott and this was the only place I hit a bit of a language barrier. It's a bilingual menu so I just pointed!!
 

NS VIA Fan

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As always, fantastic stuff from the Great White North!
Thanks....and it certainly was the 'Great White North' in Quebec.....but things are starting to green-up a bit here now although there is some wet snow forecast for tonight.

At least we can get out and start doing some work around the yard now......but going into town.....we're pretty well restricted to grocery or drug stores or other essential services where you have to keep that 2 metre distance!
 

Bob Dylan

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Thanks....and it certainly was the 'Great White North' in Quebec.....but things are starting to green-up a bit here now although there is some wet snow forecast for tonight.

At least we can get out and start doing some work around the yard now......but going into town.....we're pretty well restricted to grocery or drug stores or other essential services where you have to keep that 2 metre distance!
Same here, but its 80-90 degrees and everything is green and blooming! Spring has Sprung, the Long Hot Summer just around the corner!!

Hope yall stay Safe up there in Beautiful Canada, and we all Beat the Real "Enemy of the People!"
 
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railiner

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Great report and photo's, thanks for posting! A lot different scene than when I went up there in the spring of '18.
Those boxcab locomotives intrigue me, but I am not clear if those were the original GE's or the later English Electric's?
 
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Great report… excellent photography; great escape for those of us who are hunkering down at during this coronavirus crisis!

BTW from what we know about how easily this virus spreads and how long it survives on surfaces, I am concerned about any rail travel at this time, especially on our long distance trains which appear to be running. Elbow to elbow in the dining car? … I assume customers are eating in their rooms? Anyone know? Stay safe!
 

MikefromCrete

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Great report and photos, as usual. I've always wondered about those Quebec locals and the riding experience. Quebec City is one of my favorite places. It's like going to Europe without a long, cramped plane ride.
 
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