Bike Ride - Spring 2005:
Montreal to Lac-Saint-Jean by Train
& Return to Montreal via the Mauricie


Roger Kenner
Montreal, Qc,
Canada 2008

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Lac Saint-Jean Bike Ride - Spring 2005:
Day 1, Part 1: Montreal to Rivière à Pierre by Train
Friday, May 20, 2005


Picture Key
Original Photos
Period Documents
My photos, other times
Other, modern sources
[Read More] about the Picture Key.
Period Document Composite
Trip Plan: Day 1: May 20
[See Planning Documents for Full View]

 

Trip Plan:  May 05

Thursday, May 19
-Deliver bike to Via Rail:  $15 + tax
-Must pick up ticket first
-Tools to remove pedals & turn handlebars
-Baggage open 07:00 to 23:00

Friday, May 20
-Train boards: 07:45
-Arrives in Jonquiere at 17:52
-$ 50.61   Reservation # B1V914
[See Original Document]

 

Quebec Tourist Guide: 2004
Photo of Train
Photo of Lac Saint-Jean Train taken from Via Rail Advertisement

 

[Much supplementary material on train ride taken from Saguenay Route chapter in in Bill Coo's Railway Guide (1984)]

[Much Supplementary material taken from Via Rail's Saguenay Route Brochure (2005)]

Departure: Montreal

I was up, wide awake and excited at 06:00 that Friday morning. I needed only to take a quick bath before leaving, as I had packed up everything the night before, between 20:00 and 23:00. Wednesday I had practiced taking the bike pedals off and then putting them back on. I had delivered the bike to the Via Rail baggage service at Central Station on Thursday morning. So that Friday morning, I had only to present myself for the train. Sheryl drove me down to Central Station and waited patiently with me. Both the Jonquière & the Senneterre trains boarded at gates 17 & 18. I did not yet understand the significance of why both trains left at exactly the same time.

Click to Enlarge (flick.com/)
Montreal: Central Station
Inside picture of Montreal's Central Station

 

I boarded at 08:15. My make-shift bag was very heavy. [I had wrapped all my bike gear in my waterproof tarpaulin and had used my bicycle bungies to form it into a cylinder, with a sort of handle. I had first used this technique in 1990, when terminating a bike ride by taking the train.] When I got down to the platform, I was told I could not go into the first door in the train. I was forced to walk all the way down to the other end of the train, lugging my heavy bag. I did not yet understand why this was so and was upset about having to walk so far down the platform, as my makeshift bag was beginning to come apart.

When I finally got onto the train, I asked the conductor which way we would be leaving the train would be leaving the station. He surprised me by saying southward. I had thought we would go through the tunnel, but now I learned that not since the renovation of the Two-Mountains line has the train left to the north. Apparently, no non-electric trains can go through the tunnel and with the demise of the old fashioned electric engines, there was no electric locomotion to pull the train through. I also learned that two, separate trains were strung together, back to back and joined at the baggage cars. It was for this reason that there were two separate doors and why I had had to walk the whole length of the train before getting on. The Senneterre & Jonquière trains shared the same engine as far as Harvey Junction, but they were separate "trains" as far as Via was concerned. They each had their separate crews. Though joined back-to-back at the baggage cars, one could not pass between the two trains: [Car-Car-Baggage-Baggage-Car-Car-Engine].

Taken from Scenic Rail Guide, Bill Coo, 1983
Itinerary
Montreal Island itinerary, a mixture of material from Bill Coo's Guide and the Via Rail Brochure. Of note, the 1984 guide showed the train leaving north through the tunnel. The train does not go through the tunnel any more. When the Two Mountains line was modernized, the old electric locomotives were removed. Diesel trains cannot run through the tunnel.

 

We left at 08:30. The train rolled out of Central Station, crossed Wellington, went past the rail yards and the bridge turnoff and then crossed back over Wellington again. We rolled through Saint-Henri as if we were headed towards Toronto.

Click to enlarge (Taken Summer 2001/April 2002)
Leaving Central StationPassing Saint-Henri
[See Original Image]  
 

We crossed the Lachine Canal and then went through the Turcot Yards, alongside Highway 20. At the 13, we veered to the northwest, towards Ville Saint-Laurent (Along the old ?? line, the route of the former train to Ville Saint-Laurent. The path took us on a main line between the CN and CP Rail yards. I noticed that the CP yards were higher by 5 feet. There are only two instances of tracks connecting the main line with the two rail yards. We went around Cote Saint-Luc and then passed the Kraft plant, where I would typically make my crossing when heading towards the Back River.

Click to enlarge (Taken on 2001 Ride to Laval)
Looking West & East Along CN Line at Metropolitain
 

In passing through Ville Saint-Laurent, we had occasion to cross the Two-Mountains train line, where a commuter train was waiting for us to pass.

Click to Enlarge (Taken with Pentax on 050520)
Montreal: Crossing the CN Commuter Line: Train Waiting

 

Leaving Ville Saint-Laurent, the train rolled along the elevated CN line across Montreal, north of the Metropolitain, the line whose barrier has dictated so many of my bicycle rides. We stopped at the Ahuntsic Train Station (I did not know heretofore that there had even been one.) to entrain some passengers.

Click to Enlarge (Cartwright: McGill)
Montreal: Ahuntsic Station
Picture of Ahuntsic Station, taken from Web

 

Soon we were passing to the north of the two big quarries in Saint-Michel. We rolled alongside Boulevard Henri-Bourassa for a ways, passing a small rail yard. Soon after, we passed by the oil refineries of Montreal East. We passed by the Rivière-des-Prairies station without stopping, but soon crossed Sherbrooke and came to a stop at the Point-aux-Trembles station.

Click to Enlarge (Taken with Pentax on 050520)
Montreal: Pointe-aux-Trembles Station

 

[See Composite Study: Pointe-Aux-Trembles Station]

Lanaudière

At 09:30, one hour after departure), we left Montreal Island along the old Canadian Northern trestle next to the Pont Le Gardeur. (I was attempting photos, but I had to be quick. I figured I would be lucky if half of them turned out okay. There was no time to refer to the light meter; I just had to do it by feel.

Click to Enlarge (Taken with Pentax on 050520)
Leaving Montreal: Pont LeGardeur

 

Click to Enlarge (Taken with Pentax on 050520)
Leaving Montreal: View Upriver from Trestle
Hwy 40 Bridge in Background

 

Click to Enlarge (Taken with Pentax on 050520)
Leaving Montreal: View from Train

 

Click to Enlarge (Taken in 1999)
The Trestle from Montreal
[See Original Photo]

 

Click to Enlarge (Taken with Pentax on 050520)
Leaving Montreal: Mouth of L'Assomption River

 

Click to Enlarge (Taken in May, 2003/May, 2006)
Passing by Charlemagne

 

We stopped at the Le Gardeur Station, but then passed by the l'Assomption station without stopping. After l'Assomption, we crossed a road that I had travelled in L'Epiphanie in 2004.

Click to Enlarge (Taken in 2004)
Passing by L'Epiphanie

 

Joliette

At 10:05 we stopped at the Joliette Station, after passing over l'Assomption River on a spectacular trestle.

Click to Enlarge (Taken with Pentax on 050520)
Joliette: Crossing L'Assomption River

 

Click to Enlarge (Taken with Pentax on 050520)
Joliette: Station

 

The two passenger cars that made up our 'train' were almost empty at the start - Maybe 15 people in total. Both cars would slowly fill completely, and then would emtpy again, so that only a few passengers would be left by the time we reached Jonquière.

Click to Enlarge (Taken with Pentax on 050520)
Inside of Train

 

After Joliette, I visited the little 'snack bar' that was set up in the next car. The one person who served as three members of the crew, conductor, snack bar handler and engineer's aid, served me.

Morning snack on train: Cheese Plate:

Mauricie

As the train pulled up along the high ridge, I had a grand view our over all of the Saint-Lawrence valley. I could easily make out the distant trace of the river and the smoke stacks of the power plant at Tracy. While I was sitting on the right (south) side of the train, I could easily jump over to the other side (as far as Lac à Pierre.) to take pictures. I was hard to get good pictures out of the right, as the sun was shining from that direction.

At 10:30, we stopped at St. Justin. After St. Justin, the train left the valley and entered the foothills, at which point it began to slow down. (Once past Shawinigan, the trian would make most of the trip at a posted speed of about 30km/hr!)

Just after pulling out of St. Justin, at around 10:40, I was treated to a quick view of the spectacular Saint-Ursule Falls of the Maskinongé River.

Click to Enlarge (Taken with Pentax on 050520)
Deep River Valley from Atop Trestle

 

Click to Enlarge (Railphotos.net)
Crossing Trestle at St. Ursule Falls
Image of similar train crossing trestle.

 

Click to Enlarge (Taken with Pentax on 050520)
Famous Falls near Saint-Ursule, from Train

 

Click to Enlarge (Michel Corboz: Web Site 2008)
Pont CN à Saint-Ursule
Image of trestle from below falls.

 

Click to Enlarge (Taken with Pentax on 050520)
Highway Bridge near Sainte-Angèle de Prémont (?), from Train

 

Click to Enlarge (Coo '84, Page 72)
Tunnel Approaching Shawinigan
Image taken from Bill Coo's 1984 Railway Guide: Finally, at mile 50.7, a 610-foot tunnel leads to a 367-foot bridge over the Shawinigan River at mile 50 (Coo: '84).

 

Shawinigan

At 11:15, we came to Shawinigan. The train station was high up on a ridge overlooking the town. I saw the famous tower and a church. Lots of passengers came on board at Shawinigan.

Click to Enlarge (Taken with Pentax on 050520)
Approaching Shawinigan & Famous Tower

 

Click to Enlarge (Taken with Nikon on 050528)
Shawinigan: Passing Over the Train Tracks
(Upon the Return Trip)

 

Click to Enlarge (Taken with Pentax on 050520)
Gare de Shawinigan

 

Click to Enlarge (Taken with Pentax on 050520)
Gare de Shawinigan

 

Click to Enlarge (Taken with Pentax on 050520)
Gare de Shawinigan

 

Click to Enlarge (Taken with Pentax on 050520)
Gare de Shawinigan

 

Click to Enlarge (Taken with Pentax on 050520)
The St. Maurice from the Gare de Shawinigan 'Lower Town' from the Gare de Shawinigan

 

As we left the station, we advanced slowly and then stopped. We waited. Eventually, a freight train passed. Then we backed up again, all the way back to the station. We switched tracks (I saw the switchman at the switches), and slowly advanced again. We passed lot of rail yards, with tracks heading off in all directions towards established industries.

We crossed the bridge of the Mauricie at 11:40, along the crest of the dam. I tried to get pictures, but the trees blocked my way. I ran out of film and had to change. By the time I had new film in the camera, the event was passed.

Click to Enlarge (Taken with Pentax on 050520)
Leaving Shawinigan: Window View from Train: Young forest Leaving Shawinigan: Along the St. Maurice

 

Click to Enlarge (Taken with Pentax on 050520)
Grande Mère: The Dam at Grande Mère

 

Click to Enlarge (Taken with Nikon on 050527)
From the Bridge at Grand-Mère: Looking South to Dam

 

At 11:50, we stopped at the Garneau Rail Yard, where we awaited a passing freight train for ten minutes. Among other cars on the passing freight, I saw flatcars with 4 each of 2 x 4 x 8 aluminion ingots. They must have been heavy!

Click to Enlarge (Taken with Pentax on 050520)
Garneau: Freight Yard & Train Station

 

Click to Enlarge (Taken with Nikon on 050527)
Over the Railyard at Garneau

 

Click to Enlarge (Railphotos.net)
Saguenay Train at Garneau
Image from Web Source

 

On our way at 12:15, we were now ambling along at 30 mph, past small towns and small farms. The hills were closing in on the tracks. Green pastures had replaced ploughed fields. We passed through lots of scrub forest and small, rocky farmsteads. The track was clearly not so good. There are lots of sharp curves and I had never gone so slow!

Click to Enlarge (Railphotos.net)
Saguenay Train passes Saint-Thècle
Image from Web Source

 

Hervey Junction

At one point, we rounded a curve and I heard the familiar sound of the air stopping in the car. The train had stopped out in the middle of a field. There was a long wait. I wondered what was happening, and expected the worst, of course: The train has failed! Was it enngine failure?

After an interminable wait, the locomotive engine revved up again and the air returned. When I was able to look back on the train through the window at a curve, I saw that there were only three cars. They had split the train and I had not even felt it. We advanced around the corner and stopped at Harvey Junction from 12:15-12:35.

There were two tracks at the platform. Our train was on the further track. The platform was thick with people and their baggage. I do not yet understand the significance, but I noted that people were clustered in families around their mountains of baggage. Each cluster was separated slightly from the next. My view of the platform was cut off as the other half of our former train, now the train to Senneterre, pulled into the station. Soon after this train pulled in, we began to roll off down the tract. It was 12:35.


Click to Enlarge (Taken with Pentax on 050520)
Gare de Hervey Junction

 

Click to Enlarge (Taken with Pentax on 050520)
Hervey Junction: The other half of our train

 

Click to Enlarge (Taken with Pentax on 050520)
En Route...(Probably Lac aux Sables)

 

Click to Enlarge (Taken with Pentax on 050520)
En Route: La Rivière Batiscan

 

Click to Enlarge (Taken with Pentax on 050520)
En Route: Rapids on the Rivière Batiscan

 

Rivière à Pierre

We reached Riviere a Pierre at 13:10. Now it was our turn to stop. The conductor told us we would have an hour's stop. As at Harvey Junction, the platform was filled with people, who stretched the whole length of the quay. Each family was clustered around a mountain of baggage, mountains in which coolers and cases of beer often formed the highest peak. As I stood off the train and watched, it began to load. The driver would advance the open door of the baggage car to stop in front of a family. This family would then pile all their gear onto the train and would board themselves. Then the train would advance some twenty feet, until the open door was in front of another family. After a while, I stopped watching and took a look around the little town. I saw that it was the terminus for the Portneuf Bicycle Trail. I walked ahead to get a photo of the train, and then to the end, to look down the tracks we had just come up.

Click to Enlarge (Lahoud)
Rivière à Pierre
Aerial View of Rivière à Pierre

 

Click to Enlarge (Taken with Pentax on 050520)
Stop at Riviére … Pierre

 

Click to Enlarge (Taken with Pentax on 050520)
Rivière à Pierre

 

Click to Enlarge (Taken with Pentax on 050520)
Gare de Rivière à Pierre

 

Click to Enlarge (Taken with Pentax on 050520)
Train stopped at Gare de Rivière à Pierre

 

Click to Enlarge (Taken with Pentax on 050520)
Cottagers & their baggage at Gare de Rivière à Pierre

 

Click to Enlarge (Taken with Pentax on 050520)
Rivière à Pierre: The Rails Ahead Rivière à Pierre: The Rails Behind

 

Click to Enlarge (Taken with Pentax on 050520)
Rivière à Pierre: Bike Trail Terminus

 

Finally, as the loading operation was completed, I figured it was time to re-board. What a change! The two passenger cars were now packed! It was almost standing-room only. Luckily, I had placed something to reserve my seat. Gone was the opportunity, however, of zipping over to the far windows to snap a photo. I would soon miss a great photo of the stone pilings of an old trestle, out in the rapids, because it only flashed by on the opposite side.

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Prepared by Roger Kenner
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