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On a Friday morning in October 1987, CN 5501 is ready to leave Waterways, Alberta, the  station for Fort McMurray, a short distance to the north and long before that community became associated in the minds of most of us with oil sands.  Train 289, the northbound counterpart of train 290, known locally as the “Muskeg Mixed”, took two days, with a overnight stopover in Lac La Biche, for the 294 mile journey which explains why our group of three chose a Red Arrow bus for the northbound leg and the CN mixed train for the southbound trip scheduled to take just under 11 hours.  Coupled immediately ahead of the caboose is coach 5099, built for CN in 1937 as 5209, transferred to VIA Rail in 1978, and reacquired and renumbered in 1982 by CN which fitted it with a diesel generator to provide power for lighting and cooling.  Imagine, an air-conditioned coach on a lowly mixed train!.  In another respect the train was unusual because it was at the time the only passenger train still operated by CN in its own name, all others having been discontinued or turned over to VIA Rail.  After several false starts going back as far as 1909, the line had been completed in 1925 by the Alberta & Great Waterways Railway and subsequently became a part of the Northern Alberta Railways. . 

The schedule, which called for departure at 11:00 and arrival at 21:45, was adhered to somewhat casually for most of the southward trip which saw a few passengers embark and disembark along the way.  There was little switching in or out of  freight cars.  As we neared Edmonton, now with only our group of three intrepid riders remaining, progress became very much stop-and-go.  The conductor’s repeated calls to the dispatcher asking for permission to enter North Edmonton yard because he had passengers on board made us realize that, quite possibly, we were a rarity and that few actually rode the entire length of the line.  Finally, some time after midnight, about three hours late, we were able to leave the train.   A patient friend, who had offered to drive us to Calgary that night was still waiting for us.
Copyright Notice: This image ©Julian Bernard all rights reserved.



Caption: On a Friday morning in October 1987, CN 5501 is ready to leave Waterways, Alberta, the station for Fort McMurray, a short distance to the north and long before that community became associated in the minds of most of us with oil sands. Train 289, the northbound counterpart of train 290, known locally as the “Muskeg Mixed”, took two days, with a overnight stopover in Lac La Biche, for the 294 mile journey which explains why our group of three chose a Red Arrow bus for the northbound leg and the CN mixed train for the southbound trip scheduled to take just under 11 hours. Coupled immediately ahead of the caboose is coach 5099, built for CN in 1937 as 5209, transferred to VIA Rail in 1978, and reacquired and renumbered in 1982 by CN which fitted it with a diesel generator to provide power for lighting and cooling. Imagine, an air-conditioned coach on a lowly mixed train!. In another respect the train was unusual because it was at the time the only passenger train still operated by CN in its own name, all others having been discontinued or turned over to VIA Rail. After several false starts going back as far as 1909, the line had been completed in 1925 by the Alberta & Great Waterways Railway and subsequently became a part of the Northern Alberta Railways. .

The schedule, which called for departure at 11:00 and arrival at 21:45, was adhered to somewhat casually for most of the southward trip which saw a few passengers embark and disembark along the way. There was little switching in or out of freight cars. As we neared Edmonton, now with only our group of three intrepid riders remaining, progress became very much stop-and-go. The conductor’s repeated calls to the dispatcher asking for permission to enter North Edmonton yard because he had passengers on board made us realize that, quite possibly, we were a rarity and that few actually rode the entire length of the line. Finally, some time after midnight, about three hours late, we were able to leave the train. A patient friend, who had offered to drive us to Calgary that night was still waiting for us.

Photographer:
Julian Bernard [23] (more) (contact)
Date: 10/00/1987 (search)
Railway: Canadian National (search)
Reporting Marks: CN 5501 (search)
Train Symbol: CN 290 (search)
Subdivision/SNS: Waterways Station - CN Waterways Sub (search)
City/Town: Waterways (search)
Province: Alberta (search)
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One Comment
  1. Now that is an adventure. Certainly makes todays railroading seem boring..

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