May 13, 2017

We have our railway

On May 5th, Premier Couillard was in New Carlisle where he announced major upgrades to the railway. The government will spend $100 million to open up the line all the way to Gaspé to passenger train standards. The work will be done in three stages; Matapédia to Caplan which is active now, Caplan to Port Daniel to serve the McInnis Cement plant, and Port Daniel to Gaspé to serve LM Wind Power.

He was vague on the timeline mentioning more studies to be carried out. Most important there will be a monitoring committee which would include the railway, local elected officials, stakeholders including McInnis Cement and LM Wind Power, along with Transport Québec. Work will begin in a few months and may take up to 5 years to get to Gaspé. Although we're hoping that it will be finished by 2020. For more details go to

October 17, 2016

Good news for the Gaspesie Railway

La Société du chemin de fer de la Gaspésie has signed a one year deal with CN to transport 600 windmill blades from New Richmond to Matapedia. The blades are being made at LM Wind Power in Gaspe and transported by truck to New Richmond where they will be loaded at Delta Frabrication's facilities. CN will then run monthly unit trains of 72 cars from Matapedia to Texas and other places in the US. LM Wind Power had signed a multiyear contract with GE a turbine builder.

Sylvain Roy, the local MNA, has a meeting planned for mid-November with Transport Minister Lessard, who said he was open to the upgrading of the railway, but still needs to be convinced of its profitability and its usefulness for the region. You'd think that an extra couple of hundred thousands of dollars of revenue if shipped by rail from Gaspe would be enough to show him that, once the infrastructure is in place.

May 30, 2016

Reply from the Director of maritime transport, air and rail

I received a reply from the Director of maritime transport, air and rail of Transport Quebec to my letter of March 16, 2016. While they didn’t say anything, I was impressed that at least somebody in that office was reading my letters and referring back to my file. More…...

May 4, 2016

Petition: Retour du train de passagers en Gaspésie

There is a petition on the National Assembly website in support of rail passenger service on the Gaspé coast. There are currently 1,776 signatures and the signing deadline is June 1st. We need to let the governments know that we need our passenger train. Here is the link.

April 16, 2016

Comments to Transport Canada concerning the Ocean service between Montreal and Halifax

On February 25, 2016, the Minister of Transport tabled in Parliament the Canada Transportation Act (CTA) Review Report. The report recommended continuing the federal subsidy for the regional and remote, and the Montréal– Halifax passenger services. You can read the report on their website here But to ensure the long term future of the Ocean the frequency must be increased and the train must be re-equipped with modern equipment. So I wrote a letter to them.
Here`s my letter.

March 26, 2016

Repairing the railway to Port Daniel

In the Fall, McInnis Cement in Port Daniel will start production. They will need the railway to ship cement to places that do not have a seaport. Both the provincial and federal budgets have been presented, and neither mentions funding to fix the line from Caplan to Port Daniel. Worried for the future of the railway, I sent a letter to Jacques Daoust, Minister of Transport to find out what the government is going to do about it. Once the railway is open to Port Daniel, we can then work on getting VIA Rail to return to New Carlisle.
Here`s my letter.

July 15, 2015

Growing the freight business on the railway

After talking to my brother and a taxi driver on a recent trip down home, it was brought to my attention the big increase of traffic on the highway. If even a small proportion of this freight traffic went by train, the future of our rail line to Gaspé would be assured. I wanted to convey this to our Minister of Transport, Mr Poëti.
Here`s my letter.

June 13, 2015

Gaspé Coalition for the future of the passenger train

There is a new website dedicated to the return of passenger rail service between Matapédia and Gaspé. Created by the Gaspé Coalition for the future of the passenger train which is a group of people who are working hard to bring back our train. Refer to the website regularly for news and events. There is also a petition which you can print and get friends and family to sign. If you want VIA Rail back to the Gaspé, please support us.

Here is the website

May 25, 2015

Restoration of VIA Rail service between Matapédia and Gaspé

Philip Toone, MP Gaspésie--Îles-de-la-Madeleine is launching a campaign to restore VIA Rail to Gaspé. This includes cards to his constituents to be returned to him to present to Transport Minister Lisa Raitt in Ottawa. He is also starting another petition. I want to do my part, so I wrote a note to the Minister.
Here is my letter

May 15, 2015

Potential traffic for the railway

The Québec government has bought the line from Matapédia to Gaspé, but will keep the Caplan to Percé part dormant. Although this is a good first step, the future of the entire railway is still not assured. In case the Minister of Transport was not aware of the potential traffic on that part, I thought I would let him know.
Here's that letter

March 3, 2015

The Gaspésie Railway Society update

At the Rail GD shop in New Richmond on Monday, Transport Minister Robert Poëti announced that Quebec would buy the rail line from Matapedia to Gaspé. The amount was not disclosed, but it would include the debt and the maintenance of the Matapedia to Caplan and Percé to Gaspé sections for five years. The part between Caplan and Percé would be dormant because of the low potential for traffic and high rehabilitation costs. The government liked the idea that a group of investors led by Gilles Babin would put up their own money to keep the railway. The SFG would operate the railway for at least 19 months and retain ownership of the rolling stock, stations, and some land. Local business people will have a say in the management of the company. As for VIA, Minister Poëti said that for now, `the numbers (customer) are not there`.

March 3, 2015

Exchange of letters with Lisa Raitt

I just received a reply from Lisa Raitt the federal Minister of Transport concerning a letter I wrote on February 4, 2014 about saving the Newcastle Sub for the Ocean. In appreciation for the reply, I decided to write her another.
Here's that letter I wrote to all cabinet ministers
Here is her reply and my response

February 27, 2015

The Gaspésie Railway Society update

According to some news reports, the railway was granted a reprieve until March 20 to submit an offer of settlement to its creditors. At the same time, the government is expected to announce an investment in the railway. Transport Minister Robert Poëti has a luncheon scheduled with the Chamber of Commerce of the Baie-des-Chaleurs Tuesday in New Richmond. We shall see what happens at that time.

February 16, 2015

Bill C-640. VIA Rail Canada Act

On Friday, Philip Toone, MP for Gaspésie--Îles-de-la-Madeleine, will introduce in the House of Commons Bill C-640, An Act respecting Via Rail Canada. After decades of service cuts, VIA is languishing waiting for the next axe to chop a little more off. In the meantime people in the regions are becoming more isolated, and businesses in urban areas with little public transportation are having trouble recruiting workers. Something must be done. I’m going to write a letter to my MP.
Click here for a letter I wrote to Marc Garneau, my MP.
Here is the bill.

February 5, 2015

The Gaspésie Railway Society update

I am more optimistic now for the future of the railway in the Gaspé. The court has granted the railway a 21 day extension to February 25th for filing a proposal for its creditors. This came after the Ministry of Transport gave an additional $100,000 to the railway for continued operations for the short term. Two of the regional MRCs also kicked in $25,000. Transport Minister Robert Poëti said that they are continuing analysis of the options for the future of the line before making a decision. He also said "Some companies in the area of the Baie-des-Chaleurs are dependent on rail transport. Therefore all regional actors and the government must work together to build the best long term solution for regional development ".

January 28, 2015

The Gaspésie Railway Society update

In addition to the Gaspésie Railway Society’s business plan that has to be submitted to the trustee by February 4th, Gilles Babin owner of Rail GD along with a few other investors has submitted an offer to Transport Québec to buy the portion of the line between Matapedia and Caplan. Although the amount has not been disclosed, the deal would include paying off the $4.2 million in debt, and acquiring some assets such as the locomotives and other rolling stock. Transport Québec would be responsible for funding to upgrade and maintain the track. Also included would be the tourist train, l’Amiral. In the meantime, Transport Québec has provided $100,000 to the trustee for the ongoing operations for 4 to 5 weeks. And 3 of the 4 MRCs have provided funds for the first time, $50, 000 each for the ongoing operations.

January 21, 2015

The Gaspésie Railway Society update

In submitting its business plan to the bankruptcy trustee, the Gaspésie Railway Society has decided to get down to basics. What is minimally required to serve its current freight customers? Those are Temrex in Nouvelle, Rail GD and Fabrication Delta in New Richmond, and the Coop in Caplan. The business plan, which includes a request for assistance to the Ministry of Transport of Quebec, is about to be completed. They say $4 million is required in public and private funding. The private funding would come from the current customers. As this would just patch up the infrastructure especially the bridges, more money would be needed in the coming years. If the government does not commit to funding by February 4th, the railway could cease operations. The province has not contributed any amount of money since 2013.

December 16, 2014

The Gaspésie Railway Society update

The situation is progressing as the bankruptcy receiver has updated the financial situation of the railway. Its line of credit has been unfrozen. As the receiver is now the administrator of the company, Jacques Côté the interim director general has stepped down. The current users of the railway are involved with the restructuring plan and the future operations of the company. And there has been more interest from potential users which has been lacking in the past.

November 25, 2014

The Gaspésie Railway Society under bankruptcy protection

On Friday, November 21st the Gaspésie Railway Society placed itself under bankruptcy protection to prevent its creditors from seizing some of its assets. The company owes just over $1 million. The Québec government has not given any funds to the railway this year. The trustee will have six months to restructure the debt while the railway will continue to operate. Also on Friday, Jean D`Amour, the minister responsible for the region, was visiting the area and was asked about the railway by reporters. He reiterated his support for the restoration of the railway and that discussions with his office, the Minister of Transport Robert Poeti, and the railway are ongoing. He sees it as an essential tool for economic development. He also confirmed that Quebec would respond to the emergency aid request for $1.3 million in the coming weeks. A hopeful sign, but the funding to restore the railway`s infrastructure has not been confirmed.

November 21, 2014

The Gaspésie Railway Society in danger

The Gaspésie Railway Society has recently appointed Jacques Côté as interim president and director general. His mandate is to convince the Québec government for funding to upgrade the bridges so that the railway can increase its revenue and serve its current and future customers. This could allow VIA Rail to return to the coast. The Québec government has not given any money to the railway for some time and there is a danger that the railway will have to cease operations.
Click here for a letter I wrote to Jean D’Amour, minster responsible for the region.

August 13, 2014

Connecting with the Ocean

Everytime I take the Ocean to visit family, I shudder to think that the train would be very late and miss my connection at Campbellton with the Orleans Express bus. Coming back the bus needs only to be one hour late and there goes the train without me. And I am not alone, increasingly I see more passengers using this not guaranteed connection. So I decided to write a letter.
Click here to see the letter

May 14, 2014

Increasing the frequency of the Ocean

The new President and CEO of VIA Rail, Yves Desjardins-Siciliano, about the government funding to maintain part of the Newcastle sub, said ‘he tied the funding to a new target of increasing ridership on the Montreal-Halifax service by 50 per cent.’. As a concerned user of the train, I thought I’d give him a few suggestions.
Click here to see the letter

May 12, 2014

The Ocean is saved

This morning Lisa Raitt, the Minister of Transport in Ottawa, announced that the government through VIA Rail will provide $10.2 million to CN to upgrade and maintain that 70 kilometre stretch of the Newcastle Sub that CN had slated for abandonment. This is an abrupt turnaround from the government’s previous position and no doubt had something to do with the upcoming election next year. There was a strong campaign to keep the line open, led by the Save our Trains in Northern N.B. committee and Facebook page, with rallies, petitions, and letter writing. Transport Action Atlantic, Phil Toone and Yvon Godin among other NDP MPs, the mayors of Quebec and northeastern New Brunswick, the Unifor union, and probably the Conservative MPs from New Brunswick all pressured the government to intervene. The Green Party rally on train 15 from Halifax to Campbellton that I participated in might have helped too.

March 12, 2014

Do not reroute the Ocean

VIA Rail is considering rerouting the Ocean from northern New Brunswick to CN’s main route through Edmundston. I want to let Lisa Raitt the Minister of Transport know that it would be a big mistake.
Click here for more details

March 5, 2014

What is the real reason?

Since the federal government won’t invest in the 44 mile rail line between Bathurst and Miramichi it will be abandoned. In question period in the House of Commons, all we hear are lies from the government. This is an attempt to find the real reason why the government won’t fulfill its obligations.
Here's my letter

February 4, 2014

Open letter to all the cabinet ministers

In the faint hope that a couple of cabinet ministers will reconsider the federal government’s inaction toward the end of the Ocean, I sent all 39 of them an open letter explaining the urgency of the situation. If nothing comes of it, at least I know I tried.
Here's the open letter

January 27, 2014

VIA's Ocean train service will likely end by June

VIA’s Chaleur train service to the Gaspe is not running, and it is this person’s opinion that it won’t in the future. Also, due to CN’s abandoning of a part of its Newcastle Subdivision, the Ocean service between Montreal and the Maritimes will likely end in June. It is the Harper government’s outright disregard of the people in less populated areas and its open hostility toward passernger rail in general, a vital link for the people east of Quebec City will be lost. It is the opinion of this person that if a Conservative majority government is elected in 2015, Canada will be the only country in the G8 without a functioning intercity passenger rail system.
Here is my letter with more details

August 24, 2013

VIA ending temporary bus service between Matapedia and Gaspe

This letter to VIA Rail is in response to their abandonment of the temporary bus service between Matapedia and Gaspe. The local railway, the Société du chemin de fer de la Gaspésie (SFG), started using a new product to replace the herbicide to control the vegetation in the roadbed. This new solution is based on salt and water which caused rust on the rails that interfered with the crossing signal circuits. VIA train service was replaced by a temporary bus service from Matapedia. The sector between New Carlisle and Gaspe has been closed to rail traffic since December 2011 due to needed repairs on the infrastructure.
Here is my letter with more details

August 21, 2013

Toronto's Caribana

Every year I go to Toronto for their Caribbean Carnival, also known as Caribana. The highlight of the week is the parade which starts at the CNE and goes along Lakeshore Blvd. They estimate a million people attend this event. What I like is the music, costumes, and beautiful women. This year I took some video with my Olympus FE-370 camera. The video quality deteriorated somewhat when I uploaded it to Youtube.
Click here to watch the video

July 25, 2013

Recently Restored Montreal Streetcar

Since I created the Montreal Streetcars page in 2011, the CRHA restored Montreal Steetcar Railway No. 274 to its 1895 appearance. It was saved in 1950 and was the first vehicle in the Canadian Railway Historical Association collection.
Click here to see Barry Brake's pictures of Montreal Streetcars

September 19, 2012

Where is VIA Going? A Brief Analysis of a Crown Corporation

I found a very good paper about the history of VIA Rail and why it still subsists despite numerous bureaucrats in Ottawa that want to eliminate it. Malcolm G. Bird, PhD wrote this paper in May 14, 2009. What has changed since then is the election of a majority conservative government that doesn't seem to care about the environment or the needs of ordinary Canadians.
Click here to read the paper.

August 13, 2012

Blue Bird Fire Memorial to be unveiled

On August 31st, nearly 40 years since the fire at the Wagon Wheel club upstairs from the Blue Bird Cafe, the city and the firefighters will honor the 37 people who lost their lives on Friday, September 1st, 1972 and help bring closure to their families and friends.

August 8, 2012

Upcoming VIA Rail cuts

VIA Rail has announced that it is reducing frequency of it's Montreal to Halifax train, the Ocean, by 50% to only 3 days a week. This is in spite of increased ridership in 2011 from the year before. If you are as outraged as I am, sign the petition and/or write a letter to make your views known. If nobody complains they will think that nobody cares.
Here is my letter to the prime minister of Canada

October 24, 2011

Black Cape 1960

Uncle Everett took this video around home in Black Cape in the summer of 1960. Finally, I'm able to upload it to Youtube from the DVD without reformatting. I had previously copied it from VHS tape to DVD.
Click here to watch the Black Cape 1960 video

September 7, 2011

Blue Bird Fire Memorial

There was a candlelight vigil on the site of the 1972 Blue Bird Cafe fire at Union between Ste. Catherine and Rene Levesque on September 1st for the 39th anniversary. There were over 150 family members and friends of the victims attending. Helen Fotopulos, representing the city, announced that they were "mandated to work with representatives of the family to come up with a suitable commemoration that will be ready for next year." That would be in time for the 40th anniversary. The event had extensive media coverage.
Click here for more details about the Blue Bird Fire Memorial

August 15, 2011

Montreal Streetcars

Wanting a project to put on my website, I decided to start with a photo gallery of Montreal streetcars. So I went over to Exporail in St. Constant and took pictures of their streetcars that are on display. The descriptions are largely taken from the information panels that are alongside these displays. This was a great experience, both in learning to develop a webpage and in researching the history of Montreal streetcars from a bygone era. You see, I only moved to Montreal in 1972, and the only vestige of streetcars I saw were the old rails pushing out of the pavement.

During this project, I visited Toronto where there are actually real modern streetcars running through the streets. I stayed at a hotel near the intersection of Spadina Ave and Queen St W where 2 two-way streetcar lines intersect. What a thrill to see them at this busy location. An incident happened where one streetcar turned right on to Spadina. I saw the driver get out and manually turn the switch points. Apparently this switch was not automatic, as others are in Toronto. The streetcar following was supposed to go straight down Queen, but the driver who was not used to this route did not notice that the switch points were aligned to Spadina Ave. By the time he noticed it the streetcar was halfway through. He called the supervisor and after a wait of 20 minutes they evacuated the car and a shop driver took over the empty car. By this time there were 5 streetcars lined up behind, and the passengers transferred to another one. It felt that I could have been in Montreal 55 years ago.
Click here to see Barry Brake's pictures of Montreal Streetcars