The city of Cornwall is easternmost city in Ontario, located on the St. Lawrence River about halfway between Ottawa and Montreal. Cornwall is near Highway 401 in the Quebec City-Windsor corridor and serves as a stop for both transport trucks and passenger traffic travelling between Toronto and Montreal, and the city is also served with frequent service by Via Rail. Home to about 45,000 people, this once heavily-industrialised city was home to large textile, pulp-and-paper, and chemical factories, but a shift to overseas manufacturing led to the closure of many of the plants, with the two largest companies, Courtaulds and Domtar, closing in 1992 and 2006, respectively. Today Cornwall’s economy is more diversified and several major national companies have located distribution warehouse, call centres and supply chain management facilities in the city. In addition, Cornwall is one of eastern Ontario’s major ports of entry, with the Three Nations Crossing, also known as the Seaway International Bridge, linking the city to the United States at Roosevelttown, New York, near Malone and Massena.
The GM Classic was an updated version of the popular GM New Look, which was built between 1959 and 1986. During the 1960s and 1970s, General Motors worked on developing an advanced design bus, which finally entered production in 1977 as the RTS II (Rapid Transit Series, two axles). It was designed to replace all New Look production, but many Canadian transit operators and some American systems were not impressed with the RTS and chose to continue ordering the older design. In response, GM introduced the New Look Classic, using the original chassis design with larger side windows, wider front entrance doors, and redesigned front and rear end caps. The prototype was built in 1981, and production of the Classic—without the words “New Look”—began in 1983 with the first buses being delivered to Montreal. GM sold the St-Eustache factory to Motor Coach Industries in 1987, and MCI in turn sold the factory to NovaBus Corporation in 1993. The Classic was originally built only as a 40’ long, 102” wide vehicle, but MCI sold a small number of 60’ long articulated buses to Quebec City and Halifax, and NovaBus offered a 35’ long version, though none was built. By the time production ended in 1997, 4744 of the buses had been built and sold to transit agencies across Canada and in several American cities.
The Orion II bus was built between 1983 and 2003 and was Orion’s first low-floor, wheelchair accessible bus, and was one of the first low-floor buses in North America. Offered in 21’ and 25’ long versions fueled either by diesel or compressed natural gas, the Orion II was popular both with paratransit agencies and with transit systems looking for a small bus to serve on community routes. Buses were delivered to cities across Canada and the United States, and some were even sold in Europe, where they served in Norway, Sweden and Poland.
The Montreal-based group YUL Charters has been hosting bus fan charters in Quebec for a number of years, and this was the group’s first charter in Ontario. The organiser decided to host a double-header charter of a GM Classic in the morning to cover the high school bus routes, and an Orion II CNG in the afternoon to replicate supplemental and community routes. About twenty-five people signed up from as far away as Ottawa, Montreal, Toronto and Hamilton. On May 1st, 2010, we met at the Cornwall Transit Garage on Second Street West to begin the day aboard Cornwall Transit bus 8558. A General Motors TC-40102N originally delivered to the CTCUQ in Quebec City in 1985, it operated there as bus 8530 until Cornwall Transit purchased the bus in 2000. 8558 had already been moved out of the bus garage and was parked in front for a photo opportunity as people arrived for the charter:
Once everyone had boarded the bus, 8558 left the garage and headed along Second Street West, Brookdale Avenue, Tollgate Road West and Pitt Street to the Via Rail Station, where some more bus fans were arriving from Toronto by train. This was an occasion for both bus fans and rail fans to get some photos as the Via train stayed long enough for some people to take pictures of it as well.
8558 then headed along Balmoral Avenue, Emma Avenue and Cumberland Street to General Vanier & St. Joseph’s High Schools, where we signed the bus as one of the school routes:
After leaving the high schools, 8558 headed south along Cumberland Street, Thirteenth Street West and Pitt Street before the driver stopped the bus just north of Eleventh Street, where we signed the bus for “1 pitt”, “1 pitt/st. andrews”, and “1 city centre”. The Pitt/St. Andrews sign was set up to represent the defunct route operating north of Cornwall as far as the village of St. Andrews West. However, some of the conditions during the charter including not taking the bus beyond Cornwall’s city limits or on Highway 401. Therefore, the old rural sign was used on the urban portion of the route.
After the Pitt & Eleventh stop, 8558 continued south on Pitt Street, where the bus’ automated next stop announcement system started calling the stops along the route. The GPS in the system apparently detected the bus on a regular route and activated the announcements:
Soon, 8558 pulled to a stop on Augustus Street near Second Street West to allow the bus fans a fifteen-minute opportunity to photograph the many Cornwall Transit buses arriving at the Pitt & Second Street transfer point. While 8558 was signed “not in service”, the bus fans were able to take pictures of MCI Classics, Orion II and El Dorado EZ Rider II Max buses.
After the downtown stop, 8558 headed along Second Street East, Adolphus Street and Fifth Street East to Cornwall CCVS, a vocational school located on Sydney Street:
Once we left the school, 8558 headed north along Sydney Street and the east along Ninth Street East and Morleau Avenue right to the edge of the city at Boundary Road. We then headed north and turned into the parking lot for the SCM warehouse, one of the largest supply chain management facilities in Canada. This stop was to represent the supplemental rush hour service to the industrial areas in the east end of the city:
Finally, 8558 headed south along Boundary Road and the west along Second Avenue East for our last photo stop, in front of St. Lawrence High School. We signed the bus with the English-only “s.l.h.s.” and bilingual “e.s.l.c./s.l.h.s.” destination signs:
After the last photo stop, 8558 continued a short distance along Second Street East to the Eastcourt Mall, where we disembarked for a lunch break. There are several fast food restaurants at the Eastcourt Mall and most of the bus fans went their separate ways according to their preferences. A few of the bus fans who had decided not to participate in the afternoon charter were taken back to the Cornwall Transit garage aboard 8558. About an hour later following a short rain shower, we started the second part of the double header when Orion II bus 9752 pulled up in front of the mall. 9752 was one of five Orion 02.501 buses purchased new by Cornwall Transit in 1997 for use on its Dial-A-Ride service on evenings and weekends, but the service was unpopular with residents so the buses were reassigned to community routes within the city. Needless to say, 9752 was a much smaller bus than 8558 and this time several of the bus fans needed to stand when travelling between the photo stops.
Our first photo stop with 9752 was on Glengarry Blvd., just behind the Eastcourt Mall. Here we signed the bus up as “2 riverdale/glenview” and “2 sunrise acres”:
9752 then headed north along McConnel Avenue and east along Morleau Avenue to Boundary road, and then north to Industrial Park Drive, where we made a stop to represent the supplemental routes to the Eastern Industrial Plaza. We signed the bus both with “eastern industrial plaza” and “boundary road”, and the driver opened both the front and back doors and “kneeled” the bus, so that the entrances were only a few inches above the ground:
We then took 9752 a short distance to a stop on Education Road. Though this section of road no longer has bus service, supplemental routes did operate in the area for several years in the early 2000s:
Our next stop was at NAV Canada, on Montreal Road in Cornwall’s southeast corner. This is the easternmost point in Cornwall Transit’s all-day route network and we were passed by El Dorado bus 0870 while we were taking photos of 9752. We made two stops at NAV Canada, one at the regular bus stop at the back of the complex, where we signed the bus with “transport canada” and “3 montreal road”, and then we left the route 3 sign on the bus when we made our second stop at the entrance to the complex, where there was an old training jet on display and a view of the St. Lawrence River:
9752 then travelled west along Montreal Road to our last photo stop on Harbour Road. We signed the bus as “4 cumberland”, a defunct route that had last operated in the mid-2000s. There was no bus service along Harbour Road in 2010.
Our day almost over, 9752 headed back to the Cornwall Transit Garage for one last photo opportunity. The driver also brought 8558 back out and parked it next to 9752, and we all gathered in front of the buses for a group photo. Afterwards, while some of the fans videotaped the buses scrolling through their destination signs, others made their way to the back of the property to photograph the retired Orion V buses, both the 1994 CNG buses retired in March 2009 and the 1992 diesel buses withdrawn only a few weeks earlier in April 2010. Not surprisingly, the diesel buses still appeared to be in very good condition while the CNG buses had had several parts removed from them, leaving them with a rather decrepit appearance.
The charter was a definite success in my opinion and I thank the great people at YUL Charters for organising the charter, and the drivers and staff at Cornwall Transit for their courtesy and professionalism. Everyone appeared to have a great time and I look forward to more such charters in the future.