Well There’s Your Problem | Episode 10: Roads for Rails – the Newfoundland Railway


JUSTIN: Hello and welcome to episode… what
episode number would this be? LIAM: Eight, buddy. [laughter]
ALICE: Jesus Christ. LIAM: Or nine, depending on what stuff comes
out. ALICE: Twenty seconds… not even… LIAM: Yeah, we have seven up, but uhh-
JUSTIN: Welcome to… *another* episode- [laughter]
JUSTIN: -of ‘Well There’s Your Problem.’ LIAM: There ya go. ‘Episode ???’.
JUSTIN: A podcast about engineering disasters which is in and of itself a disaster as well. [laughter]
LIAM: Yeahhh. We’re hittin’ some home runs. [laughter]
SEAN: On task as always. JUSTIN: I’m Justin Roczniak, I’m… the person
you’re listening to. Uh. I have a YouTube channel called donoteat,
where I talk about cities and socialism, but I also have this podcast, although this is
shared equally between the three of us. Uh, my pronouns are ‘he/him’, and, oh, are
we doin’, are we doin’ acknowledgements of land? ALICE: Yeah, I think so. Just to annoy people even more. [laughter]
JUSTIN: Exactly. We’re, I’m podcasting from Lenape territory,
Lenni Lenape territory, which may or may not have been stolen. We don’t know, because all copies of the Treaty
of Shackamaxon were destroyed by William Penn’s descendents so they could justify stealing
more land elsewhere. [laughter]
ALICE: Totally unsuspicious. Uh, I’m Alice Caldwell-Kelly, I am on a podcast
called Trashfuture as well as this, my pronouns are ‘she’ and ‘her’, and I’m recording this
from Glasgow, Scotland, so… as far as this being stolen land, probably, like, in the
process of enclosure, or like, clearances, it was stolen by somebody from somebody, but
not a distinct indigenous group. LIAM: Uh, guess I’ll go next. Liam Anderson, pronouns are ‘he/him’, ah,
same on the Lenape. I’d actually like to point out that the Philly
History Museum claims that a wampum belt in their possession serves as proof that such
a meeting did take place for the treaty. However, they know nothing else beyond that,
so it’s just… JUSTIN: I think it’d be funny if the line
of the treaty just went straight through the house, so that, like, your side of the house
was stolen, but mine was bought fair and square. [laughter]
ALICE: This podcast is one quarter recorded on stolen land. LIAM: That’s actually not so bad. Uh, well, you could have whatever… the spilled
beer on my floor back, I guess. [laughter]
ALICE: Taken all of this incredibly rich land and we’ve used it for such great purposes
as spilling beer on it. LIAM: I’m sure somewhere in the deep, deep
recesses of my closet, there’s still a tin of dip from two years ago. ALICE: Grrross. LIAM: So, uh, enjoy that. JUSTIN: And today we have a special guest,
uh… Sean, tell the nice people about yourself. SEAN: Hi, I’m Sean Burton, pronouns ‘he/him’,
I live in Corner Brook, Newfoundland and Labrador, I’m a substitute teacher up here right now. And I guess if we’re doing the land acknowledgement,
um. Presumably this was Mi’kmaq land. Uh, there *may* have been Beothuk living here
some time ago, but hard to tell, because the colonialists killed them all… uh. Yeah. Not very nice. Uhh. Twitter handle is @seanrade, I’m with the
Communist Party of Canada so I also retweet their stuff. Do a bit of organizing up here. ALICE: Awesome. JUSTIN: Today we’re gonna talk about, y’know,
a place not a lot of us have been… except for… three of the four people on this podcast. [laughter]
ALICE: Appealing to a niche audience here. JUSTIN: I know, right? So not a lot of people know this, but if you
get in your car and you drive north on I-95, you can go *past* Boston. And you wind up in this place called ‘Maine,’
right? ALICE: This is a speedrunning trick, right,
you clip through the level and you arrive in the Maine stage. [laughter]
JUSTIN: Yes. Yes, exactly. If you keep goin’ up I-95 you get to this
place called Bangor. [flatly] I hardly knew ‘er. LIAM: Goddammit. Ugh. Jesus. [laughter]
LIAM: Do we not have a photo of the Paul Bunyan statue? [laughter]
JUSTIN: Then you take this road called ‘the Maine Airline’ – this is where you clip through
the level – to a place called ‘Calais’, and then you cross the border into this place
called ‘New Brunswick’. SEAN: Oh, why would you, though. LIAM: ‘Cause we had to. [laughter]
ALICE: They pronounce it ‘cuh-lay’? Not ‘Calais’? That’s annoying, like, that’s stealing valor
from the French port. [laughter]
ALICE: Like, this is, this is the rule with Canada that I’m discovering as we do more
of this CanCon, is that everything in Canada that’s French is pronounced wrong? LIAM: Yes. SEAN: Oh, you should, you should hear the
place names in Newfoundland. They’ll drive you bonkers. ALICE: Awesome. JUSTIN: And if you keep going, you go to Nova
Scotia, you get to Cape Breton Island and a place called North Sydney. And if you get on a boat up there, you’ll
cross the Cabot Strait and wind up on an island. Called Newfoundland. LIAM: [softly] wooooooo
JUSTIN: And if you keep goin’, you wind up in a place called St John’s. Now, once, you didn’t have to drive this whole
way. You could take a train. And that’s the subject of today’s episode. The uh, the Newfoundland Railway and its closure. ALL: [darkly] Mmmm. JUSTIN: And this was… uh, I guess more relevant
a couple weeks ago, but uh, the Tories in the UK made news recently with their promise
to undo the Beeching Axe, right? ALICE: Yes. Dr Beeching destroyed most of the, like, unprofitable
or not profitable enough local railway services that people actually… y’know, kind of needed? So, like, villages that had, like, one railway…
train go through a day, all of those lines were just destroyed entirely in the 60s.
[weird alien noise] ALICE: Wasn’t ideal, no. JUSTIN: But uh, and of course, the Tories
aren’t very serious about this, because they’re only budgeting £500 million. [laughter]
JUSTIN: …vote Labour? ALICE: I mean, like, some fucking… electrification,
would be nice? Maybe? In, some, like… in the north or in Wales? SEAN: Is there any electrification now in
the UK? ALICE: [put on the spot] UhHHhhhHHHH. Yes *but*, like, as with all good things about
this country, if there is something good it exists in southeast England. SEAN: Ah. ALICE: Erm.
[laughter] ALICE: So, like, we have high-speed rail that’s
going to… intended to go up to the so-called ‘Northern powerhouse’, and that’s gonna be
electrified. Uh, and… yeah, that’s gonna take forever
and it’s gonna be shit, and it… you have this wild thing where you end up with just
awful trains going out of London, and then the very nice shiny expensive ones that go
toward London. I dunno. Maybe more efficient to run them both ways,
but what do I know. JUSTIN: Yeah, you have high-speed rail that
only gets you out of Britain entirely. [laughter]
ALICE: Yes! Literally yes! JUSTIN: But there’ve been many Beeching Axes
in many countries and places around the world, and I’m sure through the course of this podcast
we’ll talk about many of them, but today we’re gonna talk about Roads for Rails and the closure
of the Newfoundland Railroad. ALICE: Beeching: Canada Edition. JUSTIN: Oh yeah. I mean, they’re constantly closing Via Rail
lines, but… LIAM: Thanks for nothing, Justin Trudeau. SEAN: I’m surprised that they re-opened the
line to Churchill. Are you aware of that one, Justin? JUSTIN: I am aware of the Churchill line,
that one’s cool as hell. LIAM: Yeah, we can go see some polar bears! SEAN: Yeah, the uh- you probably heard that
that line washed oot a year or two ago? I dunno, it was horribly maintained anyway,
by the company that bought it out, and it was a hell of an ordeal to convince the federal
government to come in and do the necessary repairs. I’m just shocked they actually did. It’s only because there’s no other road up
there. JUSTIN: Well, also if they keep extracting
oil out of Alberta, Churchill will be an ice-free port. SEAN: Yeah, they haven’t really… I mean that port’s just kind of been-
ALICE: Just go all the way around the top. [pause]
SEAN: [politely] Go ahead? ALICE: …
[beat] [laughter]
JUSTIN: So… ALICE: Ah, Jesus, I was-
[laughter] SEAN: [even more politely] It’s okay. ALICE: Every piece of evidence that suggests
that we’re gonna get better at this with practice, we just overwhelm with the force of our incompetence. JUSTIN: Yes. LIAM: Ughhhh. SEAN: [still more politely] I find it endearing. LIAM: TELL ME ABOUT THE TRAINS
JUSTIN: I’m gonna tell you about the trains. LIAM: WELL HURRY UP
[laughter] JUSTIN: Alright. So, um, okay, so the Newfoundland Railway
was 3’6″ narrow-gauge railway, it had a 549 mile main line from Port aux Basques to St
John’s, or rather St John’s was mile zero so it went to Port aux Basques. ALICE: 549 miles across an island in this
tiny, like, incredibly narrow railroad. Awesome. LIAM: I *promise* you, driving across it is
worse. JUSTIN: Yes. [laughter]
ALICE: Oh, I’m sure. I’m certain. Because as we’ve established, train good,
and car bad. Just that this seems like a very small train. I don’t want to stick my arms out the side
and lose a forearm to a telegraph pole. SEAN: Well, I mean, it was, well, proportional. I don’t know how deeply we’re gonna get into
the history here, but uh, when it was originally conceived, the survey in 1875, they did recommend
a nice standard gauge line that was only gonna be something like 300 miles, and it was gonna
terminate not too far from where Corner Brook is, actually. Which mighta been a bit more doable, but anyway,
they ended up building it not just in narrow gauge but with this really convoluted, twisty,
steep curve construction that some people compared to a rollercoaster. ALICE: Which we see here. JUSTIN: Yes. SEAN: Ah! Fair enough. ALICE: I mean, obviously the thing, the thing
that we want is the Elon Musk approach where we just, like, drive an entirely straight
tunnel all the way across Newfoundland. [laughter]
LIAM: Good luck, you fuckers. SEAN: They couldn’t even build a damn highway
right. [laughter]
LIAM: Oh, I enjoyed your curvy, twisty highway in the middle of fuckin’ nowhere. SEAN: Ugh. Jesus. We’ll get to that, though. LIAM: Now that we’re not in the country any
more, uh, can confirm that my GTI hit VMax in, on your beautiful island. [laughter]
LIAM: Please don’t prosecute me, Canada. [laughter]
JUSTIN: That’s the one nice thing about the island, though, is that there were no cops. LIAM: ‘The one nice thing’?! You *loved* it! JUSTIN: Well, no, there were many, many nice
things. LIAM: Piece of shit.
[laughter] ALICE: Horrible guest. SEAN: I do wanna say though, that week you
were here, I know the weather was shit, but- LIAM: Oh, it sure was. SEAN: Usually summers are pretty good. I dunno, for some reason that first week of
July was just a shitshow. LIAM: It was great to be 49 degrees in July. ALICE: I just love the idea that there’s no
cops on Newfoundland not because, like, they’re underfunded or something, but because there
was a land bridge that they could have crossed but Newfoundland separated and became an island
too soon. [laughter]
ALICE: Just the cops became stranded on the, on mainland Canada. JUSTIN: Cops never evolved here. [laughter]
ALICE: Yeah. LIAM: Have fun in Blanc-Sablon, you fucks. SEAN: No, they did, just, they just use a
different name. JUSTIN: Now there was one passenger train
all the way across the island that was called ‘The Caribou.’ LIAM: Heh. JUSTIN: It ran on a 23 hour schedule. And, uh, it was pretty heavily used in World
War Two, when they were building a couple of airbases on the island, uh, then the soldiers
usin’ it called it ‘The Newfie Bullet’… cause it was very slow, it was a very slow
train. [laughter]
JUSTIN: As a joke. You can see down here, I put a stamp here,
showing the train going very fast? LIAM: Aww, look how cute it is! JUSTIN: That’s not actually what it looked
like. [laughter]
SEAN: There was actually one section of track, that was actually straight and level enough,
where they could get up to, uh, 90kmh. JUSTIN: [flatly] Wow. LIAM: Wow. Incredible. [laughter]
SEAN: Shocking. JUSTIN: So, and then there unique features
on this line, like when it was completed in 1898, as Sean said it did this kind of convoluted
route, so it went through a place called, uh, whatsit, uh… SEAN: Gaff Topsail. JUSTIN: Yeah. So that’s, uhhhh, right… here. Right? And you can see, this is what the snow was
like. ALICE: Jesus. JUSTIN: Up here. Yeah. SEAN: So the original planned surveyed route
went considerably to the south of this location, but for some reason… uh, when the line got
to central, the colonial government was just like, “No, let’s just build it straight across
this exposed high terrain, what could possibly go wrong?” Uh. Yeah. [laughter]
SEAN: In the days of steam it was not unusual for trains to get stuck there for days. ALICE: Awesome. LIAM: Fun stuff. JUSTIN: Wow. We have this other part of the island, where
the train went, down here, and this is called Wreckhouse. Uh, why’s it called Wreckhouse? ALICE: Uh, it’s a mispronunch… ah. Fuck.
[laughter] LIAM: Almost. ALICE: Mispronunciation of the ancient French
town of Racuille. [laughter]
LIAM: That’s a good guess, but, but, yeah, no. ALICE: Yeah, thank you, I just fucked it there. SEAN: It’s quite literal here, actually. JUSTIN: Yes, it’s actually just cause the
wind would just wreck your house if you built one there. As we can see by this steam locomotive on
its side- LIAM: [helpfully] That’s not a house. JUSTIN: -it was just standing there and the
wind blew it over. Well, it weighs the same as a house. LIAM: That’s true. ALICE: The, um, the sort of, spiritual antecedents
of our podcasts are the guys in that photo, just being like, “Well… there’s your problem.” [laughter]
LIAM: “We’ll flip it over and get it back on the rails and everything will be fine.” Yeah, it was super tight to look for gas in
Wreckhouse, in driving rain. JUSTIN: Mmm. ALICE: Just that guy with his hands in his
pockets being like, “Yeah, I see what’s gone wrong here.” [laughter]
JUSTIN: Just off the ferry at Port aux Basques and it’s like, “Oh, what have we gotten ourselves
into?” LIAM: Yeah! I was pretty fuckin’ certain we were gonna
die! SEAN: It… it’s usually pretty down there. JUSTIN: It was very pretty, even in the fog,
but it was pretty in like, y’know, a deadly way. LIAM: In the way Silent Hill can be pretty,
yeah. [laughter]
JUSTIN: And I put a, I put a picture of the railyard in Port aux Basques up here, during
like the heyday. LIAM: Look at all those CN friends. ALICE: Are we saying here that, erm, that
Newfoundland is a survival horror island? SEAN: Maybe that’s more true, in more ways
than one. ALICE: We’re just situating it in that genre. JUSTIN: Ah, so, anyway, so there’s a couple
of interesting things about how this railroad was structured. Um, the railroad’s mentioned in the Terms
of Union, which is like Newfoundland’s sorta constitution? ALICE: Well, because it was a separate country
from Canada, wasn’t it? SEAN: Yeah. ALICE: It was just a different colony and
it had to, uh, unite with Canada in the same way Scotland did England. LIAM: Y’all didn’t have a referendum, did
ya Alice? Did ya? Someone just decided? SEAN: Yeah, it was a… how do I put this? A crown colony, I guess, until 1907… 1905, then it was a dominion, until 1949,
but really from 1933 to 1949 the island was governed directly from London by a commission
of government. ALICE: Awesome, how’d we do at that? Aside from, like, building a railroad across
a giant exposed fucking glacier. SEAN: [[attempting to find the nicest possible
phrasing] Errrrrrr. Well. The legacy of underdevelopment…
[laughter] ALICE: Yeah, yeah. We get that a lot. Um. Our bad? SEAN: [how is this man so nice] Yeeeah. I don’t blame you personally. [laughter]
LIAM: You should. Alice was there. Tearing up the rails. ALICE: You should, yes. SEAN: Damn you. LIAM: I saw her! I saw her! ALICE: Just like those old pictures of people
in the Civil War who look like Keanu Reeves or whatever, you look up the Crown Commissioner
and it just looks like me. But with like a bicorn hat. JUSTIN: Alice, Alice actually invented Sherman’s
neckties. [laughter]
JUSTIN: So, ah, some of the things which are mentioned in the Terms of Union is like, how
freight rates are to be set, and how the province expects the federal government to maintain
the railroad. This is when they joined with Canada in ’49. And then in ’65, the Trans-Canada Highway
opened, which actually has in some ways a *more* convoluted route. ALICE: [resisting the trans joke] Mm. SEAN: Oh yeah for sure. ALICE: [not resisting it any more] Trans-Canada
rights, I suppose. No? Nothing? Nothing for that? SEAN: I think actually the highway is 30 or
40km longer than the railway was? JUSTIN: That sounds about right. ALICE: Does it regularly get covered in like
20′ high snow? SEAN: Oh, God yes. ALICE: Awesome. That’s what we want to see, from any mode
of transit. JUSTIN: Yeah, especially like a road, though,
where you can slip off of it real easy… [laughter]
ALICE: Yeah. JUSTIN: As opposed to like a railroad, where
you have, like, flanges. Y’know? So, that opened in 1965, and they killed the
Caribou train as a result, the train that went across the island. ALICE: Goddammit. JUSTIN: And they replaced it with buses, running
a 16 hour schedule. ALICE: There’s just not as much romance if
you can’t get stuck in a glacier for fucking three days. LIAM: Yeah, what am I supposed to do with
all these fanfic tropes? SEAN: Yeah, the buses, they actually started
those in 1967. They ran them concurrently with the train,
it was a weird situation where you had CN basically competing with itself, just so it
could say, “See? Buses are so much more modern!” Uh… so they kind of undermined their own
operation there. ALICE: Typical Canadian socialism, duplicating
the work! JUSTIN: So they kept some limited passenger
service on branch lines, and then once a year they ran a passenger train across the island,
called the Trouter’s Special. And this was the first nail in the coffin,
right, because no-one was using… not a lot of people were using the railroad itself for,
y’know, personal travel, right? LIAM: Morons! ALICE: Are you still shipping freight across
this, though? SEAN: [Canadian, politely] Yes. JUSTIN: [American, rudely] Oh, they’re shippin’
a crapload of freight, yeah. ALICE: Mm. JUSTIN: But improvements to the main line
no longer directly served the traveling public, so there was less, y’know, political support
for the railroad. So. Uh. We gotta talk about who was operating the
railroad at this point, which was Canadian National, right? LIAM: Oof. ALICE: [humming the Imperial March off-key]
…demonetized, instantly for that. LIAM: They’re not competent enough to get
the Imperial March treatment. [laughter]
JUSTIN: Yeah, we’re gonna get, we’re gonna get, uh, we’re gonna get a copyright strike
and I’m gonna say, “Look. I don’t care.” LIAM: What is your- I just want to know what
your railroad is doing in Newtown Square, Pennsylvania. This is not a question that has been answered
for me. In Newtown Square, there is a weird little
branch of CN, and all I can find on the internet is that it has something to do with their
chemical division, and I want to know what fucking happened there. SEAN: Chemical division?! Jesus. ALICE: It’s neocolonialism. It’s like planting the flag. You, like, you annex that part of Pennsylvania
for Canada. LIAM: You can have it. ALICE: It’s gonna be the next province, yeah. JUSTIN: Terms of Union for Canada, for Pennsylvania. [laughter]
ALICE: And just burn all the copies of that treaty, too. JUSTIN: So, um, Canadian National was sort
of a nationalized system that was pieced together out of several railroads that were sorta failing,
in Canada, right, and they competed directly with the Canadian Pacific Railroad, which
was about as big and entirely privatized. ALICE: Right, but Justin, we love nationalized
railroads. Like, it’s two things we love, railroads and
nationalization. So why was I singing, off-key, the empire
theme from Star Wars? LIAM: It’s called the Imperial March!
[laughter] JUSTIN: Because as a matter of fact this meant
that Canadian National immediately took over the Newfoundland Railway, uh, under the Terms
of Union, right? So they were running the railroad, they were
running the ferries to Nova Scotia, starting in 1949, and both of these things lost money
at a pretty hefty rate, right? This was not a money-making operation at the
time, especially after the Trans-Canada Highway was completed. Y’know, they start saying, we’re gonna do
some capital improvements here. So they, one of the first things they did
was they built a system where your standard gauge railroad car could have its bogies swapped
with narrow gauge bogies at Port aux Basques, in about 1968. But you can sort of see this on this mixed
train here, you can see the tiny narrow gauge passenger cars, and then this big ass standard
gauge boxcar here. SEAN: Yeah, looks so unwieldy. ALICE: Mm. I love to be just rattling along on the top
of this, with like, three feet of carriage out to each side with just nothing underneath
it. Awesome. LIAM: “It feels so safe!” JUSTIN: When they got good at this, they could
swap out the bogies on a freight car in 15 minutes. But that still meant, if you brought 60 cars
over on the ferry, it took 15 hours to swap over a 60 car train. Right? SEAN: Yeah, it’s a hefty delay. Well, this comes up in the report which I
guess is up soon, but… yeah, that was under strictly ideal conditions. And when you’re dealing with an average ferry
load of, y’know, 40-60 cars, that 10 or 15 hour delay is gonna hold you back a lot. ALICE: Just a bunch of extremely grumpy Newfoundlers… ‘Newfoundlers’? [laughter]
ALICE: Newfoundlers. JUSTIN: Newfoundlers. [laughter]
ALICE: Fuck. Changed name of group chat to ‘Newfoundlers’. Yeah. Just a bunch of extremely pissed-off Newfies
having to change all of this shit in, like, driving rain and snow, under immense time
pressure, I’m sure that went perfectly. SEAN: Well, they actually had a really nice
facility there in the yard, it was quite large, and in fact it was probably the main employer
in the town. Which… y’know. [attempting to express the flight of industry
and neoliberalism’s ravaging of industrial centers] It’s something? JUSTIN: I am told you’re not supposed to say
‘N*wfie’. ALICE: Oh, is it a slur? LIAM: Yeah. ALICE: Have I committed slurs? SEAN: Ehhh… uhhh… I personally don’t care, it’s one of those
weird things. Some people get their panties in a bunch over
it, I guess? Um…
[laughter] SEAN: Depends on how you say it, I suppose. ALICE: I mean, in my defense I only said it
because I was physically unable to pronounce ‘Newfoundlander’. [laughter]
SEAN: I don’t mind, in this context it was- JUSTIN: It’s the other N-word. [laughter]
SEAN: Ooh. Also, just something, just as an aside, with
regards to the CN operations here, so, in addition to the railway and the ferries to
Nova Scotia, they also operated *all* of the coastal boats. And back in the day, that was a huge operation
– really there weren’t any roads in Newfoundland worthy of the name, so getting around you
had to take this packet or that packet just to get anywhere. And there’s still a handful of these routes
in existence, just because… shockingly, the provincial government hasn’t gotten around
to finishing all the roads. ALICE: Well, I mean that is praxis, just for
the wrong reasons. LIAM: Yeah, it was pretty confusing to me
that we had to drive into the interior of Newfoundland, as opposed to, say, on the southern
coast or something. SEAN: Weeeeeeeeeeeell. I mean, actually, there was some talk aboot
the south coast as a route when the railway was conceived as well, it’s just that… so,
you remember what Port aux Basques looks like. LIAM: [unhappily] Yyyyup. SEAN: Uh, most of the south coast of Newfoundland
is worse than that. Very rocky, very high cliffs, and deep fjords,
so you have to pretty much go into the interior just to avoid all that crap. LIAM: Ahh, I gotcha. JUSTIN: Yeah. That’ll do it. So anyway, I put in the notes here, note the
size of the standard gauge boxcar here, this is a regular, main line 40′ boxcar. Now, one of the advantages here is that any
sort of like main line railroad car that could, y’know, fit within the 40′ envelope could
make it onto Newfoundland now. But in practice only Canadian National and
Canadian Pacific boxcars ever made it. Um. Y’know. And then uhh, CN operated the whole railroad
out of this [voice suddenly gets weirdly insincere] wonderful place called Moncton, New Brunswick. LIAM: GUHHHHHHH
ALICE: That’s not what the notes say. What do the notes say about Moncton? [laughter]
JUSTIN: Mon-Monc-Moncton is one of the worst places I’ve been in my life. [laughter]
LIAM: Fuckin’ miserable. JUSTIN: It’s all the most miserable parts
of North Jersey, but somehow it’s hotter? It was 90 degrees when we were there. ALICE: Jesus. JUSTIN: Which was just appalling. LIAM: Compared to the fact that we had spent
the last week in 40 degree weather. SEAN: Yeah, I’ve never spent any significant
time in New Brunswick. I always just drove through it. LIAM: ‘Probably the worst city on Earth,’
is what your notes say. [laughter]
JUSTIN: Yeah, that is, that is what I said, I… it was not good. Saint John is beautiful. Moncton? Bleeeeagh. SEAN: And that’s where the Via Rail station
is. JUSTIN: So, uh, now, there was a, the Federal
Commission of Inquiry Into Newfoundland Transportation, right, also known as the Sullivan Commission. They started looking into how much this railroad
was costin’ to run. This is in 1979, right, as you can see from
the picture. Uh. It says 1979 because I had to reference that,
because I didn’t put it in the notes. ALICE: Yeah, the notes are just a bunch of
things about how bad Moncton is, repeated, over and over, for like, fifteen lines? [laughter]
LIAM: Yeah, it’s a little weird, man, do you need to… talk? [laughter]
LIAM: I remember, we got out of the car and just like, in disbelief. Felt like I was standing on the surface of
the Sun. [laughter]
LIAM: Fucking horrible. And the… your beer was good, my beer was
bad, man was born to suffer. JUSTIN: Yeah, actually the brewery was pretty
good from my perspective cause I had a good beer. Liam had a bad beer, so it was not so good. But we had driven from North Sydney to, like,
Moncton, in one shot. So it was just astonishing that the change
in temperature- [laughter]
LIAM: Fuckin’ miserable. SEAN: [brightly] I assure you, the summers
here are usually much warmer. [laughter]
ALICE: Great, this is, there’s just a thermocline. SEAN: It was an anomalous week. LIAM: I have no reason to believe you. JUSTIN: I liked the cold! LIAM: So did I! ALICE: That’s why you keep going to Canada! LIAM: That’s why we went! SEAN: Oh… well, you’re entitled to that,
I suppose. [laughter]
JUSTIN: So, anyway, according to newfoundlandheritage.ca, the Commission pulled no punches about the
railway. ‘All of the available evidence indicates that
[…] the railway cannot continue as a viable service,’ the reports read. ‘Therefore it should now be planned to have
a transportation network which does not include a railway in approximately ten years’ time.’ ALICE: BOOOOOOOOOOO
LIAM: BOOOOOOOOO JUSTIN: Now recommendation 29 stated that,
‘plans should be commenced now to phase out the railway,’ but recommendation 30 provided
for 5 years of renewed marketing and reorganization, after which the decision to abandon the line
would be re-evaluated. But it was clear the Sullivan commission didn’t
have high hopes for the railroad. ALICE: What a fucking, like, Disney teen movie
ass clause to include. [laughter]
ALICE: ‘Well, if somebody can just pay the exact amount to buy out the youth center,
then we won’t have to shut it down!’ [laughter]
JUSTIN: Uh, and then there was a competing report which was commissioned by the province,
as opposed to the federal government, called the Cabot Martin report, and that was published
in 1980, and they said, look, all we need to do, we just need to keep the railroad and
we need to convert it to standard gauge. Right? Which, may or may not have been feasible. ALICE: [drunkenly confident] Ahh, it’s easy,
you just pull the rails apart. SEAN: I have to look this up, I didn’t know
this report. ALICE: [drunkenness increasing] You just,
you get a stick or whatever, and you just push the… rails apart. Easy. [laughter]
SEAN: Yeah. LIAM: Two guys with sticks. JUSTIN: I will say this, the Erie Railroad
in the United States converted its entire main line, from Chicago to New York City,
from its own special gauge to, uh, standard gauge in two days. ALICE: Wow. LIAM: That’s a lot of guys with sticks. SEAN: So, they literally spread it apart. ALICE: By using the stick thing! To push the rails apart! Yeah!
[laughter] JUSTIN: They had this nice advantage that
the Erie gauge was 6′, as opposed to being narrower thatn 4’8.5″. ALICE: Ah, so they pushed them together! JUSTIN: Yeah, exactly. ALICE: Ah. Doesn’t work as easily the other way around. Not sure why. JUSTIN: Unfortunately. ALICE: Yeah, there’s probably, like, stuff
in the way? There might be, like… trees. Or like bridges and stuff. JUSTIN: Or like a 500′ gorge on one side and
a 500′ cliff on the other. Yeah. LIAM: That’ll do it. That could be a bit tricky. SEAN: Actually, when – going back to, just
briefly, the improvements that CN did when they took over – they did embark on replacing
the steel in the main line to make it heavier. Although I don’t think that was ever completed
across the entire main line, and they never did that on the branch lines, so the branch
lines… [uncertain Canadian noise] They were very sketchy, up to the very end. Um. But, yeah, the Sullivan commission did go
into quite a lot of detail on the fate of the railway, which… the heritage site doesn’t
really do it any justice by simply summarizing it like that. No, they talked about the possibility of converting
it to standard gauge, which… obviously would mean a brand new line being
constructed. Um. They had a price estimation there, and they
talked about how it would improve travel times by, I think they said twelve hours. Even the possibility of keeping it narrow
gauge but actually building it to a decent standard, i.e more straight and level, and
that would have put it on par with places like, I guess, New Zealand or Queensland,
Australia. And it still would have reduced travel times,
but they just kind of waved it off by saying, “Well, reduced travel times still don’t do
away with the fact that we gotta ship things over by the ferry and deal with assembling
trains in Port aux Basques.” I don’t think it was a strong argument on
their part but they did say, well, you know. ALICE: Yeah, not like anybody uh, was, like,
aware of the potential risks of shipping a bunch of stuff by road and becoming dependent
on that *in 1979*! LIAM: Worry about it later. Worry about it later. JUSTIN: Literally every single thing has to
go on this one road now, but. ALICE: It’s fine. It’s fine. SEAN: Yes, and as established, that road… I mean, some parts of it [dubious Canadian
noise again] are okaaay. Hnh. But that’s…
[laughter] SEAN: Well, we’ll get to the highway a bit
later. ALICE: Just put that on the sign. A big reflective sign saying SOME PARTS OF
IT ARE OKAY. [laughter]
SEAN: Well- LIAM: Not many. SEAN: You’ve seen those POTHOLES AHEAD signs,
they should just put one in Port aux Basques and that’s the only one they need, cause,
y’know. ALICE: Yeah. LIAM: As it turns out, there are many of them. SEAN: Yes, yes. [laughter]
LIAM: My favorite part of driving on the Trans-Canada was that part outside of Gander where we almost
ran into a cliff face twice, and I had two panic attacks, and Roz managed to limp me…
limped into Gander and went to Jungle Jim’s. JUSTIN: Ughhhh. SEAN: Was it on the way from St John’s or
towards St John’s? LIAM: Towards St John’s. JUSTIN: Towards St John’s. SEAN: Ohh, I’m trying to remember which section
that is now… JUSTIN: We were, we were smart on the way
back, took the ferry from Argentia. SEAN: Ohhh.
[laughter] ALICE: You just drive the road once, and you’re
like, never again. LIAM: Oh, I will post on the official, our
Twitter, the picture I took of Roz and I in the cabin, on the longboat where both of us
just look abjectly miserable, and there are no windows, and we-
SEAN: [familiarly] Ah. Yes. LIAM: -had just been shitfaced on Rickard’s
Red. [laughter]
LIAM: Cause there was nothing else to do. JUSTIN: Yeah. ALICE: You know it’s good when it’s a brand
of alcohol *I’ve* never heard of. LIAM: It was good! It was good. SEAN: My wife drinks it. JUSTIN: I like it, I thought it was a good
beer. Good mass market beer. LIAM: Also it had that good ol’ Molson XXX. Had the good stuff. ALICE: I mean, I’m just drinking Corona with
this [astaghfirullah], so… whatever. JUSTIN: What’s the IPA that’s… that doesn’t
taste like an IPA at all? LIAM: Any goddamn Canadian IPA? JUSTIN: From Nova Scotia? No, no, no, this is like the mass market one-
SEAN: Oh, Alexander Keith’s? LIAM: Alexander Keith’s! JUSTIN: Alexander Keith’s. Yeahhhh. [fire truck in background screaming]
JUSTIN: It just tastes like a lager. There goes a fire truck. LIAM: You can hear that in two audio feeds. [the fire truck appears in Liam’s audio]
[laughter] ALICE: You get like a Doppler effect between
the two of you. LIAM: Probably. We’re cursed by God, unfortunately, so. JUSTIN: Mhm. Yes. ALICE: Just one of these days we’ll be recording
this and the refinery’s gonna explode. Uhhh. LIAM: Frantically trying to record before
the tsunami fire kills us both. [laughter]
ALICE: Yeah. Just, like, what does ‘hydrogen fluoride leak’
sound like? LIAM: Bad. JUSTIN: Bad, yeah. [laughter]
JUSTIN: So, in 1978, right, Canadian National begins a process of denationalization. LIAM: Fuckers. ALICE: BOOOOOOOOOOOO
SEAN: [politely contemptuous] Yeahhhh. [the Canadian boo]
JUSTIN: Yeah. CN, they become a crown corporation, which
is sort of a state-owned corporation, uh, it’s-
LIAM: It’s a synonym for useless. JUSTIN: Yeah, it’s sort of like Amtrak, right? It’s owned by the government, it’s supposed
to be profitable, but y’know, like, “Alright, we’ll slide you the money at the end of the
year if you don’t make a profit.” LIAM: Wink wink, nudge nudge. ALICE: Fantastic. Love to have a public good that has to make
a profit every year. JUSTIN: Yeah. ALICE: On, like, an island with not a lot
of people, and a lot of stuff that needs shipping! SEAN: Yeah, imagine that. JUSTIN: And then we have Balkanization of
the service, right, so before it was, um… the train in Nova Scotia, the ferry and then
the train on Newfoundland were all owned by the same company, right, it was all Canadian
National, they all sorta worked together. Now we’re starting to spin off companies into
different crown corporations, so the ferries go to CN Marine, which later became Marine
Atlantic. ALICE: You say Balkanization and I’m taking
that entirely literally and being like, Marine Atlantic is core Serbian territory. [laughter]
JUSTIN: Get ready for some cursed Balkan YouTube comments. LIAM: Ooh! Can’t wait. ALICE: Look, Newfoundland has *always* been
part of Croatia, and that’s all there is to it. [laughter]
LIAM: Whoooo. Alright. [laughter]
JUSTIN: And then the Newfoundland Railway itself was spun off as Terra Transport, right. ALICE: Terror with an or? Like…
[laughter] JUSTIN: Terra, T-E-R-R-A. LIAM: Terra! Terra! Terra! JUSTIN: Like ‘land’ in French(?!), cause Newfoundland
is Terra Nova. LIAM: Fucking creative. SEAN: Yeah. It’s… [politely] it’s a cool logo? ALICE: I was gonna ask about the logo situation! LIAM: It’s a good logo. ALICE: Because like we had the MMA railroad
logo, and that was a good logo for a shitty railroad, so I’m hoping we’re in a similar
situation here. [laughter]
JUSTIN: Yes. SEAN: This was also, ah, at the same time,
in addition to this split-up with CN Marine and Terra Transport, that’s when the passenger
service was re-established as VIA Rail, uh, in the rest of the country. JUSTIN: Yes. ALICE: Love to go… via… rail. [falsely] That’s a very clever name. Uh. SEAN: And it works in both languages, so they
were excited aboot that. [laughter]
JUSTIN: It’s just like the LRCs were ‘light, rapid, comfortable’ in English, and then in
French it was… the acronym still worked. ALICE: Yeah. Leger, rapide… uh, don’t know what comfortable
is. SEAN: [helpfully] Comfortable. ALICE: Gonna fail my citizenship test. Not gonna be a landed immigrant, wonderful. JUSTIN: Yeah, so now there were three companies
– this was, it was a deliberate move on the part of Canadian National to make the Newfoundland
Railroad seem like it was losing more money than it was? So they could get more dollars from the government
at the end of the year. LIAM: Oh, that’s clever! I’m sure that worked flawlessly. ALICE: Sort of a Brewster’s Millions type
railroad situation. JUSTIN: Yeah. And, y’know, they started handling freight
through three separate companies instead of one through the Cabot Strait crossing, which
of course almost all freight had to do. It was chaos and pandemonium at the ports;
initially no-one could even figure out which company they were supposed to be working for. [laughter]
LIAM: Oh, *incredible*. ALICE: Railroad operating license given to
one ‘Franz Kafka’?! [laughter]
LIAM: Yeah, that’s me. I’ll be there on Tuesday. Have to go to work on the railroad, you’re
half bug, just like limping in with your Thermos… [laughter]
LIAM: “You don’t look too good, man.” [bug voice] Yeah man it was a rough weekend
let’s just fuckin’ unload this shit, ughhhhhhhhhh. [laughter]
JUSTIN: Yeah, they make you, they expect you to double your productivity cause you got
two more legs. LIAM: “You got two more legs, Kafka, let’s
see ya lift some shit!” [laughter]
SEAN: I do wanna say, from this picture, I guess… well, these containers, you actually
still see a lot of these around, uh, not just on the island but they’re floating around
the mainland here and there. I saw a couple up in uh, somewhere near Hamilton,
Ontario, last year, just sitting in a field. Eh. ALICE: Mm. That’s not where you want to see those. SEAN: Well, no, but it was still neat to see. “Hey, it’s a Terra Transport container!” JUSTIN: It’s interesting how, like, containerization
started, because this was, um, this was something that was pioneered in Alaska on the White
Pass and Yukon Railroad, which was *another* narrow gauge railroad which was, y’know, facing
financial difficulties, and they sort of came up with this idea, well, why don’t we have
standardized containers that we can just offload from a ship and onload onto the train like
immediately, rather than doing all this… uh, y’know, crap with getting people with
pushcarts to unload and reload boxcars. ALICE: Yeah, big hooks for like handling sacks
of stuff. JUSTIN: Yes. Uh, so the Newfoundland Railroad, or Terra
Transport now, was one of the first mass adopters of containerization. Um, and this was a very successful business
endeavor. And it was provided very low freight rates
because of the conditions in the constitution, or in the Terms of Union, and because it was
very successful, the competition starts getting organized. And… I’m gonna do the same thing I did last podcast
and use the restroom, I’ll be right back. LIAM: Goddammit, dude! ALICE: Let me get a beer in this case then. SEAN: Yeah, and I guess, on the topic of the
containers, yeah, so they were hugely successful, cause the Sullivan Commission report, it assumed
that the freight rates – that the volumes were gonna go down year after year after year,
and they were projecting, by the mid-late 80s, you’d only have one train a week, sort
of thing. Uh, but I mean well into the mid 80s, you
had lengthy freight trains running every day. Uh, again, mostly with these containers. It was only one train per day in each direction
– so two main freights, one eastbound, one westbound – and there was a, like an extra
that would run across the middle of the island from Bishop’s Falls out here to the west coast
in Corner Brook. And that actually still ran a couple of coaches
on it, because there were a bunch of people who had cabins up in the middle of nowhere,
so they accommodated that. I don’t know if that train ran daily, it might
have been a couple of times a week, or once a week, or something like that. ALICE: Love to be getting the train at the
end of, like, 60 freight cars full of absolute bullshit freight. [laughter]
ALICE: Like… I don’t know, twelve other people. LIAM: That doesn’t sound like it would be
bad, though, I mean, cause you could just like… ALICE: That’s such a fucking murder mystery
set-up, like, no, it sounds like the lights go out and the least popular one of us is
found dead. LIAM: Alright well I have the fewest Twitter
followers, so that fucking sucks for me. [laughter]
LIAM: Please do not murder me in Newfoundland. Uh, thanks in advance. SEAN: Actually, apparently – not speaking
of murder – LIAM: Go on. [laughter]
SEAN: Back before the… yeah, when the regular passenger service was still on the go in the
60s and the 50s, there was also an option to ride a mixed train from Port aux Basques
to Saint John’s, and that I think took… [cogitating Canadianly] 35 hours. LIAM: Fuck! ALICE: Wow. SEAN: Some… yeah. So that’s what you take when you’re absolutely
desperate. Every now and then you get little extra trains
running like that. I just… living here under the current circumstances,
I find it hard to fathom even a *bus* that runs multiple times a day. We’ll probably get into that when we talk
about the highway, but there is actually a coach ‘system’ here, and ‘system’ is in very
heavy quotation marks. JUSTIN: I have returned. SEAN: Ah! JUSTIN: I need to work on my beer schedule,
to make sure I don’t need to take bathroom breaks in the middle of the pod. LIAM: We did not discuss the fanfics. ALICE: No, it’s fine. We got a nice sound effect of me opening the
second Corona in here [no we didn’t lol], so it was worth it. LIAM: We did. JUSTIN: Very nice. ALICE: Also a digression about murder. LIAM: Now I really want a beer though, and
I can’t get up. So. Thanks for nothing. JUSTIN: I was also, uh, I was big on drinking
Coronas on Marine Atlantic, cause I was on a boat. LIAM: Yeah. Yeah he was. [laughter]
LIAM: I’m just out here like pounding Caesars at 12:30am, just like, I’m gonna go to bed
one way or another! [laughter]
ALICE: Ahh, it’s the- JUSTIN: Yeah, I’m on a boat, in a tropical
location, I’m drinkin’ a Corona. LIAM: Yeah, that’s it. That’s where we were. ALICE: Yeah. [laughter]
JUSTIN: So we start seeing some competition for container traffic, right, and they’re
getting organized, cause CN’s undercutting them through Terra Transport, right? So you had Atlantic Freight Lines Ltd and
Newfoundland Steamship Lines, who were two private marine shipping companies. They’re like, the railroad’s undercutting
our rates, we can’t compete with each other any more, we need to compete with the railroad. So they merge into Atlantic Container Express,
which is now called Oceanex. [we all make various noises of disgust]
SEAN: Oceanex. Ugh. ALICE: Just made it worse, every time. SEAN: I gotta say a few words about Oceanex,
because they are still saying the same shit, only now it’s directed at Marine Atlantic. [laughter]
SEAN: Yeah. So they had an operation here in Corner Brook;
Corner Brook had, it has a port. It’s not really being used any more, uh, but
they used to bring their container ships in here and they gave up, y’know. But then they keep complaining, “Oh, Marine
Atlantic, they keep stealing all our freight, because they’re so cheap!” And I proposed to their CEO on Twitter, well,
maybe the solution is to merge Marine Atlantic and Oceanex to form a single entity called… Marine Atlantic. [laughter]
SEAN: Uh, he did not respond to that. [laughter]
LIAM: Dickhead CEO, go on the podcast. JUSTIN: We’ll just berate him, constantly. LIAM: Yeah! Yeah. For an hour. SEAN: Sid Hynes. [manfully] *Captain* Sid Hynes. He likes to emphasize the ‘captain’. ALICE: Jesus. Captain fucking Birdseye. [laughter]
JUSTIN: So, Atlantic Container Express, later to be Oceanex, complains to the Canadian Transportation
Commission, uhm, that they can’t compete with the low-rate Terra Transport container service,
and they try to use the government to force them to raise their rates, cause they’re like,
[capitalist voice] “This is anticompetitive! This is federally subsidized bluhbluhbluhlbnlbihuhlh;l.” LIAM: [as Waluigi] Waaaaaaaaaaaa. JUSTIN: “Bflrlglhlglrrl, I can’t compete,
poor private industry, me.” ALICE: Yeah, like, even a fucking, like, denationalized
enterprise is still more efficient than you because it gets subsidies. Is that not the best argument for nationalization? [long pause]
ALICE: …it is. It is the best argument for nationalization. In case there was any room for doubt there. [laughter]
SEAN: Oh, I wasn’t sure for a second there. [laughter]
JUSTIN: Thing is, they’re now trying to, they’re arguing the case before the CTC and the *threat*
of rates going up starts to drive shippers away from using the railroad to usin’ trucks. Right? ALICE: BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO
SEAN: [politely disapproving] Mmmm. JUSTIN: Yeah. ALICE: I really do, I really do appreciate
the sort of [mimicking Sean] ‘mmmmmm’. That, like, that’s a cultural difference. Instead of booing, you just have the-
LIAM: Yeah. BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO. There you go. [laughter]
LIAM: I got it. JUSTIN: Boooo. LIAM: Got you, Alice. ALICE: [Sean voice] Mmmm. JUSTIN: So Terra Transport, Terra Transport
starts trying to find efficiencies, they start eliminating branch lines, they start to, y’know,
they really focus on their traffic originating from, or destined to, points off the island,
particularly concentrating on traffic that goes from St John’s to Port aux Basques. Um, and the CTC eventually rules that the
railroad has to raise its rates… SEAN: Mmmmm. LIAM: DUMB
ALICE: Ugh, bullshit. SEAN: Yeah. ALICE: So even if they didn’t have to do that,
right, because they’re cutting costs by cutting all of these outlying things, if you’re some… I don’t know, some business, some muffler
shop in fucking Arse End Of Nowhere, Newfoundland. LIAM: Great town. JUSTIN: Dildo. [laughter]
ALICE: Yeah. If you run a muffler shop in Dildo, and you
rely on the railroad to get your shipment of mufflers or whatever, you can just either
get it by truck or get fucked. Whether they put the rates up or not! Awesome. JUSTIN: Although I don’t know if they… did
the railroad ever make it to Dildo? SEAN: Uh. LIAM: Beautiful. JUSTIN: Dildo’s a real town in Newfoundland. SEAN: Yeah, so, uh, that section of the Avalon,
there actually used to be a branch line on each side of that. I don’t know if it went into Dildo proper… LIAM: Heh heh heh heh heh. ALICE: Double sided dildos…
[laughter] SEAN: But it went fairly close by. But the main branch line ran up through, uh…
oh my God… Bay Roberts, Carbonear, Harbour Grace and
all that. Yeah, the branch lines were kinda… they
were a huge waste of money, a lot of those were built in the early 20th century, and…
again, I guess, if they had been built to a decent standard I suppose, yes, y’know,
they would’ve been fine, but the only one that really mattered as far as traffic was
concerned was the line around, between St John’s and Harbour Grace, it’s aboot 80 miles,
something like that. Uh, the other ones were… nyeah, they were
really long, and they serviced very tiny populations. They were still useful to have, and there
were no other roads, so they did get used, but by the mid 80s, they were only getting
one or two trains per week, because most of these places had had secondary highways built
by then, and they were close enough to connect with the main line or with the new trans-island
highway. So. It made, in some sense, less sense to run
trains on a regular basis. Uh, the most interesting branch line element,
I guess, was in the Bonavista Peninsula, this is another kinda like, northeast coast of
the island. And they had to build a loop there, and for
some reason that was a big deal, because for some reason most train loops, I guess, are
under mountains in the Rockies, that sort of thing. But this was an open air loop, so that was
preserved, actually, after the branch line was shut down in 84. ALICE: Glad they kept the important thing. LIAM: Oh yeah. SEAN: Well, y’know…
[laughter] SEAN: The Sullivan Commission report actually
went into detail and said, hey, this section – not just the loop but that whole branch
line – should probably be preserved as a heritage railway, but all we got was the loop left,
and actually the provincial government, shockingly, hasn’t done anything with it and let it rot. LIAM: Fuckers. JUSTIN: Wow. SEAN: Uh, there was a businessman leased it
and had a theme park there for the 90s… it was a fun little place. He had a little shunter locomotive running
around with a couple carriages, all done up in this faux circus train livery. And there was a ferris wheel, a restaurant,
it was a cute spot. But. ALICE: ‘First as tragedy, then as farce.’ [laughter]
SEAN: Indeed! And then the guy fuckin’ walked away from
it, and the place was vandalized, and then in 2010, 2011, Hurricane Igor just flooded
the place out, and so now it looks like a post-apocalyptic nightmare. ALICE: A shocking glimpse of things to come. SEAN: Ahhh. JUSTIN: I have an idea for a Patreon stretch
goal now, though. LIAM: Yeah!
[laughter] ALICE: Are we just urbexing it or are we rescuing
it? Because I think those… two different goals,
I think. LIAM: No, we’re rescuing it. Oh, we’re bringing it back, motherfucker. We’re coming back. JUSTIN: I wanna run a tiny train on a loop. LIAM: Yeah he does. This is his whole life. [laughter]
ALICE: Just the most podcast thing we could do would be to run a tiny loop that somehow
also connects Dildo to Intercourse, Pennsylvania. LIAM: I got this! I got this! I will, being a Pennsyvania boy, I will reach
out to the Amish… [laughter]
SEAN: Well, it is closer to Come By Chance. [laughter]
ALICE: Just, fuck it, go transatlantic, bring it to Twatt, in Orkney. [laughter]
LIAM: Do the live show on our transatlantic railroad. Meet in the middle. ALICE: Yes. Just one extremely long bridge. Should be fine. JUSTIN: Trans in more ways than one. [laughter]
JUSTIN: Alright, so, the CTC ruled the railroad has to raise rates, Canadian National appeals
the CTC ruling because it’s in clear violation of the Terms of Union, but the damage is done
at this point, right? The threat is enough to move shippers away. So, um, Canadian National prevails, the CTC
order’s revoked – I think it takes two years – but at this point, politicians were talking
about ‘roads for rails’, right, which is agreeing to close the railway in exchange for highway
improvements. SEAN: Ugh. ALICE: Mm. Is this, the highway that we’re seeing, before
or after the improvements? Because looking at it is making me nervous. LIAM: Oh, hell yeah, the red! SEAN: I assure you, it is after. LIAM: Yeah, I was gonna ask, is that Trailer
Guy ahead of us?! YEAHHHHHHHH MY BOY
JUSTIN: That is Trailer Guy, yes. [laughter]
JUSTIN: We’ll talk about Trailer Guy in a second. SEAN: And this is, I know where this is, too. This section where the pavement is slightly
redder. LIAM: Oh, it sure was, it was disorienting. SEAN: Near Grand Falls or, uh, Springdale. Between that section. JUSTIN: So, since there was no passenger service
on the railroad, there’s no political support for railroad improvements other than from
shippers. So, y’know, in 1988 the deed is done, Newfoundland
receives $800m for road improvements… 800 million *Canadian* dollars, so that’s
like… 36…
[laughter] JUSTIN: Like six bucks US? [laughter]
JUSTIN: For road improvements in exchange for allowing Canadian National to abandon
the 549 remaining miles of the Newfoundland Railroad. ALICE: “Why do I have to sign this contract
in blood?” [laughter]
JUSTIN: That’s why the asphalt is red here. [laughter]
SEAN: Ah, yes, of course. JUSTIN: So what do they do with the $800m? Well, short stretches of the Trans-Canada
are turned into four-lane divided highways, and they build a few new highways in St John’s
and Corner Brook, but, y’know, most of the road is this treacherous, unforgiving, crowded,
high-speed, undivided three-lane road… LIAM: FUCK YEAH IT IS
JUSTIN: And this section here has an actual suicide lane in the middle. [laughter]
JUSTIN: We’ve abolished those in the United States. But, y’know, the markings here… SEAN: Wow, are you serious? I thought that was a normal thing. ALICE: No, the one way in which the US is
more progressive than Canada. Oh, maybe you should explain what a suicide
lane is for the people who don’t know. JUSTIN: So, a suicide lane is, you have one
lane for travel in one direction, another lane for travel in the other direction, then
there’s a shared passing lane in the center. ALICE: Yes. Where you would have a median, right? JUSTIN: Yeah, what’s interesting – the markings
on the highway across Newfoundland do indicate preference for passing in one direction, as
opposed to passing in the other direction, but, like, ultimately that doesn’t mean anything,
y’know, you can just, you can pass if you want to. LIAM: Yeahhhhhhhhhh buddy. ALICE: And then hit a truck that’s passing
in the opposite direction at 60mph. LIAM: We hit no trucks. We hit no trucks! ALICE: Awesome. I’m so glad. LIAM: Yeah. I actually would like to take a minute to
talk about our hero here… SEAN: I think there’s three or four deaths
on the highway in these last two weeks alone? LIAM & ALICE: [simultaneously] Sounds about
right. LIAM: So, Trailer Guy, we followed from I
think about Corner Brook, to damn near St John’s. JUSTIN: No, it was past Corner Brook, it was
after Gander, we picked him up. LIAM: Oh, was it? Okay. Well, that’s a hell of a distance. Uhh, he drove ahead of us, well into triple
digits – and this is miles per hour, not kilometers per hour… SEAN: Fuck. LIAM: …and managed to, like, block for us
every single time. ALICE: You had an advance car! That’s awesome! LIAM: Yeah! We essentially had a blocker car, because,
again, I am now not in Canada so I can talk about how fast I was driving…
[laughter] LIAM: We were regularly also in triple digits
for that spot where it wasn’t super foggy and terrifying. Uh, and this guy just managed to save our
ass at least a dozen times by blocking for us. ALICE: I love this fucking social darwinist
highway. [laughter]
ALICE: This is what the Autobahns would have been like if the wrong side had won the war. Just a bunch of people driving at 200mph…
you need a fucking Secret Service motorcade by accident to survive… incredible. LIAM: That guy was mutual aid in truck form. ALICE: Yeah. LIAM: It was incredible. ALICE: Yeah, we should get some stickers or
some shirts or something about Trailer Guy. To introduce him into the podcast extended
universe. LIAM: I would love that, I would buy a shirt
that I would make money from that just says ‘I

100 thoughts on “Well There’s Your Problem | Episode 10: Roads for Rails – the Newfoundland Railway

  1. Here are some engineering disasters these moisturized lefties won't tell you about:

    Chernobyl
    Chengdu–Kunming rail crash
    Ufa train disaster
    Banqiao Dam failure
    Nedelin disaster
    HMS Captain
    1938 Yellow River flood
    Soyuz 1
    Aral Sea

    Give those a bing and learn what happens when ideology supersedes science and engineering.

  2. I hope every episode for the rest of time says the Tacoma Narrows bridge disaster is the next episode

  3. where does "newfie" rank on alice's list of favorite gamer words?

    my pronouns are she/her and i use gentoo gnu+linux

  4. Fuck yeah, I love this series. Another solid episode, really interesting to hear about catastrophic fuck-ups/bad design problems/shitty bureaucracy I never knew about, and what makes this different from other disaster shows is that the conversational/casual podcast format plus the coordinated visuals are really chill but well organised and make it more engaging.

  5. no explosions or mass graves in this pod? where will I get my weekly depression

    I guess alice got her depression from no one laughing at her trans joke but everyone laughing at the same joke when Justin "doughnut-eat" Baroque-niack made it… I still love you Alice, I laughed! Don't let the haters get you down!

  6. Keith's is a lager, they are allowed to call it an India pale ale because they have been calling it that since before "IPA" was standardized

  7. This is one of the issues here in the UK, if your factory needs 24 containers of parts per day you could be efficient and use a train OR you could use JIT logistics to avoid warehousing and have one truck arrive every hour and unload it directly onto the production line. Result? Country is flooded with trucks.

  8. I could get a sticker on the location of the Granville Train Disaster (which is totally episode fodder)

  9. I also didn't know suicide lanes are a Canadian thing! They're a great way to get your heartrate up on a long road trip 😀

  10. There are probably issues with how hydro dams are sited and all that, but also… green power takes up a lot of room, hydro is hands down the most reliable source of non-fossil power outside nuclear. Solar and wind, from an engineering standpoint, cannot stand alone. I don't condone the imposition on first nation territory, I just don't like to see hydro labeled as problematic across the board.

  11. We Germans love our Public Transport so much we gave it the overwhelmingly poetic name "ÖFFENTLICHER PERSONENNAHVERKEHR" and I think it's beautiful.

  12. Y’all should do an episode on the DC-10 cargo door if that’s not already in the works

  13. Does the high speed rail out of England keep building new trains, or do they truck them back from France or w/e. Please I must know the practical logistics of this joke.

  14. Ayyyyyyy Alice!
    I stole your they /them, piloted by rhinovirus joke. It's a good pronoun for the borg jokes as well. (ie Locutious of the Borg. They /them)
    Your stellar wit has convinced me that trash future is worth giving a listen to.
    He / Him.

  15. City council in Calgary was literally proposing a Disney Rec Centre buyout for two inner city community centres this summer.

  16. As a Mainer, my favorite part was the butchering of Bangor and Calais’ pronounciatuon

  17. The audio leveling on this episode is the worst engineering disaster i've ever witnessed.

  18. @1:01:30 – Someone says the Korean Airlines plane was shotdown over Sakhalin. That's incorrect. It was shot down over Kamchatka. They're… several hundred miles apart from eachother.

  19. The US mispronounces plenty of French names in the former Louisiana Purchase area, most widely are Detroit originally sound more like dee-twah and New Orleans like or-lee-on

  20. I'm from Vancouver island! The rail here is in a sad state! Even our tiny heritage rail line is out of commission for another year or 2. If you have any questions I have some knowledge and access to local museums and info and have hiked many kms of the abandoned track. I even worked for the company that did all the bridges on the northern logging line! 🙂

  21. 18:00 Why does it take 2 diesel locomotives to tow a train with only 3 wagons? Anybody cares to explain what is happening here?

    34:35 You got that right m8

  22. You should do an episode about the Saint Gobain plastics plant contaminating the water of Merrimack NH and then nothing ever getting done to fix it

  23. I honestly hadn't heard of "suicide lanes" and thought it was a joke. Thanks for continuing to enlighten me

  24. Can you do an analysis on the HSR plan from Los Angeles to Las Vegas by Virgin? Private rail never made sense to me, but it would be great if Donoteat pontificates on their Florida build out and their potential LA/LV build out.

  25. You can tell when the Tacoma Narrows Bridge will be next by using the recursive function P(n)+1, with n being the current episode.

  26. Right so the main rail network in Japan (not the high speed) uses 1067mm track, but has trains that are taller and wider than those that run on 1435mm in the UK. Track gauge and loading gauge are not intrinsically linked

  27. Hi folks, love the pod. Alice, to piss you off even more, we in Maine pronounce Calais as “callous.” I’m dead serious.

  28. I'm positive there are still suicide lane analogues in the US. They just don't have the third lane, it's a two-lane, two-way road with passing rights given to each side.

  29. "Everything in canada that's french is pronounced wrong"
    Welcome to North Versailles PA. Guess how you pronounce that.

  30. I will NOT have this trashcan talk bad about my trinity loop memories I will fight you irl

  31. 1:02:00 KAL 007 was shot down by a Sukhoi-15 from the Air Defense Forces (PVO Strany) and not the Soviet Air Force proper. Unlike the US Air Force, the Soviets kept the strategic missiles and part of the Tactical Air Command's job as separate components of their military.

  32. We have those suicide lanes (nice name btw) mostly on western state routes through the mountains in Oregon. But I've even seen them on busy state routes through the Willamette valley. Deffo sketchy as crap, but I had no idea they were abolished.

  33. مرتفعات الجولان glory to assad سوريا
    bosnia second greatest country
    калий

  34. Screw the tacoma narrows bridge disaster just do the tasman bridge disaster that yeeted a city in half

  35. I just watched a Frontline doc an AI, and what industry do they showcase as being fearful of it being "dehumanized"? Trucking. I also watched HinduCow's latest run video, and she's actually talking in this one, responding to the chat comments… and she emphatically states at one point that "they'll" never be automated, be it Norwegian trains, or trains in general. IDK where I'm going with this comment, other than the thought of all the "self driving" vehicles actually causing much more misery on the roads than we have now… leading back to "Trains: Good… Cars: Bad"

  36. KAL 007 violated soviet airspace at Kamchatka but was not actually shot down until it hit Sakhalin.

  37. Electronic traffic conditions billboards used in San Antonio (only reference point for these things in TX that I have) routinely state the number of deaths on TX roads since the first of the year. Some absurd number… but hey, our roads are safer than Canada's, right?

  38. Another shitty thing about VIA rail (besides the lack of maintaining track outside of the Quebec-Windsor line) is they've just fucked over a portion of their userbase with changes to the onboard payment system that only allows you to pay with credit or gift card so people without credit cards on long rides are basically forced to starve or pay extra for the privilege to buy food. Source: I take 12-hour rides quite frequently and I don't have a credit card.

  39. Spending all day at the bus depot in El Paso early June because the bus I was to ride from LA was seriously delayed has effectively turned me off of bus service forever. Of course, it's probably 1/5 the price of a train trip… but god dammit, if the train is going there anyway! Free passenger rail service!

  40. That bit about Roz speaking french in Quebec is very accurate to anglo-canadians and Alice's remark of "Oh you're from Ontario." is 100% true, whats better is that a lot of people who work in the service industry near English speaking borders and Montreal actually understand English pretty well and will respond to people's awful French with English out of pitty.

  41. You should do an episode about the de Havilland Comet I, the world's first jet airliner. It had square windows and as a result, the metal fatigue around them caused it to disintegrate.

  42. The passing version of the suicide lane is abolished in the US, but other forms of suicide lane still exist here with bidirectional passing being the only verboten aspect. People still illegally use them for passing, however, especially in areas with bicycle "sharrows" or bus stops on the driving lane.

  43. You should really have AxemanJim on at some point to do a podcast version of his posts on the various hilariously bad British rail designs, like the Pacer and the Tilt train.

  44. no kidding right? I launch cities skylines before I go to school so I can play afterward LOL

  45. Love the podcast, but GOD DAMN balance the levels! I hate having to adjust my own volume when somebody else starts talking.

  46. 53:00 there are "suicide lanes" on the west coast of the US. Highways that are smaller than Interstate highways often have those suicide lanes, U.S Highways and State Routes. ODOT just built another one this summer.

  47. You may not have suicide lanes on the west coast, but let me assure you, they are alive and thriving in Idaho.

    I think — it's possible I may have completely misunderstood the concept.

  48. The final episode of Well, There’s Your Problem is going to be on Well, There’s Your Problem

  49. This sounds dead on how Australia's rail networks have been progressively fucked over the years 🙁

  50. Queenslands' narrow gauge rail is great, even have high speed rail services covering about sixteen hundred kilometres. There was that time recently when new commuter trains were built that didn't fit in our tunnels… oops.

  51. since most people live along the coast, for freight, Newfoundland is the ideal place for reintroducing the classical coastal clippers. being primarily wind powered , they are awesomely green, beautiful (especially in the deep fjords), and, given the weather in the region, almost as fast as all the other ships.

  52. BTW, you have not mentioned Scotland's Mull Railroad, a former 'Toy' Railroad running on a 10 1⁄4 inch micro-gauge, that used to join the ferry port at Craignure to the castle settlement in the center of the island. given that only less then a 200 meters of the car-roads on the island is actually not a single-car width track, it had been a major transport link to the local community. (note that proper buses were not imported to the island because they were all too big for the tight hairpin turns, the railway, built in the 19th century, using a small number of viaducts and tunnels, avoided the serpentine problem).
    The railway was originally not public but part of the castle estate owned by the local noble… it was restored, and made a passenger line, when, after a time lying in disrepair, the castle was opened to the public under Scottish/British-Heritage in 1975. at this point, (due to a requirement of investment via public funds) the railway was made for use, not only for visitors to the new museum, but, was posed as a public service for the residents of the local village (later town). however, when the castle was sold by the said noble-family to an unconfirmed investor (some say (I DO NOT KNOW how truly) that it is the Trump estate) in 2011, the railway station (not the whole track but parts of it on the estate land) was sold along with the castle, and dismantled by order of the said property agent….
    this is the story to the best of my information, I did not research the subject and am not sure of its accuracy, but if its somewhat true, then the mention of it would have formed a nice parallel line to your Canadian story, especially, since I remember one of your team is from Scotland, and might have more to say on the subject.

  53. Man if y'all have feelings about Trams/Trains, you might like to look into Tasmania.
    One of my campuses used to be the main Tram Station in Launceston. Removing Trams sucks enough until you realize;
    Launceston is almost entirely made of one way streets.

    We're a small population but you bet your ass any SINGLE incident of any magnituide will completely destroy traffic.
    Hell, I have a feeling the Uni renovation will end up being a traffic engineering disaster….
    Looking forward to the next population boom LMAO. (Rip to Hobart's housing situation)

    Oh and we got a fucking Free bus route that goes to 4 stops. Expand the Tiger bus route!!!!

    Anyway I love all of your enthusiasm, and your shared respect for public transport. I absolutely love public transport!
    (I get made fun of because I get so excited to use trains, I miss them so much!!)

  54. 1:42 well i mean i guess technically the scots stole it from the picts? or was it the danes? no the danes stole it from the celt? or was it the celts that stole it from the picts? idk at the point the whole concept of "ownership" of land starts to feel a bit fing arbitrary… spam spam spam spam

  55. 5:35 thats under selling it the uk lost a third its rail network mileage "The recommendations
    Out of 18,000 miles (29,000 km) of railway, Beeching recommended that 6,000 miles (9,700 km)—mostly rural and industrial lines—should be closed entirely, and that some of the remaining lines should be kept open only for freight. A total of 2,363 stations were to close, including 435 already under threat, both on lines that were to close and on lines that were to remain open" wikipedia

  56. 28:05 lol look up " the day the gauge changed" https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4v81Gwu6BTE btw its a hell of a lot easier to change gauge down that up because if you go up generally speaking you have to replace a lot of the sleepers so that they're long enough

  57. Yay for trains! If you cats ever want to talk about the Cincinnati Subway (aka the Little Engine that Couldn't) feel free to hit me up. I used to give a presentation on it when I worked at the local history museum.

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