Friday, November 17, 2017

150 Thoughts

When this year started, I was looking forward to the numerous festivities that coincided with Canada’s 150th birthday. I have to say in all honesty that this year hasn’t quite lived up to my expectations. For one, the weather in this part of the country has been pretty awful. The weather on Canada Day in Ottawa was the worst I can remember (and this coming from someone who once walked home from the fireworks show in the evening in shorts when the temperature was 9C).

So what went wrong exactly? Well, aside from the weather, I think that the year just didn’t live up to the hype. A number of official events were organized around Ottawa and were well received, but I didn’t get the sense that people were in the mood for much celebrating. I could be wrong, but I just didn’t feel much excitement.

There were some great moments this year, to be fair. And I will start with the railways. First off, Via Rail made railfanning fun again with their massive wrap effort. I have not had this much fun shooting Via Rail corridor consists in ages.

Make railfanning fun again! Westbound Via corridor train through Kingston in May with two sharp Canada 150 wraps. Photo courtesy of my wife, who was taking shots from the passenger seat of our car on Highway 401.

Both the Canadian National and Canadian Pacific rostered specials for Canada’s 150th, but I didn’t get to see either one of them.

The CN special arrived in Ottawa in May on a horribly grey, drizzly day. The train was chartered by the Big City Mayors Caucus, which is a group that falls under the Federation of Canadian Municipalities lobby group. The CN train included a few green and gold business coaches, but the train pretty much came and went unnoticed. There was no media coverage of the train. The only real attention it garnered was from local railfans who braved the elements and got some shots of this ghost train through the mist. The only reason I knew it was coming was because there was an  advertisement in the newspaper that someone at work handed to me, as an example of a type of advertisement I would be working on for a marketing campaign.

This video is from Ottawa railfan Blake Trafford's channel on YouTube. If you haven't checked him out, go see his work on YouTube.

The Canadian Pacific’s 150 train was a much bigger effort and created quite a splash when it arrived in Ottawa. However, I read a fair number of comments in social media from people who were disappointed by the event at the Ottawa train station on Tremblay Road. Many suggested the event wasn’t terribly well organized. From the photos I saw, the train looked great. Many of the coaches I saw on last year’s Holiday Train were in the 150 consist.

An example of the type of coaches that were part of the Canada 150 train this summer. This is a shot from last year's Canadian Pacific Holiday Train in Finch, Ont.

I was, sadly, out of town when the CP train made its way to Ottawa in a roundabout way (from Montreal to Smith Falls on the Winchester Sub and into Ottawa on Via Rail’s Smith Falls Sub). The trade-off wasn’t so bad, though, since I did more railfanning in London than I have in years. Five posts of London material later, I still have more photos to share, but they will have to wait for a while.

Even the week following the CP 150 train's arrival in Ottawa, a few of my fellow railfans told me that CP was keeping its train in Walkley Yard and urged me to go and get some shots, but I was working that week and had no opportunity to get out there. The train was, understandably, heavily guarded anyway. Lucky, local railfan Keith B. graciously shared a photo from his meet with the train before it left the city on Aug. 29, which I have been saving for this post.

CP's 150 special heading out of Ottawa on the Beachburg Sub. What I love about this photo is it could have been taken in the 1960s. Timeless.

By the way, Keith is active on Pinterest. Do yourself a favour and spend some time there. There are great Ottawa railfanning photos there.

The other major disappointment for me is that my Canada 150 history posts have taken far more time than I had ever thought they would, so many of them will not see the light of day for a while. I did manage to finish several of them this year, but I had originally envisioned to do 10 posts or more. In case anyone was wondering about this series of posts, they will become part of an ongoing series that will continue indefinitely. As always, if there is anything you want to see me look into, just leave a message on this post and I will add it to the list.

On a personal note, I was disappointed with the fact that life has become busy for me this year to the point where my blog has taken a back seat to more pressing matters. I’m sure some people have noticed some longer gaps between posts. I’m grateful no one has called me out on this.

As I mentioned when I started this blog, my aim was to post material each week and I have tried to maintain that pace. I have found that pace hard to keep at times this year, mostly because of the pace of my own life and the utter dearth of railfanning that I often encounter in Ottawa. I have made the most of trips out of the city but I am aware that many people want to hear and read about Ottawa area railways. In the coming weeks and months, I am going to try to get out and take some shots around Ottawa.

I have learned, through maintaining this blog, to avoid making promises. I hope that the blog has remained relevant and engaging this year and will continue to serve as a forum and spot for local railfans and the many other scattered around Canada and elsewhere.

I will continue to try and keep the Beachburg Sub moving, but I’m hoping for your continued patience in the comings weeks and months.

Michael H.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

The Arnprior Turn's Greatest Hits (and Misses)

The Arnprior Turn has been a mixed blessing for this blog. On one hand, it really has generated a lot of enthusiasm among local railfans. It has also spawned a lot of discussion on this blog. On the other hand, it has at times overshadowed everything else that I wanted to share. Don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining. I'm just trying to describe my ambivalence toward this one lonely train.

The reason I sometimes stay away from posting too much about CN 589 is because someone from outside the city might get the impression that there is nothing else to see in Ottawa other than this lonely little runt of a train. No so. CN's freight operations east of Walkley Yard are much more extensive. After all, CN has to interchange cars at Coteau, Que. It also serves Ivacco in L'Orignal. These trains have never really been covered in this blog simply because I don't have the time to catch these freights. One day...

And, let's not forget that CN also operates 589 on the Smiths Falls Sub twice a week, for the most part, where customers like SynAgri and Kott Lumber require fairly regular drop-offs and pick-ups, depending on the time of year.

All this to say, there is more to railfanning in this city than the Arnprior Turn. However, I have pursued this train for several years and have caught it a select few times. The trick to catching this train is figuring out how much work CN crews need to do in Walkley Yard before they set off for Arnprior. But I have caught the train a few times and wanted to present a small photo album of my favourite shots from my meets.

In April 2015, I nearly caught the Arnprior Turn on its return to Walkley Yard. I say almost because I was a little late and watched the train pass over the Moodie Drive flyover as I waited at a traffic light. I was just on my way to a spot to photograph this train when it passed by me. This was the only really decent shot I got while waiting at the traffic light. It was the first of many frustrating experiences with this train.

A month later, I had a morning to myself so I set off for a spot on the Trans-Canada Trail near Corkstown Road to catch this train. I had heard that it was passing through at a certain time. The tip turned out to be a good one, as I didn't have to wait long to catch it. This was one of the few times when I was able to catch the train at this spot. Its timetable often fluctuates, which means it will leave you waiting. And waiting.

I didn't have to wait too long to catch this train a third time. In September 2015, I was on parental leave and would sometimes take my baby daughter on a short drive before I picked up my oldest daughter from daycare. I often took a different route to the babysitter's house so I could pass by the Beachburg Subdivision's Corkstown Road level crossing. This was the result as a two-car consist was making its way back to Walkley Yard. It took a lot of photoshopping to touch up this shot, which was taken in some harsh sunlight from a parking lot near the crossing.

I mentioned that this train was a frustrating one to catch, right? In June 2016, I was taking photos near Fallowfield Station when I decided to head back to Bells Corners to set up for a meet with this train. As you see, I was just seconds late. Here you can see the train crossing Highway 416.

In February of 2016, I was on my way home from an early morning appointment when I was travelling on Northside Road, which parallels the Beachburg Sub. I nearly missed the train, but as it passed, I managed to pull over and get a few shots. I can't tell you how many times I have had near misses with this train. Thankfully, this hasty meet turned out okay. I got quite a few shots from this meet, but I liked this one. As I mentioned before, the changes in this train's timing often meant I have been left waiting at this spot only to realize I was not going to catch 589.

Since I have been back working in downtown Ottawa , I have not been able to even think of chasing this train. My last meeting with this train was again on the Trans-Canada Trail near Corkstown Road in April of this year on a day off. I really liked this shot because it captures a vintage GP9 in the old safety scheme pulling a four-car consist. This is the longest Arnprior Turn consist I have seen. The crew even gave me a wave. I would imagine they have a good laugh at the few foamers who bother to try and catch this train.