Monday, February 27, 2017

Goodbye Goderich

This past summer, my family's presence in the Goderich area ended as my in laws packed up their life and moved to Mitchell, Ontario. The bad news for me is that it means I will no longer be able to take in all the railway heritage and GEXR operations in this Lake Huron port town. The good news is Mitchell is still on the GEXR Goderich Sub, so I hope to catch something different this summer when I visit my in laws in their new home.

This shot, which is a scan of a print, is courtesy of my railway colleague in Kingston, Eric Gagnon. You know him by his blog, Trackside Treasure. This shot above shows GEXR GP9 177 (once named Titania) along with three other geeps working the salt mine yard in Goderich Harbour. GEXR continues to serve the Sifto salt mine and the related mining industry in the Goderich, although its traffic is lighter than it once was since the town has lost other industries over the last few decades (the Volvo heavy equipment plant being a prime example). Despite this, there are possibly better times ahead for Goderich as federal money to establish this town as a deepwater port on the lake (the only such port on the Canadian side of the lake) means better prospects could be ahead for the railway.

As you know, this town has quite a rail history. You can read about in these following posts:

Rather than get into the history again, I thought I'd share a few quick picks and memories. The first memory I have is being able to see the results of a massive project to move the old Canadian Pacific station from its original spot to its new beachside locale a few hundred metres away. I wrote about this a fair bit and am happy to share that the owner of the building has faithfully restored this building, despite some nervous locals who weren't sold on this project. The town now has a unique restaurant on the town's beach that is a perfect spot on a summer day. The inside of the building really does look sharp, as many of the original design elements were kept.

It's interesting that I've filled so much space on the blog with musings and photos from Goderich. I was actually never lucky enough to catch trains in action in all my time spent trackside in the town. I did catch some cool still lifes though. This shot below shows the local switcher, GP 4001, tied up for the day while a string of covered hoppers await their next move.

I have shown this shot, below, many times, but I always love showing it again. This is one of those shots where everything comes together. Look at the colours of all the hoppers and the grass growing between the rails. This screams small town short line to me. I was really happy when I caught this site.

Here's another view of the silent rail yard, as seen just beyond the East Street Station platform. You can see the GP9, the hoppers, the old CN station and a slowly crumbling trackside shack. Lots going on.

As much as I will miss this railway town, the silver lining is that I will soon be able to discover another trackside opportunity in Mitchell, hometown of Montreal Canadien great, Howie Morenz.

I am really hopeful that I can catch a shot like this one, possibly alongside a great elevator. That would be a fine addition to my GEXR collection.

Small piece of trivia: Do you know why GEXR once named its GP9s, such as the Titania, above?

Monday, February 20, 2017

Common sense prevails as LRT moves forward

It's always a good news/bad news situation when it comes to Ottawa's light rail plans. The city recently unveiled its latest update for the second phase of its light rail expansion. The bad news is the $3-billion price tag for the second phase now stands at $3.6 billion dollars, thanks to previously undisclosed infrastructure projects that will be part of the second phase.

Here's the best news, in my opinion. The first project to be complete under Phase II will be the southern extension of the Ellwood Sub (known publicly as the Trillium Line) to Bowesville Road in the city's south end. This means the communities of Riverside South, Findlay Creek and Leitrim will have a much faster route to downtown Ottawa when this phase is done in 2021. Remember that there is an existing right-of-way (the old CP Prescott Sub) in place. Included in this project will be a spur line to the Ottawa International Airport and a 3,500 spot park and ride at Bowesville where people can park and hop on the train. All in all, this is good news for the growing south end and great news for those frustrated with the congested Airport Parkway. This should have been a priority long ago, but better late than never.

Diesel O-Train C4 at Bayview Station earlier this month

So, the bad news? The Trillium Line will be shut down for a year and a half as the extension of this line is underway. Considering the city didn't seem at all interested in this common sense project until recently, I would gladly sacrifice this line for a year if it meant that it was extended to where it should be by 2021.

O-Train heads south near Young Street on Feb. 20

The next part of the second phase to be completed will be an extension of the eastern half of the Confederation Line from Blair Station to Trim Road, instead of Place d'Orleans. I'm glad that the city is moving quickly to further extend the train to Trim, since this is where it needs to be in the east end, and as soon as possible. This project will be finished in 2022 and will include a widening of the city's Highway 174 to accommodate light rail through the centre median. This will be a painful process for east end commuters, but having railways running in the centre median is smart and saves money, as there will be no costly land expropriations, neighbourhood fights and other hassles that go along with building rail lines through urban communities.

Two O-Trains meet near Somerset Street on Feb. 20

The good news for the western Confederation Line extension is that the western leg of the line will be extended from Tunney's Pasture to Moodie Drive by 2023, which will bring the train closer to Kanata much earlier than previously planned. The original plan was to have trains in Kanata by 2031. The extension to Moodie Drive is good news for Bells Corners and to Department of National Defence workers, who are in the process of moving into the old Nortel Networks Campus on Moodie. The original second phase plans called for the end of the line to be at the Bayshore Shopping Centre.
Still, I'm sure a few west end residents are wondering why they are the last ones to get light rail extended to their neighbourhoods as part of this plan.
I'm also still curious, given the city's change of heart on the southern extension and its plans to extend light rail over the Prince of Wales Bridge eventually, why nothing has been done to investigate light rail over the existing Beachburg Sub/Renfrew Spur in the west end. These lines are lightly used, to say the very least, and seem to be ripe for further use. And they just happen to cut through Kanata, which desperately needs better transit options.

Construction is proceeding at Bayview Station as O-Train C4 pulls into the station on Feb. 20

In total, 36 kilometres and 22 stations will be added, including the recently announced Moodie station.

In a related commuter transit vein, the city is now putting its old Bombardier Talent trainsets up for sale. At one point, the city was considering using them in some fashion, but those plans were never seriously considered. The Talent trainsets were the original train consists used for light rail in Ottawa until they were replaced by Alstom Coradia LINT units. I'll miss the old O-Trains. Happy Trails!

I won't get into the details of why the expanded service on the Trillium Line has not reached the frequency of a train every eight minutes at every station, as was promised. Ottawa's Mayor Jim Watson did mention this week that he was disappointed that the newly expanded service as not delivered as promised.