Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Sometimes, it pays to miss a deadline

I was busy preparing another rail history post for this week when I realized that the idea I was working on was much larger than I had anticipated. This presented a small predicament. While I have enjoyed digging in to this latest historic post, it left me wondering what I might want to share in its place this week.

Well, credit two rambunctious kids for this week's post. I love my daughters, but they were getting a little crazy by the end of the Easter long weekend. My wife was giving that look like she needed a break so I packed my kids in the car and took them to Fallowfield Station. My goal was to catch Train 42 from Toronto. I singled out this train for two reasons. One, it's a double ender, which means it has a P42 on each end of the consist. Two, I have seen recently that it has consistently featured a wrapped P42. I had a camera freeze up the last time I tried to catch the wrapped P42. This was the best shot I got at the Twin Elm crossing back in early March. Can you see the Canada 150 wrapped P42 at the back?

I wanted to make up for that camera malfunction and was pleased when I saw Train 42 approaching Fallowfield Road. This is what I saw. Made me smile. It also made me realize this might be the first time I have ever looked forward to seeing a P42. Ever.

I rolled down the windows and let my daughters hear and see the train from the safety of the car. I stepped out to get a better shot. Here's my favourite shot of the meet.

Via 918 leads the way. I've noticed Train 42 is typically a five-car consist with a GE unit on either end. This one in particular had a repainted Business Class car, a Canada 150 wrap, an older LRC coach in the old colours and two renaissance-painted LRC cars. The consist was trailed by P42 902, which was in the renaissance scheme.

Here's the shot of the wrapped car. Hello, Halifax, Stratford, White River and Montreal. Note the train's reflection in the puddles in the ditch. A nice surprise when I was reviewing the images.

Here's one final shot from the platform. You can see P42 902 with the trailing lights glowing orange. Or so it appears in this photo.

Actually, here's a bonus shot of the trailing P42, showing signs of wear near the rear. Those new wraps sure are hiding a lot of nicks! The units that have not been wrapped look positively beat up by comparison.

As mentioned, this week's post is a bit of a impromptu post, since my original idea was not ready, but I am really excited by the next post. It includes a bit of everything. Stay tuned.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Return of the golden rodent!

I have to admit I was surprised when I read a recent CBC article about the Canadian Pacific Railway when the railway's CEO Keith Creel mentioned that the CPR was going to reapply its golden rodent beaver logo to engines when they hit the shops for overhauls. It's a small gesture that is no doubt meant to heal the rifts that developed at the railway during the tenure of E. Hunter Harrison.

I was happy to hear of the decision, especially because, as a railfan, I have almost no images of this logo. In fact, this might be my only shot of the famous beaver.

This is a shot taken from a service road next to Walkley Yard in Ottawa in August 2013. I don't have any shots of the true golden rodent on the locomotives, although the possibility of catching one now in the coming months and years makes me keen to sit trackside on the Winchester Subdivision.

However, judging by comments from fellow railfans in Eastern Ontario, it seems as though the Winchester Sub has become much quieter of late, with many telling me they have been skunked sitting trackside at Bedell or at Smiths Falls.

I know the feeling. The last time I sat trackside in Smiths Falls, all I saw were these two units idling deep in the yard. Looking at these units, I can only imagine how sharp the beaver will look in that gaping red expanse on the long hoods.

Of course, this gesture by Creel will likely be seen by many CP employees as a pointless gesture, if larger issues aren't settled. Reading some articles lately, it's obvious that a great deal of bad blood has developed between CP management and the rank and file, particularly over the policy of mandatory railroad training for all CP employees, whether they are involved in the operational side or not.

In particular, employees represented by the Teamsters are upset that engineers are being required to train managers on how to operate trains. This policy seems particularly galling since many feel it will prevent employees from having any leverage in the event of a labour dispute. Also, how would you like to train the person who will replace you in the event of a strike? I don't know that either side has a good solution for how to end this standoff.

This latest news comes shortly after news that CP employees are worried about the company's engineer training practices, which employees feel is throwing rookie engineers into challenging situations without proper experience. This story outlines one of those situations, which is scary.

Canadian Pacific handout photo

I spoke my mind about Canadian Pacific in this recent post so I won't go into it again, other than to say I'm worried that publicly traded railways are sacrificing too many fundamentals for the sake of appeasing shareholders and bowing down to the altar of quarterly profits. Of course, as a longtime business journalist, I would level that criticism to a number of publicly traded companies. I wonder what's happened to long-term vision. When all that matters is hitting analysts' quarterly expectations, sometimes, the lack of vision hampers a company in the long term. Ask any former Nortel employee how this type of mentality worked out for them.