Over the weekend, work had halted. Thanks to information from a local rail watcher (thanks Ray), I was told the work train was parked at the rural Stonecrest Road level crossing near milepost 30.0, northwest of Dunrobin. I made my way out to this secluded spot and was immediately struck by the rugged character of the the area. The path to the crossing was hilly, twisty and generally hemmed in by trees. This was about as rural as you can get within the city limits.
When I arrived at the crossing, there was a bit of a clearing and the sun was shining. You could immediately see the end of the work train by the crossing, being guarded by a lone CN employee. I spoke to him briefly and he told me I was allowed to take photos from the road. He also told me that work was to recommence on Tuesday morning. Given how much progress has been made to date, I would not be surprised if the rest of this stretch of track was gone in a few weeks.
Given the area where the work train is parked is heavily wooded, getting a shot of the entire string of cars was impossible, so I had to try and capture the consist with some condensed vertical shots. Luckily, the afternoon sun was in the perfect spot for me to get some of these shots. You can see in the shot above that there is some rail still in the process of being fed into the CWR cars.
I managed to capture some shots of the yellow work cars at the end of the train (above), but that was about all I could capture in terms of long horizontals. You can see the rail being fed into the CWR cars in this shot as well.
The above shot was taken from the crossing. The road was very quiet when I arrived, so taking shots from the middle of the crossing was pretty easy. You can see that this line has been left to its own devices for a number of years, as the ballast is largely lost in overgrowth.
Above, the dreaded CWR cars, especially for a train-starved railfan in Ottawa.
This shot gives you an idea of the immediate surroundings at this level crossing. Two CN trucks had been parked at the side of the road since the train had halted its work. Both had Quebec licence plates, so I'm guessing the railway sent work crews in from Montreal to take apart this line.
This final shot pretty much sums up the sad end for this once vital piece of CN's network. A threader was left locked in place, with a small stretch of rail yet to be fed onto the train. Beyond the loose rail, you can see the abandoned right-of-way, which will no doubt soon become a snowmobile trail. This shot gives you an idea of the types of grade crews would have had to manage on this line, when it was a transcontinental line and then part of the Ottawa Central Railway.
And with that, another piece of the Ottawa Valley's railway history is removed. I can't help but wonder what might have happened to this line, if Ottawa Central hadn't been purchased by CN. Many rail watchers here have grumbled over the years that CN only purchased OCR to get its hands on the actual rails, so it could use them elsewhere in its network.
I also wonder what might have happened if efforts to establish the Transport Pontiac Renfrew shortline railway had been successful. I recall the former president of the OCR James Allen telling me a wood pellet plant in the Pontiac wanted rail service on this line, a prospect that promised (in his words) hundreds of car loads a year. But sadly, too much industry has been lost in the valley to support a railway line in this area.
The city did mention earlier this year that it would be interested in purchasing the old line for a possible recreational trail. Considering how remote this part of the city is, I doubt a trail in these parts would get much use for anything other than snowmobiles and ATVs.
This brings me to my final question. Given the level of interest in light rail in the city, you can't help but wonder if retaining this line for future regional rail use should have been seriously considered. This approach to rail is very common in the United States, but sadly not here.
And, as another line fades away, the city continues to wrangle over the next phases of its light rail dreams, which require expensive new rights-of-way in areas where rail once served.
For those looking to capture some of this work along Beachburg, the work will continue through this week into the weekend (from Nov. 11-16 or so). I invite readers in the Ottawa area to get out there and capture some of this before it's too late. On Tuesday, the train was nearing Torbolton Ridge Road. Wednesday will likely see the train nearing the Kinburn Side Road crossing. At this rate, it should be nearing Dunrobin in the coming days.