Thursday, February 5, 2015

Winter observations in Ottawa

It's been averaging about -15C for the last few weeks here, which has made for a cold, dry winter. A very brief break last week brought the temperatures back to around freezing, which of course resulted in a pretty substantial snow storm. The brief thaw and storm reminded me that I had not ventured out to take photos recently, so I braved the cold and made my way to Ottawa's central station, to see if there was anything interesting happening. Other than the installation of some new signal equipment, there wasn't much to see. It certainly was not as exciting as last year's January trip to the same station.

You can see the new signals framing incoming Train 50 from Montreal in the shot below. They are more than likely part of the capital improvements that Via has been making in this corridor.

I was looking through the functions of my old camera, which I had with me, and was surprised to learn it had its own primitive burst mode, allowing me to get multiple shots. The one below turned out okay, thanks to the clouds covering the sun and reducing the shadows, which is always the problem when you visit this station. The cranes you see in the background are working on the Confederation O-Train LRT line.

Here's one final shot from the old camera, which actually isn't that bad. The best tip I learned when I was a reporter was that just about any shortcoming that a camera might have can largely be made up by getting as close as you can. Of course, you can only get so close at Ottawa station. It was -33C with the wind chill when I took this shot, so needless to say, I didn't stick around long.

This past weekend, I made a trip to the McKenna Casey crossing outside Barrhaven in the morning. The temperature was -18C without the wind chill factor so I set my car up on the side of the road and stayed inside the car until I saw the Via corridor train making its way to the crossing.

Watch the snow fly!

Sadly, CN 589 has already done its rounds, so I was not able to catch it after the Via breezed through.

Speaking of Via, a west-end neighbourhood is celebrating its railway past, as Jan. 14 marked the 25th anniversary of the last run of Via's Canadian through the west-end neighbourhood. You can read about the local railway heritage exhibit here. After the train passed through Stittsville, CP began tearing up its Carleton Place Subdivision.

The other big development is that the city is showcasing a full-scale model of the electric Alstom Citadis Spirit light rail train at the Aberdeen Pavilion through March. The grand unveiling was held last week. You can read about it here. The shot below, from the City of Ottawa's media release, is a shot of the engineer's controls.

The media was in force for the announcement and it seems that Mayor Jim Watson is genuinely enthused about his light rail plan. The city estimates that, when the Confederation O-Train line is operational between Blair to Tunney's Pasture, the zero-emission trainsets will take the equivalent of 7,300 cars off the road.

I always wonder when we hear these estimates. No doubt the trains will take cars off the road and reduce emissions on a day-to-day basis, but I always wonder how much carbon is generated to produce the electricity these trains need to operate every day? I think this is a fair question to ask whenever anyone talks about the benefits of electric vehicles.

And, while I'm on the topic of the O-Train, it seems that Mayor Watson is somewhat less keen on the proposed extension of the existing O-Train Trillium line to the airport and beyond on existing trackage.

Although I was a little disappointed that there were a lot of conditions to the city's support for the proposal. The mayor points out that the airport will have to pay part of the costs of a spur track off the existing line, so that the O-Train can serve the airport. I agree with that assessment, but was still a little disappointed that the city continues to hem and haw about this extension, which should have been done years ago.

Anyone who has taken the 97 bus to the airport knows how badly this rail connection is needed.

Here's an article from the Ottawa Citizen, which explains how the new line would work. Readers might recall that I predicted that this line extension would likely result in passengers having to change trains at the south end of the current line. Apparently, the engineers drawing up the plans agree with my assessment. I love it when I'm right!

Prince of Wales Bridge Update: The city has hired a consultant to advise the city on what it would cost to convert the Prince Of Wales Bridge from its current form as a railway bridge to a recreational path for cyclists and pedestrians. The reaction to this has been positive, as I expected it would be. However, it also marks the potential beginning of the end for this vital piece of rail infrastructure, which was once part of the Canadian Pacific Railway and is now owned by the City of Ottawa. As you have read in this blog, there appears to be no appetite for a potential commuter rail link between Ottawa and Gatineau. This decision will come back to haunt the region. Anyone who sees the flood of traffic over the interprovincial bridges knows how useful a rail link between Ottawa and Gatineau would be, if only there was the vision to make it happen.

1 comment:

Eric said...

Nice update and winter photography, Michael. Thanks for sharing,