Thursday, January 18, 2018

Making up for lost time: Catching up with GEXR in Kitchener

My two years spent in Kitchener-Waterloo seem like a lost opportunity to me, in some ways. I worked in Kitchener for two years and, for the most part, enjoyed my time there immensely. But as I look back, I wonder how much railfanning I could have done, had I had a mind to do so when I lived there. At the time however, I was not into railfanning so the only photo I have from my time in KW is a shot from Kolb Park of the train trestle over the Grand River, which you can see inthis post.
However, I had the opportunity to turn my regret into something positive when I visited KW with my family in November. On a gloomy, misty Sunday, as my wife attended a conference, I took my girls with me to Kitchener so they could visit The Museum, a kids-focused museum on King Street in Kitchener. I made sure to plot a route that took me past the Kitchener Via Rail train station on Victoria Street.
When we reached the station, I finally saw some active Goderich Exeter Railway freight operations in action. This was the first time I have photographed this fascinating railway. You will remember from my numerous posts about Goderich, Ont. that I have tried to capture some active GEXR operations for years, but have always had to settle for some static images, like this shot of a pre-Genesee &Wyoming livery GP9 parked in the GEXR Goderich yard, just up the hill from the salt mine on Lake Huron.

I've finally seen some live GEXR operations.

Well, wasn’t my timing just perfect when I saw a duo of GEXR geeps and a tank car back into a spot in front of the GEXR offices, right next to the Via station. I have always told myself it would be cool to get some photos in this spot with those iconic vintage industrial buildings in the background.

I began from this angle, since the two units were still moving. I wasn’t sure how long my window would be to catch this tiny consist (which was about as long as the Arnprior Turn, incidentally). The two units then stopped and the crew began to shuffle around outside, which allowed to try some different shots and get a bit more detail.

The first unit, obviously of UP origin, is a leased unit from Locomotive Leasing Partners, still in the UP sergeant’s yellow. This is a fact of life for short lines. Very few seem to have their own fleet of colour-coordinated motive power now. I was pretty happy with this shot, which I framed between the Via station (left) and the GEXR building (right).

Upon closer inspection of the G&W painted unit, I was pleasantly surprised to see it was in fact a Quebec Gatineau Railway unit. This short line is just across the river from me in Ottawa, but I have yet to get some solid information as to when it would be best to shoot the QGRY’s operations near Buckingham. I still have it on my to-do list, but this contact might be the next best thing until then. 

I tried to get a close up of the “Kitchener” sign that was perched on this pipe next to the short consist. I’m not exactly sure if this pipe is connected to an underground fuel storage tank or serves some other purpose. Given that crews seem to change here and the railway has a small yard just to the east of this spot, I am speculating that this might be a servicing point. Someone who is more knowledgeable than me can let me know.

One last overall shot. I really like how the old industrial buildings provide the ideal background for these units. There is a timeless quality to this scene, which could be taken at any time. The crew on this consist must get the occasional railfan on the platform. They didn't seem fazed by my presence.

I thought I was done so I took my girls to the museum where they had a ball. On the way back to our hotel, I was happy to see another GEXR train doing some shunting near the station, although it was blocking a fair bit of traffic on Lancaster Avenue. Much of the train seemed to be comprised of covered hoppers, which made me wonder if it was carrying the products of the fall harvest.

I was in a left turn lane trying to get onto Lancaster. After waiting through too many light cycles, I pulled a U turn and made my way to St. Croix Street, since the train didn’t seem to be in a rush to clear the crossing. I was able to get this fleeting glimpse of the head end of the train, which finally backed into the yard and cleared the crossings. This was taken just off St. Croix Street, behind a plaza that was next to the Guelph Subdivision tracks.

The lead unit reminded me of the old Seaboard System/Family Lines System locomotives that sometimes made their way to CSX’s Canadian operations near Windsor and sometimes even Sarnia. Upon closer look, the unit turned out to be QGRY 6908. You can just make out the G&W style logo on the short hood. 

What’s interesting about this little bit of luck is that, just the day before, I had a chat with a friend from Kitchener and I was telling her that living with regret isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I told her that I really resent people telling me that’s it unhealthy to live with regret. I understand the sentiment, but I really do believe that resenting something in your past is never a bad thing, if you use that resentment as motivation to make things right.

This is one time when I was thankful for resenting missed opportunities.

If there was one downside to this railfanning experience, it was that the weather was pretty awful, as I had to contend with rain and mist, which made for some interesting touch-ups. If you want to see much better photography of GEXR operations, check out Steve Boyko's Kitchener Rainfanning post from his blog, Confessions of a Train Geek. I'm glad someone had decent weather in KW!


Steve Boyko said...

Hey Michael, I'm glad you caught those units in Kitchener! It sure does look like awful weather, so kudos for you for going out and shooting anyway. I really like that photo of 2236 between the station and the freight house.

It looks like that grey unit you caught at the end is GCFX 6903, an ex Alstom SD40-3.

Thanks for the shout-out!

Michael said...

Thanks, Steve. It was a nice surprise to see your post from KW. I like the shots you got from the opposite side of the station platform. It's an interesting railfanning city and I'm glad I finally snapped a few train shots.

DaveM said...


You were wondering about info on QGRY. I've found that it usually leaves Thurso for Masson between 9-10am on Monday, Wednesday, and Fridays. I'm unsure which of those days it heads Buckingham or Gatineau, but you can see it depart from Masson in to see which direction it is going.


Eric said...

You can not miss with the Krug buildings as a backdrop. Great railfanning, Michael!

Michael said...

Great info, Dave! All I need now is the time to check out those operations. Thanks for the link and comments, Eric. I cannot think of many railway stations that have an historic backdrop the likes of this one. I hope to get back there soon and catch some more vintage photos.

Graydon Johnston said...

Great shots Michael! Even though you were mentioning about your regreatment for not seeing much GEXR during your two years here, bet your glad you caught at least some action this day as GEXR is a thing of the past in KW now.
One quick question though regarding your shot of them pulling into the engine sidings with the single tanker, do you remember what direction they came in from? From Stratford, the yard? Or did you just drive up by the time they were pulling in?
Im kind of wondering if they had a weekend extra that day to Elmira on the Waterloo Spur? Last known daylight run on the Waterloo Spur to Elmira was a weekend extra on a Sunday in Nov 2016 but that’s the last one we are aware of for the time being.