Thursday, February 14, 2019

One of these things is not like the others

I've been sifting through my years of photos and trying to put together some thematic posts in the last little while. This week, I came across another idea as I was driving to Drummondville, Quebec (don't ask, long story). After I had finally made my way past Montreal, I found myself heading east on the Autoroute 20 around Saint Hyacinthe when I came across one of the more bizarre sites I've seen in my years observing railways. There, in the middle of a 100km/h stretch of a four-lane divided highway, was a single track level railway crossing. I was amazed that a railway would cross a major highway in this way, as it seemed to me to be a very dangerous proposition. As I was driving by, I noticed an "Exempt" sign, which I have generally understood to mean that the crossing is longer in use. Still, at one time, it was and as I was driving by, I noticed a CN GP9 switching local industry not far from the highway, errr, autoroute. 

That got me to thinking of some of the strange things I have seen in my time trackside, so here is a small sampling of random disorder.

In the early 1990s, I came across the experimental Bombardier HR 616 freight diesel in the Sarnia Yard. It was hitched to a string of idle locomotives. At the time, I thought nothing of it, but realized years later that this unit was quite rare indeed. This model of diesel was even loaned to CP for a while, even though it still sported the CN safety scheme.

More recently, I was trackside in Bedell and about to leave, when I spotted a long tank train barreling west toward my spot. The train was an ethanol train, which meant each tank car was exactly the same. 

Well, not quite. What's that white tank car doing in that consist?

I've often seen some strange consists at the Ottawa Via station. Usually, Via Rail corridor consists are made up solely of LRC coaches or stainless steel Budd streamliners, but Via sometimes mixes it up. Sometimes you see a rare P42-F40PH-2 lash-up, usually when a locomotive needs to be bailed out. Whenever you see an outlier in the consist, it's a treat.

Then there's the rare single carload that you might see on a freight train. This used to be much more common. That's what makes it so special these days when you catch a single car that stands out on a long train. Here's one of my favourite catches, which happened in Wyoming in 2017. I should mention that this train had five diesels leading the way, which is itself an outlier these days.

This one is from a freight heading west on the Kingston Sub. My wife caught this load of axles right behind the power. Makes me think that would be an easy thing to replicate on my home layout, once I get back to working on it.

Here's another oddity I found when I caught a CP mixed freight westbound on the Galt Sub at Industrial Road in London in 2016. A single load of untreated telephone poles. Who said carload freight was dead?

This one might be my favourite. When I chased trains as a kid in my hometown, there was always the potential for something special on the CSX Sarnia Sub, like this very rare B&O clad GP38-2. This one lasted well into the 1990s, surviving a Chessie and CSX repaint. I have a HO scale version of this type of unit on my layout (although my Ho scale version is a GP35).

I can't wait until I find my next outlier. When you rarely get to see trains, it's the oddities that are the rare prize. I wonder what's next.


Canadian Train Geek said...

The outliers are indeed the prize. I often say that railfans are like bird watchers - looking for the unusual.

Good catch on that Bombardier unit!

There are a few of those highway crossings still around... there's one outside Moncton on the Trans-Canada which is pretty odd, and still in use.

Michael said...

Well said, Steve. Never been compared to a birder, before!

Kevin from Windsor said...

Back in the early to mid 70s, I recall there being a railroad level crossing across Highway 401 somewhere in Ajax, Whitby or Oshawa. It was protected by a crossbuck with flashers, but no gates. When I was a kid, we once had to stop at that crossing to allow a crew on a track speeder to cross. The crossing was eventually grade separated, with the tracks elevated above the highway. We only went that way once or twice a year back then, and these days it's rare for me to travel east of Toronto. Thus I don't recall where the level crossing/flyover was, or even if it's still there. After all, much of the industrial land in that area has been replaced by shopping plazas and tract housing. But it would probably be easy to spot on an old map.

Kevin from Windsor said...

Another outlier. Summer 1980. CN business car Bonaventure was parked by itself on a siding in front of the VIA (CN) station in Guelph. Didn't know at the time that it was a business car. Discovered that later thanks to the all-knowing, all-seeing Internet. Back then it was just an unusual passenger car because it had no railroad name, nor logo on it and it had an observation platform. Even more unusual was the fact that it was parked at a through station that wouldn't be used to stage or makeup trains. Anxious to see the inside of the car, I climbed aboard the outside platform. If the door was unlocked, I was even considering going inside. But the car was occupied, by a group of Oriental men, all wearing long white robes similar to what men might wear in Pakistan. To this day, I remain curious as to who they were, what brought them to Guelph and why they were camped out on a stationary business car. I even submitted this question to Ask Trains (Trains magazine), along with my photo of the car, but they never replied. Any ideas?

Eric May said...

The grade crossings of the 401 east of Toronto were at Pickering, Whitby and Bomanville. Only Bomanville got upgraded to a grade separation. The other two were long gone by then.

Keith Boardman said...

Something else not like the others...

I was driving in the east end this morning and saw a signal I have never seen. The signal was blue. I'm guessing it could have meant there was some kind of snow removal in progress. I heard a whistle a few minutes later when I was getting out of the car in Vars, but wasn't able to see anything going by.

Any idea what a blue signal means?

Michael said...

Interesting comments, guys. I didn't know that there were grade crossings on the 401, which seems like a recipe for disaster. Kevin from Windsor, I wish I had an answer for you. My best guess is that a group chartered a train and it was parked at Guelph station. This is not without precedent. There is a musician who charters a Via Rail consist when he tours Canada (can't think of his name off hand).