Friday, February 22, 2019

Some facepalm moments

A few railway headlines recently made me think of bringing together another themed package for a post. The new Via Rail order for Siemens Charger locomotives made me shake my head. Not because I don’t think the chargers aren’t a great pick. They seem like very capable locomotives and they are, in my opinion, a real aesthetic upgrade over the hideously ugly P42s and the boxy F40PH-2s.

But the paint scheme has me baffled, if Via follows through with its goals to have a yellow black and grey colour scheme. I don't have a huge problem with the colours on the surface, but it seems really odd that a railway would use a light colour on the top of a locomotive, where it is sure to bear the signs of engine exhaust in no time flat. Yes, the Chargers will be much cleaner-running engines than what we see on the rails today, but yellow on top and black in the centre? Makes no sense. I won’t get into the longstanding issue I’ve had with the railway over its incoherent colour schemes and liveries over the years. Pick a good scheme and stick with it.

I don’t have a problem with the half maple leaf on the end of the unit, since Ottawa’s city buses have sported the same leaf design for decades. It’s the choice of yet another new colour scheme that makes no sense to me. Look to railways like CN and UP as good examples of sticking with a good thing. It creates trust and reinforces the best things about your brand.

This leads me to my favourite railway target of all: the bumbling City of Ottawa. Let’s just put it this way. It’s absolutely bizarre how the consortium building the new Confederation Line LRT could have gotten this far along in their testing and not have some sort of plan in place for a heavy snowfall. I mention this because one of the city’s new Citadis Spirit LRT consists was marooned somewhere on the Confederation Line because of the heavy snowfall. That unfortunate blunder cost the consortium a few days of testing, as they figured out how to clear the line and rescue this train.

I will say nothing of the growing realization that this consortium will miss its third completion deadline, if recent media reports are to be believed. But not having a plan in place for heavy snowfall? In Ottawa? C’mon, people. I know that no one at city hall has any clue about railways, but we all know about snowfall. Figure it out.

Here's a quick shot of one of the new Citadis Spirit O-Train consists at Pimisi Station on the Lebreton Flats. Behind you will see Place du Portage, the massive government office complex in Hull. I waited for a while for this train to pull out of the station, so I could get a better shot of it, but it just stayed there, seemingly stuck. Kinda fitting.

And one of the companies that is responsible for this first phase of the LRT is also in the running to be part of the second phase of the railway construction. That contract will be handed out next week. I won't say much about the company: SNC Lavalin.

All I will say is I am not all that impressed with the delays with phase one, nor am I pleased with what I've read about this company, as it pertains to national affairs, if the media is to be believed.

For so many reasons I will not get into here, we can do better.


Eric said...

Interesting thoughts on two developing stories, Michael.

It remains to be seen if the VIA scheme will endure the time between now, and when the units are delivered. Come on, blue and yellow!


GP9Rm4108 said...

While I completely understand that equipment needs to be replaced, the new VIA equipment is UGLY in every way you look at it. The design of those engines is awful, especially the cab end and that paint scheme is just horrendous.

AJ said...

Still too big a fan of those F40PH-2s to get behind these. But I agree, the scheme leaves much to be desired (me being nice - what I would like to say isn't PG13 lol). Stick with what works. If they are changing it to run away from the historical track record of issues, maybe spend time and money fixing that....

Which leads me to the city. I knew all along this was going to be a blunder which is why I long supported Andy Hayden's bid for mayor on the basis of his rapid transit plan back in 2010 and 2014. I had a strong feeling this project would never be delivered on time and close to budget. And here we are.
As many people who know me know, I also hated the light rail plan and though that the mayor and city was hoodwinking everyone into believing that this was in fact heavy rail and not essentially fancy streetcars. Clearly had it been heavy rail, we'd not be in the mess we are today. How they could green light something in the tracks that was engineered for a certain climate but never tested is literally the stupidest thing I have heard in years. Honestly, with all the other transit situations in other cities in cold climates, how could we screw something so integral as the tracks up?
The saddest part is that I am 100% confident that the next big screw up will occur sometime this spring when we have a classic Ottawa freezing rain storm. I maintain there was a reason the overhead wires were not shown in renderings early on in the project. In fact, most people I know and work with had no idea they even ran on wires (these are people who work along the line and even walk by it) and were surprised me telling them had been the first they'd heard of it. Now lots of cold climates have overhead wires like Calgary or Edmonton - but they don't have much freezing rain. There is a reason Ottawa doesn't have overhead lines for transportation purposes. They did away with these and the streetcars in the 60's because freezing rain would cause KOS and buses were simpler to maintain and move around. Mark my words, we will see history repeat itself here with this line. The sad part is it won't come until well after taxpayers have wasted a couple of billion. The sad part is that if we had heavy rail (which obviously is proven with VIA operating over generations) set up instead, we would accomplish the goal of having a rail based transportation system.

Adam A said...

Most VIA rail paints schemes seem to historically be either blue/black/yellow, or blue/grey/yellow ... with varying shades of blue its like they decided to merge these two schemes into black/grey/yellow ... probably the worst option. But if you look at the Canada 150 and VIA 40 wraps they are just yellow/ grey with a bit of red for the logos and what not so it seems as if VIA has already made the decision to go away with the blue for those wraps and liked what they saw. Personally I like the blue it adds a bit more colour.

As for LRT until the reports came out about the reliability of the vehicles I was not concerned because despite all the problems construction has had I thought vehicle selection would not be a big issue seeing as the city has successfully run two different vehicle models on the trillium line. I thought this success would translate over in choosing a Confederation line vehicle but I guess this system is just a different beast.

Michael said...

Thanks for the comments, gentlemen. I love the passion that some posts bring out. While I don't think the new Chargers are as ugly as some of you think, I have to say that my comments are mainly coloured by my hatred of the P42 look. I will miss the F40s when they are gone, but I think I can get used to the Chargers.