Friday, November 8, 2019

Postcard from Vaughan

This is the latest installment of an occasional series where I take a single photo and share some thoughts about it. You can read the other postcard posts by clicking the links below.

Postcard from Chemical Valley (2015)
Postcard from Saint Laurent Boulevard (2015)
Postcard from Twin Elm (2016)
Postcards from Alberta (2016)

Somewhere between the time when I was young and now, railways have become a lot less friendly. I don't mean to make this sound like a gripe, but merely an observation. I remember kids walking through my hometown on the CSX tracks all the time when I was young, even though the rail line was much more active than it is today.

Even here in Ottawa, I love to see the old images of Walkley Yard and other rail installations around this city from decades past. It is obvious from those images that people could walk onto railway property and take photos of trains at just about any time. Go to any rail history blog or website and you're sure to come across tales of people who made friends with railway workers and took photos on their railway's property at will.

No more.

Railways have become much more serious about their property in the last two decades. There are a number of reasons why this has happened, not the least of which is the heightened concern over security. When I was young, I often walked along tracks and wandered onto railway properties. I'm sure many people of my vintage will say the same thing. Try that today and you're sure to get yourself into a lot of trouble (in other words, don't try it).

This summer, as my family made its way to Southwestern Ontario to visit family, I kept my camera nearby in the passenger seat of our car, just in case we got lucky and saw a train along the highway. Sadly, I had no luck in Kingston, where the Kingston Subdivision parallels Highway 401 for a lengthy stretch.

However, as we were making our way through Toronto on the 407, I readied my camera near CN's massive Macmillan Yard and hoped there might be something worth capturing. In fact, there was. Barely discernible above the concrete highway barrier  was a CN unit marshalling a long line of autoracks.

I tried to clean up the image a bit, but there's only so much you can do as your car is passing by at 100 km/h. But it did get something, which is better than nothing. Especially for me.

I've said this in posts recently. As much as I liked going to rail yards when I was kid, I really try to stay away from them now, given the choice. I find I'm much happier out there near a busy main line (when I am near one) finding a good piece of landscape to frame a passing train.

But I remember being mesmerized by the thought of seeing this yard when I was young. I suppose if I find myself in Vaughan in the future, I might seek out the one small viewing platform on the edge of the yard at the side of a busy road. It would no doubt be fun to capture a bunch of trains all at once, provided there was activity in the yard at that time.

I guess I'm so used to the thrill of the chase along a main line and having to work extremely hard for my shots that the allure of something easy doesn't excite me like it once did.

Maybe I like this shot because it was so hard to capture.


Keith Boardman said...

When we were kids (pre-1984), my dad would take my brother and me to the yard at the bottom of the Don Valley Parkway where it turns into the Gardiner Expressway. We would only drive through it, but it was a thrill for us regardless. Pretty sure nobody every gave us a hard time. Also pretty sure that yard is ancient history now.

Michael said...

It probably is, as almost all freight activity in the GTA is consolidated in the burbs now. Whenever I go for a walk during my lunch hour in Hull, I walk past the old CP yard on Montcalm and Hansen and wonder what it must have looked like in its heyday. Oh well.

Eric said...

My visit to Mac Yard was on Highway 7. Very dangerous on foot, but I survived! Far from non-stop action. A lot of back-and-forth. CN tries to keep the cars moving and the yard fluid, and space trains so they arrive not at the same time.

Interested to see it from that vantage point!
Thanks for sharing,

Michael said...

Thanks for the comment, Eric. I don't know that I will chance this walk if I am in Vaughan, but I do remember your post from that lookout and it looked like the trip was worth the risk!

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