Here's a breath of fresh air if you are a long suffering railfan or rail advocate in Ottawa. According to the Capital Current, the city is actually in talks with CN to purchase the small pieces of trackage it still owns in the city, which includes the tracks in and around Walkley Yard and the Beachburg Subdivision leading up to the old Nepean Junction.
The story notes that the talks are very preliminary but are a priority since the old CN line roughly parallels Hunt Club Road through numerous large subdivisions in the southern portion of the old City of Ottawa and in the western suburbs of Nepean. The story also notes that the talks will likely pick up once the discontinuance of service is made official and the line is offficially on the block.
The story itself has some curious statements. A city official told the Current that the city already owns the Renfrew, Carleton Place and Prescott trackage. But, back up a bit and that statement doesn't make a lot of sense.
Yes, the city owns the land for the Renfrew Spur, although not the actual tracks, which are owned by Nylene Canada in Arnprior. The city may "own" the Carleton Place trackage, but that is also a misleading statement, since no part of the old Carleton Place Sub is intact anymore. The last little bit in Bells Corners was ripped out to make way for a suburban street that will lead to an infill residential development near the Bellwood trailer park community. And the rest of the old right-of-way is now a recreational trail through parts of southern Kanata and the older part of Stittsville. The Prescott trackage, the remnants of the old CP Prescott Sub, are being transformed into an extention of the O-Train Trillium Line leading to the Ottawa airport and the Riverside South community. The trackage was still used occasionally to spot cars at the NRC research facility near the airport. Beyond that, the line was ripped up.
The story does point out that a government would be able to buy the rails at the salvage rate, rather than the going commercial rate. This is also a statement worth examining, because there was a great deal of controversy when the Pontiac municipality in Quebec desperately tried to salvage the old CN tracks within its boundaries, but found that the railway's idea of "salvage" rate was exorbitant.In other words, the municipality thought the price was set far too high, as a way to lift the rails and use them elsewhere on the CN system.
I have to ask, if securing these tracks was such a priority for the city, where were city officials several years ago when a portion of the Beachburg Sub leading into North Kanata and beyond to Fitzroy Harbour was torn up? What a waste of an opportunity to connect Kanata via rails to the rest of the city. As it stands now, Kanata will have to wait for Stage 3 to get light rail while much of the rest of the city (Orleans, Blackburn Hamlet, Westboro, Riverside South, Crystal Beach, Bells Corners, Algonquin College, parts of Nepean) will have rails within close proximity when Phase 2 is complete.
If I lived in Kanata, I would find that utterly unacceptable.
That raises the next question of what will happen to the remaining freight services in the city and Eastern Ontario. CN is clearly checking out of the region. I wonder if that means that someone like James Allen from the old Ottawa Central is looking at starting a scaled-down freight short line operation in the city that would provide freight services in off hours under a running rights scenario with the city. I also have to wonder if such an operation would even be worthwhile.
Although, it's important to remember that a short line could very well reach out and attract new business, since they are much better equipped to run this type of operation, compared to CN.
Any freight operation would require some cooperation with the city since the rails would have to accommodate both standard freight trains and light rail operations.
I suppose we can at least be content for the moment that the city is actually doing something constructive for once. In my opinion, they should have been taking this approach years ago, but what's done is done. Let's just hope that there might be railfanning worth pursuing in this city in the years to come.