Wednesday, February 5, 2020

The Railfan 5, Take Two

If you have been reading this blog for years, you might remember that, in 2014, I participated in the Railfan Five challenge, an initiative that began with Eric Gagnon of the Trackside Treasure blog (click the Trackside Treasure link for his latest five). He's been a great influence on me. When he asked me to come up with another five photos that tell my railfan story, I readily agreed. I had to give it some thought, because Eric suggested five photos from five years. In his case, he joked that coming up with five was tough for him, given the embarrassment of riches he had to sift through from his time trackside on the mainline in Kingston. Here in Ottawa, the size of the photo vault is considerably smaller.

But then, inspiration struck.

I was just beginning to go through my 2015 photos when I started looking through my file labelled "Arnprior Local." I found a photo I instantly loved and decided that it should be my shot for 2015. Then it occurred to me that maybe finding a shot of the Arnprior Turn for 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019 might be a fun idea.

After all, for better or worse, this tiny runt of a train has become this blog's calling card more than anything else. I have mixed feelings about that, since I always want to offer more, but I also appreciate that readers are enamored with this train for various reasons. And, I have to say, since this train is so hard to catch, it makes every one of my photos of 589 special. So, without further ado, here is my Railfan Five, which really does tell the story of this blog, my railfanning in recent years and the state of railways in Ottawa.
Sept. 2015

This shot was taken when I had a few minutes of spare time before picking up with daughter at her daycare provider's house. My newborn baby was along for the ride, since she didn't like me much at first and would only settle down when I took her for a car ride. To be honest, 2015 was a very tough time for me, as I really struggled with my health and nearly gave up blogging. But then, little moments like this occurred and they always managed to stir within me that passion I have for railways. This shot really captures the ragged glory of the Beachburg Subdivision and the remnants of CN's operations in this part of the country.

Feb. 2016

Again, remember when I said that every time I caught this train, it was an achievement? This meet was fleeting and it almost didn't happen. I was on my way home from the hospital after undergoing an early morning MRI when I made sure to make my way home close to the tracks. It was on this miserable winter morning that I caught the one-car Arnprior Turn meandering its way through Bells Corners. I had to fire off a few blind shots from my car while keeping my eyes on the road. I ended up with some spectacular winter shots. I know some people would take issue with the poles and visual distractions, but I like them. If I'm going to show CN's operations here as they really are, then I have to show all the imperfections.

April 2017

This is the one meet I don't have a good story for, sadly. Those who read this blog know that my strengths do not necessarily lie with the technical knowledge of railways. Instead, I feel my strength lies with the personal stories and the big picture thoughts on railways in general. That's why I wish I had something profound to share about this meet, but I don't. An old warhorse GP9 pulls a string of four cars west (four cars! That's as good as it gets on this line). The great thing about chasing the Arnprior Turn is that you are almost always guaranteed to see a classic piece of motive power. CN doesn't usually have anything new working up here. And that's okay with me.

April 2018

This shot was taken from atop of snow pile at the end of a very long winter. It was also taken at a time when I was having a phenomenally hard time at work, right before I switched ministries and found a much better job in the public service. I recall capturing this shot and once again feeling better about life in general. And that is something I can't stress enough. For me, being trackside makes life better. It's a stress reliever and it's a way for me to connect with my family history. There's something about railways that runs very deep within me. It's very hard to explain. When I was putting together this post and came up with the idea of featuring the Arnprior Turn as my theme, I keep hoping against hope that I actually had a shot for each year. This was my only meet with this train in 2018. That snow pile really helped the shot, coincidentally.

March 2019

Have you noticed that, of all the shots I've shared of CN trains on the Beachburg Sub, not one features a current CN livery? All of them but one have the safety scheme. This last one was really special since I was able to capture some leased power in the midst of a snow squall. Once again, I was standing on a snow pile about 10-12 feet high, which allowed me to avoid chopping off half the train behind the weed-choked fencing. I remember when I first arrived at this spot that day, there was no snow falling. But by the time the train rumbled by, most of my shots were almost blurry because of severity of this squall. It makes no difference. It made for a very interesting shot.

So, I'd be lying if I said that my story as a railfan in the last five years didn't somehow include this train. CN 589 has been a cruel mistress at times, but it has also done wonders for this blog. So, despite my somewhat lukewarm feelings toward CN, I am grateful for what little success I've had in the last few years.

I remember in the original Railfan Five post that everyone who took up the challenge made a mention of a train-related organization that they intended to support. In my case, my support in the coming year will be directed at the Railway Museum of Eastern Ontario in Smiths Falls. They do tremendous work with not a lot of help. This museum is a must for all railfans. I can't wait to bring my girls back there this spring.

Other Railfan 5 blog entries worth checking out include Steve Boyko's Railfan 5 on his Traingeek site as well as Chris Mears' entry on his site, Prince Street.


Eric said...

I really like the annual/stepwise approach you've taken to the Challenge, Michael! Catching that train year-on-year shows changes in its operations, as well as reinforcing that 100-car bulk unit trains ain't everything!

You've showing how Model and Railfan Local 2020 can be a fun pursuit - remembering what's right under our noses and how meaningful (and stress-relieving!) it can be.

Thanks for sharing your Five!

Steve Boyko said...

I love that you chose to feature the Arnprior Local over the last 5 years. What a great idea!

I think the poles and the weather and all the imperfections of the line really add to the photos, not detract from them. Anybody can stand at a crossing and capture a 3/4 wedgie roster shot, but the photos with atmosphere and backgrounds and foregrounds really capture the scene and the feeling of the day. You do that and I appreciate it.

Thanks for the reminder about supporting train-related organizations. I remembered that once when writing my post, but it slipped my mind. I'll go add it.

Michael said...

Thanks, Eric and Steve. This was a fun exercise to share with fellow bloggers.