Thursday, August 20, 2020

It's not the end of the world as we know it (and I feel fine)

The summer of my not-so-amazing luck continues, but before I get into some new content (finally have some new meets and pics to share!), I wanted to touch on something that seems to be top of mind here in Eastern Ontario and Ottawa these days.

No, it's not the perpetually awful O-Train.

It's the fate of freight railways in the capital. In case you've been living under a rock, you know that CN has filed to discontinue service on the former Ottawa Central in this region. It doesn't come as a surprise to me, since this is hardly a strategic or important operation for this railway.

But I do want to remind you of a few things. You might recall (or you might not) that the former head of the Ottawa Central told this blog that he thought there was a good opportunity for a short line to resume operations in the city. This is not a railfan offering his opinion. This is the guy who successfully operated OCR in this region for years, before a recession forced the hand of OCR's parent company.

Here's another item to consider. Closer to my hometown, there is a significant portion of the old CSX Sarnia Subdivision, which has been dormant for several years. The railways wanted to pull up the line, but the Municipality of Chatham-Kent bought the rails in its territory to try and salvage an important freight link for its businesses and farmers. The prospects of a new operation were dim for years. At one point, Ontario Southland considered the operation, but backed away.

Well, lo and behold, a company has indeed purchased the line with the intention of operating a short line, mainly for rural customers along the line. I mention this because I see the CN operation here in Ottawa as very much the same type of short line. It has a limited customer base, but the beautiful part is, there seems to be very little overhead, compared to what OCR had to shoulder when it operated here. And who knows what a company focused on carload business can do when it has feet on the ground in the city who are solely focused on small customers?

So, I will say once again that this is not the end of freight railways in Ottawa. Not yet, anyway.


Anonymous said...

Two things that I want to address.

The first is that no stakeholders have shown any serious interest in running a short line in Ottawa. CN has shown no interest in spinning off the operation. The reality is that even if an operation is viable, that doesn't mean it will survive. 589 serves a surprisingly large number of customers and runs 7 days per week but unfortunately, it would seem that they are up the river if something doesn't change soon.

The second is that nobody knows who purchased the south end of the Sarnia Sub. 2719545 Ontario Inc. is what they are called but nobody has any idea what their intentions are. To say it is saved is very much a stretch.

Michael said...

Thanks for your comments, but what you failed to mention, and as did I in my post, is that railfans in Chatham-Kent have already seen MoW equipment inspecting the south end of the Sarnia Sub line and company officials have been speaking with potential customers along the line. Sounds like good news to me.

And to suggest no one would want the service up here in Ottawa because nothing has happened yet is also a stretch on your part, I would suggest. These things take time. It's not a turnkey operation for a new operator. It's complicated for all the reasons I've mentioned.

So, perhaps we're both off the mark a bit. I'm happy to be wrong. It makes no difference to me. But when a rail veteran like James Allen tells me there's lots of potential here, I believe him.

So we'll agree to disagree.

Anonymous said...

Its been 3 years.. no rail activity north of Chatham. Who bought it anyway?