I've made the trip from Ottawa to the Sarnia area on Highway 401 more times than most people. Being from Sarnia originally and having lived in Ottawa most of my adult life, the trip is unavoidable as much of my family remains in the Sarnia area. While it is a long, often boring drive with very little in the way of scenery, it at least gives me the opportunity to get a glimpse of the busy CN, Via Rail and GO Train operations along the CN mainline through the Greater Toronto Area.
Recently, my family spent part of our March Break in Toronto, as we visited the city's zoo. On the way into Toronto, I was able to get a quick shot of what appeared to be an eastbound local freight as it made its way east around the General Motors office building in Oshawa.
Of course, it wasn't much of a shot as it was taken from the passenger seat of our car, which was travelling west on the highway. The train was lead by a solo unit, which I believe was CN 2334, which is an ES44DC. I got a few shots where the number was almost legible, so this is my best guess. The train was about 50 cars long, with two buffer cars behind the power and another buffer car at the rear.
This was about all I saw on my travels, with the exception of a freight I glimpsed in Kingston as it passed below the highway, but I was not in a position to capture a proper image from the eastbound lanes across to where the train was.
Oshawa is an interesting place.When I was a reporter at the Peterborough Examiner, this city loomed large in the Central Ontario economy. Many people commuted into the city to work at the GM plant, or for the industries that fed the plant. I recall being assigned a series of stories about downtown revival in a number of cities, including Oshawa. At the time (2003), the city's downtown had seen better times, although efforts were afoot to create housing in the core and take advantage of the creation of what was then known as the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (OIUT), now known as Ontario Tech University.
Given the waxing and waning fortunes of the city's automotive industry, Oshawa had certainly seen changes of fortunes over the years. It still maintains a robust economy, given its commuter town status that feeds into the City of Toronto. Oshawa's GO Train service remains steady, which insulates the town from economic busts, as many people have the option to work in Toronto and live in Oshawa. I'm not sure how much of this has changed amid the pandemic, when many people ditched their daily commute to work from home.
As you can see, the Oshawa Via Rail/GO Train station is a busy place, with frequent GO Train service, not to mention a steady presence of autoracks. It's tough to photograph from the 401, but I tried. It's a modern, well-equipped station with a massive park-and-ride parking lot for commuters. Ottawa would love to have the same type of ridership for its troubled O-Train as GO Transit enjoys in cities like Oshawa.
As we were heading east, we passed by the GO Transit maintenance facility in Whitby, which is a train facility I would like to visit. You can just make out the GO locomotive at the left, parked in front of the building.
Here's another shot of the maintenance facility, with a few cars parked in front near the paint shop.
As I as preparing this post, I remembered that I had taken a quick shot of the Union-Pearson Express at the Pearson International Airport last September when my wife and I were returning to Ottawa from a trip to Indiana. This shot was taken from inside the terminal, but I liked how it turned out, even with the window frames in the shot. You get a clear idea of the size of these trains as well as the UP Terminal at the airport. There's something about the look of these trains that I like. I can't put my finger on it. I like them, though. I suppose anything is better than Ottawa's hideously ugly O-Trains.
I often mention on this blog that travelling along the 401, or anywhere outside of Ottawa for that matter, is an opportunity to capture an image of railway activity. I realize that many of these shots are not all that riveting and most don't show you all that much, but for me it's part of the challenge of capturing something when travelling through southern Ontario.
Once in a while, you get something. When you never see mainline action, something is better than nothing.