Saturday, June 10, 2023

Déjà vu in St. Jacobs

Last summer, my family was in Waterloo for a music camp at Wilfrid Laurier University (here's the post about KW rail sightings). It was in close proximity to St Jacobs, which is the home of the Waterloo Central Railway tourist line. Longtime readers might recall my first visit to this railway's yard, which is located along the CN Elmira Subdivision. The first time I shot this operation in 2018, it was a cold wet November day, when the rails were silent. My daughters and I took a few photos from public property and had to take shelter before a downpour spoiled our fun a bit (or, my fun, to be fair).

This past summer, in a break during our music camp activities, I managed to break away and head north to St. Jacobs to see if there were any other old antiques in the yard that I didn't catch on my previous visit. Luckily for me, there were some great old antiques on display, although their position in the yard made it difficult for me to get some decent shots. And despite the fact that we visited the area in the midst of a prolonged dry spell, we had to duck into our car again to avoid a sudden downpour. Eerie déjà vu.

A quick bit of history. The Waterloo Central is a tourist line that has operated on the CN Elmira Sub for a number of years and is the latest incarnation of a tourist operation that has operated on this line on and off over the years. Up until the Region of Waterloo repurposed much of CN's tracks in Waterloo for its Ion light rail operation, the WCR began its runs from Waterloo. Now, the short line starts its runs from a retail area just south of St. Jacobs, near the border with the City of Waterloo.

When my daughter and I arrived last August, there was a collection of old locomotives huddled next to the short line's engine house. My daughter and I both took some shots of this scene. I wish I could have gotten some clean shots of these engines, but I did like how this one turned out. It really fits with my new approach to rail photography, where I am trying to get creative with my images.

You can see former BC Rail MLW S13 locomotive 1002 clad in the old Canadian Pacific-inspired maroon, grey and yellow scheme. This unit was built in 1959 for BC Rail predecessor Pacific Great Eastern. After its life at BC Rail, it was sold to the Ontario Southland Railway in 1997. The Waterloo Central took ownership in 2018.

At the back is what I assume is former Canadian National SW switch engine 1012 in the old CN yellow and olive green scheme. In consulting the Southwestern Ontario Locomotive Restoration Society's (organization behind the Waterloo Central) fleet of engines, this one is not listed. The photo I took does not capture the full unit number, so its story remains a mystery for now.

In the foreground is a Waterloo Central heavyweight baggage car painted again in the CP maroon and grew scheme. The WCR has made great strides in recent years in painting much of its fleet or repainting it in a CP maroon and grey scheme. I recall during previous visits that some of its cars were still sporting the original Via Rail blue and yellow scheme, albeit with the WCR logo in place of the Via logo. Here's a better shot of the old baggage car.

If you are looking for old RDCs, the WCR has several of them in its St Jacobs yard, including this one, which was parked next to a heavyweight coach with a rear facing porch. Two different eras of passenger rail side by side. It was cool to get an image of these two together.

Here's another shot of more RDCs, a little to the south of the Via Rail painted unit. These ones have seen better days, as their faded blue and yellow liveries attests. You can just see a bit of a heavyweight coach in the foreground. These photos were taken from the edge of a nearby school yard. It was a challenge to shot through the brush at the edge of the tracks.

At this point, the rain had begun to fall. I took this shot from the end of a suburban street, which abuts the tracks. You can see a former Essex Terminal Rail caboose linked to a maroon-clad caboose and another WCR maroon and yellow baggage car. This society has an extensive collection of passenger equipment and cabooses, including a Toronto, Hamilton & Buffalo caboose. I was not able to get a clear shot of that car, as the rain turned into a downpour shortly after I took this shot.

This was the best I could do to get a shot of the TH&B caboose, which was tucked in behind another passenger coach near the engine house. The engine house, it should be noted, is where the group keeps its steam engine. I have never seen that machine out of the engine house. I find it interesting that the WCR paints its passenger cars with both the "Waterloo Central" and "Waterloo Central Railway" lettering, as you can see from this car. You can also see the Waterloo Central lettering on an RDC to the right. That RDC sports the CPR maroon and yellow scheme.

Here's one final image from my visit. It's strange how that clear blue sky turned into a downpour in a matter of 10 minutes. I wish I could have taken a better shot of this old coach, but railway employees were clearly somewhere on the property when we visited and their cars were parked right in my shot. Oh well.

I made sure to return to the yard the next day as well, to see if anything had moved or anything was operational. Sadly, all was quiet when I visited both days. Still, getting to see these antiques up close from public property was a real treat. It's like paying a visit to a railway museum for free.


Kevin from Windsor said...

I've ridden the Port Stanley Terminal RR, the South Simcoe RR, the Huntsville & Lake of Bays RR (Portage Flyer) and the steam train from Hull to Wakefield before it all fell apart (the European one, not NMSAT's 1201). Plus a few in the U.S. But never this one. My memory is foggy, but wasn't this the line that used to run a restored CNR green and black streamliner? Or was it someone else? Tried Googling it and came up short. Might have to read through the tourist guides in my back issues of Trains to remember where it was.

Eric said...

Fellow modeller Bob Fallowfield, best-known for his HO-scale CP Rail Galt Sub layout based in 1980 is now the general manager of the WCRR. If you need anything, like a full-size locomotive, let me know and I can maybe get a deal. It looks like a very well-run operation.

Thanks for sharing your visit, Michael!

Michael said...

Thanks for the comments, gents. Kevin, I don't recall the Waterloo Central rostering old CN passenger cars. When I lived in KW, the tourist railway used older Via heavyweight cars in the blue and yellow. But given how many old coaches I saw last year painted in the old CP maroon and grey scheme, there's a possibility that it did. I can only comment on what I saw. And, I agree, Eric. The Waterloo Central seems like an exceptionally well-run operation. I wonder if they have ever considered operated a rail museum in St. Jacobs.