Monday, July 10, 2023

Two for one

I've noticed that I've featured an inordinate amount of Via Rail trains on the blog so far this year, which is a function of where I've been between January and July. In other words, I haven't left Ottawa much, so it's been a persistent parade or passenger train perfection of late. This can be tiresome for railfans, many of whom in Ottawa yearn to see regular freight trains. However, once in a while, even Via Rail can offer up something a bit different for the jaded Ottawa railfan, which makes it worthwhile to be trackside. I do not count myself among the jaded railfans locally. To be honest, I've been so busy trying new photographic techniques and finding new places to shoot as well as new perspectives to capture, even the repetition of Via Rail corridor consists has been fun.

On May 28, my wife was returning to the city after a weekend working in Waterloo. As she was making her way back east, I tracked Train 44 on the Via Rail tracking app, which was pretty cool. I didn't check the schedule otherwise, but I probably should have, since there was a westbound five-HEP consist waiting to leave Fallowfield Station when I arrived. It was Train 59, being led by F40PH-2 6410 in the pre-wrap Via Rail green/grey/yellow scheme. As I pulled into the west parking lot, the train was easing west on the main line, which was a bit disappointing, as I wanted to get a quick shot. But then, it stopped. 

Given the harsh sun at 6;20, when I arrived, there were some pretty intense shadows being cast on my side of the station, but I had to make do. Train 59's departure time is usually 6:12 p.m., as per Via's schedule, but on this evening it was starting late. As it idled west of the station, right before a crossover onto the station's second track, it hit me that Train 44 was given clearance to arrive ahead of Train 59 taking the main past Fallowfield Road. Train 44 was already running late, since it was scheduled to arrive at the same time as Train 59 left. My wife was texting me from the train and explaining through gritted teeth that CN was routing a number of trains ahead of Train 44. I tried to explain to my wife that this is the way it goes when you are a tenant on CN rails. 

After a few minutes, I could see the lights of Train 44 heading east toward the station. This meant that, in the 11 years I have been coming to Fallowfield Station, I was finally being rewarded with a meet. A dubious drought was finally going to end. This also allowed me the chance to once again try something different, as I have made it my goal this year to be different in my approach to trackside photography and musings.

The sun's positioning totally washed out the sky to the west, but I was really pleased with this shot nonetheless. Looking carefully, you can see Train 44 making its way east, but also the crew of Train 59 getting some fresh air next to the F40. Not sure why they got out of the cab, but it made for a human element in the image. You can also see the signal reading red over red. I didn't zoom in on the crew, for the purpose of their privacy. 

The next shot would be when Train 44 made its way past the end of Train 59, which would be another cool shot. I had my two daughters with me, ready to greet their mom, so I had to make sure they were not getting in the way of my shot and also keeping their distance from the rails. Luckily, they know their railway safety as I have taught them to respect the power of trains and the potential danger. So, it was a waiting game to get this shot, below. You can just make out the silhouette of the Train 59 crew in this shot. F40PH-2 6448 eases Train 44 into the station, about 20 minutes behind schedule.

I played with the zoom on the camera and tried a longer shot. I'm not sure which one I like better.

After Train 44 made its way to its spot on Track 2, I turned around to get a shot of its arrival at Fallowfield Station.

You can just make out the Via Rail employee crossing to the Track 2 platform to ensure everyone gets back to the main platform safely. All in all, it was an unexpectedly fruitful few minutes trackside on the Smiths Falls Sub.

In the last few months, I have been doing a bit of light research on this train station, which has an interesting history, given that it is now 21 years old. I am fascinated by the fact that Via would build a suburban station in Ottawa at all. At some point over the summer, I am going to share a three-post series about this station, how it came to be built and why it's such an oddity in today's highly centralized railway industry.

Stay tuned for that. Some of the information I dug up about this station might surprise you. At the very least, it will make some local rail watchers laugh. That's a small hint of the politics surrounding this station.

But for now, I hope you enjoyed this meet as much as I did. The only other time I have caught a meet like this was in Smiths Falls in front of the old Via station in the CP yard there. But having finally captured my first meet in Ottawa, I have to say this one was a little sweeter.

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