Wednesday, September 20, 2023

Summer Observations in Ottawa

Over the course of the summer in Ottawa, there have been a few railway developments worth noting. Happily, we won't have to dwell on the city's ill-fated Confederation Line light rail service terribly long. Those who live here know that this system continues to experience severe operational problems, relating to the fact that the trackage was found to be improperly installed. After another service stoppage, repairs to the rails to allow trains to properly negotiate curves and the discontinuation of many double-long trains have allowed the commuter line to return to operation in some form.

I digress. I could also mention the many delays that are pushing back the start of service on the newly expanded Trillium Line, which thankfully is powered by diesel light rail trains. That operation seems likely to be operational at some point toward the end of the year or early next year, depending on the update you believe from the city. There have been sporadic sightings of test runs in the past few months, as the builders are trying to finish partially completed stations all the way out to Riverside South.

Can we move on? Talking about the city's light rail system is such a drag.

The good news is that Via Rail Canada recently announced the restoration of more service to and from Toronto, which is the result of increased demand for rail transportation. Two more trains have been added, as of Sept. 1, which restores services to and from Toronto to roughly half of what was available to travellers before the pandemic. The restoration of service in Ottawa is part of a larger return to normal across the Quebec City-Windsor corridor. 

For local railfans here, I can't imagine two more Via Rail corridor trains will elicit much enthusiasm, but I suppose it can only hasten the imminent arrival of the new Siemens equipment, which continues to arrive from its U.S. manufacturer. More trains means more equipment needed, right?

I haven't done a lot of wandering about the city this summer, especially not trackside, although I have had a number of opportunities to catch Via Train 59 westbound on Wednesday evenings, as I am trackside at that time when my daughters are at a nearby dance class.

I noticed over the summer that an industrial spur that once served some small industry on Bentley Drive has been disconnected.

This is a shot taken in July from the Hunt Club Road overpass. Over the course of the summer, I haven't noticed much work being done beyond the initial removal of some of the rails at the switch point. I wasn't surprised to see this, as this spur has been covered over with weeds and brush for a long time. It doesn't look as though it's been used for years. And it doesn't seem as though CN has much interest in reaching out to small industry to maintain carload service along any of these spurs in west Ottawa. The slow rolling CN exit from Ottawa drags on, as the railway seems to be maintaining the remaining service to a few customers and that's it. 

If there were any interested parties looking to start a short line service here, they have yet to materialize and it doesn't look like there's much infrastructure left to work with, even if someone had the notion to get started here. Sad, but that's how a multibillion-dollar transcontinental railway operates. There is little room for small backwater operations that don't meet its margins.

I have not seen CN's Arnprior Turn returning to Walkley on the Wednesday evenings when I am near the Beachburg Sub near Merivale Road. Although, it's always cool to see the remnants of the old Northern Transcontinental line when wandering along the tracks.

Much of this old infrastructure has long since been removed from the Beachburg Sub. However, a few of the old searchlight signals remain, turned aside form the tracks, like this one, which was staring forlornly off at the adjacent soccer fields. 

Later this year, I'd like to share some of the many shots I have taken of Via Train 59, an evening departure from Ottawa Station that passes through Federal Junction around 6 p.m. each night. I have tried to get as many different creative shots as I can around this junction, which is almost completely hidden from view. 

Here's a shot I got below the Hunt Club Road overpass, near Gurdwara Drive. The shot proved to be tough as something would be blurry, and it wasn't going to be the train. I don't know if I will try this vantage point again, as it was extremely difficult to keep the train in focus with the camera I have. 

However, I was reasonably happy with this shot, as the F40 and the first class coach match each other with their wraps. Much of this train was wrapped, in fact, but it was not a complete matching set.

The fall hopefully will bring with it some more interesting shots and possibly more variety. I did manage to travel to Waterloo near the end of summer, but my time was completely booked up, which did not allow for any rail sightings. 

I still have a great deal of material to share from Stratford, the GTA and a few other unexpected places, thanks to the contributions of friends. For now, this is what passes for news from Ottawa.


Kevin from Windsor said...

Your vivid descriptions of suburban Ottawa always bring fond memories of my many visits to see family over the years. ….. I had the opportunity to take 2 train rides of a lifetime this summer. The Alaska RR from Denali to Whittier, and the White Pass & Yukon through Alaska, BC and Yukon. Both on the bucket list for decades. If you ever have the opportunity, go for it.

Michael said...

Thanks Kevin. Glad you are enjoying this look at suburban Ottawa, because it's all I really have to offer from my local travels right now!