Friday, December 1, 2023

Along the main line in Kitchener

I don't know what it is about Kitchener, but I have had some good luck in this city in the few times I have visited the area. You might remember that I caught some GEXR action in the grey and rain one time at the Lancaster Street crossing in 2018. In November, I was in Kitchener-Waterloo for a conference where I was giving a mental health presentation, which left me with some spare time to do little exploring and some railfanning in St. Jacobs and in Kitchener. 

Much has changed since I got those shots of the Goderich Exeter Railway in 2018. For one, the Guelph Subdivision in now back in CN's hands while the trackage east of the city into Toronto is essentially in the hands of Metrolinx. The last time I was in Kitchener last year, I didn't catch anything. But on the whole, it's been a spot where I've had a lot of success. It makes up for the years I lived in the city and didn't take any railway shots.

This time around, when I was approaching the Lancaster Street crossing near Victoria Street, I noticed that a CN conductor was flagging the crossing, which I found a bit curious, since the signals and gates were operating. It turned out, there was a crew in the Kitchener yard assembling a train. I managed to park my car in a nearby parking lot and walk down a sidewalk to get a few shots of the motive power shunting cars near the crossing. This was the first shot, which was taken from the west sidewalk on Lancaster. There were three four-axle geeps at work, two with the sergeant stripes. Interesting that the lead unit did not have its headlight on.

Here's a shot closer to the crossing. You can see that the crew had the power partially on the main line, as they hitched onto some hopper and tank cars in the yard. I waited around for a few minutes, to see what they were going to do, but my daughters were a little restless in my car, so I decided to move on. The early morning sun was not making it easy to get a shot, since many angles were a no-go due to the harsh light washing out images and casting unworkable shadows.

We were about to leave the area and make our way to the nearby Kitchener Via station near the corner of Victoria and Weber streets when the crew had the geeps moving again. They moved back into the yard in a position where the light was over my shoulder. it made for a decent shot, especially with the curved track. The zoom on the camera made it seem like I was in the yard, when I was still at the Lancaster crossing. Always stay on public property and be aware of the train's movement. Again, even with the engines moving, there was no light on the lead unit shining.

Within a few minutes, we were at the Via station just to see if there was anything to see, as I often say. See what there is to see. It's something railfans in Ottawa usually resort to, in the absence of a sure thing. The signals on the main line suggested there was nothing to see, which was fine. I like the Kitchener station. It's a nice old station, even if it's a little ragged around the edges. It's clearly seen better days, but it fits the character of Kitchener, which is as tough a town as I've ever seen. Also a town of good people, I should add. Great people, in fact. To be honest, it did appear as though some maintenance had been done to this old station in recent years.

I took a quick shot of the station and roamed the platform a bit. I've taken Via from Kitchener into Toronto a few times, since when I lived in the city, the GO Train service was not yet established. Speaking of the GO Train, as I looked east down the tracks from the eastern edge of the platform, I could see the trains parked on a spur just past the Weber Street flyover. In this shot below, I wanted to get as much of the cityscape in as I could. Here you can see the topography that the rail line traverses, a piece of the flyover and the GO Trains on the north side of the main line.

The last shot I took was an attempt to get the trains in the shot with fewer visual distractions.

I'm not sure it's all the much better, but the other shots where I zoomed in were not as sharp as this image. I made sure to keep the signals in the shot as well as the main line, as I think the topography is a visually interesting element. 

On the same trip, I took my girls up toe St. Jacobs to have a look at the Waterloo Central Railway yard on the Elmira Subdivision. That trip unearthed some surprises, which delighted not only me but my daughters as well, but I will save that for another post. 

All in all, it was a fun trip back to a city where I lived for a short while. It's interesting that I maintain such fondness for a place where I barely lived two years. I chalk it up to the people I met when I lived there. I will say this about Kitchener. Good people.


Kevin from Windsor said...

Those photos of the modern GO trains juxtaposed against what must be close to a century old industrial buildings showcase an incredible contrast in new and old, something that really defines the entire city that transitioned from a manufacturing centre to tech powerhouse. These are among your best photos ever!

Michael said...

Thanks Kevin. This part of Kitchener is a treasure trove of interesting old manufacturing operations. There's the old Rumpel Felt factory, the Krug facilities across from the station, the old Lang Tannery, an old Arrow T-shirt factory and countless other facilities I can't recall. This city used to be the hub of many diverse businesses. It was the city that could do it all. Globalization certainly cut a massive swath of destruction through its economy.

Steve Boyko said...

Really. Ice photos and commentary, Michael! I really like the Kitchener-Waterloo area, and not just for trains.

Anonymous said...


I was a telegraph operator (AFTER they retired the telegraph) on the Beachburg Subdivision in 1986-88 starting at the tender age of 18. I delivered train orders on a 'Y Fork', like any normal person has, at Portage-du-Fort and Pembroke, in the cold, in the middle of the night sometimes. I delivvered orders and clearances at Walkley Yard, which was the origginating station so was not as cold. I worked on a few work trains as train order operator on the Beachburg Sub and once on a derailment, probably near Achray in Algonquin Park. I sadly never worked a shift at Lake Traverse, but visited there when the station was in operation, and saw the bomb shelter. I stayed in the Brent Bunkhouse but never did a shift there, as Brent was com├Ętes by operators from Toronto. I met and worked with, for a short time, Roy Woermke, long after he left Lake Traverse. He was near the end of his career and finished out his time as station agent at Pembroke when I knew him. I'd like to connect with anybody interested in CN Rail, or more specifically the Beachburg Sub. I visited Portage on New Years. Michel 613 882 1918.