Thursday, April 11, 2024

Trackside ABCs in Ottawa

Last year, I declared 2023 to be the Year of Different. This year, I am declaring 2024 to be the Year of ABCs. No, I'm not talking about kindergarten stuff, I'm talking about our collective approach to rail photography. That is why I am challenging myself to:

Always Be Challenging (my approach) and;

Always Be Changing (my vantage points, framing, subjects or locations).

Last year, I decided that I would begin shooting the evening approach of Via Train 59 westbound around Hunt Club Road, since I am in the area for my daughter's dance class every week. But after a while, there are only so many times you can shoot the same train with a similar consist from the same spot, so I started challenging myself to try different approaches. The end result was that I was able to get some new photographs that tell a little more of the story of railways in Ottawa.

Let's face it. If you are going to be a railfan in Ottawa, or west Ottawa in my case, you need to be creative because you are going to shoot mostly Via Rail corridor trains. That's just life. Yes, there is CN's weekly Arnprior Turn that operates on Wednesdays. But if you work, as I do, this train will remain a ghost unless you get lucky enough to catch it occasionally.

So this year, this is how I began my pursuit of rail photos on my Wednesdays trackside. I am once again chasing Via Train 59, which makes its way west past Hunt Club Road around 6 p.m. This shot below I would only be able to get this time of year, since the foliage around this spot will soon obscure this train's approach to the Prince of Wales Drive flyover. I decided to try and get a shot of Via crossing the Rideau River, which runs parallel to Prince of Wales, just to its east.

Since I have already captured Train 59 on the Prince of Wales flyover, I wasn't terribly interested in doing it again, but I did fire off a quick few shots as it passed by. Not a terribly inspired shot (below), given some of my previous work at this location.

But the thought of getting a shot of Train 59 crossing over the Rideau River trestle began to intrigue me. The question was if I could find a spot along the river to get a shot of the bridge without encroaching onto private property. This is a tricky proposition in this part of Ottawa, as the Rideau River is largely hidden from view in a narrow valley and the vast majority of its banks are private property south of Mooney's Bay. So, I had my work cut out in looking for any city easements, trails or vantage points where I could get a shot of this bridge. Given the natural course the river takes, even trying to get a long distance shot from the sidewalk on the Hunt Club Road overpass is impossible, since the river curves and the dense foliage obscures any views of the trestle.

However, after some searches along the west bank of the river, I turned my attention to the east bank and did find a public easement with trails leading to the river. I followed one trail, which led me directly to the riverbank, right next to the trestle. And, happily, the trail is on the side of the bridge where the train is bathed in sunlight at 6 p.m.

So on March 27, I attempted my first shots of Train 59 crossing the Rideau River. This shot was taken quite a ways out into the riverbed, as the Rideau was running low and I was able to wade out into the sand and rocks to get an unobstructed view. Note the original Via livery on the P42, the updated livery on the first class car, a wrap on the second coach and an updated livery on the next coach. Catch Via's rainbow era while you can. It's going to disappear quickly.

I was reasonably happy with this first attempt. The daylight was a mixed bag, as the clouds prevented a washout of harsh evening sun, but the overall grey couldn't be helped.

This past Wednesday, I ventured out to the bridge again, thinking it might be better to get a shot with better lighting. As the sky was mainly sunny with a fair bit of clouds, I set up on the east riverbank again, although I had to change my spot as the river level had risen, which meant I had to live with the skeleton of a tree in the shot. 

I chose this shot, above, with the tree for a reason. You can make out the reflection of the train in the water, for one, and this was the last shot I took before the sun began to wash out the F40. You can see the usual mix of Via LRC cars that are used on this train, which had six cars. It usually runs between 4-6 cars. 

Here's another shot, below, where the tree is less of a factor but the train is a bit more obscured by the sun. I like this shot as well, since it gives you that golden hour glow that you can only get around sunrise or around sunset, although the sun was still pretty high in the sky when I took this shot.

The next time I come out to this spot, I think I'm going to work in front of that tree, although getting too close to the trestle means you are shooting at a more intense angle and that is not what I'm going for exactly. Still, it might be fun to experiment with this point of view.

I should point out that, closer to 7 p.m., another Via Rail corridor train makes its way east in the same area. This is Train 44, which is usually slated to arrive at around 6:43 p.m. at the downtown station, although it often comes in closer to 7 p.m. In late March, on the evening when I shot Train 59 near Prince of Wales, I decided to see if I could also capture Train 44 before my daughter's dance class ended. 

I got this shot of Train 44 near the now dismantled Bentley Avenue industrial spur. The former Ottawa Sun building is to the left. I was reasonably pleased with this shot, although as the train was late, I'm not sure I'm going to stick around each week to catch it, as it's cutting it close to pick up my daughters at their class.

A few observations I made as I was experimenting with this new spot near the Rideau River. The Beachburg Subdivision from Ottawa's Central Station and Federal Junction is maintained quite well, to my untrained eye. The tracks seem to be freshly ballasted and the signalling is all modern. Of course, this is hardly a keen observation, as this stretch of track is part of a very busy Via Rail corridor. 

However, having mainly taken in the stretch of Beachburg that CN maintains west of Federal Junction, it was a bit of a shock to see a stretch of a modern railway right of way in Ottawa. Via has a maintenance of way area along this subdivision just east of the Rideau River. It is observable from public property, although it is behind a fence. The area has a fair bit of rail, ballast and other supplies. I didn't know there was a maintenance spot in this location, but now that I do, I might take a photograph or two if there is anything of interest.

So, here is my challenge to you. Take the ABC challenge this year and think of new things to do to change your approach to rail photography. Don't settle for the same images from the same angle at the same spot.

Next post, I'll share another new spot I found to get a different railway image. Always be changing!


Eric said...

You're absolutely right. Nothing is as boring as the same old thing as the same old thing. I know a guy who insists on standing in the same spot taking essentially the same wedge shot every time. I know another guy who can't stand that first guy doing that!

They say variety is the spice of life, but you're proving that VIAriety is the spice of Ottawa-area railfan photography!

Thanks for sharing,

Canadian Train Geek said...

I'm glad you are trying new things rather than just giving up!

That bridge has a lot of potential. I liked the second photo, I think the glint gives it a great look. Maybe toss some hip waders in the trunk ;) Does the river freeze in the winter?

Michael said...

Thanks for commenting, Eric and Steve. Variety in my approach is indeed what is keeping me engaged on the strict train-watching posts, Eric. The historical posts are another matter, but I'm a bit squeezed for time on those at the moment, although a few are in the hopper.

Steve -- Yes, indeed, the Rideau does freeze in the winter and it's quite shallow in most spots, so there will be opportunities to get shots a bit further out, free from the trees. I am not done my experimentation on the shoreline. I think I can find a spot with fewer obstructions.

Keith said...

Nice shots over the Rideau River. I've often wondered about trying to set up there for a few pics. Glad you found that spot.

chris129 said...

Hey Micheal Heres The CPKC Schedule For SF

CP 230 12-2PM

CP 118 12-2pm

CP 106 12-2PM

CP 231 12-2:30pm

CP 133 15-18:00pm

CP 119 17:00-19:30pm

CP 131 Noon-2pm

CP 529,528,


CP 114 Noon-4Pm

CN Brockville Schedule

*147 Montreal-Chicago Intermodal Overflow/Autoracks 1100**Times approximate and subject to change*Times OS at Kingston100 Calgary to Montreal 105 Montreal-Vancouver 0600106 Vancouver-Montreal Variable108 Vancouver-Montreal Variable1 09 Montreal-Vancouver 07:00 120 Toronto-Halifax 0100 121 Halifax-Toronto 0500122 Chicago-Halifax Intermodal + Auto Traffic 1500123 Halifax-Chicago : Halifax to US and Montreal Intermodal + Auto Traffic West of Mtl xxxx148 Chicago-Montreal 2200 149 Montreal-Chicago 0930 185 Montreal-Prince Rupert 0800 186 Prince Rupert-Montreal 271 Montreal-Flint 0930 305 Moncton-Toronto 1400 306 Toronto-Moncton 1800309 Joffre-Toronto As Needed 0100310 Toronto-Southwark 0300 321 Southwark-Toronto 2130 368 Toronto-Noranda 1000 369 Montreal-Noranda 1200 372 Toronto-Montreal 0730 377 Riviere des Prairies-Toronto 1900 516 Toronto-Brockville As Needed 517 Brockville - Toronto As Needed 518 Belleville-Trenton/Cobourg 0900 (dep Belleville)519 Belleville-Kingston 0100 730 Potash Saskatoon-Saint John Variable 731 Saint John-Saskatoon Variable 874 Grain Saskatoon-Limoilou Variable 875 Limoilou-Saskatoon Variable Chris Carlson 16138685140