Thursday, June 5, 2014

CN's Point Edward Spur today

CN's Point Edward spur is a fascinating little run of trackage for a number of reasons, as I pointed out in a previous post. Last year, when visiting family in the Sarnia area, I made sure to make time to take shots of the busy railway activities in Sarnia. One of the lines I love to shoot is the Point Edward spur, because it's such an anomaly, unguarded as it is in the middle of a downtown, running through parkland and along the St. Clair River's shoreline. I noticed recently that I had amassed a few shots of the spur at different points, which offered an interesting snapshot of this legacy line.

The spur begins at the westernmost end of the CN Sarnia Yard, across from a wye junction at the Lambton Diesel Services Roundhouse and a nearby CN Police and maintenance building. This is the point where all the trackage in the yard contracts back into one main line heading for the Paul Tellier tunnel. (If you are shooting near the roundhouse, be careful and stay on public property! I did.). The shot below was taken Oct. 13, 2013 of two GP9RMs, which were parked on the beginning of the St. Clair River Industrial spur. I have seen numerous shots of this pair on the Point Edward spur, so I'm guessing they were serving both spurs. In my previous post (see link above), I pointed out that the Point Edward line was served almost exclusively by SW1200s.

From its starting point, the Point Edward spur heads due west, paralleling the main line to the Paul Tellier Tunnel beneath the St. Clair River, albeit at a higher elevation.

But, as you can just make out in this 1993 shot, the spur, which is upper left, winds away from the tunnel trackage beneath the Donohue Bridge and makes its way through the edge of Sarnia, where south-end homes meet the edge of the Chemical Valley refineries. The line passes through the edge of the Imperial Oil refinery, where a few smaller spurs serve the refinery and connect to the CSX Sarnia Subdivision along the river. The Point Edward line then heads north along the river shoreline, past where the old St. Clair rail ferry yard used to be, toward Sarnia's riverfront parks and Point Edward. At one point, the line passes in front of a lawyer's office and through Alexander Mackenzie Park. The level crossings in the downtown, amazingly, are only marked with crossbucks, due to the scarce traffic on the line.

The Point Edward line parallels Sarnia's Front Street, crossing it twice at angle crossings, before it passes through Centennial Park. Along the way, the line makes its way past Canadian National U-1-f 4-8-2 Mountain-type steam locomotive 6069, known as Bullet Nose Betty. This locomotive is now undergoing a much-needed restoration after spending decades in the elements. The spur can be seen bottom left. At a point just before this one, the line branched off along Front Street and headed to the village of Point Edward. From there, it served the former Holmes Foundry and made its way to an old rail yard near the Bluewater Bridge. That old yard and freight shed is now home to a casino. The old line was used for car storage as recently as the 1990s but that section was scrapped.

So, even though it comes close to its namesake village, the Point Edward spur ends here, at the Cargill Grain Elevators on Sarnia Bay. The elevators take in grain and oilseed from Great Lakes freighters and load them onto rail cars. You can just make out the hoppers in the shot below, which was taken from Harbour Road. This shot gives you an idea of the size of this facility.

A closer view through the links in the fence shows more clearly that the elevators are a busy place year round. These shots were taken Dec. 23, 2013.

The grain elevator is in an interesting part of Sarnia Bay, near the government docks where Great Lakes freighters seek refuge in the winter for repairs. This shot below was taken several years ago, from the parking lot of a nearby restaurant. It's quite the site to get out of your car and pull up next to one of these behemoths. They are part of the old Algoma Central empire, which once included the railway of the same name, now CN property.

So this is the status of this spur today: the ferry is gone, its adjoining riverfront rail yard history, the extension into Point Edward a distant memory and the Holmes Foundry that the spur served a vacant lot. Yet this spur continues to operate, with the Cargill elevator still making use of rail service regularly. When you are lucky enough to catch trains on the line, the spur makes for some spectacular photography.  


Eric said...

I took a look at Googlemaps, following the spur along the river, Michael. At Confederation and Christina Sts, there is what looks like a CN GP38-2W just clear of a crossing near a huge ?chemical facility. The spur comes quite close to some waterfront apartments/hotels to reach Cargill.

Thanks for sharing,

Michael said...

Thanks for your comments, Eric. Yep, the Christina-Confed intersection is at the edge of the Imperial Oil refinery. I did capture one shot of a SW1200 going by the apartments you note. They are actually not as close to the elevators as you would think, but they are close enough for some great railway action, if you are so inclined. You can see the shot near the apartments in the previous post about this spur.