After happening across the tunnel train from a cul-de-sac abutting the yard, I moved on to Sarnia's Via Rail station, to catch what I could. There, I noticed another railfan sitting on the platform and two CSX GP38-2s idling a few tracks over. The other fan seemed absorbed by something on his phone, so I didn't bother him.
The shot beneath is the one of the best from this meet, with CN locomotives bringing a string of cars into the yard for the two CSX GP38s to pull back to CSX trackage. This meet all started with the second photo (below). Here's an earlier shot of another Sarnia interchange train.
Above: CN GP9 7270, slug 223 and GP38-2W 4761 pull a string of tank cars and covered hoppers into Sarnia Yard, where they will then be taken off to CSX trackage into the Checmial Valley and beyond.
But not before I snapped a quick shot of all the stickers on the geep. The sticker below the number board read "ECO TRANS K9 APU equipped." That means this was a rebuilt unit, complete with fuel efficient components and emission reduction components built in. You can see from the flashing beacon that these units are also equipped from remote control. The yellow arrow at the edge of the hood says "STEP."
Details, details. There was an interchange consist making its way into the yard. I had to hurry to the edge of the platform to catch this train. I was happy to see the GP9 working with a slug. Another GP38 was helping out as well. You will recall I posted some photos of this train in an earlier post, More relics on the rails.
I was able to use my camera's zoom to catch the conductor throwing a switch. You can also make out the engineer on the phone with the yardmaster, no doubt. You can also make out the engine's exhaust. This shot also captures a sliver of the old Sarnia roundhouse in the background.
I then ditched the zoom and started to frame for some wide shots, to catch more of the train. This shot below turned out pretty well. You can see the
CSX's interchanges with CN were once much more plentiful. At one point, CSX had much more to offer. The CSX Sarnia Subdivision was once a vital link between CP's Windsor Subdivision (in Chatham) and CN's Strathroy Subdivision. This meant that oversized rolling stock like high-cube boxcars and autoracks were once routed between Chatham and Sarnia via CSX. While CP had a rail ferry service on the Detroit River like CN did for the St. Clair River, a great deal of autoracks and oversized boxcars, with auto parts, were nonetheless routed through Sarnia via CSX.
Since the new CN rail tunnel opened, CSX's operations in this area have been reduced to servicing local chemical plants along its trackage in Sarnia and St. Clair Township, as the transfer work dried up. CSX also discontinued rail service in Chatham-Kent recently, cutting off several of its agricultural customers there. The southern end of this line is now in limbo, and the move to halt service effectively severed the CSX Sarnia Subdivision from all but the CN Strathroy Subdivision as its link to the North American rail network.
CSX's line still counts a number of industries on its line, such as Imperial Oil, Lanxess, Suncor, Shell Canada, the former Ethyl Canada site (developing business park), Nova Chemicals (formerly Dupont Canada site in Corunna), Ontario Power Generation (soon to be closed coal plant), Terra International (formerly C-I-L), and Methes Energies Canada (biomass fuel plant at former Chinook Chemicals site). Not all these sites have rail service, but there appears to be more than enough demand to keep the line going in a limited capacity for some time.
So this interchange will remain a fixture, much to the delight of train watchers like me, although what the future holds might depend on what development there might be along the CSX rail line. For example, at one point, Shell Canada was planning to build a massive refinery south of the soon-to-be-shuttered Ontario Power Generation thermal generating station, but those plans were scuttled several years ago. The line also counts the former Dow Chemicals site as a potential customer on its line, although its future use as an industrial park depends on what industry can be attracted to the site and how much of it might need rail service.
To be honest, I am surprised CSX's local operations have not been sold off to CN. The remnants of this line must still be too profitable to abandon right now.