As I mentioned recently, I had the opportunity earlier this month to ride this city's new O-Trains. The city's 8-km Trillium Line began to host new Alstom Coradia LINT trainsets a few weeks ago, which has allowed the service to increase train frequency and operate speedier service. The new trains now travel on a revamped line, which is complete with passing sidings, new track and new signals, all of which allow for a much better experience.
After a few initial glitches with the new service in the first week, the Trillium Line is now fully operational with the new trains. The following are a few observations I made when I took a trip from Bayview south to Confederation stations.
The new trains, in my opinion, look a little bulkier than the Bombadier Talent trains, but a reader reminded me that the Alstoms are sleeker in some ways. The platforms at all stations along the Trillium Line had to be extended to accommodate the profile of the more slender new trainsets. I made note of this when I boarded the train.
I should mention that, upon arriving at Bayview Station, a trainset was idling. These trainsets do not sound like a conventional train when idling. They sound much more like a bus or truck.
On board, the seats are arranged as they would be on a bus, with the exception of a few areas where seats are facing each other, much like you'd see at the end of a Via Rail passenger coach. This seating alignment probably works for most. For me, I found the leg room lacking. I found my knees were rammed up against the backs of the seats in front of me. I guess these seats weren't built for tall guys.
The ride itself was smooth. The new tracks on the Trillium Line and the new trains made for a nice trip. The picture windows in the new trains are massive (as you see above), which allow you to get an interesting view of the rock cut that CP Rail made to recess its old Ellwood and Prescott Subdivision right-of-way beneath the surrounding neighbourhood in the Little Italy area.
I did notice some small touches along the line that, for a railway fan, were classy tips of the hat to the line's past. For one, those shiny metal boxes that you see at the train stations were all labelled "Capital Railway Ellwood Subdivision." I like that the city maintains an official name for its light rail service and continues to refer to the line by its Ellwood moniker. An interesting break from tradition, however, is the kilometer post designation. I noticed that the line has km posts rather than mileposts.
I also saw that a number of streets that the line passes under are either labelled with small signs connected to the tunnels beneath the streets or large signs that face the tracks. For example, when my train was passing beneath Gladstone Avenue, there was a large sign facing the tracks that read "Gladstone."
Northbound O-Train approaches the Somerset Street overpass. A long staircase on the overpass makes railway photography easy and safe.
As I previously mentioned, the line's Confederation Station seems pretty isolated, although this is hardly a new development. This station was in place when the service first launched. I figure it was placed where it was because of its close proximity to several government office buildings and Canada Post facilities nearby. Still, it seems a little far from the closest neighbourhoods off Heron Road. But it's still only about 10-15 minutes away if you are walking.
It was hard to get a photograph of stations along the line from inside the train, given the light and reflection, but I'm hoping this above shot gives you a rough idea of what some of the stations look like along the line. My train was manned by an operator and two fare inspectors positioned at either end of the train. For most people, getting on board is as simple as passing their Presto card over the scanners at each station. Those trying to use bus tickets were removed from the train.
Overall, it was a great experience. The wait for a train is no more than five minutes now, which is great for commuters. Here's one last shot I took (below) when I was walking east on Heron Road to Bank Street. This is an old right-of-way, by the looks of it. I'm not sure what line this may have been. (Update - Read Alex's comment below, which explains that this was an old CP right-of-way) Perhaps one of my Ottawa readers can fill me in. I have done some initial research on this old right-of-way but have not found anything yet. Still, a good shot of Ottawa's railway past.