Blogging about railways in Ottawa is frustrating at the best of times. But it's even worse when you squander the few opportunities you get in this city. This is one of those stories.
Let me start by saying that, of all the topics I have mentioned on this blog over two years, one of the most popular topics is the weekly Arnprior train. It's a runt of a train, really, although all freight trains in Ottawa are. This train, for whatever reason, seems to fascinate readers. I have received a number of emails and inquires about this train, which heads out to Arnprior each Wednesday morning via the Beachburg Subdivision before it branches off onto the Renfrew Spur. The train usually passes through Bells Corners and Kanata around 8:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. After delivering its load of tank cars and performing its switching duties at Nylene Canada, it collects empties and heads back through west Ottawa around 3:00 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. By the looks of the consists, it wouldn't surprise me if the train unloads its cars, waits for them to be emptied, and returns them to Walkley Yard.
Recently, I had one of the very few opportunities to catch this train. I have lived in Bells Corners since 2010 and have never once seen a train plodding over the tracks through our neighbourhood (Beachburg Sub contributor Dave M. has caught this train, which you can read about here
In many ways, I have been preparing for this train for years. I've scouted out locations where I could safely catch this train. I've even taken shots of the rail architecture, like this shot of the Moodie Drive rail bridge on New Year's Day.
This is another vantage point I'd like to use. This is the rail bridge over Robertson Road on New Year's Day.
Collecting all the information my readers have shared, I came up with a plan on a recent Wednesday, when I found myself at home for the day. Usually, I work in downtown Ottawa, which does not allow for any opportunities to wait around for this train. I decided to camp out at a scenic stretch of track along Corkstown Road, where there is a place to park and where there are a number of safe vantage points to catch this train on a scenic stretch of the Beachburg Subdivision. My original plan was to go at 2:45 p.m., since most of my readers who have caught this train tell me it makes its return trip anywhere from 2:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.
I was held up at home, preparing a few things for dinner. By the time I was ready to wait for this train, it was 3:00 p.m. I thought I was safe when a sickening feeling crept into my head as I drove down Moodie Drive. I was waiting at a red light when I thought, what if the train goes by on the Moodie Drive bridge when I'm at this light?
Lesson learned. Don't tempt the railway gods. As soon as I thought that, I saw some white and black movement on the rail line. Lo and behold, CN 589 was making its return trip to Walkley Yard earlier than I had expected. As I waited at the light, I fired up my camera and took a few desperate shots, not bothering to frame them. I had to watch the road and wait for the green light. I figured I should take a chance since I didn't know when I would ever get another chance to catch this train. So, I fired off one shot, which you can see above.
As the train slowly plodded across the bridge, I used my zoom and tried another shot, while still waiting for the green light. Given the traffic on the road, I figured I would not have a chance to take a shot while the car was moving (obviously). My second shot turned out okay, except for the telephone pole that killed what could have been a decent shot. You will notice that the shots are not level. I only cropped them a little because I wanted to show what happens when you fire off a few blind shots.
This final shot was taken once the car got going. I wasn't looking at the tracks at all but I aimed the camera in the train's general direction as the road dipped down under the right-of-way. Nothing much to see, but it was the best I could do, thanks to my timing. That blurry sign to the left marks that the land surrounding the rail line is part of the National Capital Commission's Greenbelt.
As a point of interest, the black and white tank cars carry frozen raw materials to Nylene Canada that are then used to produce polymers for nylon and carpet materials. There was some discussion about the safety of transporting these goods through Ottawa's western suburbs, but Nylene Canada told local media last year that these materials are far less volatile than crude oil. Trains using Beachburg usually plod along the tracks slowly.
Beachburg Sub reader Pat Stever also took up the chase recently and captured the Arnprior local when he heard the train coming through Kanata at 10:45 a.m. Pat got into his car and managed to snag this shot of the westbound consist at Craig Side Road near Carp (below). The weather was lousy, he tells me, but the shot turned out quite nicely. Thanks to Pat for contributing to the hunt and passing along this shot.
So, that's about all I can share about my brief encounter with the Arnpior local. An optimist would point out that I at least caught the train on the bridge, which was not part of my original plan. A pessimist would say that I came so close only to lose out on a great chance to catch this train properly.
Either way, for local rail watchers, you can mark this information down, if you are keeping score. On April 15, CN 589 was passing through Bells Corners at 3:05 p.m. I would ask local readers to make note of the time they either hear or see the train passing through Bells Corners or Kanata. I am hoping we can build up a bank of times that will allow us to catch this ghost a few more times.
For example, here are the return times I've noted recently.
April 29th - 4:30 p.m. through Bells Corners (I heard the whistle on my way home from the bus stop)
April 15th - 3:00 p.m. through Bells Corners (pictured above)