Thursday, July 30, 2015

Guest post: Arnprior local in the wild

I'd like to take this opportunity to welcome another guest blogger, Don Douglas, to the Beachburg Sub. Please take a moment to leave a comment to let know Don what you think - Michael

By Don Douglas

It seems the CN run up to the Nylene Canada plant is the hidden gem for railfans in Ottawa. Recently I was able to get great close shots of this train.

In a comment a while back on this blog, I had mentioned that my doctor is in Carp. At one time, I witnessed the Ottawa Central coming through Carp on its return from Arnprior. The rail there is light and in somewhat disrepair, so the speed limit is 10mph. It was before digital cameras really became a norm (and before smartphones), so I have no photographic evidence. Since then, every time I go to my doctor, I bring a camera.

A couple of weeks ago, I was again at my doctor (just a normal blood pressure check, no big deal). I had finished, and was heading out to work. While waiting for the lights to change at March and Carp roads, I looked left and saw the local. I quickly (and safely) did a quick turn and rushed back into town to catch the train.

Having been through this before, I knew where to go, and went to Salisbury Street. The line runs right next to the road. I hurried over and, being a 10mph limit, had to wait quite a while for it to get there. But that was fine; I had time to get exposure and composition set.
CN 589, led by 4703, makes its way through Carp en route to Arnprior. Note the rotting old rail ties trackside.
CN 589, led by 4703 long hood forward, makes its way slowly toward Arnprior on the Renfrew spur
After it went by (four tank cars), I realized I had enough time to head to the next level crossing (thanks to bad track and slow speeds) on Donald B Munro Dr. I jumped in the car (which I left running) and went over. I had, again, plenty of time to get to the location, get a good spot and check exposure before it went by.

CN 589 makes its way to a level crossing en route to Anrprior 

The safety scheme needs some sprucing up

Final shot of CN 589 crossing Donald B. Munro level crossing
After watching it go by, I briefly considered chasing it up the valley a bit more. There was a potential spot I could get a shot of it from farther away in the landscape. But I didn’t have a lens to accommodate that, and I remembered that I did need to get to work. So I let it go, got in my car and went off, knowing I had finally captured that elusive local.

For any camera geeks, the photos were shot with a Fuji X-Pro1 and Fujinon 18mm f2 lens.
Thanks to Don for sharing his story and photos. Please take time to leave a message for Don. I should also mention that another Beachburg Sub reader has suggested that readers begin tracking the times when they catch CN 589 on a Google spreadsheet. If you would like to contribute to his efforts in tracking this local, please click here for the spreadsheet. Thanks to Michael for doing this. - Michael H.


Thursday, July 23, 2015

Guest Post: Passenger Timetables of the Carleton Place Sub

(This is another post from Beachburg Sub contributor, Dave M. Please note that Dave has started his own Ottawa railway blog, Ottawa 589, which I encourage you to check out. Also, as always, please feel free to leave a comment and let Dave know what you think - Michael)

By Dave M

CP Rail passenger train branches off at Bells Junction onto the CP Carleton Place Subdivision. From the Canada Science and Technology Museum archives.

Since 1870, trains travelled over the Carleton Place Sub, which was CP Rail's passenger line from Ottawa to points northwest. I've often wonder how many passenger trains travelled this section of track from Bells Corners to Stittsville, Ashton and Carleton Place. Going through my limited timetable collection (and what I've dug up on the internet), I managed to find timetables 1927, 1939, 1950, 1960, 1966, 1977, 1979, 1981 and 1987.

1927 Timetable

1939 Timetable

1950 Timetable

1960 Timetable

1966 Timetable

1977 Timetable

1979 Timetable

1981 Timetable

1987 Timetable

Unfortunately, the Carleton Place Sub was abandoned in 1990. It has found a new life as a very well used recreational path. If you are looking for more information on the Carleton Place Sub, the Mississippi Valley Associated Railroaders has a good site, which you can find here.

Two CP Rail passenger trains meet at the old Carleton Place Station. Photo from the Canada Science and Technology Museum Archives.

Collecting timetable snippets for this post was challenging. I am looking for schedules prior to 1927. If any readers have any spots where I can find old passenger railway timetables, feel free to leave a comment.

Thanks to Dave for this. Next week, I am happy to share another Beachburg Sub reader, Don Douglas's guest post about his successful meet with our favourite weekly train, the Arnprior local in Carp. -Michael

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

The rails they are a changin': Summer observations in Ottawa

Work on Ottawa's commuter rail network has kicked into high gear this summer, making this perhaps the busiest time for rail construction in Ottawa in many decades. You can't go anywhere near a bus shelter without seeing signs promiting the city's Confederation Line.

With the taglines "There's light rail at the end of this tunnel," and "Our transit future is on track," the signs of progress are hard to miss. This ad depicts what the new light rail trainsets will look like. I think they look like insects in the cab area, but that's just me. Work on the Confederation Line is really proceeding full steam ahead in many areas. In many spots, work on the rail stations is beginning. The first ties have even been laid, although this was done for the media so it was largely ceremonial.

Recently, city councillors discussed the state of the O-Train Trillium Line, an 8-kilometre rail line that currently accommodates four Alstom Coradia LINT diesel trainsets. The line has seen eight service interruptions since launching with the new power several months ago, but the complaints have been few and far between recently.

Alstom diesel trainset crosses Walkley Diamond recently, as seen from the Bank Street overpass.

There was talk at City Hall about whether the Trillium Line should be electrified early to make the transition to the all-electrified service smoother. As it stands, the Confederation Line is due to open for service in 2018.

Also this summer, city council's finance committee approved a $3-billion second phase of the LRT system, including an extension of the Trillium Line from its southern Greenboro terminus all the way south to the Riverside South neighbourhood. The Ottawa International Airport Authority's CEO said his organization is prepared to pay for an additional light rail station that would connect the Trillium Line to the airport. The issue of who would pay for a spur line off the Trillium Line to the airport is still a question that needs to be answered, since the existing rail line through airport lands does not pass terribly close to the terminal. Overall, the fact that the city has endorsed a southern expansion is a positive move, given previous reluctance to use the old CP Prescott Subdivision right-of-way for a southern commuter rail expansion.

The second phase of the light rail system will bring the western network from Tunney's Pasture to the Bayshore Shopping Centre with a stop at Baseline Station at Algonquin College. The college unveiled its own rail tunnel, which has been built for quite a while, but has been kept under wraps until recent weeks. The tunnel will travel beneath the college's Centre for Construction Excellence.

The eastern commuter rail extension will take trains past Blair Station (Phase I terminus) all the way to Place d'Orléans Shopping Centre. The plan still doesn't address the most urgent areas of commuter need, namely Kanata in the west and vast swaths of Orleans in the east, namely the Trim Road area. Can someone please mention the existing remnants of the Beachburg Sub in North Kanata please? Or is that too logical?

Meanwhile, nothing has been said about the fate of the Prince of Wales railway bridge, although it seems a foregone conclusion that the bridge will be lost as a potential commuter rail link to Gatineau. The last remaining efforts to save this rail link are fighting an uphill battle to say the least.

O-Train C9 makes its way south to Greenboro station on the Trillium Line.

Via Rail update:

One of the consequences of the O-Train Confederation Line construction is that the bus Transitway road past Via Rail's central train station has been closed. Bus service continues to serve the Tremblay Road station through other routes, although its circular access road has been partially closed to make way for the new rail right-of-way. Access out of the station has been rerouted via nearby Pickering Place.

I recently read about renovations that are planned for Ottawa's main railway station. The upgrades will include elevated and weather protected (yes!) passenger platforms and the replacement of the canopies above the platforms and tracks. Interior renovations will be included as well as a canopy to connect the station to the O-Train station.

Say goodbye to these old canopies!

An interesting side note to the light rail connection to the Via Rail station is that the bus stop at the station, which is now known simply as "Train Station" will be changed to "Tremblay Station" when the light rail line is completed through the area. I guess people thought it might be confusing and redundant to have a light rail station called "Train."

Programming note:

Beachburg Sub  and Confessions of  Train Geek contributor Dave M. has started his own railway blog, Ottawa 589. I invite you to check it out. Also, stay tuned for a contribution from Dave that is upcoming on this blog.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Guest Post: Riding the rails with Sarnia's little-known short line

Beachburg Sub readers are by now familiar with the photo contributions of my brother Marc, who lives in Sarnia. Recently, Marc and his children had the unique opportunity to take a tour of a small Sarnia short line railway's operations first hand. What follows is his account of this incredible behind-the-scenes look at a busy railway in action - Michael

Sometimes it’s not what you know, but who you know. 

I’m a causal rail enthusiast, with a rekindled interest in the local Sarnia rail scene. As mentioned by Michael in previous posts, our family has a long rail history, going back three generations. My career took me into the aviation field, but my young son brought me back to watching trains. My son and I often take a break from the family’s weekend errands, and visit the Sarnia Via Rail station to watch the action in Sarnia Yard. We’re lucky to see so much on this busy line. Forgive my lack of proper terminology and my photography shortcomings…I’m not expert. I’m just a dad who likes to take his kids to see the trains.

SW1200 1511 arriving to meet the kids with bell ringing! Background is Imperial Oil, one of Sarnia’s biggest refineries. I like the silhouette of the engineer shown here.

A family friend knew my son was obsessed about trains, and she kindly offered to arrange a tour of her company’s facility: Sarnia’s little known, but very busy short line railroad: VidalStreet Industrial Park Inc. (VIP).

Arial view looking west at the VIP site. Note the rail storage yard, bottom center (red arrow) Part of the Lanxess and Cabot site to the left (blue arrow). Imperial Oil above and to the left of VIP (yellow arrow), along with a few smaller refineries. St. Clair River (and Michigan) shown above Imperial (white arrows).

VIP operates on the former Fibreglass Canada site in Sarnia’s Chemical Valley. Fibreglass closed its doors in 1991, leaving 600 people out of work, and an abandoned 30-acre site. I remember it being a huge loss for Sarnia at the time. A group of Sarnia businessmen bought the site in 2005 and started the VIP short line railway.

1201 being refurbished. It was a former CN unit. Photo from VIP. Switcher No. 1007 is also in the fleet, a former Dow Chemical unit. Dow operated a large site in Sarnia for many years on the CSX Sarnia Subdivision.

VIP has three SW1200 engines: 1007, 1201 and 1511. They have three spurs: one servicing Imperial Oil, one connected to the Canadian National yard, and one servicing Cabot Carbon and Lanxess to the south. They are not connected to CSX’s lines, but are able to service these customers through the CSX/CN interchanges.

Riding in the cab of 1511, looking South towards Lanxess and Cabot Carbon. Servicing Cabot is a dirty job, as shown on top of the cab. Carbon-black dust from hopper loading makes for dirty engines. My son commented: “Daddy, the engine needs to go to the wash-down!”

VIP services local industry in several ways: They took over much of the shunting from CN: assembling, storing, and delivering consists in and out the CN yard. They have a large storage yard, holding 700 cars. They also offer trucking, warehouse and transload services. Cabot and Lanxess do not have much rail storage available on site, and use VIP to hold, deliver, and retrieve empty cars on a daily basis.

Ready for our ride! Lanxess site in the background. Among many other products, Lanxess is the world’s sole producer of food-grade butyl rubber, used for chewing gum. Check out the old crossbucks!

It was a great morning to see the Chemical Valley from behind the scenes. Our tour started at Kenny Street in Sarnia, continuing though VIP’s yard, through a section of Imperial Oil, and past the St. Andrew St. level crossing. We stopped short of the CN yard, and headed back. The train’s horn startled the kids!

Looking north along the swampy line. Heavy rain has flooded many areas.

Approaching the St. Andrew St crossing, with your friendly VIP guide standing guard.

It was a short tour, but a great experience for all of us. I haven’t been on an engine since I was a kid, when a friendly CP engineer in Banff took time from his break and let me and Michael come see inside the engine. (It was an SD40-2 towing a disabled Via F unit - Michael)

My three year old was excited beyond belief. We are lucky to have a friend who went the extra mile for us.
Thanks to my brother Marc for contributing this first-hand account of the VIP operations in Sarnia. Please feel free to leave a comment to let him know what you think.