Thursday, October 29, 2015

If at first you don't succeed, try, try, try, try...

As I eluded to in this post, I recently took up the challenge of trying to catch up with the Arnprior local, CN 589, on a fairly recent Wednesday morning near Bells Corners. But as I mentioned, the train did now show in the usual timeframe, which is in itself a dubious claim. On the whole, the train usually makes its way through Bells Corners between 8 a.m. and 9 a.m. So, for two straight Wednesday mornings, I ventured out to the crossing where the Trans-Canada Trail meets the Beachburg Sub near Corkstown Road. Both mornings, the train didn't show, much to my frustration. You will recall that back in May, I caught the train at this spot right around 8:40 a.m.

To make matters worse, as my wife and I were driving home from an errand on the first Wednesday of my chase, we saw the Arnprior local crossing under the Queensway at about 3:20 p.m. I had planned to head out after I dropped my wife off at home to maybe catch the train returning to Walkley Yard from Nylene Canada.

"Next week," my wife said.

Well, next week, I headed out again in the morning and had the same problem. I was about to just concede defeat when I was on my way to pick up my daughter from daycare. I decided to head out a little early, since my five-month-old daughter was cranky and needed to sleep, so I figured it was just easier to take her  for a drive (as a parent, I do not recommend this method of sleep training, but some days, you just have to do it!).

Anyway, as I was driving around, I decided to head down Corkstown Road and wait by the crossing, since I had time to kill. I figured it was worth a shot. Well, it just goes to show you that persistence and luck pays off.

The Arnprior local was making its way slowly down the Beachburg Sub, just southeast of  the former Nepean Junction, with two empty tank cars in tow. I had my car parked on the shadow side of the train, since there was no safe option on the other side of the crossing where I could park my car and still have this vantage point. My goal was to get a wide shot of the train instead of a wedge shot.

There was a lot of retouching that I had to do in order to get these photos looking reasonable. Yes, that is CN 4771 pulling the two tank cars. This is the same hideous unit that I saw at Walkley Yard a few weeks before I took this shot.

What's even funnier is that, as ugly as this unit is, seeing it long hood forward only makes it look worse. The shot I showed from Walkley Yard showed 4771 from the front (You can see it in this post). The long hood looks awful! And someone left a broom on the outside of the unit. Sloppy.

Here's a shot, above, that is heavily retouched and less obstructed by the poles. I would love to shoot a train along this stretch when the lighting is more favourable to my position. So much greenery to take in.

Here's a final shot of 589 crossing Corkstown Road before it makes it way beneath the Queensway and southeast toward Bells Corners. And that is my story about my third meeting with the ghost train of the Beachburg Subdivision. Hope you enjoyed it.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

RMEO Part III: The dental car

This is the third part of a series detailing the artifacts found at the Railway Museum of Eastern Ontario in Smiths Falls. You can read the first part here and the second part here.

One of the more curious artifacts in the museum is Canadian National heavyweight sleeper car 15095, built in 1913. What makes this car curious is that is was converted in 1951 into a dental car. The bedrooms in the car were remade into living quarters for a travelling dentist, a dental office and a nurse's room.

The car, which was converted in 1951, owed its new lease on life to the Ontario government, which introduced a program in the 1930s to provide free dental care to children in remote communities in Northern Ontario, many of which were connected to the outside world by the Canadian National, Canadian Pacific, Ontario Northland main lines or other northern subdvisions (think of towns like Sioux Lookout, Capreol, Kapuskasing or Cochrane).

Children would enter one end, be treated in the dental office halfway down the length of the car before exiting the other end. The dental car travelled with an accompanying car that stored the dental supplies. This car had three options for its power supply. It could receive power from a train consist, a generator or directly from the hydro grid. The dental car would also serve adults, for a fee.

The car served as a travelling dental car before being retired in 1977. Shortly after, it was preserved in Toronto and was on display there before it was acquired in 1990 by the Railway Museum of Eastern Ontario. This is what the car looked like when it was stored in Toronto (below).

Photo courtesy of the Canada Science and Technology Museum online archives

The museum's volunteer in the dental car told me that each end of the car retained much of its original mahogany interior d├ęcor. I took this photo of what the hallway near the entrance looked like. This is what a passenger would have seen as they boarded this car in 1913. That head you see in the bottom of the photo is my daughter practicing her photobomb skills.

This room, below, was once the men's smoking lounge. It was converted to a kitchen as part of the dentist's living quarters.

Some beds were removed from a bedroom to make up the dentist office. My daughter thought the stuffed animals on the dentist's chair were a nice touch.

This shot below shows you what the exterior of the car looks like right now. The car is perched at the end of a long wooden boardwalk. I've read some conflicting points of view online regarding this Canadian National paint scheme. Some seem to like it while others hate it. I, for one, like it.

This final shot gives you an idea of the collection at the museum. When I took a handcart ride on the track between these cars, I was able to see the seven or so passengers cars in various states of repair. Given the museum relies on volunteers, I'm guessing it will be a long road ahead for some of these old beasts.

The volunteer in the dental car told me that the car, which was known as Camrose, was also used on Canadian Pacific trackage in Northern Ontario, making it likely that it might have made its way to Chapleau, where my Grandfather worked as a rolling stock mechanic.
The dental car is one of seven at the museum (see above). CP and CN both contributed three old passenger coaches to the museum as part of its creation in 1985. Some bear no outward identifying marks, which makes it tough to trace their history. 

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

East meets West at Twin Elm

Ottawa's rail watchers have so little to get excited about, so I'm asking your indulgence as I present to you a rare visitor to the Via Rail/CN Smiths Falls Subdivision. I was driving around Twin Elm with my daughters in tow when I saw some odd looking hopper cars at the SynAgri feed mill. Of course, I had no camera with me when I realized that CN had delivered a few Potash Corp. three-bay hopper cars to the mill's spur, including this one below, which was pushed all the way to the end.

While these cars are, of course, common in Western Canada and are seen on trains in the east, I have never seen them up here in Ottawa. Needless to say, I made a return trip the following day (Oct 3) to document these hoppers, western stalwarts making a guest appearance in this eastern rail outpost.

Above: The interesting thing I noticed when I arrived at this mill was that one Potash car was spotted on the spur by itself, apart from three other cars.

My return trip also allowed me a chance to take some shots of the feed mill, which I have mentioned and shot in previous posts. It also gave me a chance to think about what they were doing at the mill. Looking at the SynAgri website, it's clear that they provide fertilizer to their clients (farmers), which would explain a delivery in Potash cars. Whether these cars are filled with a Potash Corp product or not, I cannot say, but I would say it's a pretty good guess. I've been to this place a few times and have shot a few different hopper cars on the spur, including one in this post that generated an interesting discussion among the readers.

This is a shot from Cambrian Road, above. Given that Ottawa is such a backwater when it comes to freight trains, seeing anything out of the ordinary is always a welcome diversion for me. This shot shows you that it's a busy time of year for the mill. I noticed quite a number of loading devices and other pieces of equipment strewn around the property, as you can see from this shot.

This shot above shows you what the mill complex looks like. You can see the other three hoppers, including two more Potash cars and one patched for a leasing company. You can see a loading device and a small Caterpillar machine next to the cars. I was happy that I caught these cars on a Saturday, since CN 589 serves this mill on Sundays, which means these cars were likely gone soon after I took these shots. I had to colour correct this shot and use the saturation tool to clean up the lighting a bit.

Now, here's the same shot with the black and white treatment, below. There's a timelessness to this scene, which I think lends itself to black and white. I really love shooting at this mill. I wish I could catch the switching operation here some day.

Oh, and that field next to the mill is a corn field. Luckily, a wide swath had been harvested and cleared recently, which allowed me to get these shots.

Here's a closer look at the cars, two of which appear to be newer three-bay 4300 cubic foot capacity Potash Corp. cars. The one in the middle looks new.

Here's a final shot of the spur, which comes much closer to Twin Elm Road than I thought. I have made my rounds here a few times and never knew the spur came out this far, since much of it is buried in weeds and grass during the summer. You can just make out the shark teeth at the end of the spur through the weeds.
So, for those of you who likely see far more trains than I do, thanks for your indulgence on this post. I know these cars might not be all that interesting to those of you who see them all the time, but to me, they are a rare treat, especially since they are graffiti free. And, as my fellow blogger Eric Gagnon of Trackside Treasure mentioned, this is the year of the mundane, so I'm hoping this is a good addition to that theme.
As I have learned from taking mundane shots when I was young, what seems mundane one day may been invaluable down the road.