I recently rode Via Rail's Train 32 to Montreal for an appointment. I haven't been aboard a train since 2011, if memory serves. So, I was excited to go this past week, which brought me to Ottawa's Central Station very early. This was the consist that was facing eastward. This train was not the one I rode, but our lineup was identical: P42 and three LRC coaches. I was guided to an older coach, yet to be refurbished. Here's the best shot I could muster early in the morning of the other Montreal-bound train.
My first realization was that, east of the city, The Alexandria Sub has a number of level crossings. It seemed as though, for about the first thirty minutes of the trip, the engine's horn was blasting almost continuously as we raced through the countryside.
I mention this because there has been a great deal of discussion in the city about trying to eliminate the level crossings on CN/Via's Smiths Falls Subdivision trackage through the southern Ottawa suburb of Barrhaven. It was at the Woodroffe Avenue/Transitway level crossing that a Via train slammed into a city bus, tragically killing six people aboard the bus, including the driver. Since that time, there has been a lot of talk about getting rid of these crossings and replacing them with grade separated crossings.
Granted, there is a huge difference between level crossings on rural roads and the crossings in a very busy south-end neighbourhood in the city. However, it made me wonder. There are multiple examples of level crossings in other cities where there is relatively little trouble. But in Ottawa, when you factor in the multiple crossing signal issues and the fatal accident in Barrhaven, you can't help but wonder what's so different about this city.
This shot doesn't really do my second point justice, but it was the best I could muster at a difficult angle through a mud-spattered window. To the right, you can see a few freight cars at the end of an idling freight train near Coteau. As our train made its way through Eastern Ontario towns, I couldn't help but notice that pieces of old freight yards, however small, have largely been ripped up in numerous spots along the line. This makes sense, given what I've seen in Ottawa, where rails have been lifted in a number of spots, including the remnants of the old CP Carleton Place Sub in Bells Corners and the remnants of the Beachburg Subdivision northwest of Nepean Junction.
There were a few times where I could see rails bundled up trackside, ready to be moved elsewhere along CN's system. I suppose this is standard fare for railways where they take stock of their the unused rails, lift them and shift them to busier areas. I was on the wrong side of my car to get shots of Coteau's station or the Alexandria station. The Coteau station is Spartan to the least.
This shot, above, once again shows the difficulties of taking shots from inside a train with only a basic camera, like the one I brought. However, I must say that I was happy to see a passing freight train at Dorval, which may be the best place to watch trains in the Montreal area. This shot was taken on the train home to Ottawa in the evening. The light was fading fast and, by the time our train geared back up and passed the head end of this CP freight, I couldn't get a shot of the lead engine. But I definitely filed this spot away in my mind as a future spot I should visit, if I ever have the time. Depending on the time of day, you would be able to see multiple Via Rail trains, numerous AMT commuter trains (seen below, more on these in a later post) and multiple freight trains.
As the train approached Montreal, I was fascinated by all the trackside industries and other items of interest that you can only see on a train. Here's an old CN swing bridge at CN Wellington (an old CN building, dubbed Wellington Tower by locals, was near the bridge). It appears as though it was disconnected and just left there.
And another shot:
This bridge once swung over the Lachine Canal until the canal was closed to maritime traffic in 1959. The nearby Wellington Tower was built in 1943 and was a busy operations centre, but some of its usefulness died when the canal was closed to traffic, which meant the bridges became fixed. I couldn't get a shot of Wellington Tower, but here's a story about it from the Montreal Gazette
that explains the history of the facility. It appears this building is about to get a new lease on life.
The last item of interest I noticed when Train 30 was making its way into Montreal's Central Station was this container facility. This has model railway written all over it. This facility would be fun to have on a set.
On the other side of the Quonset hut over the tracks, there were a few hoppers, including this old government grain hopper.
One final shot of the containers, stacked quite high. I wondered why the hoppers were there.
One final look. Kind of like Lego for grown-ups.
That was what I saw through my dirty LRC window on the way into Montreal. I saw quite a bit more once I disembarked. I will share that in a future post. I will finally mention that I do like the raised platforms in Montreal, which are similar to the platforms in Quebec City in that they rise all the way up to the coach doors. It's a nice touch and it helps with accessibility. Unfortunately, it was way too dark to get any shots trackside beneath the Montreal station.
More to come.