Thursday, April 28, 2016


April 30 marks three years and 156 posts since I first started blogging about railways on The Beachburg Sub. You can read the first post here and have a good laugh. I look back on what I first posted and am glad for all I have learned since then.

I think about what I've learned and experienced since then as a rail fan and it's the difference between seeing things in black and white...

... and colour!

Thanks to everyone for stopping by, whether you've been here since the beginning or have just recently discovered my little corner of the Interweb. I've had a lot of fun doing this, although I have to admit it has been rather challenging constantly finding enough material up here in Ottawa to fill this space on weekly basis. Thankfully, there's so much more out there beyond this city that interests me and hopefully you as well.

Even if I didn't expand my scope beyond Ottawa, I think I could keep people coming back simply by chasing the Arnprior local, CN 589 (some interesting news about this shortly).

As a way of moving forward, I'm pleased to share a few changes I've made in an effort to further entertain fellow rail enthusiasts and share more photos. I've recently uploaded many of my photos onto my Flikr page, which you can visit at anytime. I've divided a number of my photos by theme and geography, so you can easily find what you might be looking for. Feel free to drop by and spend some time. I should warn you that I mainly uploaded the photos as a way of backing up my photos. With that in mind, please be patient as many of my photos are not yet attached to specific captions. I will get to it eventually, but it will take some time.

Also, you might have noticed on the right of the blog's main page that I've added a number of links to some of my most popular posts. I might add links to other popular posts in the coming weeks and months as well.

It's been a great ride so far. Stay tuned for more!

Top photo: Work train in Sarnia in 1951 (Canada Science and Technology Museum archives). Second photo: CN interchange train in Sarnia Yard in August 2014.

Friday, April 22, 2016

37th Heaven

Toronto Part IV - The following post is the fourth of four I have put together to chronicle the various trains I saw on a recent trip to Toronto with my family in mid-March. You can read the first three parts here, here and here.

Call it a Moveable Feast.* When my family spent a few days in Toronto last month, I was thrilled that we were treated to a trackside seat to all the comings and goings at Toronto's Union Station. As I have mentioned, our rented condo was just west of Union Station, in between Spadina Avenue and Bathurst Street.

This week, I thought I would share some of my favourite aerial shots of the railway action that were taken from the 37th floor balcony, which fronted onto Toronto's busy passenger rail corridor. Let's begin with a Via Rail combined train. I saw this consist twice over my three-day stay. I like this shot because it captures the entire consist heading beneath Spadina Avenue. The first engine is trailed by three coaches while the second is trailed by six. I have only seen this type of consist on other people's blogs, so it was a real treat to see something like this in person. Via Rail's J-Train has been shot a number of times in Quebec and other points east of Toronto. Does anyone have an idea what this consist might be? I didn't think it was the so-called J-Train.

Another scene I have rarely seen outside of Ottawa's Central Station. As you see below, two Via Rail corridor trains cross paths on their way to Union Station. In this case, the F40 consist was stopped while the P42-pulled streamliner consist proceeded ahead to Union. It was cool to see a diversity of Via Rail equipment from up high.

This perspective gives you an idea of where my perch was in relation to the tracks. In this shot, a Via Rail corridor train heads west out of Union, just beside my spot. This is what a train looks like from 37 floors almost directly overhead. You can see some bundles of rail and ties beside the train.

As I mentioned, I saw the Via Rail combination consist twice. This shot, again, shows you what these trains looked like from a vantage point that was almost directly overhead In this shot, you can see an F40 consist with four cars leading the second consist, also being pulled by another F40. Those tracks you see at the top of the shot comprise the GO Transit North Bathurst Yard, where GO Trains park during the off-peak hours.

An aerial shot of a few GO Trains parking in North Bathurst Yard following the morning rush. The weather over the days I was in Toronto was quite misty, which made getting sharp images a little tricky. Still, it was fun to see these trains backing into the yard. The outer tracks in this yard were all stubs. It looked as through there were connected to the main line at both ends at some point.

Four trains in one shot. This is a record for me that will likely never be broken. These four GO consists met right next to old Fort York, just west of the Bathurst Street bridge, which is in the bottom of the frame. You can really notice the mist in this shot.

Here's an action shot of a GO Train backing into North Bathurst Yard right after the morning rush. What makes this shot even better is the combined Via Rail consist making its way to Union Station, to the left of the shot. Both trains are passing beneath the Spadina Avenue bridge.

And with that, you have a somewhat complete picture of what I saw in Toronto last month. I have loads of other shots I will share on an infrequent basis.
* - A Moveable Feast is the title of Ernest Hemingway's unfinished memoirs, which were published following his death. In my opinion, his greatest work will always be For Whom the Bells Tolls, a fictionalized account of an American fighting with the Spanish guerillas during the Spanish Civil War.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

GOing to extremes

Toronto Part III - The following post is the third of four I have put together to chronicle the various trains I saw on a recent trip to Toronto with my family in mid-March. You can read the first two parts here and here.
It didn't get much better than this. For three days, I was able to watch one of the busiest rail corridors in the country right from my living room window. My family was staying in a condo in downtown Toronto, just steps from Spadina Avenue. This meant that I was able to watch trains, even when I was doing something else. At one point during our brief stay in Hogtown, my wife asked me to walk down the street to see what the line was like at the Ripley's Aquarium (see previous post), which was the main family activity we had planned for our little stay. I jumped at the chance to do this, since it allowed me to walk trackside and get more photos of the railway action. In this post, I am sharing some of the more interesting shots I collected while on this short walk, no to mention a few others I captured from the 37th floor condo. In this next post, I will share the most interesting aerial shots from the condo perch, which are far too numerous for this post.
So, here's the first shot I liked. It's a GO Train headed west, having just left Union Station. On point is MP40PH-3C 643. While I watched these GO Trains over my three-day stay, I noticed that most consists have these locomotives pushing or pulling. That means the old F59PHs are largely being phased out. Notice that the first coach in the consist is newly painted in the Metrolinx light green scheme. I didn't see as many of these newly painted cars as I thought I would.

I noticed that GO would begin backing up trains early in the morning in the North Bathurst Yard, which was right across from my condo. I shot a lot of aerial shots of these moves, but I did make sure to get a few shots from the Spadina Avenue bridge, including this image. The misty weather tended to obscure many of the details in my shots, but I still like how this one turned out.

I was thrilled with this shot simply because it captured all the elements of a busy rail network in a big city that I wanted to get. In this shot, you can see the pedestrian bridge between Iceboat Terrace and Front Street (yellow), the Bathurst Street bridge, a newly installed signal gantry, two diverging rail pathways, two signal towers and the main attraction, the UP Express, heading east to Union Station. This is one of my favourite shots from Toronto.

A quick peek at a UP Express wrap on a GO Train in North Bathurst Yard. What's that expression? One hand washes the other? In this case, one Metrolinx operation touts the other. This was the only wrap I saw.

Another GO Train makes its way east to Union Station, passing by North Bathurst Yard. The frequency of GO Trains blew me away, particularly an Ottawa resident not accustomed to commuter rail of this magnitude.

This is one of the features of the new GO equipment that I almost missed. I caught this new cab at the end of our stay.

And as I mentioned, the F59PHs are almost phased out, but I did catch a consist with an F59 on each end. In this case, this consist stopped right in front of our building and waited for clearance to proceed. At one point, multiple GO Trains were lined up on a single track, some within a few dozen metres of each other, all waiting for clearance to go. It was like watching planes lined up next to a runway. I have never seen that before. It was a treat to watch. In the image below, you can see the GO crew taking a breather while they await instructions to proceed. Made for an amazing shot.
Usually, I tend to stay away from railfanning posts, but I couldn't resist. There really is no story or editorial content here, just a few memories of a great few days spent watching trains. 

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Five minutes at Roundhouse Park

Toronto, Part II - The following post is the second of four I have put together to chronicle the various trains I saw on a recent trip to Toronto with my family in mid-March. You can read the first part here.
I was like a moth to a flame when I saw the roundhouse. When my family was recently in Toronto, I was able to find a few minutes to go for a walk along the tracks downtown. The official purpose was to make my way to the Ripley's Aquarium and check out the line before my family visited the attraction. I knew the Toronto Railway Museum was across the road, but not having been to the area in years, I forgot that the museum had all its artifacts spread throughout Roundhouse Park for anyone to see for free. So, after checking out the line at the aquarium, I figured I had about five minutes to check out the trains before heading back to our rented condo where my family would be waking up from their naps.
I was able to pack a lot into five minutes.

This was my favourite piece in the park. This is a 1953-built GP7 that was used throughout Canada on the CN. It was retired in 1984 and donated to the City of Toronto to celebrate the city's 150th anniversary. Given that it was retired in 1984, this unit obviously wore the red and black wet-noodle scheme when it was pulled from service, but the museum chose to apply CN's green and yellow scheme, which was used until the wet noodle scheme began to be rolled out in 1961. That means this unit was in this green and yellow scheme for a relatively short time.

When you pass by the roundhouse on Bremner Boulevard, the first thing you see is wooden Canadian National caboose 79144 and the maroon Toronto, Hamilton & Buffalo caboose 70. The TH&B caboose was built in 1921 as a wooden caboose. The car was sheeted in steel in the 1950s and was painted yellow and black, which was meant to honour Hamilton's Canadian Football League team, the Tiger-Cats. The TH&B, formed in 1892, operated until 1987. Its corporate parents were the Canadian Pacific and CSX (successor to original TH&B partner New York Central).

The CN caboose was actually a wooden boxcar built in 1920, which was transformed into a caboose in 1957. The caboose is a recent addition to the museum, having been donated in 2014. The car was in recent years used as an office at a garden supply centre and nursery in the Toronto area. The interior of the caboose is still a work in progress, according to the museum's website.

Here's a better shot, above, of  the TH&B caboose's fa├žade and trucks. You can see that the window beneath the cupola was sheeted over at one point. Despite that, the caboose is still a striking piece of rail history, especially in the maroon paint and the classic TH&B logo. I have a beloved TH&B wooden boxcar as part of my HO scale trains (currently boxed up, sadly), so this road has always been one of my favourite fallen flags.

I like that this museum has an old Alco S2 switcher in the CP Rail multimark scheme. Despite its more modern colour scheme, this unit was built in 1944. This unit weighs 120 tonnes. It was powered by an inline six-cylinder, 1000-horsepower engine. CP soon began replacing its S2s with the lighter S3s. You can read about the S3 in this previous post. This unit was retired from service as a local switcher in Toronto in 1986. You will notice in the photo that this switcher is coupled to another switcher. Given its position behind those cement columns and fencing (not seen in photo), I was unable to get any useful shots of the maroon and grey switcher.

This is Canadian Pacific 411281, a 1931-built heavyweight sleeper, which was converted to maintenance of way service at some point, hence the CP Rail script. From what I could find, this sleeper was once called Jackman. It spent a good deal of time at the downtown CP Yard and at the John Street roundhouse before it was officially retired and donated to the museum.

This old CP station, the Don Station, has perhaps the most interesting history of any of the artifacts at the old John Street roundhouse. The station was built by the Canadian Pacific in 1896 near Queen Street as a suburban station to serve the needs of passengers who didn't want to go all the way to Union Station. This type of suburban station was quite common in big cities for decades until the development of better roads and highways eliminated the need for them.

In the case of this station, it remained operational until 1967, mainly as a stopover for passenger trains arriving from Peterborough or Havelock. After it was closed, the station was moved to the Todmorden Mills historic village in the Don Valley in 1969, where it housed a railway display. After a while, it was used for storage. It was recently moved to Roundhouse Park, where it has become a centerpiece.

It is the last remaining example of this style of turn-of-the-century station that existed all around Toronto. One note to the fine folks at the railway museum: it's time to powerwash the decking surrounding the station. I nearly slipped and fell as did a few other people.

This regal looking car is Canadian Pacific Cape Race, which was built in 1929 as River Liard. The interior was finished at CP's Angus Shops in Montreal. Typical of the heavyweight lounge cars of the time, this car had both men's and women's showers, smoking rooms and a women's lounge. These cars were not initially revenue producing, as they were placed in the consist for the exclusive use of passengers using sleeping cars. In the 1940s, the car was converted into a revenue-generating sleeper and was renamed Cape Race. The car was then used as a business car before it was acquired by a rail history society for use on railfanning trips. The years have been kind to this car. It's still a looker.

Cabin D, above, served as an interlocking tower at the rail junction just west of Bathurst Street in downtown Toronto, until it was moved to the roundhouse in 1984 and refurbished. The museum posted photos several years ago of the tower's move to its spot in the park.

One final shot of Cabin D and an adjacent rail structure located right beside the CNR GP9 and just across the tracks from the old Don Station. Next time I'm in Toronto, I will have to splurge and spend a full 10 minutes in the park to take in all this rail history. As it stands, I was happy to squeeze in this time.