Thursday, May 26, 2016

Have iPhone, will travel

My brother often has to travel around the United States for business. Since his son has shown an interest in trains, Marc has made sure to take shots of trains when he comes across them. We here at the Beachburg Sub are the beneficiaries, as my brother always passes along the shots to me. Recently, he was in Tuscon, Arizona on his way from Davis-Monthan Air Force Base when he stopped for gas. Luckily, he came across a Union Pacific autorack train headed north from the auto plants in Mexico. You can see one of the units is a newer unit with the American flag sheme while the other is an older unit with the old paint scheme. I prefer the older scheme. I think the flag confuses the railway's identity, just like the Canada wordmark and old flag logos did on older Via LRC coaches. I always prefer a cleaner look.

Also recently, my brother was in Kissimmee, Florida, for business when he had a meeting close to the old Kissimmee Amtrak station. You will recall that I caught the northbound Amtrak silver service train en route to New York in this post. My brother also caught the same northbound train, although the consist was significantly different than the one I saw. As you will see from the video he shot (below the image of the P42), the consist featured quite a few newly repainted Amfleet coaches and bilevels.

Here's the video from my brother's iPhone. I like the baggage car scheme. Old school! One thing you will find with Amtrak is that the railway still rosters a fairly wide variety of rolling stock with different paint schemes, when you compare it to Via Rail.

Also recently, my brother found himself watching some trains with his son at the Sarnia Via Rail station. He passed this one along to me. I have to give him credit. He has a sharp eye for interesting rolling stock.

In this case, he caught a former Southern Pacific/CottonBelt/Denver and Rio Grande Golden West Service branded boxcar. The cars were in need of repair at a point in the 1990s, when SP and its subsidiaries were in financial trouble. A deal was struck for Greenbrier to buy the cars and have them repaired. The fleet would then be leased back to SP. Since Greenbrier had to use railway reporting marks, the company secured a number of other railway marks, which meant most of these cars lost their original SP reporting marks over time.

On a trip to Seattle, my brother came across a number of streetcars, some of which sported some interesting advertising wraps. This one, sponsored by Amazon, was my nephew's favourite. He told my brother that this was the smiling train. I like to see the seamless integration of street cars with regular traffic in big cities. Also, the design of this car makes its wheels invisible. It's almost as if the streetcar is floating.

Speaking of street cars, here's a shot I snagged of some new and old streetcars on Spadina Avenue in Toronto in March.

Final shot is a Sound Transit light rail train that my brother hopped aboard to get out to the SEATAC airport. My brother told me he was impressed with the service, which only cost $2.50 to get from the city centre out to the airport. The light rail line enters the downtown through a 1.5 mile tunnel, which has several stops underground. My brother also mentioned that the suburban buses fed into the tunnel as well. You can see from this shot that you can take your bike onto the train.

Marc mentioned that the Sound Transit line parallels freight railway lines, which is great for a rail fan. Sadly, the train was a little too packed for my brother to take shots.

Thanks for my brother for keeping his eyes peeled wherever he goes and sharing some great shots.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Postcard from Twin Elm

This is the third post in an occasional series that explores the stories behind standalone photos that would otherwise end up in the land of the misfit photographs. You can read the first in this series here, and the second in the series here.

Everything about this shot speaks of a time when railways were an altogether different animal. I took this photograph June 21, 2014 when I came up empty trying to capture CN's Sunday morning local on the Smiths Falls Subdivision. This car was spotted at the SynAgri feed mill in the rural four corners called Twin Elm.

The mill is located at the end of a dead-end road. It's typical of the trackside industries that are still common trackside, although many seem to be fading away. The building was not built for anything other to perform a function. The sun-bleached plywood annex behind this covered hopper speaks to the building's utility.

The hopper itself also speaks to another time. The car still bears its Soo Line logo and its markings, although the car is in danger of losing what's left of its identity thanks to taggers. In a way, this shot could have been taken twenty or even thirty years ago and you wouldn't be able to tell the difference, but for the graffiti.

The Twin Elm area is a small speck on the map, with an old school house, a paving company and a few farm houses. You can find this hamlet while travelling Old Richmond Road on the way to Richmond. You can see from the map below where the photo was taken.

CN still serves this mill, although I have yet to see CN 589 service this mill in the times I have caught CN 589. But on a sunny summer day, it's a good spot to snap a shot of something that is quickly fading from the railway landscape.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Improvements to Corkstown Road crossing

For those of us in Ottawa that are dedicated (crazy?) enough to follow the last remaining freight train on the Beachburg Subdivision, this may be good news. I read the other day that the City of Ottawa has received nearly $20,000 to fund safety improvements at the Fallowfield Road level crossing on the Smiths Falls Subdivision and other safety improvements at another crossing. What a surprise it was when I read that the city received $4,800 to fund small improvements to the Corkstown Road crossing on CN's Beachburg Subdivision in Nepean.
Corkstown Road crossing on CN's Beachburg Sub in 2014

The money, which is coming from a $10.9-million Transport Canada rail safety fund, will help pay for new LED warning lights on these crossing signals at Corkstown Road. Right now, there are incandescent bulbs installed. So what, you might be thinking. What's the significance of replacing a few bulbs on a line that hosts one train in either direction each week?

Well, to me, it's a positive sign that we will continue to see the Arnprior local operate each week, even if it's just once a week. Someone obviously thought the operations on this line warranted this small improvement.

Dare I even suggest that maybe these improvements were made because of other potential changes on this line, like increased traffic? I doubt it, but we can all dream, right? Remember that Nylene Canada, the customer at the end of the Renfrew Spur, has mused about looking at ways at increasing the use of the trackage out to its plant. The company, which owns the Renfrew Spur, has never elaborated on its vision for the line (the city owns the land beneath the right-of-way).

Fall 2015 meet with an eastbound Arnprior local consist returning to Walkley Yard

As for Fallowfield Road crossing, the federal money will go toward realigning light standards and other poles around the crossing, in an effort to improve sightlines on the busy road. Those of you who read this blog know that the railway crossings through Barrhaven have been the source of frustration for local residents, due to a number of signal malfunctions in recent years. You will also recall the tragic collision in 2014 when a city bus collided with a train at the nearby Woodroffe Avenue Transitway crossing. That accident killed five passengers and the bus driver.

May 2015 meet with a Via corridor train as it crosses the Fallowfield crossing

You can read about the railway crossing funding here.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Change on the Smiths Falls Sub

I thought I'd pass along a few observations from my recent travels along the Smiths Falls Subdivision.

I was in Barrhaven the other day when I decided to venture down Greenbank Road to see how the new railway bridge is progressing. This shot below was taken a few weeks ago. There still seems to be a lot of work to be done. You can see from the shot below how Greenbank has been diverted to a temporary crossing (right) while works proceeds to complete a road underpass.

Here's another look, below. For those who have visited this blog before, you know that Barrhaven residents have pushed for a number of measures to lessen the burden of living next to a busy Via Rail subdivision. Trains were recently ordered to refrain from using their horn in certain areas of Barrhaven. I would not be surprised if another bridge like this is installed in the coming years, likely along Woodroffe Avenue or Fallowfield Road. This bridge makes sense since it's a safer option for everyone involved. I still maintain, though, that Ottawa residents have largely forgotten about how to live next to a railway. I digress.

On April 8, I was visiting a friend in Richmond when I saw this sight near the Ottawa Street crossing. This collection of maintenance of way equipment was parked on a stub-end siding. The consist included an open top hopper, SETX 1002.

Here's a closer look at the hopper, which has appeared a few times around Walkley Yard as well as a few other points in Eastern Ontario. It seems this has been used a number of times for maintenance consists.

One final shot from the Ottawa Street crossing. Sadly, no Via corridor trains were forthcoming, judging by the signals.

I asked around the Eastern Ontario Rails Facebook group to see if anyone knew what the MoW consist was for, but no one had an idea. It occurred to me the other day that maybe work was soon to begin to align the track over the bridge on the new Greenbank Road railway bridge. I have not been back to that area since I took the top two shots, so I can't say for sure what that little work train was doing in Richmond. But I'm glad I caught it. It was just cold enough to snow, which actually made the shots much more interesting. You can really notice the snow in the final shot.

I heard some interesting news about the Beachburg Subdivision the other day, which I will share in a future post.