To borrow a line from Monty Python, and now for something completely different. One of my fellow rail watchers in Ottawa Michael Watson caught this consist on CN 589 as it headed out to Arnprior last Wednesday. He made sure to set up for the train's return later that Wednesday to catch a most unusual site. For some reason, the Arnpior local had two centrebeam flat cars loaded with lumber, on its way back to Walkley Yard. The shot below shows 589 heading east along the Beachburg Sub near Greenbank Road. Can you spot the old dismantled track in the foreground of the shot?
Michael's catch raises some exciting possibilities for us railfans in the area. As I mentioned in this post, CN and the city have invested in improvements at the Corkstown Road crossing on the Beachburg Sub. I speculated at the time over what the investment could mean, since it made little sense to me why the railway would invest in a crossing on such a lightly used rail line.
The first thing I'm struck by is that the train is carrying lumber back from somewhere in the city's west end. If the train had been carrying lumber to a customer on the line, that would make the most sense to me. Is there a new customer on this rail line that is shipping product from a facility in the west end? Was this load of lumber a one-off shipment? Is there another explanation that I'm missing? Surely someone more knowledgeable than me might have a more reasonable explanation. I would point out, again, that Nylene Canada, the company that operates the Renfrew Spur and receives rail service once a week, has mused in the local media about making better use of this rail line. Could it be that someone has attracted more rail business to the old Renfrew Spur?
Here's another shot Michael caught with the two lumber cars at the end of the Arnpior local near Greenbank Road. A five-car consist is the longest I've seen on this train since I've been trying to catch it.
Here's a final shot of 589 headed toward Walkley. I tried to catch up with the local this past week, but it remains elusive. Michael did mention to me that the train seems to have a six-hour turnaround time, in his experience. In his case, he used this rule of thumb to catch the train in the evening after seeing it in the morning. I'm hopeful I can use this tip one Wednesday soon.
I am not an expert on the Renfrew Spur, since I have only seen portions of the line through Carp a few times. My final question is, did this local pick up this lumber on the line somewhere? I mention Carp because I know there is a siding there where track maintenance equipment is parked. I am hard pressed to think of other parts of the line where there might be nearby industry and sidings, which would necessitate any loading operation. I also wonder if there is possibility to ship lumber from Nylene Canada. That would make sense for CN, since they spend a few hours at Nylene each Wednesday unloading their tank cars.
Whether this was a one-off or a sign of things to come, I'm thankful to Michael Watson for catching this and generously sharing his shots and observations with us.