Thursday, July 28, 2016

New life for the old Prescott Subdivision

I recently made it back to Bedell, Ont. on the Canadian Pacific Railway's Winchester Subdivision. When I arrived in Kemptville, I passed over the old remnants of the North Prescott Spur, formerly the Prescott Subdivision. The North Grenville government has made major strides in converting that portion of the old subdivision into a recreational trail. Most parts of the trail looked like this, with signs warning of herbicides being used to clear the trail's right-of-way of weeds. I like the fact that a sign was put in place to show anyone on the trail what is coming up. The shot below shows you the the old Prescott Sub right after it branched off the Winchester Sub at Bedell. This is a section of trail just north of Bedell Road.

This is what the same stretch looked like in the summer of 2014 from the other side of Bedell Road. The rails were in the process of being pulled when I arrived at the scene. Shortly after I was there, a reader from Kemptville told me that the remaining rails were taken up by the end of that summer.

Here's what remains of the old Harvex spur in Kemptville. As you can see (or not see), the old roadbed is grown over with weeds as the old fertilizer facility has remained vacant since the last time I shot photos here. The same Kemptville reader mentioned that Harvex's fertilizer facility moved to Oxford Station, along the CP South Prescott Spur. The other local customer in Kemptville was Highland Lumber, which was located just beyond the old Harvex facilities on Van Buren Road.

This is what the scene looked like 2014 when I shot the last remnants of this spur. The main roadbed is now a well maintained trail that looks to be just about ready for regular use. This part of the trail has also recently been sprayed with herbicides to keep the right-of-way clear. The Harvex spur, of course, is all but buried in weeds now. In 2014, you can see the weeds were already beginning to take over.

Here's a 2014 shot of a westbound CP mixed freight passing by milepost 104.3 right where the old North Prescott Spur branched off from the main line (you can see it on the left). This area is now fenced off and off limits to photographers. I managed to get this shot from well behind where the fence now sits, thanks to some creative use of the camera's zoom function.

All of this was all a prelude to some railfanning, of course. I have recently been told that the frequency of trains on the Winchester Sub is not what it once was, so catching trains of this stretch of track is not as easy as it once was. But I hung around long enough to see a fast-moving tank train. More on this next week. Here's a preview.

You can read my 2014 three-part series on Kemptville, the old Prescott Subdivision and Bedell, Ont. by clicking Bedell Part I, Part II or Part III.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Sometimes, it all comes together

In two recent posts, including this one, I shared some shots of Via Rail corridor trains on the Smiths Falls Subdivision. I have been trying to get some shots from different perspectives as a way to liven up an otherwise dull pursuit of nearly identical Via Rail corridor trains. One area I have been working with is McKenna Casey Drive beneath Highway 416. This is a tricky spot since the road has narrow shoulders. But I did find one stretch beneath the highway that has wider shoulders that allow you to pull over safely and get some interesting shots.

Recently, I parked right beneath the highway and was immediately struck by the interesting lines that the twin highway spans created over the railway. Also, unlike the area I have shot from a little west of this perspective, there were no trees to block my shot.

This image below is the end result where all the elements of a great photograph came together. I found the right location. I was fortunate enough to arrive just as this purple-blue cloud was passing over the area, which only added to the shot. Combine those colours with the buttercups in the field and you have the makings of a great railway photo. This shot below shows Via's Train 55 making its way west toward Moodie Drive, being pulled by a P42. I was thrilled with how this shot turned out.

I'm not sure which shot I liked the best, because I really liked this shot too, since the train is not blocking the lines made by the highway spans. This is good example of the types of images I have been trying to get recently where the train isn't necessarily a huge element of the photograph, but is still striking nonetheless.

I also liked this shot below as Train 55 made its way out of the frame. The composition of the sky really made these shots better.

This meet with Train 55 completed my experiment with this area. I know now where I will take shots of trains in the area in the future. I've tried photographs from different angels, but I think this shot is by far the most dramatic.

I've mentioned this before but I've really think it's worthwhile to get photographs of trains where the train is not necessarily dominating the frame. Taking shots that showcase a train's immediate surroundings really do result in some compelling photos.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Cedarview Road: Now and Then

Recently, I've had a few opportunities to make my way out for some train watching. Since there isn't much variety where I live, I have tried shooting trains in different spots and from different angles as a way to get some new photos, even if there are still just shots of Via corridor trains.

I've mentioned Cedarview Road as a spot where I like to shoot, since you can get relatively close to the right-of-way while remaining at a safe and legal distance. Just like I did in this recent post where I compared winter and summer shots, I thought I would do some similar comparisons at Cedarview Road.

The first shot is a typical four-car LRC consist being pulled by an F40PH-2. I was pleased with this shot, but was struck by the different look of the right-of-way compared to the winter shot (below).

What I found interesting is that I can't see the edge of Barrhaven in the winter shot, due to the snow being whipped up by the train. But, I did like that I got a few decent shots from the same vantage point that showcase how interesting railfanning can be in a four-season city like Ottawa.

After taking the top shot, I waited for Train 55 to get a little closer so I could catch it near the pedestrian underpass. The lighting was decent, although I did get a lot of glare off the coaches. Still, this is a great spot if you are looking to get a dramatic shot from just below the right-of-way (from a bug's eye view as my art teacher in high school called it).

Now compare this with a shot from a similar point of view taken earlier this year after a snowfall. I like the winter shot better, because I got a little closer and managed to avoid much of the fence in the shot. Also, I love any train photo with snow whipping around. It certainly conveys more of the movement than a summer shot would.

Speaking of Via Rail, there are a number of projects the railway has ongoing in Ottawa right now, which you can read about by visiting this webpage. You may recall from this post that there is a work consist that has been parked on a spur in Richmond. I can't say for sure that it is being used by Via Rail in the city, but it's a good bet that it is. The railway says it is doing much of its track work at night, when its schedule is lighter. Too bad because I would love to catch some of these work trains in action. The railway is doing the following things in the city:

- replacing ties on the Alexandria Sub, just east of Ottawa's Central Station.

- repairing concrete and steel supports on the Rideau River bridge near Prince of Wales Drive. This work is supposed to wrap up by next year.

- installing continuous welded rail on a stretch of the Beachburg Subdivision stretching from just west of the Central Station through to the Billings Bridge area.

- upgrading the platforms at the Central Station so that the platforms will be level with the doors on passenger coaches (this would make the platforms in Ottawa similar the platforms in Montreal and Quebec City). The platform work is part of a larger project that will see numerous upgrades at the Central Station. More on this in a future post.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Oh so close

There's a good explanation for this shot.

Yes, the shot below is the ever elusive CN 589 heading back to Walkley Yard on a recent Wednesday. I have found some time over the summer when I have  finished work early and camped out at a spot along Northside Road in the hopes of catching the Arnprior Local. Well, I managed to catch it last week, although just barely. There's a decent story behind this shot.

I sometimes head out to take some quick shots of late afternoon Via Rail corridor trains in Barrhaven. I have been experimenting with vantage points along this walking trail beside the tracks. You can access it from Cedarview Road, right at the point where it abuts at the Smiths Falls Sub. Given the greenery that has been growing on the safety fence, the sightlines are limited. This image below is one of the better shots, although for the most part, the images didn't quite work out the way I envisioned. That's part of experimenting with different locations.

Anyway, after I caught Via Train 55 westbound, I checked my watch and noticed that the timing could possibly be right for me to camp out alongside the Beachburg Subdivision to see if I could catch the Arnprior Local. Its timing has been inconsistent since I've taken an interest in it, but there are a few times that seem to produce better results.

I began making my way back to Northside Road, just in case 589 showed. The mistake I made was making one tiny pit stop on my way to Northside, which cost me a few minutes. It turns out that those minutes were crucial, since the local was already moving along Northside Road when I arrived. And, as is Murphy's Law, I was stuck behind a law abiding citizen who was driving below the speed limit, which hampered my ability to pull up to a spot and quickly grab a few shots.

The top photo you see was the best I could do. And, yes, the car in the shot is the law abiding citizen who didn't help my efforts. I still like the shot, though, since it captures the train in the midst of a busy urban environment. You wouldn't know it by looking at the photo, but the train is actually crossing the bridge that carries the Beachburg Sub over Highway 416.

What's the lesson? Well, I guess you could say don't dawdle when you are pursing a train and stay focused on the task at hand (but do it safely, of course). Truthfully, there is no lesson. I could have just as easily showed up trackside only to be skunked once again. Such is the life of a railfan in Ottawa.

I am grateful that railfans continue to report their 589 sightings to this blog. A reader mentioned to me that he saw the Arnprior Local making its way west to Arnprior on July 4th, which was a Monday. This certainly adds another layer of complexity to our collective efforts to shoot this train each Wednesday when the train doesn't even make its rounds on Wednesday!

Oh well. As always, I'm hoping my lack of success at least makes for interesting reading.