There's no shortage of rail news in Ottawa this summer as the city gears up for the launch of its Confederation Line light rail service next year. But it's not just the O-Train that is making the news. There are a number of other interesting items I have come across in recent weeks.
Let's start with something simple. In my years watching Via Rail at Ottawa's Central Station, I have not seen all that much of the maligned Renaissance equipment. Back in 2013, I caught some of this equipment a few times, but then noticed that it largely disappeared from the regular mix of corridor trains I watched. That isn't to say that it wasn't being used. I'm just saying that I didn't see it much. Of course, given the problems this equipment has experienced in recent years, it's not much of a stretch to say these coaches have seen light duty in the corridor compared to what Via originally intended.
Well, lo and behold, I did catch some of the Renaissance equipment recently, as it was being pulled by F40 6445. This was a surprising consist for me, as I have not seen the Renaissance equipment being pulled by an F40 before. I was under the impression that only the P42s were able to couple with the Renaissance cars, but I guess that is not the case. This was Train 24 headed to Quebec City. I've taken this train before (LRC coach, of course). It's a great ride.
Another interesting development at the station. Via is now using the northern spur at the edge of the station yard. This stub of a track has only seen use in recent years as a storage track for Via's snow clearing equipment. But, as you may have noticed in the top left of the photo, work to raise the platforms has put some of the trackage in the station yard off limits, which is likely what pressed this old track into service. Note the train in the hole. F40 6427, a Business Class LRC coach in renaissance colours and three old streamliners in the blue and yellow. Who says Via is boring?
I took some photos of Train 24 from the Belfast Road overpass. I made sure to cross over to the eastern side of the bridge to catch the train as it departed on the Alexandria Sub. The consist was led by Renaissance baggage car 7001, which is a refurbed shell of a sleeper. You can still see where the windows were covered over. Note, also, that the Business Class coach still reads "Via 1." Time for a new patch?
While I was at the station, I took a look at the ongoing work on the O-Train Confederation Line. The wiring is largely up from Blair Station in the east all the way to about Hurdman Station, just outside the downtown. Here, we see on of the many hi-rail trucks that roam the line. I even caught one of the makeshift maintenance of way cars, but that will have to wait for the next post.
Here's a shot of a worker doing some work on a crossover just in front of the Via station. You can see the station canopy in the top left. That shell you see top right will be the O-Train station that links commuters to the Via Station. As expected, the commuter station that serves the Via station will no longer go by the name "Train" since it seems a little redundant. It worked as a name when buses served the Via station on the Transitway, but as a LRT station, the name didn't work so the city has renamed the commuter station as Tremblay Station, to reflect the street where the Via station is located.
Much of the work on the west side of the Confederation Line does not appear to me to be as advanced as the work on the east side of the line. There is no catenary up between Tunney's Pasture and the downtown. There is some track laid, but there are gaps still between LeBreton and the western approach to the downtown rail tunnel. There is also no trackage in place at the end of the line at Tunney's.
I should mention that, while work on the Confederation Line is briskly progressing, another commuter rail development is beginning to make headlines. The Moose consortium, which is pushing to establish a GO Train style commuter service between Ottawa and various towns outside the city, is making its pitch to communities as we speak.
I'll speak to that in more detail in the next post because there is too much ground to cover. I have to admit, I am skeptical about Moose's plans but I am also intrigued by the group's ambition and its approach.