Friday, May 25, 2018

Super Nova!

Last summer, I had an epic week back in the Sarnia area where I did more railfanning than I have done in a long time. One local rail facility that I tried to get some shots of is the Nova Corunna railway. It's an incredibly hard operation to get shots of, since there is no real public access, unless you are in the passenger seat of a car in the northbound lanes of Highway 40 and can get some shots at speed.

I did manage to get a few shots of the operation, which is connected to CN's St. Clair River Industrial Spur. I wasn't able to do much with the photos at the time and forgot about the shots. But something reminded me of the picture this week, so here are a few shots. And it just so happens that there is a story to go with these shots.

Nova Chemicals, as many in the Sarnia area know, is a major employer. And it's about to become a much bigger employer. Nova will be investing $2 billion to build a new polyethylene plant just south of the Nova Corunna site (you can see a piece of the Nova half diamond below). The company is also investing heavily in an expansion of the Corunna site. When all is said and done, Nova will have an expanded Corunna site along Highway 40 and Petrolia Line, its Nova Moore site (near Mooretown), a new plant on the Rokeby Line and its plant in Corunna (called the St. Clair River site). All but the St. Clair River site will be served by CN. CSX still serves the St. Clair River site.

Those in the area already know this news, as it was announced a while back, but I figured it was worth sharing anyway, since it will no doubt be news to those not familiar with this area. And it was a good excuse to share these photos.

Nova is a major customer for CN (you can read about this here). It has always handled its own switching. In fact, when I was young, this railway operation was one of the few places you can find long strings of GATX's old TankTrain branded tank cars. In recent years, I've noticed Nova using two switch engines, its old SW unit (above) and its genset (seen below).

This shot above isn't the best shot but it was the best I could do from the passenger seat of a moving car. You can see the SW unit and a piece of the genset (bottom right) in this shot. The Corunna plant itself was already in the midst of an expansion when I took these shots last summer, as evidenced by the cranes.

So, what does this mean for CN? I would imagine that its St. Clair spur is about to get even busier. This spur already sees a lot of action, as it serves numerous industries, both large and small, between Sarnia to well past Courtright.

When I was examining some of the expansion already happening last summer, I noticed a large rail yard being constructed on the Rokeby Line. Sadly, a sound barrier about eight feet high was blocking any possibility of pictures. The yard will look a lot like this tank farm, which is located on the south side of the Terra International plant south of Courtright, on the Bickford Line.

At the very least, I would imagine there will be more Nova branded switchers making their way to the area in the coming years, given the volume of work that will be needed to keep all these refineries operating smoothly. For those who don't mind seeing a lot of tank cars and covered hoppers, it's an exciting prospect. For someone who has to settle for the Arnprior Turn, I'm pretty stoked.

It's just one small spinoff from this massive investment.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Starting year six with 589

It just goes to show you that there's no substitute for your being observant. When it comes to the famous Arnprior Turn, you really have to track it week to week and try to find trends, if you want to catch it. You've likely read in this blog before that there is no trackside signal to watch, no scanner to listen to. You just have to know when CN's 589 makes its way over the Beachburg Sub and Renfrew Spur as it services Nylene Canada in Arnprior each Wednesday.

In February and March, I noticed many times on my walk home from the bus that I would hear 589 blowing its horn as it crossed Corkstown Road. I live fairly close to that crossing, but it's easy to notice this horn as the sound carries a great distance. And it is decidedly different from the Via trains I hear on the Smiths Falls Sub, which is farther from where I live..

In early April, I made mental note that 589 was passing through my neighbourhood around 4:10 p.m. to about 4:20 p.m. for several weeks in a row. One day after work, I was home early so I decided to see if my observations would pay off. I camped out near a massive snow bank near Northside Road in Bells Corners to maybe catch this train.

Turns out, I was right. I heard the train's horn around 4:10, but had to wait another five minutes before the train trundled its way over the Robertson Road flyover before strutting past my vantage point. I hopped onto the nearby seven-foot high snowbank (now long gone) and clicked away.

No leased power in Ottawa! Just the standard tired old geeps that work the Ottawa jobs, in this case 4708 with the old safety scheme. And I'm not sure why the cars and SUVs were parked like this in the lot.

Given the unchecked growth near the tracks, these shots will not be possible once the green takes hold and blocks much of the view.

Look at those sad old telegraph poles. I'm surprised they have lasted this long. Many have been knocked down trackside or taken down by weeds and the elements.

There's a reason I don't set up at this spot often. Way too many visual hazards, but in this case, I only had time to make it here. Beggars can't be choosers.

Those who know this part of the city know that the train in this last shot is crossing over Highway 416, which is located well below Northside Road.

Alas, the Arnprior train has shifted its times since I caught it in early April. I tried to get out there to catch it at the same time the following week, but had no luck. Such is the life of an Ottawa railfan, I guess.