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.

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