In my opinion, this weekly train is tremendously important. And here’s why I consider myself really fortunate to catch this train as it returned to Walkley Yard.
1. These tracks might not be here much longer. You will recall that I wrote about CN’s plans to walk away from its Ottawa operations. While this is hardly surprising, I can’t help but wonder what will happen to the remaining trackage it actually controls in the area. Most of the tracks in the region are now controlled by Via Rail, with the exception of the last portion of the Beachburg Sub between Federal and the old Nepean Junction. This link is hardly important to CN, but it is absolutely critical to Nylene Canada in Arnprior, which relies on the Beachburg Sub-Renfrew Spur tracks to receive its weekly delivery to its plant. Does this mean Nylene Canada will have to purchase this right-of-way or at least the rails? Will the city be a willing partner and buy the land beneath the rails, like the old Region of Ottawa-Carleton did with the old Renfrew Sub? It’s clear to me that something has to be settled here before CN pulls out.
2/ I don’t think I’ll miss CN in Ottawa, quite frankly, since the railway has done little to nothing to expand rail service here, which is not meant to be a critique. It’s just reality. CN is not a short line and it should not be expected to act like one. Its purchase of the old Ottawa Central was always an awkward one, with many suggesting was solely motivated by the scrap value of the old Beachburg Sub rails between Pembroke and Nepean Junction. But, if CN goes, that means I won’t likely have a chance to shoot any number of its older units anymore. I have been blessed to catch many different liveries, including a leased GATX unit, over my years of catching the Arnprior Turn. So, from a railfanning perspective, I will miss the variety of older units the railway has trotted out here in recent years.
4/ Freight by rail matters. Especially local freight that is carried by a short line. We don’t have to get into any extensive environmental debate to know that Ottawa’s highways are congested, to say the least. And the city is often choked by truck traffic. Ottawa is no different than any other city, but if tourism officials are serious about the tourist experience in a national capital, imagine what a difference it would make if there was a concerted effort to divert some of the neverending truck traffic off local roads (especially downtown) with a reinvigorated freight railway. Of course, there are practical considerations here. Railways will never be able to replace trucks for numerous local transportation delivery needs, but I would imagine there are still several opportunities that are going untapped, simply because CN couldn’t be bothered. Maybe it’s time for a new Ottawa Central type operation, or perhaps a short line holding company with some vision. Admittedly, it would likely be a tough sell, but it seems incredible to me that a short line couldn’t make money in a city of nearly a million people.
I look at the photos from the March Break meet with the GATX and they seem quaint now, since so much of our snow is finally (knock on wood) starting to melt. But I was happy to catch this train in a snow squall because it allowed me to get some winter shots, which I have not been able to do this winter.
I've mentioned it before in this blog that winter railroading is underrepresented in my railway photograph archives. Add to this meet another interesting catch I had at Fallowfield Station and I had quite a productive week recently (stay tuned for more on the other meet).
So that's the sum total of my thoughts from my meet with this tiny freight train. Due do some scheduling changes in my household, I have not been able to get out on Wednesday afternoons to catch this train so this might be my last meet with CN’s 589. I hope not, but I fear it might be so.