Sunday, March 29, 2020

Three shots, lots of history

I am always aware that many readers of this blog come across it accidentally and read these postings long after I posted them. So rather than expounding on the state of the world as it stands on March 29th, 2020, as I write this, let's just enjoy what we came here for. Let's explore our passion for railways together for a few minutes and consider ourselves lucky to be able to do so.

With that in mind, I recently came across some images I captured this past summer in Southwestern Ontario when I was visiting family in the Sarnia area. Those who are regular visitors here know I post a lot from this area, since it is where I grew up and it remains a spot I visit semi-regularly.

One day near the end of my last visit, I took my nephew and my daughters to the Sarnia CN rail yard on our way home from a visit to a museum in the downtown. We were treated to the sight of a tunnel train marshalling its load together in front of the Sarnia Via rail station. You can read all about that train here.

But as I was looking for other items of interest in the yard, I turned my attention to the old Sarnia roundhouse, where Lambton Diesel operates as a repair and refurbishment facility for many railways. That means you are often treated to the sight of rare or odd units in the yard, depending on the day you visit.

Take this image below. You can clearly see the long hood of an old CP geep in its action scheme It's most likely an old GP9, which was one of the last of the railway's GP series that was rostered on the railway in recent years. My guess is this hood was from a geep that was sold off to a shortline or industrial operation before it reached the end of its lifespan and was sold for scrap or parts.

You can also see the old Novacor SW series switcher, which appeared to be in for servicing. I have shot that unit at the Nova Corunna plant a few times in recent years, where it still operates alongside what appears to be a genset. And old CN warhorse GP9 is peaking out from behind the shell of the old CP geep hood.

Here's another shot with no shortage of interesting material. You can the see the exposed engine of an old CN SW1200 switcher in the centre of the frame. To its left, the old Esso SW switcher, which likely was in for servicing. As Imperial Oil still has a very large presence in the Chemical Valley, I'm sure that switcher is kept busy

Look to the left of the Esso unit and you can see a grey shell of another geep unit. The grey could be primer or possibly it's an old CSX livery. I am guessing it's been taken down to primer. Just a hunch. Looking to the right of the frame, you can see another grew SW unit behind the old CN unit. To the right of the frame, CSX has one of its GP38s in for servicing as well.

I almost missed this unit, but saw it at the last second, sandwiched in between a tank car and an NCIX covered hopper. I don't know how many of this GATX units are still in use on the CN system, but I'm guessing few, if any, especially given the dearth of business right now.

So there's a brief distraction for you. Lots of 1960s-1970s heritage units, all in a few shots. I always make sure to get a shot of these old locomotives when I see them in Sarnia because you never know which ones are destined to become parts for another engine.

Catch the history while you can.

Friday, March 13, 2020

Weird cargo and rare cars

The thing I love about railways is there is an escapism about them. Granted today, we know more about railways than ever before, but I still like to watch a train go by and wonder where everything will end up. Sometimes, you have an idea of where a certain car came from and where it's going. Then again, sometimes you take in a sight that makes you scratch your head. I love those moments when you see a rare car or a piece of rolling stock with mysterious cargo. With that sense of escapism and mystery in mind, here is a gallery of some interesting pieces of rolling stock and unique pieces of cargo.

The first photo is courtesy of my brother, who was trackside in Sarnia late last year when he spotted a long line of windmill blades heading west toward the Paul Tellier Tunnel beneath the St. Clair Tunnel. That would have been a sight to behold, seeing these impossibly large and long pieces going into the tunnel. I would like to know what type of planning and engineering goes into moving these things over such a long distance.

Here's one of my favourite shots from a 2017 visit to London. I was on a side street next to CN's yard along the Dundas subdivision when I spotted this heavy duty flatcar, which amazingly had almost nothing in the way of freight on it. Still, three sets of trucks on either side, which suggested to me that this car was made for large bulky loads. So, why then, was there so little strapped down to it on that day?

This hopper might not look like much of an oddity, but it's rare enough. It's one of the type of covered hoppers that delivers what it known as carbon black to companies like Cabot in Sarnia's Chemical Valley. This product is a powdery substance used for rubber products as well as for pigment purposes in plastics. It's a messy product, to be sure, which would explain why it is carried in black covered hoppers. The plant in Sarnia once had a full fleet of of these hoppers, with ribbed sides, stationed on a three track spur. All of the cars sported a Cabot logo. I wish I had a picture of those old cars.

You don't see these yellow tank cars very often, so I was happy to capture this one in 2013 in Ottawa. These cars were once patched with a Safety Kleen logo and are used for what is known as fluid recycling services. Some of the liquids this company recycles include oil, coolants and antifreeze solutions. So it's anyone's guess what was in this car on that day.

This is one of my favourites. At first site, it's not much to look at, since it is a tired looking CN gondola, with its markings barely visible. But on closer inspection, you can clearly see that it is a side dumping gondola that looks to me that is used for ballasting and maintenance of way purposes. Given how little is done to secondary parts of CN's system, seeing such MoW equipment in Ottawa was always a rarity. This car was captured in 2013 as well.

I saw this piece of equipment on a mixed freight barelling west on CN's Strathroy Subdivision several years ago. At the time, I remember asking if anyone knew what this was. No one knew for sure. It bears some resemblance to a piece of HVAC equipment, but there are too many small components and pipes for this unit to be that, to my uneducated eye. So I will throw it out there again to those more knowledgeable than me. Does anyone know what this is?

This last shot isn't necessarily a rarity, at least not in Southern Ontario, but it is rare elsewhere. It's not uncommon to see a long string of these underframes making their way from a parts supplier to an automotive manufacturing plant somewhere in the heartland of the province. I have often seen these strings of cars in the Sarnia area when I visit that area. I saw this string on an eastbound train crossing Camlachie Road, just outside Sarnia's eastern city limits.

I've often mentioned in this blog that railfanning isn't just about getting shots of locomotives. To me, that's boring. There is always something else to see on a train. In some ways, it's better to be train starved like me, because it makes you appreciate everything you do see. And it motivates you to take a few extra shots.