Monday, July 27, 2020

All tied up at Bedell

I recently had the chance to spend a little time trackside at Bedell, on the Canadian Pacific Winchester Subdivision. In recent years, I have had some luck visiting this right-of-way in the afternoon, as there is occasionally a freight making its way through the area between 12 noon and 2 p.m. I was trackside around this time.

The first thing I noticed was this.

Ties. Hundreds of them. All of them stacked next to the south track. I had heard a lot about CP's work to single track this line and replace the double track right-of-way with a single track governed by CTC. I've seen some chatter from local rail enthusiasts that this is an omen of smaller traffic levels.

I, for one, disagree. This seems to me, to be nothing more than a cost-saving measure. If a railway can maintain the same level of traffic on one line with CTC, why bother with two tracks? With today's obsession with operating ratios and efficiencies, it makes sense. A few long sidings are all that's needed. Or so it seems.

The only example of this that comes to mind is the CN Strathroy Subdivision between Sarnia and London. It was single tracked quite a while ago, but it seems to be busier than ever these days with one track being governed by CTC and the appropriate sidings.

The other reason I think the CP plan isn't a bad thing is because we need to remember that CP has also re-reestablished its presence east of Montreal. We all know about the acquisition of the Central Maine and Quebec, which itself was the latest entity to operate over what had once been CP tracks. It seems logical to me that CP management wouldn't take on such a massive capital expense east of Montreal if it didn't have plans to capitalize on having its own Canadian link to the East Coast. Possible more container traffic to Eastern Canada? More ethanol trains? Who knows? All I know is that, whatever CP has in store east of Montreal, it will definitely have an impact on the Winchester Sub.

Here's another reason why the single tracking on this track isn't a bad thing.

Now that new signalling is in place, it makes it that much easier to get an idea of what type of traffic you can expect when you get trackside. Of course, I realize most who read this rely on scanners. I, for one, do not. I rely on observations, reading about operations, learning from my peers and, obviously, reading the signals. This is something I have really focused on in recent years, which is why I am happy to have this signals near Bedell.

Sadly, I wasn't able to catch any trains the day I visited this spot. The only equipment I was able to see was this string of MoW equipment parked on a siding just west of the Bedell Road crossing.

The Bedell area has yet to see any removals of its tracks, although I'm sure that will happen soon enough. When I was there recently, I didn't notice anything different. All the old tracks were still in place, although there was a great deal of construction equipment behind fencing near the grounds of the old station. Something is about to happen here. Possibly it already has.

So, even though I didn't see any trains, I still thought I'd share this recent shot I grabbed last year when I caught an eastbound in this area.

I have noticed that some folks have the same ominous feeling about freight rail service in Ottawa now that CN is planning to pull up stakes in the capital again. I will share my thoughts about this in a future post.

Saturday, July 11, 2020

Stretching it out in Twin Elm

I shared a small sneak peak of my recent meet with a Via corridor consist in my last post. My goal was to simply show a pastoral image of the train next to a cattle farm alongside the Smiths Falls Subdivision.

This week, I wanted to show a few more shots of this meet. With the news that Via Rail Canada is laying off 1,000 employees due to the low pandemic passenger levels, it might be more relevant than ever to share what I see, when I see it. I am more than accustomed to sharing Via Rail images when there are no freight images to show, but when even Via begins to dwindle, you know it's not a great time to be a railfan in Ottawa.

That said, I thought I would share a few shots of this double-ended Via Rail corridor train crossing Cambrian Road in Twin Elm, just outside the village of Richmond. I deliberately set up so I could get a wide shot of the train. Getting a wedge shot at this crossing is quite easy, especially at the Twin Elm Road crossing, which crosses the road at a sharp angle. I am not looking for those types of shots these days, as a general rule.

So, here's the first shot, as the train approaches the crossing and the SynAgri feed mill on the other side of the tracks. You can still see a small piece of the cattle farm on the right.

This shot captures the feed mill and a lone trackside tree, basking the July sun.

Here's my attempt to capture the entire train in a single shot. The trick here is to set up just past a telephone pole, so you can give yourself as much space as possible to get an unobstructed shot. I have made that mistake in the past where I haven't paid enough attention to the poles, which results in a less-than-satisfying shot.

I was trying to capture the landscape, including the sky, in each shot, so I was careful not to zoom in on the locomotive too much. And, given the fact that it was a P42, I figured being further away would be more flattering to these dogs.

Here's one last shot of the tail end. And, yes, I did end up getting a shot of the entire train. I wasn't sure I would be able to capture the whole consist in a way that would do it justice, but I think this image was pretty decent.

So, that was the sum total of my meet with a wetbound Via Rail corridor train at Twin Elm on Canada Day.

Thanks to everyone for their comments in my last post. I am trying to carry on blogging in some way, shape or form. Some have suggested that I focus on CN's Walkley Yard. I am now avoiding the yard, given that the property line is not entirely clear and the extension of Albion Road next to the tracks is more than likely not a public road. It's not worth a trespassing charge. Stay away from an area if you don't know where public land ends.

Some have suggested taking shots in the east end of the line, where CN still serves customers. I would love to do that, but I am still working full time from home, as is my wife, so time is always limited.

And, although many seem to fear that CN's discontinuance of service in Ottawa will mean the end of freight railways in the city, I disagree. I think some group will come forward and form some sort of shortline operation. This is probably the best possible scenario, since a shortline would likely have much more success in finding new customers and gaining new carload business. Possibly even the folks behind the Ottawa Central might re-emerge. That's just my speculation. No proof of anything. Just a hunch.

I may try and make my way out to Bedell soon, as the CP Winchester Sub is undergoing a single tracking from its current double mainline. That might be my best bet. We'll see.

Thanks for your comments. I'll try to keep this thing rolling.

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

I'm back, sort of...

Thank you to everyone for your kind words from my last post, which explained why I was stepping away from this blog, mostly due to the hectic nature of my life.

Life has eased a bit, with the summer now here and the school year mercifully over. I am still having a hard time figuring out how to maintain a blog about railways in Ottawa when there is so little to see, especially from my vantage point in the city's west end. I do have some vague plans to do some real honest-to-goodness railfanning in Bedell or Smiths Falls at some point, but those are not terribly firm right now.

That said, Canada Day seemed like a good time to head out somewhere and try and find a train. More than anything, I was looking for some quiet time, since  my house has become a bit too cozy of late, with all of us here all the time. I love my family and I know they at least seem to tolerate me, but too much of a good thing, right?

So, I headed out to one of my favourite spots, Twin Elm, to catch a westbound Via Train 53. There wasn't a lot to choose from on Canada Day. Even thought it fell on a Wednesday this year, CN 589 to Nylene Canada was not operating. That pretty much left me with Via or nothing.

So, I vowed to get something more in the way of landscape art than railway photo, since I have far too many clinical shots of Via corridor trains. So, here's the first shot as Via 53 raced across the Cambrian Road crossing.

As you can see, the train was being led by a Love The Way wrapped P42. I tell ya, I will shed no tears when these dogs are replaced. Ugly.

I tried to ensure I got at least one shot of the train next to the red farm structures for a little bit of variety. I'll share the rest of the shots in a later post.

As for rail news in Ottawa, I noticed an inordinate number of comments about the Arnprior Turn and I have received a few emails from readers who have caught it of late. Thanks to everyone for keeping me in mind. So, in case anyone is wondering, yes, CN still makes its weekly run out to Nylene Canada in Arnprior. Mostly, they operate on Wednesdays, although some have told me the train is making its way west a little later in the morning than many are used to seeing (10-10:30 a.m.).

And, yes, for those outside the city, the O-Train Confederation Line is still a complete disaster. On top of the numerous failures this past winter, the trains were running at reduced capacity recently because it was too hot. It makes us wonder if these awful trains run well in any conditions.

The president of the Rideau Transit Group, the company that built and maintains the line, recently resigned and was replaced. I think people in the city would care more if they honestly believed the move would result in better service. Meanwhile, the city is still withholding payment to RTG due to its continuing failure deliver on its promises. And, as many in the city know, the second phase of construction on the Confederation Line is well underway in many different places.

We can only hope the issues get figured out before the line is extended to Orleans and Moodie.

It's good to be back. No promises, but I'll see what I can do.