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.