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.


Anonymous said...

CN recently announced that they are selling 850 miles of track in Wisconsin, Michigan and Ontario to shortline operators. While it is essentially guaranteed that the WC and ACR will be spun off in this move, the lack of specifics means that Ottawa could be included in this move. It would make a lot of sense. The real question is if the shortline would be independent or if it would be part of a larger company line G&W. It would be really fun to see QGRY take over CN in Ottawa.

Also, regarding the Winchester sub, I agree that removing double track isn't necessarily a downgrade as CTC will help with train movements, especially over the old ABS/OCS system. I have also heard that some of the rail from the removed track will be sent out east to rehabilitate the route through Maine.

Keith said...

There are 2 of us who rely on observations! While I'd love the idea of having a scanner to track movements, I'm short on time, and prefer to have some knowledge of an actual schedule.

I will give credit to a couple of guys I met trackside on Conroy when the CP 150 train was in Ottawa 3 years ago. From the chatter they picked up, we realized it wasn't going to cross Conroy and route via the Ottawa station, but was actually just going to depart west out of Walkley for Smiths Falls. It gave us enough time to find a suitable spot, and it was worth it.

I could say look at a Via timetable, but there seem to be fewer of them these days too. Sigh!

Michael said...

Thanks for the comments, gents. Interesting tidbits about CN selling off track to short lines in Ontario. Of course, the lines they are selling could be just about anywhere. I doubt there's anything to sell off in Ottawa, other than the right to take over its freight services, such as they are. The infrastructure is almost negligible at this point, other than east of the city. If QGRY were to try its hand in Ottawa, it's important to note that we're essentially looking at the G&W stable, which was taken over last year by Brookfield Infrastructure, a branch of the Brookfield properties company. So, there is potential for either investment of divestment, depending on what this giant new owner thinks of its G&W assets. That would be the real wild card in such a scenario.

Eric said...

CP has more of those tie piles on the way to Toronto - I've seen 'em from VIA Rail. They are usually behind stands of trees. CN seems a little more assiduous in removing them, not stockpiling them. That gives us some views of CN's Heritage Fleet - old BLE, IC, WC, CC beat-up hoppers in scrap tie service.

Thanks for sharing your trip and updating CP's work, Michael.

GP9Rm4108 said...

In response to Keith: VIA has never had more trains in the corridor than they do now. The lesser amounts you're seeing now are temporary Covid schedules.

The problem with relying on signals, especially in a corridor like the Winchester where there is little traffic, is that the RTC could set up a light for a train that is still an hour away if it has no opposing traffic.

Anonymous said...

I found these articles in my travels:

CN has already notified customers and municipalities about the end of service and is in the process of selling off their remaining assets in Ottawa. It doesn't look like any shortline is poised to take over so essentially, that's it for freight rail in Ottawa. What worries me most is Ivaco in L'Orignal. With all the scrap metal they receive and wire they ship out that will require a lot of extra trucks.