Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Making the most of it

I don't need to tell any of you that 2020 has been a write-off in many respects. For me, it's been a challenge at times, particularly with this blog. Last week, I shared some photos of a nearly empty, quiet railyard in Stratford, since there was nothing happening when I arrived. Later the same day, I made a return visit, just in case. This is what I saw when I returned.

Nothing special right? Well, no quite. First of all, that string of hoppers was not there earlier in the day when I surveyed the yard, so it was obvious to me that a local spotted the cars at some point during the day, when I wasn't around. So that was disappointing. Those cars might have been headed for the salt mine in Goderich or an agricultural spur somewhere on the GEXR Goderich Sub. I'm not sure of the customer base on the CN Guelph Sub. I am just guessing it was headed for Goderich since I was at the same place last year and saw two orange GEXR geeps towing a string of covered hoppers toward the Goderich Sub.

Anyway, you will see that the two signals are showing red. What made that significant was that the signal on the left is a searchlight signal, which is dark unless something is imminent. That was my clue that something was coming. Exciting right? Well, not exciting exactly, since it was clear to me by the people on the station platform that the train that was coming was a Via Rail corridor train heading west for Sarnia. Not exactly was I came to see, but I decided to make the most of this grain elevator backdrop.

This shot, above, was my favourite. I have a few others where P42 906 is closer, but I much prefer this shot, since is incorporates more of the hopper cars and grain elevator. You will notice on the extreme right that I did purposely try to keep the flatcar in the shot as well. I figured, if I couldn't catch a freight train, I might as well keep as many of the freight cars in my shot as possible. I also like what the weeds add to the scene. To me, it screams secondary route, small town. That's the type of image I love to catch.

Here's a shot of the corridor train from a closer vantage point. I included it just for comparison's sake. I've noticed on a lot of railfan sites that these type of shots are usually the preferred image. I have been moving away from these images for quite a while. This is not to say that my way is any better. It's just a personal preference. I find I am much more interested in the overall scene, rather than how much of my frame is filled with the actual train. Still, I like how this shot at least keeps the grain elevator in the shot.

Here's one more shot of the train at the station, with an idle F40 on the tail end. This father and son were checking out the railway action along with me. At one point, they walked off the platform to check the signals, which were just beyond the end of the asphalt. This is a big difference I notice in smaller cities and towns. There is a much more liberal attitude toward railway property. I don't agree with this. I also saw another local resident cutting across a large piece of CN property that was clearly being used as a storage area for various pieces of construction and MoW equipment. I suppose if the railway has no active presence in the town, people don't worry so much about being caught. I still think it is always a bad idea to trespass on railway property. 

The worst example I ever saw of this attitude was when I saw multiple people crossing through CN's Dundas Subdivision yard in London, Ont. to take a shortcut. Given the railway's active staff in the yard and the frequency of trains on this busy route, I can't think of many things that are as reckless as this.

Anyway, before I left Stratford and headed home to Ottawa, I did manage to sneak in one last trip to this rail yard the next evening to catch the same Via Rail corridor train en route to Sarnia. I managed to try something a little different and was pleased with the end result. That will have to wait for another post.


Eric said...

Long live the wedge shot Michael! Much-maligned but so easy to take. Being interested in recording car and locomotive numbers, I find those more distant/artsy shots difficult for data recordation! Thanks for sharing photos of your visit. Liking those empty coil cars in the yard!


Steve Boyko said...

I like both views - the yard with all cars visible, and the closer VIA train with the grain elevator visible over the top. In my opinion they both have their place.

Your observation of those cars reminds me of last week when I visited Gimli, Manitoba. This is at the end of a quiet shortline that really only exists to serve the former Seagrams plant (now Diageo) in Gimli that makes Crown Royal. I was surprised to see a half dozen beat-up grain hoppers parked in the siding in Gimli and made note of them. These little details tell a lot about a railway and its operation.

Michael said...

Thanks, Eric and Steve. I agree with your points that you can't just focus on one type of photograph. I still take plenty of up close wedge shots. However, I find I am just less excited by them these days. Still, it's always good to strike a balance, especially for the purposes of tracking cars, as you mention, Eric.

David Y. said...

The next time you are going somewhere on vacation, do tell readers on your blog about it. Had I known you were going to Stratford, I would have loved to tell you where to go and take pictures. I suppose you can also look at old maps of where you are going and look to see what is still there today and what those remnants/structures look like in 2020 and beyond.

When I went to Sarnia a few years ago, I saw them to turn the train in Sarnia and have it facing the right way for its trip to Toronto the next morning. It took quite a while and there was a lot of radio chatter on my scanner between the train engineer and the RTC while they were turning the train around.

I see VIA has added an engine on the tail end of the train in your pictures. Maybe someone finally realized that by doing that, they no longer have to waste time and diesel fuel turning the train around. All they have to do now is pull into the station, drop off the passengers and then reverse into the storage track East of the station. I look forward to seeing your next blog post and seeing if there is another engine on the back of the train to Sarnia, or if it was just a one time thing on the day you were there.

Michael said...

Thanks for the offer, David. I usually do a fair bit of due diligence before I go anywhere. I did get some info about Stratford in advance, which really helped me out. As for Sarnia, since I am from there, I really don't need to do much in advance since I have a pretty good knowledge of operations there. I usually don't publicize my movements in specifics on this blog, for the sake of privacy and security. You know, Big Brother and all! But I usually do reach out on the Eastern Ontario Rails Facebook group to a degree. I do appreciate all the feedback I get from the folks there, including you. Thanks!