Thursday, December 23, 2021

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year

Well, it's about time for this blog to pull into the station for the year. I would like to thank everyone who has reached out to me over the last few months. I must confess that I haven't been able to sit trackside for a while, but thanks to contributions from readers and friends, this blog has lots of content ready for the new year, albeit on a bi-weekly basis. It's been a fun reunion tour so far!

There's no doubt it's been a rough couple of years for everyone. I am luckier than most since I am able to work from home and not have to worry about being in stressful situations. I haven't been on Ottawa's O-Train since March 2020 and I'd like to keep it that way (for many reasons).

In the new year, I will be sharing photos from Stratford (like this one taken at twilight), Kitchener, Sarnia and a few other spots. I intend to get out into the wilds in Ottawa and maybe see what's going on here, but that will have to wait until I have a few days off from work. I am lucky to have caught our beloved west-end weekly Arnprior Turn twice this year, which made for some fun conversations. I'm hoping for a few more meets in the new year.

Also in the new year, I am hoping to venture out further afield and maybe catch some mainline action or possibly snag a shot of Via's new Siemens test train. Those are both lofty goals, but we all need resolutions.

So all the best to everyone out there. Have a safe and wonderful Christmas and happy new year.


hammond.michael77 AT gmail DOT com.

Thursday, December 16, 2021

Opening up the Beachburg Sub Mailbag: How busy is Walkley Yard?

One of the things about taking an extended break from blogging is that I am now sifting through quite a number of comments from past posts, some of which are asking questions. I apologize to those that I did not respond to, as I usually try to respond to all comments. Those who have blogged for a long time will tell you, it's quite a challenge to stay on top of comments from posts from years past. I try to scroll through comments on the Blogger platform, but it's not always possible to get to them all in a timely fashion. That was part of the reason for this post. I am hoping to use this as an ongoing feature where I can answer questions from my fellow railfans and try to get an answer for them. 

As some readers have pointed out, I am not easy to reach. That is a deliberate decision on my part. I am trying not to draw attention to myself and I certainly don't want to share my information widely online, for privacy reasons. But, if you do have any questions, you can reach me via email at hammond.michael77 AT gmail dot com.

The first two questions I noticed are fairly recent questions concerning Walkley Yard. I have written many posts about this rail yard. To see them, simply type Walkley Yard and Beachburg Sub in google and you'll find them. There are too many of them to link here, so I will invite you to try the google method or DuckDuckGo, which is the anti-google I am now using. 

Question from Willow: I have to admit I am coming to this page as a potential homeowner rather than a railfan (though I did enjoy learning the history!)... How noisy is Walkley Yard for the homes nearby?

Answer:  Thanks for your question, Willow. I think you can rest easy. Walkley Yard is pretty quiet most of the time. Much of the time, half the yard is empty. CN has one local train it operates each day. In the morning, they may switch cars around a bit, but for much of the day, you will not see trains coming and going. There is a trucking business there (Rideau Bulk) which is busy at times, but it's nothing to be concerned about, since the setback from nearby homes is pretty wide. As a nearby homeowner, I'm not sure you will notice much of anything. The diesel O-Trains on the Trillium Line have a separate yard where they are maintained, but they too only use the yard to access the Trillium Line and to return back at the end of the evening.

Question from Unknown: I was checking out CN's Walkley Yard on Google maps before they sell it. I found a depressed flat car with an electrical transformer on it as well as an old RDC and a Russell snow plow. Could you do a drive through of Walkley yard showing those. Thank you.

2.  I can share with you this photo that was taken years ago. I do not go out to Walkley Yard anymore. There is a grey area there and I do not want to trespass on private property. Railways are very serious about this and I think it's only responsible that we understand the dangers involved with this industry. There is a gravel road along the yard, which seems to be an informal extension of Albion Road. Rideau Bulk is located on this gravel road and has a municipal address, so you could make a case that the road is fair game. However, I am not sure so I stay away. Here is a shot of that old RDC. It's privately owned and has been in this yard for many years.

At one point, it was hitched to any old CN caboose. I don't know where these cars are these days, as I have not been out to check out Walkley in several years.

Question from Graydon Johnston: Even though you were mentioning your regret for not seeing much GEXR during your two years here (in Kitchener), bet you're glad you caught at least some action this day as GEXR is a thing of the past in KW now. One quick question though regarding your shot of them pulling into the engine sidings with the single tank car. Do you remember what direction they came in from? From Stratford, the yard? Or did you just drive up by the time they were pulling in? I'm kind of wondering if they had a weekend extra that day to Elmira on the Waterloo Spur? Last known daylight run on the Waterloo Spur to Elmira was a weekend extra on a Sunday in Nov 2016 but that’s the last one we are aware of for the time being. 

For more context on this question, here is the post where the question came from.

Answer: All I can tell you is what I found in the information in my digital files. The shots of these engines at the Kitchener station was taken on Sunday, November 5, 2017 at 2:30 p.m. The engines seemed to be coming in from the west, so it's a good bet they were coming from Stratford. As I mentioned in my post, there was a westbound train that was preparing its consist just east of the station when I crossed the tracks again later that day. And I can confirm to you that on Monday, November 6, when my family was returning home, we did see a GEXR train overtop the Conestoga Expressway in Waterloo. I don't have any shots of that meet. Does this mean the train went up to Elmira? I can't say, but I'm guessing not.



Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Greed is Good (Sometimes)

As I mentioned in my last post, I managed to accomplish a number of firsts on October 20 when I heard CN's Arnprior Turn approaching my neighbourhood and decided to chase it. In the last post, I detailed how I just managed to get to Corkstown Road in time to catch the train, although the sunlight was essentially there to ruin my shots. There was much photoshopping that needed to be done to get some of the images into presentable shape. 

But then I figured, given the slow speed of the train, that I could easily beat it to March Road in Kanata to get a better shot of it on the sunny side of the train. In other words, I decided to get greedy and try to capture the same train twice. In all my time trackside, I have never been able to chase a train and properly capture it multiple times. So this was a first for me. 

Many locals who like to catch this train on its weekly run mention that the crew often stops the train short of March Road to grab a coffee at the Tim Hortons next to the Renfrew Spur. I decided to set up shop in the back parking lot of a commercial plaza, where there were a few gaps in the trackside brush, which would allow me to get some decent shots of the train. I did have to lift my camera pretty high to get these shots, so the brush was not dominating the images.

This shot above works pretty well, although I was a little disappointed that the gap I chose didn't allow me to see the entire train, which included seven tank cars. It was the longest freight train I have ever seen making its way to Arnprior. I shared that fact with a few friends of mine outside Ottawa and they thought that was quite funny. The GMTX unit is trailed my CN GP38-2 9411. I have seen this unit plying the rails in Ottawa before. Quite recently, in fact.
As far as a standard shot goes, this image below probably fits the bill the best. I liked how this image turned out as you can see both units and a few tank cars. The trackside brush prevented me from getting any more. I should also mention that there was a large ditch on the other side of the brush, which prevented me from getting to the other side of the bushes to get a clearer shot. My reasoning to stay at this spot seemed pretty sound at that moment. Since many have said the train stopped before reaching March Road, I figured I could get more shots when it was parked. However, it was not to be. As soon as the train passed me by, I could hear the engineer give the typical two long, one short, one long blasts of the horn, which told me the consist was heading straight through without stopping. Oh well.

I did get a shot of 9411 on its own as the trailing unit. I should also mention that this was the first time I have seen this train using two units. This seems to be a recent development. In my years pursuing 589, the Arnprior consist has always been pulled by a single engine. I'm not sure why CN has made the change now. Without knowing any context, two units seems excessive for this train to me, unless the primary reason for the extra unit was dual-direction visibility. In other words, not pulling the entire train home long hood forward, as happens when there is only one unit.

I did try one shot with a little more of the foliage around the edges of the frame, just to see if it made for a more compelling shot. I'm not sure it did in this case. Doing this also allowed me to try and get more of the tankcars in the shot, but I'm not sure there is anything more compelling to see.

So here is a final summary of what happened on Oct. 20. I will list it by the number of firsts I crossed off my list.

  • First time seeing 589 with two units
  • First time catching 589 in two different spots (Corkstown Road and March Road)
  • First time catching 589 on the Renfrew Spur
  • First time catching 589 with seven cars in the consist

If I catch 589 once more this year, I think I might break my own record. I have only ever caught it as many as two times in a year. Granted, I haven't worked from home like I do now with a flexible lunch schedule, so I'm not sure if this record is anything to shout about, but I'll take anything I can get.

I see that there has been a lot of chatter as to why this train has been shifting around its schedule of late, with the crew sometimes making its way on a Thursday and then on a Wednesday the following week. I have no idea why it hasn't been as consistent. My only thoughts are perhaps it has something to do with Kott Lumber's needs, since this customer on the Smiths Falls Sub, is now part of this weekly run. Some rail watchers have simply guessed that it has to do with crew availability, since CN's presence here in Ottawa is paper thin, to put it mildly. 

Whatever the reasons may be, it seems like this train has become more visible on its weekly run through western Ottawa. Hopefully, there are more meets and surprises to come.

Sunday, November 14, 2021

Use The Force

Railfans in Ottawa are an impressive bunch, I have to say. We don't have much to see, but it doesn't stop many of us from capturing what little there is. Many also are not afraid to go far afield to capture something in Eastern Ontario. Just go the Eastern Ontario Rails Facebook group (you need to ask the administrator to join formally). I would say that, of late, an outsized amount of photos and chatter is focused on CN's weekly Arnprior Turn. The crew for that train must wonder how they have managed to attract so many fans of late. 

All of this is a lead-in to my story of using the force. By the force, I mean being ready at a moment's notice to identify 589 approaching my neighbourhood and heading out to catch it. Recently in October, I was working in my back yard, listening to a podcast with headphones when I thought I heard the distant sound of a freight engine's horn. Did I mention I am hearing impaired? Yes, my sixth sense for this train is quite impressive sometimes, if I do say so myself. 

An aside: when we had a visitor a few years ago and one of my children heard a distant train horn, I quickly identified it as a Via train, since I knew which direction it was coming from and knew the difference between a P42 horn and a geep horn. Our visitor looked me funny and asked how I knew the train was a Via. I guess my railfan was showing. I quickly pointed to the direction of the sound and said those were the Via tracks over yonder. The other way was where the freight tracks were.

So, back to my story. I rushed into my car with my iPhone as there was no time to grab my camera inside. This was going to be a tight timeline to get to Corkstown Road to get a shot. I saw 589 passing in front of me on the Moodie flyover, so I knew it would be tough to catch it at Corkstown Road. But I did get there with a few seconds to spare, although I couldn't get to my vantage point of choice on the sunny side of the tracks. 

I just barely made it to this spot in time to get some initial shots. Luckily, the lights on the Corkstown Road crossing were not working, which forced the train to stop short of the road as the conductor had to get out to guard the crossing. After one pickup went through, the train proceeded ahead across the road, slowing a bit to allow the conductor back on before the consist picked up speed. The sun flare on the train was some of the worst I've ever encountered, but I told myself I would fix it up with some photoshop later on. Note the conductor ahead of the blue geep.

Below, you will see the conductor looking west on Corkstown Road as the train approaches the level crossing. You can see the effects of the sun on the side of the engine. That was the best I could do with my photoshopping skills. Anything more would not have been true to the original image, so I avoided the temptation to alter things too far. I do have to mention that this is the first time I have seen this type of old school railroading where a conductor is guarding a level crossing like this.

As many local railfans know, work was recently done to shore up the Beachburg Sub ballast, ties and tracks between Federal and Nepean, which seems to be the last remnants of CN controlled trackage in the area, save for a few other scraps here and there. I'm not sure who is in charge of signalling repairs, but my guess is it's RailTerm, which is the company that does similar work for Via Rail in the city on its trackage. I guess they haven't gotten to this repair yet.

Notice the absence of crossing signals below. Now that I am moving away from the sun, the two-engine head end of the train begins to become a little more vibrant and less shadowy. Here's the lead unit, GMTX 2252. This leased unit has been making the rounds in Eastern Ontario as of late. I'd be curious to know why CN is still leasing units and why they might be short of motive power.

CN 9411 trails the lead unit as the relatively long consist approaches the curve in the track toward the old Nepean Junction. This is the first time that I have seen a two-engine lead on this train, which seemed to be a late summer/early fall change to CN 589. The shadows are still pretty brutal at this point, but I was able to touch up the image a fair bit to include a little more detail.

Here's one final shot of the consist, which includes seven (yes, seven!) tankcars all headed for Nylene Canada in Arnprior. Compare this to the one-car consist I have seen headed to Arnprior in the past. I'm not sure if this is a one-off or whether Nylene Canada's business is picking up, which is requiring more caprolactum.

At this point, I hustled back to my car and decided to test my luck at catching this train a second time. Given its relatively slow speed and my close proximity to March Road, I figured I would be able to beat 589 to the March Road crossing. Local railfans in Kanata say the train often stops at the Tim Hortons right next to the tracks, which would give me another opportunity to take some shots.

I'll save the second part of the story for the next post.

Friday, October 15, 2021

Ghost in the Yard, Part I

Those who have been with me on this blog from the beginning know that I often do a lot of rail photography in Sarnia, where I grew up. I was finally able to travel with my family this summer and even squeeze in a little time trackside at Sarnia's train station. 

I'm not a picky railfan. I see so little here in Ottawa, I will settle for watching a rail yard being switched. That was what was happening when I visited the yard on a cloudy morning in late July. To be honest, the cloudy conditions were ideal for me, as lighting from the station vantage point is tricky at the best of times, with the trains always being obscured by shadows. That morning, there were no such headaches, thankfully.

The first hint of activity was east of the station, as a consist of coil cars, a few hoppers and a long line of tank cars made its way toward the station. With the exception of the coil cars, this was a pretty typical consist for Sarnia, as much of the railway's local customers are in the Chemical Valley, which usually require tank cars and hoppers. These two types of cars are by far the dominant presence in this yard.

I tried to include some of Sarnia Station in the first photo. At this point, I caught a glimpse of a ghost in the consist, but I wasn't sure. In this photo, you can see an old GP9 long hood forward leading the way.

I had to wait a while for this train to make its way closer to the station. While I waited, I snapped a shot of this hopper car that is lettered NOKL, which you would think would belong to the Northwestern Oklahoma Railroad, but this is another case of a shortline leasing its reporting marks to a leasing company. 

I looked up its history, because I was interested in the plate on the upper right hand side of the car and found that this car once belonged to First Union Rail (FURX) and Iowa Interstate (IAIS). The plate in the upper right corner once sported the Equity logo, which you can still make out in the middle of the car. There's a tiny decal still there. Here's a closer shot of that old logo.

With an assist from Eric Gagnon at Trackside Treasure, I was also able to find out a few more things about this car, which Eric told me was once referred to as the "sash scheme" hoppers, which have a capacity of 4,750 cubit feet. They were made by Thrall. Eric also shared that there are a number of more common yellow hoppers with the Equity plate on them.  

Here was another NOKL lettered hopper with the XTRA lettering down the side. I know I have said this before, but taking photos of any type of rolling stock that is out of the ordinary may seem like a waste of time now, but it could one day prove interesting. I always make sure to find a car or two to capture whenever trackside.

This car once had the reporting marks CFWR, which belong to the Caney Fork and Western Railway, a shortline owned by Ironhorse Resources in Tennessee. 

As the yard job finally approached the station, I was able to confirm my suspicions about the rare piece of motive power in the consist. And there is was. Ex-GT 5849 GP38-2 still in its original GT colours. I know this might not seem all that rare to some more regular rail watchers, but it's the first time I've seen this scheme in person since the early 1990s. So, rare for me. What's even cooler is that this unit was once Pittsburgh and Lake Erie 2156. So it has a lot of history.

Here's a shot of just the GT unit. A nearby railfan at the station told me that the unit has been making the rounds in Sarnia for a few months. In the shot below, you can see that one of the front number plates had to be replaced. Not a great match, but it gets the job done, I guess. I also find it interesting that there is no CN stencil below the side numbers. It's as if the GTW never ceased to be its own operating entity.


Here's an overall shot of the yard job. I had to strain the limits of my camera's capabilities to get a clear shot. It was a hazy morning and the rain was just about to fall. You can see three yard signal sets in the background as well as the Indian Road overpass over the rail yard.

Here's a more conventional shot of the yard job, with a bit more clarity.

You can even see a carbon black covered hopper behind the coil cars. That hopper is either coming from or going to Cabot in the Chemical Valley. I got a better shot of that type of car when another yard job approached from the west end of the yard from behind a string of other cars. Stay tuned for that in the second part of this series.

In a way, I was lucky enough to catch a meet between two yard jobs, although they were a few tracks apart. It was quite a challenge trying to capture an image with both trains in the frame. I will leave that for the following post.

Friday, October 1, 2021

Ghost in the Yard, Part II

In the last post, I shared some photos of a Grand Trunk locomotive still sporting its red and blue Grand Trunk scheme in Sarnia Yard. I haven't seen a GT painted unit in person since the 1990s, so I was quite happy to finally see one again in real life.

As I mentioned in that last post, I am not a picky railfan. I will take what I can get, especially considering how little there is to see here in Ottawa. So when I saw two crews switching cars in the Sarnia rail yard back in late July, I was quite happy to stand on the Via Rail station platform and try and get some images. The problem with each consist was that they were quite a way east of the station, so I had either hope they would get close or use my camera's zoom to get something worthwhile. Luckily, both came fairly close, which allowed me to capture a few rare sights (at least for me).

The second yard job I saw was being led by two old warhorse GP9s, one with the strange CN 15 logo that was applied to celebrate the railway's 15th anniversary as a public company. Up until that morning, I had no idea the railway applied this logo to one of these locomotives. Most of the recent photos of this unit show it with the ordinary black long hood with the CN lettering. However, it appears the special scheme was added in the  2010s, judging by this 2013 image taken in Winnipeg. (Update: Steve Boyko at caught up with the CN 15 GP9 in Winnipeg and blogged about it. You can see his post here.)

Sadly, given where I was on the station platform and the angle and distance, I couldn't get a clear shot of 7258, which soon pulled away from a string of carbon black hoppers toward the east end of the yard. Here's my attempt at a closer shot.

I don't know what to think of that special paint scheme. It really doesn't do anything for me and I would imagine it would confuse a lot of people who aren't familiar with the corporate history of CN. Imagine if someone was really observant, but ignorant of railway history. They might see the CN 15 logo one day and the CN 100 logo another day. Which one would make more sense? Thankfully, this scheme was not terribly prominent and isn't all that widespread anymore, from what I can tell. 

While I was watching these two crews do their work in the yard, I met another local railfan, who is the man behind Shortt Rail videos on YouTube. I take it that he's a constant presence here. I spoke with him for a bit and he assured me that both the GT unit and the CN 15 unit had been around Sarnia for a while. I believe him, given that he has close to 800 videos on his YouTube channel. He also had a Shortt Rail logo on back window of his car.

Anyway, before the rain began to fall, I tried to see if there was anything else to capture. I always had a fondness for these carbon black hoppers. When I was a boy, these cars, which were loaded at the Cabot plant in the Chemical Valley, were ribbed and had the Cabot Corp. logo in the upper right hand corner of the cars. You can see an example of that ribbed hopper design on the left. Now, all you get is the CABX reporting mark as a clue as to what these cars are for and where they are heading to or coming from. Still, I'd love to have a few of these on my layout at home.

I did manage a meet photo of the two yard jobs in action. Trying to get them both in one frame in a way that did them both justice was difficult. 

For a train-starved Ottawan, even this short time in the rail yard was a lot of fun. Shortly after this photo, it began to rain. There was a father on the station platform with his two sons, who were enjoying the rail yard with some donuts from Tim Hortons. We were all chatting about trains before the heavens opened and we all dashed for our cars. 

In retrospect, my timing couldn't have been any better. Two rare sightings at the same time in the span of less than half an hour. Talk about great train karma.

Thursday, September 30, 2021

Something Old, Something New in Smiths Falls

You better believe that when I took my family to the Railway Museum of Eastern Ontario in Smiths Falls in August, a trip to the Canadian Pacific rail yard was on the agenda as well. I told my wife that this would be a stopover before we hit the local Tim Hortons. She seemed fine with this and stayed in the car. My oldest daughter decided to come with me and walk along the old platform in front of the original Canadian Pacific (later Via Rail) passenger station. 

As is the case in Smiths Falls these days, timing is everything. This is not a terribly busy rail yard at times. It's such a different place compared to the CN rail yard in Sarnia, which is one of only a few other points of reference for me. However, there is one thing you can almost always count on seeing in the Falls. CP always has two units assigned to the yard and they are usually idling a few tracks out from the main line. And by this, I mean the middle of the yard.

I checked the old searchlight signals and it was clear there was nothing coming on the main line, which was no surprise, so I decided to see if there was any interesting rolling stock in the yard. I did find this tank car, still painted in the Omya scheme. Of course, these cars are quite common in these parts, as CP serves the Omya plant in Perth, delivering what it needs to make its calcium carbonate-derived products (think of toothpaste and many other consumer and building products).

This may not be all that exciting to some, but I was happy to find one of these cars that still had the Omya logo on it. I have a lot of shots of these cars from years past, but almost all of them now have no logo on them. I've mentioned it many times on this blog, but I'll mention it again. What seems mundane today might just be a gem a few years from now. 

I also love taking overall shots of this yard, which is one of the few I have seen that was designed on such a pronounced curve on the main line. It allows you to see lines of cars stretching quite far into the distance. Again, for someone who never sees trains these days, any shot is worth taking.

If you study shot carefully, you'll notice three different styles of tank car (grey, black and white), some more of the white tank cars bound for Perth and a long string of autoracks, including one painted for the Grand Trunk at the end. 

But all of this is secondary to the idling engines in the yard, which is about all there is to see in Smiths Falls for much of the day. Some mornings, you might get to see crews get a consist together for a run to Perth (I've caught this type of action two times. You can read about it here and here.). This time around, nothing was happening. The two units in the yard were idling and the air brakes were making some serious hissing noises. My daughter found it unsettling.

Here was the shot I took. Here are a few things I found odd about the lash-up. First, I don't know that I've seen units lashed up like this. They are usually connected on the long hood ends. The next thing I noticed was that there were two very different units together. Unit 2304 is obviously a rebuilt GP20ECO unit that are the go-to choice for yards and local runs on the CP, judging by my past experiences in this yard and at a few other CP spots I've visited. But engine 3037 is a GP38-2, obviously in need of some new paint, judging by the look of the red on the long hood.

Okay, so it's maybe not as surprising as a regular to this yard would expect, but it was the first time I've seen this type of old and new together in this yard. For someone who so rarely gets to the rail yard these days, anything out of the ordinary is worth mentioning.

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Goodbye McKenna Casey, Part II

In my last post, I shared a few photos and a few thoughts about changes to the Smiths Falls Subdivision in the Barrhaven area of Ottawa. The Strandherd Drive level crossing is being replaced with an overpass and the resulting construction of that overpass has severed McKenna Casey Drive, a rural road that connects Strandherd with Moodie Drive. For my purposes, it also eliminates a crossing where I have captured countless Via Rail corridor trains, as well as the odd appearance of CN's 589 local, which once used to ply these rails shortly after 10 a.m. on Sundays on its way to Kott Lumber and SynAgri.

I recently visited the area, proper camera in hand, to see what there is for railfans now that the road has been turned into a cul-de-sac just east of the 416. It turns out, this area might even become a better railfan spot than before (Note: Blog readers have pointed out that there is a proposal to connect McKenna Casey to another road).

The road is almost deserted, as it only serves a few local residents who live there. That means you can drive up to the end of the cul-de-sac near the old crossing and wander a bit, trying to set up a nice shot along the line. You can also go back to where Highway 416 goes over the road, to get some nifty shots of the train passing beneath the highway spans.

First off, here's a view of the Strandherd overpass, taken from near the old McKenna Casey Crossing, which is blocked off to cars. This shot was taken in the summer. The overpass is now completed over the right-of-way.

As you can see, the overpass is starting to look like it might be ready in a few months. The rail line itself has not seen any interruptions, as is the case sometimes when infrastructure projects necessitate a shoo-fly track. In this case, nothing has changed, other than the blockade of McKenna Casey Drive.

Since I was in the area, I decided to wait for a morning westbound, which passes by McKenna Casey just after noon. I decided to shoot from beneath the highway overpasses, as they provided much-needed shade.This shot was my favourite.

That giant pile of gravel behind the F40 unit is the berm for the overpass on Strandherd. You can make out the other F40 on the other end of the train. It would have been pretty easy to get a shot through the barricades, but I figured if I stayed beneath the highway spans, I could also get a shot of the train passing beneath the highway, which is always a challenge. I've shot here before a few times, so I thought I would try my hand at it again.

F40 6405 leads the way as the train approaches the Moodie Drive crossing. The skies were rather hazy so there was little chance of getting any type of good colour in the middle of the day. Besides, the forest fires in northwestern Ontario this summer produced large plumes of smoke that affected the skies over Ottawa for parts of July and August.

Here's another shot. Some might argue that the concrete pillars block much of the train, but the point of shooting beneath these spans is to place the train in a specific place with some context. That was my thought process, anyway. Some might disagree with this approach.

Once the train was through the concrete maze, I took a few going away shots of the trailing F40 at the rear as the train disappeared behind some brush.

So, despite losing a pretty cool level crossing that was photogenic for train photos, I think local rainfans will agree that they have also gained a key advantage with McKenna Casey Drive being closed off. The road is no longer busy and it now provides a quiet, safe place to get shots of trains without having to worry about traffic. 

As railfans in Ottawa, you have to take the wins, no matter how small they are.

Wednesday, September 1, 2021

Goodbye McKenna Casey, Part I

As if we haven't suffered enough as railfans in Ottawa. Now we are faced with the loss of one of the best level crossings to shot at in the city. Let me rephrase that. We're losing one of the best crossings to shot at in the west end of the city. My blog has always been heavily tilted toward Ottawa's west end. My friends in the city's east end might think differently.

McKenna Casey Drive is a rural road that, until recently, connected Moodie Drive with Strandherd Drive. At one point, it was likely a very pastoral, sleepy rural route, but in recent years, it was clearly being used as a short cut into the sprawling suburban swath that we call Barrhaven.

No more. With the advent of a Strandherd overpass over Via Rail's Smiths Falls Subdivision, McKenna Casey's connection to Strandherd seems like it will be severed, judging by the signs and the blocked crossing halfway between Moodie and Strandherd. I discovered this when I was out for a bike ride a while back and wanted to cut across McKenna Casey to get to Moodie, so I could take a direct path back to my area. When I arrived at the crossing, it was barricaded, which meant I had to partake in a small portage through the ditches to continue my ride.

It made me sad to know this crossing will be eliminated, but I am hopeful that this vantage point will still be accessible for photography. As I began to kickstart this blog again, I thought about this crossing and it occurred to me I have a number of interesting pictures from here, not to mention memories. It was one of the first places I took my oldest daughter to watch trains, when she was very young.

I even caught CN's Sunday 589 running light, back when CN used to regularly retrieve cars on this line on the weekends. 

The shot below is one of many I took of Via Rail corridor trains heading west from Fallowfield Station when they begin to gear up for their run to Smiths Falls. The trains, at this time, really began to pick up speed. The speed limit posted on this stretch of track is 65 mph for LRC passenger equipment.

To get an idea of what's happening, here's a map that clearly shows a stretch of the road being erased from the map east of the crossing.

You will notice from the map that McKenna Casey also crosses beneath Highway 416. Given that this road will no longer be a through route, I'm hoping that it could provide railfans with a quiet spot to watch trains without having to worry about traffic. I have attempted to take shots beneath the highway a few times. This was my favourite shot from those attempts in 2016.

Here's a close runner-up from the same year. 

I suppose it depends on what happens to this area once the Strandherd overpass is finished. I will miss getting weird angle shots like this, below.

Possibly the new Strandherd overpass will allow to an aerial shot and the new dead-end McKenna Casey could mean a quieter spot to railfan along the Smiths Falls Sub, free of traffic concerns. I can only hope.

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

Old friend, new spot

Let's begin the reunion tour with a familiar face. When I walked away from blogging in the fall of 2020, I was pretty sure that I would never see this train again. I have never been so happy to be wrong. For the first time in two years, I caught up with CN's Arnprior Turn, or whatever you know it by, whether it be the Arnprior Local or simply 589.

I have to give local railfans credit for this catch. I've been keeping an eye on the Eastern Ontario Rails Facebook group over the last year. I have to tip my cap to the railfans who have dedicated themselves to catching CN 589, which makes its way out to Arnprior every Wednesday to deliver caprolactum to the Nylene Canada plant.

The biggest change with this train over the last year or so (possibly longer) is that the train now makes a run up to Kott Lumber on the Smiths Falls Sub before heading back to Federal Junction (13 km backward movement) to reconnect with the Beachburg Sub and Renfrew Spur. This means a longer timetable for this train. By watching the Facebook group and seeing that 589 usually carries lumber car empties out to Arnprior, I knew that Kott must be included on the Wednesday run now. Previously, 589 made a separate run on Tuesdays and Sundays to Kott and SynAgri, both on the Smiths Falls Sub. The newer run meant 589 was passing through Bells Corners and Kanata much later than it once did. 

That had me thinking that I could catch the train at Fallowfield Station, simply by being there at a certain time and watching the rail signals. I knew I had a chance if I left for my appointment early, which meant I would have to pass by the station anyway. Sure enough, I wasn't there more than two minutes before the signals governing eastbound traffic went from straight red to straight yellow, flashing green and solid red. Something was coming from the west.

Here is 589 pushing four tank cars east toward the station with the conductor on point on the last tank car to keep an eye out. In the above image, the train has just crossed Fallowfield Road. As I was standing there in the Via Rail parking lot, it occurred to me that this was only the third time I've caught CN 589 on the Smiths Falls Sub and the first time I've caught it at the station.

The four-car consist snuck up on the station and did not use its horn as it crossed Fallowfield Road. I made sure to back up in the parking lot, so I avoided having a wedge image like the initial shot above. People who have been to Fallowfield know that this is not easy. You need to position yourself at a spot at the end of a parking lot on either side of the station. I chose the west parking lot since someone decided to obstruct my initial spot at the end of the east parking lot. I was happy with my initial shots, but was disappointed to see no lumber cars in the consist.

As I backed up, I realized this was the first time I was shooting a train this way, as it backed up. So the traditional going away shot and the initial shots were reversed. I tried to catch some of the corn field in my shots. You can see a piece of it to the right.

This shot above is my favourite of this meet. I had a few other shots with the train closer, but the Via banner to the left of 9411 was obscuring the engine. It's a challenge you face when you shoot near a passenger station. Luckily for me, the west parking lot was almost completely empty, which meant my shots here were not obscured by many cars or trucks. 

The above shot has a little more of the cornfield in it. The shadows were a little funny in the morning, especially given the angle of the sun and the angle of tracks. I played around a bit with this photo to eliminate the shadows a bit and brighten it up. 

Here's a final image, shot straight on, with much of Fallowfield Station in the frame. All in all, it was a successful meet. I learned a few things during this meet. The most important was to keep a close eye on the track from the platform, since the approaching train had no lights shining or horn blaring that would normally give you a warning. Instead, it was only by using my zoom that I noticed a large black circle, in this case a tank car, slowly coming into view. Also, my attempts to study railway signals and understand them have really come in handy.

This post was a happy surprise, as I had planned another topic for my first foray since returning. But after seeing the images, I figured that maybe it was better to start with a bang and give the people what they want. I've had mixed feelings about 589 in the past, to be honest. It's always nice to catch a freight train in Ottawa, but I don't want this little runt of a train to be the only thing I blog about, so I had to think about whether to start the blog's reunion tour with this meet.

In the end, I figured it was worth it, as I haven't had a meet with 589 in two years. I hope to maybe get out there in the coming weeks and catch it again. I suppose playing your greatest hits, as it were, isn't always a bad thing.

Sunday, August 1, 2021

The Reunion Tour

Hello again, friends of the iron horse. Last October, I shut down the Beachburg Sub blog, thinking that I just didn't have any gas left in the tank (coal in the tender, perhaps?) due to my sheer exhaustion with the pandemic and my busy life in general. I pretty much said I was done, but you might recall I did leave the door open a crack.

Today, as I returned from the Railway Museum of Eastern Ontario in Smiths Falls, I realized I have amassed enough content, thoughts and photos for a pretty good run on this blog.

I am happy to be back again sharing some thoughts with you and a few photos I have amassed in the last year or so. I will start off with a declaration, however. I can't commit to anything permanent at the moment. I will begin posting at regular intervals (every two weeks) for the time being and see how far I can go. 

The reason I am being careful about this reunion tour of sorts is that I honestly don't have much time to be trackside and I don't want to post on this blog if my thoughts and photos aren't up to my own standards. Plus, I know most people who read this blog know a hell of a lot about railways, so I don't want to insult anyone with half-baked posts and substandard photos. 

Life in the pandemic, especially with young children, has made any type of trackside photography extremely tricky for me. Working from home has proven to be a blessing and a curse! So, what little I have I will share, but that's all I can guarantee right now.

So, what direction is this blog going to take? It will still be about Ottawa and beyond, but I think I will be leaning much closer to the beyond for a while. To be honest, I was tired of blogging about all the nothing that is happening in Ottawa. So, what's to come in the months ahead? I have some adventures to share from my sporadic time trackside in Bedell (Kemptville), Ottawa, Smiths Falls, Toronto and Sarnia. I have also been giving some greater thought to the expanding light rail system in Ottawa, although I don't know that I will pay it any great attention in this blog, as I find the topic rather tedious these days. Same goes for the never-ending exit of Canadian National from Ottawa. When will this railway finally pull out for good? It's anyone's guess. Will a short line railway take over here? Many feel this prospect is remote. I am somewhere in the middle between cautious optimism and outright skepticism.

What's so special about this old warhorse of a passenger car? Stay tuned.

As always, I hope you enjoy what's to come. I have some material that I am very proud to share and explore in depth. If you are a regular, make sure to tell a friend and share the word that this blog has returned (for now, at least).

If you want to reach me, you can email me at hammond.michael77 AT gmail. You can always share your pictures if you want to see them in this blog.

Thanks. Highball!