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.