Monday, May 30, 2022

Next stop: Glencoe

On a March trip to see family in Southwestern Ontario, my brother and my nephew were nice enough to take me on a road trip to some of their favourite haunts, including some great spots trackside. You see, my nephew is a railfan for sure. His interests are quite varied, but he does love sitting trackside watching trains, which makes me proud to be his uncle.

So with that in mind, the three of us set off down county roads toward a small town in Middlesex County called Glencoe. This town in situated in the middle of some prime farm land and boasts of a beautiful old Grand Trunk station, which still sits trackside on the Canadian National Chatham Subdivision. Like many other small rural towns, the passenger trains no longer call at the large old stations. Glencoe is no exception as the Via Rail trains between Toronto and Windsor make use of a tiny trackside depot.

We waited for the expected 10:05 a.m. arrival of Train 72, which was bookended by a pair of P42s on either end. P42 905 was the engine on point leading the train east toward Toronto. The Via station here is quite spacious when compared to Wyoming's station, which is even smaller. The shot below, from 2017, gives you an idea, for comparison's sake.

It was fun to watch the Via pull up to the Glencoe station, especially since my nephew rarely sees Via Rail trains, as the Sarnia Via service leaves early in the morning and its return trip arrives late. So he never gets to see them. In this case, Glencoe is a conditional stop for Train 72 and only pulls in to the station when there are passengers to pick up. On this day, there were.

The previous day's snow squalls left a faint trace as we watched the engineer eyeball the train's positioning at the station, to ensure the passengers had access to the right car. I've never seen that happen before. After a few minutes, the train was moving again, complete with horn, which my nephew found incredibly loud so close. P42 914 was on the tail end as the train passed by the old depot and the preserved CNR caboose.

When the train had made its way east and out of site, we decided to check out the old train station and caboose, which were remarkably well preserved and cared for, which was encouraging to see. The station itself was built in 1904 in the Queen Anne Revival style. The station, which served Grand Trunk, was actually just the latest version of a station for the rural town, as the Great Western Railway built its first log cabin depot in 1854. The next station was built in 1856 and another was built in 1900. The town, which sits on a once busy main line into Windsor, has relied on railways for much of its history.

Given that the station is so well preserved, the first thing you might find curious is that it is not sitting parallel to the CN Chatham Subdivision track. Judging by the new foundation that my brother noticed, the building seems to have been shifted from its trackside location to a spot more suited to its community function, on the corner of the town's main street and McRae Street.

Looking inside the structure, you can clearly see the original features have been maintained. The men's and women's waiting rooms are still intact while the stationmaster's office is still in place. The tin ceiling and hardwood floors are still in place, as they were for much of the station's history. It's a remarkably intact station and has been recognized for its preservation.


The caboose outside the station is in great shape too, although you could see a bit of wood rot among the slats near the cupula, which is to be expected when an old wood-framed car is left in the elements. Still, it's clear that the car has been recently repainted and cared for by dedicated volunteers. I was a bit disappointed that there were no markings, logos or any other identifying information on the car.

I couldn't find much on this old car, although some older photos show that it was once covered over with plywood sheets before those sheets were pried away and the original slats repainted. If only they would put an old CNR maple left logo on that car and some markings, it would be just about perfect.

All in all, it was a fun stopover to see the old train station and learn a little about this small town of 2,000 people in southern Middlesex County.  It's clear that history matters here, symbolized by the old train station.

Monday, May 16, 2022

The EastEnders

I finally made it to the east side of the city, which is no small feat, given my schedule and my west end location. But, on the Mother's Day weekend, I couldn't pass up the chance to check out what was happening at Ottawa's Central Station on Tremblay Road, hoping maybe to catch some of the new Siemens equipment. A guy can dream, right?

I had my oldest daughter in tow as we made our way to the station. It's been a while since I've been here, because the last time I was trackside, there was no chainlink fence protecting the tracks from the parking lots. I found this odd for years, given the priority railways place on security, but Via Rail has clearly stepped up security. What is great is that there are numerous gaps in the fence, which are perfect for squeezing a camera through. I'm sure they serve an official purpose, but I was happy to see them there just the same.

First things first, I tried to shoot a few shots between the wires that block much of the view from the Belfast Road overpass. There were a few corridor consists parked on the station tracks, with no diesel engines operating. It was a quiet Sunday morning at the station for sure. This shot below was the one I thought turned out the best.

You can see from the image above that there are two consists back-to-back, with one double-ended by P42s minus the Via "love the way" wraps. The other consist has a wrapped P42 as well as a F40PH-2 in the typical modern Via colours. 

My daughter even tried her hand at getting a shot of the train on the next track, which you can see between the pillars of the platform in the above photo. Her photo is below. It turned out better than my shot from the same vantage point. I love those old streamliners. Catch them while you can.

We decided to try and shoot through the fence trackside next, so we made our way from the Belfast overpass to the parking lot beside the tracks. A few shots turned out okay, after a little photo editing got rid of the immense morning shadows cast by the platform canopies. Below you see the same P42 bookended consist minus the wraps next to a Budd consist facing west on the next track.

I also decided to get a shot of one of the streamliners, because, well, just because.

I also tried to get a shot of a few trains overlapping. This one turned out okay. The door to the Via Business Class car was open. It was really tough to work around the shadows.

As my daughter has not been inside Ottawa's main station in quite some time, we went for a stroll along the concourse. It is a really beautiful station, by modern standards. I've always liked it. Even in the winter, it has a warm feel to it.

On a whim, I decided to see if there was anything to capture closer to the tracks. I didn't figure there would be anything worthy of sharing, but then I came across this convergence of three Via locomotives, framed by the station's steel girders.

In this image, you can see an old F40PH-2, two P42s, each with a different Via livery and even a piece of an old streamliner coach in the original Via colours. If you look closely, you can see the inverted Via logo reflection next to the old coach. And, unlike the shots I took outside, this shot wasn't totally dominated by shadows. I don't know if the Ottawa platform will ever yield shots as dramatic as you can get at Toronto's Union Station, but I think this might be as good as it gets (for me, at least).

It ended up being an unexpectedly fruitful window of railfanning. I even captured a quick shot of the O-Train passing under Tremblay Road. The cynic in me was about to muse over how surprising it was that the O-Train as operating normally, but I resisted the urge to say this to my daughter. This vantage point on Tremblay Road is a great spot to shoot.

So that was my quick trip to the train station for the first time in several years. I managed to get quite a bit in, considering there were no trains coming or going at the time. It was surprisingly enjoyable to share this experience with my daughter, who is nine years old (almost ten) and still willing to tag along with me on a Dad adventure. All in all, a great day that made me grateful for Ottawa's Central Station.