Wednesday, June 15, 2022

Let's begin at the end

I'm old enough to remember when freight trains had cabooses at the end. I remember, in fact, the union campaign, Trains are safer with a caboose. Of course, the march of progress was unstoppable and the caboose went the way of the dodo on many railways in the 1980s. CSX maintained them on the Sarnia Subdivision until the early 1990s, which was cool for me when I watched trains when younger.

So imagine my surprise on June 8 when I heard the Arnprior Turn (CN 589) making its way through my neighbourhood and I decided to follow it, only to see this at the end. It was a GTW 79047 caboose still in its original scheme. Of course, there was no crew in the cupola, or even in the caboose. The car is clearly being used for shoving moves, giving the conductor a safe platform to watch the tracks ahead.

Of course, this isn't the first time CN has made use of an old caboose in its Ottawa operations. CN has made use of an former Devco caboose and the famous Millennium caboose in past years. Walkley Yard even hosted an old CN caboose hitched to an old RDC unit, both of which were owned by a company in Toronto and patched DAWX.

Over the course of my wanderings trackside, I did see CN using the infamous Millennium caboose once when it was shunting cars in Walkley Yard. I just managed to get this shot from the end of Albion Road on public property.

I will get into the history of CN's cabooses in its Ottawa operations in my next post, but for now, let's just admire the fact that the railway has used more than one caboose locally over the course of the last 10 years. It's an anomoly for sure, but not unexpected, given that there is a significant amount of shoving operations that the railway needs to perform in this area.

On June 8, I would not have caught up to the train if not for the fact that the crew stopped at a private crossing before March Road to grab a coffee at Tim Hortons, which sits trackside along the Renfrew Spur. That allowed me to park near the Tims and get some shots from March Road, like this head-on shot, which is not possible usually. The skies washed out on this shot, given the angle of the sun but I did manage to frame the trackside sign. You can just make out a railfan to the left of the shot. He had a camera set up on a tripod on the private crossing, which is blocked to vehicles.

Right when the train was easing to a stop, I took a quick photo of the two units from across Carling Avenue. I noticed the GATX unit doesn't seem to be a leased unit anymore. It's patched CN 4905, which suggests to me that the unit is now CN property.


As the train slowly made its way toward March Road, I tried to get some shots of the overall consist, which featured four tank cars loaded with caprolactum and the GT caboose bringing up the rear.

CN continues to use two GP38s on its run to Arnprior, including the GATX unit, which has been a common site in Eastern Ontario for the last several years. The March Road crossing offers a fairly unobstructed view of the Renfrew Spur right-of-way, although you do have to position your shots around a few guy wires and trackside poles. But at least the crossing gives you clearance against the trackside shrubbery, which can ruin your shots.

This is a shot of the March Road crossing, which gives you a better shot of the GATX unit. This is the first time I have captured anything at this crossing. Now that I know what I'm facing here, I will definitely come back, if the chance presents itself.

Even though I was on the sunny side of the train, this side of the caboose was not nearly as photogenic as the other side, which sat in the shadows. There was no graffiti on the other side, while this side was pretty marked up. 

Not knowing if I would ever see this old relic again, I tried to get it from as many angles as I could, including this profile shot, which gives you a view of the entire train as it makes its way slowly east toward the Huntmar crossing and eventually, Arnprior.

One final shot as the train made its way west. I don't take a lot of vertical shots but I took quite a few this past week, which made for some interesting shots. All in all, it was a lucky meet, as I decided at the last minute to chase this train on my break from work and caught it only because of its unscheduled stop near March Road.

It was quite a week for the Arnprior Turn, as it was featured in a story on CTV Ottawa's local newscast. The message that Nylene Canada was delivering was nothing new. There's 40 kilometres of track that the company owns that is being used by one customer. The company would obviously like to see more customers use rail service. It's a great idea in theory, but as readers of this blog know, Nylene has made this pitch before to the Ottawa Sun. I mentioned that story, which was behind a paywall, in this blog entry from 2014.  

I guess I'm skeptical that this latest pitch will get anywhere, since CN is a reluctant service provider in this case, as it is mandated to provide this service to Nylene. If CN does indeed pull out of Ottawa, as it has publicly stated that it wants to do, who steps in? All of the publicity in the world won't help if there is no railway company to provide the service.


Steve Boyko said...

Great catch! Love that GT caboose - especially the non vandalized side.

Michael said...

It's quite the sensation among railfans on Facebook here, for sure. The number of people trackside scouting out this train has exploded. I was driving my daughter to soccer the other night and saw two fans on the tracks waiting for the return trip of 589. I was disappointed that they were on the tracks, as this is trespassing and dangerous.

Eric said...

There we go! Ottawa railfanning finally gets a shot in the arm! (Or perhaps a kick in the caboose?) Anyway, great to see so many getting out to snap this thing before it gets replaced with some other, perhaps more interesting, CN Heritage Fleet shoving platform.

Thanks for sharing, Michael!

Matt G Trainz said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Matt G Trainz said...

I saw you! I was at the private crossing near station road. I chased them from there all the way to Arnprior and then all the way to Kanata

Matt G Trainz

Matthew Maynard said...

Great stuff Michael! Funnily enough that's me on the left in your shot. I've known the conductor on 589 for quite some time now. It's nice to be able to chat with him at the crossing and safely get a few photos. They're certainly happy to have the caboose. some of those backing moves are quite long and I know it's tough to hang onto to cars, especially in the winter. He did say they plan to hold it until CN wants it back which I don't imagine will be anytime soon so the caboose may become a common sight on 589.

Michael said...

Thanks for the comments, guys. Good to hear that this piece of GT/CN heritage will stay a while in the area. Let's hope it stays in decent condition. Given the lack of security at Walkley Yard, we can only hope!

AJ said...

Another fun game to play in the ottawa area is how many cabooses are still left! If I recall there is one in or around a field off hwy 7 between Carleton Place and Perth that was apparently a former McDonalds caboose (some believe it was the St. Laurent location).