Monday, November 28, 2022

Two trains, two very different images, one day

Two trains in one day in Ottawa? It’s not as tough as you might think, as this city continues to be a busy hub in Via Rail’s Windsor-Quebec City corridor. But in early October, I managed to catch two trains in one day and one of them was CN’s weekly west end freight train, the Arnprior Turn, as they call it. It took a little bit of luck, as it usually does.

I was in Kanata checking out a federal government office building, where I am now working once a week, as part of the government’s mandate that all public servants return to the office. I won’t get into the absurdity that I can telework from a generic government office and fulfill my back-to-work commitment, but I can’t telework from home on that day. Either way, I don’t have to return to my employer’s actual main office in Hull.

Anyway, as I was returning home after checking out the office building, I saw the telltale light from an old geep winding its way slowly down the Renfrew Spur. At the moment, I was on Carling Avenue, which follows the tracks for a short distance east of Kanata. I was able to turn off Carling and found my way to Bayfield Avenue, a tiny residential lane that has an unprotected crossing with the tracks, with only a set of crossbucks and a stop sign.

I have to say that I was excited to get a shot on this seldom used street. It affords you a chance to get a shot of trains from an interesting angle up close. I started by taking a shot of the signage. Notice how the Renfrew Spur is not listed as a CN property. It is listed as the Renfrew Subdivision, which is a legacy of its former status. It’s technically a spur now. The official name of this rail line is the Arnprior-Ottawa Railway, which is owned by Nylene Canada, its only customer in Arnprior. The rails are owned by the company while the land is owned by the city, which inherited ownership from the former Regional Municipality of Ottawa-Carleton.

The crossing gives you the opportunity to get a shot down the tracks, since Bayfield has almost no local traffic except for people from the handful of households on the street. After framing the train alongside the signs. I tried one shot without the signs. Given the low speed limit on this line, you have lots of time to set up these shots before moving back to safety when the train gets back.

This is not the type of shot I take all the much anymore. I don’t really like close wedge shots as much as I once did. However, I was happy with this shot because the angle of the tracks gave me this dramatic shot. You can even see old GP9 4140 behind the lead unit, CN GP38-2 4700. I was surprised to see the old geep in the consist. It’s been years since I saw one of these old geeps in Ottawa. You can check outmy tribute to the GP9 in this post.


I was also happy to catch a lumber car in the consist. This is the first time I have seen one of these cars on the weekly west end train.

Later in the day, I was waiting for my daughters to finish their weekly dance class in the Colonnade Road area, close to the Federal Junction where the Beachburg and Smiths Falls subdivisions meet. Since I am there at the same time each week, I was able to see Via Rail Train 59, westbound for Toronto at the same time. My first attempt to get this train was atop the Hunt Club Road overpass, which I snapped on Sept. 28.


But on the same day I was able to catch CN 589, I decided to try catching Via Rail Train from beneath the overpass. There was a spot near the fence, where I stood on a small cement block to get the shot. I liked this shot the best of the train coming out from beneath the overpass.

As the daylight was getting shorter, I figured there wouldn't be many more chances to capture this train with decent lighting, but I managed to squeeze in a few more shots in subsequent weeks. I am not in the habit of taking shots of Via Rail trains at Fallowfield Station or the Central Station, since I have so many shots from both places. I am really trying to find new places with different photographic elements, so this area is a new challenge for me. I like that this train is using the old silver streamlined cars. It makes up for the P42 in front, as this engine my least favourite locomotive to shoot.

All in all, it was a fun day trackside. Given that it happened in Ottawa, that makes it all the more special. You always feel like to earn everything you get in this city.

Monday, November 14, 2022

The Ghosts of Bedell, Part II

As I mentioned in my last post, Bedell is an interesting spot on the Canadian Pacific Winchester Sub. It's an area that has rich history. Now, as much of its old infrastructure has been removed, it's also a testament to how railways have evolved. Small towns are rarely much more than a passing landmark to freight trains these days and Bedell is no exception. There are no diamonds here, the interlocking is long gone, the station is only visible in old photos and much of the former Prescott Sub connection has been removed.

So what is there to see in Bedell these days? Well, in the last few years at least, there was a fair amount to see, to be honest. The Canadian Pacific has been very busy reshaping the Winchester Sub, which connects Montreal with Smiths Falls. The double tracks have been slowly merged into a single track governed by modern signalization. Bedell retains some extra trackage, as the railway still makes use of passing sidings, but most of the old remnants of the Bedell rail yard have disappeared. 

The image above is a shot I took in February last year as maintenance of way crews continued their work in the area. Much of the consist was parked on the South Prescott Spur. The caboose, which had the modern CPR letting on it, seemed to be the crew breakroom, where they could escape to a warm place and get out of the howling winter winds. You can see the smoke rising the smokestack, indicating that there is something cooking or running inside the old car. The earliest photo of this caboose I could find was from 2004, meaning it's been assigned to engineering services for nearly two decades.

This shot above shows you a hint of the gondolas on the South Prescott Spur. The entire consist was being marshalled around by a flatbed truck equipped with flanged wheels for use on the rails. I was disappointed to see this. It would have been cool to see one of CP's old MoW locomotives on point, possibly with some old multimarks on the long hood, but it was not to be.

What's also striking about this image is the fact that so many old ties were piled up in the area. In the several times I have been to Bedell in 2020 and 2021, the amount of rail ties was pretty impressive. It seemed like this was the spot where many of the old ties were dumped. The shot below was taken in July 2020. This pile was just the tip of the iceberg.

I haven't been to Bedell in more than a year to see what it's like these days, but seeing those cabooses when I did was incredibly gratifying, especially for someone who is old enough to remember when trains still had cabooses. I remember the debate when railways unions pressed their cases about the issue. I still have a pin somewhere that says "Trains are safer with a caboose." It was given to me by a Teamsters union representative that was pleading its case at a Sarnia mall in the 1980s.

When you drive through Kemptville these days, you wouldn't know you were in a railway town. The last remnants of the old Prescott Sub were lifted shortly after I took this photo in 2014. In fact, you won't find that old industrial building anymore either. It's all been razed. Nothing but a flat expanse of development land for sale. 

Despite the removal of much of the infrastructure at Bedell, it still remains one of my favourite spots to sit trackside. Go there in the summer and listen to the sound of the wind swishing through the trees. It's a very peaceful spot. Catching a train there is tough, given the decreased frequency of traffic, but the newly installed modern signals will give you some clues. You can see these signals safely from the Bedell Road crossing, which might be able to let you know if you will be waiting an entire afternoon or whether you might be in luck. 

You see? Progess isn't so bad.