Monday, February 20, 2023

Fallowfield After Dark

Fallowfield Station has become a fixture for residents in west Ottawa over the last two decades. It is one of the few suburban stations Via Rail maintains in large cities. Other than Guildwood Station in east Toronto (Scarborough to be specific) and Dorval Station west of Montreal, Via maintains one station per city or community in just about all other cases.

Fallowfield has become a convenient place to pick up and drop off friends and family who are either visiting or departing Ottawa. Its vantage points are tricky, from the point of view of rail photography, as its platform is long and extremely narrow. To make matters more challenging, the station has 100 parking spots in two long, narrow parking lots that stretch along tracks far from the station. In other words, if you want pictures of trains that aren't almost head on or free of vehicle obstructions, you need to get creative. I have blogged about Fallowfield many times, as it is one of the few accessible, busy train spots near my home, but I have not been in the habit of visiting there all that much lately. I feel I have more than enough Via Rail photographs from my near decade of photographing there.

However, when family was visiting in early January and expected to arrive on Train 44 at 6:30 p.m., I decided to take my camera with me to attempt a little nighttime rail photography. I have done this in the past at this station, as its overhead lighting does ease the challenges.

Before the train arrived, I tried getting a shot of the signal towers to the east of the station, although the mist made it difficult to get the sharp image I wanted. However, I did like what I got, amid the mist.

At this point, the city had received quite a bit of freezing rain and flurries, which made for some tricky and messy driving. It also meant that the extreme ends of the station platform were treacherous to walk on, which I did, of course, in the search for an interesting shot.

Some of these shots didn't turn out, so all my slipping and sliding didn't pay off, but it was worth a try, at least. On the safer part of the platform, I tried to get the ice and frost on the rails in an image. This time, the effort paid off.

It's not often that an image with no train in it becomes my favourite of a shoot, but this image turned out really well. I was sitting on the platform and trying to get the rails, the icy platform and the signals in one shot that was compelling. I think I had some success. This image to me is the essence of railroading in Canada in the winter. You never know what you're going to get, but it's always interesting.

Train 44 arrived shortly after I got my frost shot. The all LRC consist was led by P42 915 in its original Via colours. The trains itself was not a double-ender, as there was no power on the other side. I do like that you can see the headlight shining in the darkness in this shot. The snow had not yet begun to fall, which would have made the shot even more wintry, but I was satisfied nonetheless.

One last vertical shot and then it was off to retrieve my family, who were in the last car on the train and likely wondering where I was. I was happy with this vertical shot, as it shows the headlight shining through the darkness much more clearly. You can also see the station lights and other passenger silhouettes on the platform. It's a timeless image of people reuniting on the holidays, being thankful to see each other and spending time together.

I don't take a lot of vertical shots anymore, as they usually mean I am taking shots of trains with very little angle. However, once in a while, I think this format suits a scene really well, as it did here.

There have been a few other times when I've been to Fallowfield in the evening and most of the shots were not worthy of sharing. Over the years, as I have gotten a bit better, I have managed to get a few cool shots in the snow at night. My favourite nighttime shot is the one in this post.

As Fallowfield Station just celebrated the 20th anniversary of its grand opening in the fall, I thought it might be worthwhile to look into the history of the station. I am in the process of going through old newspaper articles about the station and its surprising history.

Stay tuned for that post coming soon.

Friday, February 10, 2023

A busy day on the mainline in Kingston: Part II

As I mentioned in Part I, I had the chance to spend the better part of a day trackside at Kingston's Via Rail station, as my family was in the Limestone City for a music conference downtown. After dropping off my children for their musical activities, I spent much of my time watching the steady flow of rail action at Kingston station, which resulted in five Via Rail trains in the morning, including the 60/50 J-Train eastbound along with the 62/52 J-Train eastbound, along with a westbound later on. So, for those keeping score, that's five trains in just a few hours. Still, I was waiting for a freight train, as that was what I was there to see. As many railfans south of Ottawa know, much of the CN freight movements happen earlier in the morning before the onslaught of passenger trains between Montreal, Ottawa and Toronto in the mid morning to afternoon.

My afternoon began with the arrival of another westbound Via Rail corridor train, being led by an F40 in the blue-ish scheme. Once again, staff was on the platform ready to greet the crew in the engine.

For much of the day, it was cloudy, which was actually a real plus for me, as the sun was making shots from my side of the platform tricky, given the sharp shadows, as you can see in this shot. I did take this shot of the corridor train boarding passengers with 6432 reflecting the brief moment of sun through the many clouds. As it was a windy day, the blue skies didn't last long. And for once, I was thankful for the return of the clouds.

That was because the next train through was an eastbound mixed freight, just minutes after the Via Rail westbound left. The train was led by ES44AC 2993. I mentioned that the sun was mostly gone by this point, but it was still wreaking havoc with shadows as the train came closer to the station.

Given that that train was being led by a single engine, I was pretty sure I was going to see a mid-train DPU. I was right. The DPU snuck up on me, so I wasn't able to get a great shot, but I did like this shot of the unit sandwiched between an ADM covered hopper and a RailBox boxcar. It was one of the former Citi units that CN has regularly used on this main line.

As always, I was on the hunt for interesting pieces of rolling stock to shoot, possibly with fallen flags on the side. Sadly, there wasn't much to shoot, so I at least got a going away shot of the DPU 3977 in better sunlight. This shot also reveals the size and length of the RailBox car. This type of boxcar reminds me of the auto parts boxcars I used to see regularly on the CSX trains that passed through my hometown, back when CSX shuttled oversized cars from Chatham to Sarnia.

I thought getting an overall shot of the train was a good idea. I took a few going away shots toward the station, but those shots weren't as interesting as this shot, given the colour and assortment of rolling stock.

After that afternoon mixed freight passed, I stuck around to see what else there was to see, as I still had time to kill before picking up my daughters and heading home to Ottawa. Not surprisingly, the afternoon was filled with more Via Rail corridor trains, including this westbnound, led by F40 6416 at 4:17 p.m. This as on my third trip to the station. The intermittent sun peaking through the clouds cast a glare on this train, which washed out most of my shots. This one I was able to touch up a bit. It was a tricky day at times for photos.

I was still holding out hope for another freight, but the Via Rail corridor train parade continued, with an eastbound about 10 minutes afterward, led by wrapped P42 913.

The LRC cars were pretty standard, but it was nice to see this outlier, a reminder of Via's branding efforts from a few years ago, which started with Canada 150 and then continued on during Via's 40th anniversary.

A lot has been written about the early days of Via's operations, when it wasn't uncommon to see Via cars mixed with old CN cars. Even more colourful were the early Amtrak years, when any number of its predecessor passenger carriers would find their way onto early Amtrak trains. I don't know if we'll look back on this era of Via as the rainbow years. There certainly is a wide variety of different paint schemes and wraps to shoot, if that is your thing.

My day in Kingston ended with this westbound, led by P42 905 just after 5:30 p.m. I was a bit disappointed that the new Siemens train didn't make an appearance, as it has been in use periodically on a few Montreal-Toronto and Ottawa-Toronto trains (33 and 26 for example), but no such luck on this day.

But as I wrapped by day of railfanning, I was happy to see 10 trains, even if the ratio of Via to freight (9:1) was a bit slanted for my tastes. Overall, it was fun to watch a busy rail operation in action throughout the day. The frequency of trains, combined with the various scenes on the platform, made the day a good first effort in Kingston. I can't wait to go back.