Tuesday, June 20, 2023

Catching up with the next generation of Via Rail

A few weeks ago, I found myself with a clear calendar on a Saturday morning. In addition, thanks to a timely tip from a railfan on Eastern Ontario Rails on Facebook, I knew that Via Rail was using its new Siemens Charger trainset on Train 24 eastbound to Montreal. 

Train 24 was at the station when I arrived, and it was indeed one of Via's new Siemens trainsets, with its rear-facing cab leading the way north. I couldn't see the Charger locomotive, since Train 24 was partially hidden behind a west-facing LRC consist that was queued up for a run to Toronto. 

I have to say that it's been a good run for Via Rail fans in recent years. First, there was the Canada 150 wraps, followed by the Via 40 wraps. More recently, there were the repurposed Love The Way wraps. That's not to forget the plethora of schemes applied to the silver streamliner HEP cars in recent years. Add it all together and we are only now emerging from an impressive rainbow era of Via Rail. 

But, on to business. The Siemens trainset was sitting on a track in the middle of the station yard and the morning sun was blazing, which was casting shadows on my side of the platform. Add to this the Ottawa Station's canopies over the platforms and the newly installed chain link fence around the yard, and I knew I had my work cut out to get some quality shots.

Luckily, the security fencing has squares cut out of it, for the purposes of fire hoses, I'm guessing. I'd also like to think Via was throwing us railfans a bone, but I'm guessing it was for fire department purposes. Here's what I initially saw. I knew I would have to wait until the train made its way from underneath the station canopies to get a better shot. But this shot was okay, taken through one of the square cutouts in the fence.

I tried getting some shots from various cutouts in the fence, but nothing seemed to really capture the image I wanted. However, I kept trying.

This shot shows you the complexities of getting a clear shot of this train on the platform. It was obscured by the west-facing train and it was also bathed in shadows from the harsh morning sun. Still, it's always fun to get two trains in one shot, even if they are both parked.

When the train began to pull out of the station yard, my view became unobstructed. The sun was still blazing and there was nary a cloud to work with, so I took a few shots and hoped that I could touch up the elements a bit afterward. I like this shot quite a bit. It gives you a clear shot of the Charger locomotive as well as the signalling equipment in the east end of the station yard. That stop sign is for railway baggage carts and platform maintenance vehicles. It is now protected by a chain link fence, which is a relatively recent addition to the area.

 I also made sure to get a shot of the engine by itself. This unit is 2203.

Here's one final shot of the train passing beneath the Belfast Road overpass. I was originally planning to take photographs from this overpass, but ongoing construction closed the road both ways, which was really frustrating. It's the second time this road has been closed. I did notice that a few construction workers were watching the trains from the west sidewalk on the overpass.

I didn't stay long at the station, as I had my two bored daughters in tow. I convinced them to come with me in return for a visit to a local restaurant for a fruit smoothie in return. Not a bad deal for them. But I didn't want to press my luck with their patience. Besides, I think I have enough Via Rail photos from the first half of this year. There's only so much I can shoot. I did like that I got a few pictures from the Tremblay Road station, as I have only been here a few times this year. This as by far the most productive visit. 

The Siemens trains continue to be in use between Ottawa and Montreal mainly, with the occasional service to Toronto, judging by what I read online. It won't be long until their presence on the rails becomes more commonplace. I wonder if we will then pine for the days of LRC coaches, HEP cars, F40s and P42s? I won't miss the P42s but maybe some of other equipment, especially the silver streamliners, as they hold a special place in my memories.

For now though, I enjoyed the novelty of seeing something new.


Eric said...

Thanks for posting what you can from what looks like an increasingly non-friendly to railfans, if not firefighters, Ottawa station, Michael. When I was in town last week, I drove over VIA twice near Fallowfield, and I think I saw the Jock River bridge from highway 416?

No revenue VIA Venture service to Toronto yet, though. Just test runs. Tentatively scheduled for September, though the maintenance centres are apparently not ready yet, and the existing VEnture consists are sitting split up at the VIA Montreal maintenance centre!


Steve Boyko said...

Nice series of photos, Michael! It sure shows how difficult it is to get a clear shot...

I liked all of these photos but I liked the last one the best. The combination of the train and the profusion of signals spoke to me.

Michael said...

Thanks gents. Eric, if you came up on the 416 you did indeed pass over the Jock River bridge, which is a long bridge that also passes over the Smiths Falls Sub and a once rural farm road, now a feeder road into Barrhaven. The ability to get shots at Ottawa Station is much more difficult, but not impossible. I think the biggest headaches remain the sun and shadows cast by the station platform shelters and pillars. There's no working around them!

Kevin from Windsor said...

Thank you for sharing! Nice to see the new equipment in revenue service. I don't think any of these trainsets have made it to Windsor yet, at least not that I've heard. New trains. New stations. Would be nice to have more frequent schedules and memory schedules. My wife and I took the opportunity last spring to ride the Brightline from Fort Lauderdale to Miami and back, just for the train ride itself. The Venture equipment is amazing. VIA did right by getting on that bandwagon. The entire Brightline operation is something to see. High level platforms. Little bridges that extend from the train to cover the gap when boarding. Gourmet food courts in the stations. The ticket prices can be a bit steep if you wait to last minute, but given the cost of parking and the constant congestion on I-95, it's easy to see the appeal. If you decide to ride, better to plan ahead and buy your tickets on their app. You can use kiosks at the station, but it's very time consuming as you have to enter your name and address to get a ticket. Fortunately, they had a helper at the kiosk. Same at their parking garages. No attendants. You need to download the parking app and pay for everything online.

Michael said...

Kevin -- I think you and other railfans in SW Ontario will need to be patient if you're waiting to get a glimpse of the Siemens trains. For now, it appears they are almost exclusively being tested and used on the Alexandria Sub between Montreal and Ottawa, with a rare appearance in Toronto. It's one of the few times it pays for a railfan to be in Ottawa.

DaveM said...

I think that SynAgri in Twin Elm no longer has service. They ripped the switch out a few months ago (or so). Last time I saw, it was just laying off to the side of the MoW.