Sunday, September 10, 2023

Mainline freight action near the station (Stratford, Part II)

In a recent post, I shared a few images of evening GO Train 3775 returning west and stopping in Stratford, en route to London. This is part of a pilot project where Metrolinx is providing weekday commuter service between London and Toronto's Union Station. For commuters along the Guelph Subdivision, the imminent discontinuation of this service will likely come as a disappointment. For me, I was grateful to catch the evening GO Train, complete with an old F59 trailing, in a rare setting. 

The bonus was that, as I waited for the GO Train, a eastbound CN mainline freight train was waiting for the GO Train to pass. This train, CN 581, was led by three idling engines, which were parked east of the Via Rail station, close to CN's yard office on Regent Street.

The parked freight was carrying mainly covered hoppers, making it quite possibly a grain or agriculture-related movement, as the Guelph Subdivision passes through some of Ontario's richest and most productive farmland. I was quite pleased to capture an image of an old Burlington Northern three-bay covered hopper, still visually intact sans graffiti. 

This car has 4,750 cu. ft. of storage space, made in 1992 by Trinity Industries for BN, all numbered in the 467XXX series. Given its fairly recent build date, that makes it positively new, in terms of the railway-branded fleets that are becoming less and less common these days. I know a lot of railway vets dislike BN's cascade green and white scheme and its ultra modern symbol, but I always liked it. It must have something to do with not growing up with BN's more well-loved predecessors, the Burlington Route, Great Northern and the Northern Pacific. I'm too young for them.

The train had quite a few of these old BN hoppers, still lettered BN, although this lettering is, of course, one of many combinations belonging to BN successor, BNSF Railway. In the late summer, this is the type of train that is quite common in this area, not to mention on the Goderich Exeter Railway, which originates in Stratford. I did catch a GEXR yard job preparing to embark for Goderich earlier in my stay in Stratford, but I'll save that series of photos for another time. That train was also very heavily weighted with covered hoppers.

Once the GO Train made its way west, I made my way east down Regent Street, which parallels the Stratford Yard. From a public vantage point, I managed to capture a shot of the head end of Train 581. There were some visual hazards, but I think they add to the scene quite nicely, as they put the image of this train in context. The head end was led by GP40-2 9449, which was given the new scheme in recent years. The second unit, also a recent convert to the scheme, is GP38-2 7501, although it does not have a wide safety cab hood, as 9449 does. The final unit is GP38-2 4725, still in its original sergeant stripes. 

You can also see the first car is an Ontario Northland ribbed boxcar, with the chevrons logo. Behind the parked freight were a large string of covered hoppers that were parked closer to the Masterfeeds agricultural products concrete elevator complex, which is on the east end of the yard, near the Romeo Street flyover.

Here's a closer shot of the two lead units, taken from Regent Street.

In both shots, you can see what appears to be a moveable wooden ramp, no doubt used to unload boxcars for use in carload service deliveries to local customers. I'm not sure how much business CN does like this, but it seems to me that this would be why they would keep this ramp around. Also, I'm guessing it might be used if they need to move heavy construction equipment onto a train for MoW service. These are just guesses on my part.

There was also one other cool sighting in the yard, as I explored it from all angles from the surrounding streets. On the side of the yard opposite the station, there was this electrical unit that was parked on a heavy-duty flatcar. I could only get so close on public property to get a proper shot of it. As we were leaving Stratford to head home, I saw a large contingent of local public utility vehicles carting this unit onto a truck for use somewhere in the local electrical grid.

The other rolling stock sightings were part of the GEXR move, so I will save those images for another post.

This meet between the freight train and the GO Train was one of many such sightings that dotted my weekend in Stratford. I was quite happy to catch so much action in Stratford, which can be a hit-or-miss place to railfan these days, unless you're there to catch the regularly scheduled Via service. And yes, I did get a few shots of a Via passenger train making its way to the station, since it was carrying members of my extended family into town for a family reunion. 

More material for another post. Stratford proved to be a gold mine this summer!


Anonymous said...

Excellent reportage as always! Our trips to Stratford typically focus on theatre, so we’ve never ventured into the railway part of town. I’m surprised that VIA doesn’t put more effort into timing their train with weekend performances for the Toronto crowd. Seems like an opportunity there. Does Samsonite still have their warehouse and outlet store on Ontario street? Back when Samsonite was the licensee and manufacturer of Lego blocks in Canada, that build was Canada’s Lego block factory!

Kevin from Windsor said...

Previous comment was mine. I forgot to click the drop down to enter my name.

Michael said...

I can confirm that Samsonite is indeed still there, at the same location, Kevin. Whether it's still a manufacturing facility like it was in years past, I'm not sure. I did see a fair number of cars in the lot on a workday so it's a sizeable operation, to be sure.

Eric said...

Hi Michael,

I have no problem with BN green! It's been my favourite road since I started my railfanning career just after the BN merger! That transformer load is indeed cool. And, CN seems to be hedging its bets by assigning three roadswitchers to many of its turns. Though, I should add, rarely if ever out of Belleville. Boo. They have some leased units in service, already having incorporated some of the blue GMTX's into its fleet, and adding a half-dozen former UP Geeps. There is still a market for four-axle power! GP-9's were never intended to last forever!

Thanks for the strategic Stratford sharing schedule. I've been Avon (I mean havin'!) a great time following your visit, across the bard. (I mean, board!)