Wednesday, January 24, 2024

The Magnificent Seven: Highlights of 2023

Last year was a year where my railfanning was quite concentrated. I saw a lot of Via Rail action, mostly because my evening schedule on Wednesdays allowed me to meet the same westbound train many times. Rather than taking the same shot over and over again, I began experimenting with different angles and ideas, which ushered in the Year of Different. There was also a chance meeting with CN's Arnprior Turn, a few sightings of freight trains along Highway 401, lots of photography from a trip to Stratford, a few cool shots from Kitchener-Waterloo and a couple of other scattered highlights.

I like to temper the railfan posts with other posts that are more focused on history and research. Sadly, those posts were in short supply last year, for a variety of reasons. All told, I was able to get 37 posts online last year, which was my highest output since 2019. I have considered easing my pace to biweekly this year for a while, but a recent influx of new material means that I can continue my current pace for now.

So, the highlights...


At the tail end of Via Rail's buffer car period, I found myself at Ottawa Station and was able to get a shot of  Via Rail buffer car 8318 Craig Manor bringing up the rear of westbound train arriving from Montreal. It wasn't long after I took this shot that an investigation into the structural efficacy of the old silver streamliner cars showed that they were safe to use without the need for an extra car. But it was fun to see so many outliers in the corridor for a while.


In late May, I was happy to be able to get a first glimpse of Via Rail's new Siemens equipment at Ottawa Station. This was Train 24 bound for Montreal. It would be a few months before more of this new equipment began entering into regular revenue service across the corridor, so this catch was fun, as there were still just a few in operation last spring. It was a difficult morning to get quality images, as the harsh morning sun and scarce clouds made for some harsh glare. The shots near the Belfast Road overpass were a little easier, but the sky was a complete washout.


As I was driving my daughters to dance class in the Colonnade Road area, I saw the Arnprior Turn returning on the Beachburg Sub to Walkley Yard. I managed to catch the train on the Prince of Wales flyover, which was one of my finer catches, given the scenic location. I have caught several Via Rail corridor trains at this spot in the last year, but this catch was special.

Read the post here


It's always a coup to catch something unusual, especially when it's something that you won't likely be able to see again. In late July and early August, I was in Stratford, where I was able to catch an arriving GO Train that was making its way west back to London. Metrolinx has since shuttered this service, which was a pilot project linking London to Toronto in a commuter service. I often see these trains when my family travels through Toronto on Highway 401, but being able to see these trains in a small city like Stratford is a case of capturing some rare mileage. I'm glad I did.


I don't want to give away too much since these images are for a post that has yet to be shared online. However, my family found itself in Kitchener-Waterloo in November, which gave me several opportunities to railfan, including in Kitchener, where I saw some local yard action. Nothing special, but photos of a freight train in an exotic location are always fun for me. But it was in St Jacobs where I was able to capture some cool images that are worth mentioning. This town, north of Waterloo, is home to the Waterloo Central Railway yard, where the tourist railway has built an old-fashioned trackside flagstop platform and shelter. I have a model train structure just like this. It was cool to see something like it in real life. More shots from this yard to come soon.

Favourite shot of the year

I can't think of a shot I like more than this. I have one or two that are for upcoming posts that come close, but I have to say that this is my favourite. To be able to catch a CN freight on the platform in Stratford as it makes its way past some GEXR units was just about the perfect shot for me this year. It includes all the things I love. I love small towns, short line railways and seeing freight trains, since it is such a rare treat for me. You can see the full set of shots in this post.

Train 59

I needed to include a shot of Via Train 59, since I have caught this train more than any other in the past year. After taking photos of this train through the spring and well into the fall, I realized how many different methods I had tried to get shots of this westbound train. I intend to collect all these shots in a post sometime this spring. This shot below might be my favourite from last year. The shaggy trackside greenery adds a nice contrast to the train just past the curve in the Smiths Falls Sub.

There were other highlights from 2023, including winning the first ever Trackside Treasure Annibursary prize for excellence in railway blogging, an award initiated by one of the most prominent rail bloggers in Canada, Eric Gagnon.

This blog also logged the 10th anniversary of its birth, which was a nice accomplishment. Then there was the 400th post. 

All in all, there was much to celebrate in 2023. Here's to many more posts. Thanks for continuing to be along for the ride. I appreciate every person who reads and reaches out.


Canadian Train Geek said...

I love this recap, Michael! It's great to see these photos again - that CN one in Stratford is outstanding - but I really like your positive look back at 2023.

Here's to many more posts, indeed.

Warren said...

If you haven't seen, CNs new 3 year plan is out. Walkley yard is avoiding the chopping block thankfully, but everything west of it is in peril stil