Monday, June 19, 2017

Some random notes

When I started this blog back in 2013, I knew it would sometimes be tough to keep up the pace. Truthfully, I have had some trouble of late keeping up with my usually weekly entries. However, I did just want to share that I have lots of idea for future posts although I am finding that it is taking me longer to develop them than I had anticipated. Sadly, my railfanning has been severely curtailed in recent months. And even when I have had time, the railways have slapped me in the face with some skunkings.

Case in point: During the March Break, my family made its way to the Toronto area for a short little getaway, mainly for the purpose of taking the kids to the Toronto Zoo. I had some time during that week to sit trackside just a little way down the road from Macmillan Yard. You'd think that would guarantee some train sightings, but I managed to find the one period of the day where there was nothing going on along that sub.

Anyway, be patient with me. This too shall pass. The school year is ending and some opportunities are popping up. I have some great stuff still to come.

This shot above is from my May meet with a CN freight train in Wyoming, Ontario along the Strathroy Sub. I am including it for two reasons. One is that it shows the old siding that once served Wyoming industry, including its feed mill. I could not find a good shot from that meet that properly catured this disused rail line until I uploaded this one. This shot shows you that, although the line has seen better days, it appears to be intact. Whether it actually still connects to the main line is another question.

You can read about this meet here.

The other reason I am showing this shot is because I am planning a few posts that hopefully showcase some of my better shots of rolling stock. I find the rail blogs that interest me the most are the ones that feature not only the motive power fronting trains, but also the cars as well. As has been mentioned in a few blogs of late, there are a number of pieces of old rolling stock that are fast disappearing, soon to be replaced with faceless, nameless leased private car fleets. So, I'm hoping a post or two about rolling stock might further stimulate some interest in my fellow rail enthusiasts to get out there and capture some great pieces of rolling stock as well.

A few notes about the O-Train Confederation Line work. The work is proceeding pretty quickly right now as a number of the rail stations are starting to take shape, which I am able to track as my bus passes by them on my daily commute to downtown. The interesting things I've noticed about the new light rail line are as follows:
  • The line is using a number of concrete rail ties
  • The grades on the line are sudden and steep. This makes sense since the electrified light rail trains would be able to mount these grades given their rather short consists and, well, light weight
  • It was mentioned a few years ago that the city might be open to freight operations to share this line at some point. I don't think this will ever happen, given the grades I saw.
  • Some sort of light show will indeed proceed at the Lyon LRT station (below ground) in downtown Ottawa, although not on July 1st, as was originally planned. The show will start shortly after Canada's birthday and will run through September. You will need a ticket to get into this show
Here's an embarrassing confession about light rail. I have to say I can't believe I didn't figure this out sooner, but here goes. I didn't realize in all my reading about the Confederation light rail line that all express buses would unload their passengers at Tunney's Pasture in the west and Blair in the east. I know that the city has said all along that the train would reduce the number of buses in the core substantially, but it was never clear to me that all express buses would stop at Tunney's and Blair, at which point all riders would be forced to hop on a train for the last few minutes of their commute. This means all buses picking up riders in Orleans and Kanata, for example, will go no further than the end of the Confederation Line.

This means all express bus riders will no longer have a seamless commute. They will be forced to get off their bus and ride the train downtown. I don't like the idea that I will have to do this, but if it saves time, I'll get used to it. I have my doubts that this arrangement will work as has been advertised. We'll see.

That being said, I still think Tunney's and Blair were poor choices for the initial east-west LRT line. Both stations do not really have much of a population immediately around them to capture riders in their immediate vicinity. I know this will be a moot point when Phase 2 is completed. Speaking of, the federal government has committed up to $1.9 billion toward the second phase of the LRT in Ottawa. This phase will extend the Confederation Line to Trim Road in the east and Moody Drive in the west. The second phase will also see the Trillium Line extension proceed all the way to the airport.

At work, I have been put in charge of a promotion campaign, which has required me to design internal posters. One of the overriding themes of this campaign is that the workplace will be thoroughly modernized and ridded of much of its paper-based processes. I was asked to come up with some ideas, so I obviously suggested that the modernization project is like going on a long journey, which can often be tiring but ultimately satisfying at the end. I suggested a train or airplane theme (Am I a good public servant or what? Did you notice the lack of favoritism?)

Well, the train theme was chosen, so I have been able to indulge my passion a bit at work, which has been great for me. I was busy searching for images of passenger trains when I noticed that Via Rail Canada now has a private archive of photographs which are available for use, under certain conditions, the most important being that the images be used in a way that promotes Via and train travel. I contacted the railway and told them what I was doing and was granted access to the archives. I just thought I would pass the information along to anyone who might be interested. I don't think I will use these images on the blog right now, but I may in the future. There are some great shots of the Canadian, in particular.

One final note. I am planning more historic posts in light of all the Canada 150 hoopla this year. My next post will focus on a railway town on the edge of Eastern Ontario that might just one day see its importance as a railway hub re-emerge. Stay tuned.

Canada 150 Posts

Almonte, Ontario
Chateau Laurier
The History of Walkley Yard

Thursday, June 8, 2017

The Prince of Wales Bridge: Oh, no, not again

Just when you thought it was safe to put this piece of Ottawa's rail past and future on the back burner, the Prince of Wales Bridge has once again made headlines. The bridge, which has not seen action in many years, has long been neglected by its current owner, the City of Ottawa. After years of rejecting calls to preserve the bridge for use as an interprovincial light rail link, the city has finally come around to the idea of using the bridge for commuter trains in the future. So, all is well right? Well, not so, apparently.

As many locals know, the Prince of Wales Bridge was once a key piece of the Canadian Pacific Railway's rail network in Ottawa. It once played a key role in connecting the CP Ellwood, Prescott, Lachute and Maniwaki Subdivisions in the National Capital Region. In the final days of the Canadian Pacific's presence in the region in the late 1990s, the bridge was lightly used although it did connect CP to its last remaining customers on the Quebec side of the Ottawa River. After CP left Ottawa, the bridge was purchased by the city as part of the deal it struck to buy the Ellwood Subdivision, which is now the O-Train Trillium Line.

In recent months, the city has been busy putting the final touches on the O-Train Confederation Line. The new electrified light rail line crosses over the old  Ellwood Subdivision. The contractor building the line is in the midst of constructing the new Bayview O-Train station, which will allow commuters to transfer from the electrified Confederation Line with the diesel-powered Trillium Line (there will be no rail connection like a diamond due to interoperability issues between the two O-Train systems).

The problem that the city has now is that the old rail line that leads to the bridge was removed, which is a no-no under federal laws. This is the position of the Moose Consortium, a organization that has plans to establish a private regional commuter service on the existing rail lines in the capital region. Now the city is in big trouble, it seems, with the Canadian Transportation Agency, which is the body that grants permission for rail lines to be removed. Making matters worse for the city, it appears that it okayed permanent structures to be built atop the old rail line. Now the city has until the end of the month to explain to the federal agency why it has removed rail without following the proper procedures, according to local coverage.

In my former life as a journalist, I spoke to the man behind the Moose Consortium Joseph Potvin and he told me flat out he was going to make sure that the city lived up to its obligations as the owner of the rail line and the Prince of Wales Bridge. He told me more than once that he would do everything he could to make sure that the infrastructure at Bayview was kept in some sort of operational condition. He says fixing this mistake will cost the city $20 million.

Here's what I am wondering. If the city is serious about using this bridge for rail, which finally appears to be the case, why is the city building over this line? If what Moose is saying to true, why would there not be a plan in place to preserve this rail?

Here's the biggest question in my mind: Am I the only one who noticed when the Trillium Line was rebuilt that the Trillium Line's connection to the old trackage to the bridge was disconnected and buried? It's been several years since this part of the rail line was removed, but nothing was said then. While I appreciate that the removal of the 250 or so metres near the new Bayview Station is much more noticeable, I wonder why nothing was said about the original disconnection of the Prince of Wales trackage years ago.

I can only shake my head as a railfan and as a taxpayer that this situation is resolved properly.