A Christmas tradition of sorts is going to visit family in my home town of Dundas, Ontario a week or so before Christmas. This is a way to visit, do the Christmas thing and avoid the typical bad weather (or try to) that hits around the end of December.
If I can, I like to find time to go up the “hill” to where the main line of the CN Dundas sub runs. When I was younger, on Saturdays I would ride my bike up to this location to watch trains in the morning, returning around noon. There used to be a station there, which by then was a whistle stop, but it has a washroom (if one could call it that) and a place to hide out from the weather if needed. That station is long gone, burned down by vandals in the mid 90s.
Access to the area is now by foot only. A bit of a walk, but no big deal. The line up to Copetown is uphill, so the trains are struggling to make the grade, and you can hear them coming. There is also signal lights to help know if there is something coming. On the opposite direction, you can see the headlights long before the train passes.
So I went up. I stayed for about an hour, and nothing came, even though there was a green light. Still, I wandered and took a few photos with my X-Pro1.
This weekend I planned to catch a train. Typically, there is a train on Sunday that delivers cars to a couple of industries. It’s an out-and-back move so there is always a chance of seeing it twice. It is an unscheduled train, so catching it is always hit-and-miss, mostly miss.
I figured on this Sunday, I would endevour to try to get the train and photographic not once, but at least twice.
In the morning, there are a three VIA trains before noon. One at 7:30, 9:35 and 11:00. I know this because my house is right across the street from the tracks. Any freight movement usually happens between those train times. On this Sunday, I planned to head to Fallowfield station, catch the 9:35 come in and go, and hopefully catch the freight train. The station is a mere seven minutes from my house and has the benefits of signals to know when something is coming.
My plan was to get to the station around 9:15 or so, watch the VIA train, then wait on the local. It would come by soon afterwards (it has in the past). Once the local went by the station (and photographed), I would drive out to the rail bridge to catch it on its return to Walkley yard. I checked the batteries in the camera. I have a battery grip which gives me two batteries, twice the charge. The grip battery is gone so I set it to charge. The other, at 3/4 charge, should be good for a short hour of potential shots.
As I enjoy my breakfast, I opened some windows to hear if anything went by. The local freight doesn’t blow it’s horn, and is quieter than the VIA trains. Sure enough, at 8:45, I hear a train go by (30+ years of watching trains means I have a keen ear to them coming).
EARLY! Run upstairs, get dressed, grab the camera and head to Fallowfield station. Other moves to Kott Lumber have meant a turn of only 20 minutes. Time is of the essence!
I get to the station and wait. During that time, I grab a picture down the line heading east to show off the not-level right-of-way.
I wait long enough that the VIA passenger train is due. Okay, no big deal. The local has gone up to Richmond and waited at the passing siding for the via train.
A few minutes late, the VIA train arrives. Being on a platform, I get low and get this shot:
I’m quite happy with this. It’s what I had in mind. I’m also glad its a FP40 rather than the newer P-42s, which are just ugly.
I always question my thought patterns, and I wonder if I heard the train going back to the yard vs. going to the switching work. But as the VIA train approached, the signals turned from red, to flashing yellow (caution) to green. That tells me that something was on the tracks ahead and the VIA train should be careful, to the line is clear.
The VIA train leaves. I wait. And I wait. I wait for what should be the time it takes to return. So after 20 minutes waiting, I wander over to a memorial to people killed in a bus/train collision three years ago, then head to the car. The signals are still red.
I decide to drive over to Kott lumber and the other feed industry to see if anything was done and I misheard the train that went by the house. Its about 10:30. Next VIA train due at 11:00. On the approach to the crossing, the gates and lights are activated. What? The VIA train is coming from Ottawa – the other direction. I get to the crossing in time to see the local returning with its tow of cars. Argh!!! No photo for me!!
Another miss. So close.
Over the last few weeks, Canadian Pacific railway has been touring the CP150 train across Canada. Consisting of vintage locomotives from the 50s/60s and old-school passenger cars (CP closed down passenger service, as did CN in the 70s, with the creation of the current passenger rail system, VIA rail).
I’ve seen great photos and stories of the train and the events surrounding it, including concerts and, well, the cool vintage locomotives!
The last stop was in Ottawa, so I was keen to see it. The week before it was in Montreal. Through my network of railfans, I learned it was laying over in Smiths Falls, a CP Rail yard about 45 minutes (by car) from Ottawa. I further learned when it would be coming into town, so I planned to find a spot to photograph it inbound. There are a few locations near the house where I could have caught it, but decided on a side road to give the best sight lines and hopefully less people.
My intel said the train would leave Smiths Falls around 10:30, 10:45. I knew there was a Toronto bound VIA train coming through at 9:30 and 11:00am, so I figured it may try to sneak in between those trains. The run time from Ottawa to Smiths Falls is about 30 minutes.
So I got to my locale at 10:30. Best be there early, scope it out and if changes are needed, there’s time. As it turns out, the 11:00am train came first which gave me opportunity to check angles and exposure.
By my calculations, then, the CP150 wouldn’t be by until about 12:30 (from this train, half hour to Smiths Falls on single track, then CP150 coming east). So I hunkered down for a wait. No one else was around until a little after noon when some guys from Albany NY showed up, frantic that they hadn’t missed the train. No worries, lots of time. They stayed for a bit and went further down the line to check out a trestle a little further down.
I had a medium-telephoto lens on my Fuji X-T1. With extra time, I figured I would put on the longer telephoto lens to get shots down the tracks. I had a bit of time, and there are other level crossings further on, that I would hear the train coming. My position was a bit aways from the car. I considered bringing the whole camera bag with the lens change, but decided against it. I have time (you see where this is going, right?).
I took some shots. Then I took this one.
Adopt, adapt, improve. I’m going with the telephoto 70-200 equivalent.
It worked out fine in the end. The adrenaline fired up, and I’m sure the image stabilization in the lens helped to obtain the shots.
After it had gone, I was looking forward to the event at the Ottawa train station. It started at 3pm. I got there at 3:30, so see people leaving. Already? When I got there I could see why. A bunch of tents were set up in the parking lot and three coaches were on display. One was the stage and two others. No locomotives. When approaching the coaches, most of it was blocked off for CP employee VIP section. So no once could get close to the coaches, really. No visiting the inside of the vintage coaches and not locomotives. So the best anybody not a CP employee could do was see the coaches from a distance and maybe the show.
My partner complained quite a bit to others listening on the sad event planning. Turns out the locomotives were at the station, but behind the coaches. Of course wouldn’t want to showcase them. The track the visible stuff was on was quite short, but could easily have accommodated at least one locomotive for photo ops and please the kids (and railfans).
There were a lot of unhappy people, and reading the Facebook posts on the event page made it clear; it was a shitty event. We drove around to the other side of the station and found a gravel parking lot to at least get a picture of the engines. I brought a wide-angle lens for some close ups of the train, so this is the best I could manage:
I had to stand on the hood of the car to get the picture. Very disappointing.
I had read of a great event in Winnipeg from railroad blogger Steve Boyko. Check it out. Great shots and coverage.
To end on a positive note, I did get to see the full train, got some fine shots and, as always, fun to watch trains, even in Ottawa where they are as sparse as they are.
All shots taken with the Fuji X-T1 with the 15-55 f2.8 (VIA), 50-170 f2.8 (inbound CP train) and 10-24 f4 (hidden locomotives).
I believe I’ve mentioned before about the lack of railroading in Ottawa. Let me iterate; there is very little in Ottawa for a railfan/train person to see beyond VIA trains, which are very typical. In fact, most trains in Ottawa are typical and predictable. So one must make the most of what little there is.
I live near the main track that VIARail uses, and passenger trains just don’t do it for me. I like freight trains. Again, there is very little in Ottawa as I mentioned here. Where I work, I do have a limited vantage of the track going up to Arnprior. There is a weekly local that takes some tank cars up there and that really is the only thing to see. From my cubicle, I can hear the train coming and watch it trundle up the line. Its about a five hour turn to come back, and if its a later train, I can make a stop after work and wait for its return. Of course, the camera comes with me every Wednesday, just in case.
Such was my luck last week. It was a late one going up, meaning I could get to a spot to see its return. Being winter and all, I kept to a spot that I knew I could access easily with all the snow (although, not as easy as I’d imagined). After a short wait, I heard the tell-tale horn and got ready for some shots.
I brought my Fuji X100T. Not the best for variable shots, but I like the camera, and I can learn to make do. As it approached the level crossings, the bells and lights went off. As it came around the corner it blew its horn. As it went under the highway bridge, the echoes made it very loud.
And shortly thereafter it came by. It goes at a fairly slow pace, so there is time to get ready for the picture.
The consist is typically three to four tank cars from (and to) the Nylene plant. Again, very predictable. Even the engine is typically the same. Sometimes there is two locomotives, which I suspect is only because one has had some repairs, and it is sent up the line with the other as a backup should the “fixed” one fail.
And within 30 seconds, the train has passed, and I wait another week to possibly see it again.
Fleeting as it is, I look forward to potentially seeing this train each week. As the warmer temperatures approach, I hope to catch it in a few different locations and scenery.
A couple of weeks ago it was a foggy night in Ottawa. I took the opportunity to head over to the VIA rail station. Being the train geek that I am, I knew a train was due, and I was keen to get some foggy light-beam shots. I grabbed my Fuji X-T1 and a tripod and headed to Fallowfield station.
As is typical, the train was a wee bit late, but the end result was worth it.
While waiting, I took a shot of the signal lights. All red. Shortly after, a yellow over green over red appeared, meaning stop at this location, then carry on and proceed with caution to the next signal.
The train did show. And while passengers debarked, I set up this shot. The ditch lights (lower lights on the locomotive) are off at the station. They come on when its set to depart. That’s when I took this shot. The black and white treatment made for a more interesting photo.
After the train had left, I went over to the parking for the bus commuters and got this shot.
All in all, a good set of photos for a last minute decision to see what I could get. Of course, the entire duration was some hour and a half, but it was worth it.
Train watching in Ottawa is, to be kind, limited. This city is definitely not blue collar or industrial in any way. As such, there is very little in the way of rail traffic other than passenger trains. For the railfan, it is a wasteland. Basically, the only freight is local 589 that services a couple of industries, and this is on a weekly basis. Oh, and not on a particular schedule, so to see something is pure luck.
So double-bonus for me! My new job has a view to the railway up to Almonte. The once-a-week delivery to the Nylon plant up there. The window behind my cubicle looks that way, and if I’m at my desk, I hear the horn of the train approaching the level crossing. If I see/hear it, I know six hours later (at the end of the work day) it returns, and I can potentially catch it.
Such was last week. I heard the horn, and looked to see two locomotives pulling five tank cars up the line. I looked at the time, and knew when they would be coming back. The time is random, but the day is not, so I had my X-Pro1 with me to hopefully catch the return. Luckily, I did.
I knew where I wanted to be, so I hung out there a bit early to make sure I’d catch it. When it did come, I got some shots. When I came home and looked, I saw that in my excitement to see the train (remember, nothing much happens here) some shots were not very crisp. The one below looked better with a black and white treatment.
The other shot, though not much better, worked in colour.
As a bonus, this Sunday while I was sweeping up the walkway, I heard a train coming. I’m just across the street from the tracks served mostly by Via Rail. The train sounded different and when I looked, it was the local delivering lumber to the nearby lumber yard. I immediately grabbed my camera and made for the tracks. There is a bike/walk path along the tracks on either side. It was a quick job, and I caught it on its return to Walkley yard.
What the photos don’t show is motion. The locomotive is pushing the box car. As I saw it coming down the tracks, I could see the flashing red light of the End of Train device coming towards me.
I’ll leave out the train-geek reasons for this. But suffice to say, for a very barren train location of Ottawa, I had a pretty good week.
Last week I took a walk near my work at lunch. It was a 10 minute drive to a spot where a path followed a bit of the CN tracks up to Arnprior on the Beachburg subdivision. At one spot, the trail comes very close to the tracks, so I took a little detour up onto the tracks. I knew that the only train through here was on Wednesdays and it was a Tuesday. That and my Spidey senses are always in tune for a train or any train sounds, and the max speed is about 20 mph, so I knew that if something did happen to come, I would hear it well before and have time to get out of the way (and it didn’t stop me from looking over my shoulder constantly…just in case).
At one point there used to be a junction (switch) that would lead up the valley on a different route. A year or so ago, that was ripped out and all that is left is the remnants of where the rails went. I was surprised to see a lot of the track bits still scattered about the location. I figured they would have cleaned it up and sold it for scrap.
Bonus for me, as it made for some fine photo shots with my trusty Fuji X100T. Sad that there is a little less rail traffic in Ottawa. Especially for someone like me who likes trains.
A couple of weeks ago at lunch I drove down to the nearby railway tracks. Like those who like the sounds of the sea or rain that takes them to a calm space, being near railway tracks is mine. Growing up I had the Toronto, Hamilton & Buffalo railway running near my house, and the CN line wasn’t far away either.
So I went to walk the tracks. These tracks are rarely used – a once a week, up and back run, so its not particularly busy, and the line has a 10 mph max speed. And I have an ear for trains coming, so I wasn’t worried about something coming up behind me.
With my Fuji X100T in hand I wandered up the line, and one picture I grabbed was a spike in the rocks. The contrast of colours and textures made for an interesting composition.
Yesterday winter made one of its last hurrahs with a moderate snow fall. I was up to Carp to see my doctor and the snow on the trees looked fantastic. As I have mentioned before, a local freight runs up through Carp on a regular basis, and I always ensure that my appointments are on the correct day and rough time that it comes through. So I had my camera with me.
After the appointment (all is well) I drove around the area to scout out a new position for the train. In doing so, I caught a few pics of the snow covered trees. The blue sky just looks awesome.
And after shooting this, I noticed the yellow fire hydrant. Blue and yellow are complimentary colours, so…
Sadly, no train came. It seems to be a no luck week for the limited freight trains around here. Did make this shot down the line heading just outside of town.
All shots with the Fuji X-T1 and 16-55 f2.8.
The theme of the month on a Facebook group is “down low”, or “pet perspective”. I placed my Fuji X-Pro1 right on the rail, shooting somewhat blindly as I couldn’t look through the viewfinder or the LCD at the back.
Now, I’m a big train fan. I like trains. I don’t believe in hanging out on the railway tracks, or shooting photos around them. Safety first. I believe in the mantra “anytime is train time”. Even though mostly scheduled trains run through here, there are the odd freight train can come by. I will also point out that this photo was made at a level crossing, which is right behind me. So there was little risk of getting hit by a train. The bells and lights would have alerted me. And even this shot was very quickly done and I moved on.
Anytime is Train Time.