Friday, February 12, 2016

Railfanning on Prince Edward Island?

PEI is famous for its Cows brand ice cream
Back in October 2015 I went to Summerside, PEI for work for four days. I didn't have much time for non-work activities, but I did manage to see a precious few train-related items.

Most people know that there are no* railway tracks on Prince Edward Island since CN ceased operations and the last train left on December 28, 1989.

* well, none of any appreciable length. There is some track at the Elmira Railway Museum and maybe a few lengths here and there throughout the Island.

There are still a few railway items around on the Island. There are several train stations on the island, some in private hands and some in public hands. In Summerside itself, the former CN station is the town library and is handsomely decorated with murals. I walked over to it late one evening after getting my Greco donair fix.
Former train station in Summerside, PEI
Prince Edward Island had a few grain elevators, and three are still owned by the provincially-owned PEI Grain Elevators Corporation. The largest is located outside Kensington next to the former CN right-of-way.
Kensington, PEI grain elevator
An elevator like this would not be out of place on the Prairies! It was built in 1971 and is of wood construction, unlike the other two elevators at Roseneath and Elmsdale.

Speaking of Kensington, this town houses two important railway artefacts - the only locomotive on the island, CN 1762, and the beautiful Kensington railway station. I photographed them (and the above grain elevator) en route to the airport in Charlottetown. Fortunately it was a lovely day for photographs.

CN 1762 in Kensington, PEI
CN 1762 is an RSC-14 locomotive that would not have been out of place on the Island. I'm not sure how much it operated on the island, if at all, but it ended up here.

Kensington, PEI train station
The Kensington train station is fairly unique with its New Brunswick fieldstone construction. It is a National Historic Site and currently hosts the Island Stone Pub.

That was all I had time to visit on that trip. I was pleased to be able to meet up with the talented Taylor Main and Chris Mears of the great Prince Street Terminal blog.

Other railway sites of note on PEI include:


Further reading:


Monday, February 08, 2016

Canadian Model Train Store Directory

Just a quick note to let you know that I've created a model train store directory over at Modeltraingeek.com.

I had noticed there wasn't any good listing of all the Canadian model train stores. Both the NMRA and the CAORM had pages with Canadian stores, but they were incomplete and out of date, with many linked sites no longer existing.

This past Sunday, I went through both lists, as well as the list of stores in Canadian Railway Modeller, weeded out the sites that were no longer responding, and came up with an initial list. I then added sites that came up in Google and called it rev 0 and posted it in the excellent Canadian Railway Modellers Facebook group.

I received some additions to the list and a few deletions too, so I've incorporated all of their great suggestions and I believe the list is more or less complete now.

I will do my best to maintain it and I welcome any corrections, additions or sad notices of store closures.

I should point out that I'm only listing physical stores that people can visit. Virtual stores like Canadian Express Line are not listed. I want to encourage people to visit their local hobby store, and I want to have a listing of local stores so when people are visiting someplace new, they can find a hobby store. Already people have commented about stores that they never knew existed near them.

Please check the Canadian model train store directory out and let me know if any corrections need to be done. Thanks!

Friday, February 05, 2016

The Corner Brook Railway Museum

Back in October 2015, I went to Corner Brook, Newfoundland for a short work stint. While there, I spent a bit of time at the railway museum in Corner Brook late one afternoon.

It was a pretty blustery day, and the museum was closed, but the grounds are open so I wandered around, enjoying my first second taste of narrow gauge equipment. (my first was at Exporail in Montreal)

The railway museum is located alongside Riverside Drive on the Newfoundland T'Railway, the portion of the Trans-Canada Trail that is built on the roadbed of the former Newfoundland Railway. Specifically it is on Station Road in Corner Brook, here. It is well maintained by the Railway Society of Newfoundland.

Corner Brook Railway Museum

You can see that one of the major features of the museum is steam engine 593, a Baldwin locomotive built in Philadelphia and delivered to St. John's in 1921 at a cost of $36,870. This locomotive was originally a passenger express engine and ended its long career as a yard switcher in Port aux Basques in 1957.

Newfoundland Railway Steam Engine 593
593 is at the head of a display passenger train that consists of:

  • ex CN 593, Baldwin 4-6-2, built 1921
  • ex CN 1598, Eastern Car box-baggage car, built 1954
  • ex CN 1600, Canadian Car and Foundry express car, built 1943
  • ex CN 758, Canadian Car and Foundry coach, built 1949
  • ex CN 175, Canadian Car and Foundry diner, built 1943 as a coach (lettered as "DINER 10")
  • Twillingate, National Steel Car sleeper built 1938

Twillingate sleeper in Corner Brook, NL

To be honest, I spent more time looking at the other train, the diesel-powered plow train. I am by far more interested in diesel locomotives than steam engines, which you probably know already if you are a long-time reader. Diesels FTW!

The plow train is a little shorter than the passenger train, but it has a nice variety of equipment.

Plow 3460 in Corner Brook, Newfoundland
The plow train consists of:

  • ex CN 3460, National Steel Car snowplow, built 1953
  • ex CN 931, General Motors Diesel NF210, built 1956
  • ex CN 15007, Eastern Car Company side dump car, built 1958
  • ex CN 6072, National Steel Car caboose, built 1967

CN 931 was definitely my main point of interest. It could use a little paint but it's looking pretty good.
CN 931, Corner Brook, Newfoundland
I had a peek into the cab through the windows. Maybe someday I'll be back in Corner Brook during the summer when the museum is open...

I was impressed at how well maintained the displays are. There is no graffiti and the walkways, steps and such are all in good order. Kudos to the Society for such a great job honouring the Newfoundland railway's past.

There's a museum building on site, the Rhoady J. Hickey building. Of course it was closed so I don't know what's inside. I imagine there are a number of artefacts on display.

There is a fair amount of track extending past the displayed rolling stock, coming to a switch and extending past that for a number of metres. It would be fun to run a velocipede up and down the track!

The "Newfie Bullet", the cross-island passenger train officially known as the Caribou by CN, was terminated in July 1969, a few years after the Trans-Canada Highway opened on the Island in 1965. The "bullet" was a bit of humour as the Caribou had a 23-hour schedule between Port aux Basques and St. John's, compared to the 12 hours a car could drive the same distance.

Terra Transport logo
CN took over the Newfoundland Railway after the province joined Canada in 1949. In the 1970s, CN began to rely more on trucks to haul cargo on Newfoundland, and in 1979 the Newfoundland rail operations were spun off into Terra Transport.

Terra Transport operated CN's freight operations, as well as the CN Roadcruiser bus operation and CN's trucking operation.

Newfoundland's branch lines were closed in 1984 and the railway itself was shut down in late 1988 with the last freights running through September, 1988.

Signs of the railway were evident in Corner Brook, with books and signs here and there throughout the town.

I found this switch stand beside a business in the town. The Newfoundlanders clearly take a lot of pride in their former railway. I wish I had seen it in operation but I had never been to Newfoundland before this visit.

I'll leave you with a few more images from the railway museum in Corner Brook.





Thanks for keeping the memory of the railway alive!

For more information:


Wednesday, February 03, 2016

10 Questions for Eric Geissinger

This series is modeled after the "Interesting Railfan" series in Railroad magazine from years ago. I'm asking each railfan 10 questions, some standard and some customized for the particular person. I hope you enjoy it. (See all in the series)
Eric

Eric Geissinger is a railfan / hobbyist photographer based in London, Ontario. I met him on Google+ where he often posts railway photos.

1. Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I live in London, Ontario, a city I've called home for the past 35 years. I work as a Systems Analyst, a job that I enjoy very much. Woodworking and photography are my two main hobbies these days, although most of my tools are in storage until I get a place to woodwork.

2. What got you into photographing trains?

When I joined Google+, one of my favourite communities was Railroad Photography. I wanted to participate more than just commenting and plussing others' work, so I decided to try taking a few photos. I had a small point and shoot camera and started taking photos of the trains in the CN and CP yards in London, Ontario. I quickly graduated to a better camera with a built-in telephoto lens and started to explore the area outside of London, looking for different spots to take photos. After a year of using that camera, I graduated to a Nikon D5200 DSLR. My current favourite lens for shooting trains is a Tamron 16-300.

3. Where’s your favourite place to railfan?

The Ingersoll and Woodstock area, which is about 30 minutes outside of London. CN and CP have lines that go through that area and my favourite shortline, the Ontario Southland Railway (OSR), operates there. They are also fairly rural so the scenery is nice and there are many places to get good photos.
Ontario Southland Railway #6508


4. If you could railfan anywhere, anytime, where and when would it be?

I think railfanning in the 1930s in St. Thomas, Ontario would have been really interesting. They had several large railway shops there where they serviced the steam locomotives travelling between Chicago and New York.

5. What’s your favourite railway?

I have a real soft spot for the Ontario Southland Railway. They are a short line railway headquartered in Salford, Ontario, about 30 minutes from London. They operate vintage locomotives built between 1947 and 1973 including three of my personal favourite diesels, the FP9u. They really keep their locomotives in good condition and are very friendly to railfans.

6. We've met virtually on Google Plus/G+. What do you like about G+?

I was originally attracted to G + because many of the people there are technology geeks and/or artists, and technology and art interest me. I like that people share their art, and their interests, and I like meeting new people. I find that people on G + seem to be more honest than on other social platforms and post their failures, fears, and failings as well as their triumphs.


7. A glance at your G+ profile shows you photograph a lot more than just trains. What other subjects do you like to photograph and why?

I like to photograph older buildings, bridges and machines, preferably in a state of decay. I've always been fascinated with how we construct things with great effort, and yet eventually nature tears them down. We're in a constant struggle against nature that we will never win.

8. Do you share your photos on other platforms other than G+?

No. Currently, I just share my photos on Google+. I have made half-hearted attempts at using other platforms, but I don't want to invest the time at the present.


9. Do you see yourself remaining on G+ or moving to other platform(s)?

I see myself remaining on G+ for now. It has a good mix of people and I find interesting and entertaining things to read there daily.

10. Can you tell me some tips on railfanning the Ontario Southland Railway? :)

Certainly! I have had the most success in photographing them around the Ingersoll and Woodstock area. Their main shop is located in Salford, Ontario which is just outside of Ingersoll. They have an assortment of retired locomotives parked outside the shop, and the working units are always coming and going.

They switch the autoracks at the CAMI auto manufacturing plant in Ingersoll, so you will often see a couple of the switchers there. They usually have a tandem of the larger locomotives take the autorack trains from the CAMI plant through Ingersoll to Woodstock where they get picked up by CP. Usually around 11 am you'll see the autorack trains in Ingersoll, and generally later in the afternoon (3 – 4 pm) you'll see them in Woodstock on the CP tracks.

The OSR employees have always been very friendly to railfans and are quite used to us taking photos of their locomotives.


See Eric on Google+

See all 10 Questions posts

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Winnipeg's Waverley Street Underpass Is A Go - Oh, Oh

Soon to be a thing of the past?
Despite opposition from councillor Russ Wyatt and others, Winnipeg's city council voted 13-3 to proceed with the Waverley Street Underpass project.

Currently, Waverley Street has a grade crossing with the busy two-track CN Rivers subdivision. The Waverley Underpass project page says about 30,000 vehicles use the crossing daily, with 35-40 daily train movements through the crossing. Personally I think that number (of train movements) is low.

The intent of the project is to replace the grade crossing with an underpass (road under the tracks) and widen nearby Taylor Avenue to four lanes west of Waverley, and make some modifications to intersections to increase capacity.

CN blocking the Waverley Street crossing

The total cost of the project is estimated to be $155 million, with a margin of error of -20% to +30%, meaning it could reach $200 million. The money for this project would come from all three levels of government, as well as an unspecified contribution from CN. They are requesting $45.875 million from the province and the federal government, and the city expects to pay $63 million.

I think it's interesting that there are two rather large sole-source contracts specified:
  • Manitoba Hydro, up to $13 million plus over expenditures at the discretion of the Chief Administrative Officer
  • Dillon Consulting Ltd., up to $12.3 million plus over expenditures at the discretion of the Chief Administrative Officer
Dillon Consulting won the $1.012 preliminary design contract back in April 2014.

This is how it looks currently. Waverley runs north-south through the centre of the map.
Waverley and area - current
There are existing underpasses at left/west on Kenaston / highway 90 and at right/east on Pembina / highway 42.

One of the controversial aspects of this project is that Waverley is not a major road north of the CN tracks. Part of the project is to widen Taylor Avenue west of Waverley to make it 4 lanes all the way, and to improve Waverley north to Grant Avenue and improve the Waverley-Grant intersection to improve capacity.

This is the work that is proposed to be done:
Waverley and area - proposed
Personally I am concerned about the large cost of this project and the potential for higher costs. The Plessis Road underpass project, nearing completion, has grown from the initial $77 million budget to $87.5 million so far (13.6% over budget) and is a year late.

Given that a detailed design has not been completed, and this project seems to be on a rush schedule, I think the chances of the cost increasing above the forecast $155 million are high.

Given that the city's revenue is just about $1 billion/year, and our city debt is about $1 billion (having doubled in the last five years), I don't see how we can take this on, as well as the stage 2 rapid transitway. We need to rein in the spending... and maybe spend it to help divert all the raw sewage we are discharging into rivers.

But that's just my opinion.

More information:



Thursday, January 28, 2016

10 Questions for Michael Berry

This series is modeled after the "Interesting Railfan" series in Railroad magazine from years ago. I'm asking each railfan 10 questions, some standard and some customized for the particular person. I hope you enjoy it. (See all in the series)

Michael Berry is a railfan based in Montreal. His photos have been published in several magazines and he is very active in social media. He's also a new father!

1. Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Me on CP 9733 on display at
Exporail, July 24 2011
I grew up in Montreal West, which had and still has numerous CN and CP lines passing through it. The house I grew up in was just a block north of CN’s busy Montreal subdivision and a 5 minute walk from the AMT (ex-CP) Montreal West station, so I’ve seen and heard trains all of my life.

I’ve also taken AMT commuter trains off and on since I was a teenager (I currently commute to work on the AMT from Lasalle to downtown Montreal). On top of my passion for trains, I also have a huge passion for music (Rock, Soul, Blues, Country, etc.) and have a CD collection in the hundreds. I even work in the music industry, working in the licensing department of Stingray (http://www.stingray.com).

I’ve been married since 2012 to a woman whose father is an ex-CP employee. Our first vacation was to Train Festival 2009, I proposed to her at Exporail and our honeymoon was at Conway Scenic Railroad, so trains are an important part of our relationship!

2. Why do you like trains?

That is a good question, one I can’t completely answer! Growing up in Montreal West with trains everywhere, I have to assume it kind of rubbed off on me. I’m also a history buff, so that might be a factor as well, as railways have such a fascinating history (I have hundreds of railway books in my collection, as well as even more magazines, timetables, etc).

While I have been interested in trains since I was a kid, the bug really bit me in 2005, about the same time I got my first digital camera. I’ve been taking photos on a very regular basis since then.

3. Where’s your favourite place to railfan?

It’s hard for me to pick just one place. The Peel Basin near downtown Montreal is a nice location that I can go to on the way to work which allows for photos of a wide range of passenger trains with the skyline of downtown Montreal as a backdrop.
AMTK 68 by the Peel Basin, Montreal, July 17 2015
The Angrignon overpass over CN’s Montreal sub near Lasalle, Qc is a great spot (albeit somewhat difficult to access) which offers a nice vantage spot for eastbounds in the morning and westbounds in the afternoon.
CN 528 seen from the Angrignon overpass, Montreal, June 22 2014
Finally, I visit Exporail (The Canadian Railway Museum) very often, roughly once a month.

4. If you could railfan anywhere, anytime, where and when would it be?

I’d have to go with Montreal in the mid to late 1950’s. You had a fantastic mix of steam and diesel, as well as locomotives from CN, CP, New York Central, Boston & Maine and Delaware Hudson.

A close second (and not in Canada, but close) would be the Rutland Railroad’s island-hopping line through Lake Champlain, whenever I drive through that area I can’t believe a railroad built a line there.

5. What’s your favourite railway?

My favourite railway is CP, the history and the allure of ‘the world’s greatest transportation system’ has always meant a lot to me, and there’s hometown pride in the fact that CP was based out of Montreal for 110 years. That being said, I photograph CN trains much more often than I shoot CP trains because CN runs a lot more trains in Montreal than CP does.

6. You’re very active on Railpictures.net. What are your best tips on how to get your photos approved there?

Before I answer that, I’d like to say that while getting photos approved by railpictures.net is sometimes a frustrating process (you know it! - Ed), the screening process has really helped make me a better photographer and a better editor of my photos (considering I didn’t edit them at all before!).
Montreal West station, November 8 2012
If you want to start getting photos accepted on their site, start with the basics, i.e. a sunny, 3/4 wedge shot where the train is not cut off. Also make sure that the photo is properly exposed. You don’t necessarily need a fancy editing program. I do all my editing in Iphoto, with simple things like adding contrast, leveling, sharpening, etc.

Finally, get used to your photos being rejected, probably a lot at the beginning. Don’t take this personally. Even I still get some of photos rejected. Most of the time the rejections are legitimate and fixing the photo will improve it.

7. What’s your workflow for processing and sharing your photos?

Well I’m not a patient person in general, so I’m impatient to upload my photos almost as soon as I get home and then share them on a number of sites. I often have more photos edited and ready to be uploaded then I want to upload in a day, so I have various folders with photos that are edited and ready to, but not yet uploaded. I upload to Flickr, railpictures.net, railpictures.ca and trainorders.com very often.
CP 133 at Dorval, June 9 2014

8. What gear do you use when railfanning?

I try to keep it relatively basic, I only have one camera body (a Nikon D5100) and an all-in-one lens (a Sigma 18-250 mm) and a scanner (Uniden BC125AT). I’ll usually have the latest copy of the Canadian Trackside Guide, some extra batteries and a meal/snacks with me depending on how long I think I’ll be gone.

9. What recommendations would you give to the beginning railfan to improve their photos?

Master the basics first - shoot the train with the sun at your back, don’t cut the train off if you can, make sure your shutter speed is fast enough to ‘stop’ the train. Once you have the basics, you can try more adventurous locations, angles, etc.
CN 368 on the CN Lac St-Jean sub, March 24 2014

10. How’s life with the new addition to the family?

It’s unbelievably great! My wife and I are so happy to have a healthy baby girl and we are both anxious to bring her to Exporail once the weather warms up!

Thanks, Michael, and best wishes to you, your wife and daughter! Remember that kids are great railfan companions...

You can find Michael at:




Tuesday, January 26, 2016

RDCs On the Chopping Block

Ex VIA 6133 in Moncton, June 2013 - saved from the scrapper!
This past week saw many of the RDCs (Rail Diesel Cars) at the former IRSI (Industrial Rail Services) facility in Moncton go on the chopping block... literally.

Since IRSI went into receivership in early 2012, the province and other creditors have been working to recover whatever they can.

IRSI had a large shop in the former diesel maintenance facility at Gordon Yard in Moncton, as well as a motley collection of former VIA RDCs, passenger cars, and a few diesel locomotives, as well as tools and other materials for the car repair work they were doing.
6221, 6114, 6130 and more at IRSI, June 2013
At the beginning of January 2016, the word went out that the shop and land had been sold, and IRSI's collection of RDCs was to be scrapped. Jason Shron, president of Rapido Trains and a well-known passenger train advocate, flew out to Moncton with locomotive mechanic/restorer Chris Fox to see if any could be saved. When they arrived on January 14th, the scrapping was already underway.

You can see a short video of the scrapping here (warning: not for the faint of heart railfan).

Jason and Chris examined the RDCs with locals Luc Doiron and Wendell Lemon, experienced railroaders both, and after negotiations, VIA 6133 was saved from the scrapper.

Yay!


Now Rapido is asking for funding assistance to transport 6133 to Toronto and begin restoration. They estimate it will take a total of about $45,000 to move it and do an initial restoration. You can donate via PayPal by following the link at the bottom of the story of saving VIA 6133.

Ex CP 9250 at Delson, Quebec, July 2005
Railfans are notorious for saying that such-and-such unit "should be saved", and that "someone" should preserve unit X. It's easy to make those statements while sitting at home. People like Jason and the all-too-few museum volunteers and supporters around the country do the actual work of preserving our railway history.

I've put my money where my mouth is and made a donation. I'm also putting a link in my sidebar and I'll be doing my best to encourage others.

Will you help out?

Donate! (see bottom of his page)