Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Railfanning the St. Stephen Subdivision

This weekend I had the "railfan itch" and decided to try something new - the St. Stephen subdivision. I hadn't railfanned that before, and the train generally only runs on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, so weekend trips don't work. Monday was a holiday (Victoria Day), and a quick call verified that the local would indeed be running.

I left Fredericton at just before 8 AM. I understood that the local was called for 8 AM, so chances were that I would not see it at McAdam. I decided to try anyway, and sure enough it was not there. Of the various cars there, a few stood out - a half dozen loaded gypsum cars, and empty MM&A bulkhead flats clearly used in the recent dimensional loads for Nackawic. I continued south and cut across on highway 630 to the vicinity of Watt. I took highways 750 and 755 south toward St. Stephen, hoping to catch the local "on the road". I didn't see it, but I did get some ideas on where to shoot on the way back. I did see a single-ended siding at Moore's Mills, with an ancient NBSR boxcar at the end. CP's 1972/04/18 timetable showed it as a 12 car siding.

As I approached St. Stephen, I heard "Extra 9801" getting a clearance to Milltown Junction from the RTC. That told me they were arriving at St. Stephen, so I wasn't too far behind. I soon heard the chirp of the EOT (End of Train device) as I crested Old Ridge and saw the town below me. I opted to follow the tracks through town, rather than go downtown. I found the train at the Flakeboard plant on the west side of town at 09:48 (here). It looked like they were dropping a tank car or two off.

I set up at the south end of the plant to wait for them to come through. At 10:09 they rolled through with van NBSR 434919 leading, the brakeman watching attentively for traffic and sounding the caboose's melodic horn. Battered 9801 was pushing on the tail end. They had 9 cars plus the van at that time.


I zipped down to highway 170 to catch them at the next crossing. They stopped the train there at 10:16, detached the caboose, and the rest of the consist ran southeast out of my view, possibly to pick up a few cars. After a little shunting they had the van on the north end and the engine on the south end, and pushed back up toward the flakeboard plant around 10:35.


There is an intermodal warehouse that is not shown on the Live aerial photo I linked to earlier. Here they took the four boxcars that were there, and replaced them with one (empty) bulkhead flat car and two extra-height boxcars, all MM&A. I spoke with the brakeman here and he said they would be switching the flakeboard plant for about half an hour before leaving town.


My son and I went and grabbed a hot dog, and watched the switching while we ate. They entered the flakeboard plant at 11:02 and it was about 11:25 when they started heading for home. I shot them at the highway 725 crossing first.


We then headed in to get them at the highway 740 crossing and then the Queen Street crossing. I shot them across the ball field behind the Legion but they beat me to the King Street crossing.


I did shoot them behind the arena there and was amazed how bad the track was there (11:42). It must be a rough ride.


They stopped behind Ganong's to call the RTC for clearance to come home. To my surprise I saw they had swapped the engine and van again so 9801 was leading on the way home.

I went up highway 3 as they rolled along under the new highway 1 overpass. I decided to catch them here and get the one-lane covered bridge in the background. Fortunately the traffic stopped out of the video frame so I could get a good picture at 12:05.


I carried on up highway 750 and found this fabulous spot just south of Moore's Mills. I just had time to put the video camera on the tripod and turn it on before the train rolled across the bridge at 12:12.


My next shot was at 12:19 where route 750 crossed the tracks.


The next crossing had a very long sight line so I could see them from a few kilometers away. They passed me at 12:23.



I got them at Honeydale at 12:32, easily beating them there.
I decided to catch them one more time, at Watt. I turned down the road to the siding and had to inch past a very friendly dog. Still, I was there in time to record the freight rocking and rolling through at 12:44.


From there, I backtracked a bit to highway 630 and took that back to highway 4, then north to McAdam. I was there by about 13:10 but the freight didn't show until 13:26.


For the rivet-counters, the final train was: NBSR 9801, hopper UNPX 120398, Procor tank car PROX 40748, extra-height box NOKL 571101, boxcar SLC 40621, extra-height boxes MMA 23520, AOK 112217, MMA 9244, NOKL 570184, MMA 9242, and van 434919 on the end. That's 9 cars plus the caboose.

They dropped the van near the station, then shoved their consist into the north part of the yard before stopping by the crew shack. I spoke with the friendly brakeman and he said they were going to switch the Westroc gypsum plant next. I decided to hit the road, given that it was getting late and the eastbound wasn't due for over an hour. As I left they ran light to Westroc to get the empty cars.


I'm quite pleased with how the trip worked out, and the weather was pretty good. It didn't actually rain until the freight arrived in McAdam, and I did have a few patches of sun.

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