Friday, August 31, 2012

CN Moves to Abandon Most of Newcastle Subdivision

CN train by the now closed UPM mill
CN detouring past the now closed UPM-Kymmene mill in Miramichi, May 2008.

CN has begun to abandon 139 miles of the Newcastle subdivision in New Brunswick. This stretch of track runs from Catamount (where it joins the CN main line at Pacific Junction) to Irvco (at Belledune). This track includes the communities of Bathurst, Miramichi and Rogersville, as well as the Nepisiguit Subdivision serving the Brunswick Mines.

CN purchased the Newcastle subdivision when they acquired the assets of the Quebec Railway Corporation in November 2008, including the New Brunswick East Coast Railway that operated this portion of track. At the time, many wondered why CN would be interested in a line that did not seem to have any growth potential. Now it seems CN is wondering the same thing.

CN was talking about abandoning this track about a year ago. Now the news articles say CN is looking for $50 million to maintain service. I assume this is deferred maintenance on the track.

The current shippers on the affected portion of the line include the Brunswick Mines (slated to close soon), Ultramar in Newcastle, the lumber mill on the Nepisiguit subdivision, and probably a few small shippers. The CBC article says CN has 12-15 customers on the line.

Of course, VIA Rail would be affected, since they run over this line. VIA has made some hints recently that they could consider running over the Edmundston-Moncton CN line instead. Obviously they had prior knowledge of this announcement.

Opinion: Obviously I think this would be a tremendous loss for the province and the area. Rail lines provide a vital link in the transportation infrastructure of this country and once they are gone, they don't come back. Even if there is insufficient traffic at the moment to sustain the line, it could come back and without rails it would have to travel on our roads.

The provincial government has already stated it will not purchase the line, but is willing to "work with" other parties. I know the province is already deeply in debt, and it has never supported railways in the province in any meaningful way, other than a meager contribution to NB Southern's maintenance in 2009. Colour me bitter but nobody should expect any significant help from the provincial government, even though they should help out.

The only possibility of saving this line, as far as I can see, is for someone like J.D. Irving to step in and purchase it. From afar, I do not see a good business case for them to purchase the line but they were able to make a go of the old CP lines, so there may be efficiencies they can bring that CN cannot.

Let's cross our fingers and hope for some solution to retain the rails.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Great Old Maritime Railway Slides and Photographs

Jon Archibald has posted a great deal of cool old Maritime train photographs to his Flickr stream. There are VIA Rail photos from the 1990s that Jon took himself, as well as a bunch of old slides from John McIntosh and others.

Here are a few of my favourites. First, disused VIA Rail RDCs sitting at the Halifax station. This photo is great not only for the RDCs but also for the view of the old train shed.
Disused VIA RDC's Halifax, Nova Scotia 1991.

Here's a rail removal train in Newfoundland, parked for the weekend. Jon caught the very end of the Newfoundland Railway.
CN Narrow Gauge Newfoundland, Rail-Removal Train, August 1990.

Here's CN train #6 ready to leave Sydney, Nova Scotia, in 1958, a slide by John McIntosh.
CNR #6 ready to leave for Sydney NS.

Finally, here's a 1953 shot of a Newfoundland Railway steam engine. There are a lot of Newfoundland Railway photos and slides in this stream.
CNR Newfoundland Narrow Gauge 2-8-2 Steam Locomotive 318, 1953.

Please go look at all of Jon's Flickr stream.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Another Skunk

I often have pretty good luck with train meets. It comes from a little advance notice from signal lights or a scanner, or just dumb luck, but usually I can photograph the meet.

However, on June 28 I did not have that luck.

You may remember that I shot VIA Rail's Canadian. Afterward I waited around a bit because I knew that CN 112 was coming the other way from Diamond. I waited at one of my favourite spots near Carman Junction (here) and soon enough there were headlights visible... to the east!?

It turns out that CN 347 was following VIA 1 out of town on the south track. I watched 347 approach, and then I saw CN 112's headlights to the west. I was wondering where the meet would be, but soon it became obvious that CN 347 would reach me first and block my shot of 112. Drat!

Here's CN 5747 leading train 347.
CN 5747 in Winnipeg

Notice how bright and clean CN 5747 was... in contrast to dull-looking CN 2114 behind it. Maybe CN 5747 was repainted recently.

Just like that, they were in the way. I didn't even know what power CN 112 had until I was able to glimpse the power through some empty centerbeam flat cars. Fortunately there were a lot of empties.
CN 2320 through a flatcar

Here's the video. CN 112 shows up at about 1:40 in the video.

I guess it's true... you can't win them all.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Some Recent Canadians

Here's a few Canadians I have seen recently. Here's a challenge for you. Tell me which photos I've processed with HDR.

Let's start with July 26. I was out at Carman Junction in Winnipeg to shoot VIA 1. Here's the head end as they start to round the bend.
VIA 6411 in Winnipeg

The same train, just a few seconds later after it has mostly rounded the bend...
VIA 6411 in Winnipeg

No going away shot here as it was out of focus.

Skip ahead to August 11. This is just past Shaftesbury Boulevard, about a mile east of Carman Junction. Note how brown the grass was... we haven't had a lot of rain in August.
VIA 6416 in Winnipeg

Here's the going-away shot.
VIA Rail Canadian in Winnipeg

And the video...

And now, August 16, at St. James Junction. I was sitting in my car, reading a book, and I was so engrossed in it that I almost missed the Canadian going by!
VIA 6438 in Winnipeg

Going away.
VIA's Canadian in Winnipeg

Here's the video of the August 16 Canadian, complete with wind noise and the bang-bang sound of the wheels going over the CN-CP diamond.

Here's a bonus train, CN 786 coming into Winnipeg on July 26 with a long string of potash cars... perhaps going to Saint John?
CN 2403 leads train 786 into Winnipeg

So... what photos did I use HDR on?

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Book Review: The Box

I recently read The Box: How the Shipping Container Made the World Smaller and the World Economy Bigger and I wanted to say a few words about the book.

Most people are familiar with the shipping container, that big steel box that you see on ships, trains and trucks everywhere. This book is the story of the humble container, from its humble beginnings in the 1950s through its transformation of the shipping industry in the 1970s, to today.

The Box takes you through all that, in a very readable and interesting way. The author, Mark Levinson, is an economist and it is evident that he understands the shipping economy very well. I enjoyed reading the book and I learned a lot about the container and how it came to be so ubiquitous.

Did you know that an American truck company owner, Malcom McLean, is often called the father of containerization? He owned a large truck company and saw an opportunity to improve how items were shipped. At the time, cargo was sent over the seas in "break bulk" ships. Items were sent to ports in trucks, unloaded, then custom-packed into ships' holds by longshoremen. At the other side of the ocean, the reverse was done. The unpacking and repacking was very time-consuming and therefore expensive, and Malcom saw an opportunity to avoid that work. He did not invent the container but he was the catalyst of the container revolution. He founded Sea-Land Service (now Horizon Lines) and grew to prominence during the Vietnam War delivering containers to the U.S. military.

The book focuses quite heavily on ocean shipping. Railways are mentioned a number of times, but they were late to the containerization game and do not receive a lot of attention in this book.

The first half of the book deals with the rise of the container and the latter half details how containerization transformed ports and shipping in general. The container can be held responsible for the rise of previously unknown ports like Oakland, Felixstowe, Rotterdam as well as the demise of traditional ports such as New York City, London, and San Francisco.

If you are at all interested in transportation and/or shipping, I recommend The Box.

PS - this infographic from CNN shows the current state of shipping in the world. It is instructive to see that the top 10 container ports in the world (by volume) are all in Asia.

Containers in Winnipeg

A Damn Shame

This is a damn shame. I was just reading this article about two Maryland girls who were killed when a CSX train derailed next to them. Apparently they were sitting on a railway bridge in Ellicott City, Maryland, tweeting away on their phones, when the train passed behind them and derailed, burying them in spilled coal.

Rose Mayr and Elizabeth Nass were both 19. Elizabeth's last tweet was "Drinking on top of the Ellicott City sign with @r0se_petals". They were very close to the Ellicott City Baltimore and Ohio Museum (featuring the oldest surviving railroad station in the USA) and it is prominent in the news footage.

The big question is why did the train derail right there? CSX is investigating and plans to resume service soon, once all the coal from the 21 derailed cars is cleared away. All that is known at this time is that the train was going at track speed of 25 MPH, an engineer-in-training was at the controls, the cars immediately behind the engines derailed, and the crew were unaware of any problems until an emergency braking application occurred (probably from a brake line separating).

It's easy enough to say that they should not have been there... but really, haven't we all been pretty close to the tracks? If you look at this image on Panoramio, it's clear that you could be on the station platform at the museum and be just almost as close to the tracks as the girls were.

I understand they were quite close to the tracks but I don't think a few feet farther away would have made much difference. As Marmie Edwards, a spokeswoman for Operation Lifesaver, said"It's probably just as well to stay away, not just to be off the tracks, but stay away from the train so you know you're going to be safe,"  she added . "Because it's hard to say, 'OK, here it's safe; there it's not.' So just stay away."

My condolences to the family and friends of these two young women.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Small Update on VIA 692 Incident

VIA 693 leaving Winnipeg
VIA 693 leaving Winnipeg

I was curious how the Transportation Safety Board investigation into the VIA 692 near miss last November was going, so I went to their rail investigations web page and had a look. On page 2 of the list there is incident R11W0247 which is named "Meharry" and the location is given as Meharry, Manitoba. No further information is available from that list, but a little Googling of the incident name came up with these details.


I corrected a couple of typos.

There is an important fact here that was not evident in the Winnipeg Free Press article on this incident, namely that "the passenger train was brought to a stop when opposing CN freight train G-853-41-28 came into view." The WFP article implies that the VIA engineers put the train into reverse to avoid a collision, when the blurb says "both trains were safely brought to a stop" and then VIA 692 was reversed. It puts a different light on things.

I'll check back to see when the investigation is complete. No doubt the focus in the TSB is still on the Aldershot, Ontario accident.

Monday, August 20, 2012

More on the Dwight D. Eisenhower

A few more things about the Dwight D. Eisenhower steam engine. David T. pointed me toward the company moving the engine, Moveright International, which bills itself as "heavy haulage and abnormal load specialists". They were the mover for the Dunrobin's move from Canada to the UK that I blogged about.

They are documenting the move for a future Monster Moves episode. They have a very large set of photos on Flickr showing all the steps to move this beauty. Here's a sample, showing the Dwight D. Eisenhower aboard the flatcar but before it was tarped.
180. Locomotive on the flat car

I mentioned in my previous post that a second engine was being moved. It is BR 60010, Dominion of Canada, currently residing at the Canadian Railway Museum / Exporail (English) in Delson, Quebec. There are plenty of photos of the Dominion of Canada in the same Flickr set, showing its preparation for moving.
221. DoC, Exporail museum

I liked how they pulled it out of the shed with the John Molson replica steam engine.
230. DoC being pulled out of museum building for test run to loading ramp

Here they spun it on the turntable, accompanied by 70-tonner CN 30. The museum crew must have had an absolute blast doing this.
251. DoC test run at Exporail museum

I really encourage you to check out the Flickr set to see all the photos. They are really well done.

I understand that once the Dwight D. Eisenhower is unloaded in Halifax, the flatcars will go to Delson to pick up the Dominion of Canada.

All photos on this page were from Flickr from Moveright International.

New NB Southern Engines Have Arrived

HLCX 6304 in Saint John, by Gerald McCoy

Two of NB Southern's "new" leased engines arrived in Saint John on Saturday on CN 406. Gerald McCoy was kind enough to allow me to post these photos of HLCX 6304 and HLCX 6322.

HLCX 6304 in Saint John, by Gerald McCoy

CN 406 had CN 2657 and CN 8009 ahead of the two leased SD40-2 engines.
HLCX 6322 in Saint John, by Gerald McCoy

HLCX 6322 in Saint John, by Gerald McCoy

Matt aka saintjohnrailfan shot CN 406 in Nauwegewauk en route to Saint John.

Thanks to Gerald and Matt for sharing these.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

The Dwight D. Eisenhower

There's a new steam engine in the Maritimes... at least for now. British Railways A4 4-6-2 No. 60008, the Dwight D. Eisenhower, is moving from the American National Railroad Museum in Green Bay, Wisconsin to the British National Railway Museum in York. Here's a good article on the move.

The engine is moving for the 75th anniversary of the setting of the world speed record by a steam engine, set on July 3 1938. The record was set by another A4 class engine, the Mallard. I believe all the existing A4s are being collected together to commemorate the 75th anniversary. Can you imagine a steam engine going 126 MPH?

Here are a few sightings of the engine's transit to Halifax:
2012/08/11 - through Sarnia, ON on train CN 348.
2012/08/16 21:44 ET - departed St. Lambert, QC on train CN 400.
2012/08/17 20:35 AT - passed McGivney, NB on CN 308.
2012/08/17 night - arrived Moncton, NB on train CN 308.
2012/08/19 morning - arrived Halifax, NS on train CN 120.

Crazeejay2006 caught it on CN 348 in Sarnia. It's near the rear of the train, with the tender on a flatcar followed by the tarped steam engine.

David Othen shot this great video of the train arriving in Halifax, and shunting in the Rockingham yard.

There were supposed to be two steam engines heading over to England. I don't know if and when the other engine is coming, or whether the Dwight D. Eisenhower is going to wait in Halifax for the other engine.

A Winnipeg Railway Geography Lesson

On Thursday night I was waiting to get into the Irish Pavilion at Folklorama when I heard a train horn. The CP Emerson subdivision went right by where I was waiting, so I ran over to the fence and waited for the train to come. Oddly, it was CN 2201 running light, backwards. I took a couple of stills.
CN 2201 in Winnipeg

I was really expecting a CP train!
CN 2201 in Winnipeg

I thought it was odd that a CN unit would be running over the CP Emerson subdivision. Looking at the map, I'm guessing the engine came from a train in Fort Rouge and ran over the CN St. Boniface lead / Terminals Cutoff onto the CP La Riviere sub for a short time before cutting over to Symington yard.

I labeled this little map from Google Maps to show some of the locations in Winnipeg. In the bottom left is the CN Fort Rouge yard, and if you follow the CN Rivers sub up from there, it goes to the VIA station in downtown Winnipeg where the line becomes the CN Redditt subdivision, curving east to cross the Red River and going across the map to Beach Junction. At Beach Junction you have the north entrance to Symington Yard, CEMR's connection to their yard, and the continuation of the CN Reddit subdivision.

The CP Keewatin subdivision runs across the top of the map, and the beginning of CP's downtown Winnipeg yard is just visible in the top left.

Note the GWWD yard smack in the middle, with their line heading southeast off the map.

You can see what a tangle of trackage is around the old stockyards area of Winnipeg. I suspect a few of those tracks do not actually exist, but most do. Someday I'll have to go do a survey to find out who owns each of the tracks.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

A Train and a Crane on the Plain

This one has been sitting in the queue for a while... back on May 6 I was out near Diamond west of Winnipeg when I spotted a train coming around the bend. The train itself was fairly ordinary, CN 8879 leading a general freight train with a lot of tank cars, but it was what was on the south track that was interesting.
CN 8879 and crane near Winnipeg

Yes, that's a self-propelled crane pushing a gondola. Not something I see every day!
CN 8879 near Winnipeg

In good time the crane trundled closer to me. You can see it was pushing two gondolas and pulling a flatcar.
CN 50472 near Winnipeg

The fellow driving the crane seemed to be enjoying his job!
CN 50472

CN 50472 is an Ohio model DE 400 crane built in 1976 and it is capable of lifting 40 tons. You can see it in action at Eric Gagnon's excellent Trackside Treasure blog as a pile driver.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Baseball and Trains

Baseball and trains... what a great combination.

On July 5 we went down to Shaw Park in Winnipeg to watch the Winnipeg Goldeyes play baseball. Shaw Park was formerly known as Canwest Park and is built near Winnipeg's famous Forks. The whole area is built on the former train yards, and is still near the CN Rivers subdivision main line and the VIA Rail Union Station.

We parked near the Union Station and made our way to the stadium and found our seats. We were sitting behind third base and had a great view. I think most seats in the stadium are pretty good. After a few innings, I took my kids to the bathroom and I heard a train rumbling nearby. I stepped out to the side and saw CN 2562 and CN 2098 rolling eastward onto the bascule bridge. The engineer gave a few waves and toots to everyone.
CN 2562 in Winnipeg

I heard at least one more train rumble by while we were watching the game.

Right at the end of the game, there was another train going by, so I dashed up the stairs to grab it before we headed out. Here's CN 2283 and BCOL 4607 bringing a train eastward.
CN 2283 in BCOL 4607 in Winnipeg

That was fun! On our way out, I noticed VIA 2 was sitting at the station, with VIA 6441 on the head end.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Yet Yet Yet More NB Southern Engines Coming

It seems like I make one of these posts every month!

The New Brunswick Southern Railway has five more leased engines on the way. GMTX 2644 (a GP38-2) will join the growing NBSR fleet. This old lady was built in October 1967 for the Baltimore and Ohio as GP38 3821. It is in Oakway blue and white like GMTX 2639.

The other four are SD40-2 engines from Helm, HLCX 6304, 6319, 6332 and 6340.

HLCX 6304 looks pretty sharp. Photo by Terry Cantrell.
HLCX 6304

HLCX 6319 is in dark red and blue, and looks like the leasers that the Cape Breton and Central Nova Scotia Railway had/has.

HLCX 6332 is in Conrail baby blue with HLCX on the side, originally a Pennsylvania Railroad engine. Apparently it is looking pretty shabby, so maybe it will get a repaint. Even in 2006 it was looking a bit rusty. Photo by Brian Jones.
HLCX 6332 LouisvilleKY 2-8-06

HLCX 6340 is in Southern Pacific gray with red ends. Very recently she was working on the Iowa, Chicago and Eastern (ICE), purchased by Canadian Pacific.

Oh, and GMTX 2666 showed up very quietly at the beginning of this month. GMTX 2666 is a GP38-2 painted in Oakway blue and white and was on a westbound NBSR freight shot by Byron Thomas on August 2. Note HLCX 6200 leading, GMTX 2645 in second position, "new" GMTX 2666 in third, HLCX 6315 fourth, and finally NBSR 2612 as the fifth engine.
HLCX 6200 by Byron Thomas
I love this shot. The consists are so colourful on the NB Southern these days.

By my count that makes 29 engines. You can see my NB Southern roster page for the full list.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

August 1

On August 1 I had some good luck catching trains. I headed out to work earlier than usual in the morning so I could see if any trains came by. I went out to Diamond and parked. The first train came along at 7:23 AM, CN 302.
CN 2202 near Winnipeg

Nice light on the nose of this eastbound train.
The engineer gave me a nice two-finger wave as he passed by.
Wave from CN 2202

CN 302 was met by CN 403, which came by my location 20 minutes later. I shot them coming through the signals at Diamond. As you can see, it is challenging to shoot a westbound train early in the morning!
CN 2618 at Diamond outside Winnipeg

Note the interesting cargo on one of the flatcars. Progressive Waste Solutions owns BFI and a couple of other waste disposal companies.
Progressive Waste Solutions

The video works better than the still photo, I think.

Here's my video camera, duly recording the train going by. My scanner is on the ground under the tripod.
Video camera and train

On my way along Wilkes Avenue, I saw CCGX 5232 and CEMR 4001 parked with a short train at the end of the Carman subdivision. I'm pretty sure that train sat there idling for a whole day before it finally carried on to CEMR's yard.

Later in the day, I went home via Wilkes Avenue and I managed to catch CN 314 at Hall Road just west of the Perimeter Highway, pretty much exactly where I shot the previous train.
CN 2577 in Winnipeg

I knew CN 314 was being followed by CN 114, so I went a bit west to Diamond to get 114. I was surprised to see how much "junk" was on the head end of this supposedly intermodal train.
CN 2597 in Winnipeg

You can see I was pretty near the CP tracks crossing CN at Diamond. I didn't have time to record the entire train but I captured the "gist" of it.

What a fun day!

Friday, August 10, 2012

Acadian Lines Shutting Down

I know this is about buses, not trains, but I do have an interest in public transit in general.

Acadian, the bus company serving the Maritimes, announced it is shutting down its Maritime operations by the end of November. Citing heavy losses, they say it is not economic to continue operation.

Acadian is owned by Groupe Orléans Express. They used to be known as SMT in New Brunswick and were purchased from J.D. Irving in 2004.

The company currently serves all major centres in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island. You can view a map or download a PDF.

The Nova Scotia government and the driver's union say they are open to talks to maintain service.

In the meantime, Trius Tours says it is preparing a pitch to governments to maintain service. I used Trius' services when I lived in Oromocto and they certainly have transit experience.

Here's the thing. Bus service in the Maritimes is highly regulated and Acadian is forced to serve low-traffic areas in order to be allowed to serve the high-traffic areas as well. The idea is that the profit from high-traffic routes offsets the losses from the other routes. VIA Rail has the same model, Air Canada has the same model, and it repeats everywhere. The problem comes when there is not enough income from the high-traffic routes to cover losses.

Acadian has been struggling for some time. They had a labour dispute with their employees and locked them out over the winter. They claim they lost $2 million last year. At the time, the New Brunswick government said they would not be providing subsidies.

My opinion? Here's a few things that need to be done to help fix this mess.

  • Allow a mix of large and small companies to provide service over routes. Low-traffic routes are best served by local companies using small vehicles like vans to provide personalized services, while the main corridor routes are best served by the big buses.
  • Continue to regulate routes to prevent "pirate" companies from siphoning riders from the regulated companies.
  • Subsidize public transit. It is a public service and it needs to be available for all taxpayers. I'm not saying that there needs to be a bus through Napadogan or Cork, but it's not realistic to expect that all routes can be profitable.
  • Integrate schedules. In the past several years, passengers have not been able to connect between VIA Rail's Ocean and the Acadian buses due to slow orders in New Brunswick. All public transit needs to be integrated to provide the best service.
  • Improve service. People need to want to use public transit, and it needs to be easy to use. Recent Acadian changes like moving the bus terminal from downtown Fredericton out into the boonies does not help!

Let's hope a solution can be found soon to maintain and hopefully improve service.

News articles:

Thursday, August 09, 2012

The Lake Line Railroad

The new Manitoba short line, the Lake Line Railroad, has completed the purchase of a portion of the  CP Winnipeg Beach subdivision and has already begun operations.

The short line purchased the line with private funding combined with a $1.25 million grant from the province of Manitoba. The terms of the grant from the province include a provision that they must operate for 10 years or repay the grant.

They have a SW1001 engine for power, GMTX 98, that used to work the coal shuttles near Coronach, SK. Photo. Thanks to Mark Perry for the information.

It looks like they are based out of Petersfield, MB where there appears to be a siding and grain elevator.

Current customers include Diageo in Gimli, as well as Hudson Cement in Selkirk. Indications from news articles are that they operate from Selkirk to Gimli. It is not clear where they interchange with CP.

There are rumours that the Lake Line Railroad is operating the CP Lac du Bonnet subdivision too, but I see no evidence of this yet.

I have added a page to my site for the Lake Line Railroad.

News articles:

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Ontar-eye-O, Part 4

Train station in Windsor Ontario
After parts one, two and three, all that is left to discuss about my southern Ontario visit is what I thought was the former CN train station on the waterfront in Windsor, Ontario and the steam engine nearby.

The building is situated near the giant Caesar's Palace monstrosity attraction in Windsor. It was on the CN riverside line until that was removed.
Train station in Windsor Ontario

There are some really nice murals on both sides of the building. I took photos of them but I won't reproduce them here because of course they are copyright by the artists.
Train station in Windsor Ontario

As far as I can tell, there were railway stations in Windsor for the Grand Trunk, Canadian Pacific, CN, Michigan Central and the Pere Marquette. This site has a great set of postcards of Windsor stations.

Also nearby is CN 5588, a 4-6-2 engine that has been preserved since the end of steam. It is owned and cared for by the Canadian Transportation Museum, an organization I had never heard of until today.
CN 5588 in Windsor Ontario

I took the shot below as a 3-frame HDR photo, because I was facing into the setting sun. What do you think - too much HDR?
CN 5588 in Windsor Ontario

That concludes my first visit to southern Ontario. I expect to be there again in a few weeks so I will likely have more photos to share. I want to visit a few defunct railway stations in the area as well as try to see the Essex Terminal Railway.

EDIT: Two commenters kindly pointed out that the building was not the CN station, but rather a storage building that the city re-roofed. Thank you!