Sunday, September 03, 2017

The Ontario Southland Railway Woodstock Job - Part 1

One item on my "bucket list" was checked off early in August when I finally saw the Ontario Southland Railway and part of its unique fleet of hard working diesel locomotives.

A Brief History of the Ontario Southland Railway

The Ontario Southland Railway was founded by Jeff Willsie, who is now the president of the company. The OSR started in April 1994, working the Petro-Canada lubricants refinery in Mississauga and hauling to Clarkson, Ontario. On January 1, 1998 it started operating the city-owned Guelph Junction Railway, and later it took over the CP Tillsonburg spur and the CP St. Thomas subdivision. Recently it started working the CN Cayuga subdivision as well.

The OSR has a diverse collection of older locomotives, including three ex CN FP9 locomotives, several MLW units (RS-18, S-13, M420W, RS-23) and some EMD GP7s and GP9s.

The Ontario Southland has been well photographed by the railfan community, and I wanted to get my own photos of this unique and friendly shortline.


On August 16 I drove up from southern Ontario to Waterloo to visit my son and his girlfriend. Nick has been going to the University of Waterloo and has finished his class work. They were just about to move to New Brunswick and we arranged to meet just before they hit the road for the Maritimes.

En route I ducked into Salford, Ontario for a very quick visit to the Ontario Southland Railway shop there.

All was quiet when I came by. There was a "dead line" of locomotives on the shop track on the west side of the facility: CITX 6016, UP 9444, OSRX 175 (GP9), OSRX 500 (S-6), OSRX 183 (RS-18) and OSRX 51 (NW2u) with ex CP snowplow 401005. A little research shows that freshly repainted UP 9444 arrived in August 2016 for some work. I'm not sure why it's still there a year later!

Not many MLW S-6 locomotives around!
I was using my "long lens" (70-200mm) to get roster shots of each locomotive. It was a hot day so there's a bit of heat shimmer in the photos.
OSRX 51, painted for the Toronto Hamilton and Buffalo
On the other side of the shops were OSRX 1594 (ex CP GP9) and one of the Ontario Southland's three "F" units, OSRX 1401 (ex CN, ex VIA, ex Raillink FP9u).

Family Time

After grabbing those photos, I kept on to Waterloo and met up with my son Nick and his girlfriend. We wandered through Waterloo and had dinner at a lovely little Korean restaurant. No kimchi for me, though! I enjoyed the meal greatly.
That egg... what the heck? Still tasty.
Nick playing a VR game
Afterward, we had ice cream, then Nick and I went to Ctrl-V, a virtual reality arcade. SO. MUCH. FUN. After some solo gaming, we teamed up to shoot zombies. It's hard to describe the experience.

You have this big thing on your head that projects a 3D view - tethered to the ceiling so you don't strangle yourself - and you hold two wands that act as your hands.

You can grasp things and pick them up, fire guns, turn door handles, and lots of other actions. When you walk, your "avatar" walks in the virtual world. It's quite an experience.

Anyway, we had a lot of fun. It's pretty expensive at $25/hour so it's easy to run a big tab up, but we spent $75 for one shared hour and another hour for each of us. Much fun was had.

Visiting the Shop

I had hoped that Nick and I could chase the Ontario Southland Woodstock job on Thursday morning, but he had to do one last shift at work before leaving. I couldn't let the opportunity go, so I went solo to Salford in the morning to chase the train.

I noted that there were a few changes to the power behind the shops from my visit the previous afternoon. The OSRX 1401 / 1594 pair was gone, and in its place were OSRX 1620 / 1400. Also, OSRX 378 and 383 were visible behind them.

I parked off the road near the shop entrance and walked onto the property, camera clearly visible. There were a couple of crew standing in the open shop door and they greeted me. We chatted for a bit and they were very friendly and clearly used to railfans walking up to see their railway.

They pointed out "CJ" the shop cat, so I had to take a couple of photos. Apparently she has been in a few articles.
The Salford shop cat
The crew told me their plans for the morning. They were going to take 1620 and 1400 and run light to Ingersoll with 1620 leading, switch the small yard in Ingersoll, then go work the GM CAMI assembly plant (currently making the Chevrolet Equinox and the GMC Terrain). After that, they were heading to Woodstock to interchange with CP.

The weather was pretty gray and it was forecast to rain. Not ideal photo weather but what can you do?

Essex Terminal Railway #102 and FP9u 6508 in the shops
A quick glance inside the shops showed Essex Terminal Railway 102 with hood doors open, and the OSR's third "F" unit, 6508, behind it. I understand 6508 is out of service at the moment, which is a shame as it is the prettiest of the three units in my opinion.

After a few minutes, OSRX 1620 and 1400 came up to the side of the shop.
OSRX 1620 in Salford, Ontario
They paused by the shop for a couple of minutes, then headed north toward Ingersoll.
Heading to Ingersoll
The going away shot was nice.
Mmmmm... F unit.
I hopped in my car and headed to Ingersoll... but where, exactly?

Lost in Ingersoll

I've never been in Ingersoll. I did some scouting on Google Maps the night before, so I knew the general layout of the town, but I didn't know where the train would be.

Once I arrived in the town, the first order of business was to find them.

This proved frustrating.

Both CN and Ontario Southland have track through Ingersoll. I drew a little map.

So the units came up from bottom right to join the Ontario Southland St. Thomas subdivision. When I arrived, I wasn't sure if they had gone to the GM CAMI facility yet or not. I decided to go there first, but there was no action there, just a lot of autoracks.

I drove back northeast along the track and spotted them just east of the junction of the Port Burwell and the St. Thomas subdivisions. I parked nearby and walked over in the growing rain, but they took off to the east!

Back to the car... then I drove into downtown Ingersoll. I went all the way east out of Ingersoll to ensure they weren't there.  Too far!

I drove back into town and went down to their tracks downtown, but they weren't there. I did stumble across the VIA station and the ex-CN station on the CN Dundas subdivision.

Ingersoll's Train Stations

Old and new train stations in Ingersoll
The VIA Rail station is the utilitarian one on the left, obviously.. I appreciate that an attempt was made to make it a little more attractive than a square box of a building.

That sad station to the right was built by the Great Western Railway (GWR) - in 1886, I believe. The Great Western became part of the Grand Trunk Railway (GTR), which itself became part of the Canadian National Railways (CNR).
Postcard of the GTR Ingersoll station - circa 1915
Notice that the baggage / freight section was added on after this postcard's date.

There's an "urbex" (urban exploration) video showing the exterior of the ex CN station. It looks like it is in the same shape as the Fredericton, NB station was when it was finally refurbished. There were calls in 2014 to do something about the station but I haven't found any reports since on any progress to refurbish or demolish the station.

Oddly the station is not protected under the Heritage Railway Stations Protection Act like many old Canadian train stations are. I wonder why it wasn't protected?

The CPR station was demolished in 1976. There's more information on Ingersoll's train stations here.

Picking Up the Chase

After grabbing a few photos of the stations, I went back to CAMI and found the locomotives pulling autoracks out of the facility. To be more accurate, I saw autoracks moving but never saw the locomotives there.

I figured they were going to shuffle cars for a bit, but they just took off right away heading east toward Woodstock!

I felt pretty dumb... stumbling around the town and never really seeing them.

Well, no time to feel sorry for oneself... the chase was on. Fortunately highway 9 parallels the track between Ingersoll and Woodstock so there was no possibility of losing the train!

OSRX 1620 in the rain
I raced along highway 9 and grabbed a couple of roadside shots in the growing rain. I was down to f/8 and 1/80s shutter speed due to the low light from the cloudy sky.
OSRX 1400 and 1620
Back in the car and give 'er!


In part 2 I posted photos and video of the chase to Woodstock, as well as switching operations in Woodstock itself... plus photos of the ex CP and CN train stations in Woodstock. Read on!

PS - I will probably post the video of my morning with the Ontario Southland on my YouTube channel before I post here again. Why not subscribe to my channel to get it first?


Michael said...

That F unit would look great in an OSR paint scheme, but it's a beaut all the same. Nice work. I have never been to Ingersoll, but have passed by the CAMI plant too many times to count. I know that that place is a favourite for railfans in Southern Ontario.

Canadian Train Geek said...

Hi Michael, thanks! One of the three F units is in OSR paint but it's in the shop.

The crew were quite comfortable with having a railfan chase them around.. a common occurrence, no doubt!

Unknown said...

I hope they never change the blue and gold paint scheme on 1400 and 1401 I see them in Ingersoll often. Those are the prettiest units on the rails today. Unfortunately the old train station roof is still caving in and there is an orange construction fence around the building so I assume that it will be demolished. You have posted some great photos, keep it up please.