Thursday, July 16, 2009

Following the Hi-Line

From the Mountains to the Prairies -- Part 3
Part 2 can be found here.
Photos for this section can be found here.

Day 4: September 8, 2008 -- They Call the Hill "Marias"
The whole point of staying in Cut Bank was to be in position to work our way east along the former Great Northern "Hi-Line." But with the Rocky Mountains clearly visible to the west and perhaps some unfinished business to tend to, we head back into the hills for another day on Marias Pass.

Our first stop is at Meriweather (named for Meriweather Lewis of the Lewis & Clark expedition -- this was the territory they passed through) to get the lonely grain elevator against the sunrise sky. Not long after, we encounter our first train of the day, an eastbound BNSF train at Blackfoot.

The eastbound Empire Builder should be along soon, and we wind our way back into the mountains, staking out the footbridge at the Izaak Walton Inn at Essex. We get the train there, then briefly stop to shoot the BNSF helper power at the nearby engine facility. Then the chase is on! We get ahead of Amtrak in the snowsheds, Shed 7 to be precise, near Java. From there we go to the summit of Marias Pass and shoot the train passing the Continental Divide sign. Using the station stop at West Glacier to get around the train, we set up one more time as the Builder meets a westbound freight at Grizzly.

The power on the westbound is a bit eclectic, with a BNSF "swoosh" locomotive on the point, followed by a Burlington Northern green unit and a Soo Line unit in candy apple red. We chase this train west, pausing at a small pond near Bison. However, with the sun still strongly favoring eastbounds, we head back towards Essex and intercept our next quarry at Sheep Creek Trestle just east of Essex. This train has BNSF power sandwiching a Norfolk Southern unit, with a Union Pacific unit running fourth.

We go back up into the snowsheds and shoot the eastbound at Shed 7. Next we get him with a nice mountain backdrop at Bison and an even better backdrop at Grizzly. Next we follow him to Spotted Robe, and once he clears a westbound gran train appears over the hump with a pair of DPU's on the rear. The sun is now around enough to make westbounds worthwhile, so we stay with the train and get him at Bison and again at the S-curves at Marias.

Now we hear there's a geometry train checking the tracks and moving west, so we head back up to Shed 7 again. Sure enough, a two-car passenger train (of sorts) pops out of the snowshed behind a GP30 in BNSF's Heritage I paint scheme. Cool.

Motoring along, we wind up at a location we had missed the previous day, the overlook of Tunnel 4 near West Glacier. We hear that there's trackwork going on at Red Eagle, but soon it clears up and our grain train (that we shot way back at Spotted Robe) pops out of the tunnel for a stunning view. We know the grand scene would overwhelm our little track geometry train, so we proceed to the other side of the East Glacier station at Belton and get him there.

In the name of greed, we head back to Tunnel 4 in search of another westbound. We get rewarded by an eastbound with six units on the point (four of which wear the Cascade green of Burlington Northern), followed by an eastbound grain train with a matched trio of BNSF power. Finally another westbound arrives, this one a mixed merchadise train with a Santa Fe warbonnet trailing in the two-unit consist. Right on his heels is a stack train with another warbonnet, this time as the trailer in a three-unit consist.

It's time for the westbound Empire Builder, so we head all the way back across Glacier Park and set up for the shot we got cloud-dinked on the day before at Bison. This time we're successful. With the day winding down, we head for our motel at Cut Bank (again), but pause at Durham to get a train in silhouette against the Montana Big Sky.

Day 5: September 9, 2008 -- Hi-Line Across Montana
Directly outside our motel window is a spectacular view -- the BNSF bridge over Cut Bank Creek in the town of the same name. The bridge is a prime target for today. With the light favoring an eastbound (well, actually we're under clouds), we venture west in search of a train. We finally encounter an eastbound near Blackfoot. At Meriweather we find a westbound grain train, and this captures our attention enough that we get it on both sides of the town of Browning (including a nice S-curve on the west side of town). He meets a bare-table train (empty piggyback flats) going east and we shoot this train at the Lewis & Clark monument overlook near Meriweather.

We pause briefly to shoot a westbound manifest train at Fort Piegan, then head back into Cut Bank to get the baretable train on the bridge under improving skies. We hold our position at the bridge and get the eastbound Empire Builder under rapidly improving skies. Next is a westbound stack train that we shoot broadside on the bridge.

With no trains imminent, we head into Cut Bank and do some exploring. We find the Amtrak station, and nearby is a string of wooden grain elevators (alas, with one of them being demolished). From there we head east onto the plains, pausing to shoot the grain elevator at Ethridge. Eventually we wind up in downtown Shelby where a local is switching in front of the station.

Ultimately a westbound stack train draws our attention, so we attempt a broadside shot at the elevator at Ethridge with very mixed results (although two horses add to the charm). We do far better with the train crossing the bridge at Cut Bank. Heading back east, we encounter a grain train just west of Ethridge. From here our eastward trek continues back through Shelby until we encounter a manifest train at Dunkirk, where we get him passing the elevator. A mis-timed chase has us missing the head end off the overhead bridge in Shelby, but we do get some military vehicles mid-train.

Back to the east we head, exploring the small elevator towns along the way. Devon has three nice wooden elevators (but no town), while Galata features two elevators and stock pens on the edge of its small town. Lothair, another town with no town, has two elevators, including one without its side sheathing, revealing the rustic wood beneath. Tiber has three good-looking elevators.

Finally we hit our first big town since Shelby at Chester. The "welcome to Chester" sign features wheat stalks and a wooden grain elevator, and peering past the sign you can see the BNSF main line and two elevators downtown. Wouldn't it be nice to get a train here? We really need a westbound. No sooner have we gotten east of town than a westbound shows up, and we scramble back to our spot with the sign and the elevators. We continue our westbound chase, getting the train passing the elevators at Tiber, Lothair, Galata (not enough time to get into town, so we settle for a broadside) and Devon. Heading back east, we encounter a stack train and once again don't have enough time to get into downtown Galata, so once again we settle for a broadside.

Okay, enough of this. We need the shot in downtown Galata with the elevators and stock pens, so we set up in town anticipating the westbound Empire Builder. And we wait. And we wait. Finally a call to Amtrak confirms our fear -- somehow the Builder snuck past us. BNSF to the rescue, however, and we get a westbound freight pounding past the corrals.

Sunset is coming, so we head back towards Chester and pause to shoot the town sign on the east end of town (featuring an F-unit and a grain elevator) as the sky turns color. We stop east of Joplin to get the town's elevator-enhanced skyline against an orange sunset. Finally we stop at Rudyard to get MMA Grain's ex-Rarus Railroad switcher. In the gathering twilight, we get a westbound BNSF freight, then after sunset we break out the flash and do several night shots. Satisfied, we head into Havre for the night.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Winterail-fanning -- 2009 Edition

Things are a bit quiet right now, so with nothing new to report in 2009 let's go back a few months to March and look at a trip I took with my brother Bruce to California. The reason for going was to attend the big railroad slide show, Winterail, in Stockton. But with air fares cooperating, we decided to fly into Los Angeles and spend a few days in Southern California before heading up to the Bay Area. Photos of this trip can be found in Photologues here.

Day 1: March 10, 2009 -- Black and Silver "Green" Machines
Our all-morning flight gets us into L.A. International right about lunch time, and we immediately head out for the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. At the Port is the Pacific Harbor Belt, a railroad that was just named Railway Age's Short Line of the Year for its innovative roster made up entirely of low-emissions locomotives (and all painted in a Santa Fe-inspired and quite attractive silver and black).

We check in at the office, located at Pier A Yard near Wilmington, and meet railroad president Andrew Fox (I had met Andrew a few years before while visiting here with friend Dave Crammer). After congratulating him on his recent award, I asked him where would be a good place to photograph his railroad -- after all, Port security seemed tight in the post-9/11 world. Andrew quickly gets out a map and begins marking all the publicly accessible locations where trains might be found. He then gives me his card and cell phone number, in case I get hassled somewhere.

When I ask about photographing around the shop, he indicates that he was about to take a break to enjoy the Southern California sunshine, and takes Bruce and I for a pleasant walk where we're able to photograph a large chunk of the roster. Once we're done at the shop, we bid farewell and head out, map in hand, looking for trains.

We wind up circling the port a few times, but finally we find not one, but two trains running practically side-by-side on opposite sides of a small river from the Anaheim Street bridge. Once that was done, it's time for more circling, until we find a switch job working the Yang Ming facility near San Pedro. (Alas, the Big Red streetcars that serve San Pedro are not running on this day). After another couple of circles of the Ports, we find nothing (while there are a lot of accessible places in the Port, there are a lot of inaccessible places as well). The only real find is Union Pacific's heritage unit painted for the Western Pacific, the first heritage unit I've seen. Alas, it's completely unshootable. We pack it in and head south along the coast.

Day 2: March 11, 2009 -- Along the Pacific Coast
The morning starts out with ocean fog. Lots of it. We think we see bright spots, but it always shuts down again. Anyhow, undaunted (well, maybe a little daunted) we head for Del Mar and an appointment with Amtrak's Pacific Surfliners and the Coasters that serve San Diego-bound commuters. We start on the bluffs behind some very expensive houses, where we get a Coaster pushing south (locomotives are always on the north end, so southbound Coasters have cab cars leading), a Coaster pulling north and Amtrak going south (Amtrak, on the other hand, always has the locomotives on the south end).

We relocate to a small bridge just south of town and get two Amtraks and a Coaster in fairly quick succession (and since it's a broadside shot, direction isn't important). Back to the bluffs for a southbound Amtrak, then we head over behind the Del Mar horse track to get a broadside of a northbound Amtrak on a bridge.

With the sun finally starting to break through, we go to another set of bluffs on the south end of town (overlooking a very expensive home) to photograph a variety of Amtrak and Coaster trains. With a northbound Amtrak due next, we head over to the Soledad Lagoon in Torrey Pines State Reserve for a broadside of the train passing under old Highway 101. Then it's off to the Del Mar Racetrack, this time from the west side on the shoulder of the 101 for a southbound Amtrak and a northbound Coaster.

With the day growing short, we head north to Oceanside to add two more railroads to our mix -- Metrolink, which serves the Los Angeles commuter market, and the Sprinter, a diesel-powered light rail line between Oceanside and Escondido connecting with Metrolink, Coaster and Amtrak. We start off with a northbound Metrolink train pushing out of the Oceanside station, followed by a northbound Amtrak train in push mode. We then get our first look at the Sprinter as it arrives, and before it can make its turn to go back to Escondido, Amtrak comes rolling south. Shortly thereafter we get the Sprinter on its way back east.

Since we haven't seen the Sprinter before, we decide to try to find another location and wind up at the first grade crossing east of where the Sprinter's line veers away from the ex-Santa Fe surf line. Then its quickly back to the surf line for a northbound Coaster. Next up is a northbound Metrolink train -- the last northbound we saw was in push mode, so we set up at the south end of the San Luis Rey River bridge. Bzzzzt! Wrong! This train is pulling north, so we get a poor going away shot of a cab car. We get marginally redeemed when Amtrak comes south across the bridge a few minutes later. We then scramble south of the Oceanside station to get a Coaster pushing south.

With the day rapidly ending, we try to head for San Clemente but realize we have no chance of getting anything in sun there, so we wheel back into Oceanside. We finish up with Metrolink and Coaster action on the river bridge from the sunny side, and end with silhouette shots of Amtrak after the sun went down. Now it's off to the Tehachapi Mountains.

Day 3: March 12, 2009 -- Almost Heaven, Tehachapi Loop
We get up in the morning at the Quality Inn in Tehachapi and begin heading back through the mountains. No trains. We get all the way to the opposite end of the mountains at Caliente when finally we find a train heading towards Bakersfield. We immediately run into Mike Schaller from Virginia, and together we photograph the BNSF train from the hills near the Caliente horseshoe.

Next we find an uphill BNSF double-stack train, so we follow the dirt roads up and over Tunnel 3 at Bealville and get the train exiting there. We then go to the new Loop overlook (this had been a walking path just a couple of years ago, but now has vehicle access and a nice parking area) and in the process overtake a BNSF piggyback train. We get this train completely wrapped around the famed Tehachapi Loop at Walong, then go up the road just a little to get the stack train we had seen at Tunnel 3, this time exiting Tunnel 10.

Backtracking downhill to Woodford, we pick up an uphill Union Pacific general merchandise train (this trackage is jointly operated by BNSF and Union Pacific, inherited from predecessor roads Santa Fe and Southern Pacific respectively). We then go to a second overlook of Tunnel 10 and get the UP train there.

Heading all the way back downhill to Caliente, futilely looking for trains, we finally encounter an uphill BNSF piggyback train led by a red and silver ex-Santa Fe warbonnet. We get this train in the S-curves below Caliente, then make what is a very short drive for us but a very long way for the train to go over to Tunnel 2 and get the train exiting the bore. Rumor has it that BNSF wants to double-track most of the line through the Tehachapi Mountains, and if that comes to fruition all of the tunnels we had photographed this day (Tunnels 2, 3 and 10) would be eliminated and replaced by deep cuts. We snag the piggyback train again at Woodford, then get it crossing over itself at the Loop's Tunnel 9 (this tunnel would survive the double-tracking project), then get it again howling through Monolith past the cement plant there.

Trains still aren't running very much, and we get a BNSF general merchandise train running against the sun. To cure that, we follow him all the way to Mojave to get him under a signal bridge there. We had just missed a UP cement train going west at Mojave, but after getting the BNSF train we wheel back to Tehachapi in plenty of time to get him going under a classic ex-Santa Fe cantilever signal bridge. Continuing the chase, we try for the over-under shot at Tunnel 9, but the train is too short -- way too short -- to wrap around the entire loop. With the late afternoon sun casting a warm glow, we get the train heading downhill through Bealville, then scoot down the steep highway into Caliente to get him heading through the horseshoe.

The day is done -- or so we thought. As we pack up and head towards the Bay Area, the highway and the tracks come together just before Bakersfield at Edison. Here we find all the rail traffic that hadn't run during the day. We get our cement train meeting a BNSF stack train, overtake a BNSF merchandise train, and finish with a stack train coming out of the setting sun. Goodbye sunny Southern California.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

On the Edge of Glacier Park

From the Mountains to the Prairies -- Part 2
Part 1 can be found here.
Photos from all parts can be found in Photologues here.

Day 2: September 6, 2008 -- Rocky's Road

Wake up, call Amtrak. The eastbound Empire Builder is on time and heading for Whitefish, Montana. We get up and head towards the depot when the radio starts squawking. The Builder has encountered a red signal signifying a potential breach of a rock slide fence. The dispatcher gives the train permission past the signal at reduced speed. Soon the train reports that it has encountered a large boulder on the tracks -- too big for the crew to move -- at Vista.

We locate Vista on the map and wind our way along Whitefish Lake. At the final grade crossing before the small lake road peters out, we see the rear of the train just to the east. We walk along the train and get to the head end, and sure enough there's a large boulder between the rails. The dispatcher has to roust a front-end loader operator out and get the equipment to the train, not an easy task. We get a few photos, then head back into Whitefish to wait. A little more than a half hour later, the Builder finally arrives in Whitefish, it's on-time journey no longer intact.

A BNSF grain train has departed Whitefish heading west, so we return to Brimstone (a place we had been the previous day) and get it there. It has DPU's (Distributed Power Units) on the rear, so we get the going-away shot of those. From this point the train heads into Flathead Tunnel (at seven miles long, it's the second-longest in the United States). The road takes us up and over the tunnel, and we get the DPU's (once again going away) from the top of the west portal.

Chasing the train west, we wind up back at Tamarack, but lose our train. Ah, he's gone into the hole to wait for an eastbound, so we set up at a cut and get the eastward autorack train. A small bluff at Tamarack provides a nice scene of our westbound grain train crossing a small bridge shortly thereafter. Continuing the chase towards Riverview, just outside of Libby, we encounter an eastbound grain train in somewhat bad light, and settle for one more going-away view of our westbound from the overhead bridge at Riverview.

An eastbound general merchandise train has entered the picture, so we proceed back east to the rock face at Fisher River to get him, and get him again at Wolf Prairie. Behind him is another eastbound grain train, so we pick him off at the small bridge at Tamarack. Staying put, we get a westbound grain train there that comes to a stop. Aha, they're running a hot intermodal westbound around him, but we can't quite get into position to get the eclectic head end of that train -- a BNSF "swoosh" unit, a Burlington Northern green unit and an ex-Soo Line leaser -- so a grab shot has to suffice.

From the overhead bridge at Rock Creek (not far from the west portal of Flatrock Tunnel) we get an eastbound stack train, then turn around and get a westbound grain train about 45 minutes later. As soon as the westbound clears, we get an eastbound merchandise train with an ex-Santa Fe warbonnet on the point with BN green and a BNSF Heritage II unit trailing. We push back west to Brimstone where we bag an eastbound stack train with two BN green units leading, then get a westbound intermodal train.

Finally we slide into the small town of Olney on our way back to Whitefish. Here we are greeted by a westbound grain train, and as he goes by we see an eastbound grain train appear. Since the line goes to single track just west of Olney, the westbound slows up and we get the eastbound DPU's passing the westbound head end. Finally, with the light all but shot, we get a westbound merchandise train passing the marsh from the road bridge into town.

With the westbound Empire Builder due through, we head back to the Whitefish station after dark for some photos. I get the train with the statue of Rocky the Goat (the symbol of the Great Northern, whose line this was originally), then head to the front of the train for a few shots before it departs for Seattle and we depart for bed.

Day 3: September 7, 2008 -- Into Glacier

Like yesterday, today starts with an on-time Empire Builder. Unlike yesterday, there are no rock slides to delay it. Since we're heading east towards Glacier Park, we opt to catch the Builder east of Whitefish at Columbia Falls.

Once the Builder is out of the way, we poke around town and find the Mission Mountain Railroad. One of their locomotives, a GP35 lettered for the Palouse River & Coulee City, is located near the mill served by the railroad; a Helm Leasing SW1500 switcher is located in a nearby yard. Pushing east, we encounter an eastbound merchandise train at Paola, where we get a grab shot. Heading back west with the train, we get a nice shot as it exits Tunnel 3.8 near West Glacier, then bag two more nice shots on either side of the town of Coram.

I had been intrigued by the rock cliffs at Hungry Horse, where the tracks cling to a ledge above a lake. It had looked like the opportunity to shoot a train here wouldn't happen as we pushed east towards Glacier, but now with the westbound in the picture we chased it back to the cliffs for a nice shot. A futile chase to Columbia Falls gave us a few minutes to track down the Sommers Lumber Company Shay locomotive on display in the town park, then we returned to Hungry Horse looking for an eastbound to chase to Glacier. Soon we had our train and we shot it along the cliffs, then chased it to the entrance to Glacier National Park at West Glacier for another photo. Continuing east with the train, we shot it from the overhead bridge at Red Eagle, and again from the pedestrian bridge near the Izaak Walton Inn at Essex.

Continuing east, we popped out on the far side of Glacier Park ahead of an eastbound train with five matched BNSF Heritage II units leading a train across the Two Medicine River bridge (yeah, everyone has gotten that shot, but it is a nice shot). A westbound merchandise train was waiting in the hole just east of the bridge at Grizzly, so we held our position and shot him as well, and he was followed a mere ten minutes later by a westbound stack train.

We wheeled back west with the stack train and wound our way up to the snowsheds, getting the train exiting Shed 7. We stayed with the stack train and got it from the overhead bridge at Paola, and since the light was a lot better than the train we had gotten in the morning, we continued all the way back to Tunnel 3.8 at West Glacier and got him there as well.

We headed back east in search of trains, and got all the way to Bison, just west of East Glacier, where we picked up a westbound grain train. After getting him at Bison, we then set up at the sign marking the crossing of the Continental Divide at the summit of Marias Pass and got him there. After getting the DPU's passing the sign, we headed to the snowsheds and got the train exiting Shed 8, then got him again at Java East. Hustling into Essex, we were able to scramble onto the pedestrian bridge at the Izaak Walton for a shot, then got the DPU's going away past the Inn.

Wanting to get back to the east, we paused briefly to shoot a westbound stack train at East Java, then went all the way past East Glacier where we found a westbound grain train draped over a hill at Spotted Robe waiting for the westbound Empire Builder to run past. We got the two trains side-by-side, then used the Builder's station stop at East Glacier to hustle ahead to Bison for another shot; alas, clouds dinked us when the Amtrak train showed up. Heading back to Grizzly (between East Glacier and Spotted Robe) we got the westbound grain train (and second one following) as they headed towards the Rockies with thunderstorms on the horizon. We then said goodbye to the Rockies and headed onto the Montana prairie to Cut Bank for the night.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Quebec-Ontario Passenger Railroading

White Mountain Railfest and Ottawa -- Part II
(Part one can be found here. Photos for both parts can be found in the Photologues section here.)

Day 4: June 15, 2009 -- Tanks But No Tanks
The morning was gloomy. Yuck. I had not seen the new power operating on the Agence métropolitaine de transport line between Vaudreuil-Dorion and Gare Central (Central Station in Montreal) so that was the first order of business. The Dorval station was a whopping three minutes from the motel, and the first train I shot had an F59 (one of the new locomotives) leading. The next train had a rebuilt (by Alstom) GP9 leading, followed by another train with an F59. Two more trains (GP9, then F59) rounded out the morning. At Dorval the Canadian National and Canadian Pacific are side-by-side (and remain so all thee way to Dorion), with AMT using the CPR and VIA Rail Canada using the CN.

With the commuter rush dying down, I needed to get some Canadian currency from the nearby RBC branch, and as I was making my way to the bank I missed a westbound CN freight. Dang! But once the exchange was made I headed to Beaconsfield where a pedestrian walkway spanned both railroads. Here I bagged an eastbound CPR freight, then over on the CN I caught the VIA train to Windsor that operates with stainless steel Budd coaches. An eastbound VIA train, this one with the green Renaissance cars, concluded the action at the footbridge.

A mis-timed move to the Beaconsfield station resulted in a missed CPR eastbound freight, but once at the station I saw an eastbound AMT train, this one with a GP9 and this one in the first rays of sunlight to break through the gloom. Continuing west, I wanted to get a VIA westbound on the bridge at Vaudreuil-Dorion, but arrived just as the train crossed the bridge. The next VIA westbound was an hour away, so I decided to wait it out.
Standing on the shoulder of the highway bridge, I thought I noticed the westbound signals on CN light up all red (hard to tell now that the sun was coming out and the angle I had). Get the camera ready and -- yup -- an eastbound freight came onto the bridge. The VIA train going west soon followed, and I was on my way west towards Ottawa.

There were back-to-back VIA eastbounds on the way, so I stopped at a four-track signal bridge halfway between Vaudreuil-Dorion and Coteau to get them in fairly abysmal light. From there it was off to the diamonds at DeBeaujeu where the Canadian Pacific main line crosses VIA's/CN's Alexandria Sub. I had been to DeBeaujeu before, but never shot a VIA train on the diamonds. With two VIA trains due, it was worth the visit, and before they showed up I also nabbed a CPR westbound. (As it turned out, the two VIA trains met in the siding just west of the diamonds).

From here it was off to Dalhousie, literally on the Quebec-Ontario border. Friend George Pitarys has showed me this location a few years ago, where a railroad water tank still stands by the CPR. Upon my arrival I noticed the tank had been nicely repainted, and a town park was put in around its base. I decided that a westbound shot of a train passing the tank would be great, and the sun was out nicely at this point.

I hadn't emptied any of my digital camera cards yet on the trip, and I was running out of space, so while waiting I turned on my laptop to clear some cards -- and discovered that all of Dalhousie is on wireless internet! Well, this meant I just had to e-mail George with a "greetings from the Dalhousie tank" e-mail. A few minutes later my cell phone rang -- it was George and he and his wife Candy were only 30 miles away, just checking into a motel in Cornwall on the first leg of a cross-Canada adventure! They asked if I wanted to join them for dinner -- well, of course! They said they'd wait until I was finished at Dalhousie, so I waited patiently for my westbound past the tank. And waited. And waited. I could see thunderheads in the western sky, and soon I was counting down the minutes until the sun vanished. Three. . . Two. . . One. . . Done. No train past the tank on this afternoon (despite a wait of over two hours). Time to pack up the camera and head for Cornwall where I had a pleasant meal at St. Hubert's chicken with George, Candy, Hal Reiser and Tom Carver. From there, it was off to Ottawa for the night.

Day 5: June 16, 2009 -- Oh, That O-Train
I was in the lobby of the Comfort Inn for only a few minutes when Dave Stremes of the Bytown Railway Society showed up (after taking the bus there). A few minutes later Ray Farrand drove up, and away we went to check out Ottawa's non-VIA rail action. Our first stop (after the mandatory Tim Horton's pickup) was across the Ottawa River in Gatineau where we checked out the Quebec Gatineau, a Genesee & Wyoming subsidiary. Not much happening there (and wouldn't be until noon), so we scooted back across the river.

The O-Train is one of two diesel-powered light rail lines in North America and operates a five-mile line southward out of Ottawa. While not serving downtown directly, it does feed into an express bus system and the trains are quite busy. We went to the Bayview station of the O-Train where we shot two sets of up-and-down trains (Bayview is the north end of the line and all trains immediately turn back south upon their arrival). We then went to the Carling station on the O-Train and then walked south to get the train in a deep cut. Driving further south, we went to the line's tunnel and stood basically on top the north portal shooting southbound trains, still in a deep cut.

Ray knew of a great sandwich shop, and despite the long, long lines we quickly had a tasty hoagie (don't know that they're called "hoagies" in Canada) and headed back to the Quebec Gatineau. We found them getting ready to make their one move of the day, shifting a paper mill. We chased them to the paper mill and enjoyed some switching action from the "grassy knoll."

Now it was time to head back to Ottawa for more O-Train action. We headed to a great location where the O-Train crosses the Rideau River just south of (and across the river from) Carleton University. The river was down, so we could get almost to mid-river on rocks, and we also got some nicely framed photos from the shore line.

Now it was time to get ready for the evening. The purpose of being in Ottawa in the first place was a presentation I was making to the Bytown Railway Society at the Science Museum. After a tasty dinner and working through a technical glitch with the museum's sound system, the program went rather well -- the Bytown group is a great audience -- bringing to an end a productive day.

Day 6: June 17, 2009 -- Corridor Finale
Somehow I managed to leave the motel five minutes too late to catch a Toronto-bound VIA train leaving the Ottawa station, but a quick check of the timetable showed that I could easily beat it to Brockville (where the line joins the Montreal-Toronto main corridor). Since Brockville was on my hit list anyhow, I made the quick run down there and waited. It didn't take long for the westbound signals to light up and I got ready to shoot my VIA train. Except a westbound CN freight showed up. So I waited and waited and waited some more, but still no train. With a westbound due, I decided to go west of town seeking a shot, but all this did was get me out of position for two eastbound VIA trains -- I got a grab shot of one of them on a fill.

Okay, take a deep breath and regroup. The sun was still good enough for a shot of an eastbound from the overhead bridge at the Brockville station, and there was an eastbound due. Also, the westbound train to Windsor with the stainless steel cars was due through as well, so I settled down to concentrate on those two trains without getting myself out of position. The payoff came when the eastbound rolled into the station in good light.

A Canadian National local that had been working the yard just west of the station came through next, moving under the bridge to get to the crossovers so it could spot a boxcar across the main line from the station. While it was spotting the car, I moved down to the grade crossing and set up for the stainless steel train. It showed up, I got the shot and all was well again.

The weather was still somewhat marginal, so instead of spending all day in Canada and getting home late I decided to start working towards the border. However, I was approaching the town of Gananoque, a place I had never shot before. Additionally, there was a mini-rush of four VIA trains scheduled through there in the span of about 40 minutes, so I figured it was worth checking out. I discovered that the depot was pretty far out of town (and contained the local model railroad club layout), and with about an hour before the VIA rush I scoped out the signal bridges about a mile east. While doing the scoping I got a westbound CN freight passing the signals, and then a few minutes later got an eastbound freight snaking through a sag in the topography.

The sun popped out for the first VIA train, a westbound (which didn't stop), and it got hazy again for the second VIA train (also an eastbound that stopped long enough to notice there were no passengers boarding or detraining). Next up was an eastbound (the stainless steel train from Windsor) with a second train (Renaissance cars) right on its heels. That wrapped up the rush and it was time to head home.

Unlike the border crossing into Canada a few days earlier where the customs agent was friendly, the U.S. agents were snippy and short, making people (U.S. citizens, mind you) feel like they had committed a crime by making a border crossing. U.S. customs agents are simply the worst. Anyhow, with customs behind me, I headed through Syracuse and Binghamton without stopping, and finally arrived at home.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

White Mountain Railfest

White Mountain Railfest and Ottawa - Part 1

Note: We're changing the way we do blogging here. Instead of trip reports where every day is posted all at once, we'll be posting small portions of each trip separately. This will result in more frequent updates in more reader-friendly sizes. And instead of sticking to just one trip, we'll be bouncing back and forth between something current and something older. Here we'll take a look at the first part of a recent trip, this one to the White Mountains and then on to Ottawa, Ontario. Enjoy.

Back in January, Dick Towle of the Flying Yankee Restoration Group stopped by the office to discuss what was hoped to become an annual event -- White Mountains Railfest. With the Hobo Railroad (current home of the Flying Yankee) leading the way, a three-day event was planned for June 2009. Here's a report from the event.

Photos from the event can be found in the Photologues section.

Day 1: June 12, 2009 -- Flying Yankee at Night
With non-optimal weather in the forecast, I left New Jersey and drove pretty much non-stop to Lincoln, New Hampshire, home of the Hobo Railroad. Once there, I looked up the folks from the Flying Yankee Restoration Group and went over the logistics for the evening's night photo session. Friend Jeff Smith joined me, and after going over all the details, we headed for pizza.

The scheduled start time for the session was 7:00, but darkness didn't fall until well past 9:00. Once it got dark, though, the fun began. We started off with a shot of the Flying Yankee in its tent, posed with a 1954 Cadillac. You couldn't tell by looking at the shots, but the under-restoration Yankee was missing some glass and all its wheels. There's work to be done, but the classic trainset is starting to look good.

The timing was planned so we'd swing around and try a shot at the station with the Hobo Railroad's equipment with the photo line facing west into a dusky sky. Our timing couldn't have been better, as we got a nice purple sky behind the train and depot. Several shots were made here, then we headed further out into the parking lot for scenes with the railroad's Rail Diesel Car. A few more shots at the west end of the station, and it was off to bed.

Day 2: June 13, 2009 -- Hobo Day
The Hobo Railroad hosted the all-day events of Saturday. The main trip originated out of the Lincoln depot and headed beyond the usual trackage covered by the regular passenger trains, with the special going all the way to Ashland. Along the way, photo stops were made near Woodstock along the Pemigewasset River and at a Christmas tree farm below Plymouth.

At Ashland passengers detrained at the restored station for a tour. A few scenes with railroaders were set up for the benefit of photographers. It was agreed that Ashland would make a great night photo location for future events. Soon it was back on the train, with another photo stop at the Plymouth depot and a final stop at a bridge over the "Pemi" near Lincoln.

The Cafe Lafayette Dinner Train hosted Railfest in the evening, with an outstanding meal (I had the scallops) served while the train headed along the river. A special photo runby and group photo was made near Woodstock. After arrival back at Lincoln, Jeff and I (along with a couple of other folks) did an impromptu night photo session of some more of the Hobo Railroad's equipment. It was a fun day.

Day 3: June 14, 2009 -- Through the Misty Mountains
Rain had been a constant threat throughout the weekend, and Sunday morning it had arrived. It didn't dampen the spirits of Railfest attendees, however, as they gathered at the White Mountain Central in North Woodstock, New Hampshire (and literally right around the corner from the Hobo Railroad). The WMC had their Climax logging locomotive fired up, and soon we were heading north along the "Pemi" with the Wolfman in pursuit. (The WMC is part of Clark's Trading Post, one of the oldest family theme parks in the country; Clark's is famous for its trained bears and the Wolfman provides plenty of entertainment during the train rides).

After a few runbys, the locomotive was serviced for the regular runs later in the day, including taking water and wood (yes, the Climax is a wood burner). Photographers were able to shoot the servicing scenes. Steam is steam, be it a tourist operation of the present or regular service of the past, and steam scenes are timeless.

Up next was a tour of the White Mountain Central shops, where a Shay logging locomotive and a Maine Central REO railbus live. The shop was straight out of the heyday of short line steam, with all the tools and clutter (that's clutter in a good kind of way) laying about. There were plenty of targets for photographers here. The Shay hasn't run since the 1950s; the WMC also has a Heisler (which sees service), so it owns one each of the three types of geared logging locomotives. Once the shop tour was done, White Mountain Railfest came to a conclusion.

Since it was only lunch time, Jeff and I headed to the Mount Washington Cog Railway near Fabyans. I had heard that a couple of out of service steam locomotives were behind the shop and I wanted to check them out. After lunch in the railroad's restaurant, we headed down to the shop where we found a steam-powered work train being put together. We quickly got permission to walk around the shop area, and soon we found 0-2-2-0 No. 8 disassembled for maintenance (and not looking like it would be reassembled anytime soon) and the oldest locomotive on the line, No. 1 (the Mount Washington) vanishing into the weeds. The Cog is still an active railroad and treats its equipment not as historical artifacts but as working machinery. Like the conventional railroads of the 1950s, the Cog is now dieselizing and the steam locomotives are simply being pushed aside.

The shop door was open, and we were welcomed in to see the Cog's two newest diesels under construction inside; both were scheduled to enter service in less than a month. In an adjacent section of the shop, two more steam locomotives rested; the Cog has six steamers in service. While the railroad is dieselizing for financial and operational reasons, some of the employees we talked to seemed less than enthusiastic about the departure of steam.

At this point Jeff said farewell and headed for Boston. I was due in Ottawa in two nights, so I continued north. I made a brief stop at Whitefield, New Hampshire, to photograph the surviving ball signals at the former Boston & Maine / Maine Central diamond, then headed into Vermont. A stop at St. Johnsbury yielded a nice shot of the depot during a break in the clouds, and I followed the Washington County Railroad (former Boston & Maine, now a part of Vermont Rail System) north to Newport. At Newport there was power from both Vermont Rail System and the Montreal, Maine & Atlantic sitting near the surviving roundhouse; alas, a storm prevented any more sun from shining on this day. I got some shots under menacing skies, then headed towards the border.

At the border crossing I found a friendly customs agent who liked trains. When I told him I was heading into Canada to photograph the railroads he gave me a quiz. Apparently the location where the customs point is located was once known as Rock Island, and he asked me what significance Rock Island had in the U.S. I told him about the Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific Railroad, and he said I passed the rail enthusiast test and was waved into Canada. (He also told me something I didn't know -- Delson, Quebec, home of the Canadian Railway Museum, was named for the Delaware & Hudson). I headed past Montreal and tied up in the western suburb of Dorval near the main lines of both Canadian National and Canadian Pacific, ready for the next day.

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