Monday, 31 December 2012

New Year's Eve in the Don Valley

GO's Richmond Hill train makes it's way northward on an early departure from Union Station to get New Year's Eve revellers home in time to get ready for the evening.

I positioned myself in the trails above Crother's Woods in the Don Valley with a wide view of this section of the Bala sub that runs just north of Pottery Road.  The signals at a pedestrian trail crossing are marked as 4.92 on the crossbucks.  Just really trying out this new camera in twilight conditions (Sony CX250), this being shot at 4:42PM on Dec. 31, 2012.

Happy New Year everyone!

Friday, 28 December 2012

Now in HD, with a CP pull/push consist as my first HD catch.

Upgrading to HD for my videos as Santa put a Sony CX250 under the tree with my name on it.  After poking around with it in the house for a couple of days, I took it along with me on the trails, after a decent little 8 inches of snow came down late on Boxing Day.  The trails are nicely runable with good packing snow down.  With shorts on I did get a couple of "Aren't you cold?" questions coming my way with -6C temps.  The cool air feels nice on the legs when your pushing through the snow as it burns calories a whole lot quicker than flat dry stuff.  I managed all of last year with shorts although it really didn't have any of the really nasty cold days we can get up here.

Bala was quiet but the CP rail lines that comprise the Belleville and North Toronto subdivisions as well as Leaside Yard are always active.  After making my way through the snowy trails to the Bayview Avenue I waited near the CP rail bridge over Bayview to see what might come my way.  It never takes long and from the west came a consist of 115 tankers, two auxiliary cars and a pair of ES44ACs (8737 and 8784) leading .  This one was unusual with an AC400CW unit 9585 pushing from behind for assistive power.  The sound of the AC4400CW is quite distinct from it's ES44AC cousin, you hear it coming through near the end of the video.

Saturday, 22 December 2012

Some Leaside Yard action

Since I haven't had much opportunity to be catching anything new I figured I'd upload some clips I gathered of a lengthy CP consist doing some shunting in Leaside yard.  I was passing through an open area in Crother's Woods just off the Bala line and heard some action high above in Leaside.  With the trees bare you can see quite a bit of the western portion of the yard from the valley.

It started with 6 assorted CP power units coming into view, given away by the sheer noise of these units even this far down the valley.  It stops to wait as a shorter CP unit speeds by westbound on the southern track, then proceeds down the North Toronto Subdivision in prep to drop off a set of hoppers in the yard.  The consist was pretty mixed with some covered vehicle carriers, assorted tankers, the hoppers, some engineering and MOW units, and at the very back a GO unit probably used as a makeshift caboose for housing maintenance crews.

JayJr2007 grabbed some footage of a GO unit at the end of a CP freight consist in Parry Sound on November 29, likely the same unit, and again it appears in Lambton Yard on December 2 in my clip of the CP Holiday Train.

Lots of noise in this one as the cars rattle about while being positioned in Leaside.  I wasn't going to get any power unit numbers unless I was carrying binoculars with me but it looked like an interesting assortment.

After seeing the initial action from the valley,I scooted up to the crossing at Bayview to get a little closer and better sound.  After about 20 minutes or so it was getting fairly chilly standing on the hill in shorts and a couple of shirts so it was time to get moving again.  Back in the trails of Crother's Woods I caught the end of the consist with the GO unit heading west and the hoppers left behind in Leaside.

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Canadian Pacific Holiday Train at Lambton Yard, Toronto

Some shots of the Canadian Pacific Holiday Train as it makes it's December 1, 2012 stop in Toronto at the CP Lambton Yards off Runnymede Avenue.  Lots of people on hand for the visit, many of them casuals who just happened to see either the crowd or the train and wandered up.  Also a chance to get decently close to some action in the yard as work went on in the background.

Prior to arrival, a group of engines sit idling to the west.  The Holiday Train will arrive on a track to the right of these units.  Yes, that's a GO train car.  I saw it yesteday attached to a consist being shunted in Leaside Yard and headed off west, I guess to here.

 After arrival, the train backs up to the near tracks.
Lights, lights and more lights:
The band entertains the crowd:

Some inventive aligning of the yard work light over the tree adorning 9815:
The show comes to a close. Lights on and the 2012 Canadian Pacific Holiday Train...backs out of Lambdon Yard:

Work goes on as a pair of power units are shunting stock in the yard:

Friday, 23 November 2012

Ghosts of Raillines Past - CNoR / Taylor Creek

Earlier in the summer I was doing some surfing for information on the old Canadian Northern Railway.  This was mainly inspired by the recent conversion of the CNoR locomotive works building in Leaside into a Longos grocery store.  It's a pretty cool looking building if you haven't seen it yet, both inside and out.  It's hard to imagine that this century old structure was used to service railway engines of the day.  Despite the loss of CNoR and it's ultimate encapsulation into today's Canadian National Railway, the building survived under a few different industries until sitting idle behind a group of buildings along Laird Avenue.  Most people (me included) never laid eyes on the structure until some businesses along Laird were removed, exposing the building's facade to passing traffic.

Along the way I found this site with images from the Global TV helicopter  showing a series of overhead views of the east Toronto area and a few key images of East York.  I was guided to the site by a hit on one of the comments regarding the second image showing Taylor Creek.  Taylor Creek is my bread and butter for running since it's literally steps away from my house.  I run the higher south side trail frequently, known to a few as the Taylor Creek harrier circuit, since it's soft and fairly flat for the most part albeit a bit swampy in places.

This image on the site shows Taylor Creek (the image is captioned Looking northwest up Glen Stuart Ravine on the page) along the section east of the baseball diamonds in Stan Wadlow park.  If you look along the left side of the valley you will see a long straight line leading up to the diamonds.  From there it veers a bit left and continues on towards the lower Don Valley at Don Mills Road.  This was part of the CNoR Toronto-Ottawa railline.  I've often thought this had to have been a railline at some point given the sheer straightness of this mainly level trail.

Hard to pass up an opportunity to explore a railline that once passed only a few hundred meters away from my house.  With that, it was doing some searching of maps, aerial images and whatever I could find, wait for the leaves to fall away, then go on a hunt.

It starts with a whopping 3 minute jog down hill to the base of Haldon Avenue.  Standing on Haldon in line, the ROW would be roughly where the hydro lines are.

 Following the line of the eastbound trail the rails would have passed through where the roadway ends and the parking lot begins.  Hydro One towers run the full length of the trail in both directions.

Utility poles just north of the pathway on the east section may be the current incarnations of those used by the CNoR at the time, being reused and replaced over the years.  Previously the poles used to terminate at a hydro substation just beyond the parking lot.

Further east is much the same until you reach a hydro station past Main Avenue.  From Google aerial maps you can see the line stretching through the valley and detect the segment between Dawes Road and Victoria Park Avenue just south of Massey Square and continue on to what is now the TTC line out of Vic Park station.

Returning back to Haldon Avenue, growth makes the immediate west part inaccessible for a bit

and today it's a slightly muddy climb under the O'Connor bridge to connect back to the ROW area.

The trail runs high on the north side of the ROW and you can see where the railbed would have existed lower on the south side.

 It's pretty swampy down there and must have presented some challenges in keeping the railbed dry and intact.  As you progress westward you descend a sharp hill and soon are back onto the old ROW.
It also gets pretty swampy on some of the higher parts of the old right-of-way.

At the northwest end of the trail, the ROW would have crossed part of what is now a parking lot and extended into the web of on and off ramps around the DVP and Don Mills Road.  Anything that existed along there is long gone with major regrading and reworking for the DVP.
Next is looking up archival aerial views on the City of Toronto  Archives site.  These particular images are from 1942, well after the rails were pulled up but the right-of-way can be easily seen.  You will need an SID reader for the files downloaded from the archive site.  Compare it to either Google maps or Bing maps, you can see that Don Mills Road was the same as it is now along with the sections of O'Connor Drive that form it's southern terminus.  Also pretty well intact is the Bala sub ROW.  The river itself has been rerouted to accomodate the DVP in some sections although you can see that the short curved section of the river that approaches the CN lines is still the same in the area where the CNoR line would have connected up.

From this aerial image, you can see the ROW extending from the Bala line to the river and what looks like supports for the bridge structure:

Here is the same location on Google, the image is a couple of years out of date:

The orientation of the images is slightly different.  The Google map has north directly up while the aerial image from 1942 has north a little to the right, more in line with the orientation of the street grid pattern.  There's a whitish section in the water that looks the same in both images and lines up with the rail ROW.

On Sunday, with warm temperatures and growth dying off, I was able to climb around the area of the hydro tower that appears near the center of the Google image above.  Directly adjacent to the hydro tower is this structure covered in weeds and vines:

It sure looks like a bridge support to me.  In the 1942 image there's several industrial buildings just south of this spot but they don't appear to be where this structure lies.

On the opposite side of the river is the large angular whitish object that appears in the water in both the 1942 image and the Google image.  It's just a rocky outcropping that's accessible from a trail that runs on the north side of the river.

This is the same outcropping from the other side:

I poked around but could find no sign of any bridge structure.  The overgrowth is very heavy though:

What is obvious on the other side is the raised railbed built up to level the tracks for merging:

When you stand here, you can see the bed leading from where the bridge abutment would have been and it's path into the Bala tracks.

So, not much of this line remains beyond this bridge structure, the level graded areas in the valley, the raised railbed areas and the legacy of the utility poles east of Haldon Avenue.  It's still fascinating to think of a steamer chugging it's way delicately through Taylor Creek on it's way east, or back.

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Morning Commuter Action at Danforth GO Station

I'm not a fan of running in the fog.  I suspect that inhaling all that particulate, especially here in the city, isn't a particularly healthy endeavour over the long term.  During heavy fog I stay in until it clears.  And, it's been foggy these days with warm daytime conditions, no wind and mornings at the freezing mark so I've had to skip morning runs.

Today was an exception, with fog limited to low laying areas like valleys, swamps and recessed rail corridors only.  And with the sky lightly illuminated to the south east it seemed a bit of fun to grab the Sony and jog down to the Danforth Subway station.

Lots of commuting action on weekday mornings here.  The trains start early and go straight through to nighttime.  Heavily run by GO and VIA, these trains move fast as well so keep your feet back of the yellow line when you're standing on the platform when a through unit passes because they do not slow down even a smidgen.

Here we start the morning with VIA tandem of 50 (Ottawa/Montreal) and 52 (Montreal direct) 10 minutes after it's 6:41 departure time from Union Station.  It will make a stop further down the line at Guildwood, but not here.  At the same time is an eastbound GO unit on it's way to Oshawa but lags a bit behind the VIA units.  I do wonder if these two trains drag it out on this section since they have identical departure times from Union Station.  Maybe I'll venture down to Union one morning just to see, good for a longer morning venture.

After departing Danforth the GO unit meets a sibling through unit making it's way to Union Station and no stop here, just a fast pass.  Watch the lights as they meet.

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Unusual Sightings on a Saturday Bala Subdivision

Glad I took along the video today.  I dropped off the car for service and hopped down into Crother's Woods, seeing it was a picture perfect sunny day for running some trail and maybe catch a unit going along Bala.

I was checking out an open area a bit north of Pottery Road, it's about 11 or so.  After grabbing a couple of shots of a bridge, I was in between open sections and could hear a horn blast further north, followed shortly by activating signals at a foot trail crossing.  I had to sprint back to an open area and luckily caught VIA Canadian #2 passing through.  Odd setup with 4 power units up front lead by 6442, 6410, 6456 and 6441 in that order.  Then the shorter winter consist of 10 cars.

After poking around the trails for a while, I wound my way back near the line and found the north signal showing red, and the south signal green.  Nothing had gone north so either something was heading southward or track maintenance was happening further up the line.

I got a call that my car was ready for pickup and headed back up the trails to the dealership.  Just before passing the waste treatment facility below the Redway Loblaws, a diesel sounds on the line.  This is about 12:30.  I'm a fair bit away but open the camera expecting a CN freight unit.

Surprise!  It's another VIA!  A more modern unit with light cars making it's way southbound.  Not what I was expecting at all.  I know of no other VIA units using Bala on a regular basis outside of the Canadian.  I was too far away to see any numbers.

So two interesting catches.  A 4 power unit short consist Canadian and a light modern Via unit.

Update:  Apparently there is some problems with a building near Union Station in danger of collapsing onto the tracks.  The Canadian was delayed and some other trains rerouted, notably VIA 84 out of Sarnia.  This is most likely #84 as the timing fits.

Sunday, 28 October 2012


At Pottery Road to try a little nighttime railfanning, mostly just a practice run.  I was hoping to catch a night passing of VIA's Canadian train #1 so a southbound unit near the schedule departure time of #1 had me a bit confused.  The unit numbers were unfortunately missed.

Admittedly, I'm not sure about exactly when the Canadian leaves Union Station or even which route it takes.  As it makes it's first stop in Washago it seems natural it would follow Bala the same way it uses it eastbound, since it would otherwise have to reverse or wye somehow to reach Washago on anything but Bala.  VIA schedule shows departure from Union at 10 PM, Saturday night.  This unit came through at 10:05.  I've seen it several times on arrival eastbound but never ventured to catch a westbound departure.

I did hang around a while to see if VIA would come through but it got progressively colder and less comfortable and I eventually gave up.  Consider this a consolation prize.

The Sony SX63 has it's limitations at night.  Autofocus isn't all that great and the manual focus is difficult to set and get it right since I have to use the touch panel.  Next time I'll prepare focus before venturing out.  Low light is okay, not the best but so much better than cameras I've used in the past.

Saturday, 27 October 2012

Catch of the Day - Aug 19

Had to assemble the video for this post and only got to it today.

Up early and headed up the trail to a unique viewing perch high over the Bala line near Northline Drive.  Catching the ONR Northlander northbound.  Not sure which unit was leading, usually it's 1800 for this Sunday run.

After that, scooted over to Wicksteed Avenue to catch CPR units 8807 and 8621 absolutely flying through the level crossing westbound on the Belleville sub.

When shooting at a double track, always stay clear of the open track as you cannot hear anything coming up behind you.  I stayed in line with the barrier for safety.

I later hooked the trails through Crother's Woods up to Pottery Road to see if anything else may chance by on Bala, and a brief stop to peek at the Don Branch rails .  At the northern end, the Don Branch is pretty grown over with fallen trees and other debris scattered around the tracks.  Who knows if Metrolinx will ever really use this section of the line, it would certainly need some extensive cleaning up.  I returned via Crother's Woods on the path closest to the ROW, but nothing was happening on the return trip.  Long run day, 12 or 13 miles of mostly trail.

Friday, 19 October 2012

Railfanningless Run - the Toronto Waterfront Marathon

If you ventured downtown last Sunday (Oct. 14th) you may have noticed the blocked off streets running east and west, particularly Lakeshore Blvd, Eastern Ave, Front St and Queen St E.  It was the Toronto Waterfront Marathon (plus half plus 5k) in progress, the bane of drivers who failed to heed the warnings as they sit fuming watching runner after runner glide on by.

No, I didn't run it.  I used the day for my weekly long run.  I popped down to catch the leaders as they came across Woodbine along Queen on their way along the remaining 5 miles to the finish line.  After watching the leaders make the turn down towards Lakeshore, I hustled my way along Queen in time to catch them again doing a short reverse loop back up the Queen Street and then along Eastern Avenue.  From that point I had no hope of beating them to the finish line since I was just as far as they are and my recreational running 52 y/o self wasn't about to beat the Kenyans who came to town for the prize money.  I did figure I might catch the women leaders at the finish line as they were 15 or so minutes behind the lead men.  I was close, the women leaders rounded to corner to Bay street just as I got to Bay and Front, but they were too fast for me to keep up, especially with the crowds in the area, for the remaining half mile to the finish line.  Stopping to do some cheering along the way and snap phone vids and pics also helped slow me down.

A runner exits under a rail overpass while a westbound VIA rail speeds by.
The highlight for me was catching world reknowned Ed Whitlock from Milton, On., heading towards a 3:30 finish.  Consider that Ed is 81 years old, holder of a multitude of age graded world records, and finished here in the top 15% (407/3248 marathon runners) on this day.  Backtracking the course, I shot a few seconds of video of him on Eastern Ave where it crosses the DVP.  As you can see, the runners are pretty sparse here (as well as the spectators) as the crowds are still half a mile ahead.

There are over 2800 runners behind him here.  Ed will have finished, grabbed some grub and gone through a plethora of interviews before the midpackers even arrive.  Not bad for someone at an age most people would be happy to even achieve, let alone run marathons at times most runners will only ever dream of.

Last year, at a much younger age of 80, Ed ran 3:15 at this event.  I think he finally might be slowing down...just a touch!

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Waterloo Central Railway - Oktoberfest Steam Ride

My wife, my daughter and myself headed out to St. Jacobs, Ontario, this afternoon to ride the Waterloo Central Railway's Oktoberfest steam rail train.  The train starts near the University of Waterloo, stops at the St. Jacobs market and continues on to St. Jacobs, then reverses back to Waterloo.  The morning showed some promise of sunshine, which didn't hold up as it was full cloud cover in the K-W area giving a definite fall feeling to the air.

The steamer is Essex Terminal Railway No.9, nicknamed the 'Spirit of Elgin', an ALCO 0-6-0 unit nicely refurbished and working out of St. Jacobs' yards with Waterloo Central.  The WCR has a collection of working units, coaches, assorted cars and other works-in-progress.  This is the pride of the group.

Today's train consisted of No.9 and it's hopper, three passenger coaches including two CN units with the more comfy recliners (daynighters) and an old CP coach with firmer seating, also two cabooses modified for passenger use, and WCR's #1556 diesel switcher unit for assistive power.

Too late to catch it at the start in Waterloo, we boarded at the St. Jacobs farmers market, purchased the tickets onboard and di dthe full loop to St. Jacobs, back to Waterloo, and finally returning to the market.  We chose to sit in the older passenger unit with it's rustic hanging lamps (not working) and sliding windows (working) which granted outside views and photo opts.

The first leg was to St. Jacobs with 1556 leading and No.9 in passive tow.  Upon reaching St. Jacobs' yard, the steamer was detached and prepped for work while the main cars continued on over the Grand River to the northern most point of the trip.  After pushing back into the yard, No.9 was fired up and ready, lashed up and took the lead back to Waterloo.


Friday, 5 October 2012

Nice article on the last run of the Northlander

Written by Liz Cowan on October 2nd for Northern Ontario Business news site, it's a well written reflection on the train, the route and the towns and people along the way:

Friday, 28 September 2012

Ontario Northlander Last Run - Quick Post

Just wanted to post these two shots quickly.

This was the Northlander, lead by 2 power units, #1809 and #1800, southbound at about 6:15 PM, September 28, 2012 at a crossing between Hwy 16 and Major Mac in Richmond Hill.

I'll upload some video later on.

Monday, 24 September 2012

One last Sunday morning with the Northlander

It's Sunday morning, September 23, 2012.  I'm up and off to a perch high above the East Don River on the off-road biking trails just west of Northline Road in East York.  I was hoping this video could be shot later in the fall when the trees were ablaze in red and gold, and catch the orange and blue colours of Ontario Northland's Northlander as it winds it's way through the Don Valley and northwards on it's run to Cochrane.

However, this is the last Sunday this train will make this trek, the video couldn't wait.  It will still be running for the next 5 days but I'm unlikely to find any time.

It's a chilly morning and I was a bit late getting started.  It took me 25 minutes to reach here, normally it's a 30 minute run.  I made it with seconds to spare as I could hear the familiar bell of the GP38-2 just beyond the bend as I arrived.  In the original footage I'm still catching my breath during the first few seconds and quickly adjusting for position.

It's a slow incline along the edge of the golf course, listen in as power unit #1800 has to crank it up once it crosses the bridge.  The wind was kind enough to abate as the train made it's way past, picking up as it disappeared to the north.

Sunday, 16 September 2012

A Face Full of Train

Scooted down to Pottery Road to catch the ONR Northlander, as it's days are coming to an end.  Used the Nikon today to try for a few good snaps.  Would have been better had I realized the white balance was set to incandescent.  Post processed it get the colours decent anyway.

Next Sunday is it's last Sunday run.  I have a week to decide where to shoot from.  I have one Tuesday morning I can try as well depending on timing.

Saved the running for later in the day, at the Terry Fox Run (Wilket Creek), 3 1/2 miles to the venue, run 10k (up paced, not race effort), and 3 1/2 miles back for 13ish miles. Added a bit to make up for their short 10k loop as I wanted at least 13 today.

Saturday, 15 September 2012

Another VIA Canadian vid

I was heading over to Bayview Avenue to check out the area around the CP overpass after reading a bit of this web page on about Old Pottery Road.  I wanted to see if the area had any good viewing locations for the CP Belleville sub section that crosses this location.  After crossing along Pottery Road and heading up Bayview Avenue, I heard the crossing signals at Pottery go off.  I turned to catch the VIA Canadian train #2, but too far up the hill to make it back down in time to get a closer view.  It's still an interesting viewpoint, higher up the hill, and you can watch it wind it's away beside lower Bayview on it's way to Union Station.

As for Old Pottery Road, the area is under construction by Hydro One as they have been working on the new towers just south of the CP Rails, and views shown in Rudy's page above are not accessible at this point.  I suspect that once completed, any good viewing access that existed to the CP line will no longer be there.

Saturday, 1 September 2012

I'll have a Canadian, please

Last Tuesday, on a day off, I headed down the valley with intent to catch Via's Canadian on it's eastbound run from Vancouver.  Upon crossing under Don Mills, I'm sure I heard the distinctive metal on metal sound of a railcar on the Bala line.  My thought was that it might be the Canadian running a bit early, which is always a possibility.  Scheduled arrival in Washago is 6:30 AM, leaving some 3 hours to reach Union Station.  It doesn't take 3 hours to get from Washago to Toronto, so if there's no blocking line traffic and it makes Washago on time, it could easily arrive early.

At this location, the northbound ONR's Northlander is always bang on time, as it only 5 miles out from the station.  On that particular morning it was a few minutes late, which reinforced my thought that some southbound rail traffic did hold it up by a couple of minutes.  I'd also missed it by about a minute as I was late getting out the door and didn't quite get into position.

Having missed the Northlander, I arrived at a level crossing at the rec trails a bit north of Pottery Road.  It has a nice bridge over the Don River and a good viewing angle, an interesting location for catching some traffic.  It has a set of signals to give a little advanced warning of an oncoming train.  My hope was to catch the Canadian here as it crosses the bridge.  However, after waiting around for almost 2 hours, there was no sign of the Canadian that morning, nor any other traffic since the Northlander went through, and so I headed back through the trails and home.


Skip forward to today (Saturday), I got up considerably earlier and headed back to the same crossing.  No Northlander today as it doesn't run on Saturdays, but I was plenty early to not get caught off guard by an early arriving Via.

Bala can be mighty quiet on a Saturday morning. I could hear the occasional freight high up the valley along CP's Belleville sub.  It was a good hour in when the crossing lights came on and the bell started ringing.  Too bad the engine sound was from the south instead of the norh, so it wasn't the Canadian.  Instead a GO train on it's way to Richmond Hill came through, lead by MP40PH-3C unit #613.  The video's unfortunately rather shaky.  I leave steadyshot off for close trains as the steadyshot highly distorts the image for large / close moving objects.  It does give an idea of what this crossing looks like.

Figuring it would be 15 or more minutes before any southbound traffic could show up, given that it's all single tracked to north of York Mills Road, I jogged down to Pottery Road and back just to stay moving and keep my legs from tightening up.  Returning back, I waited around for another lengthy period.  It was well after 10 and I wasn't feeling much like waiting around too much more.  I decided to head back along the north trail as it stays near the track area and gives the occasional good viewing spot should something happen by.  I was less than a minute away when I could hear the crossing signals going off and high tailed it back, too late to catch any power unit so I was hoping to myself 'please just be a GO unit'.  Sure enough, the familiar green and white double-deckers were passing by S/B, so I  breathed a sigh of relief and returned back to the trail and headed north.

Now, the city is busy rebuilding the pedestrian walkways on the trail at Don Mills.  As a result, it takes some inventiveness to get around the fenced off construction areas.  For the crossing at Don Mills into ET Seton Park, you have to scale a somewhat steep rise to Don Mills Road, cross the roadway, then back onto the regular trail and to the bridge.  The footbridge is not part of the construction.  On it, I had to get on my hands and knees and peer low to see the railway signal to the south, which glowed green.  The signals are in crappy locations down here and are almost useless to figure out traffic conditions on the line for railfanning.

Standing on the bridge, it's about 15 minutes back home from there, it's quarter to 11 and I've been out since 7:30.  I'm standing and pondering whether to give a few minutes first and then leave, or leave now, when a very distinctive blast of a horn to the north beyond the bend in the rails made the decision for me.  Opened the Sony and positioned it, resting my hand against part of the bridge, and there it is...Via Canadian train #2, eastbound from Vancouver, rolling nice and easy through the valley.  A couple of extra blasts from it's horn (the first one caught me off guard and my hand jerked) echoed off the surrounding area.  #6429 leads #6411 in tandem, with 21 stainless steel Budd cars in tow (including 3 domed units).  Lots of passengers were seated in the domes taking in the final views of the valley as their trip was coming to an end.

I didn't get to catch it at the crossing I wanted, but this was pretty good substitute.  It really is a magnificent train to see, especially in the valley  I can only imagine what it's like to ride in.

Saturday, 25 August 2012

Saturday morning fare - GO push power!

Part of my Saturday morning run along the Danforth.  Positioned under the Main Street overpass at Main GO Station, this westbound unit is being pushed by GO #642, an MP40PH-3C.  In the confines of the overpass, the power unit is super loud, especially as it's only about 6 feet away from me.

Saturday, 18 August 2012

Ghosts of Raillines Past - The GECO / Kingston Extension

I saw a post somewhere that made mention of trains passing by the old Hy & Zel's in Warden Woods Mall and it sparked a memory for me at the same location. I remember sitting in the parking lot as a train headed south, my wife headed into the mall and I stayed back to watch a short consist go by.  I now recognise this rail line as part of the GECO branch line.  This section was built to form a loop for local switch traffic in nearby yards, connecting back to the very busy Kingston line.  It was closed in 1996 and Hy& Zel's, together with the rest of Warden Woods Mall, is now history.

A few weeks back I traced the existing active section of the GECO branch from Comstock to the Uxbridge sub.  This weekend I followed the path of the removed section to see what would remain 16 years later.

With Google maps, the rail bed can be traced fairly easily and the in between reclaimed sections are easy to interpolate from it's satellite view.  On foot, it's not so easy.  I cached the satellite view on my phone, grabbed the Sony cam too, just in case I met some traffic on the active lines, and went off towards the southern connection point.

I wound my way south to along the Danforth then east to Danforth Road.  Near Warden, I could hear a short unit, maybe engine(s) only, heading along the Kingston line but wasn't yet in position to catch it.  A bit later I found Milne Avenue near where the spur connected up with the Kingston line tracks.  An industrial building occupied the section just north of the switch and I wasn't about to enter to see if I could spot any remnant of the switch bed, with 'private property' sounds in abundance.

Edit: I found this image on from June, 1983. On the right side of the image is the building shown above. Note the railway crossing signal where the extension would have passed near the building. The first indication of the line is an asphalt patch on Milne Avenue left behind after rail removal.

At the north end of the patch is a short metal barrier added to prevent road traffic from accessing the road level bed.

The path of the rail bed is quite obvious here as it parallels Milne Avenue.  When you stand at this point you can see the path of the former railbed through the entire section.
It the crosses Mack Avenue with a similar patch in the asphalt.  At both former crossings can be seen the painted 'X' warnings on the roadway, this despite maybe 20+ years of wear.

North of Mack the patch guides the railbed into a dome shaped storage building.
With the path leading into closed industrial property, I was forced to head west and looped around to find the crossing point on Danforth Road.  Here, I had to resort to my cached map on my phone as finding the location was essentially impossible visually.  There was no sign of any former crossings, likely the roadway had since been resurfaced.  The only indication of the former line was the curvature of the property lines of the nearby buildings indicating they abutted to the right-of-way.
Maybe this road patch was part of the crossing, but I doubt it.  My maps indicated it was very close to the correct location but it didn`t seem to completely cross the road.  However, it`s possible that more patching simply fooled me.  Very difficult to say.  This lead to a roadway into a new housing development.  I followed the road until it was blocked and exited to some new but existing housing at Oates Drive

After running through a park north of Oates and passing a couple of standing water overflow ponds, I was now on Bell Estate Rd., a section thoroughly regraded and any hint of the former rail bed is long since removed.  Back to Warden I headed north.  A multi-business complex had an access area towards the back just south of a Hydro One station.  The area of the rail bed is somewhat obvious here, if you knew what you  were looking at.

It`s recessed along the back fences of some older existing housing of Santamonica Boulevard (yes, that`s what it`s called).  You can detect the climb from further south as you get here so the recessed grading was necessary for rail traffic.
I had no intent to wind my way behind the Hydro One station so instead headed back to Warden and then north to St. Clair Avenue.

At St. Clair, a trio of railway bridges cross overhead.

The western two bridges are for TTC line traffic.  The eastern bridge serviced this GECO branch section.
Climbing some stairs to Santamonica Blvd off St. Clair, you can cross along a field to track level and see the top of the bridge.

The rail ties are still in place, but no rail.  There still exists `no tresspassing' signs so it may still technically be trespassing to step onto the bridge, so I didn`t.  The TTC tracks into Warden Station are adjacent to the west side.

Back along the field, you can see more ties where the rails used to reside.  A TTC train is seen exiting Warden Station.

Southward, the rail bed disappears into the brush, heading on a downgrade.  I didn't venture down this way as the growth is pretty thick and leads back behind the Hydro One station.  I'd be interested to see how far the ties carry though without venturing too far, but not today.

While nothing large and mechanical may ever cross the GECO part of the bridge ever again, the other two bridges are perpetually active with TTC traffic, seen here as a TTC train crosses St. Clair.

I headed north through a park adjacent to the tracks, eventually returning to lower spur of the existing active GECO branch line extending from the Uxbridge subdivision.  This was seen in my previous GECO blog entry.

The immediate southern section has been regraded, making it impossible to locate any trace of the line.  A bit further south, adjacent to Pidgeon Street (clearly, they are running out of names for streets in T.O.), the line can be picked up through traces of right-of-way fencing and 'No Tresspassing' signage, the signs seemingly ludicrous given that nature has effectively reclaimed the entire area.

From Google maps, it does look traceable, although the late summer growth shown here makes naviging it next to impossible.  I may revisit this area sometime before next spring after the growth has died off and see what remains.

Of the whole spur section, the reminders of the track persist in the southern most section through the impact on the streets and housing.  The centre section is mostly reclaimed by industry and housing development.  In sections not regraded, the location of buildings and fencing hints at the CN ROW points.  Only in the nothern sections, especially around St. Clair Avenue, can the former railbed's infrastructure be seen and will likely be there for a very long time to come.

It was a fun run for a Saturday, about 90 minutes of running with an added hour for the shot taking.