Friday, 22 June 2012

First Cast Into the New Stream

I took my camera equiped phone with me at noon over to the Bala crossing I discovered during a recent Friday lunchtime run.

After 3 days of temps in the 90's, it was a nice break with clear air, 25C and bright sunshine.  It felt positively polar in comparison to the heat and humidity of the preceding week.

After using my camera phone to snap a few shots of the crossing and views down the line, I figured I'd afford 10 minutes of wait, just in case I got lucky.  I was just about ready to restart my watch and head back when the bell on the crossing began ringing and the short guard arm came down.  The crossing is designed for foot and cycling traffic, so for safety actual crossing gates are installed on either side of the double crossing, to prevent an unattentive cyclist from slamming into the side of a railcar, moving or stationary.

It's a long visual stretch southbound and no activity could be seen, so I set my sights northward.  Sure enough, around the bend comes a pair of CN freight locos and consist in tow.

The cam phone is a bit awkward to use, with a good full second lag between pressing the on-screen 'button' and waiting for the click, then it shows the image and you must click again to clear it to reshoot.  There's also no optical zoom.  In the bright sunshine it's hard to see what's on the screen, and I didn't dare switch to video mode (vid is pretty crappy on it anyway).  You get audio feedback when taking a pic, but nothing to tell you it's ready for the next shot.  I missed the best shot as the lead engine got into the ideal pose (either that or I deleted it without knowing), but a decent shot further away and another good one just after engines passed.  The lead was CN 2302, an ES44DC.  The second looks also like an EMD in reverse orientation, but the shot doesn't include it's number.  It'll take a bit of research to figure out what unit it was, or I get lucky in zooming in on the longer range images.

The consist itself was almost all double stacked containers, marked mostly with 'Cosco' so a shipment of big-box store products straight in from China most likely.

As it rolled through it became apparent it was slowing down.  I could see at the bend that the end car was approaching and you could hear the brakes pressing hard on the wheels.  It eventually came to a full stop with the second last car blocking the crossing.  A pair of cyclists came by the crossing but neither felt adventurous enough to attempt circling around the trailing car, and I'm making every effort to stay safe and legal on these railfanning ventures so I was not going to cross either.

I grabbed a few more shots of the stationary cars and the wheel sets.  Then you could hear the brakes hiss as the pressure came off, meaning it was prepping to restart.  As the section is double tracked, I assume it was either waiting a northbound to clear the transition to single track further south at Doncaster, or awaiting clearance to join the York Sub.  I wasn't quick enough with switching to video to catch the shunt, which rattled with a nice loud bang as the knuckles reengaged on the last pair of cars, enough to even make me jump.  Having the Sony cam would have been much better for the audio anyway, again the camera vids aren't very good quality.  I did get some of it quietly rolling away which I might upload if it looks good enough.

For an impromptu lunchtime railfanning run, it was pretty successful.  Got to catch a good long consist, watched it stop, watched (and heard) it restart, and the weather was ideal to boot.

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

20,000 miles

One owner, no dents, a few small scratches.

This week my log file ticked over 20,000 miles.  I've run a little more than that but only started a log a year in.   If I make it another 4900 miles more, I'll have circled the Earth.

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Exploring new trails can be a risky undertaking

I came up dry in a quest to get some footage on the Bala and Belleville subdivisions on Saturday. I waited high on the hill above E.T. Seton park with a view of the high railway bridge that crosses the valley, to no avail. The pedestrian footbridge under Don Mills Road just north of the DVP interchange also was dead, except for a CN maintenance truck on rails, and I even missed that by mere seconds. The waits extended my 90 minute run to 2 1/2 hours, most standing in the hot sun, waiting...

After jogging along Laird, I decided to see if there was another way down to the cycling trails of Crother's Woods other than the trailhead at Redway. By the road was an obscure but clearly used path heading down the ravine. Keen to follow I headed down the path and came on a rough dirt trail, and a guy, clearly not a mountain biker, maneuvering a bike along and we had a short exchange about the path itself, he says it goes nowhere, ending at 'the dump'.

You know that little voice, the one that lives in our head and drives every decision we make? The monologue is like some third person arbitrator that weighs pros and cons the way a trial judge would discuss the facts before him, looking at one thing, and another. The little voice is not like that at all. The little voice is a massive parallel processor that assembles a vast amount of information of experience, environment, conditions, facts and fictions, chews it all up in a fraction of a second and spits out a conclusion. It takes things into consideration that we don't even know exist. Unlike the heavily used recreational and biking trials of the valley, this area seemed more than a fair bit 'sketchy', and the little voice suggested that I find the nearest exit point and use it pronto.

Being the adventurous sort that I am, I ignored it and persevered forward, coming across, of all things, a tree house, not one for kids to play in (given that any kid erecting a treehouse in this area is not only far more ambitious than most, and a good 3/4 mile away from the nearest residence) but one that provided accomodation for one or more adult-type-humans.

I viewed it with some level of amazement.  It's common to see rough tents or coverings of various sorts, or just as frequently no covering at all, at various off-the-main-pathway locations of the valley and the city in general, but this was the first time I saw a genuine tree house used for this purpose, and it was a good 15-20 feet off the ground at the high end.  I continued past, looking for any sign of a pathway that would lead to the biking trails. It is then I catch a sound of rustling a bit back, but out of view. I slowly move back and see a guy, maybe 20ish, shirtless and in shorts, no doubt one of the treehouse occupants, wandering away along the path (fortunately in the opposite direction).  I'm being very quiet and he can't see me though the brush.  I know realize that the little voice was not insanity permeating my system, but the time and time again proven intuitive response to my current condition.  I hastly move down into the brush, knowing it's not more than 50 or so yards from the biking trails, find some trampled grasses that forms a usable path, and skiddadle out of there about as quick as I could manage, with a robust and effective leg lift and deliberate forward progression. I figured as I was outfitted for the trails and carrying a reasonable amount of fitness, I could beat anyone outside of 20 yards from me to the trails regardless of what I had to pass through. Carrying a camcorder with me didn't help matters any, as it provided more incentive than anything else should the situation go south.

Happy I was to see the familiar beaten to a pulp cycling trails, and an active day as the local cycling community was holding sessions for new riders, resulting in a busy section of trail.

From herein I shall be considerably more cautious when exploring new territory.

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Smoky ONR 1800 travelling northbound

ONR 1800 and it's APU lead their 3 cars northbound through Bala at Pottery Road, June 10, 2012.  Lesson learned to take more time during setup to make sure I have the levels and angles right.  The tripod and camera were too far sloped, especially on the reverse angle.

A Friday jog

I had a fine rainy-day a couple of weeks ago for my longer than normal lunchtime run that took me to the grounds of the David Dunlap Observatory as it's not far from where I work. I also found an unusual location to catch some N/S activity on the Bala subdivision where it passes through Richmond Hill just north of Highway 16 (Rutherford Rd.). It sits between Church St. S. and Hillsview Dr. just west of the entrance to the observatory. There is a pedestrian / cycling pathway that connects the two streets and has a railway crossing. There's no road, yet the crossing has a set of drop arms and lights, the drop arms are just really short.

The view soutbound extends a good half mile or so straight and offers a nice approach shot opportunity. I'd love to catch a morning where the Via Canadian moves through on it's return from the west coast, or maybe just catch the ONR Northlander travelling northbound.

I'm not sure how the Northlander times for this area. Bala maps mark Richmond Hill at about 21 miles from Union Station. That means roughly somewhere between 30 and 40 minutes after departure. I may try getting there at 9:10 and see if I can get lucky one morning this week. If it takes more than 8 minutes I will have to bail out in order to make a regularly scheduled 9:30 meeting.