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.

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