Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Recording under a bridge

Yesterday morning I ran over to the Danforth GO station to catch the morning commuter runs.  On weekdays it's a mix of services, VIA, GO regular service, GO express runs.  The regular services stop at each/most of the stations and the express units sail right on through.

The bridge grants a nice straight view along the westward tracks and you get a head-on type of shot of the oncoming eastbound units.  I usually shoot from Main Street on the bridge over the station but thought I'd shoot at track level for this one.

VIA 50 / 52 is a connected pair of trains that head to Montreal and Ottawa.  They depart together from Toronto and then separate in Belleville.  It makes a few stops along the way but not at this station so it has time to pick up speed before blowing through on it's way toward it's first stop at Guildwood station.

On this morning 50 / 52 was a few minutes late.  Waiting on a bench I caught sight of it's lights far down the track and positioned myself against a post, using it to help steady the camera.  The train was on the center track of three and my view is straight down the middle, it's a quite warm morning and the heat is eminating from the surfaces as it approaches.  Since I'm staying focused on the viewfinder and pointed westward, and it's noisy, I'm unaware of a GO express from Oshawa bearing down from the east on the track immediately to my left.

Trains, being rather large, displace a fair amount of air.  One train moving in open air pushes it out and up and draws some along with it as it goes.  Two trains in opposite directions and both moving quickly gives some additional dynamics to the whole process.  Have it occur under a bridge adds jan extra element.  Thus as I'm anchored to this post, VIA zips by on center track and at the same moment the express GO blows past me from behind.  A brief but violent swirl of air throws the viewfinder of the camera shut, immediately terminating my recording.  I quickly reopen the panel and feverishly hit 'record' until it started up again.  It would have been a good clip had it all been a single shot.  Unfortunately I ended up with two scenes and had to blend them together in editing, making the GO passing seem oddly brief.

Anyway, here's the outcome.  All part of the fun.

Monday, 15 July 2013

Railfanning without a scanner

In radio-free land, catches are luck and observation.  Well, really just luck.  And schedules.  Commuter trains run on schedules you can usually look up.  This works great near the source end but the destination end is considerably less reliable.  Such is true of catching the Canadian as it rolls through the Don Valley on it's four day trip from the west coast.  I've caught it by pure luck as late as 26 hours after it's scheduled arrival time.

I'm not big on long waits at crossings and locations, I give maybe 15-20 minutes if I have time, less if my run is more critical than catching some video.  The Canadian is a frequent target since it's in my running territory and usually the only train rumbling through lower Bala on a Saturday morning.  Since I don't know when it might arrive, I generally stop at a level trail crossing and look for signs that a train may have passed through, usually a clean path along the top of the rails free of the mud and dirt left behind by cyclists and foot traffic.  The line signals help but only one is in a convenient spot, and it's for the south section so won't tell me if the north section is occupied by traffic.

Last Saturday I ran over to the valley and stopped at the bailey bridge crossing near Don Mills Road to check.  The signal south was full green, unusual as it's normally yellow since it's not far before it feeds into the Union Station corridor.  I decided to check the north signal which meant following some trail near the rails that offers a peak at one point.  The signal glowed red, indicating a closed line north.  Southbound train?  Maybe, or maintenance work or something else.  I ran a few hundred metres further to an open viewing point and prepped the camera just in case.

Within a minute came a heavy rumble form the north, and the sound of a ringing bell, definitely the Canadian.  Passenger services through here always ring the warning bell.  The Northlander when it would pass through had a quite loud and distinctive bell that could be heard well before it arrived.  Sure enough, seconds later the Canadian pops into view, and on this morning had a decidedly sprite pace, unusual along this winding and aged section of Bala.  6435 lead, 6446 second, 19 Budds.  The location granted a slightly lowered view and from the bright sunlit side.  With the camera held well overhead to clear the ROW fencing, I grabbed my minute of video, another successful catch VIA's train #2 from Vancouver to Toronto.

After packing up the camera and heading back along the trail I rechecked the north signal...still red.  I'm not sure how long the interval is before it switches status, or maybe there was something up line still holding it closed.  Hard to tell.  Maybe I just got lucky.

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

A collection of recent weeks

A lot of my time is taken up working on some renovations so running and certainly hanging around crossings have been curtailed for the time being.  I have managed a few outings, mostly early on weekday mornings.

A couple of weekends ago I got a lucky break a caught an early arriving VIA Canadian train #2 trundling down the Bala on it's way into Union Station.  I've hung out at this trail crossing a few times but with limited success.  There's not much warning for approaching rail traffic and the noise of the nearby DVP tends to drown out the growls of throttled-down engines.  Occasionally they wail a horn for someone near the lines where they shouldn't be and that offers some advanced warning.  On this day I had to scramble to get the camera ready as I had just arrived.  Some sprinkling rain kept me from prepping the camera settings as I usually would have done.  A sudden rumble north of the crossing and a gleem of lights off the rails told me it was the Canadian approaching the turn and I wasn't one the side of the tracks I wanted but had to make do with the location to avoid crossing during the warning lights.

Later that week I got up and out bright and early a couple of mornings and put together this sequence of VIA train 52/50 to Montreal and Ottawa followed by regular GO service into Danforth Station off Main Street.  The VIA and GO units have similar departure times and often end up side by side on this stretch.  No luck catching them that close on that morning but I am hopeful that I can get some footage of that very situation one day.

On Friday before the long weekend I took some time on my return home from work to catch a scheduled GO Stouffville service heading north.  The GO trains have a lot of level crossings to deal with on the Uxbridge sub and make generous use of their horns to let traffic know of their approach to these busy roadways.  I used my older Sony SD camera which lacks the better image stablization of the CX-250 and shows a bit of wobble, especially when the engineer laid on the horn when exactly next to me.

I also moseyed down McCowan towards the western end of the CP Toronto yards in Scarborough as I've not gone around that area before and it was on the way.  Locations are inconvenient but I did catch a pair of GP9Us doing switching duty and shot a bit of footage from a lower level, but not very good positioning at all.  I'll need to find more time to scout out a better location sometime.  I can't really run out to that area, a further than my current long runs encompass.

And finally I tried some footage off the biking trails in E T Seton park near the high CP rail bridge that crosses over the Don.  This location is outside the end of the fence of the Tremco plant near Thorncliffe Park/Leaside and sits high above the valley below and level with the rail crossing for a different angle than most people will see.  In late fall to spring it's pretty barren up there and the view is much better, but the summer has lots of foliage in the way.  I didn't stay very long but managed to catch a pair of eastbounds with likely empty returns heading for the yards in Scarborough.