Tuesday, 14 April 2015

East Coast Icebreaking

Winter's gone, we don't have to review it, we all know what it was like, either too cold and snowy or too warm and dry.  Adios winter.

Back in March I had to take a jaunt home to Cape Breton for a few days.  I took along my most aggressive trail shoes, a small smattering of running shirts and a pair of shorts, and the Sony.  I managed to win the weather lottery and snagged what was probably the few decent days they had weatherwise.  Chilly air but bright and sunny and plenty cozy for running.  I was staying just outside the Coxheath area and the sidewalks were less than ideal for running on.  Apparently the plows gave up at some point during the winter and I had to make my way along 5 foot wide strips of ice (homage to my trail shoes for keeping me upright).

If you know Keltic Drive in the Sydney River area, you would be familiar with the railway bridge that crosses it just S/E of the vehicle bridge.  The county decided the sidewalk underneath it would be a convenient place to store snow.  With the new bridge in place and open, and Keltic Drive now very busy, I opted to stay on the west side of the area and not get smooshed by passing traffic (being from the area I'm a bit familiar with driving habits of the locals).

The harbour was as frozen as I've ever seen it in my life.  Enough that people were out walking on it, snowmobiling on it and making ice skating patches on it.  Not sure it was wise to clear snow for a skating patch given the strength of the sun and it's effect on clear ice after a few hours.  It is salt water after all.

Toward the outer harbour I was fortunate enough to catch one of the big ice breakers in action, keeping the laneways open to the coal port and government wharf.  The ship performing duty was the CCGS Henry Larsen, a 'medium' ice breaker.  They classify it as medium but it is no small ship.  It's the second largest in the icebreaking fleet, even larger than the classified heavy icebreaker Terry Fox.

Since I had to keep the zoom up for this, and reliance on handholding the Sony, I opted to allow yootoob to steady the vid for me for a bit more comfort in viewing,  Apologies for the occasional waviness that inherently results in the toob's stablizing algorithm.  It was a challenge for me to see the viewfinder with blazing sunshine over my shoulder.  It was great to keep me feeling warm and toasty, sucked a bit on figuring out what I was framed on.

Turn the volume up at the 1:27 mark.  You'll hear a train horn in the background.  That's the GP38-2s of the Sydney Coal Railway accross the harbour, somewhere on the trackage between the coal pier and the Lingan generating station.

These days the SCR is the only functioning railway on the island.  The long standing line from Sydney to the causeway was closed last year after seeing train service for the last 135 years.  While there I was staying at a house mere meters from the CBCNSR trackage just beyond were it crossed Coxheath Road.  It was eerie to see it unmaintained and snow covered.  Snowmobile tracks abounded along the line, the thick unplowed layer making an excellent pathway for skidooers.  Hard to say what the future may hold but for now there will be no other activity on this line.

I've rode on many a unit along those tracks.  As a kid we took a trip to Toronto, first boarding a big old F unit led CN passenger train out of the long gone Sydney station to Truro, then overnight service to Montreal and finally into hogtown.  VIA eventually came to be and the F unit led trains out of Sydney switched to rail diesel car service.  Smelly things the RDRs could be but I always enjoyed them, particularly while in college and sitting in the back at the bar, it's always fun to sit at a bar on a train.

Passenger service in and out of Sydney on a seasonal basis did revive on occasion with VIA's Bras D'or making a weekly touristy run but that ended in the early 2000s.