Friday, August 19, 2011

New Belleville VIA Station

VIA's operations in the Montreal-Toronto are getting a huge boost due to several projects underway along CN's Kingston Sub. One of the most visible of these is the Belleville, Ontario station project. While in Belleville last Monday, I stopped in to check on progress. One word: HUGE. A new waiting room and overhead access make this a big project. It's 'the monster that ate Belleville' when you see it in person! While photographing the station, CN Montreal-Chicago train 148 behind engines 5748-5504 was changing crews at Belleville's west end.
The Grand Trunk station looks tiny next to the steelwork of three-flight staircase over Track 1. The number of CN buildings in Belleville yard is way down - the rail welding plant is gone, except for the welding building itself, now used by a private business. The other station buildings and roundhouse are also gone, and the former express building/dispatching office is now a recycling facility.
A passing autorack on CN train 369 give an idea of scale (above) - the walkway is well above Plate F-plus cars and double-stacked containers. A parking lot view, looking northeast toward the tracks from Station Street shows the bulk of the station. Passengers not using the elevator...feel free to climb three flights of stairs. Belleville Mayor Neil Ellis is pro-rail, and he was riding in my VIA1 car on a recent trip back from Toronto.
Another parking lot view, looking east from alongside the original Grand Trunk station. The new construction is on the site of a former baggage building that was demolished. Belleville, unlike some other recently-announced VIA station projects like Brockville and Cobourg, had abundant trackside real estate available for station design and construction.
Platform view with Track 1 in the foreground and train 149 waiting for a signal to head west on Track 2. Q: What has four wheels and is often found at Tim Horton's? A: Rule 42 foreman. Actually, a succession of Rule 42's were in effect here and to the east: Foreman McKnight Mi 199-207, Foreman Persad Mi 209-216, and Foreman Philips Mi 218-221.
Look up...look waaay up. A boom forklift is elevating some construction material up to the walkway over Track 1 and the Rule 42 foreman has an eye on things. Looks like the walkway might be a sweet, all-weather trainwatching spot when completed.
Also overhead, Royal Canadian Air Force Hercules, Airbus and Globemasters were lining up for Runway 06/24 at CFB Trenton to the west. Train 149 starts to pull westward at 1245:
A little earlier in the morning, I was at the crossing of Shannonville Road at Mi 213 of the Kingston Sub. The third-tracking project runs east of here as far as the eye can see, extending to Napanee West near Mi 200, and west of here under the CP crossing at Mi 219 and on towards Belleville. At Mi 213, the third track subroadbed is complete and is being used as an access road for crews working farther east. But railfans should not even think of driving on it. I was standing atop the rock cut, well back from the track, when I had a friendly visit from a CN foreman in a pickup: "What's goin' on?". Traffic on Shannonville Road is stopped at 1125 for CN train 308 behind 8803:
In DPU mode is 8860, pulling the rear part of the train eastward, along the hogs' backs east of here, where approaching trains' headlights are visible, then invisible, then visible again. (Reminds me of a joke: Q: What goes VROOM-SCREECH-VROOM-SCREECH? A: A dumb guy at a flashing red light.) The crews have done a nice job on right-of-way fencing, grass seeding on top of the cut, and ditching the subroadbed for drainage:
CN train 305 heads west at 1140 behind CN engines 2243-5541-5634-2259. The Shannonville Road crossing on the Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory sits at the top of the grade, and the headend is rolling west toward the new third track undercut of the CP Belleville Sub. West of that point, CP is south of CN until Cobourg, when it again heads to the north on another bridge.
DPU unit de jour: 8953, with its notched nose nestled next to a load of Irving lumber:
This is a recent first: CN cars with other-than-CN-or-subsidiary reporting marks. CN 853182 and a sister wear NOKL (Northwestern Oklahoma Railroad) lettering:
VIA P42DC 907 whistles by through the intermediate signals with a Ren consist at 1148:
To the east, near Marysville, CN has had to build third-track extensions to two of their bridges: the first over Old Highway 2 at Milltown, and the second over the Salmon River:In a pastoral scene, horses graze (above) as the forms for the additional bridge deck's piers are being readied on the north side of the bridge. The country road under the CN has also had an extension added (below). Notice that the surface has been detailed to match the limestone block construction of the existing underpass.
Running Extra:

The east end of CN's yard in Belleville contains lots of signal gantries for installation when the third track is ready. A former SOO gon lettered for WC and a few other cars have brought in ties for eventual tracklaying. The work immediately east of Belleville is visible from parallel Airport Parkway West.

Editorial leanings aside, I'll let readers be the judge of whether the new station deserves the moniker 'monster' or 'monstrosity' or not. It might be just as big as the moribund Docter's Hotel across Station Street. I'm not saying we should live in the Grand Trunk era; of course progress and new facilities for VIA are desirable. Other online communities have balked at VIA's proposed designs and have been successful sending the architects back for revised designs.

While in Belleville, try out the new Veterans' Memorial Bridge on Bell Boulevard, crossing the now nearly-dry Moira River. A handsome structure unveiled last year to honour veterans from the overwhelmingly-RCAF communities of Belleville and Trenton, and a convenient conveyance as you travel from CN's yard to the Quinte Mall and local beaneries.


Bill said...

--Hate to say it, but to take the OLD station out of the picture-(move/demolish) -no debate!-- Bill

Eric said...

No, the current station's got to stay, Bill. Actually, most of the former Grand Trunk stations show amazing longevity. Imagine something that old still being used in its intended function.

The structure of the new addition - well, not so permanent-looking, with all that glass.

Thanks for stopping by and for your comment,

Bryan said...

Great post. I always love seeing updates about the Kingston Sub. Nice to see the expansion project coming along, compared to hearing about another line being ripped up for scrap. Gotta say that new Belleville station blew me away though. What I want to know is, where are the mice going to live?

Eric said...

Thanks for your kind comments, Bryan. A decidedly un-retro post, unusual for me, but it does happen when I get trackside with camera in hand.

Yes, it's good to see expansion and new construction. This is quite a project along the Kingston Sub, in various states of completion. The project manager must be busy. The only mice in the new station may be computer-based!

Anonymous said...

Maybe I missed them, but are there any renderings of the new station? I really hope VIA isn't going for the corny "retro" designs they have been using in recent years.

Those sorts of things make me wince... in Asia and Europe they take rail transportation seriously and provide sleek modern facilities to match (the way CN used to in the 60s). Here, even VIA thinks that passenger rail is just a fun amusement ride and designs facilities to look like something from Thomas the Tank Engine.

Eric said...

Here's a previously-released rendering. Notice how the trees cover up the large, exposed stairway:

Gordon the Big Engine might like this design, but I think Thomas would think it's not his cup of tea. VIA even put a large, peaked roof on Kingston's CN station, making it more traditionally station-like but definitely less sleek.

Thanks for your comment,

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Eric. That's actually pretty good; I'm impressed. I was fearing the super-corny faux-retro kind of peaked roof treatment like in Dorval, or as you mentioned, Kingston.

At any rate, new facilities are sorely needed in the corridor. I love the 19th century stations as much as anyone and without a doubt they should be preserved, but they aren't what a modern rail system needs in the 21st century.