Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Christmas on the Cataraqui Spur

Pre-Christmas vacation gave me a chance to photograph CN No 518 working Kingston's Cataraqui Spur. Normally, this train has operated Belleville-Kingston return (and a plethora of other iterations over the years) on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays ex Belleville around 0900. None of these days works for me, normally. Since Christmas fell on a Thursday (or perhaps it's a new iteration) this particular week I was able to catch it on a Monday. Off my great-nephew and I went on a grey-morning 518 chase!
First we had to get our priorities in order. That meant one thing...Tim Horton's drive-thru. During that wait, we ascertained that 518 was on Queens service track, having worked the remnant of CN's Aluminum Spur, which has been fenced-in and taken over by Kingston Iron and Metal Co (KIMCO). (Note to self - next time get going early enough to get to KIMCO before 518!) The RTC granted permission to run on the south track to the Cat Spur switch at Mi 178.01 Kingston Sub. It was on. Wanting to photograph the train crossing the trestle over the Little Cataraqui Creek, we headed to the parking lot of a strip mall in the former Armstrong Subdivision. This group of houses and Harvey's has now been replaced by giant apartment blocks and an LCBO store! CN 4116-4121, one empty bulkhead flatcar and two scrap gons from KIMCO, plus covered hopper and tank loads were backing south down the spur (above and below):
Lots o' links: in this earlier photo of the trestle in this Part 1 of my initial Cataraqui Spur post in January 1980, CN 1298-1310, one car and caboose 79522 are heading north. Here's a B&W version of a 1977 visit! The dressed-for-the-weather conductor rode the lead tank. Who needs a caboose or rider car in the post-Hunter Harrison, ultra-low operating-ratio world of CN!?
Having backed down the spur at 10 mph, the tail-end has just crossed Front Road at 1030. We responded 'Code 4' down Queen Mary Road and suburban streets, scooping the sauntering switcher. Covered hopper loads of adipic acid (from head-end) TCMX 703447, 703423, INVX 38736, TCMX 703414, INVX 38780, and tank loads of hexamethyldiamine GATX 90404, INVX 29802, 26165, SHPX 207393, DBUX 251030, and INVX 26110. Watch for a magnum-opus post on DuPont/Invista cars I've observed over the years...
Cutting off the covered hopper loads on the load track, the engines backed into the tank track holding onto two of the KIMCO cars, lifted the empties and spotted the loads. Can a nine year-old enjoy a Tim Hortons iced coffee? Yes he can. Make mine a medium Dark Roast double cream. We both cadged Timbits, while the crew waited for a placid plant person to slowly sidle over to unlock the gate. Blow the horn again!
Built in November 2013, these OMNX cars were loaded with scrap - 1120 and 1038.
This new spur was built in 2001. Impeccable radio protocol by the CN crew - every chock, derail, distance to coupling called. And no, I'm not 'the guy who follows us every Sunday in his van with his kid' however it was accurately opined that 'there'll be lots of picture-taking today'. Truer words never spoken.
The units are pulling out of the spur as the cut-off scrap gon is waiting on the lead. The spotted tank loads are visible through TTPX 82451.
Backing onto the empties, coupling to the empty covered hoppers and soon to head north, we drove north, back to Bath Road to catch the northbound movement there. The sign pertains to a City of Kingston reptile conservation initiative, and does not pertain to the track speed that 518 reaches!
Passing through protected wetlands, woodlands and waterbodies. Cattails camber and dry boughs bow in homage to the frost-frozen freize. Let it go, let it go! (That's not the song from the movie, it's my hypothermic hands on my camera.) In Part 2 of my initial Cataraqui Spur series, snowplow service-equipped CN 4510 was at this location. On this day, a pastoral patina of frost and snow had coated the trees. Micro-climate!
Easing up to the mainline switch, the RTC has just given 4116 permission to enter the south track. Empty tanks (from head end) INVX 26157, 26200, 26226, 26242 and SHPX 207352, and empty covered hoppers INVX 38489, 38820, 38500, 38442, 38387, 38472 and ACFX 58778.
The trainman has opened the electric lock and thrown the switch. After closing the switch, why walk when you can ride? The train backed up so he could clamber aboard the lead unit.
Next stop Millhaven and then Belleville. Having eschewed mainline VIA and freight action, we were happy with our chase. Can a nine year-old enjoy a Tim Hortons ice coffee? Yes he can. Make mine a hot medium double-cream. We both cadged Timbits.
But one more photo - the last few cars have a dusting of snow on them, which they are now depositing at Mile 180 whistling west along Bath Road.

Running extra...

To quote Lily Tomlin (on the 2014 Kennedy Center Honors broadcast tonight on CBS) "I always wanted to be somebody, but now I realize I should have been more specific." The storied careers of Tom Hanks, Al Green, Sting and unknown-to-me ballerina Geeima Notschurovyournama were similarly celebrated.
For 2015, I wish you clear signals, no crossovers, few Rule 42's to call, no dragging equipment, switching of your train by the outbound crew, no need for a pull-by, and early quits. Highball! I plan to keep up my feverish four-times-monthly publishing schedule. Hope you can keep up!
Future blogger in cab of ONR 1502 at Spadina, July 1982. 
Photo by L.C. Gagnon. Thanks, Dad!


GP9Rm4108 said...

Wow, an electrically locked switch. I have never seen one of those. I didn't even know CN still used them.

Zartok-35 said...

So, do the trains have to stop for turtles crossing the tracks?

Happy new year, Mr. Gagnon!

Eric said...

Chris...the employees' timetable likely tells the tale, but I'm wondering if this is one of the few spurs in the area that's not reached via a service track with interlocking/home signal?

Happy New Year!

Eric said...

Good question, Elijah. Looks that way, doesn't it. Two things - the City of Kingston is so cash-strapped that they don't put in T-rails for road signs when they can help it, preferring to use trees or utility poles if they can.

Second thing, this is a City initiative to keep turtles off roads. We're spending something like $60 grand to put up fencing that the little turtles can't chew/get over so they'll think "Oops, bet-ter-not-cross-the-rooooad" (Turtlespeak attempt).

Now, it just occurred to me that most of the turtle sites are rail-related - Cat Spur, near the VIA station, and Collins Bay. Perhaps turtles are drawn to the tracks as we are!

Oh, and the train has to stop for traffic to clear on King Street, even when signals are operating.
Happy New Year!

GP9Rm4108 said...

Eric, most spurs and back tracks simply have a hand throw switch. You simply get permission from the RTC to open it.

Eric said...

There must be a good reason for the power switch in this location, then.

Quite often, foremen use the Cat Spur to stash equipment, so there are a variety of users. Hmmm.