CPR #2816 at Smiths Falls, in 2004

CPR #2816 at Smiths Falls (2004)

Five and a half years (and two cameras) ago, I went down to Smiths Falls to watch the arrival of Canadian Pacific #2816, an H1b 4-6-4 Hudson steam locomotive built in 1930. After its restoration, CP ran it as a public relations and excursion train between 2001 and 2008; it’s been in storage since. Here, at last, are the photos from my trip to Smiths Falls on June 11, 2004, where I jostled with about a hundred other railfans as we took picture after picture of that rarity of rarities, a steam locomotive operating on a Class I main line.

(One thing I remember from that day was just how quiet a steam locomotive is: at rest, it’s basically a big kettle, pinging away. They’re much quieter than diesels.)

Make model trains pink, so girls will like them

A pink GG-1 The strangest example of what Matt calls “the ‘make it pink so girls like it!’ treatment” are a pair of pink O-scale train sets — a pink GG-1 and a pink steam train — from the Williams division of Bachmann Trains that we saw (and flinched at) in the latest Micro-Mark catalogue. I’m not sure what making a GG-1 pink does, other than maintain model railroading’s male and retrograde image. How long have these been in production? Decades?

The end of the Ottawa Valley Railway

In 1996, the Ottawa Valley Railway took over operations on the Canadian Pacific’s former secondary main line between Smiths Falls and Sudbury under a 20-year lease. If I recall correctly, the OVR’s traffic was largely between Témiscaming and Sudbury; traffic between Mattawa and Smiths Falls was almost entirely CPR bridge traffic, taking a short cut between Montréal and Sudbury rather than taking the long way through Toronto along their main line.

With the recession, rail traffic is down, and the CPR has consolidated all of its trains along its mainline. There hasn’t been any bridge traffic along the OVR in months (I noticed something was up in Renfrew last weekend, when I saw that the tracks were completely unplowed). And indeed, something was up: RailAmerica, the OVR’s parent company, has filed for early termination of its lease on the line. Up and down the line in the Ottawa Valley, communities are freaking out about the possibility of losing their rail line: see the local media coverage in Sudbury, North Renfrew, Pembroke, Arnprior, West Carleton and Smiths Falls. From what I can tell, traffic between Témiscaming and Sudbury will continue, at least for now, but the CPR is now deciding whether to restore traffic on the line between Pembroke and Smiths Falls.

CN tore up its competing track between North Bay and Pembroke years ago; if this line is abandoned, the only track remaining in the Ottawa Valley will be the CN line (formerly the Ottawa Central) between Pembroke and Ottawa, which runs through Pontiac County — and these articles make passing reference to its potential demise (though I haven’t been able to track that down online).

Having said that, the OVR has had no local traffic between Mattawa and Smiths Falls, so — as is often the case when rail lines face abandonment — the impact is more potential than actual. Doesn’t stop local politicians from fretting.

More entries below »