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Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Northlander to remain derailed

For those of you hoping to see the return of the Northlander, don't get your hopes up. Even if the ONTC returns to normal, it appears that the Toronto-Cochrane train will not be part of it. Wouldn't it be funny if all this mess only managed to cancel a train?
Northlander to remain derailed | North Bay Nugget

Friday, July 26, 2013

219 on the Move?

It has been quite a while since there has been news of 219, the T&NO locomotive that the Northern Ontario Railroad Museum & Heritage Centre saved from scrap last year. This week, the future of 219 moved another step in the right direction when Ontario Northland weighed the locomotive in their Cochrane yard in preparation for a move in the next few months.

From ONR Trip

So, how much does a locomotive weigh? 189,150 lbs. (give or take). That is around 85 tons. It is expected that the move will be made by rail from Cochrane to Capreol, either via Hearst/Oba or North Bay. Either way, the move will encompass most of the railway companies in northern Ontario.

As always, I would encourage you to support the NORMHC if you are able. Contact them for details.

Thanks to Cody Cacciotti, Dale Wilson and Val Crosswell for information used in this post.

Unions call for talks with province

It seems that progress on the ONTC issue has been slow or stagnant over the last few months. Of course, we won't  know for sure as the MNDM page dedicated to the divestment is out of date. In a recent announcement, the GCA representing ONTC unions has called for direct talks with the government, without any preconditions. The GCA has long felt ignored in this debate as they are not represented in the Ministerial Advisory Committee. In a reply, Minister of Northern Development and Mines Michael Gravelle essentially turned down the offer of talks, preferring to stick to the Committee.
Unions call for talks with province | North Bay Nugget

Minister retracts his statement to Coun. Brisson

Cochrane is one of the key ONR communities. Why isn't it at the table?
Minister retracts his statement to Coun. Brisson | Cochrane Times Post

Thursday, July 18, 2013

ONTC divestment could be costly for communities

While I have no doubt that First Nations communities will be the worst-hit should divestment continue, the status of the Polar Bear Express is unclear. According to initial reports from over a year ago, the government planned to safeguard the PBX. However, the overall lack of transparency throughout the divestment process does not make this reassuring. The longer this drags on, the more damaging it will be.
ONTC divestment could be costly for communities | Wawatay News

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Explained: GO Transit trains and buses get a makeover

After 47 years GO Transit is changing its paint scheme because... just because. Apparently the current logo doesn't look good digitally and since trains are of course figments of the digital imagination, we need to change them. I completely support the assertion that the repaint is not costing anything extra, but I wonder why GO is relinquishing what is a bold and recognizable scheme?
GO Transit trains and buses get a makeover | Toronto Star

Two calls for progress on the ONTC front

Nipissing MPP Vic Fedeli and Timmins James Bay MP Charlie Angus have both called for the Ontario government to make up its mind on the ONTC issue. Fedeli has announced the discovery of new documents that further reinforce the allegations that the government is misrepresenting the financial outcome of divestment. Meanwhile, Angus called the government (among other things) "closed-minded" for not realising the benefits the ONTC brings to the north.

The Auditor General's report into the divestment process will be released later this year. Until then, we will just have to wait for the government to make its next move.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

GO is Repainting

The Green and White: the most permanent symbol of mobility in the Toronto area (after the Red Rocket of course). However, it seems that GO Transit's iconic livery is about to change. Railpictures.ca user miketer has posted a photo which appears to show GO 607 and a bi-level car repainted into a new paint scheme. The new colours are similar to the Presto Card and do not look good on a train.

Why is GO changing its corporate identity? The current colours have remained untouched in over 30 years and have become a familiar and easily recognizable sight. What is going on?

Monday, July 15, 2013

GCA to commemorate the ONR’s last spike anniversary today

Some good ONTC news for a change. Today marks the 81st anniversary of the "Last Spike" on the ONR. Hopefully the government will realise that now is not the time to cut this valuable provincial asset. Happy anniversary ONR!!!
GCA to commemorate the ONR’s last spike anniversary today

Moose Cree artist shortlisted for Canadian arts award

Duane Linklater, creator of the powerful "The Chevrons" art installation currently on display in Toronto, has been shortlisted for the Sobey Art Award. Despite the heat wave currently plaguing the Toronto Area, I was able to see his exhibit last week. My two favourite elements were, unsurprisingly, "The Chevrons" which is incredibly powerful to stare at - the yellow is dynamic and energetic - and the display on the ONR's corporate identity.

If you are in the Toronto area, there is still time to see the exhibit. Best of luck with the award Duane!
Moose Cree artist shortlisted for Canadian arts award | Wawatay News

Saturday, July 13, 2013

My Book? Oh yeah, about that...

In case you hadn't noticed, I haven't said much about Call of the Northland recently. That doesn't mean that I haven't been hard at work writing, revising and researching. Well, actually, it does. Just as developments in the divestment process have slowed down over the summer, so have I. That said, I am hoping to complete another full draft in the next few weeks and get through some very heavy-duty research, notably on pensions.

Rest assured, there will be a book. However, just as the government no longer seems to have a timeline for its activities, neither do I.

Let me also take this opportunity to reiterate that if you have any information you feel might be of use in my work, please contact me (email is on the right-hand side of the screen).

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Ed Burkhardt: Titan du Rail

La crise à Lac-Mégantic continue et chaque journée les nouvelles s'empirent. C'est fort probable que le taux de mortalité surpasserait une cinquantaine de victimes. La cible pour toute l'émotion de la ville? Ed Burhkardt.

Burkhardt a eu de grands succès avec plusieurs chemins de fer. Le Wisconsin Central avait tant de succès que Burkhardt a pu acheter New Zealand Rail Ltd. en Nouvelle-Zélande. Lors de la vente de British Rail, Burkhardt a pu acheter la majorité du marché de marchandise et a fondé English, Welsh and Scottish Railway (EWS). Wisconsin Central a aussi acheté Algoma Central. Plus récemment, après l'achat du Wisconsin Central par CN, Burkhardt a fondé Rail World Inc., une entrepise qui inclut le Montreal, Maine & Atlantic.

En ce moment, l'opinion publique envers ce titan du rail est très négative. Burkhardt a décidé de ne pas quitter les Etats-Unis pour trop longtemps, ce qui a provoqué le sentiment qu'il n'avait aucune sympathie pour les victimes de cette tragédie. Le déraillement s'est passé tôt samedi matin, Burkhardt n'arriva sur scène que le mercredi, cinq jours après cette tragédie. En plus, le niveau de protection policière provoque aussi un sentiment de division entre la compagnie et les résidents de la ville.

Au début, Burkhardt a suggéré que les pompiers à Nantes ont causé la fuite du train. Plus tard, Burkhardt a changé d'idée, accusant le conducteur du train d'avoir mal-géré les freins. Aucune enquête n'est terminée, et ses accusations sont prématures et franchement méchante.

Un autre fait intéressant: la tragédie au Québec est similaire au déraillement qui c'est produit à Weyauwega au Wisconsin en 1996. Dans cet accident, un train du Wisconsin Central (la compagnie dirigée par Burkhardt) à déraillé, causant l'explosion de plusieurs wagons-citernes de propane et du gaz pétrolier. Le risque d'autres explosions a provoqué l'évacuation de la ville au complet pendant 16 jours. Contraire au Lac-Mégantic, le déraillement au Weyauwega n'a causé aucun mort. Je ne suggère aucun lien entre les deux incidents, mais les similarités sont très intèressantes.

En attendant cinq jours, Burkhardt a détruit sa réputation dans la ville, un fait qui va rendre la guérison du Lac-Méganitic beaucoup plus difficile.

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Canada's Rail Mess

Anyone who only started following Canadian railway developments in the last fortnight would be forgiven for thinking that the country's railways were facing the apocalypse. In the last two weeks, three major incidents have made headlines and portrayed rail transportation in a bad light.

Two weeks ago, the city of Calgary narrowly missed a major environmental disaster when tanker cars derailed on a bridge damaged by the recent flooding. Thanks to the slow speed of the train at the time, there was no serious environmental damage or injuries.

This past weekend, a runaway freight train derailed and exploded in the Quebec town of Lac-Mégantic. To date, 13 people are confirmed to have died and at least 40 are still missing. This incident has provoked widespread fear-mongering in the media, who are misrepresenting the transportation of crude oil by rail. CBC has claimed that oil trains regularly travel through Toronto, which is correct, but they used the Union Station Rail Corridor as a backdrop to the story. This line has one freight train per day, which operates at slow speed. The story also featured the tanker sidings at Clarkson, yet did not mention the massive Petro-Canada refinery adjacent to the tracks (which would pose a much larger threat). Indeed, the very train involved in the derailment did pass through the GTA, but with different locomotives and a different crew (CP rather than Montreal, Maine & Atlantic). While safety standards should be constantly reviewed, it is unfair to make rail appear more dangerous than it is. Imagine the damage if a buried pipeline had exploded in the middle of a town - it would have been very similar.

Just last night, Toronto received its highest-ever amount of rain in one day: 126mm (beating Hurricane Hazel's record by 5mm). Among the flooding incidents, a Richmond-Hill GO Train was stuck near Pottery Road with water as high as the coach mezzanine level. It took over six hours for rescue crews to remove the passengers using boats.

Bad things often happen in bunches, but Canada's railway have taken more than their fair share of hits recently.

Sunday, July 07, 2013

Lac-Mégantic en Flammes

Samedi matin, un train du Montreal,  Maine & Atlantic a déraillé en plein milieu de la communauté du Lac-Mégantic. La plupart des 73 wagons étaient des wagons-citernes transportant du pétrole brut. Quartres des citernes ont pris feu et environ une quarantaine d'immeubles dans la ville ont été détruit. Dimanche matin, on constate au moins trois morts et une soixantaine d'habitants dont les autorités n'ont pas encore pu les contacter.

Selon les témoins, le train roulait à grande vitesse lors du déraillement. Selon le M,M&A, il n'y avait pas de conducteur car l'équipage avait garé le train pour la nuit. Il semble que cette tragédie sagit d'un véritable "runaway" ou plus précisement un "coaster" car les locomotives ont été éteinte pour la nuit.

Il faut critiquer les médias pour leur emphase sur les "trains automatiques". Si on croit Radio-Canada et TVA, les trains au Canada peuvent rouler normallement sans conducteur. C'est faux. Bien sûr, il existe des locomotives téléguidés dans les gares de triage, mais le conducteur marche à côté du train et les vitesses sont très sécuritaires. En plus, les médias constatent que certains wagons sont équipés d'un système qui leur permttent de rouler sans équipage. C'est faux. Les wagons en questions sont équipés avec des contrôles identiques à ceux d'une locomotive. Ces wagons permettent au conducteur de mieux voir pendant que le train recule. En tout cas, un conducteur est présent. Il n'ya pas de trains magique dans ce pays qui roulent sans contrôle humain.

Cette tragédie à Lac-Mégantic nous rappelles que les trains présentent un risque n'importe où. Ayant dit ceci, le rail demeure un des moyens de transport le plus efficace et sécuritaire jamais conçus.

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

ONR cuts Kapuskasing positions

According to Al Spacek, these cuts are not related to the divestment. They do, however, demonstrate how fragile the economic situation in northern Ontario is without the government causing more uncertainty by playing with the region's transportation.
ONR cuts Kapuskasing positions | Kapuskasing Times