Turkey vultures soar high above, while the only sounds disturbing those of nature are that of a combine working in a distant field and the occasional golf cart rumbling over the steel bridge linking the two halves of the course that is split by a pair of well-used steel rails. The golf course occupies what was once prime farmland in an area best known as Scotch Block, but is simply known by train crews and railfans as Mile 30 of Canadian National’s Halton Subdivision.
In the distance up the line, the approach signal suddenly flickers from yellow to green in advance of an approaching eastbound freight. The fall colors on the curve here are beginning to fade, but are impressive nonetheless. It’s not long before a horn can be heard a few miles to the west, sounding for the crossing at the end of the double track at Mansewood; within a few minutes, the sound of a trio of General Electric road units digging into the slight grade fills the air. Three units are common for Train 422, considering it is the only eastbound through train on CN from the Niagara Region.
As the train passes, it kicks up a breeze that strips more leaves off the trees. As the last cars roll past, the sounds of the railway once again fade away, but it’s not long before another train will break the silence, as the advance signal only briefly changes yellow before changing back to red once more. Within a few more minutes, the sound of another train — this time, a westbound — begins to fill the air, revealing that there was a meet at the other end of double track at Speyside. Soon, Train 399 with a relatively new Tier-4 GEVO leading an older GEVO makes its appearance, blowing for the Number 10 Sideroad crossing before ducking under the golf course bridge and rounding the curve. The broken silence is only temporary though, and within a few minutes the sounds of the countryside will prevail once again.
It is not very often that old branch lines, especially lightly used ones, get a new lease on life and are upgraded with centralized traffic control. But there are exceptions from time to time, and Canadian National’s Halton Subdivision between Georgetown and Burlington, Ont., is certainly an exception…