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On the subject of weed spraying in Guelph.. on the Guelph Junction Railway.

By shost at 8:53 pm on Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Guelph has always been a very ‘active’ town – if you plan to do something, you will expect significant attention to detail from residents. Environmentalism also runs high, and it’s part of what makes Guelph unique.

When the Guelph Junction Railway announced weed spraying work which was to be done the week of May 23′rd, it surely hit the papers the next week with a roar. The simple fact is, the only reason it roared was the high profile nature of the advertisement – and the fact it was advertised – weed spraying has occurred on railways for almost as long as there have been herbicides and it’s now coded in law as a requirement.  As a former member of the committee that worked on GJR’s weed spraying policy, this is a sensitive topic that many will find controversial, but just be thankful that GJR and Council are as attentive to the interests of local residents – Federally Regulated railways ARE NOT and WOULD NOT give you this level of attention. They just load their weed spraying train and let it go. For example, CP just sprayed their entire mainline and branchline system throughout Ontario over the last two weeks. Did you know about it? Were you notified? Nope… and yes, the same chemicals that you hate to hear, “roundup” “kamex”, etc are used – these are federally regulated  - you can’t use anything else without  working very closely with government and little else actually works effectively. CN and CP both research and try alternatives… and none of it has taken off because none of it has worked yet. GJR has also done signifcant research with local groups (University of Guelph) to find alternatives and we were part of that process – it didn’t work and we had to pay people to manually, by hand, control vegetation as a result.

And the poor lady who takes ‘great care’ to run a pesticide free garden beside a railway for the last 40 years….. sorry to say, but 40 years ago railways used copious amounts of herbicides…  it’s what made the right of way so clear and clean – akin to what Hydro used on their rights of way also. (Do your homework on this one folks!)

Furthermore, the bottom line is if you don’t control vegetation – the roadbed deteriorates faster, leads to potentially unsafe conditions (Stopping a train on a weedy rail line is much more difficult) makes it difficult for crew or railway employees to walk on railway tracks (when necessary), makes it much more difficult to see bad rail or tie conditions,  and also controls the risk of BRUSH FIRE. Oh crud, someone said the Fire word. The newspapers didn’t !

You see, rail on rail contact is not without ‘sparks’ and small bits of dry brush quickly become tinder… you don’t want a fire beside your home, do you? If you don’t control the vegetation, that’s exactly what you’ll get.

Witness what happened in Milton this past April, these photos say it all folks:



GJR has a sound plan to manage vegetation and takes great care in meeting the unique needs of our residents. Be thankful that they do – because on other, larger railway lines, they just spray roundup and don’t take the care to notify you either other than a public notice on their website which you have to go looking for…..

- Steve

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About High Speed Rail in Guelph – implications of new regulations

By shost at 8:32 pm on Wednesday, May 25, 2016

This is an issue that affects all GO commuters from KW – the reason’s why Guelph’s tracks are slow is basically outlined here. High speed rail is now being used as the impetus for these improvements.

The Guelph Mercury/Tribune posted this article about the possibility of High Speed Rail in Guelph. It also touches on reasons why bypassing Guelph is a necessity. But they fail to go into details – and state

““regardless of the final high-speed rail alignment, the rail line (within Guelph) will need to be upgraded at some point in the future for safety issues and compliance with recently introduced Transport Canada grade-crossing regulations. Implications will be addressed in the future.””

Source: http://www.guelphmercury.com/news-story/6687999-guelph-high-speed-rail-stop-hinges-on-major-upgrades-at-level-crossings/

In the future? Doesn’t council deserve to know the implications NOW? Why are they supporting this and what will it cost? Who will pay for it?

In short, Transport Canada has legislated NEW crossing regulations that came into effect in 2014. Federally Regulated railway companies have seven years to comply with the act and upgrade existing crossings to the standard. Provincial or Shortline railway companies DO NOT have to comply with this act*. (See bottom of this post)

In short: Guelph Junction Railway does NOT have to make any changes due to this law (but they may make changes as they see fit, usually in the name of improving safety) – council should breathe a sigh of relief, this will save us some money as GJR improvements are 100% the cities responsibility.

But the Other railway in town – the Metrolinx/GO Guelph subdivision –  poses a major problem. Major changes WILL be required and we need to know NOW the high level implications. let’s go into more detail:

First, let’s look at Kent St:


Notice the proximity of driveways to the railway? And how roadways cross relatively close to public crossings? There are a large number of homes with driveways within 10 meters of the nearest rail.

Also on Yorkshire, there are homes VERY close to the public crossing:


“A public grade crossing where the railway design speed is more than 25 km/h (15 mph) must be constructed so that no part of the travelled way of an intersecting road or entranceway (other than a railway service road), is closer than 30 m (D) to the nearest rail of the grade crossing (see Figure 11-1).”

The speed limit right now is 15 MPH. In order to raise the speed limit, all Guelph downtown crossings at Yorkshare, Dublin, and Glasgow St would either

a) Need to be closed (at little relative cost other than the problems facing drivers going around the closures)

b) Or underpasses created (at great expense, about $10-20M each)

c) Or homes expropriated and demolished to comply with the law (all homes with driveways within 30M of any rail at a grade crossing on a mainline railway track)

d) Or the railway would have to be realigned  (which may be possible but only for about 5 meters – which may not solve much)

e) Or railway re-located outside of town (at a cost of hundreds of millions) or tunnelled (equally or  more expensive)

These are the facts – Edinburgh Rd will also be underpassed, at a cost of $20M, and Alma St would also have to be closed or underpassed.

Bottom line is every single crossing is due to be closed or changed in the above ways if we want any improvements to GO Transit, let alone High speed rail. Without this, high speed rail is simply not possible in Guelph and they will bypass the town.

Lay the groundwork now, Council, and be aware, this could be very costly. Keep in mind it’s very possible there could be shared or full funding made available for the work… depending on who funds it – Metrolinx may help as they now own the railway line, as well, whoever funds and builds the high speed rail project will also fund significant if not all portions of upgrades to make it possible.

While our city planners figure out the implications of this, now you have some fat to chew on.

- Steve

From the Transport Canada website:

Do the Grade Crossings Regulations apply to local railway companies?

No, the Grade Crossings Regulations do not apply to local railway companies.

Local railway companies include provincially-regulated shortlines, light rail transit, and tourist trains that operate equipment on federally-regulated tracks and infrastructure.

Crossing infrastructure, such as signs, bells, lights and gates, are the shared responsibility of host railway companies and road authorities

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VIA improvements coming to KW?

By shost at 8:33 pm on Sunday, March 6, 2016

There may be VIA improvements coming to KW:


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UPX Boondoggle? Taxpayer waste? Critics have it all wrong..

By shost at 9:59 am on Monday, February 29, 2016

Critics of the Union Pearson express have gone on record to say it’s a waste of taxpayer money, a white elephant, yada yada – wrong. Totally wrong. It cost $456 million (estimated cost as of 2010)  which sounds like a lot of money, but remember , this same amount of money would only buy you 20 KM of highway widening — today.

5 KM of widening of the 401 in Cambridge will cost $150 million


GO service to Kitchener in 2011 was added for only $18 million..

Highways are *expensive* by an order of magnitude more than railway/transit projects and you get far less bang for the buck. These widenings will only last a year until traffic is back to stop and go during ‘peak periods’ due to the fact highways.. are constantly under pressure and commuters will fill every inch of space on our overcrowded artery highways..

Investments in transit are the only way to provide meaningful, long term returns for our investment at a relatively low cost.

If you think $150M is a lot of money, what is the new Highway 411, 407 extensions costing Ontario Taxpayers? A hell of a lot more money than UPX.

And widening the 401 from Mississauga to Cambridge? Multi billions………..but spread over 20 years while commuters continue to deal with the headaches, save for those smart enough to use Transit.

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Metrolinx: get your shit together! Allow VIA to use Weston Station.

By shost at 10:06 pm on Thursday, February 4, 2016

This is just stupid.

Let’s see here – VIA already has the time-slots through the station – and a two minute stop can’t be accommodated.. WHY?

Make the necessary adjustments and let the TRAIN DISPATCHERS do the rest of the work! Our money paid for this, and there is no damn reason why it can’t be accommodated.


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CTC installation is now complete – what’s next?

By shost at 4:09 pm on Tuesday, November 17, 2015

The CTC project, at least from the perspective of crews operating on signalled aspects.. is complete..

At least, from Silver (Georgetown) To Ashland (Junction with CN at London) There are now signals to obey, with execption to a small segment at King St in Kitchener which remains OCS until the underpass/grade seperation is completed. (will be a year)

What’s next? More trains. that’s the promise anyway. The new Layover facility is under construction at Shirley Ave in Kitchener and once that  is completed, it is highly likely to see two additional GO trains per day in and out, which may occur by the end of 2016.

Will VIA Rail add more trains? I say it’s likely – VIA paid $25M for the CTC installation, and why? Why would they if they do not plan to do something with it. Keep in mind $25M would buy via a couple locomotives, a few passenger cars.. two to four Refurbished RDC’s, and yet via sunk the money into safety improvements on the Guelph sub, not Metrolinx, not GEXR, not CN, VIA.

So we’ll have to wait and see what VIA has in store. We know GO’s plans, stay tuned.

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High Speed Rail again in the news…. Toronto/Kitchener/London/Windsor

By shost at 8:47 pm on Saturday, October 31, 2015

Need I remind everyone that Kitchener-Guelph is the only corridor that goes by the Airport? Hence why this may still happen and why we’ll be the ones to see this happen, if it happens, ever.


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CTC nearly done – ETA end of October

By shost at 5:40 pm on Friday, October 16, 2015

The CTC project – which will improve safety as compared to Dark Territory/Radio Clearances, and increase density on the Guelph subdivision is nearly complete. Signals have been turned in the direction of travel, but at this time, signal numbers are all boarded up, on purpose, until commissioning day.

You see, if a signal is ‘extinguished’ you must treat it as a stop and do not proceed sign until released by the RTC. But no signal number, no signal, thus the rule is avoided ;)

At any rate, crews on the ground indicate end of October is likely…. why is this important? It will lead to increased service for GO and possibly even VIA – without CTC the Railways would have said no.

And it avoids the potential mistakes that can occur in dark territory:



Note: Thamesville was caused by an improperly reversed switch, in CTC it is the theory this would turn signals to RED giving engineers a warning the next signal up. The near head-on derailments on GEXR are alarming, but part of that problem was procedural, which has been fixed due to installation of radio towers and repeaters, and implementation of better procedures for acknowledement.

Derailments and accidents occur in CTC… which is why PTC is the big push now.. (for better or worse.. don’t get me started on PTC! the Jury is still out on this one!)

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A new look coming soon to your local GO Train service

By shost at 5:34 pm on Friday, October 16, 2015

GO recently unveiled a 100% new look – improved cab cars – providing the following benefits:

  • Much larger operating cabin for crews
  • Increased crashworthiness
  • Improved visibility (this should be obvious!)
  • Apparently, these cars come with technology that the older (as old as ’78) cars do not have, such as Wifi Antennae, etc – but I don’t have the tech specs from Bombardier :)

A photo taken on the Lakeshore line – on the second day of service for this cab car. Watch for it on the Kitchener line:


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Back to the Future: when rails ran down Caroline St in Waterlo

By shost at 1:13 pm on Thursday, July 9, 2015

Here’s a Back to the Future moment: While Waterloo residents wait for construction along Caroline St to complete, to  see new shiny LRT rails, for nearly 100 years rails had previously existed along Carline St, which existed until around 1994.


Above is  a photo  by Bill Thomson of Guelph, taken in 1971 showing a Canadian Pacific locomotive switching cars into the Seagrams distillery along Caroline St. This photo is somewhat unique – while I know of a few photos in books or other publications, this is the only photo of the Caroline St rails that presently exists on the Internet. (Anyone  with classic rail scenes like this are encouraged to consider sharing to railpictures.ca)

Back to the future? That’s where Waterloo region is going by re-installing a LRT transit system – Waterloo had two rail transit systems in the early to mid 20th century – Streetcars until 1946 along King St in Waterloo  and Kitchener (with a branch to Bridgeport and the CN Station) and the Grand River Railway, as pictured in Bills photo after passenger service ended in 1955 but continuing to be used by freight trains. The CP Owned Grand River Railway is still providing freight service today, thanks to the Toyota Cambridge plant, for transport of automotive products throughout North America and some for Export elsewhere. The Grand River Railway presently runs between the CP Galt station and Block Line Rd in Kitchener, the remainder from near Block Line Rd to downtown Waterloo was removed in 1994. Stage 2 ION LRT plans show use of the Grand River Railway from Fairway Rd to Preston as part of the implementation, but it is this authors opinion Toyota is here to stay and by then, ION will have to build their own right of way alongside CP to achieve their goals.

What if.. the Grand River Railway wasn’t ripped up and we still had Streetcars in KW. Look to the South Shore Interurban in Chicago for what could have been..

- Steve

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