Thursday, April 17, 2014

Grain Elevators of the Letellier Subdivision

I am embarking on a project to photograph as many Manitoba grain elevators as I can this year. So far I have photographed a bit less than 40 elevators but there are a bit over 100 that I have not seen yet. I've created a page / map to track them and I'll be updating that as I go.

As part of that I went out on Sunday, February 23 to photograph the grain elevators on CN's Letellier subdivision. You might recall that this sub runs from Winnipeg (Portage Junction) south to Emerson on the Canada-USA border. CN interchanges with BNSF just across the border at Noyes, Minnesota.

There are 6 elevators remaining on the Letellier subdivision:
  • Morris: Cargill (old and new) and Paterson (old and new)
  • St. Jean Baptiste: Private
  • Letellier: Pioneer
The line parallels highway 75, more or less, so it's easy to access. I set off with the kids in the morning and drove down to Morris. There are four elevators in Morris, two for Cargill and two for Paterson. I photographed the older Paterson elevator first.
Paterson grain elevator in Morris Manitoba

To be totally accurate, I had photographed that elevator a week prior when we went down to North Dakota. At that time I did a quick dash in to capture it and then kept on heading south.
Paterson grain elevator in Morris Manitoba

The new Paterson elevator is at the south end of Morris, and is much, much larger.
new Paterson grain elevator in Morris Manitoba

New Paterson grain elevator in Morris Manitoba

The new Paterson elevator is interesting in that it is served by both CN and CP. I'll show the interesting trackwork in Morris shortly.

The other elevator company in Morris is Cargill. Their old and new elevators are adjacent to each other.
Cargill grain elevators in Morris Manitoba

Cargill recently announced that they are going to expand this facility, from 10,000 tonnes of storage and 54 rail car spots to 30,000 tonnes and 100 spots. Exciting news for Morris!

Now, I promised I would talk about the track layout in Morris. Here is a map I drew to show how the track connects.

CN=black, CP=red. I hope this shows how both CN and CP can serve both Paterson and Cargill. Note that the CN Miami subdivision is just a stub and extends just far enough so CN can use it to shunt Cargill.

One interesting thing I saw on the CN Miami subdivision is an honest-to-god semaphore.

This might be the only "operational" semaphore in Manitoba.

The next elevator is the one in St. Jean Baptiste.
St. Jean Baptiste Grain Elevator

St. Jean Baptiste Grain Elevator

St. Jean Baptiste has a lovely, large church.

The final elevator on the CN Letellier subdivision is the Pioneer high-throughput elevator labeled "Red River South". It is located just north of the town of Letellier, which had a Pool elevator until its destruction in November 2006.
Red River South grain elevator near Letellier

Red River South grain elevator near Letellier

So ends our tour... I hope you enjoyed it, and expect to see a lot more grain elevators here this summer.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Black Trailing

I happened to see a few trains recently with a black engine trailing, so I thought I'd post about them.

On April 11 I was out on the Sprague subdivision, southeast of Winnipeg, waiting near Lorette siding to see what might come along. Eventually a mixed freight came rambling along, CN 344 with CN 2260 leading.
CN 2260 outside Winnipeg

The trailing engine was a Norfolk Southern engine, NS 8700, a GE C40-8. I'm told 8700 went to Melville on X401 and came back to Winnipeg on Q114 prior to this train.

I decided to head to the Dufresne grain elevator to shoot it there. I arrived well ahead of the train and got into position. After blowing for the crossing, CN 2260 led the charge past the elevator.
CN 2260 at Dufresne

Here's the black trailing engine. I love the look of those Norfolk Southern engines.
NS 8700 in Dufresne

344 was a general freight train with a lot of potash cars.

After that excitement, things were quiet for a while until CN 116 came along. This was an all Illinois Central train, with IC 2712 leading.
IC 2712 at Dufresne

The black trailer in this case was Illinois Central 1036.
IC 1036 at Dufresne

After realizing that both trains had trailing black engines, I decided to go back into my photo archives to see what other "trailing black" trains I've photographed. Surprisingly, there have been a lot. These Illinois Central SD70s have been fairly common around Winnipeg and they do not lead. I found close to a dozen trains with black IC trailers and I'll share a couple here.

This was another all-IC train back on November 29, 2011.
IC 2723 in Winnipeg

I took a grab shot of this westbound CN freight on October 17, 2013, with IC 1028 trailing.
CN 5799 and IC 1028 in Winnipeg

I'm sharing this one even though it's a bit of a cheat (the black engine isn't trailing exactly), but because it's one of my favourite train photos. This was shot on Louis Riel Day in 2010 (blog entry).
Wisconsin and Illinois Central together

PS hey, did anyone see the lunar eclipse a few days ago? I was crazy enough to get up in the middle of the night to take some photos.

That little dot above the "blood moon" is Mars.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

The Napa Valley Wine Train

My wife and I were in northern California recently. I was there for a conference in San Francisco and we decided to have a little vacation and see the redwoods. We went north to Eureka and spent a few days touring. The redwoods are amazing and so are the coastlines. Eureka is the northern end of the defunct North Coast Railroad and there are several Geeps rusting away in Eureka. I think the closest engine was a GP7 and the rest are GP9s.
Ex Southern Pacific 70 in Eureka California

We spent a few days in and around Eureka and then headed down to Napa. I wanted to see the ex CN FPA4s on the Napa Valley Wine Train. As it happens, we caught up to the Wine Train as it was heading back to Napa. It does not go very fast so we were able to leapfrog it a few times.
NVRR 71 in Napa

I tried to include the surrounding scenery with the Wine Train.
NVRR and the Wine Train

Fortunately there were quite a few vineyards. NVRR 71 and 70 were the power.
NVRR and the Wine Train

I took one video of the train going by.

We left off the chase after that, as I didn't want to subject my wife to any more railfanning while on vacation. :)

I did go visit the shops later that evening to see the other engines. I stored the photos here in a gallery and recorded some information about the Wine Train on my web site.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Foreign Power on the Emerson Sub

CP 6029 at Grande Pointe One Sunday morning (March 9) I decided to go spend a couple of hours railfanning here in Winnipeg. Nothing was going on and it was a reasonably nice day to get out of the house after a long winter. I did a little tour of the Symington yard area and saw a few trains - nothing special - then went around the Perimeter Highway toward home. As I crossed the CP Emerson subdivision, I saw a headlight to the north, indicating a southbound train.

I hear these trains from my house, but it's rare that I actually photograph one. Sadly I live too far away to see tracks from my front steps! I had to photograph this one. I headed south on St. Anne's Road and then cut back to the tracks on Prairie Grove Road. There's a crossing there, but I figured I had time to get on the other side of the Floodway to shoot the train with the the bridge. I kept going on Prairie Grove to highway 75, then a quick jaunt south got me to winding Hallama Drive, on the south side of the Floodway.

The problem with Hallama Drive is that there is nowhere to park when there is lots of snow on the ground. I pulled over as much as I could, put the 4-way flashers on, and nobody came along... except the train.

As it pulled out of the trees and into view, I was amazed to see a CP SD40-2 leading two CSX engines.
CP 6029 CSX 442 CSX 861 Winnipeg

It made a fine sight crossing the desolate snow-covered landscape.
CP 6029 CSX 442 CSX 861 Winnipeg

They were not going very fast, so I took quite a few photos. I thought I might be able to get ahead of them relatively quickly, so I headed south down highway 75. The CP track diverges fairly sharply from 75 right away, so I wasn't hopeful for a quick catch, but I figured I could go all the way to Niverville if necessary.

I don't know the area but I decided to try cutting back in fairly quickly. I drove toward what I thought was the track direction, and I came to a crossing and found the train stopped there. It turns out they were going to enter the 8,327 foot siding in Grande Pointe. But first, a little shovel and broom work was required to get the switch to move. Both crew members were on the ground digging away. They yelled to me to pick up a shovel and help! Fortunately they were joking...
CP 6029 at Grande Pointe

I took the opportunity to photograph CP 6029, CSX 442 and CSX 861.
CP 6029 at Grande Pointe

Once they were done clearing the switch, they lined it for the siding and slowly crawled forward. I took a few snaps and then took video from the crossing.

I hope they had a good trip!

Monday, March 17, 2014

BNSF Runthroughs

I mentioned in a previous post that I saw a BNSF engine on the Canadian side of the border at Emerson, Manitoba, and that BNSF has started running power through into Manitoba. I'm going to talk a bit more about that now.

BNSF Manitoba services a number of industries in Winnipeg. One of their major industries is the Paterson elevator at Lilyfield, at the northwest corner of Winnipeg, off Inkster Boulevard. I mentioned this before.
Paterson grain elevator in Winnipeg

Here's a Google Map view of the area.
The "racetrack" in the middle is the loop track serving the concrete Paterson elevator. It is reachable by CN from mile 11.0 of the Oak Point subdivision (shared with the nearby Prairie Dog Central at this point) and by CP from mile 8.3 of the Carberry subdivision. The odd thing is that BNSF Manitoba has the contract to serve the elevator.

What has happened in the past is that CN brings the traffic up to the Fort Rouge yard on CN 533, then either CN takes it from there to Lilyfield using running rights over CP, or BNSF Manitoba takes it from Fort Rouge to hand off to CP who takes it the rest of the way.

What is happening now is that BNSF is occasionally running unit grain trains with their locomotives on the train to Noyes, Minnesota. There it is picked up by CN crews and run up the CN Letellier subdivison as CN 533, onto the CN Rivers subdivision/CN Reddit subdivision to Symington Yard. There the engines are put on the other end and it proceeds to the Paddington interchange in St. Boniface onto CP track, through the CP yard and the CP Carberry subdivision to the CN Oak Point subdivision. It is run by CN crews in Manitoba the entire way. Thanks to Mark Perry for the information.

On Saturday I was heading west on the Bishop Grandin Boulevard when I spotted a train (CN 533) heading slowly north on the CN Letellier subdivision. I took Pembina Highway north to try to get ahead of the train. I went all the way up to Portage Junction before I spotted the power - 4 BNSF engines! A quick exit onto Jubilee to Osborne did the trick, and I was able to get to the area near the new rapid transit bus station before they did. After less than a minute, BNSF 7630 led the parade.
BNSF 7630 in Winnipeg
The engineer was kind enough to open his window to stick his arm out and give me a wave. I appreciate that!

Next was BNSF 5498. I saw this unit in Grand Forks back in 2010.
BNSF 5498 in Winnipeg

The third engine was BNSF 1007, with graffiti on the side. It's very rare to see an operating engine with graffiti.
BNSF 1007 in Winnipeg

Bringing up the rear of the consist was BNSF 4856. You can see the bus station to the right.
BNSF 4856 in Winnipeg

TaylorOver9001 filmed the same train just south of Portage Junction.

A BNSF unit train was first spotted on February 4 (photo in Morris, Manitoba). Another BNSF engine was spotted on February 12 just outside Winnipeg.

I understand there is a possibility that BNSF Winnipeg crews could be operating these unit trains in the future. In December 2013 the Canadian Transportation Agency ruled on an application for interswitching by Richardson International for their Red River South elevator outside Letellier, MB, based on a 1912 agreement between the Midland Railway and the Canadian Northern, predecessors to BNSF Manitoba and CN respectively. CN was ordered to interswitch traffic for the elevator at Emerson. I don't fully understand the ramifications except that interswitching rates are regulated and are lower than commercial rates, so CN would be paid less. CN has appealed.

I would love to read the details of the 1912 agreement. The CTA ruling has some interesting quotes which seem to imply that BNSF could haul directly from the Red River South elevator into North Dakota but could not do local switching along the route, nor bring traffic from that elevator to Winnipeg. Maybe it's good that I am not a lawyer.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

A Few Hours Around Grand Forks

My family traveled to Grand Forks, North Dakota a couple of weekends ago for a little shopping and to get away for a bit. As we approached the border crossing at Emerson, Manitoba, I saw a CN train at the Letellier grain elevator with a big engine (Dash-9?) and a GP38 for power. Just north of the border was another train with a single BNSF engine on it. BNSF has started running its power straight through into Manitoba on occasion.. more on that in another post.

On the morning of February 16, I went out for a couple of hours of railfanning. I went to the yard first to see what was around. On the west end, orange remote control engine BNSF 1730 was working the yard while green BNSF 2921 (GP39E) and 2082 (GP38-2) idled patiently.
BNSF 2921 and BNSF 2082 in Grand Forks

I saw a train rolling east through the yard up to the shop. It had BNSF 4163 (C44-9W), BNSF 7499 (ES44DC), BNSF 1531 (GP28M), and old friend BNSF 3028 (GP40E) as the fourth engine.
BNSF 4163 in Grand Forks
BNSF 7499 in Grand Forks
BNSF 1531
BNSF 3028 in Grand Forks
BNSF 3028 was a familiar sight in Winnipeg for quite a while, as the BNSF Manitoba power.

Over by the turntable, three engines were arrayed quite nicely for viewing from the sidewalk. BNSF 3195 (GP50), BNSF 8168 (SD60M), and BNSF 1885 (SD40-2) provided a nice variety.
BNSF 3195, 8168 and 1885 in Grand Forks

After surveying the yard, I headed back west to the Amtrak station and saw a grain train disappearing down the line toward Fargo, and headlights to the west... what to do, what to do. I decided to go shoot the eastbound train. BNSF 962 was on the point.
BNSF 962 approaching Grand Forks

They were poking along so it was easy to shoot them twice.
A BNSF train approaches Grand Forks

Right after that, I headed down I-29 to try to catch up to the southbound freight train.Mile after mile went by and I finally caught sight of the tail end near Buxton and they went under the I-29 overpass just before I reached it. Too bad - that would have been a nice spot. I carried on to Mayville but I wasn't far enough ahead to take the exit, so I carried on to Hillsboro. I exited there and drove straight to the grain elevator to set up the shot. Soon enough BNSF 949 (in Santa Fe livery!) and NS 8140 came through this pretty little town.
BNSF 949 in Hillsboro

Love those thoroughbred engines!
Norfolk Southern 8140 in Hillsboro

I took a few more photos of the grain elevators in town, as well as caboose BN 11711 on display, then headed back north on I-29 toward Grand Forks. I saw a train coming south and it was the same train I saw approaching Grand Forks! Here it is again... BNSF 962, BNSF 9850 and BNSF 2284 were the power.
BNSF 962 approaching Hillsboro North Dakota

I always enjoy railfanning in North Dakota.

Monday, February 17, 2014

New Name For The MMA, and Tank Cars

DOT-111 car carrying crude oil
The Bangor Daily News is reporting that the new owner of the Montreal, Maine and Atlantic will change the railway's name to the Central Maine and Quebec Railway once the deal closes, probably by the end of March.

The excellent Oil-Electric blog has a good history of the rail line. He raises the interesting question of what power will operate the railway, given that the MMA is selling 25 locomotives to raise money. Perhaps the CM and Q will lease locomotives to start. or perhaps they have no intention of actually operating This filing to the Surface Transportation Board asks for an exemption for a non-rail company to own the CM and Q and operate essentially the same routes and serve the same customers as the MMA.

Speculation on the cause of the Lac-M├ęgantic runaway has focused on an insufficient number of hand brakes being set on the locomotives and freight cars (I thought that too). It has come to light that the MMA was repeatedly warned about not setting enough brakes - in 2004, 2009, 2011 and 2012.

I have a number of comments I'd like to make about Transport Canada's effectiveness, but that will have to wait for another time.

Meanwhile, Transport Canada is calling for increased tank car safety (but not requiring it) and Irving Oil is voluntarily upgrading the DOT-111 cars in its tank car fleet for increased protection. I'm told that they had a backlog of cars in Saint John due to difficulties with unloading in the cold temperatures, but the backlog is almost clear now. As non-upgraded DOT-111 cars are emptied, they will be shipped off to be upgraded.

EDIT: Added STB link, thank you JHansen!