Saturday, April 18, 2015

September 27, 2014 - Part 1

I'm going back into last year's photos for this one. I'm surprised I never posted this before, actually.

I awoke early on Saturday, September 27, 2014. I wanted to go photograph the sunrise at the grain elevator at Meadows just outside Winnipeg before heading to the model train show. I was hoping to catch a train by the elevator as well. As it happened, I got everything I wanted, and more!

When I arrived at the elevator, the sun hadn't broken over the horizon yet. I decided to start on the north side of the elevator, a side I hadn't photographed much.

The first thing I noticed was the incredible number of swarming, biting insects. You would think that after all of the elevators I've shot, I'd remember to bring bug spray... but no. I soldiered on, taking photos while batting flies away.

The sun came up.

I had to take a selfie, of course.

The bugs were pretty bad, but I was determined to continue, as the sunrise was just beautiful.
(you can buy this print)

At 07:55 the first train of the day came along, an eastbound led by CP 9628 and trailed by CP 8641.

The video will show how many bugs there were...

I took off in pursuit of the train, but I noticed very quickly that they were slowing down. They took the siding at Meadows (which is east of the actual town) to wait for a pair of westbound trains.

First up was CP 8551 West.
Since shooting into the sun strips most of the colour out of a photo anyway, why not process it as black and white?

The meet:

Here's the video:

CP 8551 West had CP 8932 behind it and CP 9804 DPU in the middle of the train.

The second westbound train was powered by CEFX 1032... just the one unit.

Here's the meet:

And the video...

Once 1032 passed on by, CP 9628 got the green light and throttled up.

By now I was out of time and so I headed for the train show. It was well organized and well attended. I had a good time walking around chatting with friends and looking over the tables. I scored a nice Bowser CP M630 for my tiny fleet.

After the show, I headed toward home. I had a bit of time left before I had to be home, so I drove alongside the CN Rivers subdivision. There I saw three trains, including a very interesting container train! More to come...

Friday, April 17, 2015

Spring Cleaning Sale

I'm cleaning house here at Traingeek Mansion. The following is a list of HO scale model train stuff, as well as some paper railroad items. Prices do not include shipping. Please email me at if you are interested! First come, first served. I prefer PayPal for payment.

CO 493374 86' boxcar, Kadee couplers - $10
CN 5075, dummy, Kadee couplers - $10
ACFB 52311, Kadee couplers - $6

CN 72952 caboose, horn-hook couplers - $4
Union Pacific shortie caboose, horn-hook couplers - $4
CP 1928 old-time boxcar, horn-hook couplers - $3
CN 669, rubber-band drive, one horn-hook coupler - $3

NIRX 232001 reefer, Kadee couplers - $5
RDC, rubber-band drive, no couplers - $5
CN 270 shortie flatcar, Kadee couplers - $4

RBOX 34627, unbuilt kit - $8

CNA 711816 autorack, Kadee couplers - $5
CN 79017 wooden caboose, horn-hook couplers - $4
SP 514002 open autorack, horn-hook couplers - $10

CP employee timetable #31, Saskatchewan Service Area 2004/07/19 - $5
Model Railroad Planning 2003 - $4

VIA National Timetable, January 15, 1990 - $4
VIA Atlantic Canada Services, April 30, 1989 - $3
VIA Quebec-Ontario Services, April 27, 1986 - $2

VIA Rail National Timetable, October 30, 1994 (2 copies) - $5 each

Railfan and Railroad, November 1999 - $4
Railroad Magazine, June 1974 - 75 cents!

Railroad Magazine, July 1976 - $1
Cliff Merritt's Scrapbook - 25 cents!

Japan Railway TImetable May 2009 - $1
Not a Sentimental Journey - $3
CN Operating Manual for Locomotive Engineers, September 1966 - $4

CN Trackside Guides 2000, 2001, 2004 - $4 each
CP Rail 10 Year Locomotive Program - $1

CN Engineman Training - $5
Rail Canada Volume 1 - Diesel Paint Schemes of the CN System - $10

Amtrak System Timetable, Fall 2005 - $4
Railways of Winnipeg Volume 1 - $5

Official Railway Guide, April 1983 - $2
Official Guide of the Railways, November 1970 - $3
Cooks Continental Timetable, May 1971 - $2

The Road to the Sea - $1
Montreal's Streetcars - $1

Thanks for looking!

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

10 Questions For Mark Perry

Railroad magazine used to have a regular feature highlighting an "Interesting Railfan". I thought I would run a similar series with some railfans who have agreed to participate. I'm asking each railfan 10 questions, some standard and some customized for the particular person. I hope you enjoy it.

Mark Perry is a professional railroader and a long-time railfan. His work has appeared in several places, including Greg McDonnell's great book Wheat Kings. Mark was kind enough to agree to be the third in this series (see all).

1. Tell us a little bit about yourself.

53 years old, father of two boys, born and raised in Winnipeg MB, work for CN as a locomotive engineer, been there 36 years.

2. What do you like to photograph besides trains?

Pretty much any subject that catches my eye, but I do shoot a lot of Ukrainian Churches across the Prairies.

3. Where’s your favourite place to railfan?

Anything on the prairies in Canada and the USA

4. If you could railfan anywhere, anytime, where and when would it be?

India, early morning or late evening in the summer.

5. What’s your favourite railway?

Nothing in particular but I do like shortlines and industrials the best.
GWWD and sunflowers. Photo by Mark Perry

6. When you were still shooting film, did you shoot slides or film? Why?

35mm slide film, either Kodachrome or Fujichrome. It was way better than grainy print film.

7. Did you ever experiment with video?

No, not really, maybe a little bit on my cell phone. I do not even know how to shoot video with my Nikon DSLR’s!!!

8. What’s the one thing you would recommend to any budding railfan?

If you can and you are safe to do so, always get closer to a subject. As well use a tripod for a large lens and never be afraid to try something different.  Everyone can shoot a "Plain Jane" photo, but it’s that one killer different image that always stands out in peoples' minds.

9. Does working for a railroad diminish or increase your interest in photographing trains?

I’m not sure. Working for the railway certainly got me opportunities to take photos that otherwise were unobtainable.

10. Do you have any projects you’re working on or planning for?

A story for Kalmbach’s annual LOCOMOTIVE magazine and scanning the Peter Cox slide collection.

You can find Mark at:

Thanks, Mark! Follow this link to see more "10 Questions" posts.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

10 Questions For Chris Mears

Railroad magazine used to have a regular feature highlighting an "Interesting Railfan". I thought I would run a similar series with some railfans who have agreed to participate. I'm asking each railfan 10 questions, some standard and some customized for the particular person. I hope you enjoy it.

Chris Mears is the second person I've interviewed with the "10 questions" format (see all). Chris is another railfan I have never met but I have been reading his blog Prince Street for some time and I really admire his modeling work and his blogging style. He has been quite active with producing 3D model railway designs. He very kindly answered my 10 questions below.

Photo by Steve McMullin

1. Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I never know how to answer this question. I was born in Ottawa but for most of my life I've lived in Prince Edward Island. I'm married and have two kids. Like many of my fellow Islanders I've lived a somewhat chaotic professional life that has, thankfully, often complemented itself. 

2. Why do you like trains?

Trains have always played such a strong role in my life and from such a young age that I don't think I ever had a moment where I discovered the hobby; it was just always there. My Dad had discovered the hobby of model railways a couple of years before I was born so I grew up in a house where I had regular exposure to the hobby. Railfanning and real railroading were interests that developed out of the initial model railways interest for the way they extended it. I feel like, for me, the hobby stands as my most proficient means of self-expression; it provides sanctuary during some of the more difficult times in my life; in a variety of ways, I'm grateful for those times when I could participate in this hobby and feel like I was part of something when I felt like I just wasn't anywhere else.

3. Where’s your favourite place to railfan?

I'm so envious of those folks lucky enough to go trackside on a regular basis. Living here on Prince Edward Island, getting trackside isn't always easy and tends toward sporadic. Though I harbor a strong affection for Canadian commuter railroading, when I go trackside lately it is seldom to see or watch mainline trains. I tend toward shortline and like styles of railroading. I really enjoy exploring what remains of the industrial trackage around Moncton. For many, many years now I can't imagine a trip to Halifax that didn't include time spent in Dartmouth to chase trains working past the Alderney Landing ferry terminal. Last year I started to really discover the Cape Breton and Central Nova Scotia and I've been making a stop at their headquarters in Stellarton a part of trips lately.
My friend Shawn Naylot and I were out chasing trains this day. I believe we chased this one in from Emerald Junction and at this point, the train is in Charlottetown and just behind the University of Prince Edward Island. Shawn pulled the car over at the crossing and we lept out. He knew what he was doing and remains a railfanning hero to me. I admired then and still today everything he did and so wanted to be like him. So focussed on the urgency of the moment I didn't realise the depth of the snow-filled ditch and in I fell. None of that slowed the train and I frantically crawled out. Snow covered and frozen I dug my old 110 film camera out of my coat pocket and tried my hardest, shivering fingers and all, to take the shot. You can see Shawn's excellent photo in Allan Graham's book. I took this one at the same time. Every time I see this one I remember that day and how grateful I am that Shawn included me on so many of those trips. It's a terrible photo from a technical perspective but it's the best I've ever taken in terms of representing a moment and who I am.

4. If you could railfan anywhere, anytime, where and when would it be?

My thoughts wander not far from where I'm typing this in terms of location but to another time altogether. Allan Graham's book includes a set of photos Bob Sandusky shot along the Murray Harbour subdivision of a winter mixed train working the western end of the Murray Harbour subdivision here on the Island. Trackside on that chase would be my first stop with that borrowed time machine. Sure it's January on the Island, but the promise of 70 tonners and mixed trains is too great to ignore. If I could really push my luck I'd probably move ahead a few months on my second trip to the spring to catch the first potato rush of the year. I'd love to know what it was like to chase work extras led by armies of 70 tonners trying to respond to the demand for refrigerator cars. Yup, in the end this question wasn't hard to answer at all.

5. What’s your favourite railway?

I grew up trackside along my Dad's N scale Sorry Valley Railway. I can't help but think that you were looking for a "real" railway but this was the one that taught me about railroading and it provides a lens through which I've interpreted everything I've learned since. 

You probably wouldn't have to hang around me for long to see a couple of strong contenders for this title in my many interests. I love railroading here on the Island and can't see ever tiring of discovering a new photo, story, or piece of paper. Reaching beyond the Island, I love Canadian commuter agencies like GO and AMT. As with Island railroading, these would represent the other major elements in my railroad photo and paper collection. Finally, and rounding out the pack are a few operations I'll never tire of: Maine's Aroostook Valley, New Hampshire's Claremont-Concord, Alberta's Central Western, and Saskatchewan's Southern Rails Co-op.

6. On your blog you talk a lot about the minutia of railroading. What interests you about that? 

I just take it for granted. Until you asked, I'll confess I'd never thought of my approach in terms of "why?"Almost more than any other of your questions this was the one that held me up the most and the one that I'm most keen to explore further. Since I can only hang onto this email for so long, I'll try and start my answer here and hope to learn more about it in the time to come.

I feel like, in model railroading, we often promote the design of the layout using the cliché of "model railroading is theatre where the trains are the stars and the layout, the stage". I love this metaphor but reducing it so simplistically just isn't enough for me. I feel like we need to do more for those actors and with that stage and treat model railway design as representing the relationships the railroad has with the world in which it exists. When I'm trackside I'm as absorbed in the total environment as I am the subject I've gone to see. I can't hear a vintage diesel shoving hard against its train without the sound of ties popping or rail squealing underneath. The combination of these elements becomes one and the same experience. I've been trying to find ways to model railroading during the time after its fate had been decided. I think this involves more than short trains and bad track but haven't figure out what it is either. 

7. You’ve been placing model railway designs on Shapeways for 3D printing. How has your experience with that been so far?

In a word: Exciting!

An example of Chris' work on Shapeways
3D printing has provided me with a means of producing a number of parts that I found difficult to make and also some that I always thought someone should make. Like no other opportunity, it's provided me with a near-perfect opportunity to marry my experience in design with my history in model railways. I can't begin to describe how proud I am of the product line and the reception it has received. I'm so thrilled to see my parts being used in others' models. I'm even more thrilled by the way they've played a small role in opening up new parts of Canadian railroading. Last fall, I had a chance to watch a HO scale RSC13 that Taylor Main built. That model used some of my hood parts and rode on trucks that used my 3D printed sideframes. The model looked amazing and was such a tremendous example of the potential that could be realized. (Chris' store)

8. Do you think model railroaders need to be amateur historians as well?

I don't think it's an option. I think we approach this question from the purely prototype modeling movement and qualify our relationship with it in those terms. We group ourselves by labels like "freelancer" or "prototype modeller" and the rest takes care of itself. I believe that history is itself a record of what we were and the story we're writing about how we got to where we are today. Everything we do contributes to that thread including that which we create. Despite our best efforts to avoid it, we create a history layer the moment we start building the model railway. Everything we do represents a point in our lives and growth we experienced. It doesn't take long for us to look backward and reflect on the history of the model railway layout itself. Going beyond the layout's construction and this direct history, the story we're weaving into that miniature world evolves with time too. Again, we create history. We install scenes on our layouts, like "women hanging laundry" or a working coal mine and regale in showing those off to our friends and those visiting. It's then that we become the storytellers that historians do as well. Finally, we build a layout to inspire memories of our own past. Even if we never directly recreate that, we are injecting history into our work. I don't think it's much of a leap from the history we're creating to the historical work we're trying to avoid.

9. Can you share any projects you’re working on, e.g. future Shapeways plans or books?

I feel like I'm always starting out on a new layout venture. For me, each one has been a fun exploration of a concept or idea I felt I could only explore through the medium of the layout. That said, I'd like one of these ideas to hold enough promise to have it inspire a maturation in its execution. I worry I'm undermining the potential of the hobby in terms of those who see my work never reaching a more traditional level of completion. With so much of myself invested in these concept pieces, I need to produce some completed work. I want this for myself.

I keep imagining ways to grow my small product line on Shapeways into other production methods that extend the work I've completed so far. My Shapeways production has focused on supporting Canadian model railroading. It's a wonderful platform for short-run work but it is limiting in terms of production and media. I really want to better formalize my contribution and would really like to see the platform I'm building flourish into a proper company offering finished models. I'm at a point, professionally, where I'm ready to reconcile my day job with my experiences from the hobby industry - it's just finding the right balance. I'm excited about the progress firms like Rapido and True Line Trains have made and I'm eager to be a part of that conversation. 

I've had so much fun working on my Prince Street blog over the last five years. I feel like I'd like to extend past the blog and see where it could go. I don't know how to navigate that evolution but I want to extend some of the blog's threads into something more formal. I'd love to explore things like podcasting or even publishing.

10. Video or still photography?

This is difficult. I don't think we're comparing two equals.

I'm attracted to video for the way it creates a record of the entire scene. It extends photography in a way no other media can. I recently watched some Youtube footage shot along the Sandy River Railroad. It was silent and in black and white but still brought to life Maine narrow gauge railroading in a way I could have never imagined. It was exciting.

I believe photography asks more of the viewer and in each photo I see more than the subject. We have the photographer trying to frame a story they're trying to expose and in the resulting frame we have something we can share in. Where video can show me in real time how a scene evolved that photo asks me, as the viewer, to make the extra effort to build the story around the scene in a less passive way. 

I think that both have the potential to complement each other. As I mentioned above, archival film stitches together my interpretation of the photos and stories I've collected. In some ways, perhaps it validates my interpretation of that story. I don't think it's the medium that I prefer, but how the artist chose the appropriate one to communicate that story back to the audience. If they chose the right one I'll "get it" and that makes it the right one for me too. 

To see more of Chris, go to:

Thank you, Chris!

Read more "10 questions" interviews.

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Sperry Rail Vehicles

SRS 870 in Saint John, NB
If you've spent any significant amount of time railfanning, you've probably seen one of these vehicles on or near the rails. Sperry is a leader in the rail inspection business and has been performing rail inspections since 1928. They perform induction and ultrasonic inspections to detect defects inside rails before they cause a major failure of the rail.

When Sperry started, they refitted old passenger "doodlebugs" with their induction equipment. I presume this was done because the doodlebugs were ideal platforms, being self-propelled with a large empty interior space.
SRS 136 in Calgary, Alberta
SRS 863 at Diamond outside Winnipeg, Manitoba
In recent years their rail-mounted trucks have become more prevalent and I heard all of the rail-only vehicles have been retired... but I'm not convinced that's true quiet yet. I'm sure the doodlebugs were getting old, and trucks are easier to get to locations because they can switch between road and rail with ease. Also I expect the equipment is getting smaller so large vehicles are no longer required.

Closeup of SRS 863
The very first "doodlebug" Sperry vehicle I photographed was at Valjean, Saskatchewan between Chaplin and Parkbeg. It was during a blizzard and I happened to spot it rolling west on the CP main line. We pulled into the tiny, tiny town of Valjean and I photographed it at the crossing.
SRS 144 at Valjean, SK
SRS 144 at Valjean, SK
The next one I photographed was SRS 119 in the CP yards here in Winnipeg, around Christmas 2004.
SRS 119, Winnipeg
I captured SRS 136 (see top of post) in Calgary, Alberta just outside Alyth yard. I see a couple of other people did too.

The last "doodlebug" I photographed was SRS 131 in Kamloops, BC in 2013. I think it's more or less permanently parked there.

Jeff Keddy photographed SRS 138 in service near Rosser just west of Winnipeg on the CP main line back in early 2011.
SRS 138 near Winnipeg. Photo by Jeff Keddy.
Here's his video:

The most recent "doodlebug" photo I found was this one of SRS 125 on Railpictures from 2014.

Get used to more of these...
SRS 971 outside Winnipeg
I see them a lot around Winnipeg, either parked at their favourite hotel on the south end of Pembina Highway, or out on the rails. Often I don't bother photographing the trucks but I'm glad they are out there doing their thing to help keep trains safe.

More information:

Monday, April 06, 2015

2001: A Chaplin Meet

I was going through some old prints of mine when I stumbled across these photos. I knew they were taken in Chaplin, Saskatchewan and fortunately I had scrawled the date (August 11, 2001) on the back of the prints.

I recall we were returning from Moose Jaw when we spotted a military train heading west toward Chaplin. I grabbed the train coming into the town here.

Nice wave from the conductor!

Note the "dual flags" unit leading and the St. Lawrence and Hudson unit trailing.

I don't know which country's military owned this equipment. I see it was marked for KFOR (the Kosovo peacekeeping force) but it doesn't look Canadian to me. I could be wrong.

The majority of the equipment was on flatcars. A set of autoracks was on the rear of the train, presumably holding the smaller vehicles.

They took the siding when they passed me, to meet an eastbound freight train led by CP 8521 and CP 8543.

Nice wave from the engineer of this train! There were friendly train crews in Saskatchewan that day.

PS I know the colours on some of these prints are a little "off". I fiddled with the white balance in Lightroom but I can't get them looking realistic so I elected to leave them as they were on the print.

Further reading: