Saturday, October 22, 2016

CN 406, Times Two

After missing CN 406 (see previous post "Saint John Railway Scenes") I tried again on the next two days with some success!

These days CN 406 leaves Moncton in the early afternoon, arriving in Saint John late in the afternoon. They usually have a quick turnaround, dropping their cars and picking up the cars to go back to Moncton and onward. Since NB Southern does all the local switching in Saint John (except for the potash terminal), they don't have much to do and can get out of town quickly.

CN 406, The First

On October 12th I spotted CN 406 pulling out of the yard at about 5:40 PM. I raced down Rothesay Avenue (which parallels the CN line) and decided to get it at a little private crossing I shot at years ago (Gerry Drive, here)

I popped my 70-200mm lens on my camera and started shooting.
CN 5653 at Coldbrook, leaving Saint John
I stepped across the tracks to try the other angle. Keep in mind they were half a kilometre away and not moving quickly.
CN 5653 leaving Saint John
I hopped in my car and hit the road. I wasn't sure where I could catch them, so I fell back onto my own knowledge and headed for Hampton.

I like Hampton because it's not far from the highway, and it has a nice station there. I photographed it back in September 2011 after chasing CN 406 in the area.

I walked around a bit, looking for any angle that might feature a bit of fall foliage and yet have some light. With an eastbound freight at sunset, you don't have many options.

The fall foliage was really nice, though.

Eventually I decided to shoot at the main crossing in town, to grab a "coming" shot by the station and then get the lead locomotive just past the crossing with fall foliage behind it.

As the train approached, one car stopped at the crossing as the lights started... then darted across as the gates started to come down.


Way to go, GWD-361.

ANYway, here's the "coming" shot with CN 5653 passing the station. I was shooting with a low shutter speed (1/40s) because of the low light at 6:30 PM.
CN 5653 passing the Hampton train station
Unfortunately, I messed up the "going away" shot. Nothing's in focus.
CN 5653 blurring through Hampton
It was a short train and I shot the tail end too. This turned out better.
Tail end of CN 406 in Hampton
So that was CN 406.

As I returned to Saint John, the coming sunset was pretty special, so I searched for a spot to try to capture it. I ended up just upriver of the Reversing Falls bridge to capture this scene.
Sunset near Reversing Falls, Saint John

CN 406, The Second

In the afternoon of the 13th I learned that CN 406 left Moncton around 1 PM and was expected in Saint John around my quitting time. I left work and headed up Rothesay Avenue, wondering if I was too late. I decided to go to the Lafarge concrete plant just beside the highway (here) and hope I wasn't too late.

I had just arrived when I heard the horn of the approaching train. My camera was in the trunk and I didn't have time to get it out, so I jumped out of the car and snapped a few photos with my iPhone as the train passed.
CN 2326 approaching Saint John, NB
It had the same consist as the previous day (2326 - 8000 - 5653), but 2326 was leading because they were coming to Saint John this time.

After the (longish) train passed, I headed back into Saint John. To my surprise, I saw that 406 had stopped for a few minutes and then got started again. Maybe they had to throw a switch? I'm not sure why they stopped.

Regardless, this allowed me to get ahead of them and I took a video of the train as it entered the yard. Be warned, it's long, as the train was long and slow.

I was surprised that someone gave my video a "thumbs down". Who does that? :)

Every post needs a kitten
I didn't have time to stick around to see it leave, as I headed up to Oromocto to visit my mother. She had a kitten!

So that was CN 406, twice.

In my last post of this trip, I'll relate how I took some time between flights to railfan the Dorval train station in Montreal on the way home.

Until then...

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Saint John Railway Scenes

NB Southern #911
I was in Saint John, New Brunswick last week for work. I didn't have any specific plans for seeing trains, as I wasn't sure how long I would be working each day. As it happened, things went pretty smoothly so I did see some trains.

My plane landed in YSJ (Saint John airport) pretty much on time at 17:35, and fetching the rental car and luggage was quick. One big bonus of small airports is doing the renting in sight of the only baggage carousel!

I decided I would head straight to the former train station in Rothesay to photograph it with the fall colours. I had a hope in the back of my head that I could catch CN 406 passing by (to reproduce this), but I wasn't counting on it.

As I approached Station Road by the Rothesay station, I saw the last couple of tank cars on CN 406 roll by on their way to Moncton. Missed it by that much. You can't catch 'em all.

There was no point in pursuing them. It would have taken a lot of time to get back to the highway and the light was failing.
Fall colours and the Rothesay train station
At least I got the shot I wanted.

I headed into Saint John. As I drove along Rothesay Avenue, I spotted a set of locomotive headlights on the track leading to Courtenay Bay / Irving Oil / Irving Paper. I headed up and found GMTX 2226 working the crude oil terminal at Courtenay Bay. The sunset light was pretty sweet.
GMTX 2226 at sunset
I thought about staying to watch them switch, but I decided against it and continued on along past Island Yard. I was going to head to the NBSR Dever Road yard and see what was going on there before turning in for the night.

Imagine my surprise when I saw this excursion train at Harbour Station!
NBSR 9801 and an excursion train at Harbour Station, Saint John
I believe they had taken some people from a visiting cruise ship out for a spin. I saw a large cruise ship leaving Saint John that night.

In the photo above, you can see the crewman walking back to the cab. I must have looked pretty comical running back and forth as I wasn't sure which direction they were going. As it happened, they headed toward the Dever Road yard / NB Southern yard.

The train had NBSR 9801 with the three ex VIA Rail coaches (5448, 5471 and 5537) along with their "new" #508 and the Metis. NBSR 2317 was on the other end.
NBSR 508 and the Metis
The light was pretty low so I was shooting with a 1/20s shutter speed, meaning the blur was inevitable.

They took off and I gave chase. I decided I would try to catch them crossing the Reversing Falls bridge. I got to the Falls well before them, so I parked and ran up the hill to get a broad view of the bridge.

This was at 7:15 PM so the sun was already down below the horizon. Tricky light!
NBSR crossing the Reversing Falls bridge
I decided to stick to my original plan and headed to the Dever Road yard. I didn't think I would beat them there, and I was right. They were rolling under the Green Head Road overpass when I arrived.

I did managed to catch them passing the night switcher, NBSR 911. I like how this turned out.
NBSR 911 and the excursion train, by night
That was it for me for the night.

In part 2 I shared my catch of CN 406, twice.

Until then, you might wish to read about my visit to New Brunswick in 2011..

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

10 Questions for Matt Landry

This series is modeled after the "Interesting Railfan" series in Railroad magazine from years ago. I'm asking each railfan 10 questions, some standard and some customized for the particular person. I hope you enjoy it. (See all in the series)

I put 10 questions to Matt Landry, who is a railfan in New Brunswick, Canada. I've known Matt virtually for years and we've met in person a couple of times.

1. Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Well, let's see, I'm Matt Landry. I was born and raised on PEI. I lived in Ottawa for five years (8-13 years old) before moving back to PEI, where I lived until 2007. From there, I moved to the Saint John, New Brunswick area, where I still live 9 years later.

I work for Baxter Dairies (milk company). I've been there since 2009, where my job consists of sales and merchandising.

2. Why do you like trains?

Honestly, I don't really know why. My great grandfather was a flagman for CN on PEI back in the day, so my mom says it's kind of in my blood, even though I don't work for the railway. I guess people need to have an interest in something, and for myself, it would be the trains.

I was only seven years old when the railway was shut down on PEI, so I only vaguely remember trains while they were running on PEI. I really only started to get into trains again when I moved over to Saint John (check out the PEI Railway Facebook group, or the new site!)

I used to just pull over and watch the trains if I was stopped at a crossing or knew if one was coming. After a while, I realized, "hey, people are taking video and pictures of them", so that's where my love for the video/photo side of it started.

NBSR 6319 leads a passenger train to the Dragon Boat festival at Renforth, NB

3. Where’s your favorite place to railfan?

Honestly, I don't have a favorite spot to railfan. I've been getting more involved with photography over the last few years, so I'm constantly trying to find new areas to take photos. I guess I could say that the Moncton area would be my favorite spot, but the photo locations around Moncton always change.

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

I've always wanted to catch the CP Holiday train. Obviously closer to Christmas would be better, but I would also be happy to catch them shortly after they depart Montreal, i.e. Smiths Falls.

Another area where I'd love to railfan would be out in western Canada, more specifically, along the Rockies. There's so many great photos that come out of those areas, and I'd also want to hike around and try to find vantage points which haven't been found yet.
CN 8945 leads westbound train CN 406 through the fall colours near Petitcodiac, NB

5. What’s your favorite railway?

Unfortunately, CN, NBSR and CBNS are the only railways in my area. As much as I see CN on a more regular basis, my favorite railway would be the NBSR.

6. What’s your workflow for processing and sharing your photos?

I always take multiple shots of one scene when I'm out. For example, a short time ago, I chased the NBSR from Saint John to McAdam. In that 3 hour chase, I took about 30 photos, but I only choose about 5-6 to actually work with.

I shoot raw, so I pull the shots off the camera into Photoshop's "Camera Raw" application, which works amazingly well.

After editing, I bring my photos over to Lightroom, where I apply the watermark to my photos. Once this is finished, if time permits right away, I'll upload them to Flickr and submit them to
CN 2821 leads a B730 potash crossing the Salmon River Trestle at New Denmark, NB

7. How do you decide where to take your photos?

It just depends. I try to find spots where the lighting and scene is great, and I try to find a location that I haven't shot anything at for a while.

Sometimes I'll go back to a scene that I might have recently shot at, but I'll go to a different vantage point to try for something different.

8. Do you use presets with Lightroom or edit each photo individually?

I edit each photo individually. I'm always using different settings and different lenses, so I just find it's better to work on each photo individually, even if it does add a little bit of time.

9. What recommendations would you give to the intermediate railfan to improve their photos?

Try and get out of Auto. Shooting in manual actually isn't that hard, and it gives you WAY more control over your photos.

For a fast moving train, you want a faster shutter speed, and having the camera decide the settings can be fatal, especially if you've been waiting all day for your first shot or whatnot.

Even if you want to start with "Tv Mode", aka "shutter priority", that's something that you at least have control of. The last thing you want is a blurry train when you don't want it that way.

Oh, try and have fun. This hobby can be frustrating sometimes.
CN 3040 leads CN 120 through the fog at Fort Lawrence, Nova Scotia

10. What projects do you have ongoing or planned?

Not sure if you'd call this a project, but over the next little while, I'd like to start getting back into shooting video on a regular basis again.

At one time, video was my main priority, but it's taken a back seat to photography. I've only uploaded about 4 videos so far in 2016, so I'm hoping to get back into the video side of it again soon.

Thanks, Matt! To see more of Matt's work, check out his profile, his Flickr photos, his YouTube videos, or follow him on Facebook.

See all the 10 Questions series

Sunday, October 02, 2016

Three Views, One Train

CN 3021 passing Union Station in Winnipeg
I was down at the Forks in downtown Winnipeg on Saturday with my family. We were playing a little Pok√©mon Go and trying out the Pancake House restaurant for lunch.

After lunch, we decided to walk along the Assiniboine River around to the actual fork where it meets the Red River and then loop around to our parking spot.

Location 1 - the Forks Market Tower

I wanted to try shooting a train from the tower at the Forks so I let them start their route while I raced up the stairs to the top of the tower.

I was hoping that VIA 1 was still at the station but they had left more or less on time. However, CN was very kind and sent a container train along right on time. I scooted past a group of tourists and started shooting as the train passed Union Station and the maintenance crew on the north track.

The tower is good for getting a view of the downtown but the large roof area in the foreground is a bit distracting.

The "going away" photo was into the sun, so some significant image editing was required to get a passable photo.

A morning shot of an eastbound train would be nice from the tower.
CN 3021 crossing the Assiniboine River

Location 2 - Assiniboine River level

After the head end passed by, I trotted down the stairs and out to the Assiniboine River to get the DPU unit(s). How did I know there was a DPU? Well... one locomotive normally isn't enough to pull an entire container train by itself.

I waited at river level until I heard the roaring DPU locomotive, which turned out to be CN 2928.
DPU locomotive CN 2928 crossing the Assiniboine River
There are lots of tour boats around, and the river has been low enough for the docks to be in place. At times this area is flooded and the river walk is submerged.

I wasn't sure if there was going to be another unit on the rear, but I decided to change positions and find out.

Location 3 - Low Line Bridge

I went up on the Low Line bascule bridge that used to go to CN's East Yard, which is now the Forks tourist area. Incidentally, there is a detailed document on this bridge (PDF), built in 1914 for the Canadian Northern Railway.

The sun came out to play and lit up the buildings near the Fort Garry hotel nicely, as tail unit CN 2907 rolled over the river.
CN 2907 in Winnipeg over the Assiniboine River
That was the end of the train and the end of my train watching for the day.

See Also!

Saturday, October 01, 2016

Updates on Churchill

There have been a few developments for the port of Churchill, Manitoba since it was abruptly closed in early August, and rail service to the area by Omnitrax was reduced from twice weekly to once a week.

Churchill has exported around 500,000 tonnes of grain per year for the past several years, but the looming expiry of the Port of Churchill Utilization Program (CPUP) subsidy of $12/tonne of grain doesn't help the the future of the port at all.

Cash Injection

The federal government has promised $4.6 million in economic development funds to the town to help find other sources of jobs beyond the port. The funds are coming through Western Economic Diversification Canada, a government agency I'd never heard of before (they employ about 300 people and have a budget of about $155 million).

The government intends for local groups to identify projects to use the $4.6 million to generate jobs in the local economy. It appears that this may not be the only incentive coming from the federal government, as they indicated they have an "open door policy" and "in the long term are open to any ideas."

Support from the Province

The Manitoba provincial government has been low key on the Churchill port closure, and the reduction of railway service.

Ministers have travelled to Churchill, and the province announced a mild increase in support for tourism in the area. The major funding announcement from the province was a previously-planned $9 million marine observatory in partnership with the University of Manitoba.

Local Ownership

A consortium of First Nations has indicated a strong interest in acquiring the port and rail line. Arlen Dumas, chief of the Mathias Colomb Cree Nation, has indicated that the consortium has been talking with Omnitrax, the Denver-based owners of the port and railway.

These discussions have been reported on before in the media, so it's uncertain how serious they really are.


The union representing Churchill port workers, the Union of Canadian Transportation Employees, is calling on the federal government to create a port authority, similar to Saguenay, QC and Thunder Bay, ON.

The union has the support of local MP Niki Ashton, Honourable Member for Churchill-Keewatinook Aski. She is coincidentally the NDP critic for "Jobs, Employment and Workforce Development", which seems ideal for Churchill job stimulation.

Ms. Ashton has a petition on her web site that visitors are invited to sign online or download a copy to mail to her office.


There's a Twitter hashtag, #SupportOurPort, that was used in the summer to mark tweets about the port and the railway to Churchill. It hasn't seen much use recently.

What's Old is New Again

I was reading an old Branchline magazine from March 1987, and noted a news item where a former Transport Minister, Otto Lang, was stating that shipping grain through Churchill "is a costly mistake." Back in 1986, CN moved 608,000 tonnes of grain through Churchill, which was only 2% of Canada's grain exports.

See Also

Thursday, September 29, 2016

ARS Canada Rolling Stock Hiring

ARS Canada Rolling Stock acquired the assets of the former Industrial Rail Services / IRSI in Moncton back in October 2015, and they are now hiring. They intend to create 200 jobs in their first phase, according to ARS' CEO Arturo Contreras (CBC article).

They intend to produce 1,500 cars in their first year of production, an ambitious target. They intend to produce grain hoppers and tank cars.

Rail Cars

Canada's grain hopper fleet (the "Trudeau hoppers") is aging and many will need to be replaced in the next 10-15 years. ARS Canada intends to be in that market.
ARS Canada grain hopper drawing

Another market they are aiming for is the pending obsolescence of the DOT-111 tank cars. These cars, made notorious by the Lac-Megantic rail disaster, will no longer be allowed to carry crude oil in Canada after November 1. Tank car owners will need new TC-117 tank cars and ARS Canada has plans to be in that market too.
ARS Canada TC-117 tank car drawing

The Chinese Connection

ARS is reported to be a partnership between CRRC Meshan Inc. (a Chinese company also known as China Southern Railway or CSR) and CNR (China Northern Railway).

CRRC is the largest freight car manufacturer in the world, and is currently building 284 cars for Boston's subway.

I'm wondering if ARS will be using or adapting Chinese designs for its freight cars. This would lead to some unique new looks for Canadian railways!

IRSI, Reborn?

IRSI, 2003
They will be based in the former IRSI facility located at 299 Humpyard Road in Moncton. After IRSI went into receivership in April 2012, the facility dwindled and eventually closed.

ARS will have the main building, the former CN diesel shop, 125,000 square feet with 18 service bays, as well as the machine shop, paint shop and more.

I imagine many former IRSI employees will be applying for the open positions, so it may end up being IRSI 2.0.

Government Support?

There has been no announcement yet from the province, but I imagine there has been some subsidies and/or loan guarantees promised by the NB government. The government lost $20 million from loans and loan guarantees to IRSI, so let's hope this doesn't happen again with ARS.

The Future

Keep an eye on ARS in the next few months. Currently ARS doesn't have much of an investment beyond buying the IRSI facility (no doubt at fire sale prices). I imagine they will ramp up quickly if and when they get a contract to build new cars, or service existing rail car fleets.

I wish them well!

Monday, September 26, 2016

A Different Perspective

"It is a narrow mind which cannot look at a subject from various points of view." - George Eliot, "Middlemarch"
I've photographed VIA Rail's Canadian in Winnipeg many times... 131 times at the time of writing. That's a lot!

I've shot the eastbound Canadian, at many locations along its route out of Winnipeg, but there are a couple that I have shot at many times.

St. James Junction

VIA 1 passing a CN container train
When I first moved to Winnipeg I often photographed it at or near St. James Junction, because that was close to my office and I could spend my lunch time trackside catching VIA 1 and whatever else came by.

It was great because it was close and also because you could also see BNSF and CP there at times.


The Canadian approaching Diamond
Once I started working from home, that became less convenient and I opted to shoot VIA 1 at or near Diamond, just west of Winnipeg on the Rivers subdivision.

I've written about Diamond a lot (even recently) and it is certainly my "go to" location.

Scratching the Itch

This past Thursday, I had the itch to try something different. I feel a bit stuck in a rut, creatively speaking, so I wanted to go to a new location that I'd never tried before. I pulled up Google Maps and looked at the route of the Canadian from Union Station downtown through Winnipeg and out past Diamond.
Route of the westbound Canadian through Winnipeg
The Canadian leaves Union Station at top right and rolls along the Red River, past Fort Rouge yard and the VIA Maintenance Centre, through Portage Junction, then past St. James Junction and Carman Junction out of the city. Around mile 10 (where they pass under the Perimeter Highway) they usually put the hammer down and accelerate up to 60+ MPH and pass Diamond and hurtle westward to Vancouver.

I feel I've covered that stretch from Diamond east to Portage Junction very well - maybe too well. There is a little bit between Waverley Street and Portage Junction that I haven't photographed much, but honestly I have tried it and I am not really that impressed by the possibilities there. 

A New Hope

How about here??
I did notice an intriguing section of track just south of Union Station that I had never photographed at before.

There is a walking path between the tracks and the Red River that seemed to come pretty close to the tracks, and it would be on the east side of the tracks for morning photography.

I asked on the RailsMBSK Facebook group and people seemed to think it was an OK location, but I was warned that there is a fence between the walking path and the tracks. 

Sunlight... Camera.. Action

On Thursday I arrived behind the Mulvey Flea Market off Osborne Street at about 11:15 AM. I parked, grabbed my camera bag, and walked down the path to check out the view.

There was indeed a chain-link fence between the trail and the track. It has a gate and it was wide open. I believe that fuel trucks use that gate to refuel locomotives here. I didn't go in.

I had prepared for this eventuality. I went back to my car and fetched a stepladder out of the trunk, then set it up by the fence and waited.

I had a few odd looks from the passing joggers and walkers, but that was it. As a railfan, I'm used to that.

It took about half an hour, but the first train was a big one. CN 3025 was leading what may have been CN 111.
CN 3025 approaching Subway in Winnipeg
I like the going away shot too.
CN 3025 approaching the Osborne Street bus rapid transit station

As I watched the containers roll by, there was time for a selfie.

There's always time for a selfie, right? ;)

I'm not quite sure what podcast I was listening to at that time....

The train had a mid-train locomotive, CN 2856.
CN 2856 in Winnipeg as mid-train power
Finally the end of the train came in sight, with a third locomotive pushing hard.
CN 2821 passing under the signal bridge
So that was exciting!

I picked up my stepladder and did a little more scouting, looking for different angles or better locations. I strongly considered a location further east, across from the apartment building visible above, but in the end I ruled it out. It wasn't bad but it didn't "feel" right.
Not quite
I went back to where I shot the CN train and waited for VIA.

I didn't bring my scanner - I hardly ever do - and so I was reduced to listening for locomotive noise and obsessively checking VIA's web site to see if the departure time for VIA 1 had been updated.

In the end my listening was what alerted me to the approaching Canadian, as VIA's web site wasn't updated in time.
VIA 1 leaving Winnipeg
Just a bit of fence in the shot...

I was being adventurous and recording video with my iPhone while snapping photos with my camera. I've tried doing both before, with mediocre results, but I felt confident that day for some reason.

I shot every car as it went by, to record the consist, and you can see my phone-holding hand in a few shots..
Taking video
Here's the video:

Like most Canadian photos, the going-away shot is just as good as the approach. Nothing like a PARK car to finish off a train!
Glacier Park on the rear
That was all of the time I could spend there, but I was pleased with the location and pleased with my photos. It's definitely a spot I could return to!

If you're interested, I posted some photos of the Manitoba Mega Train Show on one of my other blogs... lots of model trains and a great show!