Friday, August 15, 2014

No Oil For Churchill

Omnitrax has announced that they are suspending plans to ship crude oil by rail to the port of Churchill, Manitoba. Citing increased traffic in grain and construction materials, as well as input from various groups, president Merv Tweed said "we decided it wasn’t necessary or in our best interests to pursue this any further."

Tweed said they will have five to seven shippers using the port to ship upwards of 700,000 tonnes of grain, up from four last year shipping 640,000 tonnes.

One wonders if the recent derailments on the line were a factor too. You might remember the almost month-long closure in June. There was another derailment this week that has VIA ceasing through service between Winnipeg and Churchill until the line is clear. VIA is still running between Thompson and Churchill, and between Winnipeg and The Pas, but not through the whole line. I understand the derailment is near Cormorant, about 35 miles northeast of The Pas, and eight grain cars are on the ground.

Omnitrax left the door open to revisit crude oil shipments, but I seriously doubt they will be able to go through with any oil shipments without some serious investments in the line.


Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Railfanning Prince George, Part 4

I feel like I should have some clever Star Wars-like title reference, like Railfanning Prince George - The Skeena Comes Back or RPG - Now With No Ewoks. Anyway. Part 1, part 2, part 3 have trickled out and here is part 4, the grand finale.

After visiting the Prince George Railway and Forestry Museum (photo gallery here), I had some supper then walked over to the CN yard to await the two Skeena trains, VIA 5 and VIA 6. Of course VIA doesn't call them the Skeena any more. In their infinite wisdom VIA dropped the names from most trains several years ago, and now it's the "Jasper-Prince Rupert" train. I'll still call it the Skeena because passenger trains should have names. I guess I could call it the Rupert Rocket as some call it.

Anyway, I walked into the very nondescript VIA station to see if either Skeena was expected soon. The agent told me that they were both late but the one coming from Jasper was not very late. I asked it I could photograph it from the platform and she said, "as long as I don't see you," with no humour. So, no platform then. OK.

I walked to the western end of the yard and saw GP9 CN 7276, slug CN 262 and GMD1 CN 1440 doing some work a few tracks beyond a snoozing coal train. The coal train had CN 2812 and CN 2831 for power, two of CN's new ES44AC engines.
Two ES44AC engines in Prince George
I started walking back to the VIA station but the Skeena had already arrived and was passing me!
Hey, wait for me!
Not my best railfanning moment.

They pulled to the end of the yard, then backed into the pocket track and parked the train. A taxi quickly pulled up to take the crew off.
The engine was left idling away. Just FYI the consist was VIA 6459, baggage VIA 8613, coach VIA 8116, Panorama Dome Car VIA 1722, and VIA 8717 Waterton Park.

I ended up going to the overpass over the north / west end of the yard and photographing the yard from there in the sunset light.
I called it Roscoe P. Coal Train
You can see the VIA pocket track

The other Skeena was super late and I did not see it arrive. I did see one more train before retiring, a pair of engines on a grain train that pulled in from the west. CN 2205 and CN 2181 were the power.

Next morning (June 25), the two Skeena trains were nose to nose in the pocket track, as they were a few days earlier. The Prince Rupert Skeena had VIA 6420, baggage VIA 8606, coach VIA 8135 and VIA 8703 Banff Park. I didn't have time to fiddle around with getting a nice shot from the overpass so all I could do was take inventory and get to work.

That evening, I decided to go visit the former BC Rail yard. Now, I have no experience with BC Rail so I don't know what it used to be like, but it seemed very.. quiet. There were a lot of cars in the yard but no power other than an arriving CN train with CN 2164, CN 5463 and CN 2235.
CN 2164 in Prince George
After driving around for a bit, I returned to the main CN yard and found CN 8952 and CN 5511 at the head of an eastbound container train.
Crew change?
I decided to shoot them on the bridge and captured a few views of the train crossing the Fraser River.
Crossing the Fraser
View of the lift section and mill
That was the end of my railfanning in Prince George, as my flight on Friday was early in the morning. I did see a pair of L-188 Electra fire fighting planes at the airport.

These are beasts! Check out this YouTube video of an Electra in action.

That was it for Prince George. I hope you've liked the series... now I'll get on with reporting a few grain elevator trips that included some trains. If you like grain elevators, please visit my new site where I am posting elevator photos on a pretty regular basis.

Oh, and hey! If you're on Facebook, why not follow TraingeekImages and get a photo or two every day?

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Upcoming Manitoba-Area Train Events

Here are some train events coming up this summer and fall in and near Manitoba:
If you know of any other events coming up, please comment!

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Railfanning Prince George, Part 3

In late June 2014 I went to Prince George for a few days. See part 1 and part 2.

On June 25 I was able to visit the Prince George Railway and Forestry Museum for about half an hour before it closed. I was really interested to see it as I have no direct experience with BC Rail (or its predecessor the Pacific Great Eastern) and I wanted to see some of their equipment.

I have quite a few photos loaded in my Prince George Railway Museum gallery, but here are some highlights. The museum has a lot of interesting rolling stock in its collection.

One of the former Tumbler Ridge locomotives
Can I climb on the flanger?
Two of the three CP pieces here (the other is a steel caboose)
They have several items not on display on the other side of the turntable
A BC Rail Remote Control Car and some MOW cars
You can go inside this snowplow, very nice!
View from inside the snowplow
Their only steam engine, CN 1520
I liked this little GE 40 tonner, repainted in 2002
Nice interior of a passenger car

This RS-10 is not on display - needs a bit of TLC
On display but needs a LOT of TLC
They have a good collection - heavy on BC specific items as you might expect with good BC Rail, PG&E and CN representation. Many of the cars and engines have a placard nearby with a few facts about the item.

Unfortunately, all of the rolling stock is outdoors so they are showing the signs of weathering, some pretty heavily. I don't mean to complain - I know money and volunteer hours are short at all museums - but I wanted to make that observation.

There is a miniature railway on site but I didn't see it running.
Very narrow gauge!
For part 4, the final chapter, we see the Skeena and a few CN trains as well as another look at the huge bridge over the Fraser River. Thanks for reading.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Railfanning Prince George, Part 2

This is part 2 of my trip to Prince George, British Columbia in June 2014 - see part 1 here.

A visit to the CN yard in downtown Prince George on the evening of June 24 revealed a few engines. CN 2585 was sitting by itself at one end.
CN 2585 in Prince George
CN 2585 in Prince George, BC

At the other end, the set of CN 7276 (GP9), CN 262 (slug) and CN 1440 (GMD1) were working the yard. Everyone loves a GMD1, amiright?
CN 1440 in Prince George
CN 1440 in Prince George, BC
Are those brake shoes on the pole to the left?

I spotted a beat-up old Chattahoochee Industrial Railroad car in the yard too. Note the old scanner tag on this car.
Chattahoochee Industrial Railroad car in Prince George
I decided to head out of town and see what I could find. I followed one track out of town to the north; it ended up being the Nechako Subdivision. This is part of the original Grand Trunk Pacific line to Prince Rupert.

I followed it for several miles out of town. The line is signaled and I took note of a signal at a siding ("Miworth", I guess) that was green, indicating a train could be approaching. I stopped at the crossing hosting the sticker to the right and heard a faraway horn.

A few minutes of waiting produced an interesting train, a single engine CN 5794 leading a "unit" train of lumber loads.

CN 5794 outside Prince George
I hopped into my car and headed to the next crossing. I was working against the setting sun (it was a bit after 7 PM) but I managed to get this shot lit well enough. It was kicking up a lot of dust!
CN 5794 passing Miworth siding outside Prince George
I tried to get to the next crossing but they were clearly going to get there first, and of course you don't race a train to a crossing! I watched the 30-odd cars roll by and then placidly returned to Prince George.

There was an interesting industry near that crossing. I think it is Tilbury Cement, and it would make a good model railroad industry... very compact.

The same long spur hosted a little tank farm, clearly a former Shell facility.

That was it for June 24. The next day held a visit to the Prince George Railway and Forestry Museum as well as the two VIA Rail Skeena trains!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Guest Post

I wrote a guest post on my friend J. Rae Chip's excellent blog, about capturing motion in photography. Check it out, and while you're there, have a look at her other posts! She has an interesting style of photography.

Friday, July 04, 2014

Railfanning Prince George, Part 1

I had to fly to Prince George, British Columbia last week for work. I knew I would be working long hours, but I knew it was just about the longest days of the year, so there would be plenty of light for railfanning!

I flew out of Winnipeg on Sunday afternoon, June 22. As we climbed out of the city, I saw the Prairie Dog Central passenger train approaching their home station at Inkster Junction. Too bad I couldn't reach my camera! The flight to Vancouver was comfortable and uneventful. I spent my time in YVR in the Air Canada lounge, typing away on my laptop and watching a Lufthansa 747 get loaded and taxi out.
Lufthansa 747 at Vancouver Airport (YVR)
I hopped onto the little prop plane for Prince George, and in just over an hour, we were there. It was around 8:30 PM by the time I picked up my wee Ford Fiesta and drove into town. I could see the big Grand Trunk Pacific bridge and sprawling CN yard from the hill overlooking the city, but I didn't spend any time railfanning.

On Monday morning (June 23), as I drove past the CN yard to the mill I was working at, I spotted the two VIA Rail Skeena trains parked nose to nose at the northwest end of the yard.
VIA Rail Skeenas in Prince George
VIA Rail Skeenas in Prince George
The Skeena (aka VIA trains 5 and 6) runs three times/week between Jasper and Prince Rupert. The trains in both directions lay over in Prince George overnight.

After work on Monday, I did some serious railfanning. Let's look at the map for Prince George.

The CN yard runs east-west with a bit of a tilt. 1st Avenue parallels the south side of the yard for its entire length, so it's pretty easy to see it. At the east ("right") end, River Road goes over the tracks between the yard and the long GTP bridge over the Fraser River. At the west ("left") end Cameron Street crosses over the end of the yard. This is nice for railfans as you can see down both ends of the yard.

The north side of the yard is taken up with industries as well as the CN Intermodal Facility. A lot of containers are stuffed with lumber products to be taken to Prince Rupert for shipment to Asia. I saw a container picker truck working pretty much non-stop.

The VIA Rail station is located a few blocks east of the intersection of highway 16 and 1st Avenue and it shares the building with the BC Tourism office.

Back to Monday evening. The first train I spotted was a CN grain train heading east. It rolled through the yard and stopped at the east end for refueling and a crew change.
CN 5407 in Prince George
CN 5407 in Prince George
I drove over to River Road and found a nice parking spot near the Grand Trunk Pacific bridge. A very brief walk took me to the overpass over the tracks, and a nice view of the yard.
The CN Prince George yard, viewed from the east
There's CN 5407 on the left. In front of that train is a short spur that goes to a scrapyard. To the right (north) of CN 5407's train is the main yard ladder, mostly empty at this time. On the far right is the intermodal terminal, and one of the two tracks directly in front of the camera contains a yard shunter that was approaching me. Note the blue flag protecting the intermodal yard.

That yard shunter rolled closer and closer, and I was interested to see that it had a slug as well as a Wisconsin Central engine.
CN 7231 in Prince George
CN 7231 in Prince George
I'm pretty sure the guy in the green vest was a trainee. They threw the switch behind the WC engine and went back up the yard.

After a while, they came back again and I had relocated to 1st Avenue to shoot them from the side, having tired of shooting toward the setting sun! This provided a good side view of WC 2003.
WC 2003 in Prince George
Wisconsin Central 2003 in Prince George
They carried right on past me and onto the magnificent Grand Trunk Pacific bridge over the Fraser.

This magnificent structure stretches 810 metres over the Fraser River. Construction began in August 1913 and the bridge was completed in 1915. The bridge has a single track with a roadway on each side. These roadways were used for cars and pedestrians from 1915 until 1987 when the Yellowhead Highway bridge was completed. The roadway is still used by CN, as I saw a hi-rail pickup zoom across it.

After the short train rolled across, I went down to the nearby river walk and took a few photos of the bridge.
The Grand Trunk Pacific Railway bridge in Prince George, BC
The far end has a rare lift system that was briefly used to allow river traffic to pass. This is a direct lift system where it could lift one span vertically. Most railway bridges that open either swing the span horizontally or tilt it up, but this one lifted the span straight up. It appears it was not used after the early 1920s and in 1954 it was fixed in place.
CN 5745
Lift section of Prince George railway bridge
Note CN 5745 preparing to run light, long hood forward, across the bridge.

I decided I had to go to the other side of the bridge to see what was there. There's quite a junction there on Pickering Road.
The CN yard is on the left, a large sawmill is in the top right, and I believe the track running from bottom left to the right is a former BC Rail subdivision... presumably the Prince George subdivision.

There are a few interesting details around. There's a scanner nearby to read the ID tags on freight cars, there's a rail lubrication site to lube the curves, and a few abandoned buildings nearby. I noted the prominent CN "private property - no trespassing - violators will be prosecuted" signs where the road crosses the many tracks, so I didn't go there... too bad, because I'd like to see how all that complex track works.

While I was looking around, a CN local came rolling by, pulling a lot of wood chip cars.
CN 7257 in Prince George
CN 7257 and company in Prince George
Note the crew standing on the front of CN 7257. They had a good look at me as they went by. They were presumably returning to the former BC Rail yard, as they didn't cross the bridge. The slug was CN 260 and the trailing engine was CN 4714.

The wood chip cars were a motley mix of CN cars, BC Rail cars, and these "Eurocan" cars lettered for CN.
Eurocan wood chip car in Prince George
Eurocan was a mill in Kitimat, BC that closed in early 2010. There are quite a few of these cars in Prince George, feeding the local mills.

I noted Loram grinder LMIX-608 was in the siding nearby. I went back to the yard and spotted an intermodal rolling through the yard, led by CN 2668 and CN 2324. By then I was beat and I headed back to my hotel for the night. It was a long day!

Coming up in part 2 and beyond... more slugs, a GMD1, the other end of the CN yard, a road freight, the railway museum, and more Skeenas!

PS - check out this great blog about a BC Rail model layout under construction.