Thursday, September 24, 2015

A Morning With Tom

Tom Sajnovic contacted me a while ago to ask if I wanted to go railfanning again while he was in Winnipeg taking some training. We settled on going out early in the morning of Sunday, September 20.

I picked Tom up at 07:15 and we headed toward Symington. There was not much going on at the northwest end of the yard so we headed toward the hump at the southeast end. One line of cars was being pushed over the hump. This is looking south toward Navin and the end of the yard.

Note the piece of track that isn't connected to anything any more... interesting how it used to cross over as a diamond.

Looking north toward the hump, we see CN 7500 and company on the north track, resting, while a crewman cuts the cars as they crest the hump. Tom and I watched them hump autoracks and tank cars for a bit.

Lots of things going on here. I'm told the autoracks are annoying to hump because of the long drawbars going crooked during the shove, making it impossible to pull the pin to uncouple them.

We noticed a rail train in the yard, led by CN 5429. The loco had its headlight on, leading us to believe they would be leaving soon. Sure enough they started rolling and passed under us on the way out of the yard area.

A little lens flare there...

They rolled past the hump yard units (15-year anniversary CN 7505 and CN 7511, plus slugs) and stopped.

It turned out that there was a train coming off the CN Sprague subdivision that they had to wait for.

CN 2872 and 2811 pulled by with a mixed merchandise train. I keep wanting to call them "mixed trains" but I'm avoiding that, because traditionally a mixed train was a freight train with one or more passenger cars tacked on the end.

We relocated to Navin to wait for the "rail train". After a while, 5429's ditch lights came on and the train started rolling. A CN pickup rolled up and a young fellow got out to do the roll-by inspection. They were smoking pretty well by the time they reached us.

We decided to give chase. The Trans-Canada parallels the CN Sprague subdivision for a while so it was easy to get ahead of the train.

Here they are between the Lorette siding and the east-facing approach signal for the siding (visible at the right of the frame).

The rest of the train was grain cars, I believe.

Yes, yes it does!

We decided to shoot it passing the Dufresne grain elevator, a favourite location of mine on the Sprague. However as we approached Dufresne, we saw construction markers and there appeared to be no way to go in the town! Probably I missed the one turnoff but everything seemed blocked off. I wonder how the local people get in or out?

So that was out.

The track diverges from the Trans-Canada after Dufresne, so it was now or never. I knew there was an overpass at Sainte Anne so we made a beeline for that. I parked on the far side and we walked back to get the overhead view. Fortunately there was a walkway so it was relatively safe to stand there.

I think this was my favourite location. I'd been to Sainte Anne once, just to scout it out, but I'd never railfanned there before. I might have to do that again!

RailPictures liked that photo!

Mmmm, rails
Not many chances for overhead shots around here!
My time was up, so we headed back to town. As we were rolling along the TCH, I spotted headlights in the distance - another eastbound train! We quickly crossed over and nabbed CN 2904 East. This time I photographed the approach then switched to video with my iPhone.

This was accepted to RailPictures, too. :)

That train was moving!

Thanks for the company, Tom!

Saturday, September 19, 2015

The Demise of Bieseker Station

The Bassano (Alberta) train station has been heavily damaged by fire early in the morning of September 18, 2015. This station was in Beiseker, AB as part of the Alberta 2005 Centennial Museum Society's (Beiseker Railway Museum) collection. The fire destroyed the freight shed end of the train station and the whole station will have to be demolished due to water and damage.
Fire damage to Beiseker train station - from Rocky View Fire Department
The fire is believed to be suspicious in nature, and the RCMP are investigating. From the comments from the society's treasurer, Fred Walters, it appears there was some insurance on the building.

This station was originally built in Bassano, AB in 1911, was moved to Beiseker AB in 2012. A foundation was built for the train station and it was slated to be moved onto the foundation and restored. When I passed through Beiseker in July 2013, it was still on the beams used to move the station.
Beiseker (Bassano) train station, 2013
I understand there were a number of problems with the foundation and the contractor(s) involved. The station sat on these beams until October 2014, when the contractor who owned the beams supporting the station moved it onto the foundation so they could get their beams back. You can read the whole sordid story about the station and the Society on and also this news article. So far close to half a million dollars has been sunk into this project.

This station was not the only station in Beiseker. I believe the town owns the ex CP train station, a more modest structure built in 1913, with caboose CP 434592 and insulated boxcar CP 165017.
Beiseker train station and caboose
The Beiseker Railway Museum, or Centennial Society - not sure which is correct - also owns a collection of rolling stock, including an ex CN S-13u locomotive, an ex CP baggage car that was converted to a safety car, a number of boxcars, a snowplow, a small Burro crane, and a few other cars. Their collection seems to be... diverse.

It all sits in a fenced enclosure.

The town of Beiseker is still served by rail via the CN Three Hills subdivision, which is part of the Calgary-Edmonton line. It used to be served by the CP Langdon subdivision, which was abandoned close to 20 years ago. The museum equipment is along the former CP right-of-way.

I hope the society/museum can recover from this tremendous setback and make something useful out of their collection.

More reading:

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Steam Coming Home

The railfan community has been all abuzz about the return of two Canadian Pacific steam engines to Canada. CP 1238 and CP 1286, 4-6-2 G5 class steam locomotives, were owned by Jack Showalter and operated on the Virginia Central and the Allegheny Central/Western Maryland Scenic. I understand they haven't operated since 1990 and were in storage at the Shenandoah Valley Railroad / Mountain Rail Adventures.

Jack Showalter passed away last year. The two steam engines have been purchased by an unknown person or organization (rumoured to be from Alberta) and are destined for storage at the Prairie Dog Central Railway here in Winnipeg. They started their journey in early August and arrived in Winnipeg yesterday (September 13).

Jeff Keddy was ready to capture them south of Winnipeg as they came up the CP Emerson subdivision. He first caught them south of Grande Pointe, with the engines behind CP 8841.
CP 8841 and steam engines

The tenders were together on one flatcar.
Virginia Central tenders
CP 1286 - unlabeled - came next. CP 1286 was built by the Canadian Locomotive Company (CLC) in May 1948 and is a class G5d locomotive.
CP 1286
The little red label on the lead end of the locomotive says "PRIVATE PROPERTY NO TRESPASSING".

Next was CP 1238... built by MLW in June 1946 as a class G5c locomotive.
CP 1238
Jeff shot them approaching Winnipeg (lead photo) and then crossing the Floodway.

Jeff was able to catch them twice more. Here they are along Archibald Street passing the Central Grain facility.
CP 8841 passing Central Grain

Right after that, they crossed Mission Street and went under the CN Redditt subdivision aka "the high line".

They ended up parked in the Winnipeg yard, on the north side along Jarvis Avenue.
CP steam engines in Winnipeg
The Prairie Dog is tight-lipped about who the owner is, citing confidentiality agreements. We will have to wait and see.

Thanks should go to Jeff Keddy for sharing his great photos with everyone!

Related articles:

Monday, September 14, 2015

A Little Bird Told Me

Back in July I mentioned a trio of Twitter accounts set up to tweet about blocked crossings in Winnipeg. I speculated that a railfan might be able use these tweets to find out when trains were approaching. Well, I put that to practice on Friday the 4th of September.

I was sitting at home with the kids, idly checking my Twitter account @stevetraingeek when I saw these tweets from @TRAINFOWPG3:

The Bison-Pembina crossing is south of the McGillivray-Pembina crossing, so if the Bison crossing is tweeted afterward, that means a southbound train (CN 532) is on its way to Emerson. If the order is reversed, it's CN 533 coming back from Emerson.

I saw those tweets and decided to go chase 532 for a bit. I bundled the kids in the car and headed over to Pembina, fully expecting to have to overtake the train south of St. Norbert. I should mention that a big storm had come through shortly before this.

I didn't see any train through St. Norbert, nor did I see one south of St. Norbert all the way to St. Adolphe. I knew I should have caught up to the train by then so I guessed it was going slow and I just had to wait. I decided to shoot the new St. Adolphe grain elevator being built by the CWB, soon to be known as G3 Canada Ltd.

Do you like that giant cloud? Welcome to prairie storms!

The wind was up and the clouds were moving quickly. It wasn't long before some blue started showing up in the evening sky.

I turned to look back at the car, and... oooh!

I love rainbows. In fact, I blogged about them before.

The sun finally lit the elevator so I could get a decent long-range shot. It looks almost complete from the outside.

The sun was setting, so I grabbed a few silhouette shots, still wondering where the train was.

Finally I gave up, figuring the Twitter account was on crack or something. We headed back into St. Norbert, and just as I approached the river crossing, I saw headlights heading south on the CN Letellier subdivision. There it was.

I turned around and headed back to grab it against the sunset sky. I shot it at one location and got this..

OK but not quite what I wanted. The train wasn't going very fast at all so it was easy to jump ahead to try again.

That's more like it.

With a wave from the friendly conductor, CN 2675 and BCOL 4611 ground their way south while I headed home with the kids.

I still can't explain what happened with the Twitter feed. Maybe a hi-rail truck went through first?

Here's the whole timeline:

  • 6:41 PM - crossing at McGillivray blocked
  • 7:01 PM - crossing at Bison blocked
  • 7:30 PM - crossing at McGillivray blocked (again?)
  • 7:33 PM - I arrived in St. Adolphe
  • 7:51 PM - crossing at Bison blocked
  • 7:59 PM - I left St. Adophe
  • 8:12 PM - I shot the train in St. Norbert the first time
  • 8:16 PM - I shot the train in St. Norbert the second time

PS if you're on Twitter, please feel free to follow me at @stevetraingeek, and if your feed has trains in it, I'll probably follow you back!

Monday, September 07, 2015

Along the Stewart Southern, Part 3

In part 1 I covered the Stewart Southern from Regina to just north of Stoughton. In part 2 I discussed the Crescent Point Energy oil transloading facility. In this post we explore Stoughton and go back to Regina.


There are two grain elevators in Stoughton. In the town itself is a former Saskatchewan Pool grain elevator, "Stoughton C", indicating there was an "A" and "B" at one point.

There were two grain cars spotted at the elevator and 11 more just north of the elevator.

Just south of town, right before the end of the Stewart Southern's rails, is a former Pioneer grain elevator.

Here's the end of the line.
Note the tank cars stored on the siding. I'm guessing the ex Pioneer elevator is not in use any more.

There's a golf course next to the Pioneer elevator, and I spotted a couple of fellows retrieving a ball. I asked one of them to pose for me.


One more interesting thing in Stoughton is the three original Stewart Southern locomotives, stored on the former wye to the CP Kisbey subdivision.

Stewart Southern's 1009 and 1010 are ex Savage Alberta Railway / Railnet units. I spotted them in Regina in June 2009. They are GE B23-7 locomotives. 4255 is obviously ex Santa Fe and it was a new sighting for me.

Back to Regina! But first, I had to grab those fogbound elevators now that the sun had come out. I already showed Creelman and Fillmore in the first post. I will point out this building just north of Fillmore. I think it is the Stewart Southern's shop building.

The tracks lead into the two big doors.


The Osage grain elevator is another ex Saskatchewan Pool grain elevator. When I saw this old Imperial Esso dealer sign, I had to include it with the elevator.

Osage is just full of photo opportunities!

I think the old paint is beginning to show through at the bottom. Maybe there was an annex there at one time.


The Francis grain elevator clearly has a new roof on the annex, and was quite attractive once the fog lifted! I slapped my circular polarizer on my camera from here on to enhance that blue sky.

There's a facility just north of Francis that appears to be just finishing construction. I don't know what it is, as there aren't any signs around, but there is a pair of tracks beside it.


I just snapped a quick photo of Sedley, as I was getting short on time.


I spotted this just outside Richardson on the way back to Regina. I think it is a grain elevator's "balloon" annex.

The End

That was the end of my tour of the Stewart Southern in Saskatchewan. I hope you liked the tour, and if you're in the area, check it out!

Back to part 1