It had been a long time since I'd seen a Canadian on the road, so on Thursday I decided to catch it at noon. As luck would have it, I was delayed a few minutes leaving work and ended up sitting at the traffic light by IKEA and watching VIA 1 roll by in the distance. I made up a bit of time on the Sterling Lyon parkway heading west but I was stopped again at a red light at Shaftesbury Boulevard. Darn it!
The road speed limit is 80 km/hr (50 MPH) for several kilometres, while track speed is 35 MPH so it is possible to make up some ground. The road speed limit goes up to 90 km/hr/55 MPH after Elmhurst Road but unfortunately for train chasers, the rail speed limit goes up to 45 MPH at mile 8.3 and 60 MPH (80 MPH for passenger trains!) at mile 9.8 just short of the hotbox detector at mile 10. If VIA has a clear signal, there is no catching them after the hotbox!
Fortunately for me, the VIA crew didn't seem to be in a huge hurry after Carman Junction, so I was able to slowly pull ahead by mile 12. As it happens, they had a LIMITED TO CLEAR signal limiting them to 45 MPH until Diamond. Trains get this signal when they are changing tracks at Diamond. The Diamond interlocking is at mile 14.3 but the important thing is that there is a STOP sign at the intersection of Wilkes and Harris Road. I will not blow through a stop sign so I knew I had to get my shot before then, or there was zero chance of getting anything but stainless in the distance.
So I hastily pulled over a few hundred metres short of the stop sign and jumped out, camera in hand. I grabbed the above shot of the lead engine, VIA 6415, and then started recording the consist using the classic Bill Linley method of photographing every car. The train had 22 cars, including a deadheading WATERTON PARK just behind VIA 6431.
The trailing car was TREMBLANT PARK, with someone taking my photograph!
Here's the "going away" shot as they cross Harris Road and approach Diamond.
I did not make any attempt to pursue, of course!
Fellow railfan Manny Jacob shot the train later on in Portage la Prairie.
Afterword: I have reworked the home page of my site. I'm trying to streamline the navigation and feature my photography more. I'd appreciate your comments, good or bad.
The kids and I went to Pine Falls, Manitoba today. I purchased a scanner via Kijiji and had to go there to pick it up (more on that another time). It's quite a drive from Winnipeg to Pine Falls, well over an hour. I took the opportunity to have a look at the CEMR Pine Falls subdivision.
The Central Manitoba Railway assumed operation of the former CN Pine Falls subdivision on May 2, 1999. I wasn't in Manitoba at the time but I understand the major customers on the line were:
Imperial Oil just outside Winnipeg
A Cargill grain elevator at Birds Hill
Coal for the East Selkirk power generation plant
A grain elevator in Libau
The Pine Falls paper mill
The Pine Falls subdivision was notable for having light rail.
According to the comments in the video, courtesy of Christian Base, VIA #41 was bound for Toronto when it rounded a bend on the CN Smiths Falls subdivision and discovered a CP local where it should not have been. The CP local had been working and had gone out onto the main without a clearance. Fortunately the VIA crew were alert and put the train into emergency and it was able to stop in time. Notice the crew bailed out just in case, and also notice the CP train went into reverse.
In what might be quite a coincidence, last week CN announced they are investing $30 million in upgrading the Prairie North Line. The investment is to upgrade the line to better serve CN when it has to divert some or all traffic off the main Winnipeg-Saskatoon line. Currently the sidings are in the 6,000-7,000 foot range, not long enough for meets with the typical 10,000+ foot trains that CN runs. CN is also investing $60 million in the main line "for additional double track and new sidings between Winnipeg and Saskatoon on the main line" as well as $15 million within Winnipeg's yards.
Today is the start of Rail Safety Week, hosted by Operation Lifesaver. OL is holding events all across Canada to help educate the public on rail safety. For example, here in Manitoba, CN and CP Police will be holding Trespass and Traffic Enforcement activities at various locations throughout Winnipeg and elsewhere all week. On May 1 there will be a mock collision near the Saint John High School in New Brunswick. On May 2 VIA will host an open house at the Halifax station. There are school presentations being held across the country.
Operation Lifesaver does great work in helping to educate the public to be safe at railway crossings and to not trespass on railway property. The statistics show that the number of crossing accidents has been on a more or less steady decline over the past 25 years. Still, there is a lot of work to be done.
VIA train 693, the Winnipeg-Churchill passenger train, derailed near Togo, Saskatchewan around 6 PM on Sunday night. There was a washout, likely due to spring runoff, and the track was undermined. There is a highly distorted but dramatic photo in the CBC article showing a coach hanging in mid-air with only one truck on the ground. Fortunately noone was injured beyond "a few scratches". The seven (7) passengers were taken to a nearby lodge in Duck Mountain Provincial Park for the night and presumably other arrangements have been made for the rest of their journey. Reports say the track may be out of service for two days.
There is no word on damage to the train, except that there was a fire under one of the engines, presumably from a punctured fuel tank. The news reports say the fire was quickly extinguished. The plume of smoke was visible from a CN freight train over a dozen miles away.
In case you are wondering why the train was in Saskatchewan, the CN Togo subdivision that VIA 692/693 takes does cross into Saskatchewan and the Hudson Bay is in Saskatchewan for about 4 hours before returning to Manitoba for the long trip north to Churchill. (VIA timetable - PDF)
Aljazeera is calling it the Canada train plot. Raed Jaser, of Toronto, is reportedly in "shock and disbelief" at the charges. Tunisian-born Chiheb Esseghaier is being remanded in custody in Quebec, presumably until the legal paperwork is done to bring him to Ontario for trial. He was in court today and doesn't believe the Criminal Code applies to him because it is not a holy book. Good luck with that argument.
I thought of these guys yesterday evening when I was shooting a few engines in the Symington yard from the comfort of my car on the side of the road... thinking I might look suspicious doing that. Maybe I did.
Because I run a web site and a blog about trains, I get a fair number of emails from people looking for information. In many cases people are looking for historical information, like what train their grandparents may have taken to get from point A to point B, or looking for an old photo of a station. In some cases they are looking for current information on train movements or rail lines. The vast majority are innocent and I have little hesitation providing a response. There have been a couple over the years where I've held back a bit out of caution.
You may have noticed that although I publishtimetables, I don't publish any recent ones. To me there is little harm in publishing information from 20 years ago but I refrain from publishing more recent timetables for security reasons.
The point is that responsible railfans are doing nothing wrong. We are taking photographs of trains from public areas, not helping terrorists. We are out there looking for anything unusual, and hopefully if we spot something "off", we call the appropriate authorities (CN Police, 1-800-465-9239; CP Police, 1-800-716-9132; or your local police department). I've called CN Police before and I would not hesitate to do so again if necessary.