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.
Junction
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.

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

110 Years of the Ocean

VIA Rail's Ocean
VIA Rail's Ocean crosses the Miramichi River - buy this print
VIA Rail has announced that they will be commemorating the 110th anniversary of the Ocean on July 3. The VIA president and CEO, Yves Desjardins-Siciliano, and his executive team will ride the train to Halifax where there will be a commemorative event at the station. They will also be available at Moncton for media interviews. (EDIT: the event at 6 PM is cancelled because the Ocean was delayed leaving Montreal. There will be a reception at the station upon arrival, around 9 PM)

I wonder if they will fly back to Montreal, or take Friday's Ocean back? ;)

The Intercolonial's Ocean Limited began on July 3, 1904 as a limited train to supplement the existing Maritime Express train. Over time the "Limited" was dropped, and with the abolishment of the other Montreal-Halifax trains (the Maritime Express, the Scotian, and the Atlantic) it became the sole rail connection between the two largest* eastern Canadian cities.

I'm sad that Jay Underwood is not around to see this. Jay was a tireless advocate for trains in the Maritimes and he repeatedly asked VIA to note anniversaries of the Ocean. He would have been very happy to see that VIA is finally taking note.

For more information on the Ocean, may I recommend the excellent The Ocean Limited: A Centennial Tribute by Douglas N.W. Smith. It's out of print but used copies may be available the author tells me he has a few copies. Email me if you would like the contact information.

* OK, Quebec is larger than Halifax, but it's on the Ocean route as well

Monday, June 30, 2014

Very Well Done

A Winnipeg student named Jack "O" wrote me a very nice letter to tell me about his Social Studies project. His project was a video on the railways of Winnipeg and how they helped shape the development of the city, and it is showcased on CanadasHistory.ca as one of a select few from Manitoba. The top six videos will be premiered at Canada's History Forum in Ottawa and the students will meet the Governor General.

His video is really well done. I encourage you to check his video out, and if you like it, vote for his video using the link at the top right. Thanks!

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Hudson Bay Railway to Re-Open

Hudson Bay Railway 3001 in Thompson
HBRY 3001 in Thompson, Manitoba
After a derailment on June 3, the Hudson Bay Railway closed the rail line between Gillam and Churchill. Omnitrax, the owner-operator of the line (and the port of Churchill), said that permafrost had damaged the line and they were making repairs and hope to re-open within the first week of July. They had briefly re-opened the line to freight service but had to suspend it again.


VIA 8228 in Thompson
VIA Rail in Thompson, Manitoba
VIA Rail last sent a train to Churchill on May 30. The company said they will not send VIA 692/693 over the line until they are satisfied that it is safe for passengers. In the meantime, passengers intending to use the train have had to find alternate arrangements (aka "fly").

This closure has really impacted the people of Churchill, as they depend on the railway for the majority of shipments into the town. The only alternative is to fly fuel, food and other supplies in at a greatly increased cost. Hopefully the line will be re-opened when Omnitrax says it will.

This might really make people question whether they should still be considering shipping oil by rail.

UPDATE: OmnitraxNorth.ca has posted an update.