Monday, September 15, 2014

Where Do You Buy Your Photography Equipment From?

Morant's Curve
In these days of always-on Internet, there are so many choices available to the smart consumer. It's hard to know where to go for the best prices on camera equipment. Here I'll present a few of the places I look. Please leave a comment if you have any additional places you look.

Your Local Camera Shop
If you're fortunate enough to have a local camera store, this is a great place to start. Their staff are usually quite knowledgeable and you can get your hands on the equipment to try it out in the store. Personally I go to Don's Photo as it is within a few kilometres of my house. I get a discount for being part of a local camera club and their store is well-stocked and they are pretty competitive on price. I bought my Canon 70-200mm f/4 L lens at Don's and they were able to offer a great price.

One thing I will say: I don't recommend that you go to a local camera store to try stuff out, then walk out and buy it online. That's not fair to the store.

Big Box Stores
Stores like Future Shop, Best Buy, London Drugs and even Wal-Mart (ptooey) sell a variety of camera equipment. Their selection tends to be on the low end but you'd be surprised what you can find there. The prices are competitive but the sales staff may not be very knowledgeable.

Online Retailers
There are a dizzying variety of online retailers. These are the ones I go to to research and/or buy camera equipment:
Kijiji / eBay
I bought my Canon 50mm f/1.8 II lens via Kijiji and the transaction went very well. I sold my 55-250mm lens through Kijiji and, although it was a bit of a pain to close the deal, it was successful.

How About You?
Where do you go for your photography needs?

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Knox and Forrest

Recently Darren Mckay posted (on the RailsMBSK Facebook group) an aerial photo (that I believe he took) of the Viterra grain elevator at Knox, just north of Brandon, Manitoba. With his permission I am posting it here... slightly edited for contrast and saturation.
Knox grain elevator, by Darren Mckay

We had a good discussion about the area and I thought I'd write a blog post about it. You see, if you look just a bit farther afield, there is a fair bit of rail history here. Here's a Google Earth screen capture that I annotated to show what was around here.

There's the CN Rivers subdivision (originally the Grand Trunk Pacific) going across the bottom, but you'll notice I marked in two CP subdivisions that do not exist any more: the CP Rapid City subdivision that ran between Brandon and Minnedosa, and the CP Lenore subdivision that ran between Forrest and Lenore, MB.

CP Rapid City
Let's talk about the CP Rapid City subdivision (don't confuse it with the CN Rapid City subdivision!)

As I said, the original CP Rapid City subdivision ran from Brandon to Minnedosa, running generally north-south with a big side trip to Gauthier and Rapid City.

View CP Rapid City Subdivision in a larger map
Map courtesy of Brian Switzer.

In 1963 the north portion was abandoned and the remainder was merged with the CP Miniota subdivision... which was abandoned in 1980.

Anyway, back to the area in question. In the Google Earth image I showed, there are two interesting areas. Forrest, Manitoba has a former Manitoba Pool grain elevator.

It was also the start of the CP Lenore subdivision. The wye that started the subdivision was just north of the elevator and is still visible from a satellite view (GPS: 49.971967, -99.941320). From the Forrest elevator, the rail corridor is still pretty visible.

If you kept going north on the CP Rapid City subdivision, you'd cross the CN Rivers subdivision. What is also evident from a satellite view is that there was a connecting track between CN and CP. (GPS: 49.998370, -99.946814)

I'm told that CP used this connecting track to serve the North Brandon passenger station. Oddly I can't find any reference to a CP North Brandon station in their timetables.

I found this image of the Grand Trunk Pacific station at Knox, dated somewhere between 1900 and 1909 (courtesy University of Saskatchewan Archives)

Knox was one of the Grand Trunk Pacific's alphabet railway stations. You may remember I recently posted about Justice, just up the line, and before that Gregg and Harte.
A little quiz for the reader: why did the mileage change between the Grand Trunk Pacific timetable and the CNR timetable?

CP Varcoe Subdivision
Continuing a few miles north on the CP Rapid City subdivision, you would encounter the start of the CP Varcoe subdivision, which ran from Varcoe to MacGregor and included the Brookdale and Oberon grain elevators.
It was another wye. (GPS: 50.070547, -99.964051)

That line crossed the CN Rivers subdivision (at the east end) as well as the old CN Neepawa subdivision.


Do you ever get the feeling that railways in the Prairies were like a big bowl of spaghetti, like some 1960s Model Railroader track plan?
All Railways Lead to Winnipeg
(courtesy Atlas of Canada, 1957)

Friday, September 05, 2014

A Grain Elevator Loop, Part 2

Back in April 2014 I went on a little "loop" to photograph some new-to-me grain elevators. I wrote about the first half here and now I'll complete the story.

But first, I'll show you the route I took.
3 hours... plus picture taking time!
I couldn't put Culross or Barnsley on there as Google Maps has a limit on the number of waypoints, alas.

After we visited Graysville, we doubled back through Carman and headed down to the 23. At the intersection of 3 and 23 stands the Jordan grain elevator.

This is part of a Delmar Commodities complex including a soybean crushing facility.

Highway 23 basically parallels the former CN Miami subdivision, and the roadbed was plainly visible in many places. I guess it has only been about 7 years since the Southern Manitoba Railway abandoned it.

The next elevator was at Kane, Manitoba.
The Spirit Lives On

Kane had two grain elevators (Paterson and UGG) for quite some time. The UGG elevator was demolished in 1996.
(buy this print)

It looks like there are two elevators stuck together, and I guess in some ways that's true. The more weathered elevator was built in 1947. In 1981, major work was done and the silver portion was added, as the second-last wooden grain elevator to be built in Manitoba (Culross was the last).

A few miles down the road is Lowe Farm.
Elevator plus annex

This is clearly a former Manitoba Pool grain elevator.
Drive here
After visited Lowe Farm, we carried on east to Morris (detail on Morris here). Here we found the current end of the CN Miami subdivision, such as it is.
I was expecting just a pile of dirt!

I also spotted another semaphore in Morris, this time on the north end of town on the CP side. Sorry for the poor composition but I couldn't figure out a way to get closer without trespassing.
An old relic

That was the end of our grain elevator loop... we returned to Winnipeg on highway 75 to make cookies in the afternoon. :)


Tuesday, September 02, 2014

A Grain Elevator Loop, Part 1

Back in April 2014 I was just starting my Manitoba Grain Elevator project, and at that time I had lots of elevators to photograph near Winnipeg. On Good Friday, April 18th, the kids were off from school but my wife was working, so I decided to take them along and photograph some elevators. Child abuse, I know.

We set off from Winnipeg and headed down highway 2, which parallels the CP Glenboro subdivision for quite a distance. I had of course scouted out some locations using Google Maps and Street View so I had a route selected. I had never been along the Glenboro so it was exciting (to me) that way as well.

The first elevator we saw was the modern Pioneer facility in Starbuck. This large facility replaced a few local elevators.
Not the Battlestar Galactica Starbuck

After a few photographs, I carried on to the next location, Fannystelle. Don't you love the name?

Fannystelle has a modern Viterra grain elevator beside the highway, but I spied an old wooden elevator tucked into the town. It turns out it was a private elevator, owned by Stevens & Company, advertising "LUMBER, COAL AND GRAIN". There is still a Stevens Lumber in town, active.
A unique elevator

The Viterra elevator is nice, I guess... although it doesn't have nearly as much character as the Stevens elevator.
Blue Prairie Monster
There's a lovely church in town as well.

Next up was the Culross grain elevator, conveniently located right beside the highway. It is an unusually-shaped elevator, very squarish, and it has no annex nor any bins for additional storage.
A sharp looking elevator

The next community was Elm Creek, which sports two grain elevators, a modern Cargill facility as well as a former Manitoba Pool grain elevator.

I honestly didn't spend much time photographing the Cargill elevator, as it is.. well.. let's be honest, butt-ugly.
Let's just call it "plain"

This is the back, but the front looks pretty much the same.
Not sure which is the "good side"

The more interesting elevator is the former Manitoba Pool grain elevator.
That's the stuff

After I took the following photograph, I had to check my camera settings.
What the heck???

I couldn't figure out what I had done wrong... until I looked up and saw this.
Ring Around a Star - anyone read "Ringworld"?

This is a solar halo, a phenomenon much like sundogs caused by ice crystals in the air. Remember, this was April!

Well, that was exciting, but it was time to carry on south. I left the Glenboro sub and headed south, paralleling what was the CP Carman subdivision. I've blogged about that before. That Pool elevator in Elm Creek was on the start of what was the CP Carman sub.

Midway between Elm Creek and Carman is Barnsley, which today is a few houses and two lovely old grain elevators. One was a Manitoba Pool elevator and one was UGG.

Aging gracefully

Once we reached Carman, we stopped to have a bite to eat at the local Co-Op, as that was one of the few places open on Good Friday. After taking care of that, we had a quick look around Carman. There are no elevators left there but there is Linear Grain, a company formed in 1981. They provide a variety of services to local producers and are rail-served by CEMR.

The train station in Carman was transformed into the home for a local arts organization, the Golden Prairie Arts Council.
Now that's the way to preserve a station!

We then headed west out of Carman toward Graysville to see the end of the CEMR Carman subdivision and the grain elevator there.
Yer basic Pool elevator with annex

The end of the Carman subdivision, mile 51.0, is pretty unexciting.
It ends.. here

When researching this post, I found a web page, Cando Modal-Logic (that appears to maybe be under construction), that hosts a very cool PDF showing maps of CEMR's facilities in Winnipeg, Carman and Barrie as well as BNSF Manitoba's facility. All of the track from Carman to Graysville is listed as a 550 car storage track so I guess the elevator isn't serviced by rail any more.

I'm going to stop here... although we didn't. In part 2 we carry on south and then retrace the former CN Miami subdivision to Morris!

PS thanks everyone for your kind comments on my recent posts - glad to see you're reading and liking what I'm writing!

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Aerial View of VIA's Ocean Outside Bathurst

Check out this really cool drone video of VIA 15 aka the Ocean crossing the Tetagouche River south of Bathurst, New Brunswick. Fran├žois Foulem does some really good camera work with his drone - steady, clear video. Nice job!

Sunday, August 24, 2014

A Wee Grain Elevator Trip

On August 4 I took a "wee" grain elevator trip as part of my 2014 photography project (you've visited, haven't you?). I only had Sunday morning and I had an errand to run, to drop off a print to the owner of the Mentmore grain elevator in thanks for him showing me around. I figured I didn't have much time so I really only planned on seeing one new-to-me elevator, in Justice, Manitoba.

I made a spreadsheet to plan my trip (of course! who wouldn't?) and here it is.

You can see I intended to take the Trans-Canada west, then north to Justice, then visit Mentmore, then revisit a few elevators on my way out. I had a dwell time of 30 minutes at Oberon because I wanted to revisit that fantastic elevator in detail, and I planned on 30 minutes at Harte to hopefully catch a train passing the elevator on the CN Rivers subdivision.

I woke up bright and early around 03:15 and hit the road a few minutes early. After passing Portage la Prairie, I noticed I was well ahead of schedule so I made a quick decision to add two more elevators to my list. There is a new Viterra elevator just north of Brandon on the Rivers subdivision, as well as the old Manitoba Pool grain elevator at Forrest. I had thought about including them in the list before but I didn't think I had enough time.

After a quick stop at the highway Esso for fuel and the local Scottish restaurant for drive-through breakfast, I headed north on highway 10. I came across the old Pool elevator in Forrest quite easily.
Forrest with a new top!?
I spent the next 15 minutes photographing the elevator. It is a bit of an odd duck in that the top has clearly been replaced / renewed while the rest of the elevator, and the annex, is quite weathered. It does appear to be maintained as it is not very overgrown and there is an open Shop-Vac in the truck bay.
Drive Through Service
Back on the road, I quickly spotted the new Viterra facility and took a few photos from the highway.
Service at.. a profit
After 17 minutes of driving, I found Justice.
Been searching for justice? Here it is!
Justice has a classic Manitoba Pool elevator with a largeish annex. The single-track CN main line runs past it but there is no siding for the elevator any more.
Your classic prairie elevator
I spent half an hour photographing the elevator and a few scenes around. I was hoping a CN train would happen along but there was no sign of any rail traffic. There was some nice scenery, though.
Thanks for the photobomb, birds!
I carried on east to Brookdale and territory I had covered before on May 31. I stopped in Brookdale to photograph the old grain warehouse, a classic structure I had intended to photograph the first time but ended up forgetting about! The sun was not in a great position but I did what I could.
Ancient grain warehouse
From there I headed north to Mentmore. I dropped the photo off and took a few photos of the elevator from afar.
Jayson Brothers Limited, Mentmore
After that it was a short drive to Oberon.
Grain Elevator Selfie FTW!
I just love the weathered, forlorn look of this elevator. I spent about 20 minutes photographing it from various angles. Here's the office, viewed from outside.
Needs a little work
From there I headed directly south to Harte.
Bye for now
I was about 20 minutes ahead of schedule!

There was no rail action imminent but I did see a crop-duster working nearby, so I went over and photographed it for a while.
How low can you go?
The plane is an Air Tractor AT-402B, a plane custom made for spraying. It is part of the fleet operated by Ken Kane Aerial Spray Ltd. out of Minnedosa, Manitoba.
Air Tractor AT-402B
My scanner crackled to life with CN 114 calling the approach to Harte around 09:20. An eastbound would look great in the morning sun but it would be a "going away" photo for the grain elevator, as the elevator is east of the overpass I was shooting from. I had my old Canon S3 set up on the tripod to record video while I shot stills with my Canon T1i with the 70-200mm f/4 lens.
That's the shot I wanted

That overpass sure rumbled when those containers rolled by underneath. It was almost scary how close they were!

Interesting stuff in the gondolas...
How would you like your scrap steel?
After CN 114 went by, it was quiet for a while. I heard two CN trains exchanging inspection reports as they passed each other, and then I heard CN 403 call a diverging signal at Harte as they took the siding at 10:00. They crawled past the elevator, with CN 2307 / CN 8009 / CN 5480 / CN 5548 for power.
Taking the siding

When processing these photos, I was surprised to see that the conductor was photographing me!
Say cheese, foamer!

Sergeant stripes forever

The reason for taking the siding became apparent when CN 106 called the approach to Harte.

I set up to record the meet. CN 106 rumbled past with CN 8948 as the sole power on the head end, and CN 8944 as DPU in the middle of the train.
Pleased to meet you

Mid-train blues

CN 403 was rolling before 106 was past, anticipating a quick alignment of the switch so they could leave, and they got it and were on their way at 10:12. So was I, as my schedule said it was time to leave!

I passed Oberon again and took highway 5 south to the Trans-Canada, then headed east toward Winnipeg. As I passed MacGregor I saw two consecutive CN westbound trains. In both cases I pulled over to the shoulder and photographed them from the highway, as I didn't have time to do any more than that.
  1. CN 2120, CN 2619, CN 2125
  2. CN 5620, CN 2011
From a distance...

Passing Bloom, I noticed that poor CN 114 was stopped there. Clearly they didn't get too far after Harte before having to stop for westbound traffic.

Between Bloom and Portage I saw another train, with CN 8934 and CN 2528.
Love that zig zag!

I went around Portage and kept going. I saw I was making good time so I cut north to the Rivers subdivision just before Headingley, so I could drive alongside the CN tracks between mile 20 and mile 11 and hopefully catch just one more train. I met Brian Schuff at Diamond and we saw a CN train carry on westward  with CN IC 2699 and CN 5452 on the head end and CN 8846 pushing on the rear.
Just a few more trains and I'll be right home to you

Not bad for a (long) morning's work... 3 new grain elevators and 7 CN trains.

PS if you're interested in purchasing any of my prints, my best photos are available on If there's one you want that's not there, contact me and we can work it out.