After railfanning in Winnipeg, I planned to go to Portage la Prairie sometime during my stay in Winnipeg this December. My wife and I decided that December 27 would be the best day for me to go. For those who don't know, Portage is an ideal railfanning location due to the CP and CN main lines running side-by-side with only a few hundred feet between them. I had visited Portage once before, on July 27, 2004.
I set out from Winnipeg before sunrise to maximize the light. As I passed over the CN mainline at Wilkes Avenue I saw a westbound train rolling by. I figured I would probably beat it to Portage. I stopped in Elie for a quick bathroom break, and when I emerged from the gas station I heard a train horn. Elie, by the way, was the site of a very violent tornado on June 23, 2007. No high winds in December, thankfully. I hit the road and paced the train for a while. It looked very nice silhoutted against the prairie but it was too dark to take a photo.
I eventually decided to cut it off before Portage, so I took the exit at Oakville and rushed to the tracks. I taped it at 08:05 as it passed the local grain elevator. Unfortunately it was still pretty dark and the video camera struggled with the focus. The train had CN 2252 and 2239 leading 168 (!) cars.
I took up the chase again, but on the scanner I heard them calling the outer limits of Portage and I knew I could not get downtown before them. I decided to go around Portage and get them on the other side, as they would have to slow down through the city. By the way, their calls told me this was CN 769.
I found a small crossing just west of Portage, with plenty of time to set up the tripod and take some stills. At 08:30 CN 769 blew through. For trivia's sake, this was the longest train I've ever seen.
After that excitement, I headed downtown to see what was up. I was thrilled to see two big units on the CP side, until I realized they weren't going anywhere. CEFX 118 and CP 9138 did a little switching in the yard, then parked on the secondary line and sat... and sat... with red lights on the signals indicating no other trains around. There were two other CP units in Portage, 3120 and 6039.
I just noticed that I saw CEFX 118 once before - in Chicago on May 8, 2007. The other time I saw CP 3120 was in... Portage la Prairie!
I did a little driving around, a little photographing, and eventually I saw a headlight to the west. At about 09:54 CN 346 rolled through with CN 2533 and 2233 pulling 95 cars, a mixed consist with a lot of forest products. CN 2533 is an old friend to the Maritimes, and I saw it once in Saint John, NB on November 1, 2006.
I made a crucial mistake after that train, getting into my car, and missed a CN container eastbound at 10:03 with 2 units. They passed under me when I was on the bridge. Dang it.
I saw a CN track foreman near their little hut by the VIA station, and I asked him if he knew when the Canadian would be coming through. He checked the RTC display and said they would be by around 11:00. He mentioned the Hudson Bay was on the Gladstone sub but would be coming through soon. I thanked him and went up to the bridge to get overhead shots of those two.
I eventually saw a little headlight to the west that turned into an F40PH. From the length of the train I could see it was VIA 692, the Hudson Bay, running 3 hours late at 10:33. It had VIA 6456, 6445, baggage, coach, coach, diner, and sleeper Chauteau Viger. They did not stop at the station.
Soon after that, VIA 2, the Canadian, came by at 10:44, 50 minutes late. The consist was VIA 6436, 6453, deadhead sleeper Fraser Manor, baggage, coach, 8227?, Skyline, car, Skyline, diner Emerald, sleeper Draper Manor, sleeper Butler Manor, sleeper Dawson Manor, observation car Tremblant Park. As it approached me, the Canadian disturbed a group of birds that were feeding on spilled grain between the rails.
After that, nothing. Nothing on the CN side, nothing on the CP side. Oh, I shouldn't say "nothing" because CP 3120 eventually rolled out and started doing some shunting. The two big CP units rolled down a little way to make room for 3120.
I had told my wife I was leaving at noon, so I was starting to get nervous. As noon approached I saw the lights on the CP side had changed, and at 11:48 a CP eastbound rolled through with CP 9700 and 9663 leading a long doublestack train.
CP 3120 pushed a short train out of the yard with a boarded-up CP caboose at the head end.
Right after that, the two big CP units hooked on to their train, and left at 12:03 with CEFX 118 and CP 9138 leading 88 cars.
I hit the road back to Winnipeg. I heard a CN track foreman on the scanner talk to the RTC, and the RTC mentioned there were two westbounds coming through shortly. Sure enough, I heard CN 115 call its way through Portage at 12:20. Therefore, one more westbound on the way! I decided to try to get it at Oakville. As I turned off the highway, I saw it approaching across the wide open prairie. As I zoomed down highway 13 I was trying to figure out who would get to the crossing first. I'll cut the suspense... it was me by at least 5 seconds. I screeched to a halt before the gates, hopped out and started filming. Westbound CN 303 rolled through with CN 2554?, IC 6058, and 113 cars (I knew it was CN 303 by some later scanner traffic).
With that I headed back to Winnipeg, a little annoyed by the lack of CP traffic but otherwise satisfied. I was especially pleased to bag two VIA trains. 4 CN trains, 3 CP trains, and 2 VIA trains... not too bad.
- Back to part 1
- Return to Portage
- Portage - Hit and Miss
- A Morning in Portage la Prairie
- Snowblind in Portage la Prairie