Friday, December 31, 2010

Thursday Noon Railfanning

I needed to do something I enjoyed Thursday, so what could be better than railfanning? I arrived at the St. James diamond at about 11:30 and found another railfan there, as well as a CN eastbound freight train waiting nearby. The railfan (never got his name) brought me up to date quickly: the eastbound had been there for half an hour, with crew. CN 115 was in Fort Rouge with his tail end sticking out onto the mainline, and VIA should be on time. We waited in our respective cars, as the temperature outside was -20C, or -32C with wind chill. On the plus side, it was sunny.

CN 115 ended up being the first train we saw, crossing over from the south to the north track just west of Waverley Street.
CN 5746 in Winnipeg
CN 5746 and CN 2440 provided the power. CN 5746 is an old friend from Saint John. I saw it there on five separate days over the years.

Pretty much right on the heels of CN 115 was VIA 1, the Canadian. They stopped just east of the diamond on signal indication, waiting for 115 to get out of the way. At the same time, the CN freight that had been sitting on the south track started to move. We were concerned that the freight on the south track would block our view of VIA on the north track, so we moved down closer to the Canadian to get our shots. Fortunately, VIA passed by us first.
VIA 6431 in Winnipeg
It had a refurbished F40 on the head end, VIA 6431. I have seen VIA 6431 many times, on seven Oceans and even one Canadian, but this was the first time I've seen it since it was refurbished.

We were close to being skunked!
VIA and CN meet
The eastbound turned out to be CN 784 with engines CN 2254 and CN 8851.
CN 2254 in Winnipeg
My railfan friend told me that CEMR should be right on VIA's heels on its way to the Carman subdivision. We waited, and sure enough CEMR came around the corner at Portage Junction, but stopped short of Waverley Street, on the north track. Why?

The answer came soon with the news that some train had passed through the mile 10 hotbox detector on the south track. Clearly this train was going to have to pass by before CEMR could cross over to the south track and get onto their subdivision. The train came into sight and was CN 314 with CN 2579 and the second Dash-8 of the day, CN 2405.
CN 2579 in Winnipeg
I was out of time by that point, so I hit the road. As I left, I noticed that CP was heading south on the La Riviere subdivision, so there would have been at least two more trains - CEMR and CP. Sometimes you just have to quit!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

MMA 2000

MMA 2000 in McAdam. Photo by Gary Lee
The New Brunswick Southern Railway is using MMA 2000 in New Brunswick and Maine. I don't know the details of the arrangement, whether it is a long term lease or a short term loan, but the MMA 2000 has been working in the McAdam yard and on work trains fixing up the flood damage.

MMA 2000 is an ex-Conrail GE B-23-7 engine.

Rumour has it that MMA 2000 has gone to Saint John but I have no confirmation of that yet.

Here's one more shot of MMA 2000 in McAdam with NBSR 2610.
MMA 2000 and NBSR 2610 in McAdam, NB. Photo by Gary Lee

All photos and video in this post are from Gary Lee. Thanks Gary!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Snow Shots

I went out around noon today to shoot the Canadian. I went up Wilkes Avenue and parked a little west of Shaftesbury, around mile 8 or so. The Canadian was right on time.
VIA 6435 in Winnipeg
VIA 6435 led the train through the blowing snow. The Canadian was a little longer than the usual winter consist, probably due to the Christmas rush. Normal Maritime car Evangeline Park brought up the rear.
VIA Evangeline Park
After that, we moved on to St. James Junction. There was another vehicle there with a couple of railfans in it. We waited for a while until CN 199 showed up just before 1 PM. Two SD75s provided the power, with CN 5791 leading.
CN 5791 in Winnipeg
Keep shoveling!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas

CN 2435 and another engine run light over the Red River in Winnipeg, MB 2004/12/28

I hope you have a merry Christmas (if you celebrate it) and/or a great weekend.

Friday, December 24, 2010

More on Photography Rights

Police at the CN Fairview yard. Photographer unknown.
In August, Railfan & Railroad Managing Editor Steve Barry and a friend were detained by New York City police while waiting to take photographs of a special subway train. They were told that photography is not allowed in the subway system and cited for violating a section of the New York City Rules of Conduct:

Photography, filming or video recording in any facility or conveyance is permitted except that ancillary equipment such as lights, reflectors or tripods may not be used. Members of the press holding valid identification issued by the New York City Police Department are hereby authorized to use necessary ancillary equipment. All photographic activity must be conducted in accordance with the provisions of this Part.

It is not clear to me whether they were using tripods or lights.

Anyway, the charges have been dropped and Steve is suing for $50,000. More details here.

I wasn't there so I don't know what actually happened. I know I would have acted differently than Mr. Barry did, but that's not any kind of slam to him. I am not a very confrontational person.

What I find interesting about the situation is the amount of what I call "railfan entitlement" being expressed in some forums. Apparently a minority of railfans feel they should not be "hassled" when they trespass to take their photos. These few bad apples make the rest of us look bad.

I would remind those people that the railways are there to do a job, not for our entertainment, and to feel grateful for the privilege we have to see them at their work. Yes, it's my right to be able to take photos but it's also the right of the railway to do their work without interference. These rights collide on occasion and the results aren't pretty.

Know your rights, but don't be a jerk.

I have written about photography rights here, here, and here.

Finally, I ran across a great article: Photography is not a crime. I encourage you to read it.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Keewatin Railway Video

Here's a video of the Keewatin Railway mixed train leaving The Pas, Manitoba. The Keewatin Railway is Manitoba's first native-owned railway and operates from The Pas to Lynn Lake over the former CN Sherridon subdivision.

The train is awesome... two M-420s on the head end, some old freight cars in the middle, and three VIA blue-and-yellow cars on the end. The cars are still owned by VIA and are listed as the The Pas-Pukatawagan train, running twice weekly.

This next video shows the train being put together. This time the power is one M-420 and one leased Hudson Bay Railway GP40-2.

Both videos are by Dormitator1.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Next Winnipeg Slide Night

The next Winnipeg Slide Show is scheduled for January 5, 2011 starting at 7 PM, at the Canadian Mennonite University here at the corner of Shaftesbury Boulevard and Grant Avenue.

If you are interested in attending, and if you would like to present your photos / slides / video, please contact Mark Perry.

Friday, December 17, 2010

An Interesting Consist

On Thursday (Dec 16) I decided I should go shoot the Canadian. It had been a while, after all.

I went to Wilkes Avenue just east of Kenaston Boulevard and parked to wait. I saw a train coming from the east, and readied to shoot it, only to see it was BNSF returning to their yard. Soon after, a CN MOW vehicle came onto the south track from the industrial spur and headed east. It met the Canadian, which was heading west on the north track.

As I readied my camera to shoot, I saw that a refurbished engine was leading (!) and there was something interesting behind the engines...
VIA Canadian in Winnipeg
Refurbished VIA 6433 was leading 6404... with a deadhead Skyline dome AND VIA 1722.

I have no idea why 1722 was on the train. You may recall that the three ex-Whistler Northwind cars are used on the Canadian between Vancouver and Edmonton. I assume 1722 was in Toronto for servicing and was being sent back west.
VIA Tremblant Park
It was a nice catch.

I was reading some photography tips recently, and one suggestion they had was to bump up the exposure an F-stop or so when shooting in the snow. The blinding white snow fools the camera sensor into making everything too dark. I tried that with these shots and I'm pleased with the results.

Soon after VIA passed, CP ran a grain train south on the La Riviere subdivision across the CN-CP diamond at St. James. I shot CP 8737 trundling along with its train, just south of the diamond.
CP 8737 in Winnipeg

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Pump It Up

CP 8652 at Makwa
"I've got my groove on and I'm ready to go
Check out my right girl, but don't touch my radio

Don't you know, pump it up, You got to pump it up,
Don't you know, pump it up, You got to pump it up…"
"Pump It Up", Danzel

I took my daughter up to a birthday party off Inkster Boulevard on Sunday afternoon, and after I dropped her off, my son and I went in search of trains. Since I mostly shoot CN, I thought I might try to find some CP trains just west of Winnipeg in the Rosser area. We headed out Inkster and found a set of headlights by the elevator at Makwa.

I have to be careful about the location here. The elevator at Makwa says "ROSSER" on it but CP calls it Makwa, so that is what I shall do. Rosser is a regional municipality and the actual "town" of Rosser is a few kilometres west of Makwa, with the CP control point called Rosser just west of that.

ANYway, it turns out that CP #210 / CP 8652 East was sitting on the main line by the elevator with an intermodal train behind it. They had just set off these units: CP 6602, 5420, and 5949.
CP 6602, 5420 and 5949
At first, they were waiting for a light to take their train into Winnipeg. After a testy exchange with the RTC, they got their light, but they were unable to move because they couldn't get the air in the train up to an acceptable pressure.

If you know anything about train brakes, you know that the air line connecting all the cars together gets a bit leaky in cold weather. I'm sure with four units they had no trouble compressing enough air to keep the pressure up, but with a single unit they were having great difficulty maintaining pressure. Without adequate pressure they can't move, because they can't guarantee they can stop the train if they need to.

The problem is that the CP Carberry subdivision is now single track and there were two eastbound trains stuck behind them, one at Rosser and one near Meadows. I'll bet the RTC was wishing he had two tracks at that point! I could see the headlights of the train at Rosser from Makwa.

There were three other railfans at Makwa taking photos, and I introduced myself before we all took off to shoot the train at Rosser. That turned out to be CP 104, with CP 9781 on point.
CP 9781 at Rosser Manitoba
You can just see the headlights of the NEXT train at Meadows on the left side of the photo.

We all headed off to Meadows next. I found the train a little east of the actual town of Meadows, a short train with CP 9150 as the sole power.
CP 9150 near Meadows MB
I took a few shots, and then heard its crew call the RTC and ask if their now-green light was legit. They were cleared to proceed on signal indication, so I took that to mean that the air was finally pumped up and things were moving. I rolled on through Rosser and passed CP 104, before pulling over to shoot them rolling up to Makwa.

I was in a bit of a rush and I made the mistake of not wearing my gloves. The temperature was about -28C and my hands were REALLY aching by the time the video was done. Stupid railfan trick #27.

I jumped back in the car and put my gloves on for the next train! Soon enough CP 9150 rolled along. I changed position to include the elevator and the set-off units in the shot.

It was time for supper after that, so off we went.

Pump it up!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

McAdam and Area Flood Update

McAdam track washout. Photo by Jody Robinson
Here's another Jody Robinson photo showing a washout under the main line in McAdam's yard. Note the culvert in the bottom left, clearly not large enough to handle the flow of water from the heavy downpour.

Long-time readers may remember I took a few photos of a washout in Grand Bay, NB back in September 2008.

I'm told that a lot of the water in McAdam has drained away, but there is a lot of damage left. I understand there are "at least six major washouts between McAdam and Saint John". Don't expect to see any main line trains for a while - just ballast trains.

It's a shame, given the amount of work that has been done to refurbish the track in the past two years after the funding announcement. Who knows how much worse it might have been?

Look at this video from St. Stephen showing the amount of water there.

Here's a video from Gary Lee showing the damage to the main street in McAdam. Near the end of the video he shows the main line in the McAdam yard hanging in the air.

EDIT: Added Gary's video from McAdam.

Flooding in New Brunswick

McAdam flooding, by Jody Robinson
There was a ton of rain in New Brunswick yesterday. Environment Canada is reporting that St. Stephen received 166 mm of rain (that's 6.5 inches) while Fredericton received a mere 105 mm (4.1 inches). In concert with that were unseasonably high temperatures (>10 C) and high winds. Many roads are flooded, power is out in a number of places, and some people have been forced from their homes. I hope the cleanup goes well.

CTV News reported that part of the (NB Southern) railway washed out in St. Stephen, and that McAdam had a state of emergency declared.

Jody Robinson sent me some photos of the flooding in McAdam. You can see the wye area of McAdam in the photo above. The water breached the short dam around the pond by the McAdam station.
McAdam flooding. Photo by Jody Robinson
Water is doing what water does, going to the lowest area and carving out channels in the dirt and asphalt as it goes.

NB Southern held their eastbound freight at McAdam, and the St. Stephen job did not go down the subdivision, thankfully.
NB Southern trains in McAdam
That's NBSR 9802 on the left with the St. Stephen caboose, and NBSR 9801 and two other engines were on the mainline freight train.

You can see the water headed toward the station. Fortunately, the station is OK.

Thanks for the photos, Jody!

Monday, December 13, 2010

CEMR Car Storage Train

ANY 5232 in Winnipeg
I was heading up the Perimeter Highway late Saturday afternoon when I noticed a CEMR train had just cleared the highway, heading northeast to Carman Junction. I exited at Wilkes Avenue and easily beat them to the Junction. I knew they would have to call the CN RTC for their track warrant. I took a few shots as they approached the junction in the fading light. Ex-CN SD40 ANY 5232 was leading GP9s CEMR 4001 and 4000 and a lot of potash cars.

I waited at the crossing on Wilkes for a while until they finally got going, and took this video with my Canon T1i.

They stopped briefly, for the conductor to dismount and line the switch for the spur track. The train then proceeded onto the mainline and the conductor waited for the entire train to clear before relining the switch for the mainline.

I knew it was going to be a long walk for the conductor in the cold, so I pulled up beside him and offered to give him a lift to the head end. He accepted and hopped in the car, calling the engineer to let him know and to cancel the cab they had ordered. The train continued east at a slow pace.

While I was overtaking the train, he told me that they were pulling all the stored potash cars out of their 600 car storage area south of Carman. Apparently PCS has a big order to fill so they had to get these 100 cars to CN by 6 PM so they could be taken to Melville, Saskatchewan.

I dropped him off at Shaftesbury Boulevard, where he boarded the engines, and I made my way quickly to St. James Junction to shoot the train one more time. You can see that the light was really getting iffy.

I didn't record the entire train because the low battery indicator was blinking and I didn't want the camera to die mid-video. It was OK with my old Sony because it was tape and it would survive, but with these new-fangled SD cards I'm not sure if the camera would be able to close out the MOV file before dying. Why take the chance?

It was nice to see the CEMR again!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

$75 of Free Scanning

If anyone is interested in having some scanning done, I have a code for up to $75 of free scanning from ScanCafe for one person. You would only have to pay for the shipping both ways (about $40). Email me at if you want the code. It is only valid for orders placed today (Sunday) or tomorrow (Monday).

Going For A Spin

Here's a great Greg Brewer slide from November 3, 1984.
CN 2519 on the turntable in Saint John, NB
CN 2519 is taking a spin on the turntable in CN's Island Yard in Saint John, NB. It looks like Greg was shooting facing east, just south of the yard.

You can see where the turntable was, on this car control manual page.

CN 2519 was built in 1973 as an M-420(W) (W for wide) and was put into class MR-20a by CN. In 1986-87 it had its weight and fuel capacity reduced to enable it to run on branch lines. I believe those were reversed in late 1994.

CN Lines says it was leased to RaiLink of Southern Ontario in 1997, and retired from CN on February 13, 1998. It was sold to the St. Lawrence & Atlantic Railroad in New Hampshire in 1998, and sold again the Southern Railroad of New Jersey in early 2004. The site referenced still has it and two other ex-CN M420s on the roster.

Anyone know when the turntable was removed from the Island Yard? There is no trace of it now. Locomotives are turned on the nearby wye, just as the Acadian passenger train was when it was in operation.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Derailment Caught By Railfans

A few railfans were filming a CSX freight train in Metairie, Louisiana. It looks like the train was going into a siding. The conductor got off the train and threw the ground throw, then as the train proceeded through the switch, several cars derailed not far behind the engine. The derailment itself starts at about 2:30 3:30 into the video.

I find it interesting that the conductor did not lock the switch. I don't know American regulations but the Canadian Rail Operating Rules are quite specific. For hand-operated switches: Except while being turned, each switch must be secured with an approved device. When a switch has been turned, the points must be examined and the target, reflector or light, if any, observed to ensure that the switch is properly lined for the route to be used. - Rule 104(b).

Often the switch is secured by the hasp of the lock. The problem with leaving a switch unsecured is that the movement of cars through the switch can cause the switch points to move. Putting something in the switch mechanism like the lock hasp prevents the switch from changing position.

Oil-Electric goes into the wreck and location in more detail... check it out!

EDIT: There is a news article about this derailment.

EDIT: I initially said it was a trailing point move, but the overhead shot from the above news article makes it clear it was a facing point move, i.e. the train was going INTO the siding. An unsecured switch could easily move in this case.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Great NB Southern Chase

Dave Dineen posted a great NB Southern Railway chase video. Read his blog post for his commentary. The video sure brings back memories of my own chases along that line.

CBC Article on NBRRR

I see there is a CBC article on the cancellation of the New Brunswick Recreational Rail Riders' lease on the track near Nackawic. I wrote about this on Wednesday.

Danny Dineen is interviewed in the story and blames the cancellation on partisan politics and a local businessman wanting the contract to remove the rails.

More to come...

Gaspé Train Calendar

Bernard Babin is offering a 2011 calendar featuring trains from the beautiful Gaspé Peninsula.

"This calendar will display quality pictures of passenger and freight trains to and from the Gaspé area. It’s also a great way to advertise and promote rail services and the amazing scenery of the Gaspé Coast."

"Hurry up and order your 2011 calendar for only $15 CAD + postage fees if applicable. Quantities limited. Contact:"

I haven't seen the calendar but any photos featuring the Gaspé are going to be beautiful. It is an amazing place.

PS: Don't forget my calendar. :)

Thursday, December 09, 2010


I received my scans back from ScanCafe yesterday, so expect a batch of old photos to start appearing here soon.

I am starting to rename the files with meaningful names, and I noticed something interesting in the background of this otherwise normal slide of CN 2531 in Moncton (by Greg Brewer).
CN 2531 in Moncton. Slide by Greg Brewer
Notice the passenger cars in the background? Here's the relevant part of the slide:

The scan didn't quite work out for this slide. The cars really don't have a big bend in them!

I thought, "yellow cars, yellow cars, I've seen those before."

Then I remembered - a couple of the Salem & Hillsborough passenger cars were painted yellow when they were received. Here's a bad scan of an Al Howland picture:

This makes a lot of sense, because Greg's slide was shot on June 17, 1984, just prior to the start up of operations for the Salem & Hillsborough Railway.

Moral: Keep an eye on the backgrounds!

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

New Brunswick Recreational Rail Riders in Jeopardy

I received word this morning that the province has told the New Brunswick Recreational Rail Riders (NBRRR) that their lease on the 9 miles of railroad track between Nackawic and Millville will be cancelled effective December 29, 2010.

For those who don't know, the NBRRR are a group of people who operate track speeders over the former CP Southampton Subdivision between Nackawic and Millville in New Brunswick. Read about the New Brunswick Recreational Rail Riders. They have maintained the track since their inception and have never asked for any government handouts. They enjoy their hobby and would like to continue to do so. Without this track they will have nowhere in New Brunswick to run their speeders.

The Minister of Natural Resources, the Honourable Bruce Northrup, wrote that the reason for canceling the lease was to allow multi-purpose use of the trail. Presumably the rails will be lifted and the roadbed converted to trail, as so much of the province's rail system has become.

It should be pointed out that the New Brunswick Trail passes by Nackawic on the south side of the Saint John River, and this "multi-purpose trail" would not connect to any existing trail.

There are rumours that a local contractor has been waiting for a government contract to lift the rails. I don't know if this is true or not.

This is the last significant piece of publicly owned track in New Brunswick. The land it is on is not valuable and the new trail that would be created would not connect to any existing trail.

Please speak out. You can contact the Minister, Bruce Northrup, at The Premier, David Alward, can be contacted at

Please help keep this piece of New Brunswick railway history alive.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Fredericton Train Station Update

There hasn't been anything in the news lately, but looking at the train station webcam, I can see a lot of change from when I was last there.

Watch the webcam

CPR Holiday Train at Marquette

Jeff Keddy caught the CPR Holiday Train at Marquette, MB west of Winnipeg. Here is his video of that train plus two other CP trains that preceded it.

Good catch!

Monday, December 06, 2010

The Grand Canyon Railroad

Grand Canyon engine 295
My wife and I visited the Grand Canyon this past Saturday (Dec. 4). We lucked out and the weather was mostly sunny and warm. It was an awe-inspiring sight. Here is a little video I made from one vantage point.

When we were in the Grand Canyon Village, I stumbled across the Grand Canyon Railway tourist train. It was laying over at the village, having come up from Williams, AZ in the morning. The trip takes 2 hours and 15 minutes, each way.

As you can see from the top photo, the train had ex-Amtrak F40PH #495 on the head end. Looking at their roster, I am a little disappointed that they did not have one of their ex-CN/VIA Alco FPA-4s on the train. Beggars can't be choosers!
Grand Canyon train
It was nice to see the stainless steel cars!
Grand Canyon train CHIEF

Sunday, December 05, 2010

NBSR 2317 Returns

NBSR 2317 in Saint John, 2007
NBSR 2317 has returned to Saint John after a long absence. It went to Canadian Allied Diesel (CAD) in Lachine, Quebec very late in 2009 (as I reported).

The above photo was taken in Saint John on June 19, 2007.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Anyone Shoot HDR?

I'm planning on shooting some HDR photos soon.

HDR? Wazzat?

HDR stands for High Dynamic Range and basically means a photograph with a very wide range of exposures. Cameras have a limited range (some more limited than others), so the picture they take does not really reflect the range of light intensity that you see.

HDR processing involves the combination of a number of photos of the same scene, with different levels of exposure. If you Google HDR you will see many many pages on it.

The limitation of HDR is that the scene must be static. You can't shoot an HDR photo of a scene with movement because the multiple exposures will not have the same image contents. I suppose it could produce an interesting effect, though!

This excellent HDR blog post describes how to create HDR images using Photoshop. I don't use Photoshop, so I could use a tool like Photomatix instead.

Some cameras now have HDR features built-in, like the Pentax K-7 or the Canon G12.

This interest has been sparked by my participation in the 365 Project. It's one of those "Photo a day for a year" sites. It's really stimulating my love of photography. Believe it or not, I'm taking photos of more things than trains and my kids!

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Gaspé Diesel

An article came out a few days ago on Radio-Canada about the possibility of a local Gaspé Peninsula company getting the contract to maintain the diesel locomotives in operation on the peninsula.

The company, Gaspésie Diesel, is in the running to take over maintenance of the three ex-NBEC RS-18 units and 10 pieces of rolling stock. Currently they are maintained by CN in Campbellton for about $100,000/year.

Gaspésie Diesel does work on diesel engines, mostly for trucks. They recently won a contract to repair a couple of wreck-damaged stainless steel VIA cars. Gaspésie Diesel's CEO, Gilles Babin, stated they intend to build a car repair shop in New Richmond, Quebec in the spring of 2011.

Read the article.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

NBSR By Gary

Gary Lee posted a few NB Southern videos from McAdam recently.

Here's NBSR 2612, NBSR 9802, and NBSR 2319 on what is clearly a miserable day.

Another day, he shot NB Southern's "Little Giant" crane pushing a single ballast car.

Sperry truck 872 was checking the main line by the McAdam station.

Finally, here's NBSR 2319 rocking and rolling across the Magaguadavic bridge. I've always wondered what the bridge looked like.