Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Mode Wheel

There's a good article on Pixiq about Translating the Mode Wheel. You know, the wheel that determines what mode your camera shoots in. The article basically says that you should never use any of the "specialty" modes (like Sports, No Flash, etc.) and instead use Program (P), Aperture Priority (Av), Shutter Priority (Tv) or Manual (M). A little extreme? Perhaps.. but perhaps not.

I have been burned by using some of the specialty modes. Let's step through the ones available on my T1i, in no particular order.

Creative Auto
When I first bought the camera, I was shooting trains in Creative Auto (CA) mode. It gives you some flexibility in settings but is not full on Program mode. The problem is that in low light it pops the flash up, which is useless for shooting trains. To combat this, I switched to No Flash mode.

No Flash
The problem is that No Flash mode picks the slowest shutter speed it can get away with. I really got burned on this in Calgary shooting CP from an overhead bridge. I showed some video in my post but no stills. I had taken the stills, but they were blurry because the shutter speed was too slow.

Now I shoot in Shutter Priority (Tv) mode - basically the same but *I* get to control the shutter speed. I find 1/125s is good enough for most trains, but if you are close to the train and it is going perpendicular to where you're aiming, it is good to use a 1/160 or 1/200 shutter speed to ensure the train is frozen with no blur.

Portrait
I confess I use Portrait mode a lot when shooting people pictures. I put that down to laziness and I really should use Aperture Priority (Av) mode instead.

Landscape
I have used Landscape mode with good results, but I don't use it much.

Full Auto
I might have shot one or two pictures with this mode when I first bought the camera, but I don't see any point in it. Why get an SLR if you are going to shoot in full auto?

Close-Up
Honestly, I'm not sure that I have ever used this. As the article says, if you have a macro lens, use Program or Aperture Priority. If you don't have a macro lens, this isn't going to help you at all.

Sports
I tried using Sports mode to shoot trains, but the problem with that is it uses a single point of focus (the centre) and that really interferes with good composition. I'd rather keep my 9 points of focus, thanks.

Night Portrait
I've never used it.

Do you use any of the specialty modes in your camera?

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Crazy Eights

CN 8888 in Winnipeg
I went up to Waverley Street in Winnipeg on Thursday to shoot the Canadian. It turned out that they had a problem with toilets and stayed at the Maintenance Centre at Fort Rouge until 14:00, so I never saw them. However, I did see CN 111... with CN 8888 on the point.

For noon, it was pretty dark!


CN 8888 is an SD70M-2, one of CN's shiny new units. The DPU unit was another SD70M-2, CN 8021, but it's not so shiny now!
CN 8021 in Winnipeg

Most of the current Class 1 railroads have an 8888 in use.
  • The most famous would be CSX 8888. The movie Unstoppable is based on a true story about CSX 8888 (an SD40-2) going runaway.
  • CP 8888 is an ES44AC.
  • Norfolk Southern's NS 8888 is a Dash-9.
  • BNSF 8888 is an SD70MAC.
  • I don't think there is a Union Pacific 8888.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Viewer Video: A Shave and a Haircut

Here's a nice chase of CN 406 by saintjohnrailfan. He chased the train from Sussex, NB to Hampton, NB. There's some nice pacing video in the middle, too.

In case you are wondering where the shave and a haircut in this video comes from, the engineer tooted a little tune on the horn. No doubt you've heard it before.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

End of the Line?

I just received an email from the Honourable David Alward, Premier of New Brunswick, about the termination of the New Brunswick Recreational Rail Riders' lease:

Dear Mr. Boyko:

RE: Cancellation of Crown Lands Lease

This is in response to your e-mails addressed to myself and the Minister of Natural Resources dated December 8, 2010 regarding the cancellation of the lease to the New Brunswick Recreational Rail Riders.

As the lessee was advised by letter, this lease is being cancelled in order to enable the establishment of a multi-use recreational trail. This particular section connects to SentierNBTrail and developing this corridor as a multi-use trail will provide a greater variety of uses to a broader public, rather than limiting it to a few people.

I appreciate your interest in this matter.

Sincerely,

Honourable David Alward
Premier


Here's the letter I wrote.

Dear Mr. Alward,

I am writing to protest the decision to terminate the lease for the New Brunswick Recreational Rail Riders of the 9.5 miles of track in the Nackawic-Millville area. This group has used and maintained the railway track for over ten years and deserves to continue to use this land. They have been responsible users of the land, paid their lease dues, and improved the property with no assistance from government.

I would like to know the reasons for terminating their lease. My contact information is listed below.

Please reconsider this termination. Thank you.

Steve Boyko

National Film Board Train Videos

The National Film Board, one of Canada's national treasures, has some very interesting train films available online. Some examples:

Check them out!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Jordan Spreader Video

CN 50938 Jordan spreader. Photo by Jeff Keddy
Jeff Keddy took some really impressive video of Jordan Spreader #50938 with CN engine 2133 plowing the Letellier subdivision between Winnipeg and Emerson, Manitoba last week.

I encourage you to watch this video in its entirety. It shows the plow doing its thing, both with wings deployed and without. You can see how the wings work and how adjustable they are. At some points they have the wings out and down to plow the banks, then up and in to clear obstacles. At one grain elevator they brought one wing in to clear a post, then put it back out again afterward. You really have to pay attention to operate those things!

Here's some information on Jordan spreaders. They really are the Swiss army knife of railway maintenance, capable of snow plowing in the winter and ballast spreading in the summer.

Spreaders are unpowered, so they have to be pushed by a locomotive or two. In this case ex-UP CN 2133 did the job. You'll see in the video that there is a stencil on the spreader limiting it to 60 MPH, which is not a problem since the maximum speed on the Letellier subdivision is 25 MPH and there are no special instructions for spreaders on that sub.

The wings can be deployed full-out, partially in, or folded up against the unit, and each is independent of the other. They can also be raised or lowered vertically depending on the slope away from the track. You can see in the photo above that they have "tips" that can also be adjusted.

Here's a short video I found with a UP spreader, showing the wing going in and out.


I've posted about spreaders before.

Enjoy the video!

Canadian Atlantic Railway Timetable

I see there is a Canadian Atlantic Railway timetable for sale on eBay. The price is $8.99 and includes shipping. These rarely come up on eBay. By the way, I don't know the seller.

Or, you can view it online with the other timetables (CN and CP) I have displayed. Your choice! :)

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Foreign Power in McAdam

Maine Central 319 in McAdam, NB. Photo by Gary Lee Bowser
I'm told the February issue of Railfan & Railroad magazine reported that "On November 23, 2010, New Brunswick Southern and Pan Am Railways implemented a new runthrough freight service between Saint John, New Brunswick, and Waterville, Maine, using pooled motive power. NBSR crews handle train SJWA and WASJ between Saint John and Mattawamkeag, Maine, with PAR crews west of there. The preliminary schedule calls for a 5:00 a.m. westbound departure from 'Keag' on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays, with eastbounds running on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays."

So far there has been no sign of foreign power in New Brunswick, with the exception of MM&A 2000. That changed today with the arrival of MEC 319 and MEC 516 in McAdam.

Rail enthusiast Gary Lee was there to take shots of these visitors.
MEC 516 in McAdam, NB. Photo by Gary Lee Bowser

MEC 319 is an EMD GP40, built in November 1968 for the Penn Central as #3213. MEC 516 is an EMD GP40-2LW, built in April 1976 for CN as #9657.
MEC 516 in McAdam. Photo by Gary Lee Bowser
They left McAdam for Saint John shortly before 5 PM local time. Could this become a regular occurrence?

Here's a walk-around video taken by Gary.

Thanks for the pictures and video, Gary! Thanks also to Danny McCracken for the text from Railfan & Railroad.

EDIT: Gary informed me that they headed out for Saint John.

NBSR 2318 In Service

Brian Barchard caught NBSR 2318 leading an eastbound freight train through Harvey in the early afternoon. NBSR 2318 and slug 008 and another Geep were pulling 58 cars. Nice to hear it's back to work and putting that slug to work too.

You may remember it was on its way home last week.

Monday, January 24, 2011

A Little Too Enthusiastic

These guys are pretty enthusiastic about railfanning at the Poinsettia station in Carlsbad, California. Lots of whoops and shrieks, and horn blowing from the engineers. I appreciate passion in one's hobbies, but these guys put the "foam" in "foamers".

CAUTION: A lot of foul language and toilet humour.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Photo Backups

I was reading this article on photo backups and was curious how others back up their digital photos?

I have a home server that I back up all my files to, every week or so. Beyond that, I have a portable hard drive that I copy all my documents to, and store in my office for an off-site backup. I don't back up to that as much as I should, but it's better than nothing.

Basically, you really should have A) some kind of backup, and B) some kind of OFF SITE backup in case of fire, flood, or other disaster.

What do you do?

Saturday, January 22, 2011

CP 8743

CP 8743 in Fredericton, slide by Greg Brewer
In honour of the cold day outside here in Winnipeg, here's a shot of CP 8743 on a cold day in Fredericton, NB. This slide was shot by Greg Brewer in January 1984. You can just imagine the crisp snow crunching underfoot. There are a few long icicles dangling from the former shoe factory in the background.

CP 8743 was built in May 1957 for CP by the Montreal Locomotive Works. In 1989, a few years after this slide was taken, she was rebuilt with a chop nose and renumbered to CP 1865. 1865 soldiered on for a few more years until she was sold to the Ottawa Central Railway in December 1998.

She was captured in OCR livery in May 2008 at Ottawa Central's Walkley Yard by Mark Chouinard.


Anyone know what the eventual disposition of Ottawa Central 1865 was?

The current CP 8743 is a GE ES44AC built in late 2005.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

New BNSF Unit

BNSF 2756 in Winnipeg
Winnipeg has a new BNSF engine. Thanks to a heads up from a local railfan, I went to the BNSF yard shortly before noon on Thursday to see the new unit, GP39E BNSF 2756. It and the "old" unit BNSF 3028 were both in the BNSF Manitoba yard on Lindsay Street. BNSF 3028 was put into the engine house and then 2756 followed.

It doesn't look a lot different than former Winnipeg resident BNSF 2743, seen here in September 2009, also a GP39E.
BNSF 2743 in Winnipeg
It looks like the horns are in slightly different spots, and BNSF 2756 has a horizontal white stripe between the green and black.

Presumably BNSF 3028 will be going home today or tomorrow on CN train 532.

CP 1814 Revisited

I wrote about CP 1814 back in December 2008. I found another slide of 1814 that I wanted to share. Here's a slide by Greg Brewer showing CP 1814 in Fredericton, NB in the Canadian Pacific yard, back in January 1984.
CP 1814 in Fredericton. Slide by Greg Brewer
Clearly it is late in the day, as the sun is low and in the west. CP 1814 is wearing the white flags of an extra. In fact, it looks like the white classification light above the number board is lit as well. A crewman is visible on the other side of the short hood.

I like this slide, because readers know I love MLW/Alco units, but I also like the slide because of what is on the left side of the slide - a glimpse at the yard itself. Here's that portion of the slide.

You can see an engine house? just peeking out on the left side of the image. The foundation of the engine house was just broken up last year when the station was being refurbished. I was told the workers couldn't believe how thick the concrete was.

Next is a small building, purpose unknown, with what looks like a snowplow roughly in the middle of the image. There are a few other tracks back there, including one that goes to what appears to be a loading ramp just to the left of the engine railing.

The large building in the back was the Palmer-McLellan Shoe Company, and the building still exists today as a general purpose office building, facing on Aberdeen Street. A major tenant is the Grand & Toy office supply company, and it holds a Salvation Army thrift store as well.

EDIT: Peter Gough told me what the large building in the back of the slide was.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

New Lens in Action

VIA 6446 in Winnipeg
Here are the first shots with my new 50mm lens. I went to St. James Junction on Tuesday to shoot the Hudson Bay. I arrived on time but VIA did not. It turns out the engine crew were waiting for the doors to close, so I made a quick trip to A&W for lunch and returned just before the Hudson Bay crossed Waverley Street. I climbed to the top of the giant snow pile near the diamond to get some height, and took my shots.
VIA train 693 aka the Hudson Bay
VIA 693 had engines 6446 and 6413 on the head end, and the same Skyline (8511) that I saw a week before.

I am impressed by the clarity of the images. Granted, I had good light, but the details like the trucks on the engines really pop with this lens. However, there was one issue I had not anticipated.
Starring of the headlights
I was surprised to see this "star" effect with the headlights. It is not specific to the lens but is due to a narrow aperture (in this case f/9.9). The technique is described here and here.

My other lenses did not show this because they are not capable of such a narrow aperture. The EF 50mm lens can use apertures from f/1.8 (widest) to f/16 (narrow), whereas my kit wide angle lens can go from f/3.5 to f/5.6. This is something I'm going to have to watch for! The good thing about using a narrow aperture is you get a wide depth of field, meaning more of the photo is in focus. If you're confused about aperture and depth of field, read this. I found it helpful.

The great thing about photography is there is always more to learn. I have a LOT to learn!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

A Tale of Two Lenses

When I bought my Canon T1i, it came with the "kit" lens, the Canon EF-S 18-55mm lens. As kit lenses go, it's not bad but I always figured I could do better.

That's the thing about SLRs - there is always a better lens out there, if you are willing to spend the money. The thing I always wondered was whether the difference would be noticeable.

I did some research recently and decided that I would like to purchase the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II lens. It has good reviews and is known to be a fast lens with good optics.

I went on Kijiji and found one for sale here in Winnipeg for about $30 off retail, and less than 6 months old. Lenses don't depreciate much so this was a pretty good deal. The seller was also selling a battery so I figured I'd get that too... always good to have a spare.

We met at the Forks and I had a look at the lens. It's tiny! I was satisfied with it so we exchanged cash and I went on my way. On the way out, I noticed that VIA 693 was backing into the station at 16:30, "only" about 6 hours late!

I headed over to CN Subway, and on the way shot CN 111 rolling past Canwest Park with CN 8932 and CN 2307 on the head end. This was a grab shot.
CN 8932 in Winnipeg at Canwest Park
As I went down toward Osborne I saw CN 8948 was the DPU unit in CN 111. I also saw an eastbound with CN 2663 and CN 2651 on the north track going by CN 111.

At Subway, there was an eastbound train waiting to head out. I think it was either 302 or 306. As an experiment, I decided to shoot it with both the 18-55mm lens and the 50mm lens. At first glance, the pictures look pretty much the same.
CN 8826 with 18-55mm lens
CN 8826 with 50mm lens
The top one was taken with the 18-55mm zoom lens, and the bottom with the 50mm lens. No editing was done on the images other than to crop the 18-55mm shot a bit and resize the images.

However, the devil is in the details. I shot both in shutter priority mode (1/200s) and the EXIF details show a little difference. For the 18-55mm lens, the camera used an exposure of f/5.6 and ISO 200. The 50mm lens earned an exposure of f/4.5 with ISO 100, showing the greater light sensitivity of the 50mm lens.

If you look closely at the images, the difference in detail is quite apparent.
CN 8826 with 18-55mm lens
CN 8826 with 50mm lens
Again, the top one was taken with the 18-55mm zoom lens, and the bottom with the 50mm lens, with no editing. You can see that the 50mm lens was quite a bit sharper when the image is magnified.

This is definitely a better lens than the 18-55mm lens. I don't think I will be using the 50mm exclusively, of course, since it doesn't have any zoom and is therefore less versatile than the zoom lens. However, I think for "whole train" shots the 50mm lens may become my preferred lens. Stay tuned.

NBSR 2318 On the Way Home

NBSR 2318 in McAdam
NB Southern Railway GP38-2 2318 has been at Canada Allied Diesel for some time getting some work done. I mentioned in April 2010 that it had been restricted to yard duty, and I believe it went out for service shortly after that.

On January 8 2011 it was sighted at CAD being prepared for its return journey.

Frank Jolin caught it in a colourful MM&A train on January 16 in Quebec.

Viewer Video: KatimaRailfan1

After I asked for the videos you're proud of, Ian stepped up and offered this one of his. It's a nice pacing video of a CP train. It looks like CP 8707 was leading and two other big units were trailing. I especially liked the conductor waving near the end!

Check out all his videos!

Monday, January 17, 2011

This Day, 27 Years Ago

CP 4221 in Fredericton, slide by Greg Brewer
This slide was taken in Fredericton, NB 27 years ago today (January 17, 1984) by Greg Brewer. CP 4221 is in front of the Devon station just north of the train bridge linking the south and north sides of Fredericton.

There are a few things to note. CP 4221 is flying white flags indicating that it is an extra. Based on Greg's slides it seems that the C424s were around Fredericton during this time, prior to the arrival of the RS18s and later the RS23s.

Also note the block signals behind the unit, which appear to be turned parallel to the tracks. I wonder what they were protecting, pointing that way?

CP 4221 was built by the Montreal Locomotive Works as a C-424 in 1965 and was owned by Canadian Pacific for its entire career. It was retired in March 1997 and scrapped.

There is a really interesting photo of it on Railpictures.net showing it leading a picnic train on my birthday in 1991 in New York state, with some passenger cars and RDCs trailing.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Canadian Pacific Historical Association

I wanted to draw your attention to the Canadian Pacific Historical Assocation's web site. The CPHA used to be known as the CP SIG, and one of their major efforts is to publish the excellent CP Tracks magazine. I've never been a subscriber but I have purchased quite a few at hobby shops.

The CPHA has undertaken a new project in the last few years, and is now making their documents library available online. The library contains a wide assortment of scanned documents, from freight and passenger car diagrams to dispatcher sheets to timetables and a lot more. A free registration is required. Check it out!

Video Query

I like to feature neat train videos taken by other people. However, I don't have much time to look through my subscriptions on YouTube and I miss a lot of good video.

If you think I've missed a good one of yours, here's your chance to get it shown here. Please comment on this post, or email me at steve@theboykos.com, and tell me what video(s) you are especially proud of that you would like more exposure for. I'll put them in the queue to be posted and your great work will get a tiny bit more exposure. :)

For example, here's a nice video of the Chaleur at Caplan, Quebec on August 16, 2010 that I missed.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Glide 2

This is a really interesting video. A train is rolling through a station and everyone on the platform is moving in slow motion.

Actually, what really happened was the train was a fairly high-speed express train that blew through the station, and the video was shot at 210 frames/second (with a Casio Exilim FH20), making everyone appear to be in slow motion.

The videographer is Graeme Taylor, and in this blog post he goes into great detail about the shoot.

There is a video called Glide, with the same idea except that the train stops at the Bath Spa station. I think the version embedded above is better.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Thursday, January 13, 2011

A GE Kind of Day

CN 2221 in Winnipeg
I went up to Wilkes Avenue in Winnipeg to shoot the Hudson Bay on Tuesday. I did that, but first I saw a few CN trains... coincidentally with a preponderance of GE ES44DC engines.

First up was CN 304, shot just about at mile 10 on the CN Rivers subdivision. GE ES44DC CN 2221 led ex-BC Rail unit BCOL 4647 and a mixed bag of mostly paper products on the north track.


They passed CN 105, coming west on the south track. 105 was going slow because of track congestion further west. Of course 105 had an ES44DC on the point, CN 2275, but it had an ex-UP Dash 8 trailing, CN 2106.
CN 2106 in Winnipeg



I drove off before all 11,036 feet of train 105 rolled by. I drove around a bit looking for a nice spot to shoot VIA, and I was surprised to see eastbound headlights when I neared Carman Junction. This was a bit of a grab shot with no time to set the video camera up.
CN 2280 in Winnipeg
Naturally the leader of this train (CN 112) was a GE ES44DC, CN 2280, and the trailing unit was also a GE, CN 2307, running elephant-style.

After that, I did shoot the Hudson Bay and then headed out. That was enough GE for one day!

EDIT: Corrected second unit on train 304... it was not 4643, it was 4647.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Skyline on the Hudson Bay

VIA 6446 and the Hudson Bay
I had a tip that Tuesday's Hudson Bay aka "Winnipeg-Churchill train" would have a Skyline car in place of the usual diner car. I went up to Wilkes Avenue by mile 10 to get the train. The Hudson Bay was a little over 30 minutes late leaving the station. After seeing several CN trains (another blog post), it was time for the Hudson Bay to make the scene. I parked on La Fleche Road just west of the Perimeter Highway. There was a large snow mound there, so I set up on that for some height. The Hudson Bay rolled by just after 1 PM at a fairly slow speed.

Nice toot and bell from the engineer. Full consist

They were following CN 105, which was itself crawling along due to some congestion around Elie. I understand the Hudson Bay stopped at Diamond for a while to wait for 105 to clear the block.
VIA Hudson Bay with Skyline

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Resto Gare

Resto Gare in Winnipeg
One day when visiting Cora's in the St. Boniface area of Winnipeg, I stumbled across the Resto Gare, a restaurant built into the old CN St. Boniface station and a railway car. Resto Gare features fine French cuisine, appropriate for the French area of Winnipeg.

The car was built by Canadian Car & Foundry (CC&F) in 1914 as observation car #9647 for the Canadian Northern Railway. It became CN sleeper #1458 "TRENTON" and ended its career as CN Rules Instruction Car #15022.

There is still an active rail line behind the station. I believe it is the CN St. Boniface spur but I am not sure.

Someday I'll have to go eat there and have a look inside.
Resto Gare train car in Winnipeg

Friday, January 07, 2011

Calgary Track Work

Jason Chamberlain took a series of detailed photos of track maintenance equipment, packaged them up with some great commentary, and posted them on his blog, Dust on the Tracks, East of the Rockies. He posts from the Calgary, Alberta area and his blog is definitely worth a read.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Sperry Car in Winnipeg

Sperry car SRS 138 near Winnipeg. Photo by Jeff Keddy
Jeff Keddy caught Sperry Car SRS 138 rolling just west of Winnipeg yesterday (Wednesday January 5). It was rolling west near Woodman on the CP Carberry subdivision.

He took a little video of it too. It is surprisingly loud.


Thanks Jeff!

Sperry car SRS 138 near Winnipeg. Photo by Jeff Keddy

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Units at Winnipeg Diesel Repair Shop

CP Winnipeg diesel repair facility
My oldest son and I took a quick trip to the CP yards in Winnipeg on December 28 to shoot the units at the Winnipeg Diesel Repair Shop. We parked on Gallagher Avenue off Logan and walked across the McPhillips Athletic Grounds to take our shots.

The first unit that really stood out was CP 1625, lettered for the St. Lawrence & Hudson, a CP subsidiary.
CP 1625 in Winnipeg

CP 5878 and CP 1507 were moving the matched set CP 3028 (mother) and CP 1128 (slug) to the shop. The 3028/1128 set is often seen on the CP La Riviere sub doing local switching.

SOO-painted CP 6030 was also in evidence.
CP (SOO) 6030 in Winnipeg

There were also a couple of blue CEFX leasers around. View complete list

Monday, January 03, 2011

CN 1765

CN 1765 in Fredericton, by Greg Brewer
Happy new year!

This slide from Greg Brewer shows CN 1765 and the rest of a plow train in the Devon yard in Fredericton, NB in January 1984. You can see that the plow is on the long hood end, which is the Front of an RSC-14.

Like many RSC-14s, CN 1765 noodled around the Maritimes on various branch lines. It did a stint in Newfoundland at the Port-aux-Basques standard gauge yard. As you can see, it was in Fredericton in 1984 and I have a Bill Linley shot of it in Millville near Nackawic in 1983. I also have a record of it in Halifax in September 1990.

CN 1765 holds the distinction of being the power for the last CN train to Woodstock, NB on March 26, 1987. It had just a caboose on the way to Woodstock, and came back with two empty flour cars from Karnes Bakery and a covered hopper. CN service to Woodstock ended on April 1 of that year when ice from the spring flood took out the east span of CP's bridge at Upper Woodstock (credit to Brian Barchard, I think, for this information).

The CN Cyclopedia shows that CN 1765 was built as RS-18 3864 in 1960. It was rebuilt and renumbered in 1975 by replacing the 4-axle trucks with 6-axle (middle un-powered) trucks and reducing the horsepower from 1800 to 1400. She was retired on September 30, 1993 but served a short second life with the Cape Breton & Central Nova Scotia Railway before being retired again in late 1995. CN Lines says she was used for parts, and presumably she has been scrapped.