Monday, October 31, 2011

Haunted Train

The town of Florenceville-Bristol, NB changed their train cars into a Haunted Train for Halloween this year. Luke Shaw produced a short movie documenting the horrible experience!


If you are ever around Bristol, be sure to check out their train display. They have three passenger cars and a restored railway station. More about Bristol.

Kansas Grain Elevator Explosion

A massive explosion at a grain elevator in Atchison, Kansas has killed at least three people. The explosion at the modern grain elevator, owned by Bartlett and Company, occurred Saturday night while workers were loading corn into train cars. It is not clear what caused the explosion, but it is well known that airborne grain dust can easily explode when a spark or fire is present. Three people were confirmed killed, three people are still missing, and three were injured.

The search for survivors was suspended while an expert was brought in to coordinate rescue / recovery efforts. The structure is still considered unsafe. Aerial photographs from the Kansas City Star show that the roof equipment was blown off.

The facility is served by BNSF and has three tracks with a capacity of 85 cars. Don's Rail Photos has a few photos of Bartlett's switchers as does RR Picture Archives.

Let's hope the missing people are OK. My condolences to the families of those who were killed.

News: CNNKansas City StarYahooCNN Again

Sunday, October 30, 2011

CP Winnipeg Yard

Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) shops in Winnipeg
On Saturday I spent an hour or so prowling around the Canadian Pacific Railway yard in downtown Winnipeg. Regular readers know I railfan CN much more than CP so I try to visit CP when I have spare time.

I started off at the east end of the yard, where I found CP 5863 and CP 1550 shunting. I mentioned CP 5863 before as one of the two SD40-2 engines that still has a multimark.

The real prize, though was CP 8904, one of the shiny new ES44ACs delivered to Canadian Pacific this year. This is the first time I've seen one of the 8900 series.
CP 8904 in Winnipeg

CP 8904 and CP 9682 pulled away almost as soon as I arrived, pulling a grain train out of the yard.

Right after that, CP 8798 and CP 8548 pulled up. I took a few shots and then I went to the Salter Street bridge. It has been years since I've taken any photos from that bridge. Normally I like the Arlington Street bridge more, but I thought I'd go back to Salter Street.

There were a few switchers parked between the two bridges at the fuel stand. CP 1530, 1532 and 1597 are all visible in this photo.
CP 1530, 1532 and 1597 in Winnipeg

On my right, I saw CP 1540 pulling a cut of cars through the yard, so I jogged over to get this overhead shot of 1540 and 1585.
CP 1540 in Winnipeg

After they passed, I returned to my car and drove over to shoot the engines at the shop. There were quite a few engines there... SD40-2s, including three "red barn" SD40-2F units; SD90s, ES44ACs (including shiny new CP 8903), and a few GP9s.

Here's "red barn" CP 9010. I've heard from people that work at the shops that these SD40-2Fs are a real pain in the neck. I just like the look of them.
CP 9010 in Winnipeg

Dual-flag SD40-2 CP 5936 was also there. The paint is looking a bit shabby now.
CP 5936 in Winnipeg

After I did my photo inventory, I heard horns from a train approaching from the south. I figured it was a train on the La Riviere subdivision, so I drove over to take a quick video. It turned out to be CP 8251 and CP 1587 running light.


I was just about out of time, so I returned to the east end of the yard to see CP 8798 now coupled up to a train. They started rolling and scared off a few Canada geese.
CP 8798 and goose in Winnipeg

The complete list of engines I saw is in my sighting database.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

No Cook on the Hudson Bay

The Hudson Bay (VIA 693) Leaving Winnipeg

VIA Rail is axing the chef position on the Winnipeg-Churchill train, formerly known as the Hudson Bay. The five chefs currently providing that service have been told that they will no longer be required after November 15. They said that very few people were using the service.

VIA will provide microwaved meals instead, as they now do on the Chaleur train between Montreal and Gaspe. VIA says they plan to save $500,000 per year on chef salaries and food costs.

Railfan discussion agrees that the diner car itself will likely be retained for snack service, as well as a place to prepare and serve the microwaved meals.

Coverage: Winnipeg Free Press (long) and Winnipeg Free Press (short). Nothing from the CBC yet.

PS - the latter WFP article has a photo of meal service on the same diner I was in at the Winnipeg Maintenance Centre, the Annapolis.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Dark Meeting

I was out fairly early in the morning of October 22, looking for trains before heading to work. It was quite dark, even as it approached 8 AM, so I put the 50mm lens on my camera as it is the most light sensitive lens I have. I say that like I have a lot of lenses - I have 3.

Anyway, I was at Diamond when I noticed a CN eastbound train approaching. I shot CN 5701 East as it approached Diamond, then shot over the engineer's shoulder here as they were about to split the signals right at Diamond.
IC 2711 and CN 5701 in Winnipeg
I tweaked the image a fair bit to get some light into it. It's grainy because it was shot at ISO 1600, shutter speed 1/320, F/1.8. I probably could have lived with a shutter speed of around 1/200 but it would not have made that much difference.

I gave chase. It was an intermodal train but there were no DPU engines as far as I could see. I never did catch the number. I heard CN 545 talking to them and I figured they were going to meet somewhere. I picked a spot on Wilkes Avenue that I thought was likely and I saw headlights approaching from the east. It was 545 with CN 4765 leading CN 4776, both GP38 engines.
CN 4765 on train 545 in Winnipeg

I wasn't sure where exactly the meet would occur but it would be very near me. I was worrying that 545 on the south track would block my view of the meet, but I got lucky and managed to capture it.
CN 4765 and CN 5701 meet in Winnipeg

That was it for that morning!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Today's Near Misses

I went out to shoot the Canadian today at noon. I wasn't entirely sure where I wanted to get it, but as I was driving I heard that CN 852 had a near miss at Waverley Street here in Winnipeg. That decided it for me. I saw a train was stopped on the north track as I drove along Sterling Lyon Boulevard but as I approached Waverley Street I saw it had started moving. I parked by Cora's as usual and by then the train had cleared the crossing. VIA 1 was just around the corner at Fort Rouge by that point, headed toward me. The signal maintainer was a little bit east of Waverley Street, watching the train to ensure there was no damage.

I saw the Canadian in the distance. As they approached, the crossing lights came on and the gates started coming down... and a pickup truck ran the crossing. I'm guessing the truck had been stopped and saw a gap to move into on the north side of the tracks, so the driver decided to go, probably not seeing the lights. I was watching and they started moving into the crossing after the lights came on. They ended up crossing the tracks while the gates were coming down.
Truck in railway crossing

Hello, Floform Countertops!

Fortunately for them there is no gate blocking their exit. They cleared the crossing, and VIA had slowed down anyway so there was no imminent danger... this time.

Here's the intersection in question. Click on the map to go to Google Maps.

The red dot is where the truck was in the photo above. It looks like there is plenty of space between the tracks and Taylor Avenue to the north, except that it's only a few hundred feet.

Oh yes, here's the Canadian in the fog. They have started the short winter trains, alas.
VIA 6411 and the Canadian

The fog cleared up and BNSF 2756, Operation Lifesaver caboose BN 12580 and 31 cars rolled by shortly afterward.
BNSF 2756 in Winnipeg

The story of the CN 852 incident came out later. Apparently a northbound bus was in traffic, stopped on the crossing due to cars between it and the intersection of Grant and Waverley. The crew of 852 likely put the train into emergency, and fortunately the light turned green and the bus was able to clear the intersection before 852 hit the bus. The lights and crossing arms were verified to be operating by the crew of CN 852. The Winnipeg Free Press published an article about it.

This is a dangerous intersection, given that Waverley Street is pretty busy and the track is the CN Rivers subdivision, two tracks that see well over 50 trains a day. I know people have been calling for an underpass like what was done at route 90 just a little ways west, but of course that costs millions of dollars, all from the city or province. I have no doubt that it will eventually get done.

In the mean time, groups like Operation Lifesaver are doing their best to educate the public about safety around trains. Obviously more education is needed!

EDIT: Added the link to the WFP article.

Extra Sleepers

After my visit to the Winnipeg Maintenance Centre, I realized I hadn't been shooting the Winnipeg-Churchill train (VIA 693) much lately. I resolved to remedy that, and I started on Tuesday. I went to Carman Junction to wait. The Hudson Bay was more or less on time and I grabbed a few shots.
VIA 6452 in Winnipeg

VIA 6452 in Winnipeg

As they passed I sprinted to my car, hoping that they might slow down before Diamond. Being a good railfan, I had parked it facing the right way.

I caught up with them just past the detector at mile 10. As I approached Diamond I saw they were slowing, so I hopped out of the car just short of the stop sign. They paused very briefly and then headed out.


The trailing unit was VIA 6449, which I saw in the WMC. They had three Chateau sleepers, two more than the usual consist.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Dog Catching

You know the old yarn that in the Prairies, you can watch your dog run away for three days? It might be an exaggeration, but you sure can see a long way out here.

In early August I was in Regina, Saskatchewan, one of the flattest areas I've seen in the Prairies. I negotiated some railfan time early in the morning of August 8 and headed out at sunrise to get some shots. I shot a few grain elevators and then moved to the west side of Regina. I had noticed one elevator there on the CP mainline and wanted to see it. It's at the intersection of Pinkie Road and 13th Avenue, here.

It was raining lightly as I approached the main line. I saw a couple of CP GP9s working outside the Brandt facility. CP 1541 and 1533 were switching some tank cars.
CP 1541 and CP 1533 in Regina

They had an honest-to-god caboose there too, CP 434412.
CP caboose 434412 in Regina

I watched them switch for a while in the rain and took some video.


Finally, they coupled up to their caboose and I figured they were headed back to Regina, so I took off east on 13th Avenue to wait for them. After about 10 minutes I realized they were going west. Oops. I came back and saw they were waiting to go north just west of where I was. I took this long-range shot of the completed train.
CP 1533 with train in Regina

I figured I would investigate where they were going, so I drove north to route 730 to have a look. I got snared in road construction and as I was waiting, I saw a westbound train approach. I tried to get to the crossing by 13th Avenue but the train was there just before me. CP 8866 and CP 8831 blew by.
CP 8866 and 8831 leaving Regina

I waited in the rain for the train to pass. CP 8521 was a mid-train DPU engine.
CP 8521 near Regina

Good thing this is the Prairies! After the train cleared the crossing, I returned to the Trans-Canada Highway and headed west. Since everything is wide open it was obvious where the train was... just a kilometre or two north of me! I overtook the train and was well ahead of it by Belle Plaine, so I pulled off to shoot it there.

I saw there was a westbound train stopped at Belle Plaine in the siding. CP 8604, CP 5908 and CP 9614 were patiently waiting.
CP 8604 5908 and 9614 in Belle Plaine

Those SD40-2 engines, once the primary power of Canadian Pacific, are getting more and more rare. The ES44AC engines and the AC4400CWs have taken over. I'm trying to get my shots when I can!
CP 5908 in Belle Plaine

Soon enough CP 8604 West blew through. I had the shutter speed a little lower than I wanted, but I kind of like the light blur on 8604, suggesting motion.
CP 8866 passes CP 8604 in Belle Plaine

I had my video camera set up too.


I was out of time by this point, so I headed back to Regina to rejoin my family.

EDIT: Added the videos.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

VIA Rail's Winnipeg Maintenance Centre Part 6

This is the conclusion of my report on VIA Rail's Winnipeg Maintenance Centre. See part 1, part 2part 3part 4, and part 5.

VIA Rail has five cars stored at the Winnipeg Maintenance Centre. These are all labeled "Northern Spirit" and were acquired from Amtrak for use on the Hudson Bay between Winnipeg and Churchill. The cars are all sleepers. They were put into service on the Hudson Bay in 2000 (ref VIA Rail annual report) and were withdrawn from service.... in 2006, I believe. The cars were leased from Amtrak in 2000 and purchased by VIA in 2004. They have been stored at the WMC for some time and are for sale. They are moved every six months to ensure the wheels are still functional.

Each is decorated with a different northern animal.

CarDecorationHistoryBuilt
VIA 2448polar bearex Amtrak 2448 (Oak Grove), ex Amtrak 2684, ex SP 90041950
VIA 2449snowy owlex Amtrak 2449 (Maple Grove), ex Amtrak 2686, ex SP 90061950
VIA 2455caribouex Amtrak 2455 (Elm Grove), ex Amtrak 2680, ex SP 90001950
VIA 2462 beluga whaleex Amtrak 2462 (Silver Chasm), ex Amtrak 2657, ex CB&Q 4301952
VIA 2463ospreyex Amtrak 2463 (Silver Dale), ex Amtrak 2658, ex CB&Q 431 1952

Let's look at each one in numerical order.

Here's 2448, with 2462 in the middle and 2449 at the far end.
VIA 2448 in Winnipeg

VIA 2448 has a nice polar bear on it.
Polar Bear on VIA 2448 in Winnipeg

VIA 2448 was leased to Canadian Pacific for a while and was located in the West Coast Express yard in Vancouver for use by WCE crews to sleep in. Apparently their regular rooms in the CPR Vancouver station were closed for a construction project. Here's a Flickr photo showing the car in Vancouver in late 2007.

Here's VIA 2449 with what looks like a snowy owl on it. There are a number of condemned wheel sets rusting away next to the Northern Spirit cars.
VIA 2449 in Winnipeg

This is VIA 2455 with a moose? elk? caribou on it.
VIA 2455 in Winnipeg

Strangely I did not shoot 2462 directly. This photo shows it has a beluga whale some kind of sea creature on it.

Here's VIA 2463.VIA 2463 in Winnipeg

I noticed that 2463's Burlington heritage is showing through - note the B U R L I N G T O N showing through the paint. Any idea what type of bird this is? EDIT: It's an osprey.
Burlington name on VIA 2463 in Winnipeg

There's some discussion of these cars here.

That concluded my tour of the Winnipeg Maintenance Centre.

I want to thank VIA Rail for permission to roam through their facility and photograph whatever I pleased, the shop foreman for answering my questions, and especially engineer Tommy Bozyk for arranging this and being my tour guide. His knowledge of the equipment and facility is first-rate and I appreciate the time he spent arranging it and showing me around.

Thanks for reading.

EDIT: Thanks for the help identifying the various animals!

Friday, October 21, 2011

VIA Rail's Winnipeg Maintenance Centre Part 5

VIA 6443 at the Winnipeg Maintenance Centre 2011/10/14

After our tour through the interior of the Winnipeg Maintenance Centre, and a detailed look at the exterior, engine compartment and cab of VIA 6429, VIA engineer Tommy Bozyk and I walked outside to see the exterior of the Winnipeg Maintenance Centre.

VIA 6443 was parked on track 3 (north), protected by blue flags. Rule 26 of the Canadian Rail Operating Rules mandates that a blue flag (and light at night) must be placed at one or both ends of any consist that is being worked on. The flags mean that nobody can move the equipment or couple up to the equipment while the flags are displayed.

I liked this "arty" shot of VIA 6443.
VIA 6443 in Winnipeg 2011/10/14

There are six engines assigned to Winnipeg, two for each of the three Hudson Bay VIA 693/692 trainsets. VIA 6429 and 6449 inside the shop were the two Winnipeg units left, since the other four were on the road. VIA 6443 was dropped by the Canadian, presumably needing some work.

The shot below of VIA 6443's rear end plainly shows the doors for the HEP equipment. It also shows that there is no rear platform any more, so there is no place for crew to ride on the rear. Any backup moves must be made with a crewperson hanging off the side rails or on the ground.
VIA 6443 in Winnipeg 2011/10/14

We walked around to the east side of the building where there are four tracks between the main building and the parking lot. The third trainset was parked there with the diner (Annapolis, 8404) plugged into shore power. The trainset had diner 8404, coaches 8125 and 8110, and baggage 8601. Coach VIA 8123 was on a separate track by itself.
VIA 8404 (Annapolis) in Winnipeg 2011/10/14

We boarded the train and walked into Annapolis. VIA's diners are being refurbished but Annapolis has not received that treatment yet. It is looking a bit plain and worn.
Diner seats (Annapolis) in Winnipeg 2011/10/14

VIA's diners have etched glass at both ends of the car. Annapolis has four birds in it, Magpie, Sandpiper, Chickadee, and King Fisher (below). I had to tweak this image some to show the pretty birds better.
Kingfisher glass etching in diner Annapolis 2011/10/14

I took a quick shot of the shiny kitchen. It is larger than I thought it would be. There is also a little snack bar just outside the kitchen. You can get a Jimmy Dean Breakfast Sandwich for $3!
Kitchen of diner Annapolis in Winnipeg 2011/10/14

We walked through the two coaches. I honestly don't know which one this is. Coaches are probably the most boring cars on a train.
Coach seats in Winnipeg 2011/10/14

Next, the baggage car VIA 8601. It's pretty bare in there with no baggage aboard. There's more natural light in there than I thought there would be.
Interior of baggage car VIA 8601 in Winnipeg 2011/10/14

One thing I found really interesting was this chart showing where the baggage is stored. For example, under TRAIN #1 from left to right we find "EX TRTO", "EX WNPG", "EX SASK", "EX EDMO" and "EX JASP". I had not thought of this but it makes sense. The crew need to know where baggage for each destination is located so they can quickly offload it and keep everything organized.
Baggage car chart in Winnipeg 2011/10/14

Oddly enough I never took an outside photo of these cars. I guess I've taken enough photos of the exteriors already!

For the last portion of the visit, we walked over to where the Northern Spirit cars are stored... next time in part 6.

VIA Rail's Winnipeg Maintenance Centre Part 4

Continuing on through VIA 6429 at the VIA Maintenance Centre... part 1, part 2part 3.

The cab itself is not greatly changed in layout. There is a third folding seat mounted on the back wall of the cab, and a microwave has been added behind the "conductor's" station. I put "conductor" in quotes because there is no conductor on VIA trains. Both head end crew are qualified engineers and usually take turns in the driver's seat. The Service Manager is responsible for looking after the passengers and stays in the passenger cars.

This is the breaker panel mounted on the wall behind the right seat. I did some primitive Photoshopping to brighten the left side enough so it can be read. The big knife switch on the left is the master power for the unit.
Breaker Panel in VIA 6429

Also on the back wall is the engine control panel (see below). The "big red switch" is the kill switch for the engine. Note the four switches fixed in one position.

On the right are the headlight controls. Each unit needs to be set up as a leading or trailing unit.
Engine Control Panel in VIA 6429

Here is the bearing monitoring system panel, made by Lanka Technologies.
Bearing Monitoring System in VIA 6429

Below is the panel to set up the head-end power (HEP). It includes the genset start/stop button.

There is a left and right side HEP cable that goes from the engine(s) back to the train consist. The rule of thumb is that you need one HEP unit for every 15 cars. For trains less than 15 cars long, one engine supplies both sides. The two dials at the bottom set up the left and right side HEP. In the photo I believe this engine is set up to provide HEP to both sides of the train.

Tommy did a valiant job of trying to explain HEP to me but I don't think I completely grasp it. As I said, there is a left and right hand cable going from the engine(s) to the first car in the consist. Each side powers a portion of the car (presumably one side per cable) and normally the cables cross over between cars. This means the right hand cable from the rear engine powers the right hand side of the baggage car but the left hand side of the coach behind it, and so on. There are control panels in each car that allow VIA crew to reconfigure the HEP in each car in case of failure. For example, if HEP fails on one side, they can flip sides to keep one side of the car powered, such as the kitchen in the diner car.
HEP Control Panel in VIA 6429

"Black boxes" were added to the engine during the rebuilding. These Train Trax units from Wabtec record all engine parameters. They do not record sound in the cab.
Event Recorder in VIA 6429

The rebuilt units have the Silent Witness video camera (V60BC5060), now owned by Honeywell Video. The video camera points out the front window and also records outside ambient noise such as the bell, horn, and crossing bells. The early rebuilds did not have them but I assume they will retrofit those.

Another major item installed during the rebuild is the Wabtec QES-III unit. This upgrade brings a host of new features to the F40, including improved performance, better adhesion control, individual traction motor cut-out, and more. There is a display in front of the engineer allowing control of many of these features.

This is the QES-III control unit.
Wabtec QES-III in VIA 6429

This is the unit, opened. I had to resist the temptation to poke around, again because this is the kind of stuff I enjoy working with.You can read more detail here.
Wabtec QES-III in VIA 6429

What else, what else... I mentioned the new microwave. The hot plate is still there on the left side console. In the short hood, accessible from the cab by a couple of steps down, is some storage space and of course the toilet.
Toilet in VIA 6429

That's the end of VIA 6429.

After that, we went outside the building to take a quick glance at VIA 6443 and then walk through the train ready to become the next VIA 693. We'll do that in part 5, and then wrap things up in part 6 with a few photos of the Northern Spirit cars.

Next - part 5

Thursday, October 20, 2011

VIA Rail's Winnipeg Maintenance Centre Part 3

Diesel engine in VIA 6429

After viewing the interior of the VIA Rail Winnipeg Maintenance Centre, and looking at the changes to the exterior of VIA 6429, we went inside the unit to see its interior. I've been in a few cabs but I had never been in the engine compartment of an F40PH-2 before.

The big blue diesel engine aka "prime mover" dominates the compartment. That baby is a General Motors 16 cylinder 645E3C, delivering 3,000 horsepower to the traction motors. Most people know that the vast majority of "diesel engines" are actually diesel-electric engines, with a diesel engine driving an alternator or generator to produce electricity for the electric traction motors that drive the wheels. The F40PH-2 is no different. The 645 engine drives a generator that produces DC current to supply the traction motors powering all eight wheels.

The engine also drives a smaller alternator to provide 500 kW of Head End Power (HEP) at 480V for use by the passenger cars it is pulling. This is how the original VIA F40PH-2 engines provided power for the cars.

The rebuilds have included a separate diesel engine that provides HEP independent of the prime mover. Canadian Allied Diesel (CAD) is the prime contractor for the F40 rebuilds, and they subcontracted the HEP engine to Hewitt Equipment Ltd. Hewitt supplied a Caterpillar "genset" on a skid, basically a diesel engine combined with an alternator.  I'm told the genset is a Caterpillar C18 with a 6 cylinder engine running at 1800 RPM delivering 831 horsepower, and the genset delivers 500 kW of power.

With the Cat HEP unit, the main diesel engine can use all of its 3000 HP to move the train forward. As well, when the train is stopped, the Cat HEP can continue to run while the main engine idles, saving fuel. Previously the main engine had to be in "run 8" (full power) to provide head end power.

The HEP unit is mounted on a skid and is designed to be easily replaceable. There are doors at the rear of the engine that open, and after disconnecting a few cables and hoses, the entire unit can be slid out and replaced.

The cabinet below contains the "brains" of the genset and has local controls for the HEP power unit.
HEP control box in VIA 6429


Every engine has some kind of cooling system, and the F40 is no different. It is water cooled and below are some instructions on the cooling system. As well, there is a manual sight glass showing the level of water in the system.
Cooling System Instructions in VIA 6429


Another major part of the F40 refurbishment was the addition of a Hotstart unit. These are made by HOTSTART, Inc. formerly known as Kim Hotstart. In some sense a Hotstart unit serves the same purpose as the block heater in your car. The Hotstart unit keeps the engine coolant and lubricating oil warm and has its own pump and heaters to warm the fluids and keep them circulating. This allows the main engine to shut down during extended stops without any worry of the engine freezing up. If the Hotstart unit draws the batteries down too much, or it can't maintain the proper temperature, the main engine will be restarted.

This is a model DV3300-0904-X01 operating at 480V and 51A. It has a local Siemens TD200 control panel. This kind of stuff really interests me because this is the kind of work that my company does.
Hotstart in VIA 6429

After admiring all of this new equipment we moved into the cab... part 4.