A Prairie Railfanning AdventureMy family and I headed west through the prairies this past weekend to visit family in Saskatchewan. Our bags were packed and we were out of the house by 8:00 on Friday morning, a little earlier than we would've normally left for this trans-prairie trip. We left with time to spare because somehow I had managed to convince my parents and sister to stop at a well-known railfanning location for a picnic lunch. We made terrible time through rush-hour traffic in the city, then on the highway, construction along the TCH slowed us even more. Construction was constant - huge stretches of highway were being redone, so the normal four-lane 110 KM/H speed limit was reduced to 80, and in some places to as low as 60, and traffic marched westward in a single-file line.
It was almost 11:30 AM by the time we finally reached Brandon, which is normally only a two hour drive from Winnipeg. CN's main line from Winnipeg to PlaP was bustling with activity, but as we sped under the main line at Brandon North, all was quiet. About an hour later, we arrived at my picnic spot, near Arrow River, MB, just as an eastbound was passing through. That construction along the TCH had cost me a train! We lugged our cooler up the hill anyways, and my parents and sister sat down for some lunch while I set up my tripod and hoped to catch another train at this scenic spot.
I was halfway through my chicken sandwich when my dad pointed at the horizon. “Is that a train?” I jumped up and turned my attention to the eastern horizon – sure enough, a flickering light was cresting the hill in the distance. I got ready to capture the train coming past the grain elevator at Quadra, a mile or two away from where I was set up.
|CN 347 glides past the Grain Elevator near Arrow River, MB.|
(Ed: you might remember I was in Quadra recently, but I didn't see any trains)
We were running tight for time, as we still had many hours of driving ahead of us. After packing up and picking off several wood ticks, we continued west to our destination, Wynyard, SK.
SaturdaySaturday morning, I joined my family on an adventure to downtown Wynyard to visit Home Hardware. They don't have any Home Hardware stores in Winnipeg and mom wanted to check out their cool spinning mops and other handy gadgets. Dad was interested in the comfy Adirondack chairs they had in stock, and my sister and I were passing the time trying on some very stylish sunglasses.
We walked along the tracks on the way to the store, so I snapped a few photos of the small CP yard and station in Wynyard.
|CP’s yard in Wynyard, SK. A third GP20C-ECO is hiding behind the two others on a farther track|
|The old CP station in Wynyard sits boarded up|
Later on that afternoon I had some free time, so I went back down to the tracks to see what I could see. A CP truck was waiting by the station so I figured a train must be close, as most trains stop to change crews here. I was right - in a few moments a light crested the hill and CP 298 rolled into town.
|CEFX 1046 leads CP train 298 out of the yard at Wynyard, SK|
As the train completed its switching and started to depart, my dad and I drove out of town a few miles and searched for a photogenic spot. We checked out a spot in the hamlet of Mozart, but the light wasn't quite right there, and it wasn’t the shot I was after, so we headed back to the highway and we continued east. The pit-stop at Mozart almost cost me the train, as when we arrived at my chosen spot, the train was only a mile or so behind us and it was doing good track speed. We drove down a sandy grid road for a quarter-mile, and I sprung out of the car to set up. The wind was really howling in this part of the prairie, so I used the car as a wind-block to capture a stable shot of the train streaking through the green farmland.
|CEFX 1046 has the short manifest train rolling through the prairies at track speed|
|A CP Toaster is shoving hard on the rear end of CP 298|
|VIA’s cookie-cutter station building|
sits beside the impressive CN station,
currently being restored
I was on the platform at 12:30 PM, which is the train's regular arrival time for Melville.
Unsurprisingly, it was running late. A quick call to VIA's 1-800 number revealed that No. 2 was running a couple hours behind schedule and was estimated in the station at 4:00 PM. A three-and-a-half-hour wait wasn't so bad - CN kept me entertained with train after train through town.
|A dash of blue is trailing three CN units|
on a westbound Intermodal train.
This train is slowing for a crew
change at the west end of the yard
|CN 2500, a C44-9WL is accelerating out of Melville Yard with a long intermodal train in tow|
|A pair of AC units led a manifest freight into Melville on the mainline. This train was sitting on the mainline for two hours before continuing west.|
It was nearing 5:30, and even with the track cleared, there was still no sign of VIA. At a quarter to six, I called one last time, and they claimed that VIA No. 2 was still scheduled to arrive at 5:30 in Melville – that shows just how much the folks working at VIA’s call centres know.
Will VIA 2 finally arrive? Was Jack stranded in Melville for days? Find out next time in the exciting conclusion to Jack's Prairie railfanning adventure!
Read part 2!