Friday, July 20, 2018

Visiting the Souris Railway Museum

Interior of the Souris Railway Museum
My family toured southwest Manitoba over the Dominion Canada Day weekend in 2018. We stayed in Boissevain and visited the International Peace Gardens, then visited "small town Manitoba". It was a nice, low-key weekend and I really enjoyed the gardens, and especially revisiting many grain elevators that I had last seen on my two-day elevator tour in 2014.

One town we visited was Souris, Manitoba. This is a lovely town that has a great downtown full of interesting shops, and it also hosts the Souris Railway Museum.

The Souris Railway Museum, from the outside
The museum is in a building built to look like a bay window caboose. The interior is filled with many railway artefacts from the area, from Canada and beyond. There is a lot to see in a small space, and I spent a good half hour in the building, looking at the displays and talking with the two enthusiastic ex-CP volunteers there.

One end of the museum contains a diesel locomotive simulator, a device they are quite proud of. It is really only available "by chance", as not everyone is trained in how to use it. The two volunteers there couldn't operate it but did show it to me.
Diesel locomotive simulator, Souris
This is a purpose-built simulator, not a control console taken from a real locomotive. It's pretty high tech and the volunteer didn't want to mess with it. He said it was quite a good simulation.

The museum is well worth visiting if you are in the area. Visit their web site for more information!

Other Attractions

While you're in the area, see caboose CP 437180 just up the road at the Hillcrest Museum.
Caboose CP 437180 in Souris, Manitoba
Don't forget the famous swinging bridge - just on the other side of the Hillcrest Museum.
Souris Swinging Bridge

Happy Accident

CP 2201 in Souris, Manitoba
We went to get some ice cream after touring Souris. As we were walking to our van, I heard a distant horn. I hustled the family into the van and headed trackside, to find CP 2201 and 2212 running light through the town. A lucky catch!

Postscript - Train Register

One artifact I was particularly interested in was this train register book from Lyleton, Manitoba, containing entries from 1955 to 1964.
Lyleton, Manitoba train register book
The page shows trains 105, 123, 124, 230, 251, 530 and 551. Some of those trains are interesting because the 1955/04/24 employee timetable only shows trains 123 and 124 (first class passenger trains) and mixed trains 253 and 254.
CP Lyleton subdivision, 1955/04/24
Those train numbers are a bit of a mystery to me.

Lyleton must have been 2-6-0 "Mogul" territory at that time, as the locomotives listed on the register are CP 1274, CP 1285 and CP 1291.

The trains weren't huge, as the CP Lyleton subdivision was a "dead end" subdivision starting on the CP Napinka subdivision in Deloraine and ending in Lyleton. The register shows 3 or 4 passenger cars and no more than 10 freight cars.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Book Review: Heartland

"Heartland", by Greg McDonnell
I'm ashamed to say that I had never read Greg McDonnell's classic book "Heartland" until last month. This book was published in 1993, for goodness' sakes!

I rectified that error, and I'm glad I did. This is a book about railroading in the heartland of the United States of America - the states of Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and Wisconsin. The book features hundreds of photos by Mr. McDonnell and many other talented photographers, together with the author's engaging and informative captions and essays.

Greg McDonnell has a certain style of writing. It conveys a breathless excitement for the power and history of railroading, and one can't help but be drawn into the glory and excitement of railroading and the courage and determination of the men and women who work with trains.

I would say a solid 80-90 percent of the photos in this book are great. They are great by virtue of the subject matter - rare locomotives or long-abandoned locations - or by the setting and composition. I'd say there are a few "meh" photos, but art is in the eye of the beholder.

I have no hesitation in recommending this book. You can buy it on Amazon, or even better yet, find it in your local library like I did.

See all my book reviews

This post contains affiliate links, which earn me a small commission at no additional cost to you.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Logos Galore

Autoracks in the sunset
In the past few years, I've been paying a lot more attention to the freight cars in trains. The locomotives are certainly the stars of the show, but the freight cars are the ones that actually earn money for the railway. Flatcars, boxcars, autoracks, tank cars, covered hoppers, container cars... there is a lot of variety in today's trains.

I was watching a train full of autoracks a while ago and decided to photograph some of the logos on the train. Autoracks carry road vehicles like cars, trucks and SUVs, and in North America are usually multi-level and fully enclosed. Structurally, these are built on top of flatcars, which are often leased from TTX or other companies and are not owned by the railways whose logos they sport.

I took the opportunity in June to photograph one train and document some of the logos on the autoracks. Here they are, in alphabetical order, except for CSX which I listed first. You'll see why.

CSX

CSX logo
 I saw four different varieties of CSX logos on that train!

CSX - how tomorrow moves
 A lot of people don't like this (newest) variant of CSX' logo. I'm OK with it.

CSX - how tomorrow moves - on silver
This is the same logo, but on a silver background.

CSX logo
 CSX underscored.

BNSF

BNSF railway logo
Note the clips holding the BNSF "swoosh" logo onto the car.

CN

CN railway logo
The CN logo is quite simple - the CN "wet noodle" on black.

Conrail

Conrail logo
The Conrail logo was an interesting find.

CP

Canadian Pacific railway logo
No "logo" here - just "CANADIAN PACIFIC RAILWAY" in block lettering.

Ferromex

Ferromex logo
 It's not unusual to see Ferromex autoracks through Winnipeg. Autoracks travel a long way!

Ferromex Grupo Mexico
This seems less common to me.

Norfolk Southern

Norfolk Southern thoroughbed
 I am an unabashed fan of the Norfolk Southern "thoroughbred" logo. I think it really conveys speed and power, something that a railway should be proud of.

Norfolk Southern
Not so interesting but still nice.

Union Pacific

Union Pacific
The Union Pacific "shield".

Summary

So there you have it - eight railways' logos on one train. Not too bad! The only one I didn't see that I often do is Kansas City Southern.

Thursday, July 05, 2018

Chasing CN with Caleb


I was in Saint John, New Brunswick in mid May 2018. I met up with Caleb Wentzell in the evening for a little... OK, a big chase.

Our target was CN 406, the daily Moncton-Saint John train. It usually heads down to Moncton in the afternoon and returns in the evening. Railfans were excited about this train because it had two leased units, CREX 1505 and CEFX 1011.

On the way down, CREX 1505 was in the lead. Since I was working, I missed that, but I knew it would be returning in the evening. Caleb was in town and wanted to meet up, so we arranged a rendezvous along Rothesay Avenue in Saint John, by the Ocean Steel rebar plant.

This is a good location because it's at the "throat" of Island Yard. All of the yard tracks converge just south (railway west) of the crossing there. When I arrived, I could see CN 2977 on the "bypass" track in the distance. I took this long shot using my 70-200mm lens and cropped in a fair bit.

CN 2977 pushing back in Saint John
As I watched, they pushed back and around the bend, out of sight. I imagine they were pushing the potash cars back onto the back half of their train to make up the whole train.

I knew this would take some time to complete, as they would have to do a full air test before coming back to my location. I ducked out to grab some supper, then returned to the location to wait for the train and wait for Caleb.

Caleb showed up, and we said our hellos. He had a few model train cars for me - part of a trade we made more than a year ago but never actually completed in person. Patience pays off...

Eventually CN 2977 pulled up, followed by the lease units.
CN 2977 with leased locomotives
As they pulled past, I took the opportunity to photograph the leasers.

Leased locomotives in Saint John - CEFX 1011 and CREX 1505
We didn't wait for the whole train to pass. We had discussed shooting it by the Rothesay train station, as Caleb had never shot a train there, and I always like that location. We were traveling in separate cars, because Caleb was going to carry on to Nova Scotia after the chase, and I had to return to Saint John to work the next day.

Rothesay

CN 2977 passing the historic Rothesay train station
Well, that shot worked well.

We arrived several minutes before the train did. Since there was no sun out, we had our choice of angles. I decided to shoot from this angle to include the historic station. Caleb was a little closer with a wider angle.

I shot the other leaser, CREX 1505, as they passed by us.
CREX 1505 on train CN 406
This time, we were trapped by the train, so it was time for a selfie by the train.

Caleb Wentzell and yours truly. He's quite a bit taller than I am!
We discussed our next move, and we decided to get them at Hampton. It's fairly easy to get into from the highway.

Hampton

When we arrived in Hampton, I suggested going to the one lane iron bridge just before town to get an overhead view. We arrived just in time to catch the train snaking around the curve and blasting underneath us.

Overhead view of CN 406 at Hampton
While breathing in those tasty diesel fumes, I grabbed overhead views of the two leased locomotives as well.
Overhead views of CEFX 1011 and CREX 1505
Next up... Norton! I had never been there, but Caleb had, so he led the way.

Norton

CN 406 at Norton
I liked that old building, now used as a recycling depot. I think this location would work well for westbounds as well, because you could include that yellow building seen in the photo below, plus there are a few interesting buildings on the other side of the tracks.

CN 406 rolling through the crossing
The next shot was a grab shot near Apohaqui, by the highway. It was getting pretty dark so the photography was getting challenging.

Apohaqui

Roadside view near Apohaqui
Caleb was showing good shooter form as he photographed CN 406 going away.

Bang bang
Caleb suggested another overhead view just west of Sussex. This was a good choice, as going into Sussex would be challenging to do in time, and we'd have no chance of another shot after that.

Sussex

Overhead CN 406
This would have been nicer with more light, but what can you do? I think the location was good and the photos turned out OK.

CEFX 1011 from above
Our final location was Penobsquis, by the shuttered potash facility.

Penobsquis



Here I elected to shoot video, as I hadn't done any video, and I knew this was the last spot. It's pretty dark and backlit, but here it is.

Once the train went by, we took a few photos of the potash facility... and its lonely locomotive.
PotashCorp plant in Penobsquis
Their locomotive is an EMD SW900, originally CN 7253.
Penobsquis switcher locomotive
The angle wasn't great but it was all that was available.

I said my goodbyes to Caleb and I headed back to Saint John. It was great to see him again, and I look forward to railfanning with him again!

Running Extra

NB Southern's yard in Saint John
I didn't do much railfanning the next evening, but I did take this photo of NB Southern's yard and shops from the nearby overpass. You can see their passenger equipment on the left edge, a few tracks in. A GP38 and a blue MP15 are at the shops, with a GP38/slug set on the side, and a few locomotives in storage at the back.

In Fredericton, I bought the latest book by Owen Laukkanen, noted Canadian mystery writer (and railfan!), Gale Force. It's a thriller based around a salvage tug and its crew. If you like thrillers by Clive Cussler, you'll love this book.

I had a very early flight and I intended to sleep on either the Saint John-Montreal leg or the Montreal-Winnipeg leg, but this book is such a page turner that I read it straight through with nary a yawn. Highly recommended. BUY THE BOOK

Owen Laukkanen's "Gale Force" on a plane

See also

Tuesday, July 03, 2018

Railfanning the Longest Day of the Year

VIA 1 near Anola, Manitoba
I've been wanting to railfan all day on June 21 for several years now. It's the longest day of the year, after all. This year it fell on a Thursday, so I had to work, but I did manage to get out at the start and end of the day.

Morning

I hit the road at 6 AM, heading toward Symington Yard and points east of Winnipeg. Passing over the Sprague subdivision, I didn't see any approaching trains nor any action in the yard. I kept going around Winnipeg to the CN Redditt subdivision and headed east toward Dugald. At Dugald, there were no signal indications showing an impending train, but I did see this hay bale, so it wasn't a complete loss. ;)

Hay bale sunrise
I headed back to Winnipeg and carried on west on Dugald Road to see if anything was happening at the Greater Winnipeg Water District. Often they run out to the water treatment plant (or beyond) on Thursday. When I arrived, it looked like a few crew were arriving to get started but it would be a long time before anything would be moving. I didn't have time to wait, so I carried on toward Symington Yard. I decided that if nothing else showed up, at least I could see the SD40 locomotives working the hump.

On my way there, I spotted a CN locomotive and slug leaving the yard on the St. Boniface spur.
CN 7251 and slug CN 252 on the St. Boniface spur
Slug 252 was leading CN 7251 as they rolled along. There were three crew on the head end - I'm assuming one was a trainee, wearing a green safety vest instead of the usual orange.

I carried on down Lagimodière (that's a hard word to say) Boulevard to the south end of Symington Yard. There I spotted CN 8805 and Norfolk Southern 1108 pushing a train into the yard. I grabbed this terrible photo of NS 1108.
NS 1108 in Winnipeg
The sun was not in my favour!

Two hump yard sets were working. CN 6016, CN 6010, grey GTW 5948, and a slug (probably CN 203) were on one track, and GTW 5943, CN 6015, CN 6005 and slug CN 217 were on the other.

As I watched, the GTW 5943 set started putting on a sound and smoke show, getting their string moving out from the yard in preparation for pushing it up the hump.
GTW 5943 smokes it up
It was impressive to watch - and hear!

That was the morning.

Evening

I saw on the VIA Rail tracker site that VIA 1 was coming into the city late (as usual). I thought I might be able to catch it before it was too dark.

I headed out along the CN Redditt subdivision toward Anola. I pulled over a couple of times to check its progress, and I saw I had plenty of time. I zipped up to the CP main line but saw no signals lit, so that was a bit of a bust. At least I took a few silhouette photos.
Silhoutted CP Signal
That was at 9:11 PM, so there was still a bit of light around.

Back to CN! I headed east to a crossing just west of Anola. I arrived at 9:32 PM and familiarized myself with the area, since I had never been to that crossing before.

The east facing signal was green over red.
Green signal = GOOD
Waaayyy in the distance to the east I could see headlights.

In order to get a decent shutter speed, I selected ISO 1600, and f/3.2. This gave me a shutter speed of 1/200 seconds.

VIA 1 blasted through at 9:43 PM with VIA 6453 and 6427 leading.
VIA 1 blurring its way west
1/200s was not fast enough to freeze the action!

I liked the going away shot better, with the sunset sky.
VIA 1 facing a green signal
I knew there was no way I was going to catch VIA 1 again, so I packed up my gear and headed back toward home. I went along Dugald Road with the forlorn hope that VIA might be stopped in Transcona Yard - no luck there.

I headed south past Symington Yard to find a CN freight stopped by Tinkertown, just outside the yard. CN 2136 was the lead unit.
CN freight train outside Winnipeg
This was taken at 10:05 PM. I can't remember if I used a tripod or a monopod, but I'm sure I used something to steady the shot. My camera settings were ISO 3200, 1/30s shutter speed, aperture f/3.2. It wasn't totally dark but the sun was well below the horizon.

Note the third locomotive, BNSF 5366.
BNSF 5366 in Winnipeg
You can tell it was pretty dark, because the step lights are visible in the two photos above. Normally you don't see these during the day. I'm not sure if they are always on or if the engineer turns them on... I imagine they must always be on.

I posted a little video to my Instagram stories to show how dark it was.

I texted my wife that I was heading home, and I hit the road for home. Symington is about 15 minutes from my house.

As I crossed the CP Emerson subdivision, I saw headlights to the north.

One more train?

One more train!


The train wasn't moving very fast - at all - so it was a bit of a wait. It was OK, though, as it was a nice night and the bugs weren't too bad. It's been a dry spring in Winnipeg, so our legendary mosquitoes haven't had much chance to breed yet.

(yes, I did text my wife to tell her I would be a "bit" later)

At 10:34 PM, CP 8564 rolled past, dragging a long oil train.
CP 8564 by night
At this point, I had set my camera to a ridiculous ISO 6400 to be able to use a 1/40 second shutter speed. There is definitely grain in the photo - lots of it - but it is still a usable photo. My new Canon 77D is doing yeoman work.

At the private crossing I was at, there is a "yard" light providing illumination, so the side view has a lot more light.
Blowing through the crossing
The second unit was CP 9648, followed by a buffer car and a hundred oil tanks...
So many tank cars
After the 100 tank cars, there was another buffer car... then more locomotives!

One was a CP locomotive but the other was NS 8125. Two Norfolk Southern locomotives in one day!
NS 8125 on a CP freight train
Note the BNSF buffer car just going through the crossing. Buffer cars are used in dangerous goods trains like crude oil trains to separate the cargo from locomotives, for crew safety.

Here's another Instagram story video showing that it was pretty dark.
There were another hundred oil tanks on this train. That's 4 locomotives and 204 cars... a monster!
STOP - NO EXIT
The final car was an old CN grain car, the final buffer car.
The final car
That was my experience railfanning the longest day of the year. Someday I hope to continuously railfan the day, but that will have to wait for another year... or two...

See Also



PS just a reminder that I have some recommendations on Amazon for things I have purchased and used, like train books, photography gear, batteries, etc. Check it out!