Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Pittsburgh sighting 8

I went back to the Hulton Bridge, the site of sighting 5, at noon hour. I found an eastbound general freight there at about 1215.

NS 9363

NS 9363, 9404 and 1702 led a train of about 50 cars. As you can see I decided on the overhead shot this time.

NS 9363

I went out to Cheswick, just east of Harmar, late this afternoon with the intent of filming a train in a different locale. Unfortunately, the train gods did not favour me and nothing came along in the 45 minutes I had before darkness fell. Oh well.

Where I've been railfanning

According to the January 2006 issue of Railfan and Railroad magazine, I've been looking at the Norfolk Southern Conemaugh Line. This line is used for moving heavy freight east. That explains why every train I've seen has been eastbound, and why I haven't seen any stack trains at all.

That issue of R&R came out just in time!

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Pittsburgh sightings 5 to 7

It was raining this morning so I didn't go looking for trains. At lunch there was a light rain so I had a look, but nothing came by.

I wanted to try a place I noticed earlier, near Harmar. There's a bridge that crosses the river and the tracks, and I thought it might be a nice place to get an overhead shot. When I arrived there around 1610 I noticed an even better shot from about 1/4 of the way across the bridge, shooting into an S-curve before the train went under the bridge. I waited there. I was a little concerned that the train might pop out from the trees into the S-curve before I could get ready to shoot.

My fears were unfounded. I heard a train blowing for a crossing before I even saw its lights, and I could easily see the headlights through the trees as it threaded its way along the river toward my S-curve. I really like how the shot turned out.

S curve

It was a loaded coal train led by NS 6710 (SD60) and NS 8664 elephant-style. I didn't count the cars but I estimate about 70-80.

NS 6710

After some of the train went by, I sprinted over to where the bridge crossed the track and filmed the rest from almost overhead:

Overhead shot

I waited around for another 40 minutes until it got dark, but nothing else came.

Later tonight I thought I'd try to catch the seemingly-regular 2245 train. As it happens I paced it on the highway for a bit but I was unable to catch it. I turned around and started making my way home when I saw a green signal. I got greedy and tried to catch it at the same bridge near Harmar, but it went by just as I was stepping out of my car. That's the lesson - get the shot you know you can get. I'll try to remember that.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Pittsburgh sighting 4

I lucked into one more sighting tonight. On my way back from downtown Pittsburgh I had the scanner on and I heard a train doing some switching. It was engine 7206 talking and, since they were doing switching, I figured they were in Etna. I pulled off the highway and looked around but didn't see anything. I gave up and got back on the highway, only to hear them say they were facing a restricted signal at CP Sharp. I guessed they were on the move so I exited at Fox Chapel and found a spot by the tracks. They showed up within 30 seconds, yet another eastbound.

NS 7206 Fox Chapel, PA 2005/11/28

It was 7206 and Conrail 7200 leading a bunch of coal loads. The real surprise came at the end when I found NS 7215 and another Conrail 72xx unit pushing.

Conrail pusher Fox Chapel, PA 2005/11/28

The bright light to the right of the Conrail engine is the crossing light. I like seeing these Norfolk Southern units because the ditch lights flash alternately. Canadian ditch lights just stay on constantly.

I also saw a CSX train near Station Square, but I was up on the hill and I had no chance of reading any numbers. It was a single unit pulling a bunch of coal empties.

I heard a train at 2245 and another at 2300. It seems like a regular thing.

Pittsburgh sightings 2 and 3

I had a bit more luck with train watching later today.

At lunch, I saw another Norfolk Southern train heading northeast in Harmar, PA at the junction of I-76 and PA route 28. It had NS 9163 and 9711 pulling a long train of mostly tank cars. Of course, I was on the wrong side of a four-lane highway at the time so I couldn't get any pictures or video.

After my course ended, I went down to Fox Chapel and parked myself by a straight stretch of track to wait. I figured this was better than running up and down the road and missing another train. After about 35 minutes I heard someone say they cleared "Sharp", which I think is Sharpsburg. That told me another north/east freight was coming.

At 16:50 it came into view - NS 9196, 9063, and I think 6717 leading a long long train of hopper cars. It was almost dark by then and my camera had trouble focusing as the cars went by, so the video is not great. But at least I caught something!

Note the five ex Saskatchewan Wheat Pool grain cars in the train!

EDIT: Added video.

Pittsburgh sighting 1

I was scouting around a bit this morning before work, and I heard the scanner crackle that a Norfolk Southern train had cleared a control point. It didn't mean much to me until I heard a train blowing for a crossing: NS 6775 with a green BN unit and a BNSF pumpkin unit leading a general freight train northwards. No chance for pictures, alas.

At least I know the line is active!

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Web site update - NB Southern

As discussed earlier, I'm updating my web site to a new format. Tonight I finished the GP9 portion of my NB Southern web site.

The old GP9E's that were on site are long gone. I wish I had taken more photos of them while they were around. For a while they were very common, since all NBSR had were the three GP38s, two SW1200s and a pile of GP9s.

Away in Pittsburgh

I flew to Pittsburgh today for some training. I'm staying about 10 miles outside of the city, but I am fairly close to some railway tracks. In fact, I can hear a train blowing its horn numerous times right now (10:45 PM). Too bad I can't see it.

On the way from the airport on highway 279 I crossed under a couple of very impressive Norfolk & Western bridges. I hope to see bridges like that in daylight!

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

New video online: VIA 15 at Milford

I put a new video up on my video page featuring one scene from my recent VIA chase. It shows VIA 15 at Milford, NS. That's a great location for shooting. Thanks to Bill Linley for telling me how to get there!


Talking about web sites

Today I'm going to talk about website design. I maintain my New Brunswick Railways web site, but I also maintain web sites for the Canadian Railroad Historical Association, the Salem & Hillborough Railroad", and Transport 2000 Atlantic. They're all maintained pretty much the same way.

Under the hood, all web sites use a language called HTML to describe how their pages look. I'm not going to provide a tutorial on HTML here but if you Google for "HTML Tutorial" you'll find fine sites like this or many others. Just understand that the basis of every web site is a bunch of text called HTML.

Many people use a product like Microsoft FrontPage to design their web sites, and that's fine. They provide a word processor-like interface to your web site and allow you to put simple web sites together very quickly. But as a programmer I don't like the HTML they produce and they're not suitable for large web sites.

Believe it or not, I design my web site using the Notepad text editor. It allows me full control over the web site and I know exactly how it is built. It's not for everyone, but it works for me.

I do use some time-saving features, though. My web site provider has a feature called server-side includes, which basically means that if a bunch of pages have a portion of the page in common, I can put that in a separate file and use it, rather than writing it over and over again. If you look at, say, my New Brunswick East Coast web pages, you'll see that the header and sidebar on every page is the same. I don't rewrite it every time. It's in a separate file (you can see the header by itself here) and it gets included on every NBEC page. The beauty of that is that if I need to update the header, I change the header file and every NBEC page displays differently.

It's a real time saver.

I'm also starting to use a newer HTML feature called CSS, "Cascading Style Sheets". They're a way of describing how a page should look to the client, that being you. By using one or more standard CSS files across a web site, you can quickly change the entire look of a web site by updating one file, much like I use header files. Not all of my site uses CSS yet, and you'll notice that as you browse, say, the VIA section of my web site. I haven't got to updating that yet. A good CSS resource is here at

My web sites are pretty plain in appearance, and that's for two reasons. I prefer to present information over style, and I'm not a graphic artist. I would appreciate any suggestions you have to improve the appearance of my sites, though - email me at b l o Thanks for reading.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

VIA 15 out of Halifax

I decided to chase VIA 15 out of Halifax today, after I spent some time at the train show. On my way out of town I noticed 701 was at Wrights Cove around 12:45.

13:02 Bedford Quarry: I just made it here and didn't have time to set up the tripod. The light was pretty good.

VIA 15 Bedford Quarry

The consist, as far as I can tell from the tiny screen on my video camera, was 6415 / 64xx / baggage / coach / Skyline / diner / 4 sleepers / Park / 4 coaches / diner. The last 5 cars are probably the last of the Veteran Train deadheading back to Montreal. You can see the tail end here:

VIA 15 Bedford Quarry

I wanted to race to Milford next. As luck would have it, a truck pulled out very near Bedford Quarry with a huge concrete bridge piece on it, with accompanying escort vehicles. Once they managed to swing that onto the onramp, I was able to get by and get on highway 102. It delayed me a few minutes but I made it to Milford on time, and 15 showed up at 13:32.

VIA 15 Milford

Bill Linley recommended that I go to Crowes Mills Road aka the west end of Belmont siding next. I had been to the east end of the siding on the old Tatamagouche Road but never the west end. But beware, there is construction on that road. By the time I made it through there, I only had a couple of minutes before 15 showed up at 14:17.

VIA 15 Belmont

It's really hard to videotape with a 2-year-old clinging to you, by the way.

There was no sign of VIA 14 at all. I had to stop for a bathroom break and to fuel up the vehicle, so I figured I was too far behind. I called VIA and they said it was expected to arrive in Halifax at 1800 (!) so they were quite late.

On return to the Halifax area I noted CN 4732 and 4722 shunting the Dartmouth yard. The light was very wrong on my side.

CN 4732 and 4722 at Dartmouth

Friday, November 18, 2005

New video online

Since I'm going to Halifax today, I decided to put a Halifax-related video up on my video page. It shows CN 120 arriving at Halifax, NS on October 26, 2002, so it's not exactly new.

There are two scenes, 120 rounding the bend approaching Rockingham Yard, and arriving at the Halifax Intermodal Terminal (HIT).

I hope to have more video for you after my trip, and of course photos of what I have seen.

CN 120

Monday, November 14, 2005

Cab driver running a crossing

My friend Peter alerted me to something I was unaware of when we filmed at Onslow Road outside Truro. Apparently a cab driver ran the crossing (driving around the lowered gates) while the Ocean approached. While editing his video I saw that yes, indeed, there's the cab.

Cab running crossing

Too bad there's no number on the taxi.

Video camera chatter

I thought I'd take a moment to talk about the camera I use to take videos. I have a Sony DCR-TRV25 digital video camera. It uses mini-DV format tapes for recording video and also has a 1 megabyte digital camera built in. It's a good multipurpose camera.

My camera

It has a 10X optical Carl Zeiss lens, which is pretty good quality in my books. It can do up to 120X zoom with digital zoom, but I have that turned off. Digital zoom is just dumb - you lose a lot of quality.

It has a 2.5" flip-out LCD screen, which is big enough to review what you've recorded. I especially like that it does not have a touchscreen. All the buttons are on the camera so my fat fingers can hit the right ones easily.

I have been playing with night video using the "Night Shot" mode and so far I like it. It has a "Super Night Shot" mode but it is not suitable for moving objects. It blurs everything.

The built-in 1 megapixel still camera is OK for quick shots, but the quality is not nearly high enough. It's good enough for small web thumbnails up to 500 pixels but not much more.

I see they're selling used on eBay for a few hundred dollars.

What do you use for video? Leave a comment!

Sunday, November 13, 2005

New video online

I've put a new video on my video page featuring the VIA Veteran's Train approaching Amherst, NS on November 9th.


I hope everyone who chases the return train today gets good pictures! It looks like a great day for photos.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Web site updates

I've been slowly converting my New Brunswick Railways web site over to a more advanced form of HTML. It takes time and if you're a regular visitor, you've probably noticed the slow evolution.

In the past few days I've been updating the New Brunswick Southern portion of the site. I have mostly been doing formatting changes but I have added some newer photos, especially of units like 3702, 3703 and 2318.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Map of VIA Veteran's sightings

Click this button to view a map of where we got our sightings.

MyMaps at

The VIA Veteran Train Chase

David Morris, Peter Gough, Ken MacDonald and I left at 10 AM from Fredericton on November 9th to chase the special VIA Veteran's Train as it made its way from Halifax to Montreal. Our plan was to start at Onslow just west of Truro and chase him to Moncton.

We made good time and we were in Truro before 1 PM. As it happened the train was 17 minutes late leaving Halifax (thank you to the Othens for letting us know). We decided to head to Brookfield, just east of Truro, to catch him there.

Brookfield, Nova Scotia

13:20: As we rolled up to the crossing, we saw CN local 515 heading down the cement spur, van first with one car and 4774 trailing.
The CN Brookfield spur local with caboose
The brakeman and the engineer both gave us a friendly wave. Thanks, guys!

Quite a crowd gathered there to wave at the train. I talked to a few of the bystanders as I listened to radio chatter on the scanner (mostly 515's chatter). There was one woman there holding a Canadian flag who had keys to the nice little ex-CN station there, and she offered to let us in after the train went by. I reluctantly declined, as we had to boot it to Onslow next.

The CN Brookfield station
Pat Othen gave us another update and we talked with Bill Linley too.

Soon we saw headlights in the distance. The crowd gathered, the railfans set up for their shots, and VIA 15 blew through in fine style, Canadian flags a-flapping on engine 6420. (14:04) Note the extra headlight on 6420.

Cheering on the Veteran Train
I think the video looks OK except that I was a twit and didn't notice the wire running across the top of the shot. Sigh.

We sprinted for the car and took off. We saw CN 515 coming back to the mainline as we rolled past (14:07), so I grabbed a shot out the window as we sped toward the highway. I don't know if you can see it from this picture but there is some kind of eye marked on the nose. It must be a variant of "WASH ME".
CN 4774 at Brookfield, NS
Note the caboose still in its original position in the consist - NOT on the end of the train.

Onslow, Nova Scotia

Peter G drove us to Onslow in good time, and en route we heard the detector go off, reporting that VIA 15 was doing 66 MPH. Not too shabby! We had lots of time to wait at Onslow.

I saw there was someone up at the old Tatamagouche Road and there were a few railfans and other people at the Onslow crossing. I saw "VIAKEN" posted a photo from Onslow, so I guess he was one of them!

The train stretched out, leaving Truro
Finally the Ocean rolled out of Truro at 14:44. The shot from Onslow was great as we could get the whole train. I unfortunately clipped the Park car off the end of the first shot:

Three locomotives, no waiting

A Park car at Onslow
Once the Park car rolled through, we got on the road to Atkinson.

Atkinson, Nova Scotia

We arrived there and it was raining. Drat! Peter and Ken set up for the "coming" shot and David and
I set up for the "going away" shot. I had forgotten my hat in the car and I didn't dare go back to get it for fear of missing the train. Tim Dryden showed up a few minutes before the train appeared.

We waited for perhaps 20 minutes in the rain until the Ocean appeared at 15:36. Look at the flags on 6420.

We decided to get him coming into Amherst next.

Amherst, Nova Scotia

We stopped on the side of the highway and both Bill Linley and Tim Dryden stopped briefly beside us. After a quick chat, they hurried on to catch the train at the station.

We turned out to have two good shots, one long-distance showing the whole train and the closer one, which wasn't quite long enough to show the entire train. (16:15)

VIA's Veteran Train approaching Amherst, NS

Our next shot was at Fort Beausejour.

Fort Beausejour

I had never gone to Fort Beasejour before so I was interested in the photo opportunity. I usually go to Fort Lawrence, but after going to For Beausejour. I may never go to Fort L again!

You get three good photo ops at Fort B - approaching from Amherst, a foreground shot, then a long-distance going away shot once they go around the curve at Aulac.

The engineer gave us a couple of toots as he passed the Fort at 16:31.

The sun poked out enough to light up the train as it went across the Tantramar Marsh. Nice.

Sackville, New Brunswick

We tried to get the train at Sackville station next, but it apparently did only a single stop. It started moving just after we arrived at 16:47 and didn't stop again. There was quite an enthusiastic crowd at the station.

Veteran Train at Sackville


We ran up the old road and got ahead of him before Dorchester. We pulled over next to one of David's favourite spots and found Tim Dryden and Bill Linley already there waiting. The light was terrible and my video camera misbehaved, so I didn't get any good video here. (17:05)


From there we sauntered into Moncton and arrived at the station after the train. They had the engines at the usual spot, so the Park car must have been on or before the overpass. I tried some night shots of 6420 and this one turned out pretty good. Not bad for no tripod, if I do say so myself.

VIA 6420 getting refueled in Moncton, NB
I saw someone else there taking photos of 6420, but he didn't say anything. Comment if it was you!

The Ocean left at 18:06 in practically total darkness. As I started to video their departure my camera announced that it had less than 5 minutes of tape left. It took almost 3 minutes for the entire train to roll out.

We went inside and shot a few photos of the decorated interior, and talked with a few railfans. The staff did a fine job with the decorations. I'm proud to say that the soon-to-be-New Brunswick Railway Museum supplied a few props, including this station board.

Station board from the New Brunswick Railway Museum
Art Clowes joined us for dinner, then we headed home. I got back home at 21:30, almost 12 hours after I left. It was a very good day.

See Also

Quick Veteran Train photos

The train approaching Amherst. As you can see, it didn't quite fit in the frame.

The train crossing the Tantramar Marsh on its way to Sackville.

The tail end leaving Onslow just outside Truro.

More pictures and the chase description coming soon!

Monday, November 07, 2005

Video editing

I've been doing some video editing tonight for an upcoming yet-to-be-titled DVD. It will feature VIA's Ocean and Bras d'Or trains in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. It is being done as a fund-raiser for the Canadian Railroad Historical Association (NB Division). Most of it will be my own footage, but David Othen has kindly donated footage, including all of the Bras d'Or footage.

Tentatively, these are the clips that will be on the DVD:
  • VIA from Halifax to Campbellton
  • VIA at Night
  • VIA in the Snow
  • The Bras d'Or
The Night and Snow ones are done. Tonight I finished the Bras d'Or footage and now I'm getting the last couple of clips ready for the big cross-Maritimes clip.

I hope to have it ready by the end of November. After that, I have to figure out how to market it... a challenge for another day.

Railfanning equipment

Here's the list of stuff I'm going to bring with me on the upcoming chase of VIA's Veteran Train:
  • digital video camera
  • digital still camera
  • tripod
  • spare batteries
  • cellphone
  • Trackside Guide
  • snacks

I often borrow a scanner, but the person who I borrow it from will be in the same car, so... no need for that.

I would bring a map but I'll be with three other experienced railfans, so I think we'll do fine for navigation.

What's your railfanning equipment? Comment here!

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Veteran's Train assembling

I'm told the first few extra cars for the November 9 Veteran's Train arrived in Halifax Friday on VIA 14. The rest of the extra cars will come on Monday November 7 on VIA 14 as well. They are coming with the stainless consist.

I will be chasing the Veteran's Train on Wednesday. Pictures and video to follow, of course!

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Train Sightings in Saint John

Some train sightings in Saint John...

09:55 Leased CN 7000 was working the transloading facility near Harbour Station. NBSR 3702 and 3703 were pulling a string of doublestacks and CN ballast cars out of the Island Yard by Harbour Station.

CN 5693, 5717 and 2564 were in the yard.

11:10 CN 5693, 5717 and 2564 ran light through the wye in East Saint John heading toward the potash terminal.
11:45 Those three came back through the wye with about 25 empty potash cars.