Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Sintaluta, Among Others

Sintaluta, Saskatchewan
As I mentioned back in June, I wanted to go take shots of the grain elevators at Sintaluta, Saskatchewan. While staying in Regina at the beginning of August, I had a chance to go do just that. I headed out of Regina near sunrise on August 1 in search of grain elevators. I drove past Balgonie, McLean, Qu'Appelle, and Indian Head and arrived at Sintaluta.

There are two elevators in Sintaluta, one former Pool elevator and one former National elevator. Here's the National one, now displaying signs for "Sintaluta Seed Cleaning" and "Whispering Pine Farms". It evolved into quite a complex of buildings and tanks.
Sintaluta National grain elevator
The word National is showing through on this trackside view.
Grain elevator in Sintaluta, SK
The other elevator in town is a former Saskatchewan Pool elevator.
Sintaluta ex-Pool elevator
Anyone know what the leaf / star logo is at the top of the elevator? The logo at the top of the elevator commemorates the 1967 Centennial celebrations. The elevator at Kronau, SK also has this.

The rest of Sintaluta is pretty depressing. It is a textbook example of a formerly bustling Prairie town that has fallen into decay. Very sad.

I started back toward Regina with the intent of shooting along the way. As I approached Indian Head, I saw a train pulling out of the town. I pulled over to grab a few shots of CP 8603 East in charge of an intermodal train.
CP 8603 near Indian Head SK
You can see the modern inland terminal in the background on the left.

I shot the Indian Head elevators again, then continued on to Qu'Appelle. There is no elevator in Qu'Appelle, but there is a seed handling facility there, Seedtec-Terramax.
Seedtec-Terramax in Qu'Appelle, SK
From the looks of the track, and the stored flatcars on it, they don't use rail service.

There was one more elevator to shoot, the massive concrete Pioneer inland terminal here between Balgonie and MacLean.
Pioneer grain elevator
I didn't have time to shoot the Viterra elevator at Balgonie... next time.

On my way into Regina I saw a grain train waiting to go east at Kearney, so I did a quick detour to shoot CP 9683 and 3030 as they patiently waited.
CP 9683 at Kearney near Regina, SK
Mission accomplished!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Rainbows and Trains

CP 3065 and rainbow in Winnipeg
I was bored Saturday afternoon, so the kids and I went out to do a bit of shopping and to see some trains. The weather was somewhat rainy but that didn't deter me.

First we went to Symington Yard. As I crossed the southern tip on Fermor, I saw a train approaching the yard from the Sprague subdivision. A quick trip down Symington Road by Grand Prix Amusements brought me to the tracks. CN 7522 and 7521 were working the hump yard to my right.
CN 7522 at Symington Yard in Winnipeg
SD60F CN 5532 was the sole power on the grain train coming off the Sprague subdivision.
CN 5532 in Winnipeg
I took video with my Canon T1i but I had the long lens on... you can really see the lack of image stabilization in this video.

We headed up to see what was going on with CEMR and CP in Transcona. CEMR was quiet, with 4010, 4013, and 5232 all stored behind the shops and the Brandt unit in front with some other power.

I drove around a bit and found CP 9142 East stopped just west of Redonda Street, under the Perimeter Highway. After a few minutes, they started up and rolled into Winnipeg. CP 9103 was the second unit.

At this point the rain broke. A beautiful rainbow came out. In fact, it was a partial double rainbow. I mean, it was no double rainbow, all the way but it was still pretty.

After 9142 West passed, a local with CP 3065 and venerable GP9u CP 8251 rolled up with a transfer train.
CP 8251 in Winnipeg
They pulled almost all the way through the crossing, then backed up into the CP Transcona Yard. Here's the video of their backup move.

That was enough for the kids, so we headed home.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Dugald Tank Car Incident Report

This story is getting some exposure here in Winnipeg. The Transportation Safety Board (TSB) released a report on a tank car incident at Dugald, MB in January 2009.

Basically the end sill (including the coupler) tore off the end of tank car UTLX 37605 when CN 304 was starting to pull. Essentially this is a broken knuckle issue, except that instead of a broken knuckle, a piece of the tank car pulled off. The train went into emergency as expected, there was no derailment and no release of hazardous materials. The issue is that the end sill was known to be damaged and the car should never have been on that train.

The report has some interesting reading. Union Pacific noted the sill was cracked back in mid November. A temporary weld was made and the car was to be handled only as the last car in a train, and not to be humped. When it crossed the border into Canada, that note was lost and the car was handled many times. It was supposed to go to Procor for repair but it appears that instruction was also lost.

This conclusion is particularly damning: "Deficiencies in Canadian National's (CN) waybilling and car tracking systems permitted tank car UTLX 37605 to be placed on 6 different trains, switched at least 13 times and humped 7 times with a severely damaged and cracked A-end stub sill."

I think CN is fortunate that the accident happened at such a low speed and there was no release of product. Hopefully corrective actions have been taken and this type of event will not happen again.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Winnipeg Railway Days

The Winnipeg Railway Museum will be hosting their 13th annual Railway Days on September 18 and 19, from 10 AM to 5 PM daily.

The museum will feature displays from model railway clubs, railway excursion companies, other heritage groups and the railway industry.

Admission will be by donation to the museum.

The museum is located in the VIA Rail Union Station in downtown Winnipeg, at 123 Main Street.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Cellphone Video

I have a Blackberry Curve 8330. It has video capability and I have been curious what quality of video it takes. Given the tiny plastic lens, I did not expect much.

On August 13 I was getting some groceries at the Chaplin "grocery store" when I heard a train coming. I ran to the tracks, but all I had was my cellphone, so I shot video with that. You be the judge.

Here's another one on the same day.

Now that I have seen the video, I don't think I would even bother trying to use it!

Monday, August 23, 2010

In Search of Elevators

Grain elevator at Herbert, Saskatchewan
I woke up fairly early on August 12. I hit the road, heading west from Chaplin Saskatchewan to photograph the grain elevators in Morse and Herbert, and especially the GM lease unit at the Reed Lake inland terminal.

The first town west of Chaplin is tiny Ernfold, and there was a westbound potash train in the siding. Just as I stopped, an eastbound freight rumbled past.

This train had CP 8621, CP 9509, and CP 8564.

After shooting CP 9584 at the tail end of the potash train, I drove up toward the head end. While I did this, another eastbound rolled past the stopped potash train. I missed the head end! I settled for a few shots of CP 9588 and 9675 at the head end while the grain train went by.
CP 9588 in Ernfold SK
Once the grain train passed, CP 9588 West turned their headlights on and prepared to roll out. I hit the road and set up at the next town, Morse, to await their arrival.

Once the train passed, I continued on to Herbert to shoot the elevator and train museum there. I'll talk about the train museum later.
The grain elevator (Paterson) in Herbert, SK

I headed back toward Chaplin. As I passed Morse, I saw a westbound container train in the distance. I did a quick turn and headed back to Morse to get the train with the grain elevators.
CP 8738 at Morse, Saskatchewan
CP 8738 and 8711, both GEVO units, provided the power. I recall it was raining fairly steadily, so I shot from under the van's tailgate.

Lest I forget, I should post a photo of the main reason I went out, GATX lease unit GMTX 410 at the Reed Lake inland terminal. The terminal is between Morse and Herbert.
Reed Lake inland terminal
GMTX is a former Conrail GP15-1 (ex CR 1674). It appears to be a recent arrival at Reed Lake, since it was shot at other locations in 2008 and before.
GMTX 410 at Reed Lake, SK
The Reed Lake elevator itself was completed in 2001. It appears to have rendered obsolete the elevators in nearby Morse and Herbert.

Here are some more Saskatchewan grain elevator photos.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Chaplin Trains

I spent a few days in Chaplin, Saskatchewan visiting my wife's relatives. The CP Swift Current subdivision runs right through town, so there are a lot of mainline freights rolling through at all hours of the day. Chaplin is a tiny town of a few hundred people, so you are never far from the tracks. On August 11 I had the scanner on and did a few dashes to the tracks when I heard an approaching train. Here are the four trains I saw that day, in between family activities.

10:35 westbound intermodal. CP 8787 on head end with DPU CP 9711.
CP 9711 as DPU in Chaplin, SK
Chaplin is one of the few places on the CP mainline where the grain elevator is on the north side of the track, making a great backdrop for photos.

13:50 eastbound grain. CP 9542.
CP 9542 in Chaplin SK
That's right, one unit on the whole train. One assumes the cars are empty.

16:30 westbound grain. CP 9609 and CP 9826, stopped for meet.
CP 9609 in Chaplin Saskatchewan
The train rolled into town and came to a halt on the main. They were to meet two oversiding trains, so they were in town for over an hour.

16:50 westbound intermodal. CP 8700, CP 8548, DPU CP 9835.
CP 8700 and an intermodal train in Chaplin Saskatchewan
I used the long lens on this one. CP 8700 West ran through the siding past 9609 West. I didn't stick around for the next meet.

It was a nice relaxed way to railfan!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

NB Southern Container Train Transfer

Dave Dineen has a great blog post and video about a recent container transfer he saw. You really need to watch the video for the surprise at the end of the first clip.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Surprise At Lake Louise

After the excitement of shooting at Morant's Curve and photographing the Rocky Mountaineer, you would think I was satisfied, right? No way! A good railfan is never satisfied!

On August 9 we traveled to the Lake Louise area to visit Moraine Lake. We had just about reached the Lake Louise exit when I heard an end-of-train squawk on the scanner. This meant there was a train in the area! Since we had just driven up the 1A, I figured there were no trains east of us. We drove the short distance to Morant's Curve and I promised my wife we would wait up to 10 minutes for the train, then leave.

Well, no train came, so we headed back to Lake Louise. I dropped her and the kids off at the shops there and headed back to the Curve to wait for a train. I had 40 minutes so I was hoping something would come along.

There were a few other people hanging around, so I talked with them while keeping an ear to the scanner. One fellow was from Germany, on assignment as a photographer in the area and hoping for a train at Morant's Curve. As we were talking, I heard the hotbox at mile 111 come alive. Since Morant's Curve is at mile 113, a westbound train was imminent!
CP 8714 at Morant's Curve, Alberta
CP 8714 and 9813 pulled an intermodal train through the Curve.

The engineer gave the crowd of photographers a toot as he went by.

That was very exciting and I was pleased that my trip was not in vain. I heard another train was coming from the east but my time was up, so I advised the other photographers and left, hoping to get a chance to shoot it at the Lake Louise station.

I found my wife and kids at the shops and my wife grudgingly agreed that I could go shoot the train at the station in Lake Louise. As I drove down Sentinel Road, I saw a sight that made me forget all about the imminent freight.
CP 4107 at Lake Louise, Alberta
The Royal Canadian Pacific was parked on the stub siding at Lake Louise! Who needs a boring old freight when the pride of the CP fleet can be photographed?

You may remember I saw the Royal Canadian Pacific in Calgary in June, albeit fleetingly. This time I had a few minutes to take shots of CP 4106 and 4107 from various angles. Mindful of my wife and kids in the van, I went as quickly as I could.
CP 4107 in Lake Louise
Isn't it pretty? Four minutes later, I was done and driving back to the main road. As it happened, the westbound freight rolled through right beside me. I stopped, shot it while sitting in the van, and carried on. It was kind of an anticlimax after viewing those beautiful old engines.
CP 9808 in Lake Louise
The freight had CP 9808, CP 9607, CEFX 1026 and CP 9506, all on the head end. Oddly enough, I saw CP 9808 on the same day I saw the Royal Canadian Pacific in Calgary. Quite a coincidence.

We drove up to Moraine Lake and took a little walk around. It is a long trip but well worth it. I think Lake Louise has the best overall scene but the colour of the water at Moraine Lake is simply unbelievable. Oh, and unbelievably cold on the ankles.
Me in Moraine Lake
Another great day in the Rockies. I miss them already.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Highly Delayed Hudson Bay

VIA's Hudson Bay
VIA's Hudson Bay had quite a time of it this week. VIA 69341-15 departed Winnipeg on Sunday (Aug 15) as usual, but derailed at Lady Lake, Saskatchewan on Sunday while pulling into a siding for a meet with a CN freight. Trailing locomotive VIA 6445 and baggage car VIA 8600 derailed but remained upright. A CN work train was dispatched and re-railed the train, which was then pulled back to Canora, SK.

The Winnipeg Free Press reported that the passengers were transferred to a new train. This would have been VIA 692 coming south from Churchill. The "new" train then attempted to carry on to Churchill, but was held at Gillam, MB for about seven hours due to high water.

The train arrived at Churchill, MB at 03:00 on August 18, about 20 hours late.

The return trip left Churchill at 13:15 on Wednesday (Aug 18), almost 18 hours late. Let's hope they make it back to Winnipeg without incident!

The photo above has 6445 in the second position, with baggage car 8600, just like the ill-fated train this week. However, the above photo was taken on October 13, 2009 in Winnipeg!

CBC report, Winnipeg Free Press, VIA Rail advisory

EDIT: Added note about train change, and Winnipeg Free Press article link.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Rocky Mountaineer

Rocky Mountaineer 8013 in Banff Alberta
I mentioned that on August 8 I was waiting for the Rocky Mountaineer passenger train in Banff, Alberta. After watching three freights roll through, I finally heard them coming into Banff at 09:20. I shot them at Banff East.

I raced down the Trans-Canada to shoot them at the station. I heard that a CP freight would pass them at Banff station and I wanted to ensure I crossed the tracks before the freight got there, or I would be skunked. I got there just in time, as the crossing lights came on about 15 seconds after I crossed the tracks. I parked and took my shots of the eastbound grain train.

CP 8876 in Banff, Alberta
The train had CP 8876 and CP 8828. 8876 was one of the CP units painted for the Olympics, but the logo has been crudely painted over.

I turned my attention back to the Rocky Mountaineer. I saw that GP40-2LW 8013 was "the Pride of Quesnel".
RMR 8013, the Pride of Quesnel

After the grain train left, the Rocky Mountaineer's crew boarded the engine and rolled west. I shot each car, then hopped into my van and headed west as well. My intent was to shoot them at the place I had reconnoitered earlier that morning.

I zoomed down highway 1, then took the 1A almost to the picnic area known as "Muleshoe". There was a little parking lot off to the left, occupied by a car and some Japanese tourists. I screeched to a halt, jumped out, and sprinted into the bush with camera in hand. I'm sure I made quite a sight.

I scrambled down the rocks, hearing the Rocky Mountaineer's rumble close by. I got to about where I wanted to be when the train burst into view. A few clicks and it was gone... but I had the shot I wanted.
The Rocky Mountaineer
Satisfied, I headed back to my van at a much more sedate pace. One of the tourists gave me a smile, and I headed back to my camp site.

On to Lake Louise!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010


Here are some videos for trains I mentioned in recent posts.

While I was waiting for the Rocky Mountaineer, I saw this potash train in Banff.

Also, this "Canadian Tire" train.

Here are two trains I shot at Morant's Curve.


Monday, August 16, 2010

This Day, 24 Years Ago

CP 1829, 1810 and 1811 in Sudbury, ON. Slide by Carl G Perelman
Carl G. Perelman shot this slide 24 years ago, in Sudbury Ontario. CP 1829, 1810 and 1811 were resting in the sunlight.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Waiting For The Rocky Mountaineer

After my Morant's Curve adventure, I decided to get up early in the morning of August 8 to shoot the Rocky Mountaineer as it made a stop in Banff.

The Rocky Mountaineer was due to pick up passengers at 8:20 AM. I didn't think I had enough time to run out to Morant's Curve afterward and still be back at my campsite by 10, so I elected to stay near Banff to get the shots.

I got up at 5 AM, showered, then hit the road to Banff East to wait for the westbound Rocky Mountaineer. I knew that was too early but better early than miss the shot!

At 6:05 AM a westbound potash train came rolling past with an abundance of power. CP "toasters" (AC4400 engines) 9764 and 9720 were on the head end, with CP 9767 in the middle and CP 8602 bringing up the rear.
CP 9764 West in Banff
I brightened this shot quite a bit. Those unit trains of Canpotex cars were getting familiar by now. I heard they were to proceed to the siding at Massive to wait for an eastbound.

Since I wasn't going to get the Rocky Mountaineer at Morant's Curve, I needed to look for a spot to shoot them west of Banff. I did a little driving on highway 1A and found a spot I liked. I then decided to find Massive and sure enough, I did find it. It's a little ways off the highway but accessible via a trail.

As I parked my car and prepared to walk down the trail, I heard the eastbound train they were meeting. I sprinted down the trail only to find that the waiting train was blocking the shot! :P I did a quick grab shot of CP 9767 then ran back uphill to my car.
CP 9767 in Massive siding

I beat them to the 1A / Trans-Canada Highway ramp and pulled over to shoot the train there. I pointed my camera and... the flash popped up. Much cursing ensued. My camera decided the light was too low and, even in Sports mode, decided to try a flash. The train flashed by and I jumped back into the car and gave pursuit.

I finally caught up with them at Banff East and shot them at 07:20. The train was an intermodal eastbound with CP 9559 and CP 9500 leading, and CP 9575 mid-train.
CP 9559 in Banff
This was shot from the shoulder of the highway.

I checked in at the Banff station and there was no sign of the Rocky Mountaineer yet. I hadn't heard them clear Canmore so I knew they were nowhere near Banff.

In the meantime, I caught CP 8858 East at Banff East at 08:20. This was a big intermodal with 8858 and CP 9722 on the head end, CP 8844 and CP 9827 spread singly in the train, and finally CP 8749 pushing on the rear.
CP 8858 at Banff East

Still no Rocky Mountaineer! What was going on?

Read on!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Morant's Curve

Morant's Curve
We were recently on vacation in Banff, Alberta. This has to be one of the most beautiful spots on Earth. There are so many lovely scenes that it is impossible to describe... it must be experienced.

Anyway, there is a famous spot near Lake Louise called Morant's Curve. The Canadian Pacific Railway had a staff photographer, Nicholas Morant, who took many photos of CP in the middle of the 20th century. One location he is well known for is this spot, and many CPR promotional materials feature his photos from this location. It is especially good for eastbound trains in the morning, because of an S-curve, the Bow River, and the mountains in the background. Westbound shots are good too but not quite as spectacular. Morant's Curve is at mile 113 on the CP Laggan subdivision.

On August 7 I drove up to Morant's Curve to try to catch a train. After shooting an eastbound in the dark I arrived at "sunup" around 6:30 AM only to find it fogged in. I set up the Canon S3 on my tripod as a video camera, turned up the scanner, opened my Trackside Guide, and waited.

After close to an hour, I heard a rumbling... from the east. A westbound freight led by CP 9646 and CP 8638 passed the hotbox at mile 111 and rolled through the fog.
CP 9646 at Morant's Curve
They rolled past me and headed through the S curve and on to Lake Louise and beyond.
CP 9646 at Morant's Curve

That was exciting... but what about some sun and an eastbound? Was that too much to ask?

Just before 8 AM I heard the hotbox... meaning another westbound. It turned out to be CP 8872 West.
CP 8872 at Morant's Curve
CP 8872 used to be painted with the 2010 Olympic logo, but not any more!

This train had a DPU on the end of the train, so I could pretend it was an eastbound for a moment!
CP 8875 at Morant's Curve
I ran out of time to stay there, so I headed back to Banff. I didn't get my sun shot but it was great to be at such a historic spot.

Next up, photographing the Rocky Mountaineer!

LRC 6917 Saved

I understand that ex-VIA LRC engine 6917 has been saved - congratulations to the dedicated group of people for raising the funds to save this engine. Now they are looking for funding to move it to the Toronto Railway Heritage Centre.

More details

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Low Light Photography

Shooting moving trains in low light is difficult. If they weren't moving, you could put the camera on a tripod and use a long shutter speed to good effect. However, their motion demands a fairly quick shutter speed to capture the train without blurring. The only other option is to use a bank of lights, such as O. Winston Link used to use and Gary Knapp does now, but for most of us that is not an option.

I shot a very long eastbound intermodal train at Eldon siding near Banff, Alberta on August 7. This train had CEFX 1041 and a CP unit leading (CP 9467 I believe), then CEFX 1033 a ways down, then CP 9516 down farther, then CP 9553 near the end of the train. Three separate DPU units!

I shot it at 6:20 AM, before sunrise, in the woods, so there was not much light available. Here are the different units and the techniques I used to try to get some kind of usable photo.

Here's the head end, shot with default settings (F/3.5, 1/25s, ISO 3200). As you can see, it is impossible to read the unit number. The shutter speed was too slow.
CEFX 1041
For the next unit, CEFX 1033, I elected to pan the train and see if that would bring some portion of it into focus. I think it worked out OK for the unit number (F/5.6, 1/40s, ISO 1600).
CEFX 1033
I tried basically the same technique with CP 9516. The results weren't quite as good but they were OK (F/5.6, 1/32s, ISO 1600).
CP 9516 at Eldon, Alberta
After that, I overrode the shutter speed to see what that would do. The picture was fairly sharp but very very dark. I did a lot of processing on this photo to get it to this state (F/3.5, 1/250s, ISO 1600).
CP 9533 at Eldon
Clearly selecting a lower shutter speed and panning produces better results.

Why was I at Eldon siding in Alberta? Those who follow me on Twitter know I was heading to Morant's Curve. More about that later.