Thursday, March 31, 2011

Ho Hum

VIA 6419 in Winnipeg
Today's Canadian was a pretty ho-hum train, on a ho-hum day.

Two engines, nine cars, as usual (full consist). I did note that someone left a hatch open on the nose of 6419. I wonder what that is for? Gas cap? Is the SERVICE ENGINE SOON light on in the cab?
VIA 6419

Here's the video.

They were off and running for the west.
Kokanee Park

Little did I know that VanBilly1 was just east of me filming the same train at Waverley Street. Here's his video.

Shortly after they left, BNSF 2756 pushed two gondolas and a dozen tank cars over to Fort Rouge, headed by their caboose BN 12580. Here's VanBilly1's video of it at Waverley Street.

EDIT: Added Billy's videos.

White Balance, Explained

Have you ever wondered what the heck White Balance is? Well, wonder no more. This article explains what it is, how it affects your photography, and how to use it. Recommended.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Passing Gear

This morning I was traveling along Wilkes Avenue and heard that CN 115 was coming, and CN 111 was going to overtake her before Diamond. I stopped around mile 8 and saw the headlights of 115 in the distance on the north track. CN 115 poked along at a jogging pace...
CN 8017 in Winnipeg
Note the piles of new ties by the tracks. The Herzog machine has been busy distributing the tie bundles for the upcoming work season.

Here we see the problem with shooting westbound trains in the morning.
CN 8017 in Winnipeg
Beautiful light on the sides, but the nose is totally in darkness.

The going-away shot is much better lit.
CN 2501 in Winnipeg
The paint is falling off poor CN 2501. Even the SD60 CN 5533 is in better shape.

CN 115 continued trundling on and on, probably frustrating many morning commuters as it blocked crossings all along Wilkes. I didn't count the cars but there were well over a hundred.

Eventually the end of CN 115 came into view, and beyond that I could see the headlights of CN 111 in the distance.
CN 111 overtakes CN 115 in Winnipeg

111 covered the distance at a much quicker pace. CN 2274 and 8898 were the sole power on a short CN 111.

I had thought I would have video of train 111, since I just let the Canon S3 continue recording all the way through CN 115. Unfortunately, it stopped recording before 111 was done... because it hit the maximum video size of 1 GB. Who knew there was a limit? I was too busy clicking away with my T1i to notice that the video had stopped. Dang it.

I'll spare you the highly-backlit shot of lead engine 2274 and just show the going-away shot.
CN 8898 in Winnipeg

PS - Apparently there is a CHDK hack that removes the 1 GB video limit, and provides other goodies like RAW files, motion detection and scripting. I haven't tried it and of course I do not warrant it will do anything good or bad for your camera!

EDIT: I added the video of CN 115.

Canada Geese

The Canada Geese have arrived in Winnipeg for their yearly honkfest. Witness these two geese frantically flying out of the way of the Hudson Bay.
VIA and Canada Geese

VIA had just finished crossing over from the south to the north track, and would accelerate up to track speed (40 MPH) after crossing the St. James diamond.
VIA Hudson Bay

Just prior to that, BNSF Manitoba brought their engine, BNSF 2756, and one gondola back from the CN Fort Rouge yard. They did the same maneuver, crossing from the south track to the north track, then taking the switch to their yard.
BNSF 2756 in Winnipeg

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

BNSF in Grand Forks, Round 2

Continued from part 1. We stayed in Grand Forks until noon on Monday. I woke up before sunrise and headed out to see what I could shoot in the few hours allotted to me. Railfanning involves a lot of negotiation at times!

BNSF 2271 and 2327 were sitting at the west end of the yard with a mixed train in tow. Soon a train headed by BNSF 9147 and BNSF 9138 pulled up beside them. I think they were arriving from the east, because I saw those two units later by the roundhouse.
BNSF 9147 and 2271 in Grand Forks

At the time I thought 9147 was going to head out, so I relocated to the wye just west of US 29. I didn't know whether they would take the wye track to go south or go straight west. I had a lot of indecision, but eventually parked at Amtrak and resolved to wait and see. Soon I heard a horn blowing for crossings, and ran over to see that the train was taking the wye. I hastily planted my tripod (with the Canon S3 on it for video) and grabbed a few shots with my T1i. The problem was that I still had the long lens on it so I couldn't get any wide angle shots.
BNSF 3207 in Grand Forks
BNSF 2086 (GP38-2) and BNSF 3207 (GP50) took a train south to Fargo.

I soon heard more horns, and BNSF 9840 (SD70MAC), BNSF 6396 (ES44AC), and BNSF 6065 (ES44AC) took a long empty coal train south to Fargo. I didn't get any video of this, alas.
BNSF 9840 6396 6065 in Grand Forks
BNSF coal cars in Grand Forks

I went to the east end of the yard and found quite a few units parked near the roundhouse. BNSF 3126 was still parked in the same place I saw it the day before, but this time it was joined by BNSF 2256 (GP38-2).
BNSF 2256 in Grand Forks

BNSF 8178 and 8154, both SD60M engines in Burlington Northern green, were visible in the back.
BNSF 8178 in Grand Forks

BNSF 4106 and 4191, also seen the day before, were parked but looking like they were getting ready to go.

Other units visible were BNSF 5639 (AC4400CW), BNSF 6205 (SD39), BNSF 5256 (Dash 9-44CW) and BNSF 8225 (SD75M). Off in the distance I saw two small switcher units switching, BNSF 3703 and xx34. 3703 is an MP15, definitely the first of that type I've seen.

After cataloging the units visible, I headed north on Washington Street to see if I could find some grain elevators. I did... and a few industrial units too!

(back to part 1)

Monday, March 28, 2011

Look For Trains

RR Contracting Caboose
I was driving around the north end of Grand Forks today (Monday) when I spotted this caboose. It is painted as a Great Northern caboose, although I have no idea if it really was a GN caboose. It is at the headquarters of R&R Contracting, a full service rail construction, maintenance and removal company. The caboose is well-maintained and looks quite sharp.
R&R Contracting Caboose
I'm back in Winnipeg now but I have more to write about Grand Forks.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Grand Forks Sightings

We were in Grand Forks, North Dakota for a quick shopping trip to the good ol' USA. I managed to finagle a bit of train-watching time and spent it around the BNSF yard in town. When I first arrived, little switcher BNSF 3429 (SW1500) was working the west end of the yard but I was unable to get a photo of it.

I went to the east end of the yard where the turntable is. I parked my van and walked across Demers Avenue to get some shots from the sidewalk. BNSF 1745 (SD9) was working the east end but wasn't really in a good photo spot. BNSF 3126 was posed quite prettily, though.
BNSF 3126 in Grand Forks
BNSF 3126 is a GP50, built in August 1985 for the Burlington Northern. I found a photo of 3126 with BNSF 2886. You may recall that 2886 was a resident of Winnipeg for less than a month from late September to mid October 2009. This might be the first time I've seen a GP50.

Also parked in the yard were BNSF 4191 and 4106, both Dash-9s, unfortunately not in a great position to be photographed.
BNSF 4191 in Grand Forks

BNSF 2327 and 2271 (both GP38-2s) were also parked near the "roundhouse", and 2327 was in a nice spot for a photo.
BNSF 2327 in Grand Forks

After taking all the roster photos I could, I went for a drive west to see if I could find any trains there. No luck, but I did find a BNSF truck getting off the rails at Emerado, so that pretty much guaranteed no trains for a while. On my return to Grand Forks, as I approached the Amtrak station on the west side of town, I saw a coal train coming north from Fargo. I parked just east of the wye and shot BNSF 8880 and 9354 coming into Grand Forks with a loaded coal train.
BNSF 8880 and 9354 in Grand Forks
BNSF 8880 is an SD70MAC and BNSF 9354 is an SD70ACe, both quite modern engines.

That was the end of my railfanning for Sunday. Not a bad haul!

Remember you can click on most photos for a larger version, and the complete list of units shot can be found in my railway sightings database.

On to part 2

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Recent Videos

Here are a few recent YouTube videos I saw and wanted to share with you.

Kevin Gaudet posted this video of CN 120 at Memramcook. The train had CN 8949 (shiny new SD70M-2), IC 1036, and CN 2666.

I can't get used to CN 120 having all this non-container junk in the train. CN 120/121 used to be pure container trains, but with the loss of most of the freight trains in the Maritimes, 120 and 121 get to carry the junk. Some of this would have gone on CN 148 and 149 but they do not run any more.

RailFanJon shot an empty coal train growling by on the CP Shuswap subdivision in British Columbia. Lots of good noise from the engines as they throttle up.

VanBilly1 caught two CEMR engines going into the BNSF yard here in Winnipeg. This was a great catch. On Monday, March 14, BNSF had put their engine on the ground (or, as we say it, derailed) around 14:00 and the CEMR engines were coming to help out while BNSF tried to get their engines back on the rails.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Prairie Dog Central's 8454

8454 at the Prairie Dog Central
I was browsing through old photo albums when I came across some photos I took of the Prairie Dog Central railway back on August 18, 2001.

I was surprised to see engine 8454 front and center. 8454 is an MLW S-3, built in 1952 for CN. I saw it in Moose Jaw last summer at the Parrish and Heimbecker elevator.

8454 at the Prairie Dog Central

I remember that my father-in-law, my son and I all took the train from Inkster Junction to Warren and back. It was fun. Here's the engine running around the train at Warren.
8454 at the Prairie Dog Central

Thursday, March 24, 2011

VIA Rail With Rocky Mountaineer

I was out running errands at noon and figured I'd try to get the Canadian at Portage Junction today. When I arrived there, the sun was shining, the sky was blue, and BNSF 2756 was ready to head back to their yard "running light" (with no cars).
BNSF 2756 in Winnipeg

I positioned myself to look straight down the mainline track. The nice thing about Portage Junction is that you can get fairly close to the tracks without trespassing. Soon I saw a headlight in the distance as the Canadian ran past Fort Rouge.

Here they are, passing under the signal tower.
VIA 6406 under signal tower

Notice the big hump behind the engine? It was Rocky Mountaineer car RMRX 9527.
VIA 6406 and Rocky Mountaineer car

I shot each car as it went by, to record the car numbers. A gentleman in Skyline 8517 was chuckling at this idiot standing on a snowbank with a camera.

They rounded the corner at Portage Junction and headed toward Waverley Street and points west.
VIA Canadian in Winnipeg

Full consist

See Also

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Steam Engine to Pass Through Maritimes

LSWR T3 class, 4-4-0, 563 (1893)
Part of a movie entitled "The Railway Children" will be filmed at the John Street Roundhouse in Toronto, Ontario. A steam engine will be imported into Canada for use in this production. It is scheduled to arrive in Halifax on March 28 and be brought to Toronto.

The engine is former LSWR (London and South Western Railway) T3 4-4-0 number 563.

Hopefully people will get photos of it en route!

Refurbished VIA LRC Released

IRSI in Moncton has been refurbishing VIA LRC (Light, Rapid, Comfortable) cars. The first car, coach VIA 3315, was released recently. Matt Soknacki caught it as part of a corridor train VIA 64.

Externally there are not many changes. The bottom is coloured Renaissance green instead of blue, the VIA logo is smaller, it has a thin yellow stripe above the windows, and it currently does not have a Canadian flag on it.

Here's a video showing the car in the middle of this train.

Matt has a few more photos of the car exterior in his photo album. For members of the Yahoo! group CanPassRail, there are some interior LRC photos in the group's photo album.

The LRC car left Moncton on March 4 on the tail end of the Ocean.

The contract with VIA was announced in May 2009. IRSI is refurbishing the cars to bring them up to date, but mainly to make them more accessible to people with disabilities.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Potash Trains

Matt uploaded this video of CN 594, an empty potash train on its way to McCullys to drop the empty cars off.

He's been busy shooting the potash trains. Here's another of his from a month ago.

The trains run from the PotashCorp mine at McCullys outside Sussex, down the CN Sussex subdivision to Saint John and over to the Courtenay Bay wharf. They used to run a mixed bag of CN hoppers but in the past few years they have been using the orange cars seen here.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

CN X316 Update

The export train, CN 316, arrived in Halifax early Friday afternoon. The train had CN 5524 leading, five export locomotives, and a flatcar on either side of the export locos.

09:00: Through Moncton
13:05: Sandy Cove
13:30: Arrived in Halifax

David Othen posted a great video of CN train 316, among other trains.

Skip ahead to 3:26 to see the export train. They took the siding to allow one-engined VIA 15 to roll on by - also in the video. CN 120 was first on the video.

The GM export engines were parked near the Halifax Ocean Terminal (HOT), waiting for their ship to come in.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

VIA Plow Train

David Morris chased the Ocean and Chaleur a few times in February and sent along these shots of the trains plowing snow.

First, here's the Ocean at Nigadoo, NB.
VIA 6454 at Nigadoo. Photo by David Morris

Next, the Chaleur plowing a crossing at Escuminac in Quebec.
VIA 6424 at Escuminac, PQ. Photo by David Morris
Hopefully he didn't get too wet after this shot!

Here's the same train at Anse a Beaufils.
VIA 6424 by David Morris

They met the real plow at New Carlisle, propelled by SFG 1856, the former NBEC 1856.
VIA Chaleur and SFG snowplow and 1856. Photo by David Morris

Friday, March 18, 2011

CN 316

CN is running an export train to Halifax as I write this. CN X316 was ordered out of Toronto at 21:30 on March 16, due in Joffre PQ at 14:30 on March 17 and 22:30 in Edmundston.

CN X316 actually left Joffre at 12:30 on March 17, so it was ahead of schedule. The train consisted of CN 5524 and 5 export locomotives, presumably on their own wheels.

It appears that X316 spent the night in Edmundston waiting for a crew, then proceeded to Moncton last night / early this morning. It is currently following CN 120 into Halifax and should arrive shortly after noon.

All of this information comes from the excellent AtlanticRails mailing list, a great resource for railfans in the east.

In other news, VIA's Ocean had an engine problem and set off VIA 6453 somewhere west of Campbellton. The Chaleur split off at Matapedia as usual and proceeded with VIA 6402, and the Ocean kept going with one engine, VIA 6456. Presumably Friday's Ocean will depart with that engine only.

Thursday, March 17, 2011


I was driving around with my young son this evening and happened to come across VIA 2 coming into Winnipeg.
VIA 6440

I rarely see the eastbound Canadian because it comes in at night. I used my 50mm prime lens for its light sensitivity, and I think it turned out OK in the dim light.

The Canadian was a bit longer than usual, 13 cars including two deadhead Manor cars behind the engines and ahead of the baggage car. Full details.

VIA 8501

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Portage - Hit and Miss

I certainly had a mixed day Sunday when visiting Portage.

I set out from Winnipeg around 7:30 AM and headed west on the Trans-Canada Highway. CN was quiet and there was nothing to hear or see on the way. I reached Portage and went in to see the downtown. The signal lights were all showing red, indicating no traffic on CN nor CP, so I took some photographs for my model train layout. I was particularly interested in the West Tower area where the CP Carberry, CN Rivers, and CN Gladstone subdivisions meet. I was amused to see that some pigeons were warming themselves on the switch heaters on the CN Rivers sub.

Finally I heard some discussions on the CN RTC channel that seemed to indicate that a train was switching at Bloom, west of Portage. I headed out of Portage that way, only to encounter CN train 304 heading east into Portage. Drat! I knew I wasn't able to catch up to it inside Portage, so I drove around the city intending to catch it on the other side as it left East Tower. However, there is no place to exit the highway on that side, so I kept on driving.. and driving.. until I reached Newton. CN calls this Nattress, mile 50.4. I set up at the crossing of highway 331, and I didn't have to wait long until CN 304 blew through.
CN 8922 in Nattress
CN 8922 was leading and ex-UP unit CN 2100 was trailing.

I should have turned the video camera a bit to the left.

After they passed, I drove back into Portage. I decided to go shoot the grain elevator at CP Tucker just east of Portage. While there, I heard CP 8877 West tell the RTC that they set off the WILD* and had to set off a car. Since I could hear them, they were nearby... but where? My handy dandy Trackside Guide told me that the WILD is at mile 44.8, east of Portage, so they were coming my way! I set up and waited only a few minutes before their headlight came in view.
CP 8877 near Portage

I figured I could easily beat them to the other side of Portage, so I drove around Portage (again) and turned south on highway 305 to the CP crossing. They soon came into view.
CP 8877 at Burnside

They pulled up to the switch, and the conductor dismounted to get things ready to set off the bad order car. As there were already cars in the siding, they had to get them ready to move so they could shove them back. Of course, the derail and the switch had to be taken care of too.
CP 8877 at Burnside

The train pulled ahead over the crossing.

I believe the bad car was about the 65th car, so they would have had to pull until that car was next to the conductor. He would then cut off the rest of the train and leave it there, then the train would pull ahead until they were clear of the switch. The conductor would line the switch for the siding (having taken care of the derail already and released the handbrakes on the cars already in the siding), then the train would shove into the siding until the bad car was fully in the siding. Then, cut off the bad car, pull ahead, reline the switch, and join the train back together again.

That solved the mystery of what was just west of Simplot - a siding.

Anyway, I didn't stick around for that operation. I went across the highway to CN Bloom and took some photos there, while CN 314 was still switching. I noticed that the tail end of 314's consist had this car.
CN 15206 at Bloom

Then I headed north on highway 16 to see the elevator near Macdonald. I took a quick peek in the town of Macdonald itself, and found a little MOW** train there. It had a gondola, CP caboose 420991, and some kind of MOW contraption that looked like it would be used to help lay welded rail.
CP 420991 in Macdonald

Time was running short for me, so I zipped up to the elevator north of Macdonald. It's a Pioneer elevator at "Dundonald". The leased GP15 was there and I snapped a bunch of pictures.

On my way back down highway 16, I saw CN 302 was passing 314 at Bloom, so I set up for video and took some more shots.

I was out of time, so I wasn't able to shoot the Simplot facility. Next time.

I headed toward Winnipeg, gradually getting ahead of CN 302 as they had to stop at Nattress for CN 115 to go by. I saw 302 a bit behind me as I approached Elie, and suddenly I noticed VIA's Hudson Bay coming the other way. A track speed meet! I pulled over to the side of the road and took a series of photos as they passed each other. Fantastic.

As I crossed over the CN mainline at Wilkes Avenue, I saw the lights of CN 302 in the far distance.


You'll notice I haven't included any pictures of the elevator, the GP15, CN 302, or the meet at Elie. Unfortunately, sometime at Macdonald, I bumped the selector wheel on my camera and changed it from Tv (Shutter speed priority) to Av (aperture priority). This meant that all my photos were tremendously overexposed and ended up pure white. Imagine my disappointment when I looked at them at home!

Moral of the story: LOOK at the photos you've just taken. I reallly dislike chimping, but I guess there has to be a happy medium between looking at every shot and doing what I did. Sigh.

Enjoy the shots I did get! :)

* WILD = Wheel Impact Load Detector. It measures the force that the wheels put on the rails, and is basically looking for flat or damaged wheels.
** MOW = Maintenance Of Way.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Trip Planning With Google Maps

I'm heading out to Portage la Prairie tomorrow to do a little railfanning, and also to scout out the area for locations to feature in my upcoming model train layout. I have been using Google Maps to see what's around, and it has proved very useful.

For example, I was looking at the CP Minnedosa subdivision, which starts in Portage and heads northwest, and I found this at Macdonald (mile 9.2).

View Larger Map
It's a modern grain elevator, with a GP15 for a shunter. A must see!

I already know I want to take some shots at CN Bloom, about 9 miles west of Portage on the CN Rivers sub. I've been there before but I didn't get very good shots.

On the CP Carberry sub west of Portage, I want to take some shots of the Simplot facility just outside Portage. This modern potato processing facility was completed in 2003 at a cost of $150 million.

There's a facility a few miles west of Simplot that is intriguing me. It's not an elevator, it's not a siding, but I can't tell what it is from the Street View.

View Larger Map

There is also this elevator just east of Portage on the CP Carberry subdivision that I haven't shot yet.

So, a few sites to investigate tomorrow!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Kenaston Saskatchewan

I found this photo in one of my albums. I took it in early January 2001 while traveling on highway 11 between Chaplin and Saskatoon. It shows three Pool elevators in Kenasoton, Saskatchewan (located here.
Grain elevators in Kenaston SK

Kenaston is notable for having one of the few remaining railway water towers in Saskatchewan (visible in the photo above to the left). It was built in 1910 for use by what became CN. It is a fairly rare structure these days, not only because it is a water tower but because it is an octagonal, tapered tower. The village did some major repairs to the tower in 2009 and now it looks as good as new.

The town is served by CN on its Craik subdivision out of Saskatoon. The Craik sub used to run from Saskatoon to Regina, but now the Last Mountain Railway operates the southern portion from Davidson to Regina. CN's 1986/12/14 timetable shows Kenaston at mile 109.3, with two tracks CK34 and CK35 at 2000 and 1700 feet respectively. The Google map shows a bunch of tracks but the street view seems to show a single siding now.

Hopefully the village will be able to hold on to their elevators and water tower. So many Prairie towns are disappearing.

PS - While browsing around I saw the Google cameras caught a CN high-rail truck while they were there.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

More PEI Stations

Inspired by the good feedback to my post about Kensington, I dug into my photo archives and found a few more railway station photos from Prince Edward Island.

Here is the former CN station at Borden, PEI right at the end of the spiffy Confederation Bridge. In fact this is pretty much how you would see it from the bridge, if you were looking as you were coming onto the island.
CN Borden station

I understand they now have a caboose there, imported from the Moncton area.
CN Border station and switch

Next is the station at Montague, PEI. Apparently this was redeveloped in 1999. I remember there were some artifacts inside and some signage on the inside of the fence. It was quite pleasant to visit and near the marina in Montague.
Montague train station

Finally, here is the station in Summerside, PEI which is now the Rotary Library. This is a terrible photo. The Google Street View is much nicer.
Summerside rotary library, former train station

All of those shots were from September 2003, which may have been the last time I was on PEI.

I also have photos of the Elmira station and railway museum, such as it was. I will have to dig those up as they have photos of the Railway Post Office (RPO) car that was subsequently scrapped.