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.


Adam said...

Sounds like an adventure, too bad about the shots that got wiped out!


Blair Ivey said...

Great post, amd I learned a new term [chimping]. Doesn't take much imagination to think where that came from.

Your photos make me glad I live in a place where the landscape isn't covered with snow.

Canadian Train Geek said...

Thanks for commenting. It was a good adventure and a good "learning experience". :)