Thursday, July 28, 2011

A Polarizer Comparison

I shot the Canadian today at noon. It had two unrefurbished units, now a rarity, with a dead-heading diner (Emerald).
VIA 6428 in Winnipeg

I had the circular polarizer on my camera while I was shooting. Just for kicks, I decided to take it off and shoot the last few cars without it for comparison.

Here's the last car I shot with the polarizer ON, Bliss Manor.
Bliss Manor in Winnipeg

Here is Elgin Manor without the polarizer.
Elgin Manor in Winnipeg

Neither picture was processed in any way except to crop to size, and both were sharpened to the same degree.

You can see how the sky is darker with the polarizer, and some cloud detail is visible that is washed out without the polarizer.

What do you think? Is the difference significant enough?

More NB Southern Leased Units Arrive

The second pair of NB Southern leased units arrived in Saint John yesterday. HLCX 917 and HLCX 913 were nose to nose behind CN 5723 and CN 2280 on train 406 out of Moncton on Wednesday. CN #406 did some work in Sussex, and arrived in Saint John at 16:18.

HLCX 911 has been out on the main line a few times, and I believe it went to St. Stephen at least once, on July 21.

HLCX 906 has been working in Saint John but no one has spotted it on the main line yet, to my knowledge.

Hat tip to Wendell Lemon, DC, and Danny McCracken for the information.

Gary Lee has posted some videos of HLCX 911 in McAdam. Thanks for those, Gary!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Full of Hot Air

CTV Balloon in Winnipeg
Here's something a little different for today... no trains, just a different method of transportation.

In the morning of July 25 I saw a REMAX hot air balloon heading north in Winnipeg. I've seen those around before. They seem to use a field just south of Winnipeg as their base.

Later in the evening, I was outside with my kids when I spied a CTV balloon heading south.

This balloon is a Cameron Balloons A-300, built in 1998 with serial #4319, registered with "tail" number C-GDCQ.

As it crossed the Perimeter Highway, it appeared to get very close to a radio tower.
CTV balloon and tower

I don't think it was as close as it appeared to us. You know how a telephoto lens can distort relative distance!

It looked like there were about eight people in the basket... perhaps watching the tower with some concern?
CTV balloon basket

Shortly after that one went by, another balloon with "tail" number C-GFEA drifted by. That one was also made by Cameron Balloons but is smaller, an A-180 built in 1990 with serial #2162. I didn't get any decent shots of that balloon.

Both balloons are A-type, billed as the "ultimate passenger balloon". The number after the dash is the bag volume in thousands of cubic feet. The CTV balloon holds 300,000 cubic feet of gas and can carry up to 6000 pounds (presumably including the basket and bag).

I've never been in a hot air balloon before. I think it would be a great experience.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Deer Me

I was out shooting trains on the morning of July 12.

First I saw the tail end of CN 304 heading toward St. James Junction. It had CN 2276 on the head end but I never actually saw it.

After a bit of waiting, CN 111 came rolling past Carman Junction on its way out of Winnipeg. I was shooting into the sun but I did my best. When cropping this photo of CN 2325, I noticed the deer on the left side of the photo!
CN 2325 and deer in Winnipeg

I hope the deer made it away safely.

After about 20 minutes, CN 840 came rolling the other way. Since it was eastbound, the sun was nicely on the nose.
CN 840 with engine 2564

Here's the video.

Monday, July 25, 2011

First Circular Polarizer Photo

VIA 6420 leads the Hudson Bay
VIA 6420 leads VIA 6407 and the rest of VIA 693 (the Hudson Bay) out of Winnipeg, Manitoba.

This is my first shot with my new circular polarizer.

What does a polarizer do? Well... it's hard to explain and I don't totally understand it. Sunlight is unpolarized, meaning that the light waves vibrate in a variety of directions ("planes"). However, sunlight that reflects off a nonmetallic object is polarized. A polarizing filter only allows a certain "plane" of light through. Turning a circular polarizer adjusts what "plane" of light is allowed through to the camera, so reflections can be blocked.

The end effect is that contrast is higher (skies are darker, for example, as you can see above). Also, a polarizer can help cut through haze as much of the haze is reflected light.

There are some interesting images here showing the difference between non-filtered and filtered images. has a good tutorial on polarization of light.

I bought a Hoya PRO1 58mm polarizer. There are cheaper polarizers, such as this Hoya model. The differences include multi-coating (to reduce lens flare) and construction (plastic vs. metal frames). It's all in what you are looking for.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Another CP 9104 Sighting

CP 9104 in Winnipeg
I mentioned that I chased CP 9104 on the La Riviere subdivision on July 20. I saw 9104 arrive in Winnipeg a week before in the evening of Wednesday the 13th, on the CP Keewatin subdivision. The kids and I were driving around, looking for trains. We ended up finding CP 9104 approaching and then stopping. The engineer was clever and stopped the train such that the overpass of the Perimeter Highway shaded the cab.
CP 9104 in Winnipeg in the shade

We waited, and after a while CP 9104 started rolling. It turned out that CP 9150 was the second unit. It's interesting to note that in late 2009 CP 9150 (and maybe 9132 as well!) was stored in Winnipeg. How things have changed.

Here you can see that I was on the wrong side of the sun, and it was a bad choice of locations as the engines and cars entered the shade in the crossing! Ooops. My fault for shooting at 8:30 PM.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Infrared Photography

Has anyone reading this done any infrared photography? I've been enjoying the posts of Dave Beckerman on Google+. He does some amazing work in infrared. Check out the link above and page down through his photos. I am in awe.

He wrote a blog post about digital infrared photography that I recommend you read. Basically it involves putting the right filter on the front of your lens to filter out some or all of the visible light and letting only the infrared light through.

What's the big deal? Well, things look different in infrared. The colour is gone, leaving a kind of sepia image like this:
Dave Beckerman, Secret Garden

It can be processed into a black and white image, like this:
Dave Beckerman, Secret Garden

With more work, some colour can be put back into it.

If you like the effects of some HDR, you'd probably like infrared.

Here's a nice post about beginner IR filters.

I'm still considering it. First I want to play with my new circular polarizer filter.

PS - if you want to try Google+, I have invitations. Just email me at and I'll send you an invite. This is me.

A Meet At Speed

Early in the morning I was parked west of Diamond (itself west of Winnipeg), just past the bend in the track (map) around mile 16.9. I had my laptop out, doing some editing, with an ear to the scanner for traffic. After a while I heard CN 111 calling the signals as they approached Diamond from the east. I hopped out of the car, crossed the tracks, and set up the video camera and waited for them. As I waited, I heard CN 304 call a clear signal approaching Diamond!

Soon CN 111 came around the bend.
CN 2314 outside Winnipeg

Looking westward, CN 304 was visible hurtling toward the meet on the south track.
CN 5763 near Diamond

Closer... closer... I wasn't sure which would reach me first but I was hoping it was CN 304 on the south track, so 111 wouldn't obscure the head end.
CN 5763 near Winnipeg

With a series of honks, CN 304 hurtled by me and met 111 just to my left / east.
CN 304 and CN 111 meet

CN 111 blew by me going west, and I watched the trains zoom past each other in front of me.
Tripod and trains

After a bit, DPU CN 8015 roared by on CN 111.
CN 8015 near Winnipeg

Soon CN 304 was receding in the distance while CN 111's containers were still rattling by. Within a few minutes, 111 was also fading into the distance.

Here's the video of the meet.

I hope you enjoyed my little narrative. I really enjoyed photographing and taping this meet!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Train Flash Mob

This is cool!

In contrast, this train-based rendition of our anthem is a bit depressing. C'mon, it's an anthem - celebrate it!

A Short Branchline Chase

On Wednesday (July 20) I headed to work extra early to get a good start on the day. I also wanted to have a few minutes to railfan on the way to work. It was warm and very humid when I got into my car and headed out. I turned on the air conditioning to try to get rid of the mugginess.

As I approached the crossing of the CP La Riviere subdivision over the Perimeter Highway (map) I saw a southbound CP train just about to enter the crossing. Quickly I decided to chase it. I headed down route 330 a short distance and hopped out of my car to take a shot.

Suddenly the lens fogged over.

A little physics at work... cold lens meets warm, humid air - instant condensation! I frantically wiped the lens on my shirt and took shots. Wipe, focus, shoot. Wipe, focus, shoot. Fortunately the train was moving quite slowly.
CP 9104 leaving Winnipeg

The train had SD90 CP 9104 leading and fellow SD90 CP 9132 trailing. Big power for a small branch line!

After taking some shots, and waving to the crew, I headed south on route 330 to the next crossing. The same routine of wiping, focusing and shooting took place.
CP 9104 between Winnipeg and La Salle

I squeezed one more sequence in before they were approaching La Salle.
CP 9104 near La Salle, MB
In this shot you can see a crew member looking out of CP 9132. I don't know if this train normally operates with a 3 man crew, or if the guy was dead-heading on the train.

I probably could have squeezed one more location in before La Salle but I wanted to ensure I got the elevator shot, so I carried on and set up south of the elevator for the big finish.

CP 9104's lights came into view at the end of the straight section. As they slowly approached 1st Avenue, a few cars crossed in front of them. This truck was the last vehicle to cross... and cut it a little too close, in my opinion.
CP 9104 and truck

Anyway, here's the money shot.
CP 9104 and grain elevator in La Salle, Manitoba
Yes, they had the nose door open the whole trip. By this time the lens had warmed up so there was no need to wipe condensation off. Whew!

I relocated just north of the elevator to take this shot. I punched up the saturation in the picture to make the Saskatchewan grain car pop.
Saskatchewan grain car in La Salle Manitoba

It was fun to do an actual chase again... even if it was only 9 km!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Running Light

CN 8870 in Winnipeg
Just a quickie for tonight. In the morning of July 20 I caught these two units running light west on the CN Rivers subdivision. These two were heading out to Elie to pick up their train. I have no idea why it was out there. My guess is that an eastbound train needed some power and they were given the engines off this train. I believe these two engines were operating as train 853.

The lead engine was one of the now-ubiquitous SD70M-2 engines, CN 8870. The trailing engine was one of my current favourites, Dash-8 CN 2418.
CN 2418 in Winnipeg

I've seen CN 2418 twice before, at a meet at St. James Junction in November 2009, and in Saint John in January 2002. I just saw CN 8870 last month.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

July 9

My kids and I were out on Saturday, July 9 to get out of the house, and of course see some trains. First we went to mile 10 of the CN Rivers subdivision to shoot the Canadian. I mentioned that I saw the Loto Quebec unit leading already.

However, a CN freight ran ahead of VIA 1, with two SD75 units as power, CN 5640 and CN 5667.
CN 5640 in Winnipeg

After seeing the Canadian, we headed up north to see what was going on with CP. We went to see the units at the CP shops and hit a few balls in the field.

There were quite a few units outside the shops, including several SD90 units. Those are in the 91xx series. CP 9138 seems to be having some major work done.
CP 9143 in Winnipeg

Old friends CP 3028 / 1128 rolled in from the main yard area. Another Winnipeg resident, CP 5756, was shunting under the Arlington Street bridge.
CP 5756 in Winnipeg

There were several units in the short-lived CP Rail System "dual flag" livery. The blue has faded out of CP 5936's American flag.
CP 5936 in Winnipeg

If you really want to see all the units I saw, they are here.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Busy Day, Part Two

I mentioned that on July 7 I saw three trains in the morning, and more at noon. Now is the time to talk about the noon trains!

I mentioned the Canadian I saw with VIA 4121 already. That was 12:10.

I waited around a bit next to Kenaston Boulevard and was rewarded with CN 314 at 12:24, with engines CN 2242 and CN 2636.
CN 2242 in Winnipeg

It was not too long before the next train came along, CN 198 with CN 8899 and CN 8844.
CN 8899 in Winnipeg

That was great, but it was time to move. I had a notion that CN 532 should be ready to head south on the Letellier, so I drove down Chevrier Boulevard to see where they were. As I approached the crossing, the flashing lights came on, so I stopped right there and jumped out to take this shot of the train as it headed south. CN 532 had the single unit CN 2432 on her.
CN 2432 in Winnipeg

All told, I saw seven trains on the 7th. Not bad!

Recent VIA Trains

I wanted to post the last four Canadians I've seen, since I haven't mentioned them before the last VIA 1 I posted from June 16. Some were hum-drum, some were a bit more interesting.

For the first three I shot the Monday, Thursday and Saturday trains in sequence. I started with VIA 1 at mile 10 of the CN Rivers subdivision on July 4. It had VIA 6458 and VIA 6429 on the head end, with a normal summer consist.
VIA 6458 in Winnipeg

Next, I saw VIA 1 at Kenaston Boulevard (maybe mile 6?) on July 7. This one had VIA 6410 and non-refurbished VIA 6424.
VIA 6410 in Winnipeg

This one was interesting because it had VIA 4121 deadheading behind the engines. VIA 4121 is a coach destined for the Skeena.
VIA 4121 in Winnipeg

For the Saturday train, I got them back at mile 10. This had the Loto Quebec unit, VIA 6414, leading two other engines, 6453 and 6452, on July 9.
VIA 6414 in Winnipeg

I took a break after that and did not shoot the Monday Canadian, but I did get out on July 14 for the Thursday train. I drove up to St. James Junction, stepped out of my car, and there it was, ready to be shot. Perfect timing.
VIA 6429 in Winnipeg

I got a wave from a diner in the Acadian.
Wave from diner aboard train

Is that enough stainless steel for one post? ;)
VIA's Canadian passenger train

Saturday, July 16, 2011

More on New NB Southern Power

The second pair of Helm leased units, HLCX 913 and 917, were seen at Bayview Junction in Ontario.. yesterday?

HLCX 911 by Danny McCracken
Meanwhile, HLCX 911 was spotted in McAdam and Harvey. Danny McCracken shot HLCX 911 as part of the eastbound freight that featured NBSR 9802, 911, 008, 2318, and recently arrived 2612 from the St. Stephen subdivision. They left at 16:20.

HLCX 911 by Danny McCracken

HLCX 911 by Danny McCracken

Brian Barchard caught the same train rolling through Harvey Station. I see the depot has been repainted since I last saw it!
NBSR 9802 and HLCX 911 by Brian Barchard

Friday, July 15, 2011

Death on the Tracks

Rick McColl, a track maintenance engineer with CN, was struck and killed by VIA #51 near Guildwood station in Pickering, Ontario yesterday at 1:10 PM. The accident happened next to highway 401 between Liverpool Road and Whites Road.

It appears that Mr. McColl and his coworker believed they had a 15-20 minute window to perform maintenance on the track. When VIA 51 rapidly approached, Mr. McColl ran south and his coworker ran north.

Passengers waited for nearly two hours before being bussed to their destination. Service resumed on the line around 5 PM.

The temptation is to speculate on whose fault it is, but I won't do that. An investigation will turn that up soon enough.

The incident was widely covered in local media. The most depressing report is this, from CTV News, featuring passengers complaining about the delay. C'mon, a man has died, have some patience!

Mr. McColl had 32 years with CN, and was 53. My condolences to his family and friends.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Another Prairie Dog Video

After messing up train numbers in my last couple of videos, I'm happy to say that this is INDEED the Prairie Dog Central #3. No confusion here!

Speaking of the Prairie Dog, here's a unique view of the train by PrairieDog1882.

Apparently a lot of people like to record trains this way. I like my camera too much to do that!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Busy Day

I was trackside a couple of times on July 7 and had a lot of luck catching trains. There were no really unique engines but there were a lot of trains.

I was just east of Diamond at 8 AM and soon enough CN 111 rolled out of the sun with CN 2285 leading and CN 8906 trailing, and CN 2334 in the middle of the train, on the south track.
CN 2285 in Winnipeg
I was shooting directly into the sun here, so I had to do some significant editing to get a usable photo.

Pardon the incorrect caption at the beginning of the video.

I played with panning shots as the containers rolled by. The trick is to set a shutter speed slow enough to show motion but not too slow that it blurs the target. Here I used 1/10 second.
CN intermodal pan
Here are some good tips on panning shots.

Soon after they passed, I heard them talking to CN 304 so I swung the cameras around to get the eastbound 304. It was led by SD75I CN 5607 and ES44DC CN 2241, on the north track.
CN 5607 in Winnipeg
The morning sun is much nicer on eastbounds! This train had quite a few CN 197xxx hopper cars, often used to carry gypsum out east.

Soon after that, CN 347 rolled past on the south track with CN 5683 and CN 5763.
CN 5683 in Winnipeg

Again, sorry for the caption mixup.

So that was three trains within an hour. I left trackside for a while, but I was back by the Rivers subdivision at noon to catch the Canadian... and more...

Monday, July 11, 2011

What is it With Trucks and Amtrak Trains?

On Monday a trash truck plowed through a crossing and hit the Amtrak Downeaster in North Berwick, Maine (Story) Unfortunately the driver was killed, but noone on the train was seriously injured.

This follows the truck slamming into the California Zephyr late last month in which the truck driver, the train's conductor and four others on the train were killed.

What a strange, and tragic, coincidence. Is this some kind of weird terrorist plot or something? Let's hope there aren't any more grade crossing accidents for a while.

Fire at NB Southern Yard

There is/was a tie fire at the NB Southern Railway yard in Saint John this morning. There was a pile of about 20,000 ties that caught fire Sunday night. Workers were able to move 15,000 away but the rest were still burning Monday morning.

Fortunately there were no injuries reported.

CBC news

Short History of the Newfoundland Railway

I stumbled across a nice little article entitled The Life and Death of the Newfoundland Railway by Ed Roberts, editor of the Compass.

Read the article

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Canada Day and the Prairie Dog Central - 2

This is the latter part of my story about chasing the Prairie Dog Central on Canada Day. Here's part 1.

This time, I'll just let the pictures and video tell the tale.