Wednesday, November 30, 2011

For Sale

I have a few duplicates in my employee timetable (ETT) collection that I am offering for sale. I'm offering them to you, my loyal readers, first. I will offer them for sale here until the end of Tuesday, December 6, and then I will put the remainder on eBay. Prices listed are firm and do not include shipping. I may be willing to offer a slightly reduced price for a multi-item purchase.

I also have one book for sale, again a duplicate.

First come, first serve, by email at I will update this blog entry as items are claimed. I prefer PayPal but I will accept a cheque or money order.

All items are in good condition. 

For sale:
  • Book: Railways of New Brunswick by David Nason: $15
  • ETT: Canadian Pacific Railway, Manitoba Service Area, TT #20 effective January 28, 2001: $5
  • ETT: CN Rail, Atlantic Region, TT #81 effective September 29, 1980: $5
  • ETT: CP Rail, Atlantic Region, Saint John Division and Dominion Atlantic Railway, TT #19 effective April 24, 1977: $5
  • ETT supplement: CN, Prairie Region, Supplement 1 to TT #36 effective August 1, 1990: free, postage only
Note that the last is just a 4-page supplement covering changes to the Meadow Lake and Big River subdivisions, not a complete timetable.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Today's Canadian

VIA 6407 in Winnipeg
Here's a few photos and a video of today's VIA 1, the Canadian. Note the single coach. This seems to be the normal consist these days.

VIA's Canadian in Winnipeg

It was nice of the engineer to give me a couple of toots on the way by.

As usual the full consist is available.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

CN Voyeurism

CN 2161, 2181 and 2184 in Winnipeg
I was near the CN Symington yard in Winnipeg around noon on November 21. I took a few minutes to shoot the units in front of the diesel shop. You need a long lens to see them from Lagimodiere Boulevard and I always feel like a voyeur / stalker doing that!

What really caught my eye were these bright shiny units, clearly with new paint. These are C40-8W engines purchased from BNSF. I find it interesting that they are very plainly painted with no class identification under the engine numbers.

According to the July Canadian Railway Observations, CN 2161 was released from the CN Centralia, Illinois paint shop on July 22 but didn't have number boards at that time. These ex BNSF units have been stored for some time, so they need some work before entering service. The finishing work is being done at various CN shops as well as contract shops. I guess CN 2181 needs some number boards, to start!
CN 2161 and 2181 in Winnipeg

I saw CN 2161, 2178, 2181, and 2184.

I also saw ex-UP C40-8 CN 2100, seen on the right of the photo below. I was more interested in GMD1 CN 1410, as well as hump GP9 CN 7211. I last saw CN 2100 in Newton, Manitoba in March of this year.
CN 7211, CN 1410 and CN 2100 in Winnipeg

In case you're curious, the lettering on CN 7211 is: "GY-418a / H / 7 M.P.H. THRU MASTER & GROUP


On the south end of the yard, an intermodal train was pushing back into the yard. CN 8007 and CN 2287 were the power on that train.
CN 8007 in Winnipeg

Hump set CN 7530-501-523-7513 were working on the south end. I shot them but they are severely backlit.

That was the end of my voyeurism for one day.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

CPR Holiday Train

Canadian Pacific Railway is running its Holiday Train again this year. As usual, they are collecting food and money for local food banks across Canada and the United States. Two holiday trains are running, one in Canada and one in the USA. The schedules are here for Canada and here for USA.

The train will be coming into Winnipeg on the evening of Saturday, December 3 and apparently laying over in Winnipeg before continuing west on Sunday.

Frank Jolin shot this year's train in St. Luc Yard in Montreal.

I'm crossing my fingers that I will get to actually see this train this year. In 2009 and 2010 I was away on business when it came. :P

Friday, November 25, 2011


Remember those "blah" shots I took a while ago? Especially this one?
CN 8018 at Dugald Manitoba

I decided to try reprocessing it in Photomatix using the "single shot HDR" method, like I did earlier. What a difference!
CN 8018 in Dugald Manitoba

There is some detail to the sky now, and the elevator and train show more detail too.

I think I will have to invest some money in one of these HDR programs. They bring out a lot of detail that is not evident when I do my normal photo processing.

Movember Update

It's almost the end of Movember 2011. This year I grew my mustache in honour of the late great Jack Layton, who really rocked the 'stache. Mine is not nearly as good as his was, but what can you do in a month?

This is my fourth year of participation in Movember. I enjoy it, even if my wife does not! It's fun to grow a mustache, but more importantly it is good to raise awareness of prostate cancer and to raise funds for research. Prostate cancer affects many men and, although it is a slow cancer, it can be fatal. Please talk to your doctor if you have any concerns or questions.

Thanks for your indulgence and I'll return to trains soon. In the meantime, if you can, please consider donating to help research and treatment of prostate cancer.

See you in 2012!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Random Statistics

Every now and then I like to check out the statistics on my web site and this blog. Here are some random things I notice:
  • My blog gets 400-500 page views a day.
  • My web site gets about 1300 visits/day with over 4000 page views/day. The blog is not included in that. Probably a lot of those are search engines. Googlebot alone was responsible for over 50,000 hits in October.
  • I have no idea how many total page views this blog has had. Since May 2009 it has had over 200,000 page views. From May 2005 to May 2009 I hosted it myself, so the page views were not tracked by Blogger.
  • My photo gallery passed half a million views a little while ago, and currently contains 2271 items in 121 albums.
  • My blog got 724 hits from a Reddit posting (about CN 6534). You never know where the traffic is going to come from. For example, I had 42 hits from people searching for handlebar mustaches.
  • I get substantial referrals from fellow bloggers like Eric at Trackside Treasure, Robert at Oil-Electric and Adam at The Walker Express.
  • Blogger says I have 95 followers, which is awesome. Even creaky old Feedburner says I have 23 subscribers.
Truly I have no idea how many people actually read this, except to say I'm always surprised by who reads it. I appreciate you all. Thanks for reading.

RDCs in Town

VIA 6135 and 6148 in Winnipeg. Photo by Jeff Keddy
VIA 6135 and 6148 in Winnipeg. Photo by Jeff Keddy

For years, VIA Rail has provided passenger service on Vancouver Island. In recent years that was provided by RDCs (Rail Diesel Cars), but that came to an end early this year when track conditions forced VIA to suspend service and replace the RDCs with buses. The bus service was terminated on August 7 and VIA is, at least temporarily, out of the passenger business on Vancouver Island. There is an travel advisory by VIA about this.

The two RDCs (VIA 6135 and 6148) providing that service were stored in Nanaimo on the Island since May. VIA decided to move them off the island and on Saturday, November 5 they were put on a barge and shipped to the mainland. In the fine tradition of the excellent Oil-Electric blog, I'll talk about the barge too. ;)  The barge in question was the MV Carrier Princess operated by Seaspan Ferries. The Carrier Princess was launched in 1973, is 380 feet long, and has a capacity of 38 truck trailers and 22 rail cars. Oddly, she is powered by four EMD 645 engines, the same family of engine in such diesel-electric locomotives as the GP38, GP40, F40 and so on.  Here's a little video I found of the Carrier Princess.

There's a nice Flickr photo showing her deck with the embedded rails. More information on MV Carrier Princess.

Hey, did you know you can track her position? This link shows her position and you can see her route very well.

Anyway, the RDCs reached the mainland and were put on the Canadian for shipment east. They were spliced between the two F40PH-2 engines, because they do not have HEP connections and therefore could not be placed in the regular consist, much like the Rocky Mountaineer cars are carried. VIA 6434 was leading, followed by 6135 and 6148, with VIA 6412 providing HEP power after.

VIA 2 was almost 2 hours late coming into Winnipeg on Sunday, November 19. Jeff Keddy braved the bitter night cold to shoot them at the depot in downtown Winnipeg. Here's VIA 6135.
VIA 6135 in Winnipeg. Photo by Jeff Keddy

This is VIA 6148:
VIA 6148 in Winnipeg. Photo by Jeff Keddy

The depot is not very accessible for photographs and Jeff did a good job getting these photos. Thanks for sharing!

The building looming in the background is the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, under construction. When complete it will be a valuable addition to Winnipeg's downtown.

Tom Jankowski shot VIA 2 with the RDCs in Thornhill in the Greater Toronto Area. Nice job!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Single Image HDR

I mentioned HDR a while ago. HDR stands for High Dynamic Range and is basically a way of processing digital images to include more details in a photo than your camera is normally capable of taking with a single image. Traditionally, an HDR photo consists of several images taken at different exposure settings and merged together with a software program such as Photomatix.

You can take these different exposures automatically or manually.  My T1i allows me to shoot three images, one "normal", one under-exposed and one over-exposed, by a menu setting and then clicking the shutter button three times in a row. Preferably you have the camera on a tripod so the scene doesn't change between clicks.

The reason HDR works is because different details are recorded when you change the exposure. When you over-expose an image, you brighten up the shadows and reveal details that aren't there at a "default" exposure. When you under-expose an image, you preserve details that might otherwise be blown out at the normal exposure and rendered as simply white pixels. The software merges them together in a process called "tone mapping" that takes all the images and renders them into one image.

HDR is kind of a love it or hate it thing with photographers. Many photographers love the marvelously detailed photos it produces. Many others hate the "fake" look that many HDR photos have, either intentionally or otherwise. Personally, I like "natural" HDR photos but I really dislike the luminous, false-looking photos that some people produce.

Here's what I consider realistic HDR. Click on the image for a larger view.

Now this one is what I consider UNrealistic HDR. It's pretty but it does not look real to me.

You may know that many cameras can shoot in "RAW" mode, meaning they capture the raw output from the camera's sensor into a file. A camera that shoots only JPG or TIF photos takes the raw output and applies exposure, white balance and other settings to the raw output, saves the JPG or TIF and then throws the raw output away. This saves space but some detail is lost. I shoot RAW photos these days and process them into JPGs before publishing them here. Almost everybody who does HDR work does it with RAW files.

There is a version called "single image HDR" that does HDR processing on a single RAW camera image. How does that work? You basically copy the same image three or four times, then tell your favourite HDR program that they are separate images taken at different exposures. Theoretically it is good for photos like I take, where you cannot take multiple exposures of the same scene because the train isn't holding still for you! I thought I'd give it a try with a few images.

I took this image of VIA 6416 I shot a few days ago.
VIA 6416 in Winnipeg
I ran it through Photomatix as a single image HDR and came up with this.
VIA 6416 as HDR in Winnipeg, MB
I see a lot more detail on the engine itself, as the shadows are reduced significantly. I also see some improvement in cloud detail and colour, but I think the engine itself shows the most improvement. What do you think?

You can see from the watermark that I haven't paid for Photomatix yet. ;)

Here's another from the same blog post. CP 9109 and CP 5764 were heading south on the La Riviere subdivision just outside La Salle, Manitoba. I tweaked this image as much as I could to show some detail on the undersides. Since I was shooting toward the sun, the sky in the top left was blown out and there was a lot of contrast in the shot.
CP 5764 near La Salle MB
Here's the Photomatix treatment.
CP 5764 near La Salle MB
I think the second image is much better. There is a lot more detail in the clouds and the shadows are significantly less. However, the second image seems a bit unreal to me. There is a Luminosity setting in Photomatix, and I cranked it up a bit for this one to see what it would do.

I'm going to try the "blah" images from last week and see how they turn out. I'll let you know.

What's your impression of HDR processing? Do you like it? Hate it? Don't see much point to it?

Monday, November 21, 2011

Manitoba Trains 2012

Manitoba Trains 2012
I've produced a calendar for 2012 featuring trains from Manitoba... CN, CP, VIA, CEMR and GWWD. Please visit the Lulu page if you'd like to see a preview.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Bright Sun Shiny Day

VIA 6444 in Winnipeg

I can see clearly now the rain is gone 
I can see all obstacles in my way 
Gone are the dark clouds that had me down 
It's gonna be a bright sun shiny day  - "I Can See Clearly Now", Johnny Nash

Thursday noon was a very bright, sun shiny day as you can see. I went out to shoot the Canadian and was pleased by the nice weather. First up was train 314, heading east on the north track.
CN 2264 in Winnipeg

Note the flag at the end of the bridge, visible in front of the junction between the two engines. There was a crew working on St. James Junction a little ways east of me, on the south track.

Soon after 314 passed my location, I saw VIA's headlights come around the corner at Portage Junction in the distance. They rolled past St. James Junction then switched over to the north track just before my location. VIA 6416 and 6444 were the power for this ordinary Canadian. I was standing on the slope leading down to route 90, trying to get a more ground-level shot than the usual height.
VIA 6416 in Winnipeg

A passenger in one of the coaches gave me a wave as they rolled on by. Or maybe she didn't want her picture taken. I'll assume it was a wave. :)
Waving Passenger

A train is visible in the distance here... CN 192, in fact.
VIA Rail's Canadian

This was the first time I'd seen train 192. I believe it is an extra train from Prince Rupert that runs on occasion to supplement CN 198. CN 8954 and another engine were on the head end, and CN 2263 was pushing on the very end.
CN 8954 in Winnipeg

Here we look over the engineer's shoulder at the signals protecting St. James Junction.
CN 8954 and Signals at St. James Junction in Winnipeg

The signals on the south track (right of picture) are easy. Red over red is covered by rule 439, absolute stop.

The signals for train 192 are on the north track (left of picture). The closest signal is yellow over yellow, rule 409, clear to slow. "Proceed, approaching next signal at SLOW speed." The next signal that 192 will face is red over green, rule 431, slow to clear, "Proceed, SLOW speed passing signal and through turnouts."

This tells us that 192 was going to shift over to the south track, and the confirmation of that is barely visible on the right edge of the photo, just above one of the CN trucks - a green over red indication on the south track, rule 405, "Clear signal, proceed" while the corresponding signals on the north track are red over red.

EDIT: Corrected first signal description, thank you Jeff!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Fredericton Roundhouse Development?

The Daily Gleaner is reporting that the former Craig Electric property on the north side of the former train bridge in Fredericton may be redeveloped soon. The property contains the railway roundhouse built for the Northern and Western Railway in 1885.

These two photos of the roundhouse were taken in 2001, I believe by Art Clowes. If you want to look it up on Google Maps, it's at 912 Union Street in Fredericton, NB.

This little two-stall engine house was located beside the roundhouse. It is no longer there.
Fredericton engine shed

The excellent book "Devon Remembered" Volume 1 (by Carol Randall and Robert McNeil) has a map of the New Brunswick Railway's facilities on Union Street in Fredericton. The roundhouse is labeled "Engine House" on the left.
Fredericton North Devon Remembered

This map pre-dates any railway bridges over the Saint John River to the southern half of Fredericton. Of course, at this time Fredericton was only on the south side of the river and the north side was composed of several communities, such as Nashwaaksis, Devon, Marysville, and so forth.

PS - There's a good article in the Daily Gleaner about the Fredericton train station. Reporter Mike Staples talked with a local railway historian, Joe Murray, about the station. I never met Joe and honestly don't know much about him but he knows his facts.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Much Better

After complaining about "blah" shots, I am going to follow up with a few much nicer shots. Monday noon, I went looking for the Canadian up on Wilkes Avenue. I decided to shoot from near the top of the overpass to get a little height and a change in angle. What do you think?
VIA 6411 in Winnipeg

The Canadian was a few minutes late, but had a bonus of two cars dead heading behind VIA 6411 and VIA 6408... diner Imperial and Assiniboine Park.
Assiniboine Park in Winnipeg

I spun around for the "going away" shot and framed the Canadian under the overpass.
VIA's Canadian in Winnipeg

I turned around and there were headlights approaching on the south track. It turned out to be CN 101, led by single engine CN 2254.
CN 2254 and train 101

One more engine was about 1/3 of the way back in the train, CN 2256.
CN 2256 and train 101

That was all very exciting, but where are the good shots?

I headed toward home, and as I crossed the CP La Riviere subdivision on the Perimeter Highway, I saw a string of grain cars headed south. I took the exit and chased the train. It was easy to catch up to it, as I believe the speed limit is a mere 15 MPH here and the limit on the highway parallel to the tracks is 100 km/hr. I saw SD90 CP 9109 and SD40-2 CP 5764 were hauling just over a hundred grain cars.

I set up just south of the grain elevator in La Salle and waited for the train. The benefit of such a slow train is that you get to take a lot of shots as the train passes the elevator! This was my favourite.
CP 9109 and Grain Elevator in La Salle, MB

Once the head end passed, I jumped into the car and got ahead of them for one more series of shots outside the town. The sun was dancing in and out of view but I was lucky to get a few with some sun on the engine.
CP 9109 leaving La Salle Manitoba

I was very pleased with my CP shots. It was well worth the 15 minutes it took to chase and shoot the train!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Blah Shots

I love it when I go out to shoot trains and I get great shots... it's a great feeling. Sometimes, though, all you get is "blah".

This past Saturday, I had some time after noon to shoot trains. In the past few Saturdays, I've gone over to CP to check out the action there. This time I figured I would go over to CN's Symington Yard and see what I could shoot at the shops using my telephoto. You can stand on Lagimodiere Boulevard and get some long distance shots, and I have not done that in quite some time.

That would have been a good idea. However... I heard CN 114 was just leaving Symington so I elected to chase that instead. I went to Bournais Drive just off Dugald to wait for them to roll along. It did not take long before CN 8018 rolled into view. CN 8889 was the second unit.
CN 8018 in Winnipeg

See? Blah. The sky is totally blown out and the shot was really not great to begin with. I think the problem is that the pole line is too close to the tracks. I was not willing to go any closer to the rails, for my own safety.

After the head end passed, I hopped in my car, figuring that I would shoot them crossing the Floodway on the big bridge there. Well, that did not work out because A) they were going pretty fast, and B) the road work that has been done in the area has put a big concrete barrier between the two sides of the highway that prevented me from cutting over to get the shot. I decided to carry on to Dugald to shoot them at the grain elevator.

I beat them to the elevator by a couple of minutes, and set up to get the train and the elevator in the shot. Here it is.
CN 8018 at the grain elevator in Dugald Manitoba

Again, blah. I would have liked the engine to be a bit farther along and a bit more in focus... and since I'm asking for stuff, a blue sky would have been nice!

Oh well, you can't win them all.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Metis In Action

You may remember that the New Brunswick Southern Railway purchased the private car Metis a while ago. David Morris chased the Metis on an NB Southern excursion train on October 12 and shared many photos with me. I don't know what the occasion for the excursion train was.

Here is the NB Southern excursion train at Harbour Station in Saint John, NB. I am so glad it has not been repainted!
Photo by David Morris

David shot the excursion train crossing Chesley Drive in Saint John. The bus station is just to the right. I think David was standing at the end of Clipper Passage, a new street in the area. It's a nice viewpoint!
Photo by David Morris

Here's NBSR 2612 leading the train off the world famous Reversing Falls bridge.
Photo by David Morris
This was a familiar location for me... I shot NBSR 9803 there as well as a 2007 excursion train, among others. I didn't manage to get a cruise ship in the background like David did.

Here the train is passing the wye on the west end of the NBSR yard. David is standing on or near the Gault Road crossing.
Photo by David Morris

The same location, facing the other way:
Photo by David Morris

Next, here's the Metis crossing highway 7 in Welsford as they approach the siding for the run-around.
Photo by David Morris

NBSR 2612 runs around the train in the siding at Welsford.
Photo by David Morris
If you can draw your eyes away from the gorgeous fall foliage that David captured, you can see a bit of the ABS block signal lying in the grass to the right of the switch. The McAdam subdivision used absolute block signals until the end of CP's ownership, as you can see in the September 11, 1994 CP timetable.

After ABS was removed, the signal masts remained but the signal heads were turned away from the tracks until the special test tank move of May 2007. At that time the remaining masts from Saint John to Harvey were unceremoniously knocked over and left to lie in the ditches. Many are still there.

After the run-around, the train proceeded back to Saint John. David shot it coming into Grand Bay at my favourite curve.
Photo by David Morris

The next few show the engine facing the wrong way on the train. I'm not sure exactly what happened to get it facing the other way. Here's the train on the Reversing Falls bridge again.
Photo by David Morris

Also on the Reversing Falls, but from across the water...
Photo by David Morris

One more shot, I think around mile 6 of the McAdam subdivision.

Photo by David Morris

Thanks to David Morris for sharing his photos of the Metis, the lovely fall colours, and the excursion train!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Clarksville Tennessee

Clarksville Bridge
I was in Clarksville, Tennessee for a couple of days last week for work. I worked long hours and did not have any real chance to do any railfanning, but I did spend a few minutes one lunch hour to see what I could see.

Clarksville is served by the R.J. Corman Railroad Company, over the former Louisville & Nashville line. R.J. Corman calls it the "Memphis Line" and it runs from South Union in Kentucky to Cumberland City in Tennessee. I don't know why it is called the Memphis Line, as it goes nowhere near Memphis.

There is a rather impressive bridge over the Cumberland River in Clarksville (see above). The center span is a swing bridge. I understand it is still operational and used in high water situations to let the river barges pass. It looks like each end is protected by signals..
Swing Bridge in Clarksville Tennessee

On one side of the bridge is a long wooden trestle leading up to the river.
Trestle Bridge in Clarksville Tennessee

More information on the bridge: Photo 1photo 2

I followed the line for a bit on the east side of the river, and found this R.J. Corman train in a tree-lined corridor.
R.J. Corman #1858 in Clarksville Tennessee

RJCP 1858 is a GP16 originally built for the Atlanta and West Point Railroad, and was owned by CSX for a while. Flickr photo. The train was fairly short.

I was shooting this with a telephoto from a bridge over the rails, and I couldn't get closer and I didn't have time to wait, so this is as good as it gets. I'm going back again in December so perhaps I will get another opportunity to see the rail action in Tennessee.

See Also