Friday, December 28, 2012

Terrible News

CN Clover Bar yard
The CBC was reporting that 3 contract workers were hit by a train near Edmonton in the morning of Boxing Day (December 26). The three work for A&B Rail Services and were contracted to clear snow off the tracks at the CN Clover Bar rail yard just outside Edmonton. It appears that it happened here... I was right at that spot back in June 2010.

The CBC story says they were using snowblowers and had the appropriate hearing protection on, so there was no way they could have heard an approaching train. They were struck by a train traveling at approximately 40 km/hr. Two are in critical condition and one has minor injuries.

CTV Edmonton is reporting that a stop-work order has been issued and several agencies are investigating, including the Transportation Safety Board (TSB, who issued a brief statement) and Occupational Healthy and Safety.

The Edmonton Journal is reporting that two of the workers will be released soon, but the third, aged 20, is facing a long recovery. The Journal also quotes a TSB official as saying that a Safety Watch should have been in effect to warn the workers of the oncoming train.

There is not much information available online about CN's Safety Watch program. CN's Safety web page has not been substantially updated for a couple of years. As far as I can gather, a Safety Watch requires one worker to be solely dedicated to watching out for trains and other hazards and be in a position to alert the other workers in a timely manner. The Safety Watch person must not do any other work. Time will tell what happened here but clearly the system did not work for these workers.

This situation is reminiscent of the July 2011 incident near Durham, Ontario where one rail worker was killed due to an inadequate safety watch. CN updated its procedures but clearly more needs to be done to ensure the safety of CN workers and contractors.

My best wishes to the injured men and to their families for the recovery ahead.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

CN's Mystery Train

CN 7068 in Saint John

This is a bizarre story.

In early December, the CBC reported on a "mystery train" running biodiesel between Sarnia, Ontario and Port Huron, Michigan in June 2010. Apparently the same tank cars were shuttled back and forth without ever unloading them. CN reportedly stood to make $2.6 million moving these cars on CN 503 to Port Huron and CN 504 returning to Sarnia.

The Canadian shipper was apparently Bioversel Inc., whose website has gone dark... however has a copy (it's hard to really delete stuff on the Internet!). The US side apparently involved at least two companies, HeroBX and Northern Biodiesel.

That was all very interesting. At the time I figured there must have been some tax credits involved. I was "on the right track" but not quite correct.

It turns out that biofuel credits were involved, according to the CBC. The article explains that Bioversel stood to gain somewhere between $6 million and $12 million dollars in renewable fuel credits for the 12 train loads of biodiesel that were "imported" into the USA. You should read the article to get the details - it's a bit complicated. According to the article, the loads were sold to US companies as biodiesel, then sold back to Bioversel as ethanol and shipped back again.

CN's role in this was to ship the cars back and forth. According to the article, there are reports from CN employees that they were concerned about the shipments but were told by managers in Sarnia that this was lucrative for the company. The aim was to get as many "flips" as possible in the month, according to this memo. It spells it right out.

CN has vowed cooperation in a probe by the Canadian Border Services Agency and the US Environmental Protection Agency.

I'm sure there will be more to come!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

VIA Rail Holiday Contest

VIA leaving Winnipeg
VIA Rail is running a holiday contest on Facebook. You can go "sound the horn" and enter the contest to win travel credits. So far over 8,000 horns have been sounded.

The site is which redirects you to Facebook. You will have to supply your email address.

Saturday, December 15, 2012


VIA 6400 in McGivney

The CBC is reporting that the northern New Brunswick mayors are pushing to restore VIA's Ocean and keep the CN rail line.

Cities like Bathurst or Campbellton are suffering from the dual loss of half of the Ocean service and the Acadian bus service. With CN's threat to abandon the northern line, only four years after buying it back from the New Brunswick East Coast Railway, the region is in serious trouble. I'm glad to see politicians are starting to step up.

Brian Kenny, MLA for Bathurst, will be moving a resolution in the provincial Legislature on December 20 to urge the provincial government to demand federal assistance for the line. I'm not sure how much impact an opposition MLA is going to have, but every bit helps and kudos to him for stepping up too.

More voices are needed.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

The Holiday Train Cometh

Canadian Pacific Holiday Train
The Canadian Pacific Railway is running its Holiday Train again this year, and it will be in Winnipeg tonight! I plan to go see it, like I did last year.

You can check out the schedule here (Canadian detail here).

The weather looks like it will be decent here in Winnipeg, so hopefully I'll get some good pictures to share.

EDIT: You may have noticed I didn't post any photos. I had the day wrong and it was in Winnipeg on December 5... not the 6th. Oops.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Canadian Pacific Cuts Coming

CP 8776 in Calgary
The CBC is reporting that Canadian Pacific Railways is going to cut 1,700 jobs in the next month and 4,500 jobs by 2016. The cuts are part of new CEO Hunter Harrison's plan to streamline CP to make it more competitive.

CP has posted a "new vision for the future" on their site. Plans including closing hump yards in Toronto, Winnipeg, Chicago and Calgary, improving train speeds, reducing their dependence on leased locomotives and cars, moving their corporate HQ to Ogden Yard, sell off the western portion of the former DM and E, and possibly sell off the Delaware and Hudson.

It's clear that CP needs to improve its operating ratio but I'm sure these cuts are going to be controversial. It seems strange to close hump yards - they are supposed to make switching more efficient - but what do I know?

One might wonder if CP is being reduced and streamlined in order to make it more attractive for an acquisition or merger...

Saturday, December 01, 2012

The Canadian: Ghost Train Crossing Canada

Jeff Friesen has a very interesting project. He is taking the Canadian across Canada to photograph it in some very beautiful settings.

Of course I mean the 1955 Canadian Pacific Canadian. And he's carrying it in a Co-Op bag.

How? He is photographing the Rapido Trains Canadian model in some very beautiful locations all across this great country. Check out his gorgeous gallery. My favourites are the Canadian at Lake Louise and the train going under the waterfall. You can buy prints, too.

Photo gallery

Saturday, November 24, 2012

VIA 16 (Chaleur) Cab Ride Video

André Berthelot sent me this super cab ride video he shot back in January 2011 aboard the Chaleur (VIA 16) between Matapedia and New Carlisle, Quebec. It's long but well worth a view.
He saw quite a few deer, but the highlight is at 6:50 when about five deer run down the track before finally scattering.

The train was going at a good clip for most of the video, apparently about 45 MPH.

Other highlights:
  • 09:00 Passing the lumber mill at Nouvelle
  • 14:00 Good footage of the engineer hitting the reset button to show he's still awake and in control
  • 18:45 Crossing the bridges at Cascapedia
  • 22:30 New Richmond station stop
  • 25:50 Under the highway at Caplan
  • 29:15 Bonaventure station stop
  • 30:00 New Carlisle yard and station stop
You may remember that André posted a cab ride video before.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

HLCX 6319 Repainted

Kevin Smith sent me this beautiful photo of repainted HLCX 6319 and sisters in Mattawamkeag, Maine.
HLCX 6319 in Mattawamkeag, Maine. Photo by Kevin Smith

Note the Canadian flag on the side of the short hood and the American flag a little higher up on the short hood.

You can see it was repainted on November 3 in this McAdam video by Gary Lee.

HLCX 6319 was in those atrocious red and blue Helm colours.

Dave Dineen caught it returning from Island Yard in fresh paint last month. Note the decals had not even been applied yet. If you're impatient, fast forward to 2:45 or so in the video.

Thanks, guys!

Monday, November 19, 2012

BN 12580's Interior

BNSF logo on BN 12580

While at the Winnipeg Railway Museum during Railway Days, we had the opportunity to tour BNSF 2761 and BN 12580 at the Union Station. I posted photos of BNSF 2761 yesterday, and here is caboose BN 12580.
Interior of caboose BN 12580

It's nice and clean inside.
Interior of caboose BN 12580

Here are a couple of views from the cupola.
A view from the cupola of caboose BN 12580

It was very generous of BNSF to lend their equipment.
A view from the cupola of caboose BN 12580

Sunday, November 18, 2012

BNSF 2761, Inside and Out

BNSF 2761 in Winnipeg
During Railway Days at the Winnipeg Railway Museum, BNSF Manitoba was kind enough to place their engine and caboose BNSF 2761 and BN 12580 at the train station in downtown Winnipeg.

The caboose and engine were both open to the public and we had a wander through both of them.
BNSF 2761 in Winnipeg

Here are a few shots of the interior of BNSF 2761.
BNSF 2761 in Winnipeg

Note that BNSF 2761 is autostart equipped, as many engines are these days.
BNSF 2761 in Winnipeg

I like the mushrooms.
BNSF 2761 in Winnipeg

Here's a peek from BN 12580.
BNSF 2761 in Winnipeg

Next up, views of the caboose.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Passenger Power in Calgary

I'm finally finishing up my Calgary trip from last month. You may recall I looked at Alyth Yard on October 28. After that, I decided to see if anything was left in Ogden Yard. Ogden has been closed down after 100 years of operation.

There are a few engines still around, for example CP 1400 and CP 9000.
CP 1400 in Calgary

CP 1400 was retired in February 2012 and has been cannibalized for parts.

This is the first "red barn" (SD40-2F) that I have seen with the "dual flags" CP Rail logo on it.
CP 9000 in Calgary

After taking inventory of the few engines in Ogden, I noticed CP 8854 rolling past. You may recall it had just come off the Red Deer subdivision. I guess they ran right through Alyth Yard and were heading out on the Brooks subdivision. I barely got ahead of them and caught this "from the car" shot at a crossing.
CP 8854 leaving Calgary

I then headed up to CN's Sarcee yard. There I saw CN 1409, CN 7078 and GTW 5945 rolling past the gas station there. Note the operator riding the point of CN 1409. Love those GMD1s!
CN 1409 in Calgary, AB

Here's GTW 5945. I'm told these are actually GTW units, not owned by Alstom, despite what it says on the engine.
GTW 5945 in Calgary, Alberta

That was certainly fun. I went back toward Alyth, but while passing Ogden Yard, I saw this.
CP 1601 in Calgary, AB

CP 1601 was putting the heritage engines (CP 4107 / CP 1900 / CP 4106) away. Jeff Keddy and I saw them the previous day in Alyth, and I guess they were being moved.

After the crew uncoupled, CP 1601 (and CP 1527) rolled away and left the engines there.
CP 1601 and 4107 in Calgary, AB

Sweet heritage units.
CP 4107 in Calgary

CP 1539 was also around. Note the two cabooses and I think CP 8217 on the far right.
CP 1539 in Calgary, AB

Here's CP 1527 going back onto the main line.
CP 1527 in Calgary Alberta

I was running out of time, but I ventured back to CN's Sarceee Yard just in time to see a train coming off the  CN Three Hills subdivision. I paused to capture CN 5677 and CN 8938 bringing the train in.
CN 5677 in Calgary

I would say it was a very productive morning of railfanning in Calgary!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Private Car Pacific in Halifax

The private rail car Pacific is in Halifax now. The car is traveling the country, part of the Mother Parker's Remembers campaign to raise money to support Alzheimer's research. They are looking to raise a million dollars. The Pacific has been criss-crossing Ontario and now is venturing further afield.

David Othen recorded the arrival of the Ocean at the Halifax station with the Pacific on the end. Would you call this a Pacific Ocean?
I love how the marker lamps are lit.

Eric Gagnon wrote about the Pacific on Trackside Treasure.

Here are two videos of VIA 905 arriving in Brockville with the Pacific on the rear. Fast forward a minute in the first video... it could use some editing.

For The Fallen

For The Fallen - Laurence Binyon

With proud thanksgiving, a mother for her children,
England mourns for her dead across the sea.
Flesh of her flesh they were, spirit of her spirit,
Fallen in the cause of the free.

Solemn the drums thrill; Death august and royal
Sings sorrow up into immortal spheres,
There is music in the midst of desolation
And a glory that shines upon our tears.

They went with songs to the battle, they were young,
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted;
They fell with their faces to the foe.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years contemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

They mingle not with their laughing comrades again;
They sit no more at familiar tables of home;
They have no lot in our labour of the day-time;
They sleep beyond England's foam.

But where our desires are and our hopes profound,
Felt as a well-spring that is hidden from sight,
To the innermost heart of their own land they are known
As the stars are known to the Night;

As the stars that shall be bright when we are dust,
Moving in marches upon the heavenly plain;
As the stars that are starry in the time of our darkness,
To the end, to the end, they remain.

Photos taken by me at the Canadian War Cemetery in Bény-sur-Mer, France.

Lest we forget.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Winnipeg Silos Deemed Illegal

Fort Distributor silos in Winnipeg
Remember the controversial silos erected in Winnipeg? Both the CBC and the Winnipeg Free Press are reporting that the city's legal department has deemed the silos erected by BNSF in Winnipeg contravene city bylaws.

Fort Distributors is apparently "getting notice". I am not a lawyer, nor do I play one on TV, so I have no idea whether they are in the right or not. Neither article mentions what bylaw(s) were allegedly violated.

As I said before, I don't see them as being a huge eyesore but they should have been painted, at least.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Canadian Pacific's SD90s for Sale

CP 9129 at Diamond

Canadian Pacific Railway has put their fleet of 58 SD90MAC/4300 engines up for sale. These engines were purchased back in 1998? but have given CP (and other railways) considerable grief since then. As the tender notes, 8 of the 58 are not operational and the others have all been refurbished between 2004 and 2006.

CP 9109 in La Salle, Manitoba These engines were originally delivered with 4300 horsepower 16-cylinder 710G engines, making them essentially SD70MACs. They were made to use the new 6000 horsepower 710H when it was available.

CP did take delivery of four 6000 HP engines, CP 9300-9303, (SD90MAC-H, built in late 1999) but they were quite unreliable and CP ended up retiring them and then sending them to be scrapped. I did see three of the four SD90MAC-H engines, but only in storage in the Winnipeg yard.

Because of these engine troubles, CP never did re-engine the SD90s and they still have the 4300 HP prime movers. I've seen a fair number of them around, either on a train or more likely in storage in Winnipeg. They are now being sold "as is, where is" so I expect a fair number will simply be scrapped.

Monday, November 05, 2012

Alyth Yard Revisited

I mentioned I went out railfanning again on October 28. I first went to the north end of Canadian Pacific's Alyth Yard and parked near the Blackfoot Trail overpass. I walked up the overpass, taking inventory of the engines I could see.

Alyth Yard is not very accessible to railfans. The south end is really not accessible at all, and the north end can only be viewed from the Blackfoot Trail overpass or on the ground a bit further north. The overpass gives you a height advantage but there is no walkway on the south side of the overpass and is definitely not pedestrian friendly. The walkway on the north side is wide and easy to stand on, although the vibration from the cars and trucks zooming by would preclude any decent video on a tripod.

You can see from the map that you have a (distant) view of the MacLeod, Laggan and Red Deer subdivisions from the north side of the overpass, and an obstructed view of Alyth Yard and the shops.

How obstructed? Well, here are two examples.
CP 8601 and CP 3071 in Calgary

Not magazine quality, that's for sure! Note the different number boards on CP 8601.

CP 1601 in Calgary

Hey, what is CP 1601 doing coupled up to that CP 4106 / 1900 / 4107 set we saw on Saturday?

There are some engines stored on the north side of the overpass too.
CP 5795 5838 1125 in Calgary

After I was done "taking inventory", I started walking back to my car. I glanced left and noticed a train rolling along the end of the CP Red Deer subdivision, so I sprinted back to the overpass to catch them entering the yard. Thankfully they had to stop to line some switches so I was able to get there ahead of them.
CP 8854 in Calgary
Note the big yellow apparatus in the background. I believe that is an icicle breaker car that is used in the Rockies to knock icicles down. The idea is to knock them down before they fall on their own and damage freight.

CP 8854 picked its way across the yard, crossing pretty much every track. The conductor was walking ahead of the train, relining every yard switch to line them for the diverging path. It looked like all he does is flip a switch and the switch points are moved by a motor. Note the yellow lights indicating that the switch is lined for the diverging path.
CP 8854 in Calgary Alberta

That was fun... so I started walking for my car again and another train came rolling out. CP 9616 West was heading for the Laggan subdivision but had to wait for the Red Deer train to get out of the way. I managed to grab this shot of the head end of the Rockies-bound train with the Calgary skyline.
CP 9616 in Calgary

I walked back to my car and this time no more trains came! I headed over to the remnants of Ogden Yard to see what was going on there...

Saturday, November 03, 2012

Sarcee and Alyth Yards

After our view of Carseland and our chase on the Brooks subdivision, Jeff Keddy and I returned to Calgary to do a quick yard check. First we visited the CN Sarcee yard on 50th Avenue SE. The majority of the yard is visible from 50th Avenue but there is really no place to park except on side streets. So we parked, and walked back to take some photos.

There were two pairs of engines parked in the yard. CN 1650 and GTW 5945 were at rest. Both of them are odd ducks, in a way.
CN 1650 in Calgary

CN 1650 is one of four SD38-2s owned by CN. It is a former Northern Alberta Railways engine. I had never seen an SD38 before. As far as I can tell, it is basically an SD40-2 without a turbocharger.

It was coupled up to GTW 5945. This engine is clearly labeled "Owned by Alstom" but is also clearly labeled G.T.W. I didn't get a good photo of it... on Saturday, anyway.

The other pair of engines were interesting too, CN 7078 and CN 1409. CN 7078 is a remote-control GP9 and I saw it in November 2011 in the same place. CN 1409 is a GMD1, one of my favourite engine types.
CN 1409 in Calgary

I think it was moving when we first saw it but the crew parked it while we parked, probably "going to beans" aka having lunch.

After hitting a local hobby shop, we headed over to CP's Alyth yard to see if there was anything interesting there.We drove over the north end of the yard on the Blackfoot Trail and then went down Alyth Road (SE), which parallels the yard for a bit. There was the usual collection of GP38s, SD40s, and AC4400s but there was one MP15AC, CP 1445. Judging from the photos on RR Picture Archives, it has been in Calgary for a while.

There is a great map of the yard right beside Alyth Road.
Canadian Pacific Railway Alyth yard map

A nice find was CP 4106, 1900 and 4107 in the yard.
CP 4106, 1900 and 4107 in Calgary

That was the end of our railfanning for Saturday (October 27). However, I did do some railfanning on Sunday...

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Railfanning the Brooks Sub, Again

After photographing the Carseland local train, Jeff Keddy and I continued along the CP Brooks subdivision outside Calgary. We drove past Gleichen and stumbled across this grain elevator just southeast of the town.
Paterson grain elevator in Gleichen Alberta

This is the Paterson Long Plain elevator. It is shiny new, having opened on June 28 2012. It has a storage capacity of over 42,000 mt and includes a 130 car loop track, so unit trains can be loaded without breaking them into pieces. It's so new that if you look at the area in Google Maps, it is just a field.

After burying myself up to the knees in snow to get that shot, I made my way back to the car and we went back to the Trans-Canada Highway to continue east. After about five minutes we saw a westbound general freight train. We decided to turn around and chase it into Calgary. It became apparent that we could easily get back to the grain elevator before the train, so we took highway 901 and set up near the crossing to get the train. Jeff was going to get the shot around the bend, and I had three photo opportunities: the "coming" shot at the crossing, a side shot with the grain elevator just ahead of the train, and a "going away" shot.

I managed to screw that up quite nicely.

Here's the coming shot, out of focus.
CP 9767 crossing highway 901 near Gleichen

The side shot was a total disaster, way out of focus and I was too late and the train obstructed the elevator.

At least the going away shot was OK.
CP 9740 near the Paterson elevator in Gleichen

We hit the road and went around Gleichen on highway 901, arriving at the next crossing well ahead of the train. We set up and soon enough CP 9767 came rolling along.
CP 9767 near Gleichen, Alberta
I was pleased with that one.

I tried to shoot it with the signal, and it turned out OK, I think.
CP 9767 crossing highway 901 again

We carried on toward Calgary. I figured we could easily get to the overpass at Indus and get an overhead shot of the train. We parked off the overpass. As we walked up the overpass, there were headlights visible coming from Calgary. We hurried up to the top of the overpass in time to catch CP 9517 leading a container train.
CP 9517 near Indus, Alberta

They must have met at Dalemead. After a while, CP 9767 rolled into view with the Calgary East grain elevator in the background.
CP 9767 near Indus, Alberta

We went into Calgary to see what was up with the CN and CP yards after that.

P.S. The last time I saw CP 9767, it was a mid-train engine on a potash train near Banff. Times change!

P.P.S. I put "again" in the title because I used Railfanning the Brooks Subdivision already for a blog post in June 2010.