Sunday, January 29, 2012

The Shot

Sometimes on a train-watching outing, I get some decent photographs but nothing really special. Sometimes I get nothing but duds. Occasionally... I get a shot I'm really pleased with... The Shot.

On Saturday afternoon I went out with the kids to run a few errands and shoot a few trains. I headed toward my usual spot near Diamond to try to catch VIA 692 aka the Hudson Bay returning from its long journey from Churchill.

I had a little detour, though, because when I drove over Pembina Highway I saw the headlights of CN 532 to the north. I did a quick turnaround and went into St. Norbert to wait for 532 to roll by. I didn't want to go too far south so I set up at the crossing of Avenue Ducharme to get them. I did not have to wait long. In fact, I was still slapping the tripod up when CN 532 came around the bend. Faded SD75I CN 5628 and shiny ex-BNSF C40-8W CN 2199 were the power for the long train.

After they passed, I continued on my way up to Diamond. There were quite a few CN maintenance vehicles around and a foreman had a block from mile 10 (the hotbox detector) out to mile 17 or so. This meant that all trains had to call the foreman for permission to pass through his block, so I could get some advance warning.

I was not there long before I heard VIA 692 call through loud and clear to acknowledge that the foreman had given them permission to pass through on the north track at 30 MPH. I set up the tripod with the Canon S3 on it for video, and waited for the train.

I should mention that the outside temperature was -11C according to the hotbox, but the wind was howling. My hands were almost completely numb after VIA passed. I think I need to toss some light gloves into the camera bag!

Anyway, here's VIA 6455 leading the usual consist of two engines, baggage car, two coaches, diner and one Chateau sleeper car.
VIA 6455 in Winnipeg

VIA's Hudson Bay in Winnipeg

Here's my video. Note that my tripod is a little broken and the wind of the passing train twisted the head around a bit!

VanBilly1 shot the same train at St. James Junction a few miles east of me.

That was all well and good. I heard CN 117 calling for permission to go through the block, so I shot them coming the other way. I had already packed up my tripod, and I didn't feel like standing in the cold cold wind again anyway, so I just shot stills.
IC 2724 in Winnipeg

Dash-9 IC 2724 and ES44DC CN 2292 were the power for this intermodal train. You can see by the light that the sun was getting close to the horizon. This was at 5 minutes to 5 PM.

Yes, yes, Steve, all good, but where is this "shot" you are talking about?

I figured there were not going to be any more trains on CN for a while, and with darkness approaching I thought I'd try my luck on the CP mainline 10 minutes north. I drove up to the elevator at Makwa and saw that the west-facing lights had a green light on them.

In fact it was red over green over red by the elevator at Makwa, which is Canadian Rail Operating Rules rule 416, "Limited to Clear"... "Proceed, LIMITED speed passing signal and through turnouts." From Makwa (mile 11.1 of the CP Carberry subdivision) there are two main tracks east to the yard at mile 1.7, so the eastbound train would be switching to the other main track, hence the LIMITED speed.

This was good! It meant there was probably a train coming soon. I headed west toward Rosser village, straining to see a headlight in the falling dark. I passed through Rosser and continued west toward the grain elevator at Meadows, figuring if nothing else I might get a bit of sunset on the side of the elevator. As I was on the straightaway approaching the elevator, I saw headlights on the track on the other side of the elevator. I was hoping that I could get there in time to get the train passing the elevator.

Well, you might have guessed that I did get there in time. Here's the Shot.
CEFX 1050 leads a train past the Meadows grain elevator

I mean, seriously, look at that sky! I could not have asked for a nicer colour.

The train rolled on by and I gave pursuit. It was going a good 55-60 MPH (speed limit 60) so I did not pass the head end until near Makwa where they had to slow to that LIMITED speed. By this time I had my "nifty fifty" 50mm prime lens on to try to grab what little light there was. I did this panning shot of CEFX 1050 as it rolled on by, and the engineer gave me a few toots.
CEFX 1050 by Steve Boyko

I was super pleased with myself for getting that elevator shot, and I think I need to try some more sunset shots!

You can view the complete consists in my sightings database, as always.

Thursday, January 26, 2012


A friend on Google+ pointed me to, a community of photographers in the Northeast USA. They have a lot of great train photos in their transportation section. Check it out!

If you haven't tried Google+ yet, why not give it a try? There are some absolutely fantastic photographers on there and I am learning a lot while enjoying some great photography. I'm here if you want to check out what I've been doing.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012


As I continue taking photographs, I'm learning more about post-processing.

In the film age, post-processing was done in the darkroom with selective dodging and burning and other techniques. I don't know a lot about the film techniques because I've never developed my own photos.

In the digital age, post-processing begins when you open the digital file (hopefully in RAW format) in your favourite editor. For me it's either Canon's Digital Photo Professional or Paint.NET. Cropping, changing exposure, sharpening, saturation... there are so many ways you can change a photo. One could wonder at what point a photograph ceases to be a photograph and is instead a digital construct.

Here's a case in point. I started a photo theme on Google+ for bridges. I looked for a bridge photo of my own and decided on the Chaleur crossing the trestle near Gascon, Quebec. This is the original image. The only processing done to this is to resize it.
VIA 6407 near Gascon

Now this is a heavily reprocessed version of the same image.
VIA 6407 near Gascon

You can see I cropped it a bit. I used Paint.NET and ended up with four layers:
  1. foreground and bridge and portion of engines
  2. train cars
  3. yellow on engines
  4. sky
I then manipulated each layer separately. For the foreground I cranked up the saturation to make the green trees and the rusty bridge "pop". I dulled the shine on the baggage car. I pumped up the saturation on the yellow of the engines but not very much. I tweaked the sky significantly with brightness, contrast and saturation.

Just for comparison... I blogged about my Chaleur chase with David Morris back in 2007. At that time, I posted this photo. It's not the same image but only a few seconds later than the above image. I don't remember the processing but I'm sure I cropped a bit, maybe tweaked the brightness and/or contrast, and resized it.
VIA 6407 near Gascon

What do you think? Do you prefer the original, or the heavily reprocessed version? Are the changes too much? Does it still look realistic? I'm very curious to hear what you think of this particular image, and image manipulation in general.

Monday, January 23, 2012

CN 347 And 199

I shot CN 347 and CN 199 in the past few days. First, here's CN 347 heading out of Winnipeg, throwing a bit of snow.
CN 8930 in Winnipeg

CN 8930 was the sole unit on the train, which consisted of a lot of empty centerbeam flat cars and some miscellaneous freight. I think their speed was being restricted, because I was able to leapfrog them a couple of times as they rolled along the Rivers subdivision. For the third photo opportunity, I decided to try a few panning shots. This was the best of them.
CN 8930 in Winnipeg

The next day, I managed to grab CN 199 passing by Carman Junction.
CN 2276 in Winnipeg

Someone today said that trains have grown more boring with the endless procession of containers. In some ways I agree but there is something fascinating about a two mile moving wall.
Containers on CN train 199

CN 2236 was the DPU (Distributed Power Unit) engine on CN 199, only the second time I've seen a DPU on 199.
CN 2236 on train 199 in Winnipeg

Sunday, January 22, 2012

More Photos of 6200

Dave Dineen posted some great photos of freshly-painted HLCX 6200 in Saint John. Please view his album.

UPDATE: He also posted a video of his chase of HLCX 6318 / HLCX 911 / HLCX 6200 - all leased power.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Destruction of Enterprise Fawcett

I was sad to hear that the historic foundry in Sackville, New Brunswick was destroyed in a serious fire on Wednesday. The CBC reported that the fire started with two large explosions Wednesday evening, and flames as high as 10m were seen as fire crews from the region fought the blaze. CTV reported that the fire was extinguished early Thursday morning but the building is essentially destroyed.

The building housed Enterprise Fawcett, a company that made cookstoves, furnaces and heaters, one of the few remaining foundries in the world. It was started as the Dominion Foundry Company in 1852. The company employed either 25-30 or 60 people, depending on which news report you read.

The building was destroyed and rebuilt after another fire on July 29, 1908, according to Bill Hamilton. The same fire destroyed the original railway station nearby. The foundry building was designated a Local Historic Place.

I found an aerial photo of the foundry (and the railway station) in the book. The photo is dated May 30, 1931 and is from the New Brunswick Provincial Archives.
Sackville New Brunswick Aerial Photo Enterprise Foundry Train Station

The foundry's railway tracks appear to be two tracks inside the complex as well as a track beside some kind of covered platform.

In 1931 the train station had two tracks, and in fact there were two tracks there until fairly recently. Note at the bottom of the photo that there is a third track.

Now look at this track diagram from the August 1988 CN Car Control Manual. I've circled the Enterprise Foundry name. You can click on the image to see the whole manual.
CN Sackville Track Diagram

  • D78 - Enterprise Foundry Co. 730 feet
  • D79 - Enterprise Foundry Co. 400 feet
  • D80TT - Crane and Team Track 165 feet
D72 through D76 are listed as storage and marshalling tracks, a little over 1400 feet each.

Does anyone know when the tracks into the foundry were removed?

Friday, January 20, 2012

HLCX 6200, Repainted

Here it is! I don't see the chevrons on the rear, nor the usual bay windows that NB Southern uses, but otherwise it looks complete. I think the white lettering under 6200 says "SD40-2".

I'm told it was on the westbound freight train tonight. I'm guessing HLCX 6318 will get a new coat of paint very soon.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Concrete Balls

No, not a joke, although it sure sounds like the punchline for one. Apparently the problem of people riding the tops of trains in Indonesia has become so bad that railway officials are testing hanging concrete balls overhead to deter train riders.

The article says that so far officials have not seen anyone try to ride the train on lines protected by the concrete balls. The officials say they are trying to prevent the frequent deaths that occur when illegal train-riders fall off or between cars. Indonesia's trains are frequently overcrowded.

There are numerous news articles about this online. Here's one:

Note in the video that the riders are on top of electrically-powered trains. I can't see how concrete balls are going to work in this case, because of course they would tangle up in the pantographs.

Railfans will notice that these danging balls bear a remarkable similarity to tell-tales. What's that, you ask? Well, in the good old days before automatic air brakes, brakemen would run across the tops of cars to manually crank brakes on or off individual freight cars. Now, imagine a brakeman on top of the car, unaware of a tunnel around the corner... a tell-tale was a set of ropes dangling from a structure placed ahead of any overhead obstruction. The ropes would smack the brakeman in the back and give enough warning for him to lay down to avoid the obstruction.

The amusingly-named web site has this photo of a Western Maryland tell-tale, apparently a net-like device.

Given that many photos I see of train-riders in Indonesia show them hanging from the sides, front and back of the trains too, this may not help a lot.

There's no easy answer... except more trains and less congestion.

PS - do you suppose I will show up in Google searches for "concrete balls" now?

CN 106 Meets The Canadian

I was out at noon on Monday to shoot the Canadian and I happened to catch a meet. As I arrived, I noticed an eastbound container train rolling along on the north track. I had a notion that I might be able to catch the meet, so I headed east toward Carman Junction. Sure enough, I saw headlights to the east that I figured was the Canadian. I parked near Carman Junction and hopped out to shoot. VIA got to me first.
VIA 6412 in Winnipeg

You can see the "left" engineer was on the radio. It was a short Canadian with two engines and only one coach. Complete consistKokanee Park brought up the markers.
VIA's Canadian in Winnipeg

As they went around the bend west of Carman Junction on the south track, CN 106 passed them on the north track.
VIA and CN meet

CN 2202 and CN 2669 were the power on this long container train.
CN 2202 in Winnipeg

It was nice to get the meet!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Friday the 13th

Friday the 13th was... interesting.

I went out to the CN Symington area in the afternoon to see what was going on. CN 8896 was putting train 346 together.
CN 8896 in Winnipeg

It seemed clear that CN 346 was going to have a DPU engine. This appears to be fairly normal for 346. Out of the eight CN 346s I've seen, four have been DPU.

CN 8961 and blue BCOL 4646 were in the intermodal area of the yard... surrounded by poles, so no photos.

I heard CN 190 was ready to leave Transcona yard, so I headed up there. On the way I thought I would try to catch it crossing the Floodway. You may remember I got a blah shot at Dugald because I couldn't get to the Floodway in time. In this case CN 190 was just starting, so I hoped I could get there before they got up to speed.

I drove down Dugald Road, crossed the Floodway, and then made a quick U-turn at Deacon Road to get on the right side of the road. I drove up to the Floodway again and parked off the road, then hiked across toward the bridge. I heard CN 190 blowing for the first crossing (Ravenhurst Street) so I was on time.

I fired off a few shots with my long lens as they crossed the Perimeter and then changed lenses "on the fly" to my wide angle lens.
CN 8906 crossing the Floodway in Winnipeg

I was pleased with the light and the sky... isn't it purty?
CN 8906 crossing the Floodway

The engineer gave me a nice wave as CN 8906 and CN 5737 pulled past me.
CN 8906 and 5737 crossing the Floodway

I watched the train roll by, then headed back to Symington. I could see that CN 346 was ready to roll out.

As I watched, CN 2341 brought a train off the Sprague subdivision by itself. I did some heavy editing to the backlit photo to bring you this:
CN 2341 in Winnipeg

I noted one of the humpyard sets was CN 7530 / CN 517 / CN 501 / CN 7511.

I took off southward to shoot CN 346 "on the road". I wanted to get them at speed, so I went a few miles south to a crossing at mile 139.86 on the Sprague subdivision. That's about 5.3 miles from Navin at the end of Symington Yard, and a mile or so short of Lorette siding.

As I said, CN 346 had CN 8896 on the head end. The second engine was CN 2221 and the DPU engine was CN 2203.

After they rolled by, Friday the 13th struck and my car wouldn't start! I've had that problem once or twice before. After sitting there cursing for about 5 minutes, I did get it to start and off I went. Hopefully that won't happen again anytime soon!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Photo of HLCX 6318

Jody Robinson shot HLCX 6318 on the eastbound freight train on Sunday evening, January 15. It sure looks cold and dark there!
HLCX 6318 in McAdam, NB by Jody Robinson

It looks like one of the ex-UP Helm units is behind 6318 and an NBSR GP38 is ahead of it.

I understand HLCX 6318 was to lead but the train crew couldn't get it to talk to the SBU (Sense and Brake Unit, the "FRED"/"EOT" device on the last car of the train). Maybe next time.

Thanks for sharing, Jody!

In other news, I'm told HLCX 6200 is being repainted into John Deere NB Southern Railway green and yellow. I guess it was too ugly!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

CN 532 With Three Engines

CN 8862 in Winnipeg
I caught the daily Winnipeg-Emerson train this afternoon, pretty much by accident. I'm glad I did, because the train had three engines, the most I've ever seen on train 532. Normally CN 532 runs with only one engine, but on some occasions it has two.

I saw them slowly crossing Bishop Grandin, so I went south down Pembina Highway to try to get ahead of them. I went to the Markham Road crossing and had only a few seconds to check my camera settings before I had to shoot. The shots are ISO 500-640 so they have a bit of grain to them.

Modern SD70M-2 CN 8862 was the leader, followed by elderly SD60 CN 5524 as the middle unit.
CN 5524 in Winnipeg

Illinois Central SD70 IC 1020 brought up the rear.
Illinois Central IC 1020 in Winnipeg

The train was fairly long but it didn't seem long enough to warrant three engines. Maybe they were expecting a long train from Emerson?

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Sunset Train

CN 8890 in Winnipeg Manitoba

I was heading home on Thursday the 12th when I heard the detector at mile 10 go off.

"CN detector, mile one zero Rivers subdivision, south track, no alarms, temperature minus one six degrees, speed two three."

I figured I had a chance to catch it. Sure enough, I caught up to the rear of the train by the Perimeter. I finally overtook the head end after Diamond, so I kept going until the bend in the track a mile or so west of Diamond.

I jumped out and got ready to shoot. The engineer gave me a bunch of toots on the horn as the train approached - thanks!

As you can see above, the lead unit was CN 8890, an SD70M-2. The second unit was IC 1002, an SD70.
IC 1002 in Winnipeg Manitoba

Following those two were a pair of SD60s... CN 5535 and CN 5545.
CN 5535 in Winnipeg Manitoba

CN 8890 in Winnipeg Manitoba

CN 5545 looks a little better than the last time I saw her, missing her prime mover in Transcona in September!
CN 5545 in Winnipeg

As I continued on home, I saw CP 3027 and CP 1127 at the head of a small train, waiting to cross the Perimeter on the CP La Riviere subdivision. I took a few photos but the light was not very good by that point.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Winter Is Here

It has taken a long time, but winter has finally arrived in Winnipeg Winterpeg.
CN 8018 in Winnipeg

After a couple of weeks of near- or above-zero days, the temperature dropped to -13C today and we had a fair bit of blowing snow. I was driving home along Wilkes Avenue when I spotted CN 199 heading the same way. I slowly overtook it and pulled off at La Fleche Road just west of the Perimeter to grab these shots. The train was moving at a good pace but I imagine they had to slow a bit to actually see the signals in the blowing snow.

Part way down the train was CN 8884 in DPU mode. This was the 15th time I've seen CN 199 and only the first time I've seen a DPU engine on it. Unusual.
CN 8884 in Winnipeg

I guess I'll be bundling up more!

HLCX 6318 Update

HLCX 6318 was in Moncton, NB overnight. It was apparently supposed to go on CN 406 yesterday (Tuesday) but there was an issue and it had to stay in Moncton. Expect it to be on CN 406 on Wednesday.

Monday, January 09, 2012

HLCX 6200 Arrives

Several people went out on January 8 to shoot HLCX 6200 as part of train CN 406 en route to Saint John.

First, Matt aka Saintjohnrailfan shot it in Rothesay near the station... using his tried-and-true Picture-in-Picture technique. Very nice.

SD40-2fan shot it a bit closer to Saint John, in three locations.

Oh, and Brockrailfan shot it on a CN train in Belleville, Ontario... probably CN 308. It's in the video at about the 3:30 mark.

Barbarysheep1 was shooting in the same location. His video is here and is pretty much the same, except for some reason he seemed to have some hair on the lens. HLCX 6200 is just after the 4:20 mark.

Hopefully HLCX 6200 will get right to work on the New Brunswick Southern Railway, and HLCX 6318 will arrive soon!

Sunday, January 08, 2012

Sunset Meet

Later on in the day of January 5, after my earlier railfanning that day, I headed out to Diamond on my way home. Nothing much seemed to be happening, except for a maintenance crew with a small crane just west of Diamond on the south track. I was about to leave, until I noticed a green light facing west. Train time!
Signals at Diamond

Soon enough I heard some radio traffic indicating CN 314 was approaching from the west and CN 117 was approaching from the east. CN 117 had a stop light so they stopped on the south track to wait for 314 to go by.
CN 8944 in Winnipeg

You can see CN 8944 was the lead engine, and CN 2326 was trailing.

I drove down beside CN 117 to try to catch the meet. CN 314 had two Illinois Central units on it. The first was IC 2705.
Illinois Central IC 2705 in Winnipeg

The second was a more traditional Illinois Central engine, SD70 IC 1025.
IC Illinois Central 1025 in Winnipeg

Once CN 314 cleared the diamond, CN 117 started rolling and crossed over to the north track and continued west.

As it happened, I didn't get a good shot of the meet. Oh well. I did get some nice sunset shots of the train, and in fact a decent shot of the sunset itself.

From January 7, 2012

Friday, January 06, 2012

Avoiding the Skunk

I wanted to shoot the VIA Rail Canadian on Thursday, January 5. I decided to shoot it at Portage Junction to get a more-or-less head-on shot. I drove up there and parked in the loop at the end of Angus Street, then walked over to the new Southwest Rapid Transit Corridor. I heard locomotives and saw CN 404 roll by with CN 5677 and CN 2139 for power.

The unfortunate thing was there was a container train parked on the south track, blocking the shot. This meant that I would not be able to shoot the Canadian unless the container train moved.

I waited for a few minutes, and I heard some discussion between the RTC and the crew of CN 101 (the container train). It was decided that 101 would follow VIA 1, so they were going to stay. I decided to try for Waverley Street instead. As I was leaving, the Fort Garry switcher rolled up to Portage Junction to wait their turn to get out. It had slug CN 264 leading GP9 CN 7243. I understand the Fort Garry switcher had a 70xx series GP9 with a GMD1 earlier in the week!

I drove to the parking lot behind the Winnipeg Humane Society by the off-leash dog park. I jogged down the road to the tracks and arrived there maybe 30 seconds before the Canadian. The unfortunate part about it was that I couldn't shoot the whole train without getting too close to the tracks, so I had to satisfy myself with a shot like this.
VIA 6456 in Winnipeg

After the Canadian passed, I walked back to my car and drove over to Waverley Street to get CN 101.Unfortunately a CN foreman was parked where I normally set up on the south side of the tracks, so I set my tripod up on the north side of the tracks instead. CN 101 rolled into view, I started recording, and... something blocked my shot.

The BNSF switcher rolled across my shot! I know one of the guys who works at BNSF and that was him shouting, "Hello Steve, happy new year!" as the caboose rolled by. At least I was able to get a video of BNSF 2968, by accident!

CN 101 had CN 2312 leading, with CN 8934 part way through the train and CN 8909 on the rear. CN 199 was working in Fort Rouge, but I didn't have time to wait for it.

After I posted this video on YouTube, user wheels069 commented that he shot the same train later on in Alberta!

Everyone sing, "It's a small world after all!"

NBSR SD40-2 Update

HLCX 6200 is on the move on train 308. CN 308 departed Joffre, Quebec at 08:05 AST and was in Edmundston this afternoon at 15:35, so it should get to Moncton before midnight. If all goes well, HLCX 6200 should be on train 406 to Saint John on Saturday.

Thursday, January 05, 2012

NBSR SD40-2 Update

HLCX 6200 arrived in Joffre, Quebec today on train CN 310. Tomorrow it will go out on CN 308 to Moncton, then CN 406 to Saint John likely either Friday or Saturday, depending on when 308 arrives in Moncton.

HLCX 6318 is still in Toronto, according to CN's tracing system.

Here's a video of the two engines northbound through Illinois on a CN train, taken December 27.

Thanks to John and Ron for the information and Gerald for the link to the video.

Last Trains of 2011

I did manage to squeeze in a bit more 'fanning at the very end of 2011. Here's what I saw.

I saw CN 2566 leading an eastbound freight in the falling dark of December 30.
CN 2566 in Winnipeg

Ex-UP CN 2136 was the second engine. There's a little lens flare going on there, probably reflections of the train's headlights inside the lens mechanism.

I made an effort on December 31 to go shoot the last Canadian of the year, as I did in 2009. I went out to Diamond just west of Winnipeg and found CN 404 rolling toward me.
CN 5641 in Winnipeg

SD75I engines CN 5641 and CN 5694 were leading, followed by SD60 CN 5511.

There was too much foreground clutter to shoot a westbound from the south side, so I walked over to the north side after 404 passed and waited for VIA 1. She had VIA 6443 on the head end, followed by now-rare unrebuilt F40PH-2, VIA 6451.
VIA 6443 in Winnipeg

The paint is wearing off the plow on 6443.

The Canadian blew by at an impressive speed.
VIA's Canadian leaving Winnipeg

The kids were restless, so off we went. On our return trip, I caught one more, my final train of 2011. CN 2651 led CN 5602 and an intermodal train. CN seems to like the Dash-9/SD75I combo for its general freights these days.
CN 2651 in Winnipeg

When the lead engine passed, the conductor gave me a nice wave out the side window. When I reviewed my photos later, I realized that both the engineer and the conductor were giving me waves.
CN 2651 and crew waving

You have to squint a bit to see the engineer's hand. Thanks for the waves!

Wave 'bye to 2011!