Wednesday, February 29, 2012


Tim commented on my post about CEFX 1050 and the sunset, asking if my interpretation of the red-over-green-over-red was correct. I had said it was "LIMITED TO CLEAR" (Canadian Rail Operating Rules #416) but he pointed out (correctly) that it would be that only if there was an "L" plate on the signal mast. If the "L" is missing then it is rule 422, "MEDIUM TO CLEAR". The difference is only in the speed limit. LIMITED=45 MPH and MEDIUM=30 MPH.

I looked at signal 112 today and it does not have any plate on it, so a red-over-green-over-red indication on that signal means MEDIUM TO CLEAR.

I had a look at the detailed track diagram for the area, "CP MAKWA".
The signal I was talking about was 112, the three headed signal facing west. The crew would have seen signal 134 first, and I believe it was showing green over red, rule 405, "PROCEED" it should have been showing yellow over green, rule 407, CLEAR TO MEDIUM.

Signals are numbered by mileage, with an implied decimal point to the left of the last digit. So signal 112 is at mile 11.2 and signal 134 is at mile 13.4. In cases where there are more than one track, the track name is appended, like 111N and 111S.

The mileage is not precise because you could have two signals facing opposite directions on the same mast, but they have different numbers. For example, signals 133 and 134 could be on the same mast (they aren't).

When the Rail Traffic Controllers (RTCs) give out blocks to maintenance crews, they often use signals to indicate the limits of the authority they are giving. For example, "from signal 133 to signal 112".

While doing the research, I found an interesting article on Canadian signals. Check it out!

EDIT: Thanks Jeff Keddy for pointing out what signal 134 should have been showing.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012


Black (red) box in VIA 6429
Event recorder in VIA 6429

The Star is reporting that lawyers Harvey and Sharon Strosberg have filed a class-action suit against VIA and CN for $10 million in general damages from the recent VIA accident.

These specialists in class action suits are experienced in such matters, according to the National Post, as they pressed a suit against VIA and CN for a derailment in 1999 near Thamesville, Ontario. According to the TSB report, VIA 74 ran through switches lined and locked for the reverse position. I remember this accident and the TSB report makes it clear that CN was negligent. (TSB = Transportation Safety Board)

The National Post article says Ms. "Strosberg said her office had received a handful of calls from passengers." I wonder how they got their number?

People are entitled to some compensation based on the level of inconvenience or injury, but I find it repulsive that the suit was filed two days after the accident. I'm not a lawyer but surely some finding of fault from the TSB should take place before a suit is filed.

Speaking of the TSB, they have deployed a team and have the "black box" (it's red) and are already investigating. The investigator in charge is Tom Griffith, a very experienced investigator with the TSB who also has considerable rail experience. He's quoted several times in this CBC story.

The Star has a vivid video of VIA 6444 being righted.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Branchline Goodness

I was heading home on Wednesday afternoon when I heard two different CP freights ask the CN RTC (Rail Traffic Controller) for permission to cross the CN Rivers subdivision. How is that possible?

Well, if you look at the Rivers subdivision, you will see that CP crosses it in four different places!
  1. Mile 4.8 - CP La Riviere subdivision at St. James Junction
  2. Mile 14.3 - CP Glenboro subdivision at Diamond
  3. Mile 56.2 - CP Carberry subdivision at West Tower in Portage la Prairie
  4. Mile 237.2 - CP Yarbo subdivision at Code
My scanner is pretty good but it won't hear anything from Portage la Prairie when I'm in Winnipeg!

I was a few kilometres from Diamond but I figured I'd better give it a shot to catch one of the rare Glenboro freights. As it happened, I was there in plenty of time to set up the tripod and take video and photos.

CP 5957 was leading a short freight northward / eastward. I took a few shots "into" the sun as they approached.
CP 5957 near Winnipeg

I tweaked the heck out of the above photo. I think I went overboard on the sky and it is too blue. I might have another go at it later. It's hard to shoot toward the sun like this and not end up with A) the sky blown out to white, or B) the ground becoming very dark. Landscape photographers will use multiple exposures and HDR but you can't do that with a moving train!

Here's a closeup of the lead engine, CP 5957, as it approached the road crossing.
CP 5957 near Winnipeg

The trailing engine was CP 6022.
CP 6022 near Winnipeg

I've only seen two other freights on the Glenboro sub, one in January 2010 and the other in July 2010.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

VIA Accident in Ontario

VIA train 92 derailed in southern Ontario at speed at about 3:30 PM today, and in the ensuing crash, three VIA Rail engineers lost their lives. I feel terrible for their families and friends.

CBC is reporting that the train was carrying 75 people when it derailed. VIA 6444, the only engine, toppled over and appears to have extensive cab damage. It appears to me that there were five LRC cars and three of them went over on their sides, with the lead car striking a building. VIA Rail is reporting that three passengers were airlifted to hospital, and 42 passengers and a fourth VIA engineer were taken to local hospitals.

The accident appears to have happened near here. The Globe and Mail has some aerial video and this aerial photo:
Aerial photo of VIA 92 crash, from Globe and Mail online article

The National Post has some large high resolution photos of the scene.

Walter Pfefferle has a photo of VIA 6444 from February 15. I only saw it once, on November 17 2011 here in Winnipeg.
VIA 6444 in Winnipeg

My condolences to everyone affected by this tragedy. It's a somber reminder of the dangers that train crews face every day.

EDIT: CBC reported that the three engineers who died were Ken Simmonds, age 56; Peter Snarr, age 52; and trainee Patrick Robinson, age 40. Mr. Simmonds and Mr. Snarr were based in Toronto and Mr. Robinson was from Cornwall. The first two engineers were long time VIA veterans, and Mr. Robinson was an experienced engineer but had only been with VIA since last October.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Meet Me In The Middle of the Day

Meet me in the middle of the day
Let me hear you say, everything's okay
Bring me southern kisses from your room
Meet me in the middle of the night
Let me hear you say, everything's all right
Let me smell the moon in your perfume
  -- Romeo's Tune, Steve Forbert

Here's a meet that occurred in the middle of the (Thurs)day. I went out to shoot the Canadian and when I arrived there, I saw that a freight was approaching from the west. I set up my video camera and then shot a few photos of CN 106 approaching.

The engine is on top of Kenaston Boulevard / Route 90. Note my gloves and my scanner lying in the snow. I have to figure out a way to hang the scanner from the tripod.

They passed me on the north track and then slowed down and finally stopped.

I waited and was rewarded with the sight of VIA 1 in the distance through the blowing snow.
VIA 6431 in Winnipeg

Another friendly VIA crew!

Here's a long shot as they went away. I'm really liking my Canon EF-S 55-250mm IS lens. It's much better than the Canon 75-300mm - well worth the extra hundred bucks.
VIA Canadian in Winnipeg

After VIA passed, CN 106 started up again. I amused myself by taking this pan shot of CN 2252, the only DPU engine on the train. I liked how the snow went all streaky.

That was it for the noon meet... but I witnessed another meet later in the day. Next post!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Canadian Sunrise

I stumbled across this video by Dormitator1 of VIA 693 (the Hudson Bay) idling in The Pas, Manitoba. Check out the car on the end of the train!

Anyone have any information on this car? I see Canadian Sunrise is numbered HBRY 800576.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

SD60s in the Snow

CN 5538 in Winnipeg
First off, I must apologize for not blogging as much recently. I have a little back problem these days and I'm trying to limit my computer time a bit, so the blogging suffers. Hopefully things will improve soon.

I have been seeing trains, and I wanted to share this one from February 16. I went to St. James Junction to see if I could see a train, and sure enough a freight was visible to the west through the falling snow. A CN crew were looking at the diamond, and after saying hello to me they took up positions on both sides to inspect the train.

The lead unit was CN 5538, followed by CN 2727, then another SD60, CN 5508.
CN 5508 in Winnipeg

I was idly standing by, doing my own rollby inspection, when this car came rolling by. I managed to take a few snaps of this artwork.
Willie Nelson in Winnipeg

IC 799789 appeared to be bearing a likeness of Willie Nelson. I don't know a lot about railway, but this one was done by "Theory" from the FR80PHILE gang.

Near the end of the train, there was a series of shiny new TILX tank cars. They appear to have been built around April 2011 so they are pretty new. These cars were carrying some kind of combustible liquid, according to the 1993 placard. It's a class 3 flammable liquid which means it has a fairly low flash point = easy to ignite.
Tank Cars in Winnipeg

There were also a few Interstate Asphalt cars, carrying... asphalt. Interstate Asphalt supplies the Chicago area with asphalt, so these cars had a fair distance yet to go. Maybe they came from the tar sands area in Alberta?
Interstate Asphalt Tank Cars in Winnipeg

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Saint Valentine's Train

`CN 2626 nearing Winnipeg

On Valentine's Day I caught one train out near Diamond in mid afternoon. Here's the story, in pictures. First I shot CN 2626 at a distance as they approached. There was a CN maintenance crew out and about in two hi-rail pickups as well as a Pettibone vehicle. Here the train passes the second pickup.
CN 2626 and pickup truck

As the train passed, I took a panning shot of CN 2626. CN 8811 was the second unit on this long train.
Pan shot of CN 2626

I amused myself by taking some more pan shots. Here's a Golden West Service boxcar behind an old Union Pacific boxcar. I believe Golden West Service was a boxcar service sponsored by Southern Pacific and a few major shippers.
Golden West Service

The train passed my location, and I saw a Pettibone vehicle coming my way on the north track, carrying a freshly-cut piece of rail. I'm pretty sure it was a Pettibone Speed Swing.
Pettibone and Train

Here's a close look at CN 438-01. "NO RIDERS" indeed.
Pettibone vehicle

The vehicle stopped a few times, I think to drop and/or pick up rail, and each time it puffed out some smoke when it started up again.
Pettibone vehicle

I hope you had a great Valentine's Day.

Monday, February 13, 2012

NB Southern Update

There are some good photos and video available of the new NB Southern leased power now, plus a few run-through engines!

Jody Robinson sent me these two snaps from McAdam, NB from Sunday February 12. First up are two run-through engines, MEC 380 and 381. Both of these engines are GP40s but MEC 380 is unusual as it is a high-hood GP40. You can't see that from this photo, alas.
Maine Central 381. Photo by Jody Robinson

Also on the freight were the two leased SD40-2 engines, HLCX 6200 and HLCX 6318. You can see that they now have the bay windows fitted. I think they give a bit more visibility and are warmer than the standard windows. 6318 has her nose chevron stripes now.
HLCX 6200 and 6318 in McAdam, by Jody Robinson

Jody says that traffic on the St. Stephen subdivision has picked up quite a bit, with a daily train every weekday with good size trains to St. Stephen and the Woodland mill in Maine. Good news. Thanks Jody for the news and the photos.

Matt aka Saintjohnrailfan got out to Enniskillen today to catch the westbound freight. As it happens, it had HLCX 6318 on the point with the aforementioned MEC 380 second and NBSR 2319 trailing. You can catch a glimpse of the high hood on 380. Great snow action!

Dave Dineen aka NBSRfan was out on February 9 to shoot both the eastbound and westbound freights. Each train had one of the leased Helm SD40s on it. It's a typical quality video from Dave.

It kinda makes me want to be back in New Brunswick to shoot the mean green trains!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

February 5

BNSF 4901 and 4151 Panorama
We spent last weekend in Fargo, North Dakota doing some shopping. I did not have any time for railfanning while in Fargo, which is too bad because Fargo has a lot of BNSF action. I did see one BNSF caboose... woo. ;)

On the way home, though, I saw one BNSF train, led by BNSF 4901 and BNSF 4151. It was between Fargo and Grand Forks. BNSF 4901 and 4151

Once we passed through Canadian Customs (a 35 minute wait) we were on the road for home... until about 3 minutes later when I spotted CN 532 approaching the border. I pulled over and took a series of shots as the train rolled past. SD60 CN 5503 led the train with ex-BNSF CN 2145 trailing.
CN 5503 and CN 2145 near Emerson

The sunset colours were pretty good. I spotted the moon over the tracks and grabbed this shot of the engines under the moon.
CN 5503 and CN 2145 under the moon

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Busy Times at St. James Junction

I went out on Thursday, February 9, to shoot the Canadian at St. James Junction. There was another vehicle there already, with two railfans in it, brothers I have met before. We had a brief chat but it was interrupted by two trains arriving at once - BNSF 2968 returning from Fort Rouge and a CP local train heading north on the La Riviere subdivision. I chose to focus on the CP train and saw old friend CP 8251 leading.
CP 8251 and CP 8213 in Winnipeg

It is challenging to shoot a northbound CP train here as the sun is over the engineer's shoulder. Of course I also got the shadow of the signal protecting the diamond on the engine... sigh.

Here's the video of the same train.

I chatted for a bit in the cold and finally saw headlights coming from the east. There was the Canadian, maybe 10 minutes late.
VIA's Canadian train in Winnipeg

As the train passed, I shot each car to record the consist in my database. I quite liked my shot of the Skyline car, VIA 8504, and turned it into a black-and-white shot.

VIA 1 quickly receded into the distance and I hit the road.

Friday, February 10, 2012

January 3

I'm way behind in posting this, but better late than never, right? Right?

On January 3 I went to St. James Junction in Winnipeg to try to shoot the Hudson Bay, er, I mean VIA's "Winnipeg-Churchill train" VIA 693. What a dull name!

There were two other railfans there already, VanBilly and another gentleman whose name I never got. Nothing much was going on so we chatted for a bit. Soon the CEMR train came along, heading west toward their Carman subdivision. CEMR 4002 and CCGX 5232 were the power.
CEMR 4002 in Winnipeg

Here's VanBilly's video.

Soon after that, the BNSF transfer train came back from Fort Rouge. New-to-Winnipeg engine BNSF 2968 was on the point.
BNSF 2968 in Winnipeg

Here's VanBilly's video of the same train. I think you might see my shadow in the shot at one point.

Right after that, a CN freight came rolling east. I think it was CN 404 but I could be wrong. It had an interesting consist on the front end. CN 8892 was the lead unit, a fairly boring SD70M-2, very common these days.
CN 8892 in Winnipeg

There was a bit of an editorial comment on the frame of CN 8892...
Editorial comment about CN

The second unit was one of my favourites, an SD60, CN 5526, in "sergeant stripes".
CN 5526 in Winnipeg

The real catch was the third unit, an SD40, CN 6008, in CN North America livery!
CN 6008 in Winnipeg

I had to leave after that, so I never did see the Hudson Bay. I don't know why they were so late!

EDIT: Added VanBilly1's videos.

Sunday, February 05, 2012

Recent Shots

Here's a few recent shots.

First, a long distance shot of two CP switchers working the Spectra Energy plant at the Perimeter Highway on January 26.
CP 6023 in Winnipeg

I believe that location is part of the Natural Gas Liquids pipeline that brings propane (and perhaps other liquids) from the Burstall, SK production facility to various points in Saskatchewan and Manitoba. The product is loaded into railcars and trucks for distribution. The facility is on CP's La Riviere subdivision around mile 12.

Moving on, here's an eastbound train west of Winnipeg on January 31. CN 2632 approaches the curve just west of Diamond outside Winnipeg.
CN 2632 near Winnipeg, MB

The crew of the train looked curiously at me as they rounded the bend.
CN 2632 near Winnipeg, MB

I hopped into my car after the head end passed and caught up with them before mile 10. They had crossed over from the south to the north track at Diamond and that slowed them down enough for me to pass them. Here they are just east of mile 10.
CN 2632 near Winnipeg, MB

It's nice to see those red, white and blue BC Rail units still around!

Saturday, February 04, 2012

EMD London Shut Down

CN 8884 in Winnipeg
One of EMD's fine products, an SD70M-2 outside Winnipeg.

You may remember that Caterpillar locked its London, Ontario workers out of the EMD locomotive plant after they refused the "last" contract offer. Caterpillar has now decided to shut the plant down and cease production of locomotives at the London, Ontario plant, and move production to their Muncie, Indiana plant.

It is probably no coincidence that Indiana just passed a right-to-work law essentially bypassing unions. It is now unlikely that a union will form at the Muncie plant.

The former workers continue to picket the plant.

EDIT: Local Mark's Work Warehouse stores pulled CAT boots from the shelves in support of the ex-EMD workers, and the Canadian Auto Workers union is talking about occupying the plant.

Friday, February 03, 2012

Whither the Chaleur?

I'm quite concerned about the future of VIA's Chaleur train. The Chaleur has been terminating at Matapedia, Quebec for more than a month.

First the bridge over the Grand-Pabos River in Chandler was condemned on December 14, forcing the Chaleur to turn at New Carlisle. Then the bridge at St. Jules / Cascapedia was condemned on December 22. That's this bridge, by the way.

That bridge is between Matapedia and New Carlisle, so since December 22 the Chaleur has been terminating at Matapedia and passengers have been bused the rest of the way. There's a VIA press release about this.

Did you know there are 95 bridges on the route? When I was last there I would bet that at least 80% of them had a 10 MPH slow order on them. That gives you an idea of the condition of the line.

The Gaspésie Railway (Société du chemin de fer de la Gaspésie), owners of the line from Matapedia to Gaspé, have asked all levels of government for additional funding to repair the railway, to the tune of $19 million per year for the next five years (press release, news story).

This article says the bridges should be fixed by mid-February at the latest. There is an interesting photo in the article showing three Rio Tinto passenger cars led by an ex-NBEC RS-18 being brought to Gaspésie Diesel for work.

The odd thing is that VIA is booking coach and sleeper space on the Chaleur on ReserVIA. They do have a note that the train will be replaced by bus between Matapedia and Gaspé on February 2 and 3.

Special thanks to VIA Guru Tom Box for all his informative posts on CanPassRail!

From happier times, here are some photos of the Chaleur provided by Bob Liming, who had the opportunity to ride the train twice, in October and November 2011. Just in time!

Here's VIA 6457 at the station in Gaspé in October.
VIA 6457 by Bob Liming

And from the rear...
The Chaleur in Gaspe

Now this is November with VIA 6426. Note the masts behind the train from the marina.
VIA 6426 in Gaspe by Bob Liming

 You may remember that some idiot tried to burn the station down back in early 2011. VIA has been using a trailer for the station since then. It's just visible on the right.
VIA photo by Bob Liming

Here's Bob himself standing in front of the station. Thanks for the photos!
VIA photo by Bob Liming