Wednesday, October 31, 2012

A Carseland Local

I was in Calgary this weekend with my wife. She was attending a conference, and while she was there, I was railfanning! On Saturday morning I met up with Jeff Keddy and we ended up following the CP Brooks subdivision out of the city. We saw the Viterra Calgary East elevator near Indus, Alberta first.
The Viterra Calgary East grain elevator

We continued railway east and came to Carseland, Alberta next. I was here in October 2010. There is an Agrium facility as well as two grain elevators, a concrete Cargill elevator and a Richardson Pioneer elevator. We noticed a local freight working the Pioneer elevator, so we went to the nearest crossing and watched it.
CP 3102 in Carseland

The train had three GP-38s, CP 3102, CP 3068 and CP 3074. While we watched, they pulled back until the tail end was clear.
CP 3074 in Carseland

The conductor then rode the tail end as they pushed into the siding.
CP crewman in Carseland

As they were pushing back, a freight appeared from the west, heading toward Calgary. We were not sure if our local was going to block the view of this freight or not, so I backed away from the tracks to get a long-distance view of the train.
CP 8566 in Carseland

The local was not quite clear of the crossing, so this was the best I could capture for the meet.
CP 3102 and CP 8566 in Carseland

I was surprised to see a mid-train engine, CP 9514, on this train. It's not often that I see DPU engines on non-container trains. I saw 9514 back in July 2009.
CP 9514 in Carseland

After the freight passed, they dropped one cut of cars and then pushed back until the whole train was there.
CP 3102 at the grain elevator

At this point we decided to continue on the Brooks subdivision... another post.

Friday, October 26, 2012

VIA Cuts Happening

Empty VIA Rail seats
This is a sad day in VIA Rail's history. Friday marked the last day* of almost-daily service of the Ocean to the Maritimes, and today will be the last Saturday Canadian passing through Winnipeg until next May.

Earlier this week, the last runs of VIA 86 and VIA 89 (London-Toronto) and VIA 90 and VIA 95 (Niagara Falls-Toronto) took place. The only passenger trains through Niagara Falls now are the daily Amtrak Maple Leaf trains.

The cuts are happening.

Want to do something about it? Write your MPs, your MLAs, your mayors, write the paper, speak up. At the very least, join National Dream Renewed or Save Our Trains in Northern NB on Facebook. Join Transport Action Atlantic or the national Transport Action (former Transport 2000) and support their efforts.

At least the Maritimes is finally getting a regional bus service back. Of course, the Moncton-Riverview-Dieppe area has been without bus service for almost 4 months now because the drivers are locked out.

Public transit is in serious trouble in Canada and especially in the Maritimes. It's time to speak out. It's time to use it... or lose it.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Lighting Challenges

Stepping away from VIA for a moment, here are some freight trains I have seen recently, under a variety of lighting conditions.

First, set the wayback machine to July 29. I was driving home and spotted a headlight in the distance on the CN Rivers subdivision and pulled over to grab this shot of CN 2538 leading a freight train out of Winnipeg.
CN 2538 in Winnipeg

With light like this, all you have to do is point and shoot!

I'm guessing they had the front door open for a little ventilation.

Now to October 6th. I was driving near Beach Junction (at the north end of CN's Symington Yard here in Winnipeg) when I saw a train slowly moving out. I zipped up Warman Road (here) and hopped out to get these shots.

Here, the sun was off to my right so the conditions were not ideal. The best you can do is either point into the sun and accept a silhouette shot (and probably manually adjust the exposure), or turn as much away from the sun as you can. First up was ex-GTW engine 5948. You may recall I saw that before on CN 533.
Ex GTW 5948 in Winnipeg

The second engine was equally interesting. This is CN 5442, freshly painted after being acquired by CN. You may remember I mentioned back in March that CN was buying new and used power. This is an SD60, former GMTX 9099.
CN 5442 in Winnipeg

The CN 5400 number series used to be for CN's SD50s but those are all retired. Canadian Railway Observations has some details on the "new" SD60s.

CN 5442 sure looks a lot different on the outside from CN's cowled SD60s. Speaking of those, here are two for comparison (from October 11th). Love those zebra stripes.CN 5558 in Winnipeg

Again, good lighting conditions so "point and shoot" and away you go.

Earlier in the same day, I shot this early morning train with CN 8924. This was just before 8 AM and the sun had just come over the horizon. It's to my right so you know the nose is going to be in shadow. I elected to try a "glint" shot with the sun on the side of the train. If you have time, take a few test shots before the train comes to manually adjust the exposure. Fortunately there was enough light to be able to use a shutter speed of 1/200s to freeze the action. To be honest, a bit more motion blur would have been fine too.
CN 8924 in Winnipeg

I liked how the sky turned out.

I also shot the Canadian on October 11 but I already blogged about that.

Now, up to almost the present! I shot this train on Saturday (Oct. 20) as it headed toward Diamond. I had to play "catch up" as I came to the Wilkes Avenue / Perimeter Highway intersection and it was already half past me. Fortunately it is not too hard to get ahead of freight trains here. You can see the light was not great, given that it was overcast, and it yielded this rather pedestrian photo.
CN 8927 in Winnipeg

With flat light you get a flat photo. A bit dull.

To make things a bit more interesting, I decided to do a pan shot as the train closed. I dialed the shutter speed down to 1/30s and panned, and it worked out. Note the "#13 Go Blackhawks" scrawled in the dirt on the engine.
Pan shot of CN 8927 in Winnipeg

Later in the same day, I was hanging around waiting for the Canadian. My kids grew tired of waiting so we headed out, but we did manage to grab this train headed by IC 2725. Again, dull light so I chose a shot to fill the frame with the engine.
IC 2725 in Winnipeg

One final train from October 20. The light had not improved so I was basically shooting to record the engines.. plus if you are trackside and there's a train, why not shoot it?
CN 8947 in Winnipeg

Since there was only CN 8947 on the head end, I knew there would be a DPU engine somewhere. It turned out that CN 2244 was on the rear. I dialed down the shutter speed to capture this pan shot.
CN 2244 pan shot

Sunday, October 21, 2012

More Southern Ontario Grain Elevators

On my last visit to southern Ontario, I made a point of shooting a few grain elevators in the area.
First up were a pair of sites that used to be on the CN Leamington spur. This was a track that ran from Comber on the CASO subdivision south to the city of Leamington. It was pulled up about a decade ago but it is still pretty obvious where the track went. Here are more details on the former CN Leamington spur.

Here is Staples, Ontario, site of a largish complex owned by Cargill. The right-of-way (ROW) used to run on the left side of the elevator shown here. The photo is basically facing north.
Grain elevator in Staples Ontario

Here's a side view of the same complex at Staples.
Grain elevator in Staples Ontario

A few miles south on the former CN Leamington spur is this elevator in Blytheswood, Ontario. Unlike the Cargill one above, this one does not look like it is in use for much of anything.
Blytheswood Ontario grain elevator

This is the elevator complex in Wheatley, Ontario. Wheatley used to be on the former CSX Blenheim subdivision that ran between Walkerville (Windsor) and Chatham. I understand it was removed by 2005.
Wheatley Ontario

Here's a quick peek at a complex in Chatham, Ontario. I didn't have enough time to take a great photo of it. It is off the CN Chatham subdivision.
Grain elevator in Chatham Ontario

Thursday, October 18, 2012

TSB Incident Report on VIA 692

Hudson Bay (VIA 693) meeting CN
VIA 693 meets CN safely in Winnipeg in 2009
I guess I will be posting one more VIA-related item. You may recall that on October 29, 2011 there was a near miss between VIA 692 (the Hudson Bay returning from Churchill) and CN 853. I noticed a small update two months ago.

The Transportation Safety Board has issued their findings. You can go read it - I encourage you to, it is quite readable - but the gist of the findings is that the VIA crew forgot they were supposed to take the siding at Meharry to meet CN 853 and instead carried on until the CN crew saw VIA 692's headlights and called them on the radio to stop. That was a close call.

The CN Togo subdivision is Occupancy Control System (OCS) territory, commonly known as "dark" territory because there are no signals. The TSB report emphasizes that crews must remember their orders and use visual cues like mileboards, station calls on the radio, etc. to recall special orders like the meet with CN 853 that was specified in their train orders. Clearly the VIA crew did not remember and the close call was the result.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012


Here's a couple more VIA trains... and then maybe I should write about something else. Is there such a thing as VIAfatigue?

When I went to see the Grey Cup train in Winnipeg, the Canadian was sitting there in the station as well. Soon it would continue its journey westward as VIA 1. The head end was poking out of the train shed with VIA 6456 and VIA 6429 on the point. Note the Fort Garry hotel on the left. It's very nice that there is still a metal staircase (from the Forks ground level below) provided for railfans like me to climb up and take shots from the legal side of the fence. I'm sure the staircase is there for another reason but I'm happy to use it.
VIA's Canadian at the Union Station in Winnipeg

When we were inside the train shed waiting to board the Grey Cup train, I stole a few photos of the Canadian.
VIA's Canadian inside the Union Station in Winnipeg

I was surprised to see that Chateau Bienville was sitting by itself on the back track. I don't know if it was a defective car dropped from the Canadian or some kind of spare kept there. I wouldn't think the latter, as the spares would normally be kept at the Winnipeg Maintenance Centre.
Chateau Bienville in Winnipeg

Here's the Canadian leaving, with Banff Park on the rear.
Banff Park leaving the station in Winnipeg

A few days later, I caught the Canadian heading out of town on October 11. There were still some fall colours in the trees but they were definitely fading. Here VIA 1 is just rolling through the Shaftesbury Boulevard crossing.
VIA 6405 in Winnipeg

A closer view of VIA 6405.
VIA 6405 in Winnipeg

ReveLstoKe ParK was bringing up the rear, with its weird lettering.
Revelstoke Park

Off they go on the south track.
VIA Rail Canadian

They were going slow enough for me to get ahead of them just after the mile 10 hotbox detector and take this video. Listen to the end for the hotbox message.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

VIA 78, Several Times

VIA 3368 in Windsor Ontario
During my past visits to southern Ontario, I had the opportunity to shoot VIA train 78 several times. Why that particular train? Well, it's the last VIA train to travel between Windsor and Toronto in the daylight. There are two trains from Toronto that come afterward, but both arrive after dark (except at the height of summer).

First up is VIA 78 from September 10. To catch this one, I drove through Tilbury, Ontario and continued north until I found the VIA Rail tracks. On my way through Tilbury I spotted the CP tracks just north of town, and as I was still well over a kilometre away from the crossing I saw the lights go on and the gates go down. A CP freight train blasted through and all I could do is watch as I drove along the road. I have had nothing but bad luck with catching CP in southern Ontario - that was 0/2 for seeing but not photographing CP trains.

Anyway, I was at the VIA Rail track in plenty of time for VIA 78. I didn't want to go hunting around for a better location for fear of missing the train, so I planned my shot here at mile 77.31. I would be shooting into the sun as the train approached, so I elected to stand behind the signal box to keep the sun glare down. After some waiting, I heard the horn in the distance and the train approached.
VIA 919 near Tilbury ON

As the train rounded the bend in front of me, I grabbed a quick shot.
VIA 919 near Tilbury ON

Nothing like the sun shining on your circular polarizer to show just how dirty it is!

The sun was great for the going-away shot, though!
VIA 3358 on the tail end of train 78

For my next VIA 78, I decided to head over to Chatham, Ontario to see the station and shoot the train there. I had scouted around and decided to try to shoot it at the station and then rush over to shoot it crossing a bridge over a tributary of the Thames River.

Here's VIA 902 at the head of a 3-car VIA 78 at the station.
VIA 902 at the Chatham Ontario train station

I high-tailed it over to Sass Road on the other side of the stream. The light was not great but I grabbed a half-decent shot of VIA 78 crossing the two-track bridge.
VIA 902 in Chatham Ontario

Nice light on the going-away shot again.
VIA 3351 leaving Chatham Ontario

After VIA 78 left, I went back to the station to get some better shots of it.
VIA Rail station in Chatham Ontario

The next night I headed into Windsor to shoot VIA 78 as it left the station. You may recall I saw VIA 78 there before... at the old station. The new station had just gone into operation a week or so before. Here's VIA 3351 on the end of the train at the new station.
VIA 3351 in Winnipeg

You might notice that VIA 3351 was on the tail end of the previous day's VIA 78 too.

I took a shot into the sun and tried some HDR on it. I'm not entirely happy with the results.
VIA 918 in Windsor

After grabbing these quick shots, I drove up a little ways and then captured this view of the train heading out, with the Detroit downtown looming behind.
VIA 918 and Detroit in the background

I hope you've enjoyed this view of the Corridor trains, a little different than my usual Canadian photos.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Videos of the Grey Cup Train

A few railfans have been posting video of the Grey Cup train... always appreciated.

This is ManitobaTransitVids' video of the Grey Cup train at Rivers, Manitoba heading west as part of VIA 1. Note that VIA 6445 was buried behind the two Canadian engines.

DieselSmoke92 shared this lengthy video featuring a walkthrough of the train.

JJ's Railfan Videos caught the eastbound VIA 2 at two locations in Ontario. VIA very nicely put 6445 on the head end this time, and note the three deadhead cars ahead of the normal Canadian consist.

Great fall colours!

Here's David Othen's lengthy video of the train as part of the Ocean. He caught it at a couple of locations in the falling dark as it approached Halifax, and then has some views of the exterior at the Halifax station.

David noted that this is probably the first "J-train" to ever visit the Maritimes. A J-train features two complete trains stuck end to end such that the locomotive(s) from the rear train are coupled to the end of the first train. Normally VIA would take the locomotive(s) off the rear train and put them behind the engines of the first train. In the Corridor between Quebec City and Windsor, VIA runs J trains fairly regularly but it is rare to see them outside the Corridor. I remember that VIA experimented with running the Ocean and Chaleur as a J train in Quebec but found that it was not worthwhile.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Grey Cup Train Update

Grey Cup Tour
The eastern railfans have been reporting on the Grey Cup Train as it made its way to Halifax.

October 7: It is believed that the train was tacked onto the end of Sunday's VIA 2 (Canadian) as it left Winnipeg.
October 9: VIA #2 (Canadian) arrived in Toronto in the afternoon with the Grey Cup Train.
October 11: VIA #14 (Ocean) left Charny, Quebec just after midnight with the Ocean, Chaleur (VIA 16) and Grey Cup train consists. The entire Grey Cup Train was at the end of the combined VIA 14/VIA 16 consist, so the train had 3 F40PH-2 engines, 6 Budd cars (VIA 16), 13 Renaissance cars (VIA 14), VIA 6445, and the 6 Grey Cup cars. Quite a long passenger train for the Maritimes!
October 11: VIA #14 (Ocean) left Campbellton, NB at about 10 AM with the Grey Cup train on the end.
October 11: VIA #14 (Ocean) left Moncton, NB at about 3:40 PM with VIA 6436 and VIA 6432 on the head end, to meet VIA #15 at Evans.

Here are the next few public train viewing dates. Go to for more details.

  • October 13: Train at Halifax VIA Rail station (1161 Hollis Street).
  • October 14: Train at Moncton VIA Rail station (1240 Main Street).
  • October 17: Train at Quebec City VIA Rail station (450 rue de la Gare du Palais).

The original plan was for the Grey Cup train to leave Halifax on Sunday, October 14th at 05:15 as VIA #3, to be at the VIA Rail station in Moncton for the 11 AM opening. It may end up departing on Saturday night instead.

Thanks to everyone in Quebec, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia for their excellent reporting.

Monday, October 08, 2012

The Grey Cup Train, Part 2

Following on my last post about the Grey Cup train, here are some photos of the interior and the festivities outside.

As I said previously, baggage car VIA 8615 had displays showing the history of (Canadian) football and equipment. The next car was provided by Canadian Pacific, CP 103, and contained displays about the Grey Cup game itself, including an extensive set of Grey Cup rings. This is Henry Burris' ring from the Calgary Stampeders' 2008 victory over Montreal.
Calgary Stampeders ring

Nearby was a ring from the Saskatchewan Roughriders from their 2007 victory over the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. Photographing these was challenging because they were behind plexiglass, which is becoming quite scratched. This is Kent Austin's ring, who won the Grey Cup twice as a quarterback (SK, BC) and once as the head coach (SK).
Saskatchewan Roughriders Grey Cup ring - Rustin

There is a spot in the car for the Grey Cup to sit in, but as I said before, it was not on the train at this time.
Grey Cup logo

The next car was another Canadian Pacific car, CP 104.
CP 104

This car had displays for all of the current CFL teams. I tried to explain to this guy that he and his nephew were wearing jerseys for the wrong sport but he was having none of it.
Grey Cup team car CP 104

Our Roughrider family had to pose at the Saskatchewan display.
A Roughrider family

At the end of the car, we faced this obstacle. No entry into the diner for us!
Grey Cup train diner KENT invited guests only

Here is the exterior of VIA 8412 / KENT. This is as far as we were permitted to go to photograph, so I did not get any photos of VIA 8502 or VIA 8208 / CHATEAU DOLLIER.
Exterior of VIA 8412 Grey Cup train

They did do a nice job decorating the cars.
Stamps on the exterior of the Grey Cup train

Back outside the station, there was still a long line waiting to see the train. Note the Canadian Human Rights Museum in the background, still under construction.
Lineup to get into the Grey Cup train

We wandered around the displays for a while. Telus had a Fan Cup there, and there were hot dogs for sale, a football toss, a tackling area, and of course the Grey Cup.
Grey Cup and Human Rights Museum

We joined the line for the Cup and after about 15 minutes, we had our turn.
Me and the Grey Cup

Thanks to the CFL, to VIA Rail, to Rona, and all the other sponsors for supporting this great train and display as it travels across Canada. Look out Halifax, the train is coming to see you next!