Friday, May 17, 2013

Just Barely

VIA 6415 outside Winnipeg
It had been a long time since I'd seen a Canadian on the road, so on Thursday I decided to catch it at noon. As luck would have it, I was delayed a few minutes leaving work and ended up sitting at the traffic light by IKEA and watching VIA 1 roll by in the distance. I made up a bit of time on the Sterling Lyon parkway heading west but I was stopped again at a red light at Shaftesbury Boulevard. Darn it!

The road speed limit is 80 km/hr (50 MPH) for several kilometres, while track speed is 35 MPH so it is possible to make up some ground. The road speed limit goes up to 90 km/hr/55 MPH after Elmhurst Road but unfortunately for train chasers, the rail speed limit goes up to 45 MPH at mile 8.3 and 60 MPH (80 MPH for passenger trains!) at mile 9.8 just short of the hotbox detector at mile 10. If VIA has a clear signal, there is no catching them after the hotbox!

Fortunately for me, the VIA crew didn't seem to be in a huge hurry after Carman Junction, so I was able to slowly pull ahead by mile 12. As it happens, they had a CLEAR TO LIMITED signal approaching Diamond. Trains get this signal when they are changing tracks at Diamond. The Diamond interlocking is at mile 14.3 but the important thing is that there is a STOP sign at the intersection of Wilkes and Harris Road. I will not blow through a stop sign so I knew I had to get my shot before then, or there was zero chance of getting anything but stainless in the distance.

So I hastily pulled over a few hundred metres short of the stop sign and jumped out, camera in hand. I grabbed the above shot of the lead engine, VIA 6415, and then started recording the consist using the classic Bill Linley method of photographing every car. The train had 22 cars, including a deadheading WATERTON PARK just behind VIA 6431.

The trailing car was TREMBLANT PARK, with someone taking my photograph!
Tremblant Park near Winnipeg

Here's the "going away" shot as they cross Harris Road and approach Diamond.
VIA's Canadian outside Winnipeg

I did not make any attempt to pursue, of course!

Fellow railfan Manny Jacob shot the train later on in Portage la Prairie.
VIA 6415 in Portage la Prairie by Manny Jacob

Afterword: I have reworked the home page of my site. I'm trying to streamline the navigation and feature my photography more. I'd appreciate your comments, good or bad.

EDIT: Revised the signal indication that VIA would have seen.

Sunday, May 05, 2013

CEMR Pine Falls Subdivision Report

The kids and I went to Pine Falls, Manitoba today. I purchased a scanner via Kijiji and had to go there to pick it up (more on that another time). It's quite a drive from Winnipeg to Pine Falls, well over an hour. I took the opportunity to have a look at the CEMR Pine Falls subdivision.

The Central Manitoba Railway assumed operation of the former CN Pine Falls subdivision on May 2, 1999. I wasn't in Manitoba at the time but I understand the major customers on the line were:
  • Imperial Oil just outside Winnipeg
  • A Cargill grain elevator at Birds Hill
  • Coal for the East Selkirk power generation plant
  • A grain elevator in Libau
  • The Pine Falls paper mill
The Pine Falls subdivision was notable for having light rail.

Unfortunately for CEMR and the line, the customers have been dropping off since then. The East Selkirk plant switched to natural gas by 2002. The grain elevator in Libau seems defunct. The biggest blow, however, was the loss of the Pine Falls paper mill.

I understand the Pine Falls mill was founded in 1917 and was owned by Abitibi from 1928 to 1994, then eventually by Tembec. In 2009 Tembec sought concessions from its workers to keep the mill open, and after a dispute, they were locked out on September 1 and despite their determination the mill was permanently closed in September 2010 and sold to Pine Falls Development, a subsidiary of NRI Global, in 2011.

Anyway, on to my trip.

On my way north on highway 59, I saw a grain elevator, so I ducked into Libau to photograph it. The line appears disused but it is intact.
Libau grain elevator

The line crosses highway 59 just before the junction with highway 304 at mile 49 of the subdivision. I noticed that the rails were missing and the crossing signals were dismantled.

The line crosses highway 304 at mile 55.7 and again, the rails are missing.

In Pine Falls, the mill is pretty much gone now. There are materials stacked up for salvage to the side.

When the mill was still in operation, it was using ex-CN SW8 7158 . It is still on the property, very isolated from any rail network.
Ex CN 7158 in Pine Falls Manitoba

Want to buy it? A mere $101,860.68 and it's yours! I find it interesting that the item location is listed as Buffalo, NY and they "may not ship to Canada"...

I understand that the Pine Falls subdivision has been used for rail car storage up to Selkirk, although I did see a CEMR train shunting the CN hoppers in Selkirk. Maybe they were doing training.

On my way back to Winnipeg, I found the end of rail, just past mile 41. This is near the South Beach Casino.

Thursday, May 02, 2013

Near Collision Video From 1991

This is a scary video!

According to the comments in the video, courtesy of Christian Base, VIA #41 was bound for Toronto when it rounded a bend on the CN Smiths Falls subdivision and discovered a CP local where it should not have been. The CP local had been working and had gone out onto the main without a clearance. Fortunately the VIA crew were alert and put the train into emergency and it was able to stop in time. Notice the crew bailed out just in case, and also notice the CP train went into reverse.

Rail safety... not just for people on the ground!

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Bye bye, Viterra

Viterra grain elevator in Balgonie Saskatchewan
Richardson International Limited has completed its acquisition of Viterra assets. The agreeement transferred ownership of 19 elevators, 13 crop input centres and other assets to Richardson, as well as Viterra's interest in a nitrogen processing facility in Medicine Hat to Agrium.

Get your photos of Viterra's signs while you can, before they are replaced with orange Pioneer signs!

Pioneer elevator at St Josephs Saskatchewan
Winnipeg Free Press article
Richardson news release
Viterra news release