Wednesday, June 18, 2014

In Search of Grain Elevators, Part 1

Sunrise photo, Portage la Prairie, Manitoba, 2014/5/31
Back in April I mentioned that my 2014 project is to photograph as many Manitoba grain elevators as I can. I now have a web site/blog just for that, At the time I said I'd photographed almost 40 elevators. Today I'm up to 78.

I've captured pretty much every elevator in easy driving distance of Winnipeg. The bulk of the remaining 100 or so are either in the southwestern part of Manitoba or in the north. Late last month, I decided to do a little road trip to capture eight elevators in one long morning. After the go-ahead from my loving wife ("Do I have to come? Knock yourself out") meticulous planning (thank you, Google Maps and Excel), and a good weather forecast, I set the alarm for "stupid early" on May 30th and went to bed.

"Stupid early" was 03:30 on May 31. Keep in mind this was the end of May so sunrise was pretty early. I was out of the house and on the road before 4 and even then there was a bit of light in the sky. I drove up from south Winnipeg to the Trans-Canada Highway and headed west. My target area was north of the TCH in the triangle between Portage la Prairie, Carberry and Gladstone.

As I passed Elie, I decided to photograph the elevator there against the lightening sky.
Elie grain elevator
Elie grain elevator
Sadly no train came along, and I didn't have time to wait. I continued on to Portage, photographing the Viterra elevator at Tucker just east of Portage on the CP Carberry subdivision. Still no sun!
Viterra grain elevator at Tucker
Tucker grain elevator
I drove through Portage, since I hadn't seen the CP station since they placed the caboose there. It looked nice in the poor light... although the sun was almost up.
CP station in Portage la Prairie
CP Station in Portage la Prairie
I knew they had a caboose (CP 434560) but I didn't realize they had a baggage-express car (CP 404231). According to this page, the car was scrapped in Brandon, but obviously it was not.

When I finished photographing the station, I noticed a headlight off to the west. It turned out to be a CN eastbound and I had to try to photograph it passing the station. At 5:15 AM you have to be creative. I set the shutter speed to 1/20s, locked onto the station and waited for the train to come into the frame.
CN 8003 in Portage la Prairie
CN 8003 in Portage la Prairie
I did a pan shot, mostly to capture the engine number. It actually worked out pretty well, I think.
CN 8003 in Portage la Prairie
CN 8003 Pan
This was not my first sighting of CN 8003!

That was fun, but I had elevators to photograph! I headed out of town but very shortly I saw a train rolling east against the rising sun, which had finally ascended above the horizon. I pulled over to the side of the highway and took a little silhouette photo - the lead photo of this post. Techniques for taking sunrise/sunset photos is probably the subject for another post. You can't just point your camera at the sun and shoot, because the sun will be over-exposed and just be a big white hole in the photo. The essential thing is to crank the exposure compensation way down to ensure the sun isn't blown out.

At MacGregor, I turned north on "highway" 650 and headed toward the Katrime grain elevator. It's a dirt road but it was in pretty good condition. Shortly before Katrime, I crossed the CN Gladstone subdivision at mile 21.98.

The town of Katrime is a pretty small community, basically just a few houses and a grain elevator. The elevator is a former Manitoba Pool elevator. It looks like it may be in private use but it has no rail access, as the siding was removed some time ago and it doesn't show up on CN timetables any more.

I have posts for each of the elevators up on the site, but here's a photo for Katrime.
Katrime grain elevator
Katrime grain elevator
After I documented that thoroughly, I continued north on "highway" 650 toward Gladstone. This section of road was terrible. I was driving my Honda Civic and it was clearly not the right vehicle for the heavy ruts in this road. It was touch and go to avoid bottoming out, but fortunately I made it out without any scraping.

Once on the Yellowhead (highway 16), it was clear sailing toward Gladstone. I spotted an unknown-to-me elevator at a farm (the Steele Bridge Farm elevator) and photographed it, then carried on toward Gladstone.

Very soon after that, I spotted a headlight in the distance. Could it be... a train? Very soon it became obvious that it was indeed a Canadian Pacific train on the CP Minnedosa subdivision - my first. I picked a spot and pulled over to wait for it to come to me.
CP 9752 near Gladstone
CP 9752 near Gladstone
I was feeling pretty good - three trains and two new grain elevators so far!

I went into Gladstone to photograph the elevator there. CN and CP parallel each other here, much like Portage la Prairie, except of course both the CN Gladstone and CP Minnedosa subdivisions are fairly low traffic lines. There's even a diamond in town, just like Portage.

Anyway, I wasn't there for railfanning, so I shot the elevator and got out of Happy Rock.
Gladstone grain elevator
Shark's Teeth - buy this print
From Gladstone I set off for the grain elevator at Helston. This is an old elevator that was on the CN Neepawa subdivision. I stayed on pavement on highway 34 until I had to turn west. A few turns here and there on dirt roads (thank you, GPS) found me in the small community of Helston. After dodging a (live) skunk, I parked and walked about five minutes in to see the lovely old Pool elevator.
Helston grain elevator
Come Into the Light - buy this print
There's more information in my post about Helston. It appears to be unused, except perhaps for target practice - there are quite a few spent shotgun shells around. A few of the doors are open but I did not go in.

I really enjoyed this elevator. It's beautiful and the light was just great. The only problem were the many, many black flies. Guess who forgot their bug spray? I was wearing a hoodie in the selfie below for the flies, not the temperature!
Helston Grain Elevator Selfie
After Helston, I went back north to Arden. The former Manitoba Pool grain elevator at Arden is on the CP Minnedosa subdivision. I don't think the elevator is active, although it still has a siding.
Arden grain elevator
Arden grain elevator
After that, it was back south to head to Oberon, Brookdale, Mentmore and more and more!

On to part 2!


Michael said...

I love the shot from Helston. That grassy path reminds me of what happens to old rights-of-way when they are not turned into recreational paths. Nature always finds a way to reclaim what it's owed. Great start to this project.

Canadian Train Geek said...

Thanks, Michael, that was a favourite of mine.