Friday, September 26, 2014

Book Review: Westbound by Mike Chandler

Review: Westbound: A Portfolio of Western Railroading by Mike Chandler.

I stumbled across this book last week in a used book store. The cover grabbed my attention with VIA's train at Morant's Curve. I flipped through it briefly and bought it within minutes.

As the author, Mike Chandler, says in the foreword, the book is "with minimal text". This is mostly a picture book. The pictures are excellent - lots of "behind the scenes" photos from the author's long career with CN.

I really like how the book is organized. It has the following sections:

  • Off the Main
  • Across the Flatlands
  • At the Depot
  • On the Shop Track
  • Through the Mountains
  • Against the Elements
  • In the Yard
  • Along the Line

The majority of the photos were taken in Canada, but there are a few American photos as well. The photography is excellent and varied - from panoramic shots like the cover to close-up "Greg McDonnell" style photos (and I say that as a compliment).

If I'm not mistaken, this Master Model Railroader is Mike Chandler.

I highly recommend this book. Westbound: A Portfolio of Western Railroading (Amazon affiliate link).

Note that you can buy the book directly from the publisher at: Bonaventure Press, 1101-720 Hamilton Street, New Westminster, B.C., Canada V3M 7A6.The purchase price of $39.95 is all inclusive.Thanks to the author for this information.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Grain Elevators of the Glenboro Subdivision

Come with me while I show you the grain elevators still standing on the Canadian Pacific (CP) Glenboro subdivision, from Winnipeg to Souris, Manitoba.

First, let's talk about the Glenboro subdivision. The subdivision runs from Woodman, which is on the CP Carberry subdivision, 3.8 miles west of Rugby aka the yard. At mile 12.4 it crosses the CN Rivers subdivision at Diamond.

In A Grain Elevator Loop, Part 1 I discussed the first four stations, Starbuck, Fannystelle, Culross and Elm Creek. Here's some photos I didn't use the first time.
Elm Creek

There's no elevator at St. Claude, and I haven't found any mention of any former elevator there. One has to imagine there was one.

Next is Rathwell. This town no longer has a grain elevator (in 1990 it still had 3!) but it does have a grain facility. Louis Dreyfus has a 42,000 tonne facility just west of town. In fact, the Canadian Trackside Guide says it has an SW1200 for switching. I honestly just took one snap and carried on so I never saw the loco.
Louis Dreyfus, Rathwell

There are no elevators in Treherne, although there certainly were some. They were gone by 2007.

Note that CP has been threatening to abandon a portion of the Glenboro subdivision since 2006. The section between Rathwell and Page had no rail users. Later this was amended to Rathwell to Nesbitt. Surprisingly, in mid 2014 CP removed the Glenboro subdivision from their list of "to discontinue" lines. Back in 2010 I reported that the River Hills Railroad was looking at taking it over, but that's over and the RHR's web site is offline.

Holland is next on the line. It has a lovely Paterson elevator.
Paterson in Holland, MB
Holland is a nice little town. I love these murals showing their civic pride.
Tammy Mahon was on Canada's national women's volleyball team from 2002 to 2012, and was the captain from 2008. She was also a star track and field athlete. Good for her and good for Holland for being proud of her.

Holland even has a windmill.

Next is Cypress River, featuring two elevators, both now Paterson elevators.
Paterson grain elevators in Cypress River
While documenting these elevators, I came across this little fella.
Grain elevatorsssssssssss
It was very much alive, but quite scared of me, and slithered away to do snake things.

After Cypress River is Glenboro. There are no elevators there any more, sadly.

Next is Nesbitt. This town actually features two grain elevators. The first is the former Manitoba Pool grain elevator just east of town.
Former Manitoba Pool elevator, Nesbitt
There is a large Cargill facility a few kilometres west of town. This facility has a capacity of 17,700 tonnes, and when I saw it, it was being served by CP!
Working the elevator
CP 8755 and CP 3079 were doing the honours.
Red Power
There was a crew van at the crossing I was at. I assume these guys were coming off shift when they were done switching.
Cargill near Nesbitt
The next location on the CP Glenboro subdivision is Page, and it has no elevators.

The western end of the Glenboro subdivision is at Souris, where it meets the CP Estevan subdivision. Souris is graced with two grain elevators. There's the former Manitoba Pool elevator, at the junction of the two subdivisions.
Pool Power
Just to the left of the elevator, you can see its replacement, the Viterra "Souris East" grain elevator.
Souris East
This Viterra facility has a LOT of storage tracks!
Storage? We got storage!
There you have it - the remaining grain elevators on the CP Glenboro subdivision. I hope you enjoyed the tour!

Extra - If you are doing serious research, may I recommend the Mendeley program. It tracks your PDFs and research items and allows you to do searching, quoting, and annotation. I use it for my grain elevator research and it is great at search. And it's free!

Extra extra - You might also like Elevators of the Carman Subdivision.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Where Do You Buy Your Photography Equipment From?

Morant's Curve
In these days of always-on Internet, there are so many choices available to the smart consumer. It's hard to know where to go for the best prices on camera equipment. Here I'll present a few of the places I look. Please leave a comment if you have any additional places you look.

Your Local Camera Shop
If you're fortunate enough to have a local camera store, this is a great place to start. Their staff are usually quite knowledgeable and you can get your hands on the equipment to try it out in the store. Personally I go to Don's Photo as it is within a few kilometres of my house. I get a discount for being part of a local camera club and their store is well-stocked and they are pretty competitive on price. I bought my Canon 70-200mm f/4 L lens at Don's and they were able to offer a great price.

One thing I will say: I don't recommend that you go to a local camera store to try stuff out, then walk out and buy it online. That's not fair to the store.

Big Box Stores
Stores like Future Shop, Best Buy, London Drugs and even Wal-Mart (ptooey) sell a variety of camera equipment. Their selection tends to be on the low end but you'd be surprised what you can find there. The prices are competitive but the sales staff may not be very knowledgeable.

Online Retailers
There are a dizzying variety of online retailers. These are the ones I go to to research and/or buy camera equipment:
Kijiji / eBay
I bought my Canon 50mm f/1.8 II lens via Kijiji and the transaction went very well. I sold my 55-250mm lens through Kijiji and, although it was a bit of a pain to close the deal, it was successful.

How About You?
Where do you go for your photography needs?

EDITED September 26, 2014 to add more online retailers.

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Knox and Forrest

Recently Darren Mckay posted (on the RailsMBSK Facebook group) an aerial photo (that I believe he took) of the Viterra grain elevator at Knox, just north of Brandon, Manitoba. With his permission I am posting it here... slightly edited for contrast and saturation.
Knox grain elevator, by Darren Mckay

We had a good discussion about the area and I thought I'd write a blog post about it. You see, if you look just a bit farther afield, there is a fair bit of rail history here. Here's a Google Earth screen capture that I annotated to show what was around here.

There's the CN Rivers subdivision (originally the Grand Trunk Pacific) going across the bottom, but you'll notice I marked in two CP subdivisions that do not exist any more: the CP Rapid City subdivision that ran between Brandon and Minnedosa, and the CP Lenore subdivision that ran between Forrest and Lenore, MB.

CP Rapid City
Let's talk about the CP Rapid City subdivision (don't confuse it with the CN Rapid City subdivision!)

As I said, the original CP Rapid City subdivision ran from Brandon to Minnedosa, running generally north-south with a big side trip to Gauthier and Rapid City.

View CP Rapid City Subdivision in a larger map
Map courtesy of Brian Switzer.

In 1963 the north portion was abandoned and the remainder was merged with the CP Miniota subdivision... which was abandoned in 1980.

Anyway, back to the area in question. In the Google Earth image I showed, there are two interesting areas. Forrest, Manitoba has a former Manitoba Pool grain elevator.

It was also the start of the CP Lenore subdivision. The wye that started the subdivision was just north of the elevator and is still visible from a satellite view (GPS: 49.971967, -99.941320). From the Forrest elevator, the rail corridor is still pretty visible.

If you kept going north on the CP Rapid City subdivision, you'd cross the CN Rivers subdivision. What is also evident from a satellite view is that there was a connecting track between CN and CP. (GPS: 49.998370, -99.946814)

I'm told that CP used this connecting track to serve the North Brandon passenger station. Oddly I can't find any reference to a CP North Brandon station in their timetables.

I found this image of the Grand Trunk Pacific station at Knox, dated somewhere between 1900 and 1909 (courtesy University of Saskatchewan Archives)

Knox was one of the Grand Trunk Pacific's alphabet railway stations. You may remember I recently posted about Justice, just up the line, and before that Gregg and Harte.
A little quiz for the reader: why did the mileage change between the Grand Trunk Pacific timetable and the CNR timetable?

CP Varcoe Subdivision
Continuing a few miles north on the CP Rapid City subdivision, you would encounter the start of the CP Varcoe subdivision, which ran from Varcoe to MacGregor and included the Brookdale and Oberon grain elevators.
It was another wye. (GPS: 50.070547, -99.964051)

That line crossed the CN Rivers subdivision (at the east end) as well as the old CN Neepawa subdivision.


Do you ever get the feeling that railways in the Prairies were like a big bowl of spaghetti, like some 1960s Model Railroader track plan?
All Railways Lead to Winnipeg
(courtesy Atlas of Canada, 1957)

Friday, September 05, 2014

A Grain Elevator Loop, Part 2

Back in April 2014 I went on a little "loop" to photograph some new-to-me grain elevators. I wrote about the first half here and now I'll complete the story.

But first, I'll show you the route I took.
3 hours... plus picture taking time!
I couldn't put Culross or Barnsley on there as Google Maps has a limit on the number of waypoints, alas.

After we visited Graysville, we doubled back through Carman and headed down to the 23. At the intersection of 3 and 23 stands the Jordan grain elevator.

This is part of a Delmar Commodities complex including a soybean crushing facility.

Highway 23 basically parallels the former CN Miami subdivision, and the roadbed was plainly visible in many places. I guess it has only been about 7 years since the Southern Manitoba Railway abandoned it.

The next elevator was at Kane, Manitoba.
The Spirit Lives On

Kane had two grain elevators (Paterson and UGG) for quite some time. The UGG elevator was demolished in 1996.
(buy this print)

It looks like there are two elevators stuck together, and I guess in some ways that's true. The more weathered elevator was built in 1947. In 1981, major work was done and the silver portion was added, as the second-last wooden grain elevator to be built in Manitoba (Culross was the last).

A few miles down the road is Lowe Farm.
Elevator plus annex

This is clearly a former Manitoba Pool grain elevator.
Drive here
After visited Lowe Farm, we carried on east to Morris (detail on Morris here). Here we found the current end of the CN Miami subdivision, such as it is.
I was expecting just a pile of dirt!

I also spotted another semaphore in Morris, this time on the north end of town on the CP side. Sorry for the poor composition but I couldn't figure out a way to get closer without trespassing.
An old relic

That was the end of our grain elevator loop... we returned to Winnipeg on highway 75 to make cookies in the afternoon. :)


Tuesday, September 02, 2014

A Grain Elevator Loop, Part 1

Back in April 2014 I was just starting my Manitoba Grain Elevator project, and at that time I had lots of elevators to photograph near Winnipeg. On Good Friday, April 18th, the kids were off from school but my wife was working, so I decided to take them along and photograph some elevators. Child abuse, I know.

We set off from Winnipeg and headed down highway 2, which parallels the CP Glenboro subdivision for quite a distance. I had of course scouted out some locations using Google Maps and Street View so I had a route selected. I had never been along the Glenboro so it was exciting (to me) that way as well.

The first elevator we saw was the modern Pioneer facility in Starbuck. This large facility replaced a few local elevators.
Not the Battlestar Galactica Starbuck

After a few photographs, I carried on to the next location, Fannystelle. Don't you love the name?

Fannystelle has a modern Viterra grain elevator beside the highway, but I spied an old wooden elevator tucked into the town. It turns out it was a private elevator, owned by Stevens & Company, advertising "LUMBER, COAL AND GRAIN". There is still a Stevens Lumber in town, active.
A unique elevator

The Viterra elevator is nice, I guess... although it doesn't have nearly as much character as the Stevens elevator.
Blue Prairie Monster
There's a lovely church in town as well.

Next up was the Culross grain elevator, conveniently located right beside the highway. It is an unusually-shaped elevator, very squarish, and it has no annex nor any bins for additional storage.
A sharp looking elevator

The next community was Elm Creek, which sports two grain elevators, a modern Cargill facility as well as a former Manitoba Pool grain elevator.

I honestly didn't spend much time photographing the Cargill elevator, as it is.. well.. let's be honest, butt-ugly.
Let's just call it "plain"

This is the back, but the front looks pretty much the same.
Not sure which is the "good side"

The more interesting elevator is the former Manitoba Pool grain elevator.
That's the stuff

After I took the following photograph, I had to check my camera settings.
What the heck???

I couldn't figure out what I had done wrong... until I looked up and saw this.
Ring Around a Star - anyone read "Ringworld"?

This is a solar halo, a phenomenon much like sundogs caused by ice crystals in the air. Remember, this was April!

Well, that was exciting, but it was time to carry on south. I left the Glenboro sub and headed south, paralleling what was the CP Carman subdivision. I've blogged about that before. That Pool elevator in Elm Creek was on the start of what was the CP Carman sub.

Midway between Elm Creek and Carman is Barnsley, which today is a few houses and two lovely old grain elevators. One was a Manitoba Pool elevator and one was UGG.

Aging gracefully

Once we reached Carman, we stopped to have a bite to eat at the local Co-Op, as that was one of the few places open on Good Friday. After taking care of that, we had a quick look around Carman. There are no elevators left there but there is Linear Grain, a company formed in 1981. They provide a variety of services to local producers and are rail-served by CEMR.

The train station in Carman was transformed into the home for a local arts organization, the Golden Prairie Arts Council.
Now that's the way to preserve a station!

We then headed west out of Carman toward Graysville to see the end of the CEMR Carman subdivision and the grain elevator there.
Yer basic Pool elevator with annex

The end of the Carman subdivision, mile 51.0, is pretty unexciting.
It ends.. here

When researching this post, I found a web page, Cando Modal-Logic (that appears to maybe be under construction), that hosts a very cool PDF showing maps of CEMR's facilities in Winnipeg, Carman and Barrie as well as BNSF Manitoba's facility. All of the track from Carman to Graysville is listed as a 550 car storage track so I guess the elevator isn't serviced by rail any more.

I'm going to stop here... although we didn't. In part 2 we carry on south and then retrace the former CN Miami subdivision to Morris!

PS thanks everyone for your kind comments on my recent posts - glad to see you're reading and liking what I'm writing!

Read part 2