Friday, June 24, 2016

A Prairie Railfanning Adventure (Guest Post) - Part 2/2

Local railfan Jack Hykaway shared this great railfan adventure. Follow Jack on YouTube! He included so much content and so many photos that I have broken it into two parts (Link to part 1)

VIA 2 Arrives

A backlit VIA 2 rolls into Melville six hours behind schedule
Melville is a crew change point for VIA and for most CN trains, and when a fresh VIA crew showed up at the station, I knew the train must be close. I asked the engineer what time the train would be due in the station, “It shouldn’t be long now, the train is very close” he replied.

The engineer waited on the platform with myself and the retired CN employee. He informed us that he would have the pedal to the metal for the trip to Winnipeg and that we would only be meeting three westbounds on the trip to Union Station.

Finally, at 6:30, the distinct sound of a VIA horn shattered the silence. The train crawled into Melville station, running six hours behind schedule. I was anxious to get on and relax for the ride to Winnipeg.

I was welcomed onboard by the Service Manager, and he showed me to a free seat. I didn’t spend a minute in my coach seat. Instead, I made a bee-line up to the dome car. It was completely empty, which gave me the opportunity to grab the best seat available.
VIA No. 2 departing Melville
At 6:40, the two F40PH-3 locomotives rumbled to life, and with a jolt, the train started rolling forward. The locomotives hustled the long train out of the yard and onto the mainline. The wind was behind the train and with 6,000 horses on the head-end, we were doing good track speed in no time flat.
Outside of Melville, we met an intermodal, led by a CN SD70M-2 and an IC Deathstar SD70
By the time we reached Cana, we were doing 80 MPH with nothing but clear signals stretching to the horizon. We maintained the aggressive pace through Waldron, Bangor, Atwater, and Zeneta, but we slowed for the sharp curves near Yarbo and Gerald.
Both F40s belch fumes as they spring along the mainline near Yarbo, SK at 80 MPH
The Mosaic K2 Potash Mine near Gerald, SK
Large potash mines dominate the landscape in this region. Mosaic has two huge mines near Yarbo, on the North and South sides of CN’s mainline. Since Melville, a few other passengers joined me in the dome, and they were admiring the impressive mines. A VIA crewmember was quick to inform the passengers over the PA system that what they were looking at was a potash mine.

VIA No. 2 about to cross the impressive trestle near Gerald, SK
After crossing the impressive trestle at Gerald, the engineer opened the taps on the F40s and we were making good time again by the time we reached Spy Hill, SK. As we crossed into Manitoba, the train began its descent into the Assiniboine River Valley, which meant we could no longer keep our fast pace.

A wide shot of the interior of the dome in the skyline car
This is the most scenic part of the seven-hour journey. The tracks cling to the side of the valley wall as they descend towards St Lazare, MB. Three quarters of the way down, a spur branches off to the south of the mainline. This line swings back into Saskatchewan to connect the Potash Corp potash mine at Rocanville, SK with CN’s mainline. At St. Lazare, VIA 2 crossed the Assiniboine River on a through truss bridge, then the train tilted around a broad corner and followed the meandering course of the Assiniboine River on the valley floor.
The train flies through the through truss bridge near St Lazare, MB
Immediately after crossing the bridge, VIA No. 2 passes through St Lazare proper, and swings around a corner as it passes through town
A scenic highlight on the trip and a favourite railfanning spot among prairie railfans is the impressive trestle at Uno, MB. At approximately 1,500 feet long, it feels as if the train is floating in mid-air while crossing the impressive structure. Passengers sitting behind me in the dome scrambled to grab photos of the spectacular views down the valley at this location.
The power passes the station sign at Uno, MB.
In a few minutes the train will be high above the valley floor on the impressive Uno trestle.
As we left the Assiniboine River Valley behind, passengers filed out of the dome car, leaving only me and a few others to enjoy the views. At Arrow River, the sun’s position made for an interesting shot as the train swung around the broad curves.
The sun reflects off of the shiny roofs of VIA’s classic Budd equipment
as the train passes through Arrow River, MB
As the track straightened out for the run to Rivers, the engineer let the horses run on the two F40s once more.
VIA 2 exits the Assiniboine River Valley near Miniota, MB.
The train is passing under an old wooden bridge just outside of town
The train brakes were applied when we encountered a Diverging-to-Stop signal at the west end of Myra Siding. It was a perfect meet with a westbound freight – neither train had to stop.
VIA 2 met CN 2239 at Myra Siding as it headed west with a long string of manifest freight in tow.

VIA 2 got back onto the mainline and the train drifted into its station stop in Rivers, MB just as the sun was falling behind the horizon.
VIA 2 gets clearance, and proceeds out onto the mainline following a meet at Myra
Sunset in the Skyline
The train was only stopped in Rivers for a few minutes before we departed for Winnipeg in the fading light.
Departing Rivers, MB with darkness quickly falling
There was still enough light outside to make out the overpasses at Grants and at Moffat – both of which are popular railfanning locations, but there were no railfans waiting on us tonight.

Darkness fell by the time we reached Harte, and the train pierced through the night for the rest of its trip to Winnipeg.
Rounding the curve at Grants Cut. Note the Panorama Car a few cars back in the consist
We made good time to Portage La Prairie thanks to recent track work at Firdale. At PlaP, we stopped for ten minutes to let a handful of passengers disembark. From there, there was nothing but double track between us and Union Station, except for a few hundred yards of single track at Nattress, where the mainline crosses the Assiniboine River again. The engineer skillfully guided the train through the fog at a blistering 80 MPH along this double track superhighway. We cruised by two stopped intermodal trains waiting for us to clear the single track at Nattress, then we were the only train on the line until we reached Winnipeg.
LED signals light up the night as the train speeds towards Winnipeg
It wasn’t long before locations familiar to me, such as Calrin and Diamond, flashed by the windows in the darkened dome. We rounded the curve at Portage Junction at about 12:50 AM.

The train finally pulled through the train shed at Union Station in Winnipeg at 1:00 AM, only five and a half hours after leaving Melville.

Number 2 would be cleaned and serviced in Winnipeg in just half an hour. Re-boarding for the trip through Ontario would commence at 1:45, and departure would be somewhere around 2:00, putting the train a mere two hours behind schedule – not bad for a train that rolled into Melville six hours late!

Thank you, Jack, for this great guest post! Check out Jack's great videos on YouTube.

Back to part 1

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