Monday, September 19, 2016

The CN Family Day Train

This post is dedicated to David Othen.

The CN Family Day train
On September 10 CN hosted a Family Day in Symington Yard in Winnipeg. CN brought in a ferris wheel and hosted shop tours and other activities for employees and their families. As part of the activities, CN ran a short excursion train along the CN Terminals Cutoff track several times during the day. This track is sometimes known as the St. Boniface spur because it goes through the St. Boniface neighbourhood of Winnipeg, but it's not really a spur at all since it connects to Symington Yard at one end and the CN Redditt subdivision at the other.

The train started just inside Symington Yard, in front of the shops, and headed down the ruler-straight spur over Marion Street and Archibald Street. It stopped on the bridge over the Seine River then back to Symington for the next group of passengers.
CN "Sandford Fleming" car
The train's route
I looked at the line on Google Maps and it was obvious that the light was going to be a... challenge. Basically the light would be behind the train at the start, and as the afternoon wore on it would shift to the front, but in all cases it would be high in the sky.

The train was scheduled to run from 11 AM to 4 PM and I was only able to be there for the first few runs, so... high noon sun. Oh well, work with what you have!

I elected to go to Dawson Road to shoot it shortly after it came out of the yard and crossed over Lagimodiere Boulevard. I parked by the side of the road, and a railfan on the other side of the tracks waved at me and told me the light was much better on his side. I had time so I drove around to Speers Road and parked behind him.

It turned out to be Jim Burnside, a local railfan whose photos appear often on RailsMBSK. We had never met so it was nice to finally put a face to the name.

We chatted for a bit and I agreed the light was better on this side. As it happened we were standing on what used to be route 59, so there is broken and overgrown pavement visible in a few of these shots.
CN 102 in Winnipeg
The train was scheduled to start at 11 and we heard a few toots from the yard but nothing came. I assume they were loading at 11 so it took a bit of time for them to get underway. During this time, another local railfan, Tim Burridge, showed up. We had met before but it had been a few years!

The train finally got underway and was upon us at 11:24. The sequence of shots around this text is the first run.

CN 3105 on the Family Day train
I swapped lenses to get the long shot on 3105 with the sun in its face. I was a little slow deciding to do this, so I had to crop in pretty far.
CN 3105, going away
I said my goodbyes to Jim and Tim and tried to beat them to Archibald Street. Unfortunately I had not planned my route, so I took a right turn leaving Speers Road and got stuck in a subdivision with no exit. Sheepishly, I drove back around and down Dawson Road to see the train coming back up the spur.

I took a moment to photograph the line of GWWD maintenance cars sitting outside their yard - a couple of flatcars, a ballast hopper and five Hart cars.
GWWD maintenance cars

Run 2

I returned to Dawson Road and waited by the side of the road for the second train. I knew the light would be terrible but I wanted to be ready to beat them to Archibald Street.

Yep, the light was terrible
11:51 for the second train.

The going-away shot was OK, though.
CN 3105 going away
I hopped in my car and drove down Dawson Road to try to beat them to Archibald. The lights and traffic were in my favour and I arrived beside the crossing a good 30 seconds before they crossed at 11:56.

Backlit CN 3090
The going-away shot looked pretty fine.
CN 3105 going away.. again
In retrospect I should have stepped across the intersection once they had passed, to get at least a bit of sun on the side, but A) I wasn't sure how far they were going and how much time I had to cross over, and B) it honestly never occurred to me.
Sun and shadow
They did not spend any time on the bridge; they pulled onto the bridge, stopped, then started back up the spur. I decided to shoot video with my iPhone, since I had all the stills I needed from the last minute!

I liked the little guy in the cab of CN 3090!

The conductor waving from the vestibule is Mark Perry, noted photographer and one of the many CN volunteers giving up their Saturdays for the train and the festivities. Many thanks to Mark for the intel on the train and thanks to all of the volunteers for their time and effort.

Round 3

I thought I could maybe squeeze one more train in before I had to leave. I went to Marion Street, midway along the route, and waited near the crossing there for the train to come along.

Unfortunately CN had to pay the bills so they ran a freight train on the "X track" which blocked the Family Day train from leaving. When I saw that, I decided it was time to leave. I headed out on Dawson but as I passed the location where I first shot the train, I saw the Family Day train was en route.

I pulled off the road and jumped out to take video of the train passing by. Jim was right - the light was much better on the other side.

That was it for me.

About the Train

The train was:
  • CN 3090
  • "SANDFORD FLEMING" / IC 800653
  • "TAWAW" / CN 1059
  • CN 102
  • CN 3105

CN 3090 and CN 3105 are shiny new GE ET44AC locomotives, the latest in CN's fleet.

CN 102 was shiny but not at all new, being an E9 unit built in January 1950 as Chicago, Burlington and Quincy #9940A. It was acquired by Illinois Central in 1996 and may still be an IC unit for all I know. You may have noticed that some locomotives labelled as CN are actually IC units, with a little "IC" under the side numbers. I don't see that here but that might not mean much... I'm just a railfan reporting what I see or don't see.

CN 102 was just along for the ride... it wasn't running. In 2014 it was "leading" on the Family Day train, which was better for railfans!
2014 Family Day Train with CN 102
SANDFORD FLEMING is an observation car, lettered for the Illinois Central. It's too bad that it was in the middle of the consist so passengers couldn't see anything out of the end picture window besides the end of TAWAW. I last saw SANDFORD FLEMING in January 2016.

TAWAW is an ex CN car, ex "CAPE CHIGNECTO". It has been extensively rebuilt and is quite nice inside, based on the photos I've seen.

Other Coverage

Many other area railfans were out to shoot the train, and I'll link to a couple:

See Other "business train" blog entries


Unknown said...

Actually, there is a very small bend just southeast of Speers Road, lol.

Unknown said...

Thanks for the post - I love seeing the coaches with the old CN colors. I am also a big fan of the original diesel engine units as well.

I'm curious - you linked to an old post that showed other CN passenger cars - do you (or anyone) have any idea of how many passenger coaches CN still has in their inventory? Is there any website that would have more details/ history of the current cars that they still have?

Canadian Train Geek said...

Hi Sean, for lists like that the Canadian Trackside Guide is your best reference. Part 10 lists "work service cars" and lists each car that CN owns and its lineage. You have to filter through the list a bit because it includes ballast TEST boxcars as well as cars like dome "AMERICAN SPIRIT", but it's the best reference I know of.

Unknown said...

Great to see the photos of the new ET44ACs, imho alot nicer looking than the previous GE evolution locos!

Mike Winiarz said...

You should see inside the carbody! What a mess of piping and all! Not friendly to work on and they have been experiencing some exhausts leaks around the turbo from what I've seen.

Canadian Train Geek said...

Hi Mike, I'd love to see inside the carbody! ;) I imagine it is pretty tight in there. Hopefully they can keep the old girl running for a while yet.