Saturday, December 30, 2017

2017 Wrap-Up

Photo by Mark Perry
This is my year-end post, as 2017 draws rapidly to a close. Get ready for some photos, lots of statistics, and some rambling. So, nothing out of the ordinary! ;)

The Big Picture

2017 was a good year for me. I started out with some actual plans (gasp). I did some of what was on the list... Ontario Southland, and some guest posts... I got a bit distracted on the grain elevator front by the renewed site.

I did some traveling... although by past years' standards, I didn't travel that much.
We had some foreign power in Winnipeg via BNSF detours (at night, too), plus a few oddballs like a Kansas City Southern unit and ex Warbonnet leased power on CN.
Warbonnet on CN!?
The Canada 150 celebrations gave us some VIA wraps as well as the CP Canada 150 train. CN ran a special caboose train for their employees, and CP had their annual Holiday Train.

The Statistics

Adobe Lightroom says I took a little over 15,000 photos and videos in 2017, which is a bit ridiculous. Keep in mind that my wife and I went to Italy in May-June which accounts for a bit over 4,000 photos.

Blog-wise, I posted 59 times on Confessions of a Train Geek, which is a new low. I think I'm posting longer and more detailed content, so I'm OK with that lower post count.

Only 6 posts at Confessions of a Model Train Geek... which reflects my level of model train activity. I just haven't been really into it. That's OK - it's a hobby.

I've been really pounding it out at my new site, Grain Elevators of Canada. 231 pages online so far and more to come! I have a few more contributors sending photos to me so more and more elevators will be coming online shortly. I've been so impressed by how many people have stepped up and freely offered their photos for sharing. Thank you.

I had a huge spike in traffic in April when I posted the Piney train station post. It went viral - maybe my first - and for a couple of days I had over a thousand pageviews a day. After that - back to the usual. My 40 Mile Railway post was well shared but not on the "Piney scale".


I spend most of my social networking time on Facebook and Instagram, and occasionally Twitter. My Traingeek Images Facebook page has been growing pretty rapidly over the past couple of weeks. I'm not sure why but it's been getting a lot of "likes" such that I'm at 1064 page likes and growing by about 20-25 a week. That many likes and $2.36 will buy you an extra large coffee at Tim's.

On Instagram I cut back to posting 3 images/week, at the same time as I post on Facebook and Twitter. Here are my "best nine" for 2017 aka #2017bestnine.

104,102 likes, and $2.36, will buy that coffee at Tim's. I'm rolling in the "likes". Cha-ching!

What's With the Sarcasm?

I'm being a bit sarcastic about the number of "likes" because I don't really think they are worth worrying too much about. People will like what they like, and if they like my photos, great! You're here reading because you like my stuff, and thanks for that!

I try not to obsess about how many likes my photos and posts get, because I share photos and my words because I want to. I'm just glad some people see them.

Please don't think I don't appreciate you reading my posts. I do. I really do. I just don't get upset when I don't get "enough" likes.

Next Year

So what's on the agenda for next year?

I'd still like to go to Assiniboia, SK. I've planted the idea in my wife's ear and hopefully I'll get out there in the spring. Churchill seems "right out" since the rail line is still broken and may never get fixed.

I've had a few people ask me to write a Manitoba grain elevator book. I haven't the slightest idea how to get a book published but I think I will look into that.

We're going to Edmonton and Jasper this summer, so there will be railfanning! I've been to Edmonton but not to Jasper, so I look forward to more mountain trains.

I'll be posting more grain elevators on Grain Elevators of Canada. Hopefully I'll photograph some more myself!

I have some ideas on eBooks and so forth. Pretty soon I'll send a survey out on my mailing list so keep an eye out for that.


Thanks to commenters Jenn, George, Eric, BW, Jason, Doug, Michael, Tom, Mike, 5879East, Rick, Chris, André, David, James, Jim, DaveM, Karl, Patrice, Richard, Taylor, GP9Rm4108, Bryan, Carol, AJ, _Don, Bill, Sheldon, Brad, Red River Rail, Harry, Jeff, Cornergas Craig, Andrew, Brian, wainair, RCP, Doonhamer, Alexandre, jonovision_man, Heinz, Dale, myhydro, DaveM, Lee, Dash 8, Mark, Rory, craigpei, Carolina Caboose Captain, Shane, shnorth123, and of course, Anonymous.

Here's to a great 2018!

You can see my 2014, 2015 or 2016 year in review.

PS: hey, why not join my mailing list and get a weekly email filled with photos?

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Kitchener Railfanning

I was in the Kitchener-Waterloo area in mid October to see my son Nick graduate from the University of Waterloo. It's hard to believe he's old enough to graduate from university... sheesh.

Anyway, there were trains. Here they are.

CN En Route

As I was driving west on highway 401 on October 19th, I spotted a pair of CN locomotives doing some industrial switching. I exited quickly and found CN 4710 and CN 4136..
CN 4710 in the Guelph area?
Note the numbers under the cab... CN 4710 was originally built as CN 5510 and the two "5" digits are showing through. It's a GP38-2.
CN 4710 turning back into CN 5510 again
The second unit was GP9RM CN 4136 in sergeant stripes as well.
CN 4136 with sergeant stripes
Both of those locomotives were "new" to me. I've seen a lot of CN Geeps but not many in the 47xx or 41xx series.

Kitchener At Night

I checked into my hotel, and decided to take a stroll... a fairly long walk, actually. I was staying at the Comfort Inn on Weber Street North in Waterloo, and the train station in Kitchener was a good 3 kilometre walk down Weber Street. Google Maps says it takes 38 minutes to walk that but it clearly hasn't seen how fast I walk.

As I approached the train station, I saw there were two Goderich and Exeter locomotives parked there. LLPX 2236 and QGRY 2008 were on one of the two back tracks (See lead photo).

There is a fence on that side of the tracks so I was shooting over the fence, hand-held at some pretty low shutter speeds. The joy of digital is that I could take a lot of photos and toss the ones that were blurry. The above was shot at 0.3 second, f/5.6 and ISO 100.

Here's an example of two photos I took, one blurry and one that was pretty sharp. See if you can tell which is which. ;)

The first one is a good example of the many photos I deleted.

I took 162 photos that evening, and kept 35. This is something you would never do with film.

While I was photographing the units, a crewman came out and started them up.
LLPX 2236 and the H.R. Krug Furniture Company
For the above photo, I was standing on the station platform shooting toward where I was standing when I took the first photo of this post. Note the historic H.R. Krug Furniture Company building in the background. I don't know the age of this building but it has clearly been there for a while!

VIA 87

VIA 911 in Kitchener, Ontario
At 19:11, VIA 911 pulled train VIA 87 up to the station. This was my first time seeing 911 and it was nice to see it in a "Canada 150" wrap, advertising Sarnia, Vancouver, Ste-Foy and Sackville.

They didn't linger long... a quick stop and they were off, with VIA 913 on the rear. They had a "Canada 150" wrapped coach in the consist, VIA 3355.

At 19:21, the pair of GEXR locomotives pulled out. They headed down the Elmira Spur, which goes through Waterloo, St. Jacobs and terminates in Elmira, Ontario. The line terminates at Canada Colors and Chemicals, which makes sulphuric acid, oleum and sodium bisulphite. (read more about the Elmira Spur)

I thought that was it for trains that night, since there were no more VIA trains scheduled until 21:42. I packed up and started walking away from the station when I heard a train...

GO 289

GOT 326 in Kitchener, Ontario
I didn't really have much of a chance to set up, so this was the best I could do.

GOT 326 was the cab car in the lead. I didn't catch the number on the locomotive pushing on the rear.
Not a great photo.

Inside the Station

I took a few photos inside the (pretty much deserted) Kitchener VIA / GO / bus station.
Inside the Kitchener train station

Inside the Kitchener, ON train station
Outside, a GO bus sat apologetically...

That was it for me, so I walked back up to the hotel for the night. I resolved to return in the morning to catch the morning VIA Rail train 84.

Kitchener Station in the Light

The Kitchener, Ontario VIA Rail / GO station
The train station is an impressive sight in the day.

It was built by the Grand Trunk Railway in 1897. At one time it had a clock tower but it was removed by CN in 1966. The station was designated a railway heritage structure on February 15, 1994. At one time it hosted the VIA-Amtrak International Limited. Recently it has started hosting GO Transit trains since the start of GO service to Kitchener.

VIA and GO service are due to be relocated to the new King-Victoria Transit Hub aka Central Station a few blocks west of this station. It will also serve the new ION light rail system that is starting up in the Kitchener-Waterloo area. I don't know what will happen to the GTR station, but since it is protected it should continue to enjoy some public use after the railway moves out.

I should mention that the freight shed portion (in the foreground of the photo above) is used by the Goderich and Exeter Railway (GEXR).

Their sign is on the end of the station and there were a few GEXR road vehicles parked in the lot when I was there.

The GEXR operates the former CN Goderich and CN Guelph subdivisions, serving many local customers. It interchanges with CP in Kitchener and Guelph and with CN in Toronto.

Anyway, I was there to see VIA...

VIA 84

VIA 911 and the Krug factory in Kitchener, Ontario
I set up just past the station to try to photograph the train with the Krug factory in the background. I didn't know where the train would stop so I had to guess a bit. I think it worked out OK.

There were a LOT of people boarding, so the train sat for about 5 minutes while the passengers got on.
Passengers boarding at the Kitchener train station
This gave me a couple of minutes to photograph a bit of the train and get in position to capture them leaving.

VIA 911, up close and personal
Darn those long shadows.

VIA 911's "builder's plate"
I photographed the train leaving and caught a little reflection of VIA 913 trailing as they headed out of town.
VIA 913 reflecting on the GO shelter
So that was VIA.

That was almost the end of my railfanning in Kitchener.

The ION Depot

I met up with my son Nick and had supper with him and his girlfriend, then we paid a quick visit to the new depot built to service the ION light rail equipment.
ION light rail depot, Kitchener, ON
Everything looked very nice and new.

ION will eventually have 14 Flexity Freedom light rail vehicles, with the option to buy up to 16 more. The first vehicle was undergoing testing on site in Kitchener in November 2017. The service has been delayed due to delivery problems from Bombardier, and it is now expected to open in early 2018.

That was it for my railfanning in Kitchener. Nick graduated on the 20th, his girlfriend graduated on the 21st, and I made my way to Toronto to fly out. I did a bit of railfanning on the way... I might write about that another time.

I'll leave you with another bus, GO Transit #2448. This is a Motor Coach Industries D4500CT bus.

See Also

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Grain Elevators of Canada

Raley, Alberta
I have a little announcement to make. In October I bought the domain name, and it's now live.


Grain elevator fans will remember this site was the site for Canadian grain elevator photos and information. Many 'vator fans had posted photos of grain elevators, old and new, and its forum was a gold mine of information. It was a fantastic resource.

Over time it became hard to maintain and the owner, Chris Attrell, shut it down and redirected it to his new site, I completely understand his reasoning but I missed the site.

I founded my own grain elevator site, Manitoba Grain Elevators, to record the elevators I saw. There are other Canadian grain elevator sites out there - Jim Pearson's Vanishing Alberta for example - but there wasn't any comprehensive Canadian grain elevator site any more.

Coming Online

I decided that I wanted to revive the site, with the intent of publishing photos of every Canadian grain elevator that I and others had photographed. I knew I couldn't do it alone so I intended to reach out for help.

I contacted Chris and I bought the domain name. I set up WordPress and started populating the site with my own photos. I started with Alberta and Saskatchewan elevators because I already had my Manitoba elevator photos online.

Once I hit the end of my photos, I reached out in the Vanishing Sentinels Facebook group, and on Twitter, and several people have contacted me offering photos and assistance. I am very grateful for that.

Kensington, PEI


At this moment I am populating the site with Saskatchewan grain elevator photos from Adam Bouvier. I have a few other photos in the queue but I'm looking for more! Please email me at if you want to offer your photos to publish on the site. I want to ensure I have permission to post them so I only want photos from the original photographers... or public domain photos from before 1949.

Traffic is starting to pick up, and Google has indexed 158 pages so far. Progress!

This has been sucking up all my free time, so I haven't been writing here. I only have so much time for writing... but I'll be posting here in a few days about my recent visit to Kitchener, Ontario. I'll probably do a year-end roundup post as well.

The Future

I have a lot of work ahead of me. There are literally hundreds of elevators yet to be documented. I have about 30 more elevators to post from Adam and a few more in the queue.

I also intend to retire Manitoba Grain Elevators. There's no sense in having two grain elevator sites! I've moved a few elevators over to the new site and redirected the original page - for example, Elkhorn - but there are many left to move. This is pretty low on my priority list as those elevators are already online for reference.

Please visit Grain Elevators of Canada and have a look around!

P.S. speaking of grain elevators, did you know Eric Gagnon is writing a new book, on trains and grain elevators, two of my favourite things to photograph? It's nerdvana over here, I tell ya. Go follow his new blog to learn more, at

P.P.S. also speaking of grain elevators, I have a 2018 Manitoba Grain Elevator calendar for sale...

Monday, December 04, 2017

The 2017 CP Holiday Train

Canadian Pacific Railway has run the Holiday Train since 1999, crossing Canada from east to west. The train collects funds and food for local food banks, and puts on a good show too!

In the past I've photographed it in Winnipeg - at night - but this year I decided to see it on Sunday as it traveled from Winnipeg to Portage la Prairie for the show there.

According to the schedule, it was due to arrive in Portage la Prairie at 12:15 and the show would go from 12:30 to 1:00 PM.

My intention was to leave my house around 10 AM, railfan CN toward Portage, then cut over to CP around Poplar Point and catch the train coming in, then go see the train in Portage. I had to be back in Winnipeg shortly after 2 PM so I couldn't linger past 1 PM in Portage.

Why railfan CN instead of CP? Easy.. more trains. I wasn't expecting CP to run any trains around the time the Holiday Train was running, so I thought CN would be the better choice.

I did railfan along the CN Rivers subdivision and it was quite productive, but I'll leave that for another post. I arrived at High Bluff and drove around, looking for a decent spot to photograph the train.

I wanted a spot where I could see the whole train, but I didn't want just open prairie.

I found this barn and decided it needed to be in the photo.

Now.. the waiting game.

This year, CP posted a Holiday Train tracker web site where you can see its position in real time. SO. HANDY.

I was able to determine where the train was, so I didn't have to stand outside my car the whole time waiting for the train.

It was about 11:25 when I took the above photo of the barn. According to the tracker, the train was in Rosser, having just left Winnipeg. I was a little concerned because I couldn't see how the train could make the 50-odd miles remaining between Winnipeg and Portage la Prairie in 50 minutes to be on time.

While I was waiting, and checking the app, two CP freight trains came by. Again, I'll write about them with the other trains I saw that day.

Finally, the Holiday Train passed at 12:10.

That's the shot I wanted.

I took a little video here with my iPhone:

I hopped in the car and carried on toward Portage la Prairie. The train wasn't going terribly fast so I was able to jump out a kilometre or two later to get this photo.

I wanted to get them at Tucker passing the Viterra grain elevator there. I was easily able to beat them there, and one of the two CP freights I had seen was crawling along on the south track.

There was someone already there with a video camera waiting for the train, and somebody else pulled up in a truck to capture the event. I waited for CP 2249 to pass the freight and took a few photos. I liked this one the best:

Here's a bit of a wider view showing the grain elevator as well.

The Holiday Train stopped at the yard entrance to line a switch - I think - and I drove down between the CN and CP lines to capture the train arriving. Here it is with the large crowd waving to the train.

It came to a stop at 12:46 - 36 minutes late - so I didn't have a lot of time to photograph it before I had to leave. I saw Trainboy Productions there and chatted with him for a few minutes - I'll add his video to this post when he posts it.

Here's a whole-train view in Portage la Prairie. As Eric Gagnon said on Facebook, the view is unobstructed by grain elevators (that used to be here). I would have been fine finding shots around grain elevators. ;)

They were on a stub track - maybe the yard lead?

It was 1 PM so I had to go. I didn't see the show but I understand Colin James and Emma-Lee were great.

That was the 2017 CP Holiday Train for me.

See Also

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

London Town

VIA 905 in London, Ontario
Think what that money could bring / I'd buy everything
Clean out Vivienne Westwood / In my Galliano gown

No, wouldn't just have one hood / A Hollywood mansion if I could
Please book me first class to my fancy house in London town
- "Rich Girl", Gwen Stefani featuring Eve
When I was in southern Ontario in early August, I planned my route from the Leamington area to Waterloo and realized I would pass right by London, Ontario. A glance at the VIA Rail schedule showed that there was a good chance of catching at least one VIA train at the time I would be near London - VIA 73 at 14:23.

Not knowing the area at all, I decided to get downtown to the station and see what angles were possible there. The tricky part was that although London is basically right beside the 401 highway, the downtown certainly isn't and it took some time to get downtown.

I found the station without trouble (thank you Apple Maps) but parking was a problem. As I drove around, a VIA train slid into the station from the east. I decided to park in the Impark lot across York Street, paid my fare, and sprinted across to try to get any kind of shot before the train left again.
Richmond Street goes under the tracks, and I grabbed this quick shot to record the engine number if nothing else.
Not my best work

VIA 6457

I was on the "wrong" side of the sun so I jogged under the tracks to get to Bathurst Street on the south side of the tracks. I should mention that it was a hot day and of course I had no water with me.

I felt it was a good thing I did jog, because 6457 pulled ahead about 90 seconds after I took the above photo.
VIA 6457 and friends in London
VIA 6457 had coach VIA 8112 and galley business car 4004 in tow.

"Whew," I thought, "glad I caught them before they left."

I turned my attention to the station platform, where I could see a train with a P42DC "Canada 150" unit was waiting.

From where I was, it was very difficult to get any kind of shot. I should mention that there is a chain link fence between Bathurst Street and the tracks.
There's a train there, somewhere
I took all of these photos by holding my camera up above the fence and shooting more or less blindly in the direction of the tracks.

I shoot in manual almost all the time, so I already had the right exposure, but the focus and composition were a bit "hit and miss". This led to tossing about 40% of my photos and a lot of cropping. You do what you have to do!

As I stood there, wondering whether I should move to a new location or stay where I was, I heard the ding-ding-ding of an engine bell. Here was VIA 6457 coming back... on a different track, I presume.
VIA 4004 leading the way
Note the person in the end of 4004 keeping an eye out.

They headed east, and I never saw them again. I'm not sure where they were going, backwards.. I know there's a wye in town so maybe they were going there to turn the train around.

VIA 905

Right after VIA 6457 and friends rolled by, the "Canada 150" train in the station left. It turned out to be VIA 905 leading, the same locomotive I saw two days earlier at Jeannette's Creek.
VIA 905 in London
In fact 905 had the same cars on the train, too, just in a different order. 905-4007-4006-4110-4113.

I'm pretty sure that was VIA 73.

I told you I was shooting more or less blindly by holding my camera above the fence line. Here's an unmodified photo showing some of the "interesting" compositions I was getting.
A little horizon leveling might be in order
Not my best work.

In less than a minute, they were gone.
Gone, baby, gone

Wrapping Up

I can't 100% explain why VIA 6457 and those two cars were there. My theory is that they came with VIA 905 from Toronto as a "J train" (two trains together) to be prepositioned to be a train to Toronto later in the afternoon.

Any other ideas?

Here's a view of the VIA station from across the street.
The VIA Rail station in London, Ontario
I left right after that and headed toward Waterloo... with a side trip to Salford to see the Ontario Southland Railway shops.

Both CN and CP have yards in London but I didn't see any of CP's and very little of CN's. Michael at the Beachburg Sub blog has written three blog posts on London to date, focusing on CN and CP, so head on over there!

I see London has one model train store, Doug's Trains - or is it Pete's? My model train directory has it as Doug's but the Google Street View shows it as Pete's. Who really owns the store???

See Also

Monday, November 27, 2017

Grinding It Out

Some railfan excursions work out really well and you see something new, or different, or get a great photograph. Some... well, on some excursions, you are just grinding.

"Grinding", for those who aren't computer gamers, is doing repetitive actions in a game to gain points or experience to advance in the game. Sometimes it's called "farming". An example would be going out and killing some monsters in the game and collecting gold. It doesn't advance the plot but it gains your character some money or experience points.

Sunday afternoon was a grinding expedition.

I knew the photos weren't going to be spectacular from the start. It was a gray, overcast day with no prospect of any sun. I didn't expect any unusual power but I was hoping to catch one of CN's "new" rental units (see below).

I decided to head to the CN Sprague subdivision. As I approached it, I saw a train coming into Winnipeg from the east. I barely got to Symington yard before the train.

Symington Yard

CN 2037 and BCOL 4647 coming into Winnipeg
CN 2037 and BCOL 4647 were  hauling a decent-sized train. They stopped briefly after they passed me, probably to line a switch, then carried on.
BCOL 4647 and CN 2037
On the second track was a hump yard set with CN 6016, GTW 5948, CN 6010 and slug CN 203.
GTW 5948 in Winnipeg
These are permanent members of the hump fleet here in the 'peg.

On the third track was an intermodal train led by CN 2657 and CN 2141. I wasn't sure if this train had just arrived or was about to depart. It turned out that it had just arrived and was probably pushing its containers back into the intermodal yard in Symington.
So. Many. Wires.

The Redditt

It didn't look like anything was coming in on the Sprague, since that train had just arrived, so I decided to go east and check out the CN Redditt subdivision. That's Redditt with two "t"s, not the well-known Internet site with one "t".

There was nothing going on in CN's Transcona yard - cars but no locomotives - so I headed out toward Dugald. There was no indication of any action as I passed through town, and I went just east of Dugald and looked east down the arrow-straight track and saw nothing. Oh well.

Back to the Sprague

I returned to the CN Sprague subdivision. I saw there was a green signal facing Symington, indicating it was clear for an outbound train, but nothing was moving yet.

I drove out to the Lorette siding and found a 4-unit train sitting there.. led by shiny CN 2991 then grimy CN 8865, CN 5773, and CN 8852.
CN 2991 and friends in the CN Lorette siding
CN 2991 was shiny and new so I took a few photos of it.
Side view of CN 2991
You can see how the sky was pretty dull... there was a little colour in it due to the (hidden) sunset but it wasn't really photogenic.

The train had about 15 or 16 loaded coal cars... odd for Winnipeg.
Loaded coal cars
I continued down to Dufresne, wondering if another train was in the 6500' siding there. There was no train, but the new LED signals were well lit up.
Signals and the Dufresne grain elevator
On my way back, I passed the train at Lorette again with no sign of the train it was supposed to meet. I finally did spot the train right at Deacon's Corner but I wasn't able to get over to photograph it. It had CN 2909 on the head end of the intermodal train, with another locomotive on the rear.

By this time, it was almost 5 PM and it was time to hit the grocery store and get home to make supper. Also, it was getting pretty dark.

The Emerson

As I crossed the CP Emerson subdivision on my way home, I saw a headlight to the north. I went to a quiet crossing just north of the Perimeter Highway and waited for the train to come. I decided to put my camera on the tripod and take a 1 second exposure and let it streak, rather than try a pan. I had my phone out to take video.

It was a potash unit train with CP 8750 and CEFX 1059 leading the charge.
CP 8750 smearing the sky
I do like long exposure train photos!

That was enough for me... off to Sobeys!

CN's Leasers

I mentioned that CN has some "new" rental locomotives. CN has been experiencing a surge in traffic and is short on crews and power. They have been aggressively hiring people and now they've leased a bunch of locomotives. There are a lot of rumours about how many locomotives they are getting but here's what I do know is "on the property":

  • 19? CREX ES44AC locomotives in the 1500-1520 series
  • 2 PRLX SD75 locomotives (201 and 204, patched Warbonnet units)

There are rumours of more but that's what has been confirmed to date. The CREX units are apparently getting microwaves installed so they can lead on CN. Union rules on CN require a microwave and refrigerator in the lead locomotive, so usually American locomotives have to trail on CN because they don't generally have both of those. CP's union doesn't insist on having a fridge or microwave so CP's trains often have "foreign" power leading.

I'm sure I will catch a CREX unit soon... I just have to keep grinding!