Monday, March 06, 2017

Meet Me At Midnight

CN 2002 in Ste. Agathe, Manitoba

The Plan

I heard there was an early Sunday morning BNSF detour train (CN F306) running on the Letellier subdivision. Since Sunday morning is my fun day, and I'm not afraid to shoot at night, I went out around 11 PM, with my ever-tolerant wife shaking her head at my insanity.

My understanding was that CN 533 was meeting 532 in Morris, and then 533 would meet 306 at Ste. Agathe. Friend and RailsMBSK member Mark Perry was at the controls of 533.

The players:
  • CN 532 - Daily Winnipeg to Emerson local train, bringing cars to BNSF
  • CN 533 - Daily Emerson to Winnipeg local train, bringing cars from BNSF
  • CN 306 - BNSF detour train returning east to the US via Emerson

CN 533

When I left, I wasn't sure if the detour train had left Winnipeg yet, so I drove down to Morris, hoping to catch the 532/533 meet. You may recall that I saw the 306/533 meet in Morris recently.

I was a bit late as I saw CN 533 pulling out of Morris as I approached. I ignored it and went into Morris to try to grab CN 532 before it left, but it was already gone.

Returning to highway 75 I chased 533 north, passing it and setting up at the same rural crossing I shot at the last time I was photographing detours. I didn't take any video here, just my Canon T1i on a tripod... 2.5 seconds at f/8.0, ISO 100. This was just after midnight.
Ghostly CN 2002
Right after the locomotives passed, I took the camera off the tripod, tossed it in my AmazonBasics backpack, tossed the tripod in the back seat, and took off for Ste. Agathe.

As it turns out, I didn't need to rush. They were crawling up toward the switch well after I got there. I set up to take a few photos, intending to photograph the engines as they paused for the conductor to throw the switch to the loop track. Here they are coming to a stop.
Coming to a stop
I tried a few photos - I thought they were good - but it turns out I didn't have the focus. Check out this long exposure (25s) of the conductor walking back to the train after throwing the ground throw switch. Totally not in focus!
Focus? We don't need no stinkin' focus!
Obviously, I didn't use the "live view" trick I wrote about earlier. Oops.

The track at the Viterra grain elevator in Ste. Agathe is arranged like this, as far as I can see.
CN 533 was coming from the bottom of the diagram (south) and went around the loop counter-clockwise. They stopped short of the north switch to wait for the arrival of 306.

There's a road called "Mission Road" that parallels the track at this location. I parked off to the side and walked up to the head end of the train. The two tracks that join the CN line to the loop track are crossed by Mission Road and are signaled with lights - surprisingly!

I took a few photos of 533 sitting there with the pride of the fleet, ex UP Dash-8s CN 2002 and CN 2036. The best of the photos leads this post.

Finally, 306

At 01:47 AM, 306 rolled on by with BNSF 7490 and 7209 leading a long brown string of freight cars. I shot video here on my Canon S3 but it was really bad. Here's  a long exposure of 306 passing by (10 seconds, f/8.0, 17mm, ISO 100).

The rest of the train was mostly brown BNSF hoppers with the occasional leased car mixed in. I popped off a flash on some long exposure shots to see what it looked like.

I think with better timing I could have had several logos show up side by side. I only had one flash at the time and it took a few seconds to recharge before I could fire it again. I was just holding it in my hand and manually firing it at full power.

Once the train passed, I headed south on highway 75 to the same crossing that I had photographed CN 533 at earlier. I put the Canon T1i on a tripod, and after carefully focusing, I put it in video mode. Flashing red battery symbol! Ack!

I grabbed my spare battery from the backpack in my car and swapped batteries. Fortunately I had lots of time.

Here's the video:

Lighting provided by my car's high beams, of course.

I gave up the chase after that and headed home. When I got home, I started the video uploading to YouTube and went to bed.

I think there are a few more BNSF detours yet to go through Winnipeg. I probably won't be shooting any more at night - work and all that, you know - but who knows, maybe I'll catch another one during the day.

Further Reading and Watching

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