Friday, March 24, 2017

VIA's Canada 150 Wrap Visits Winnipeg

Canada 150

This year is Canada's 150th birthday, thanks to the British North America Act passed on July 1, 1867 (fun fact: there were more Acts after that, mostly revisions to add more provinces and territories). VIA Rail is wrapping some of its locomotives and cars to commemorate the occasion. Some don't like the wraps, but they're different and we railfans like unusual things.

A few VIA locomotives have already been wrapped, but they are P42 locomotives that don't leave the Ontario-Quebec corridor, so nobody outside those two provinces will see them. VIA wrapped the first F40PH-2 locomotive, VIA 6454, and sent it on the Ocean to the Maritime Provinces.

A few railfans tipped us westerners off that VIA 6454 was going west on the Canadian.


Acting on that hot tip, I set out early Thursday morning to try to catch VIA 1 coming into Winnipeg with the first "CANADA 150" wrapped locomotive, VIA 6454, leading. I got up at the crack of 5:45. A quick check of VIA's web site showed the train was an hour late, so I hit the road after a quick shower and breakfast toward Dugald and points beyond.

No green signals were seen as I rolled through Dugald. I liked how this signal looked so I stopped to take a photo.

I parked at one rural crossing just east of town. After fiddling with my phone for a bit, I decided the angles weren't great so I relocated. MISTAKE.

As I came up to the tracks a few miles east, I saw headlights bearing down on me.

Quickly I slapped my tripod down, mounted my trusty old Canon S3, aimed it vaguely toward the tracks, and turned the video recording on.

I fumbled with my DSLR as the train rolled by, totally missing focus and not getting a single frame of the train.

I said a few choice words - caught on video but later cropped out - and threw everything in the car and set off in hot pursuit.

I know it's not level - I was lucky to have it pointed at the train at all!

Sadly I was unable to catch VIA 1 and I gave up the chase.


As noon approached, I resolved to do a better job documenting the event. I headed to Carman Junction, where CEMR's tracks diverge from the CN Rivers sub. There's a nice little bend there where you can shoot straight east.

Going Once..

After a short wait, I saw headlights in the distance and got excited, but it turned out to be CN 8011 leading a 2+1+1 container train west.
In the weeds - CN 8011 in Winnipeg
That was OK, but not the Canadian!

I was messaging with Jack Hykaway, who told me that VIA 1 was stopped at Subway. A message that the Canadian got a yellow signal was a welcome sign!

Going Twice..

Headlights in the distance again! Turn on the video camera, raise the "big gun" lens, and... containers. Another CN intermodal. Hello CN 8864... must be SD70M-2 day.

This train crossed over from the north to the south track in the distance, then rolled past me with a healthy dose of Canadian Tire containers.
Red red red - like a Taylor Swift song
Again, nice, but not the Canadian.

My old Canon S3 was doing video duty on the tripod.
The Camera Eye

Hot on the heels of 8864's train was another headlight... FINALLY VIA!


The silver nose of VIA 6454 was a welcome sight after the squat red noses of the SD70M-2s. My plan was to shoot them head on with my DSLR, then drop that and shoot each car with my iPhone while my video camera rolled on. Too ambitious? We'll see!

Here it comes!!
I clicked and clicked as 6454 approached, scaring a bunch of birds as it rounded the bend on the north track.
As 6454 filled my lens, I dropped the DSLR - believing utterly in my camera strap - and banged away with the iPhone to document the consist. A quick swivel to capture Kootenay Park trailing the train and then VIA was gone.
Not bad for a phone shot!
I threw everything in the car and took off in pursuit mode, hoping that they would get a stop signal due to the two intermodals they were following, but that wasn't to be. I roared past Mark Perry and his trusty red truck, trying to catch up to VIA as she was catching up to the second intermodal train. I realized quickly that I wasn't going to catch up on the unpaved road, but VIA was passing CN as they both raced west.

I gave up the chase and turned around to go chat with Mark for a few minutes before heading home, SD cards full and a big grin on my face.

The consists

First CN Train
  • CN 8011
  • CN 2609
  • CN 8829 (DPU in middle)
  • CN 8947 (DPU on rear)

Second CN Train
  • CN 8864
  • CN 5761

  • VIA 6454
  • VIA 6428
  • VIA 8604
  • VIA 8123
  • VIA 8500
  • VIA 8332 Laird Manor
  • VIA 8330 Hunter Manor
  • VIA 8314 Cameron Manor
  • VIA 8401 Acadian
  • VIA 8311 Burton Manor
  • VIA 8227 Chateau Varennes
  • VIA 8708 Kootenay Park

Lessons Learned

  • Pick your spot and STAY THERE
  • You can't get every shot - I don't have any side shots of 6454 yet
  • Take a second opportunity if you can


jason sailer said...

Great chase Steve! Felt like I was standing beside you!

Canadian Train Geek said...

Thanks, Jason! Maybe soon you will be :)

Unknown said...

We want those choice words back.....

Canadian Train Geek said...

Mark No effing way are those words coming back! ;)

Jenn said...

Pretty exciting business chasing trains!! Really like the photo with the birds and the train.

Canadian Train Geek said...

Thanks, Jenn, I do enjoy the chase! I was happy to capture the birds with the train.