Saturday, April 15, 2017

Railfanning the Sprague Subdivision

Continuing after visiting Piney, Manitoba... After we visited the Piney train station, a bathroom break was desperately required. Our options were definitely limited...
  • There is no public washroom in Piney - I did consider checking out the community centre but I assumed it was locked. 
  • We hadn't seen any kind of gas station or other possibility for a public washroom since Steinbach, almost an hour away
  • The border town of Sprague was 20 minutes away
I decided our best choice was Sprague, even though that would take us farther away from home. Off we went.

As we approached South Junction, I saw a sign for a Co-Op gas station. HOORAY! I pulled up to the pumps and my family ran into the station to take care of business while I topped up the tank. The gas price was reasonable - 89.9 cents/L I believe. I went inside to pay and use the facilities, then we all got back into the van.

I knew South Junction used to be the east end of the CN Ridgeville subdivision that Piney was on, so I wanted to check out the track and see what traces of the sub were still evident. We drove over to the CN Sprague subdivision and I parked near the tracks and stepped out with my camera.

South Junction

I took a few photos of the area, and as I was looking around, I heard an unmistakable noise in the distance - big diesel engines! Soon headlights came into view to the east and CN 2855 West came thundering through the crossing.

CN 2855 and 2832 leading a grain train through South Junction, MB
I wonder if this building in the back yard of a nearby house was a railway building? It sure looks like one.
Some kind of railway building?
There is still some track in the ground from what was the Ridgeville subdivision. I think that there is some under the pavement of Main Street and I unearthed a bit of track that was covered by last year's grass.

I'd like to come back and see if I could find some dates on that track!

There is a pretty sizable church in South Junction too, the Our Lady of Assumption (Roman Catholic) (Manitoba Historical Society page).

Our Lady of Assumption church in South Junction, MB
So that was South Junction. It was time to head toward home. I had promised lunch / supper in Woodridge, so we weren't heading back the same way we came down. That's OK - it's always good to see new routes!


I wanted to stop by Vassar to see the old train station there. I understood it was in much better shape than the Piney train station.

When we got to Vassar, CN 2855 West was rolling through.

Once the train passed, I saw that the station was well off the road and apparently on private property. You can catch a glimpse of it from the road at the east/south end of the siding.

Here's Vassar siding - 13,529 feet.
Vassar siding
Off to Woodridge. Once we left highway 12 it was gravel on route 203 to Woodridge. I probably should have ducked into Badger to view the abandoned buildings there, but we drove on by.


It's Woodridge on the map but I'm pretty sure it's known to CN as Carrick. When we got there, "our" freight train was rolling through.
Grain cars rolling through Woodridge, MB

Grain in the plains
Once that passed, we headed across the tracks to the Trails End Tavern.

Woodridge is pretty much in the middle of nowhere, but it is an important stop for snowmobilers and ATVers who frequent the area. There were several ATVs parked outside and from a few online searches it seems the town is an important stop along the way.
Trails End Tavern, Woodridge
We had a very nice "lupper" at the tavern, with great service and good food at reasonable prices. No complaints!

While we were eating, another westbound freight train rolled by. I'm proud to say that I stayed in my seat and didn't run outside at the sight of the crossing bells lighting up.

Once our meal was done, we continued on toward home.


We met the tracks again at Marchand. There's nothing but straight track here but the sight lines would be good for a train. The Marchand Hotel was prominently in view.
Marchand, Manitoba

La Brocquerie

Church in La Brocquerie
We passed through the tidy town of La Brocquerie.

I saw a west-facing signal was green, indicating an eastbound train was coming, but I knew my family's patience was wearing thin so I didn't dare hang around.

I did take a moment to photograph an impressive church in the town. This is the St. Joachim Roman Catholic Church, which was built in 1898 and dedicated in 1901. The Manitoba Historical Society has a page on it and the Parish has its own web page (in French).

We carried on up highway 210.


The CN Sprague subdivision parallels the highway, and as we drove up the highway, I saw headlights in the distance. TRAIN!

The train and I approached each other, so I picked a spot and pulled over to catch the train. CN 2666 was leading a freight train. 2666 is an old friend - I've seen it a few times.
CN 2666 and a grain train
I really liked the trailing unit - "cowl unit" CN 2419.

CN 2419 at Giroux, MB
We reached Ste. Anne and got back onto the Trans-Canada Highway. We rolled up toward Winnipeg, and as I approached Lorette I saw a train also heading toward Winnipeg.


CN 8100 came to a stop on the main line at Lorette. I guessed they were waiting for a meet but I didn't dare hang around. I stopped for a few shots of the head end and then we carried on home.
CN 8100 at Lorette siding outside Winnipeg


That was the end of our little excursion to Piney, Manitoba and our trip back along the Sprague subdivision. A lovely train station and three trains!

We'll have to go all the way to Sprague next time... and maybe visit Badger.

From here, you might want to:


Jenn said...

Lots of stops! Looks like a fun trip. Hard when travelling with family sometimes...I have to restrain myself when with the family to not yell, 'turn here, I see an old barn!' Or anything I'd normally stop at. LOL, they do come indulge me sometimes though lol!

Canadian Train Geek said...

Normally I'm driving so technically I can stop wherever I want... but the reality is that you start with a certain amount of goodwill and you have to preserve at least some of that to last the entire trip. :)

Anonymous said...

In the museum in Sprague is a historical rendition of Sprague's station. If you stop at the store or Sprague river inn they can help you out with that. Vassar's station has been repurposed as the rec center canteen and you can go on the grounds and check it out. You never got to Carrick as they have info on their station. Woodridge where the tavern is is not Carrick. Contact the RM office in Vassar for an RM map. Badger's station is now a private residence in Vassar which is probably the one you saw.

Patrice said...

Hey Steve, great article. I suspect you know this, but if you go to Google Maps and use the satellite view, you can see the old Ridgeville Sub and follow-it quite a ways. Keep up the great articles!

Sandy Fehr said...

Hey ive seen you on other sites looks like you know trains and history ?? I could be wrong but anyone interested i have a train station that was mived to my yard from south junction mb however it has the word bedford faded on it in large letters. Id love to know the history i am just having a difficult time finding it

Canadian Train Geek said...

Hi Sandy, I've never heard of a train station called Bedford. Can you email me a photo of it? (