Monday, January 22, 2018

Rail and Vator Fanning with Jason

Tonight's the night we'll make history
As sure as dogs can fly
- Styx, "A.D. 1928" 
My friend Jason Paul Sailer was in Winnipeg over the Christmas 2017 break and was interested in seeing some trains and grain elevators. We agreed that we would head west of Winnipeg on December 27 along the CN Rivers subdivision, and see a few elevators along the way.

It was super cold around Christmas, and as you can see from the photo of my car below, still cold at 7:18 AM on the 27th. That's -31C without the wind chill!

Kicking it off
I picked Jason up, and after a quick stop at Tim's, we hit the road.


As we approached the Rivers sub, we saw a westbound train, so I headed to Diamond to catch it just east of the diamond itself.

Here's Jason giving the crew a wave while taking a photo.
Railfan wave at sunrise
I really like this photo.

The lead photo was taken right after this, as the train approached the signals.

We hopped in the car and chased west, getting ahead of them one more time to take this photo.
Cold sunrise
The train had CN 8953 and CN 2594 on the head end.

After the train passed, we drove to the Trans-Canada Highway and carried on westward.


For our first elevator, we decided to catch the train again at the Oakville grain elevator. We parked west of the elevator and walked in a bit to get the elevator with the train passing.

CN 8953 in Oakville, Manitoba
We hopped back in the car and, once the train cleared the crossing, we continued west.

I should mention what I was doing to protect my camera. You have to be careful when taking your camera equipment from a warm car to a cold environment and back again. At best you will fog up the lens, and at worst you can get condensation inside the camera, which can cause corrosion.

I brought my small camera bag along with me (together with my AmazonBasics bag for the rest of the gear), and when I went out to shoot, I put the small bag on the trunk of the car, open. Once I finished shooting, I put the camera in the bag, zipped it up, and put the bag in the car. This kept the camera in the cold environment and allowed it to warm up slowly.

Portage la Prairie

We pulled into Portage and checked out the rail action downtown... zip. There was a CP ECO unit in the yard, idling, but nothing else was happening on the CP side. On the CN side, there was a green signal facing east, meaning a westbound was coming. We set up by the CN station, and the train passed by in a rush.
What? The same train AGAIN?
Dang it! The same train!

I was sure that CN 8953 had passed through Portage before we got there, but.. nope. I'm sure the crew were as sick of seeing us as we were of seeing them.


The Bloom, Manitoba G3 elevator
We stopped briefly for Jason to see and photograph the new G3 elevator at Bloom. If we had waited for a few more minutes, we could have seen CN 8953 yet again, but we had had enough of that train. Note


Austin, Manitoba grain elevator
We made a quick stop in Austin to photograph the grain elevator there. There still wasn't any action on CP, which is not surprising these days, sadly.


Working the ADM plant in Carberry, MB
We dropped into the bustling town of Carberry to see the Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) operation there. The ADM plant is just south of town and features a large loop track, and the facility has its own GP10 locomotive for pushing the grain cars through the plant.

I have been to Carberry a few times but the locomotive was always parked by the building. This time it was actually working, pushing a string of cars through the large blue building seen above. I assume the rail cars are loaded inside that building.
ADM locomotive at work in Carberry, MB
We watched it for a minute or two, but it was pretty cold outside and we had places to be. Onward!

Jason had been to Oberon and Brookdale before, but he missed photographing the unique grain warehouse in Brookdale, and he had never seen the Mentmore elevator, so... up highway 5 we went.


I never get tired of seeing Oberon
We had to stop in Oberon to see my favourite grain elevator. I just love this old, worn elevator with its weathered wooden sides. It's a "must see" in my opinion.

Selfie time at Oberon
I've posted about the Oberon grain elevator several times, so I won't post any more photos... this time.


Brookdale flat grain warehouse and elevator
We made sure to photograph that grain warehouse well this time! I had photographed it before but it was nicely lit by the morning sun this day.

This is probably the only remaining grain warehouse in Manitoba. They were common before the advent of grain elevators, but were rendered obsolete by the elevator since they saved the manual effort of shoveling grain from the warehouse into the grain boxcars.

After photographing the warehouse, we tried a few angles on the Brookdale grain elevator itself, just for fun.
Every town has a Railway Avenue
Jason had told me there was a railway station just outside town. When I was last in Mentmore I kept an eye out for a train station, but didn't see anything. It turns out I didn't look far enough.
Train station just outside Brookdale, Manitoba
Jason told me this is the former Ingelow, Manitoba train station, moved here to a site just southwest of Brookdale. It looks quite abandoned and is on a property with some other abandoned-looking buildings. We took a few photos from the road and carried on to Mentmore.


Jason photographing the Mentmore grain elevator
The Mentmore grain elevator is another favourite. It's not far north of Brookdale so it's an easy place to visit. We took some photos from the road from various angles, then went back south to the main road and carried on to Justice.


So many puns about Justice
It was nice to revisit Justice. I had been there in August 2014 on a wee grain elevator trip but not since. The elevator hasn't changed at all.

The photo above is a new angle for me. This elevator is well known as it is the last photo in Greg McDonnell's book Wheat Kings.

We wandered around the town a bit, something I didn't do before, and we discovered the old school.
School in Justice, Manitoba
There is a stone inset into the building just to the left of the main door that said it was built in 1912. It closed in June 1967. I'm not sure if it is still used for anything but it still has power and looks to be in decent shape.

There's also a church in town, built in 1910 as a Methodist church. It became a United Church when the Methodist, Congregational Union, 2/3 of the Presbyterians and the Association of Local Union Churches all merged in 1925. This church held its last service on August 11, 2002.
Justice United Church
So that was Justice... on to Forrest.


School bus and Forrest grain elevator
We didn't stay long at the Forrest grain elevator. Jason took some photos and I looked for a different angle. I've been at the Forrest elevator a few times so I wanted something different.

I'm impressed by how well the lettering stands out on the annex.

We checked the time and decided where to go next. Jason was interested in seeing Bradwardine's grain elevator, so that meant we had to go through Rivers. After a quick stop at McDonald's in Brandon, we headed up highway 10 and turned west onto highway 25.

As we drove west, I saw an eastbound train south of us on the CN Rivers subdivision. Nothing to be done about that!


Nearing Rivers, we spotted a westbound train going the same direction we were. It was clear we would arrive in Rivers just before the train, so I told Jason to bail out as soon as I stopped to get the shot, and I would follow. We took the crossing on the east side of town and I screeched to a halt as the crossing lights started. I wasn't able to get the head end, but Jason did.

Here he is photographing the mid-train DPU, CN 3102.
Jason photographing CN 3102
The train was CN 347, recognizable by all the empty centerbeam flat cars. You may recall I photographed CN 347 back in June 2017 near Rivers.

After the train passed, we went over to the old station and took a few photos. Two CN crew came out of the bunkhouse, said hi to us, and waited near the tracks. It was clear they were doing a crew change, and soon enough CN 8895 came rolling up to stop by the VIA shack.

CN 8895 doing a crew change in Rivers, MB
Seven or eight minutes later, the train was under way again. I elected to shoot video, with my camera on a monopod.

I took one quick snap of the ex Cargill grain elevator in Rivers but it's not worth posting.

We headed past the old air base (CFB Rivers) toward Bradwardine. I knew the Norman grain elevator wasn't far away, so we took a few minutes to take that in.


Grain cars at the Norman grain elevator
The Norman grain elevator is owned by Canada Malting and is very much a going concern. There were several trucks parked there and I could hear machinery working.

We didn't linger long.

Off to...


Bradwardine grain elevator
The town of Bradwardine is pretty much a ghost town by this point, but the Bradwardine grain elevator is still in operation. There are plenty of abandoned houses and businesses in the town.

I thought I read somewhere that this elevator is for sale. I did a little Googling and couldn't find anything, so maybe I am mistaken.

We took a few shots and continued on to nearby Lenore.

Both Bradwardine and Lenore were on the ill-fated CP Lenore subdivision, and are the only two grain elevators remaining from that rail line.


Lenore grain elevator
The Lenore grain elevator may or may not be in operation. The driveway looks pretty new, but one ramp of the driveway is blocked by trees, so it's not clear what use if any the elevator is being put to.

I do like the old Gulf sign that still stands in Lenore, long after the gas station itself disappeared.
Gulf sign in Lenore, Manitoba
Our final elevator was the lovely old ex Lake of the Woods elevator in Harmsworth.

To reach it, we had to zig zag across the back roads. We had been on several gravel roads already, and they were fine to drive on as they were frozen solid and only had a bit of snow.

We stumbled across this lovely old stone church as we were zig-zagging. This is the Wallace United Church, built in 1900. It looks to be in remarkably good condition.
Wallace United Church


Harmsworth grain elevator
The Harmsworth grain elevator is a lovely old Lake of the Woods elevator, built in 1910.

When I was last here in April 2016, I spoke with the owner and he thought it might be the second oldest grain elevator in Manitoba, after Elva. The elevator at Cameron is about the same vintage as this one, or maybe a year or two older. Regardless, it's old!

As we zig-zagged out of there toward Virden and the Trans-Canada Highway, we stumbled across this old, collapsed house and granary.
I'm sure that house could tell a few stories
We admired them from afar in the failing light, and continued on to the highway. It was dark by then, so we hit the TCH for home.

After a long drive - and a quick pit stop at Tim Hortons - we arrived in Winnipeg. I dropped Jason off and headed home.

The End
Not bad - 14 grain elevators, 3 trains and 797 km driven in 12 hours and 49 minutes.

Thanks, Jason, for the good company as we traveled around! It was fun.

PS if you're on Twitter, you can follow @PrairieSentinel for grain elevator photos!


Admin said...

Nice write-up Steve. Sounds like a great day in spite of the cold. I love that shot of the Brookdale warehouse. --Edd

Canadian Train Geek said...

Thanks, Edd, we made a good day out of it!

Jenn said...

Nice post and photos Steve, looks like you guys saw a bit of everything! Love that old stone church!!

Jason Sailer said...

A fun (yet cold) day... Thanks again for being a great host Steve!

Canadian Train Geek said...

Thanks, Jenn, we did see quite a variety! That church was a nice find.

Canadian Train Geek said...

Yes, definitely a cold and fun day.. any time, Jason!

Eric said...

Looks like a good, fun day!

Canadian Train Geek said...

Sure was, Eric! Thanks :)

Unknown said...

Good photos! Like the catch of new CN ET44AC 3102. My favorite elevator is Bradwardine, always liked that skinny tall annex, very rare. Good job Steve!

Scott Gillespie said...

Looks like a lot of fun! When I'm in Winnipeg again we should go train watching.

Canadian Train Geek said...

Hi Sheldon, thanks! I like Bradwardine but I like Lenore's annex even more. :)

Brian Martyniuk said...

Timely tip for caring for a camera during this extended cold spell. I always wondered what the best procedure is, now I know. Thanks, Steve