Saturday, April 21, 2018

A Heck of a Morning

I went out early on Sunday, March 18th (2018) to see some trains and grain elevators. I really wanted to photograph a grain elevator at sunrise. It turned out that it was overcast so there really wasn't a sunrise. No worries - the trains still move and the elevators are still there!

I decided to head toward Gregg and Harte on the CN Rivers subdivision. I was considering an overhead shot from the overpass by the Harte grain elevator. I headed out around 6:15 AM, before the sun came up.


I drove past Portage la Prairie to Bloom, by the new G3 elevator. I saw there was a train in the 134-car loop track. I pulled off the highway to take a few photos when I noticed a green signal facing west, and a headlight in the distance to the east. I set up my tripod to capture the action.

The sun was still below the horizon, so it was long-exposure time! A 2.5 second exposure captured the gate coming down, the train in the loop track, and the green-over-red signal.
Dropping the gate
21 seconds later, here's the train smearing through the scene. See anything unusual about the signal?
Both the green and red are lit in the top signal! The long exposure captured both the green signal at the start of the photo and the red that came on after the locomotives passed the signal. By the way, the train had CN 2428 and CN 2153 leading, not that you can tell from the photo!

Once the train passed, I spent a few minutes photographing the train and elevator. The train was periodically inching forward to line up the next hatch under the spout. That must be a boring job!
CN 5730 and CN 5667 loading grain at Bloom


The ex Manitoba Pool grain elevator at Gregg
I arrived at the Gregg grain elevator after an hour of driving. The ex Manitoba Pool grain elevator looked pretty much the same as when I saw it in May 2014. The equipment off to the side has changed - upgrades, I guess!

I took some photos of the elevator, then wandered around Gregg, photographing the nearby Kerfoot Church, the old school and an old barn. You can see those photos in my guest post on Everybody Has To Be Somewhere - a great blog.

No trains were around, so I headed west along the grid roads toward Harte.

As I drove along, I encountered a north-south railway track.

Petrel Junction

Looking toward Petrel Junction
This was the first road crossing of the CN Carberry subdivision, which branches off from the Rivers subdivision at Petrel Junction. In the photo above, you can see the Rivers sub left-right across the horizon.

The Carberry subdivision runs from here south through its namesake town, Carberry. South of the town, it takes a hard right to head west past CFB Shilo into Brandon where it meets the Cromer subdivision. This branch line serves the McCain plant in Carberry, the extensive Canexus plant in Brandon, and the spur at CFB Shilo.

There's a little two track "yard" at Petrel just south of the road I was on. It's a pretty lonely place.

I kept driving west, and as I approached Harte, I saw an eastbound train! I found a north-south road and beat it up to a crossing to capture the approaching intermodal train.


Long train on the lonely prairie
There's something about seeing such a big, long train on the open prairie. Even a ten-thousand foot long train looks pretty small when there's nothing around but a few gravel roads, the occasional house, and a whole lot of emptiness.

Anyway. CN 3028 was the power on the head end of this train. I assumed there would be another locomotive farther back in the train to provide a little more motive power. I know CN is pretty stingy with locomotives, but it's a lot to ask one locomotive to pull a train like this!

Note the Harte grain elevator at the far left of the photo above.

My trusty vehicle, Railfan Two
My little 2014 Honda Civic has been on a lot of these grid roads. I bought it in February 2014. Later that summer, I said to my wife, only half-jokingly, that more than half of the first 5,000 km on the car was spent on gravel roads.

Soon the mid-train locomotive came into view. I was quite excited to see that it was not a normal CN locomotive.
Not a CN locomotive!
This was one of the recent batch of locomotives leased by CN. This one is CREX 1501, an ES44AC owned by Citicorp Railmark Inc. (Citirail). It's pretty new!
CREX 1501 rolling through the crossing


Harte grain elevator
After the train passed, I continued on to Harte. There is an ex Manitoba Pool grain elevator here, and a few houses just south of the tracks.

The shots above and below are from the (rare) overpass over the tracks. I am not sure why a middle-of-nowhere place like Harte warrants an overpass where other, more major roads like highway 5 have a grade crossing over the same railway line. It's a mystery.

Guess which track is the main line and which is the siding.
There was no sign of any more trains, and my time was running out, so I headed up to nearby Oberon to visit my favourite grain elevator before starting my trip back to Winnipeg.

I did see this neat old brick house in Harte itself. It looks like it is occupied and well maintained.


The Oberon grain elevator
Whenever I'm in the area, I always try to see Oberon. It's my favourite grain elevator in Manitoba.

I carried on down highway 5, and saw a train sitting down by the Gregg elevator... so, back to Gregg.

Gregg, Again

Cooling their heels in the siding at Gregg
CN 8830 West was sitting in the siding. "Death star" IC 1007 was the trailing unit. I like those black Illinois Central locomotives.
IC 1007 in the siding in Gregg
After about 15 minutes, another westbound train came rolling along on the main track. CN 5712 West rolled on past, pulling another couple of miles of containers, while the crew of 8830 were on the ground, giving it a careful rollby inspection.

Side by each
I didn't hang around to watch 8830 leave... time was running out for me.

I headed south on highway 5 to the Trans-Canada Highway, then east toward Winnipeg.

The CP line along the Trans-Canada is usually a disappointment... it sure was when I headed west earlier in the morning, but on the way back, it produced one train.

Near Austin

A really bad photo of CP 9772 West
Unfortunately, they were coming out of the mid-morning sun and I was on the wrong side of the tracks. I pulled over and grabbed a few shots, expecting them to be pretty awful. Look at that sky!

CP 9772 was the lead unit, with UP 7889 in second position and CP 8792 well back in the train. The going away shot was just as bad.

Oh well.

As I approached Winnipeg, I left the highway to travel along the road paralleling the CN main line from about mile 18 to mile 10 of the CN Rivers subdivision. One last chance to get more trains... and CN didn't disappoint.

Another Leaser

Wrapping around the curve
The Rivers sub is pretty straight, but there is a curve around mile 16 that is a favourite for railfans. I caught up to this eastbound and shot it coming around the bend. Cowl unit CN 2421 was leading, but what was that behind it?

GECX 9144 up close and personal
It was GECX 9144, an ex CSX Dash-8. Another leaser... and a lot older than the first one I saw that morning. It was originally built for Conrail as CR 6244 in June 1994. It became CSX 7379 and recently joined the GE rental fleet.

The train was plodding along, so I was able to get ahead of it for a few more shots... and a video.
Clearly ex CSX
Here's the video of the train pounding the diamond at CN Diamond.

That was the end of my railfanning... a great morning of trains and grain elevators.

Speaking of trains and grain elevators, Eric Gagnon's two new books are well under way. Follow their progress at


Jenn said...

Great photos Steve! Love the long exposures. The Oberon elevator is a beaut....and that brick house!! Glad it is lived in.

Canadian Train Geek said...

Thanks, Jen! I want to get out and take more night / long exposure shots now that it has warmed up some.

Jack Fuller said...

David P. Morgan, long-time editor of Trains magazine, said that hood units [like the IC] look best in dark colors - to which I would agree. And I'm partial in particular to Illinois Central, being the first railroad for which I worked.

Really fine Prairie photos!!

Eric said...

Great roadtrip post, Steve.

Liked the Citirail, a bit of notrophy, and of course the elevators.

But we need a name for those black paint-out leasers. Caught a UP here last night. Mourning units or something like that. Paint it Black units? I dunno.


BWBandy said...

Wow! Just love the Oberon elevator.

Canadian Train Geek said...

Eric, maybe something with "strike" or "crossed-out"?


I'm not good at coming up with those names.

Canadian Train Geek said...

Thanks, BW, you should come see it!