Thursday, July 05, 2018

Chasing CN with Caleb

I was in Saint John, New Brunswick in mid May 2018. I met up with Caleb Wentzell in the evening for a little... OK, a big chase.

Our target was CN 406, the daily Moncton-Saint John train. It usually heads down to Moncton in the afternoon and returns in the evening. Railfans were excited about this train because it had two leased units, CREX 1505 and CEFX 1011.

On the way down, CREX 1505 was in the lead. Since I was working, I missed that, but I knew it would be returning in the evening. Caleb was in town and wanted to meet up, so we arranged a rendezvous along Rothesay Avenue in Saint John, by the Ocean Steel rebar plant.

This is a good location because it's at the "throat" of Island Yard. All of the yard tracks converge just south (railway west) of the crossing there. When I arrived, I could see CN 2977 on the "bypass" track in the distance. I took this long shot using my 70-200mm lens and cropped in a fair bit.

CN 2977 pushing back in Saint John
As I watched, they pushed back and around the bend, out of sight. I imagine they were pushing the potash cars back onto the back half of their train to make up the whole train.

I knew this would take some time to complete, as they would have to do a full air test before coming back to my location. I ducked out to grab some supper, then returned to the location to wait for the train and wait for Caleb.

Caleb showed up, and we said our hellos. He had a few model train cars for me - part of a trade we made more than a year ago but never actually completed in person. Patience pays off...

Eventually CN 2977 pulled up, followed by the lease units.
CN 2977 with leased locomotives
As they pulled past, I took the opportunity to photograph the leasers.

Leased locomotives in Saint John - CEFX 1011 and CREX 1505
We didn't wait for the whole train to pass. We had discussed shooting it by the Rothesay train station, as Caleb had never shot a train there, and I always like that location. We were traveling in separate cars, because Caleb was going to carry on to Nova Scotia after the chase, and I had to return to Saint John to work the next day.


CN 2977 passing the historic Rothesay train station
Well, that shot worked well.

We arrived several minutes before the train did. Since there was no sun out, we had our choice of angles. I decided to shoot from this angle to include the historic station. Caleb was a little closer with a wider angle.

I shot the other leaser, CREX 1505, as they passed by us.
CREX 1505 on train CN 406
This time, we were trapped by the train, so it was time for a selfie by the train.

Caleb Wentzell and yours truly. He's quite a bit taller than I am!
We discussed our next move, and we decided to get them at Hampton. It's fairly easy to get into from the highway.


When we arrived in Hampton, I suggested going to the one lane iron bridge just before town to get an overhead view. We arrived just in time to catch the train snaking around the curve and blasting underneath us.

Overhead view of CN 406 at Hampton
While breathing in those tasty diesel fumes, I grabbed overhead views of the two leased locomotives as well.
Overhead views of CEFX 1011 and CREX 1505
Next up... Norton! I had never been there, but Caleb had, so he led the way.


CN 406 at Norton
I liked that old building, now used as a recycling depot. I think this location would work well for westbounds as well, because you could include that yellow building seen in the photo below, plus there are a few interesting buildings on the other side of the tracks.

CN 406 rolling through the crossing
The next shot was a grab shot near Apohaqui, by the highway. It was getting pretty dark so the photography was getting challenging.


Roadside view near Apohaqui
Caleb was showing good shooter form as he photographed CN 406 going away.

Bang bang
Caleb suggested another overhead view just west of Sussex. This was a good choice, as going into Sussex would be challenging to do in time, and we'd have no chance of another shot after that.


Overhead CN 406
This would have been nicer with more light, but what can you do? I think the location was good and the photos turned out OK.

CEFX 1011 from above
Our final location was Penobsquis, by the shuttered potash facility.


Here I elected to shoot video, as I hadn't done any video, and I knew this was the last spot. It's pretty dark and backlit, but here it is.

Once the train went by, we took a few photos of the potash facility... and its lonely locomotive.
PotashCorp plant in Penobsquis
Their locomotive is an EMD SW900, originally CN 7253.
Penobsquis switcher locomotive
The angle wasn't great but it was all that was available.

I said my goodbyes to Caleb and I headed back to Saint John. It was great to see him again, and I look forward to railfanning with him again!

Running Extra

NB Southern's yard in Saint John
I didn't do much railfanning the next evening, but I did take this photo of NB Southern's yard and shops from the nearby overpass. You can see their passenger equipment on the left edge, a few tracks in. A GP38 and a blue MP15 are at the shops, with a GP38/slug set on the side, and a few locomotives in storage at the back.

In Fredericton, I bought the latest book by Owen Laukkanen, noted Canadian mystery writer (and railfan!), Gale Force. It's a thriller based around a salvage tug and its crew. If you like thrillers by Clive Cussler, you'll love this book.

I had a very early flight and I intended to sleep on either the Saint John-Montreal leg or the Montreal-Winnipeg leg, but this book is such a page turner that I read it straight through with nary a yawn. Highly recommended. BUY THE BOOK

Owen Laukkanen's "Gale Force" on a plane

See also


Jenn said...

Lots of great shots! I of course like the one with the historic train station. The overhead perspective is cool!

Canadian Train Geek said...

Thanks, Jenn! I always love seeing that station.