Tuesday, July 03, 2018

Railfanning the Longest Day of the Year

VIA 1 near Anola, Manitoba
I've been wanting to railfan all day on June 21 for several years now. It's the longest day of the year, after all. This year it fell on a Thursday, so I had to work, but I did manage to get out at the start and end of the day.


I hit the road at 6 AM, heading toward Symington Yard and points east of Winnipeg. Passing over the Sprague subdivision, I didn't see any approaching trains nor any action in the yard. I kept going around Winnipeg to the CN Redditt subdivision and headed east toward Dugald. At Dugald, there were no signal indications showing an impending train, but I did see this hay bale, so it wasn't a complete loss. ;)

Hay bale sunrise
I headed back to Winnipeg and carried on west on Dugald Road to see if anything was happening at the Greater Winnipeg Water District. Often they run out to the water treatment plant (or beyond) on Thursday. When I arrived, it looked like a few crew were arriving to get started but it would be a long time before anything would be moving. I didn't have time to wait, so I carried on toward Symington Yard. I decided that if nothing else showed up, at least I could see the SD40 locomotives working the hump.

On my way there, I spotted a CN locomotive and slug leaving the yard on the St. Boniface spur.
CN 7251 and slug CN 252 on the St. Boniface spur
Slug 252 was leading CN 7251 as they rolled along. There were three crew on the head end - I'm assuming one was a trainee, wearing a green safety vest instead of the usual orange.

I carried on down Lagimodière (that's a hard word to say) Boulevard to the south end of Symington Yard. There I spotted CN 8805 and Norfolk Southern 1108 pushing a train into the yard. I grabbed this terrible photo of NS 1108.
NS 1108 in Winnipeg
The sun was not in my favour!

Two hump yard sets were working. CN 6016, CN 6010, grey GTW 5948, and a slug (probably CN 203) were on one track, and GTW 5943, CN 6015, CN 6005 and slug CN 217 were on the other.

As I watched, the GTW 5943 set started putting on a sound and smoke show, getting their string moving out from the yard in preparation for pushing it up the hump.
GTW 5943 smokes it up
It was impressive to watch - and hear!

That was the morning.


I saw on the VIA Rail tracker site that VIA 1 was coming into the city late (as usual). I thought I might be able to catch it before it was too dark.

I headed out along the CN Redditt subdivision toward Anola. I pulled over a couple of times to check its progress, and I saw I had plenty of time. I zipped up to the CP main line but saw no signals lit, so that was a bit of a bust. At least I took a few silhouette photos.
Silhoutted CP Signal
That was at 9:11 PM, so there was still a bit of light around.

Back to CN! I headed east to a crossing just west of Anola. I arrived at 9:32 PM and familiarized myself with the area, since I had never been to that crossing before.

The east facing signal was green over red.
Green signal = GOOD
Waaayyy in the distance to the east I could see headlights.

In order to get a decent shutter speed, I selected ISO 1600, and f/3.2. This gave me a shutter speed of 1/200 seconds.

VIA 1 blasted through at 9:43 PM with VIA 6453 and 6427 leading.
VIA 1 blurring its way west
1/200s was not fast enough to freeze the action!

I liked the going away shot better, with the sunset sky.
VIA 1 facing a green signal
I knew there was no way I was going to catch VIA 1 again, so I packed up my gear and headed back toward home. I went along Dugald Road with the forlorn hope that VIA might be stopped in Transcona Yard - no luck there.

I headed south past Symington Yard to find a CN freight stopped by Tinkertown, just outside the yard. CN 2136 was the lead unit.
CN freight train outside Winnipeg
This was taken at 10:05 PM. I can't remember if I used a tripod or a monopod, but I'm sure I used something to steady the shot. My camera settings were ISO 3200, 1/30s shutter speed, aperture f/3.2. It wasn't totally dark but the sun was well below the horizon.

Note the third locomotive, BNSF 5366.
BNSF 5366 in Winnipeg
You can tell it was pretty dark, because the step lights are visible in the two photos above. Normally you don't see these during the day. I'm not sure if they are always on or if the engineer turns them on... I imagine they must always be on.

I posted a little video to my Instagram stories to show how dark it was.

I texted my wife that I was heading home, and I hit the road for home. Symington is about 15 minutes from my house.

As I crossed the CP Emerson subdivision, I saw headlights to the north.

One more train?

One more train!

The train wasn't moving very fast - at all - so it was a bit of a wait. It was OK, though, as it was a nice night and the bugs weren't too bad. It's been a dry spring in Winnipeg, so our legendary mosquitoes haven't had much chance to breed yet.

(yes, I did text my wife to tell her I would be a "bit" later)

At 10:34 PM, CP 8564 rolled past, dragging a long oil train.
CP 8564 by night
At this point, I had set my camera to a ridiculous ISO 6400 to be able to use a 1/40 second shutter speed. There is definitely grain in the photo - lots of it - but it is still a usable photo. My new Canon 77D is doing yeoman work.

At the private crossing I was at, there is a "yard" light providing illumination, so the side view has a lot more light.
Blowing through the crossing
The second unit was CP 9648, followed by a buffer car and a hundred oil tanks...
So many tank cars
After the 100 tank cars, there was another buffer car... then more locomotives!

One was a CP locomotive but the other was NS 8125. Two Norfolk Southern locomotives in one day!
NS 8125 on a CP freight train
Note the BNSF buffer car just going through the crossing. Buffer cars are used in dangerous goods trains like crude oil trains to separate the cargo from locomotives, for crew safety.

Here's another Instagram story video showing that it was pretty dark.
There were another hundred oil tanks on this train. That's 4 locomotives and 204 cars... a monster!
The final car was an old CN grain car, the final buffer car.
The final car
That was my experience railfanning the longest day of the year. Someday I hope to continuously railfan the day, but that will have to wait for another year... or two...

See Also

PS just a reminder that I have some recommendations on Amazon for things I have purchased and used, like train books, photography gear, batteries, etc. Check it out!


Terry Viddal said...

After watching this l find myself admiring your dedication to photographing trains and your endless knowledge about what is displayed in the pictures you post. Finding humour when trains do not accommodate (haybale). Early mornings and late evenings. Finding something on a morning and evening of slim pickin’s ! For me this post a little look inside the Man Behind the Camera. Thanks for posting The Lonest Day.

Steve Boyko said...

Thank you so much, Terry! I never regret getting up early for sunrises - there's always something to photograph, even if it's just the sun rising over a hay bale. I can be a little more cavalier about not seeing trains now that I live in train-rich Winnipeg. When I lived in eastern Canada and had to travel 45 minutes just to see tracks, and hope for a train to come along, I was a little more desperate to see a train.

Thanks again for your thoughtful comment.

Eric said...

Nice post, Steve. You certainly shone new light on the possibilities of mornin-and-nite photography in the West. We don't have that here. I can remember pacing CP SD's east on the Trans-Canada in the dark with my aunt and uncle into Portage with all the sounds, smells and sights (mostly darkness) as we did. Great memories!


Steve Boyko said...

Thanks, Eric - I am glad it brought some nice memories back!