“Every year is getting shorter never seem to find the time. Plans that either come to naught or half a page of scribbled lines Hanging on in quiet desperation is the railfan way The time is gone, the train didn’t come, Thought I’d something more to say.” – “Time”, Pink Floyd, with a few revisions
As I mentioned in a previous post, I went out on December 2, 2018 to photograph the first passenger train to Churchill in over a year. However, that didn’t work out… but I did see some trains.
I found an east-facing oil train sitting near mile 10 of the CN Rivers subdivision. This train had new, frost-covered CN 3823 on the head end. It has become common for eastbound trains to pause here on their way into the city, as CN’s line has become saturated and trains wait their turn to proceed.
Older CN 2807 was on the other end, not in a photogenic location.
My intent was to wait around the Diamond area so I could get a nice, wide shot of the VIA Rail train, especially the newly wrapped “Expedition to Churchill” diner car.
I noted that IC 2463 was at the head of another east-facing train, also waiting… around mile 16 this time. The lead photo shows that frosty engine. As I photographed that, I noted a westbound train approaching.
CN 8873 West
CN 8873 and 5404 were at the head of a westbound container train. I recorded the meet between the two trains, with video and with my Canon 77D.
Waves were exchanged between the crew of CN 8873 and the crew of IC 2463, on the ground for the rollby inspection.
Here’s the video:
Once the meet was done, I relocated back to the other side of Diamond to wait for VIA. I kept checking the VIA tracker app and, although VIA 693 showed up in the list for once, it wasn’t moving.
I waited… and waited… and… well, waited… however, the next train was…
The ICeman Cometh
As IC 2463 charged toward me, it disturbed a group of pigeons, who flapped around for a while before finally giving it up and heading elsewhere.
I watched the train roll by, and noted distributed braking boxcar CN 0031 on the tail end. It’s still weird to see a boxcar on the end of a container train.
Here’s the video for IC 2463.
Unfortunately, I ran out of time and had to head home. I checked the VIA app when I got home and noted that the Churchill train had just started moving when I got home, so I would have had to wait a good half an hour longer to see it, and I didn’t have that time.
Oh well… you can’t catch ’em all!
One Last Thing
Did you know I have a new book out?! “Passing a Half Century” tells the story of how I spent my 50th birthday driving around Alberta and British Columbia, photographing trains and grain elevators. It’s now in paperback and available for order. Check it out!
VIA Rail has resumed passenger service to Churchill, Manitoba. Service was interrupted in late May 2017 when portions of the rail line were washed out. Since the rail line was sold, repairs proceeded rapidly and now service is back to the northern Manitoba town.
This article was originally published on www.traingeek.ca and is not to be copied elsewhere, especially not on “railpage”.
The dining car, “Emerald”, was wrapped in an “Expedition Churchill” wrap. This is an initiative by the University of Manitoba, in partnership with the Churchill Northern Studies Centre, the Winnipeg Zoo, Travel Manitoba and VIA Rail. (Winnipeg Free Press article)
People in Churchill are very excited about the return of passenger and freight service to the town. Food and other prices skyrocketed after the rail line was severed, and with the return of freight service, they should return to normal for Churchill. It will still be expensive, but not as ridiculously expensive as it has been. Since there is no road anywhere near the town, meaning air travel was the only way to get to and from Churchill until the resumption of VIA Rail service.
I went out on December 2 to photograph the departing train. I was out at Diamond on the CN line just west of Winnipeg, waiting for it, but it ended up being a little more than 2 hours late and I couldn’t wait that long. However, railfans Mark Perry and Morgan Turney did catch it, and graciously allowed their photos to be shared here.
The train continued past Portage la Prairie, up through Dauphin, dipping briefly into Saskatchewan before returning to Manitoba for the trip through the lonely wilderness to Churchill.
Here’s a great video, posted by Arctic Gateway, showing the train approaching Churchill and then coming into the station there.
You can book tickets on VIA Rail now – $434.70 round trip between Winnipeg and Churchill in coach, or $1,344.00 in a lower berth. That compares to flying on First Air for $1,622.25… you can see why people missed having the train!
I’ve never been to Churchill. A train ride to Churchill has been on my “bucket list” for a while. After the train stopped running, I worried that I would never get to cross that one off. Now, the chance is back!
Every year, Canadian Pacific Railway runs its Holiday Train across Canada and the USA to support local food banks. This is its 20th year of operation. It actually runs two trains, one through Canada and the other through the US.
I try to catch it every year, with varying success. I caught it in 2011, 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017. I’ve been trying to vary the locations I photograph it at, so it isn’t the “same old train, same old location”. In 2017 I photographed it in daylight in Portage la Prairie. This year, I decided to photograph it in Whitemouth instead of Winnipeg.
Traditionally the train has one locomotive, several boxcars, a stage car, and passenger cars on the rear. The boxcars show the words “Canadian Pacific Holiday Train” – one word per boxcar – as well as winter scenes. The passenger cars are from CP’s fleet and carry the performers and staff. I believe there is a generator car in the train as well to provide power for all of the lights.
The town of Whitemouth is located a bit over an hour east of Winnipeg. It’s about 60 km from the Ontario border, and is on the CP Keewatin subdivision, part of CP’s main line through Manitoba. I’ve been through Whitemouth before and I noted how open the area was around the tracks through town. I thought it would be a great place to photograph the Holiday Train.
There’s a caboose on display in Whitemouth, if you’re in the area.
I set out from Winnipeg just after 5 PM. I wanted to photograph the train as it rolled into Whitemouth at 6:45 PM, so that gave me a bit of time to set up. I drove straight east from Winnipeg along highway 15 toward Elma. This parallels the CN Redditt subdivision in places, but I didn’t see any trains there.
At Elma, I turned north on highway 11 and drove to where it intersects highway 44, which goes east through the Whiteshell to the Ontario border. I had scouted the area using Google Maps and I found a small crossing just north of that intersection that looked promising. From the satellite view, I didn’t see any trees or buildings obstructing the view of the train.
I drove over the crossing, turned my car around, and parked it at the side of the road. I set up my tripod, then went back into my car to wait and stay warm.
At about 6:46 PM, CP 2249 came rolling along, towing a bright neon train.
As the train was approaching, a pickup truck came up the road behind my car. I was afraid they were going to pull up to the crossing and totally get in my shot. Thankfully, they stopped before they passed my car, and killed their headlights. I gave them a wave of appreciation!
For those who are interested, I was shooting with a shutter speed of 1/40 seconds, aperture f/2.8 and ISO 6400. Yes, that’s right, ISO 6400. I’ve never used that before, but I had to go that high to get a half decent shutter speed. I would have liked to go faster than 1/40s, but it was super dark with no lights around and an overcast sky.
After the train passed, I drove into Whitemouth. The fire department was out in full force, directing traffic and routing people to parking spots. Thank you!
I parked and walked toward the train. Most people were down toward the tail end of the train, watching the show. You can see from the photos that the train was very visible, and the lack of lights around it really made it “pop”.
CP 2249 is one of the two “ECO” rebuilds pulling the Holiday Trains. The other is CP 2246, which must be pulling the American version of the train.
I walked down toward the show, taking a few photos along the way. I took this panorama with my iPhone.
The train carries its own staff and performers along with it, and they perform at each stop in a converted boxcar with drop-down doors on the side. It makes it easy to set up a stage quickly, do the show, then fold it up and move on to the next stop. Since they often perform four shows a day, you need to be quick!
When I reached the stage area, Terri Clark was performing and she was putting on a great show.
I wandered up to the head end again, took a few photos, and headed for my car. I wanted to be ready for the departure. As I neared my car, I heard the engine bell start and the engineer gave a few toots as the train got underway. Perfect.
I set up the tripod and recorded the train’s departure from Whitemouth. My camera wouldn’t auto focus so I switched the lens to manual and focused using these techniques.
Getting out of town was difficult – so many cars! It took close to 30 minutes to leave. While I was waiting in line, a westbound freight train rolled through town. Maybe I should have sat trackside until the cars cleared out…
Here’s my video of the train, including its arrival in Whitemouth, some views of the train, and its departure toward Winnipeg.
The Holiday Train runs to raise funds and collect food for local food banks. I had forgotten to bring food, so I made a cash donation on site instead. You can make a donation too – visit Foods Bank Canada to make a donation.
I went out early in the morning of November 17th on a mission. I was looking for a new structure on CN’s main line.
CN and partner Duos Technologies has been building rail inspection portals at four locations around Winnipeg. These devices will do automated rail car inspection at high speed. I’ll write an article on them soon.
This is the portal at Vivian, east of Winnipeg. It wasn’t operational when I visited it. There are lights that illuminate the train for the high-speed cameras.
I’ve photographed 3 of the 4 portals, but I haven’t seen the one to the west of Winnipeg. That was my mission – find and photograph the portal.
I set out early in the morning, as I had to be back in Winnipeg by 10:30 AM. I knew the portal was at Nattress, which you won’t find on a map. It’s near the tiny town of Newton, Manitoba. Since it’s new, it doesn’t appear on satellite images or Google Street View, so I only had a vague idea of where it was. How hard could it be to find? These are the prairies!
On my way to Newton, I stopped in Elie to see if any trains were around. I took a quick photo of the former train station, which is now a private residence. I had heard it was refurbished and indeed it looks like it has new windows, a new roof, and the chimney was removed. Compare it with my photo from April 2010.
Many of my blog posts have been reposted, without permission, on an Australian site called “Railpage” (railpage.com.au). I’ve tried many ways of contacting them to ask them to remove the sixty-odd posts that I found there. If they ever remove them, I’ll come back and remove this. Otherwise, Railpage stinks and I will keep this in the hope that it will prevent them from copying this post. Moving on.
I drove to Oakville – a larger town just east of Newton – then drove on the road paralleling the tracks toward Newton. There was an oil train stopped between the two towns that I ignored. I was on a mission, remember?
I drove through Newton without seeing the portal. Continuing west, I saw another stopped train. This one was a container train, with leased locomotive CREX 1511 beautifully lit on the rear.
I haven’t photographed a Citirail (CREX) unit leading yet. I still haven’t, but this one on the rear, facing the rising sun, was pretty close.
As the tail end locomotive, it was unoccupied.
It was pretty cold outside – about -19C with a bit of wind – so I didn’t linger. As I walked back to my car, the train started moving west. I picked up the pace and chucked my gear into the car, then gave chase.
I hoped to cut it off at or near Portage la Prairie. Fortunately, I was able to get well ahead of it and saw it as I got on the bypass highway around Portage.
A New Perspective
I had long wanted to photograph a train from the overpass over the tracks, and this was my chance. I pulled off the highway and ran up the shoulder to get this photo of CN 3091 West passing yet another stopped train.
I am pretty pleased with that photo.
Here’s a closeup of CN 3091 rolling past.
I didn’t take any video as I didn’t have time to set up the tripod. Also, it was cold and I didn’t want to linger out there. I knew what the tail end locomotive was, since I had just photographed it!
I got back in my car and continued around on the bypass highway, back on to the Trans-Canada Highway heading east. I thought I might be able to spot the portal from that side.
I think I saw it as I drove over the Assiniboine River, but it was a long way away.
Soon I was back at the Newton exit, so I took that to circle back again. I spotted a train coming from the east, so I set up at the curve in Newton. I like this location, especially for westbound trains.
Train #1 on the Curve
There aren’t many curves on the CN main line between Winnipeg and Portage la Prairie, so you take advantage of them when you have them!
The train wasn’t exactly zooming through the curve. Note the superelevation in the tracks that causes the train to bank through the curve.
Gotta love that side light!
Here’s the video of CN 2315 West.
I retreated to my car after the head end passed, and sat there while the video camera (my Canon T1i) recorded the rest of the train. Discretion is the better part of valour!
Once the train passed, I left Newton in search of the portal again. I found this unauthorized but neat modification of a town sign.
However, I did not find the portal. I was scratching my head, trying to figure out why I couldn’t find a giant structure here. There were a lot of trees around, but still… this is the prairies.
Anyway, I ended up back in Newton in time for another westbound train.
Train #2 on the Curve
Another container train… such “variety” 😉
Here’s the going-away version of the train.
This was precisely the same scenario – shoot the train as it rounded the bend, then cower in the car while the video records.
I was running out of time, and I still hadn’t found the portal. I resolved to give it up and do some more research at home. I packed up my gear yet again. As I was driving over the crossing, I looked west and saw an eastbound train!
Likely this was the train that I saw earlier outside Portage la Prairie, from the overpass.
I decided to beat it to Oakville to record it passing the grain elevator there. I didn’t have a lot of time but I had enough to set up the tripod for the video, and grab a few quick shots as the train zoomed through town.
I wasn’t very impressed by the “coming” shot – pretty pedestrian – but the “going away” shot was better, in my opinion.
Here’s the video.
That was good.
Once the train passed, I headed east on the Trans-Canada Highway toward home.
I did a little time estimating in my head and decided that I did have time to grab the train passing the Elie grain elevator. You might recall I photographed it at sunrise at the start of this day.
I set up at a closed railway crossing to get the train as it passed the squarish ex Manitoba Pool grain elevator.
That was nice. There’s nothing like sweet morning light on the nose of a train.
Naturally… there’s video.
I was getting pretty good at packing my gear up! Since it was so cold, I was taking precautions to avoid getting condensation on (or worse, in) my camera. I took the camera bag out of the car, unzipped it, and left it outside while I did my shooting. When I was done, the gear went back into the bag, I zipped it up, and put it in the car. That kept the camera gear cold and didn’t expose it to the warm air inside the car.
I estimated that I had a few extra minutes, so I took the “long” way by cutting up to the CN Rivers sub through Headingley instead of staying on the Trans-Canada Highway. This paid off as I saw a westbound oil train as I approached the road crossing. I got there about a minute before the train did, so I was able to photograph new CN 3809 on the head end.
All of the new GE locos on CN sport the Aboriginal Affairs logo on the nose. This symbolizes CN’s relations with Canada’s First Nations. The feather is a common First Nations symbol, the inukshuk is for the Arctic peoples, and the infinity sign is a Métis symbol.
On the tail end of this oil train was another Citirail unit, CREX 1518.
So my morning began and ended with a Citirail unit. I can appreciate a pair of CREX bookends!
Even though I failed in my mission to find the portal, I did photograph several trains in some nice settings, so it’s a partial win in my books.
I talked to a few CN engineers and I now know where the portal is. It’s basically here (Google Maps) just on the east side of the Assiniboine River, where the two tracks converge to one to cross the river. It looks like the area is accessible by road both to the north and to the south of the track.
Time for another mission!
Just One More Thing
If you’re looking for something a little different for holiday gift-giving, consider some of these great ornaments from B-Line Design aka Bettina and Mark Wong. These fine metal ornaments are fantastic and reasonably priced.
My wife and I have seen Mark at the local Christmas craft show for the past three years. He’s a super nice guy, very friendly and knowledgeable, and obviously he and his wife are very talented. They live in British Columbia but travel around to various shows around this time. Their email is email@example.com if you want to reach them. I don’t get anything for mentioning them, except a warm feeling knowing that others appreciate their work!
The Greater Winnipeg Water District (GWWD) railway is a pretty unique little railway. It was built to service the aqueduct supplying water from Shoal Lake to Winnipeg. The railway was completed in 1915 and has served the city since then. It used to carry passengers along the 102 mile route, but it has not done so for many years.
Today the GWWD exists solely for Winnipeg’s water system. It brings chemicals to the water treatment centre at Deacon’s Corner in southeast Winnipeg, and material and people out along the aqueduct to the end of the line at Shoal Lake. It also hauls waste back from Shoal Lake.
The railway has an interchange with CN. It used to have an interchange with CP, but it has been out of service for several years.
Locomotives of the GWWD
Over the years the GWWD have used GE 44 ton locomotives, MLW RS-23s and S-13s for power. Today GWWD 200 and 202 – both RS-23s – are the primary power.
They sold off their small locomotives years ago, but in 2016 or 2017 they acquired GWWD 100, a GE 44 ton locomotive built in June 1946. The intent was to leave it out at the water intake at Waugh, but it blew a traction motor and has been laid up since then. They also acquired “Chip II”, a GE 45 tonner ballasted to 60 tons, but I’m not sure that has run at all.
A Quick Aside
Many of my blog posts have been reposted, without permission, on an Australian site called “Railpage” (railpage.com.au). I’ve contacted them and asked them to remove the sixty-odd posts that I found there. Hopefully they do remove them, and if so, I’ll come back and remove this. Otherwise, Railpage sucks. Moving on.
GWWD 100 on the Move
I heard that the GWWD had fixed #100 and was taking it and a few tank cars to the water treatment plant at Deacon’s Corner at the edge of the city. I made some time to get out and photograph it.
I went out to near Deacon’s Corner and saw there was still snow on the rails, so it was clear they hadn’t reached that section yet. I didn’t see them along the stretch of track through Symington Yard either. I drove toward their yard on Plinguet Street and found them just crossing Dawson Road. They were pulling two tank cars.
I set up to record them crossing Dugald Road. In the distance, I saw them stop and one crew member dismounted. I thought he was protecting the movement across the CN-GWWD diamond, but instead the crewperson threw a switch and it was clear #100 was turning on the wye near Lafarge.
I took some photos from the road, then went back to Dugald Road to wait for them. They put their tiny train back together again and headed up the line toward Deacon’s Corner. As they approached, I was taking shots with my telephoto lens… until the camera’s card was full.
This card had thousands of photos, from my trip to Barcelona in September to now. I knew they were all on my computer, but I had avoided reformatting the card to keep another copy of the photos around “just in case”. Unfortunately for me, my spare card was in my car a fair distance away and I would miss the shot if I ran back to get the card. There was really only one choice.
I reformatted the card on the spot and started shooting “from scratch”. I lost the few photos at Lafarge, but I felt this was a better choice because I wouldn’t have lost the shot.
Moral of the story: reformat frequently.
Anyway, here’s an “approach” photo of #100 pulling two cars, after I reformatted the card.
The friendly crew gave me a wave as they passed. They were not going very fast at all.
Once they passed, I gathered up my gear and sprinted back to my car to get to the next spot. I knew I wasn’t going to beat them to the Panet Road crossing, but I figured I could get to the next one, Holden Street. I did manage that, without much trouble at all.
They ended up stopping just short of Holden Street. The next road crossing was highway 59, a busy road, and then they would encounter the triple diamond crossing with CN. Normally GWWD has to wait for the CN dispatcher to give them permission to cross, and it might be a while!
A container train was rolling through the diamond, so they had to wait. That gave me time to reposition to the other side of Symington Yard to capture them after they crossed the triple diamond at Beach Junction, and another diamond with CN at an industrial spur.
I thought about getting them at Plessis Road, on the east side of Symington Yard, but that’s a busy street and the angles aren’t that great anyway. I elected to carry on to Symington Road, a gravel road that crosses the GWWD line. I had plenty of time before they came along.
Before the train came, this GWWD hi-railer went past.
I imagine it was a track foreman and crew inspecting the track before the train came through.
I was using three cameras here – my Canon 77D for the long telephoto shots, the Canon T1i on a tripod for video, and my iPhone 6 for the wide shots. Just a little juggling! 😉
After they passed me, I carried on toward the next crossing, Murdock Road. En route, I stopped to photograph the little train crossing the prairie. That’s the Malteurop plant in the background in Transcona.
At Murdock Road, I decided to shoot video handheld. Once they passed, I switched my T1i camera to stills and took a few “going away” shots.
That’s the Deacon’s Corner plant in the distance at the far right of the photo.
I elected not to try to get them at the Perimeter Highway crossing, as I felt I couldn’t get there in time without driving beside the track on a sketchy road, or going the long way around. I was satisfied with the photos I had.
I’ve put a video together showing three different locations – heavily edited so you don’t have to wait too long for the train to pass by!
Thanks for reading!
Books on the GWWD
If you’re looking for a good book on the Greater Winnipeg Water District railway, there is none better than the late Peter Lacey’s “The Muskeg Limited“. This hardcover book covers the first 80 years of the GWWD. Recommended.
This book is a compilation of a blog post series that I wrote, plus reviews of the three railway museums I visited, plus additional content just for the book. It’s all in one convenient 143 page PDF or paperback, with over 200 photographs!
Back in May 2000, I was driving across half of Canada with my girlfriend (and future wife). She had been living in Regina, SK and was moving to Fredericton, NB to be with me. It was a long drive, spanning almost a week, and we were mostly just trying to get to New Brunswick as fast as we could. There wasn’t time for tourism or, heaven forbid, railfanning.
However… I did grab these photos. As we were driving along the Trans-Canada Highway, I saw what appeared to be a RailLink train beside the highway. I stopped, took three quick photos on film, then kept going. I made no record of where I was, or even what day it was, so until today, these photos were a bit of a mystery to me.
Today, I was scanning some photos and found these three and decided to scan them too. I posted them on the excellent Canadian Trains Facebook group, and within minutes, Christian Base had the answer. This was taken in Mattawa, Ontario about 50 km east of North Bay.
RLK 2002 is/was a GP38, originally B&O 4813.
The passenger cars in the background were from the Timber Train that ran between Mattawa and Temiscaming, Quebec. That tourist operation ceased operation in late 2001 when its assets were seized by the Royal Bank. The cars were purchased by the Adirondack Scenic Railroad in New York and may still be in operation today. Here’s a photo of one in Ithaca, NY in 2013.
The below photo of RLK 3585 is probably the only photo I’ve taken of an MLW HR412W. At first glance, it looks like an MLW M-420. The “HR” stood for “High Reliability”, and the 412 meant 4 axles, 12 cylinder engine and the “W” means a wide cab. This unit was listed as out of service by 2003. It’s obviously ex-CN.
This is the Ottawa Valley Railroad, a former CP line that was taken over by RailLink on October 30, 1996. RailLink was acquired by RailAmerica in July 1999. The line ran both local trains and through CP trains between Sudbury and Smiths Falls.
Today RailAmerica and the Ottawa Valley Railroad are owned by Genesee & Wyoming. The line runs for a total of 157 miles from Sudbury through North Bay to Mattawa, then up to Temiscaming, Quebec. It interchanges with CP in Sudbury, and CN and Ontario Northland in North Bay.
I’m glad that 18 year old mystery is finally solved! Thank you, Christian and others from Canadian Trains!
Continuing my trend of reading old railway books, I recently read “Canadian Pacific Railway” by Patrick C. Dorin. This book was published in 1973, so it is more than a little dated.
This 176 page book covers the Canadian Pacific Railway from the confederation of Canada and the tumultuous start of the CPR, through its rapid growth in the early 20th century, the transition from steam to diesel and the precipitous decline in passenger service.
The book is organized into seven chapters and four appendices:
A history of the Canadian Pacific (rail and non-rail assets)
Freight and Mixed Train Services
The Soo Line
The Duluth, South Shore and Atlantic
Other Canadian Pacific Railway subsidiaries
The four appendices list steam power, diesel power, freight and passenger equipment.
All photos in this book are black and white, which is unfortunate (in my opinion) but to be expected for the year that the book was printed. A lot of the photos are roster photos, but there are a fair number of “action” photos from photographers such as Jim Scribbins, Elmer Treloar, Jim McRae, Gerry Burridge, Harold K. Vollrath and Dale Wilson.
I’d like to say that I liked this book, but I think it’s more accurate to say that I liked parts of this book. I found that the author described different aspects of the CPR in wildly different levels of detail. For example, the Dominion Atlantic Railway (a rather interesting internal shortline of the CPR in Nova Scotia) was afforded 2/3 of a page, the Esquimalt and Nanaimo Railway (on Vancouver Island) got one column, while the Duluth, South Shore and Atlantic got its own 9 page chapter. I guess you write what you know, and maybe the author was far more familiar with the DSS&A as an American living in Minnesota.
After more than a year, a train has reached Churchill, Manitoba. Three locomotives, a caboose and a flatcar arrived at the northern town just before 6:45 PM on October 31. This was the first train to visit the town since the rail line between Gillam and Churchill was washed out in late May 2017.
That train had no freight on it, but it shows that the line is essentially fixed now. The Arctic Gateway Group, new owner/operators of the line, says that repairs are “essentially complete” after over a month of hard work.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was in Churchill today to announce that full passenger and freight rail service should resume by the end of November.
For the railfans, the train had HBRY 5005 and 5004, LLPX 2606, Cando caboose CCGX 200001, and a flatcar. 5005 and 5004 were recently repaired by the Hudson Bay Railway after laying idle for years under the previous owners, Omnitrax.
The CBC has a couple of videos of the event. The second video has some great views of the train.
It’s currently not possible to reserve a seat on the VIA Rail train to Churchill yet, but I’m sure it will be enabled in the next few weeks as inspections progress and the line is certified for full use.
This is great news and it’s thanks to the hard work by Arctic Gateway and its contractors, and the support of the federal government.
Golden slumbers fill your eyes Smiles await you when you rise – the Beatles
Photographers talk about the quality of light. We talk about soft light, hard light, direct and indirect light. It’s not until you start making photographs seriously that you really notice the quality of light.
I’m a huge fan of sunrise and sunsets because of the soft, warm light you often get at those times. This summer, I made a point of getting up and getting OUT early to make photographs. With the long days of summer, it was easy to get out and make some photos, then get back home to shower and get to work.
August 9, 2018 was one of those days. I had resolved to get up early and head east out of Winnipeg to capture the VIA Rail “Canadian” coming into the city. It was due into Winnipeg at 8 AM, which was a great time as the sun would be over the horizon.
Hit the Road
I woke up, used the washroom, threw on some clothes and hit the road. It was very foggy that morning, which is highly unusual for a city surrounded by prairie! I was practically rubbing my hands together with glee in anticipation.
The CP Emerson subdivision runs north-south through Winnipeg, and it’s located about three kilometres east of my house. I can hear trains blowing their horns for crossings from my living room, but sadly I can’t see them.
As I drove through the railway crossing on the Perimeter Highway that morning, I glanced north and saw headlights. Train!
I quickly exited and got trackside. I wanted to be sure to include a bit of fog, so I composed the scene, fired off a test shot, and the train was upon me.
CP 8641 was leading an oil train south on the Emerson subdivision. Given the relatively low light at 6:17 AM, I had set my Canon 77D to ISO 800, f/4.5 and a shutter speed of 1/160s. In retrospect the shutter speed was a bit slow and the train blurred just a bit.
The train went by quickly, with CP 8534 bringing up the rear a mere 2 minutes later.
I continued on my way around the Perimeter, heading toward the east-west Dugald Road that parallels the CN Redditt subdivision that the “Canadian” was coming in on. I pulled over briefly to check VIA Rail’s app to see where VIA 1 was. I decided I had enough time to get to the east side of Dugald and set up there.
I don’t know how many times I have photographed that elevator, but there’s always room on my hard drive for one or two more!
The Waiting Game
There’s a quiet railway crossing not far east of Dugald that is a favourite of mine. You get good visibility in both directions and there aren’t any clanging crossing bells for videos, just a set of crossbucks. I arrived there at 6:45 AM.
It was foggy there too, with grey fog to the west and lovely golden, diffused light to the east. Magic!
I took time to smell photograph the flowers. I do love sunflowers.
At 6:52 AM, the west-facing signal lit up, red, indicating that a train was in the block. It had to be VIA! I double checked my camera settings, turned the video camera on, and waited.
Two minutes later, I saw headlights emerging from the golden fog as the “Canadian” hurtled toward me. I popped off a number of photos using my telephoto lens. The lead photo of this post was my favourite. This is one of the approach photos.
Standing a safe distance back, I made a few photographs of Canada’s flagship train zooming by. That train looks great in any light!
“Laurentide Park” was on the tail end. I wanted to include the sunflowers in the shot, and I managed to shoehorn them in behind the train.
There was no chance of catching that train, so I took a moment to appreciate the beautiful light, the beautiful morning, and my good fortune to live in a place and have a life where I could experience this. Then I packed up!
Here’s the video.
That evening, we went camping! We went to the beautiful Whiteshell region of Manitoba, near the Ontario border. We set up our trailer in Opapiskaw campground, and at 9:19 PM I enjoyed the other end of the beautiful daylight – sunset over a little inlet a few steps away from the campground.