The GWWD’s 44 Tonner on the Move

At Symington Road outside Winnipeg
The GWWD at Symington Road outside Winnipeg

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.

GWWD map
GWWD map

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.

GWWD 202 in Winnipeg, April 2015.
GWWD 202 in Winnipeg, April 2015.

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.

GWWD's "Chip II" in Winnipeg.
GWWD’s “Chip II” in Winnipeg.

A Quick Aside

Many of my blog posts have been reposted, without permission, on an Australian site called “Railpage” ( 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.

Dang it.

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.

GWWD 100 approaching Dugald Road
GWWD 100 approaching Dugald Road

The friendly crew gave me a wave as they passed. They were not going very fast at all.

GWWD "going away" shot
GWWD “going away” shot

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!

Waiting at Holden Street
Waiting at Holden Street

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.

GWWD Hi Railer
GWWD Hi Railer

I imagine it was a track foreman and crew inspecting the track before the train came through.

GWWD 100
GWWD 100

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! 😉

Entering the crossing
Entering the crossing

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.

Little train on the prairie
Little train on the prairie

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.

Heading to Deacon's Corner
Heading to Deacon’s Corner

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.

Other GWWD Posts

New eBook: Passing a Half Century

I’ve completed my second eBook, “Passing a Half Century”! This details the trip my wife and I took through Alberta and British Columbia to celebrate turning 50.

Download the book (link to for purchase) or download for Kindle.

This book is a compilation of the blog post series 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, with over 200 photographs!


Thanks for your interest!

NOW available on Kindle!

PS – New readers may not remember that I wrote another eBook, “Diesels on Prince Edward Island“, a few years ago.

An 18 Year Old Mystery Solved

Location Unknown - Until Now!
Location Unknown – Until Now!

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 in Mattawa, Ontario, May 2000.
RLK 2002 in Mattawa, Ontario, May 2000.

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.
Mattawa-Temiscaming Timber Train (a remnant)
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.

RLK 3585 in Mattawa, Ontario, May 2000.
RLK 3585 in Mattawa, Ontario, May 2000.

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!

Book Review: Canadian Pacific Railway

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:

  1. A history of the Canadian Pacific (rail and non-rail assets)
  2. Passenger services
  3. Freight and Mixed Train Services
  4. The Soo Line
  5. The Duluth, South Shore and Atlantic
  6. Other Canadian Pacific Railway subsidiaries
  7. Conclusion

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.

I should mention that Dr. Dorin passed away on November 18, 2014 at the age of 75. He wrote about 35 books, mostly on railroads.

As I said, I liked parts of the book, but I can’t really recommend it as the definitive book on the Canadian Pacific Railway.

If you’re interested in the CPR, I recommend either Tom Murray’s “Canadian Pacific Railway” for full coverage of the CPR, or Greg McDonnell’s “Canadian Pacific: Stand Fast, Craigellachie!” for an entertaining and engaging look at the CPR.

Once you have those two, then you should consider Mr. Dorin’s version as well for an earlier look at the CPR.

Amazon links in this post are affiliate links, meaning I earn a small commission when you buy something after following that link, at no additional cost to you.

See Also

A Train Reaches Churchill

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

VIA Rail's "Canadian" in a golden sunrise
VIA Rail’s “Canadian” in a golden sunrise

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!

First 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 in the fog
CP 8641 in the fog

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.

CP 8534 on the rear of the oil train
CP 8534 on the rear of the oil train

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 took a moment to photograph the Dugald grain elevator at 6:37 AM before continuing east out of town.

The Dugald grain elevator at sunrise
The Dugald grain elevator at sunrise

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 track out there somewhere
There’s track out there somewhere

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!

Sweet, sweet sunflowers
Sweet, sweet sunflowers

I took time to smell photograph the flowers. I do love sunflowers.

Heeeere’s VIA!

On golden fog
On golden fog

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.

Here it comes
Here it comes

Standing a safe distance back, I made a few photographs of Canada’s flagship train zooming by. That train looks great in any light!

Stainless steel rail cars at sunrise
Stainless steel rail cars at sunrise

“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.

Laurentide Park and sunflowers
Laurentide Park and sunflowers

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.


Sunset at Opapiskaw
Sunset at Opapiskaw

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.

Blessings. I count them, and they are many.

Just One More Thing

I made a sunrise and sunset train playlist. It’s a compilation of all my train videos at either sunrise or sunset. Go watch it!

Mighty Trains Season 2

Mighty Trains Season 2
Mighty Trains Season 2  Episode 1 – Rocky Mountaineer

I’ve been watching season 2 of the show Mighty Trains and so far it has been really enjoyable to watch.

Episode 1

The first episode featured Canada’s Rocky Mountaineer cruise train. Host Teddy Wilson traveled on two of the “Rocky” trains – from Vancouver to Banff and from Jasper to Vancouver. The show did a good job of featuring the on-board experience, the experience from the locomotive cab, and the preparation for the trip itself.

Rocky Mountaineer passengers, Jasper, AB.
Rocky Mountaineer passengers, Jasper, AB.

The photography (cinematography?) is excellent. They show the view from the cab, from the train, the railfan’s trackside view; but the best views are from helicopter! Seeing the Rocky go over the bridge at Cisco was pretty special.

I was worried it would be a little corny when viewed with a railfan’s eye, and there is a bit of that, but in general it is interesting even when you understand railways and their operation. There wasn’t a lot of made-up drama – the worst was a balky air-conditioning unit on one coach and having to sit in a siding for a couple of freight trains.

Episode 2

Steam engine powering Tren Crucero
Steam engine powering Tren Crucero – from Mighty Trains S2 E2

Episode 2 featured Ecuador’s Tren Crucero, luxury cruise trains in that tiny South American country. There are actually two trains – the “Train of Wonders” from Quito to Guayaquil, and the “Train to the Clouds” from Guayaquil to Ecuador’s capital Quito, high in the Andes Mountains.

Tren Crucero (meaning “Cruise Train”) is a narrow gauge train, revived in 2013 after heavy rains in 1982 and in the 1990s destroyed much of Ecuador’s rail network. The government invested the equivalent of $280 million to restore railway operations.

The train is hauled by a steam engine for a portion of the route, and by diesels for the mountainous portions. It has four coaches, carrying only 50 passengers, and provides a luxury cruise experience. Tickets cost a minimum of about USD $1,700 per person for a four day trip.

Here’s a promo video from Ecuador’s Ministry of Tourism. It’s in Spanish but you can turn auto translate on if you want English closed captions.

It was very interesting to learn about Ecuador’s rail system and this train in particular. I liked how they described the locomotive’s sanding system in detail, and how it provides “grip” for the train’s journey on steep grades.

The show spent a lot of time showing railway maintenance, from track inspection through brush control and rail maintenance. Apparently Ecuador has a lot of problems with people stealing the fishplates and other portions of the track infrastructure to sell for the metal. They are also replacing some wooden ties with concrete ones to better withstand the heat and humidity .

Future Episodes

In the four upcoming episodes, Teddy will ride trains in New Zealand, India, Sweden and Spain.

Production is underway on a third season of Mighty Trains right now.

How to Watch

Episodes are broadcast Sundays at 7 PM Eastern time on the Discovery Canada channel on most cable networks.

You can also view the episodes on their web site.

See Also

The CP Business Train Comes to Town

CP 1401 and the business train
CP 1401 and the business train

I had a tip that Canadian Pacific was running its business train east through Winnipeg. The story was that it was headed to Montreal, where it would then head into the US to tour one of CP’s subsidiaries, the Delaware and Hudson.

A “business train”, often called an “officer’s special”, is a passenger train owned by a railway and used for the railway’s business. You can’t buy a ticket to ride it and it’s not open to the public unless they are invited. These trains are often used to court investors or shippers, to honour veterans or active duty military personnel, or to host employees on special occasions.

I knew it was due into Winnipeg around 1 PM. I had an errand to run mid-morning, so I packed up my camera and laptop so I could sit near the track and work while waiting for the train.

First, CN

As I approached the CN Rivers subdivision on my way north, I spotted an eastbound CN train. I took a few minutes to photograph faded CN 5772 and CN 5720 leading a container train.

CN 5772 in Winnipeg
CN 5772 in Winnipeg

I used to see those SD75I units all the time in Saint John, New Brunswick. It’s nice to see them still out earning their keep.

On to CP

Again I saw a train as I approached the tracks. This time it was an eastbound CP train on the CP Carberry subdivision. A little driving found me in position to grab CP 8144 East. This might have been train CP 100.

CP 8144
CP 8144

That train had CP 8745 mid-train, and blue leased unit CEFX 1049 was bringing up the rear.

CEFX 1049
CEFX 1049

I parked off the highway on a side road – often called a “grid road” because prairie roads are laid out on a 1-mile wide grid – near “CP Makwa”, just west of the Perimeter Highway. Every now and then I would take a look at the signals facing west to see if they were A) lit or B) showing green.

The Portage Rocket

I did notice red-lit signals, and it turned out to be a westbound train. CP 2297 was rocketing along toward Portage la Prairie with its train of refrigerated cars for McCain and Simplot and hoppers for Richardson Pioneer. CP used to keep a locomotive in Portage for these local customers, but in the past few years they just run the train out to Portage to serve them, and then it comes back to Winnipeg.

CP 2297 near Rosser, MB
CP 2297 near Rosser, MB

There is double track from this point east to the CP yard in Winnipeg. They were on the south track, coming onto single track for the run west.

That was exciting, but unfortunately it meant there would be no business train for a while, as 2297 would be occupying the single track west of me!

It took 50 minutes. They must have met at Meadows or Marquette.

Making an Entrance

There was a glimmer of light as the sun struggled to shine through the overcast skies. I took my tripod over to the “sun” side of the tracks and leveled it, then I locked my Canon T1i on and confirmed the horizon was more or less level. I know my tripod has a level indicator on it but it is never really that accurate.

It's coming
It’s coming

While I waited for the train to get “in range”, a pickup truck pulled up to the crossing. The driver turned out to be Felix Lesiuk, a local railfan and occasional contributor of train photos to the Winnipeg Model Railroad Club blog. Here an example of his work.

He happened to be driving by and saw I was waiting for a train. Felix has a bit of “railfan luck” as he happened to drive by the recent CP derailment in Rosser not long after it happened, and captured some great photos, which he graciously gave permission for me to show.

Anyway, we worked out where we were going to stand so we didn’t get in each other’s shots, and went to work as the train passed by. Here’s the video, with a lot of clicking noises as we both fired off some frames.

Those three “F” units looked pretty sweet.

CP 4107 "going away"
CP 4107 “going away”

The train had refurbished “F” unit CP 1401 followed by CP 4106 and CP 4107. The irony of these “CP” units is that they were all originally CN units.

Heavyweights on the move
Heavyweights on the move

All too quickly, they were past us and taking the south track into Winnipeg. I believe the train was empty, and the dark observation car seemed to confirm that.

CP observation car.
CP observation car.

Felix and I stood and chatted for a few minutes after the train went by, then he went west and I went east (and south) toward home.

One More Train

On my way down, I noted an eastbound CN train, so I had to exit and grab it – since it was there, you know.

CP 8016 East
CP 8016 East

The train had boxy CP 8016 leading, and “black widow” IC 1020 trailing.

It was a good few hours of trackside time!

Related Posts

Just One More Thing

I just finished reading the book “Ancillary Sword” by Ann Leckie. It’s the second book in her Imperial Radch trilogy. Good book, not as good as “Ancillary Justice” but still well worth reading. I’ve downloaded the third, “Ancillary Mercy“, and will be reading it digitally… a new experience for me. These are military science fiction books, leaning toward the social / interpersonal “soft” science. Think C.J. Cherryh more than David Drake. Recommended.

(these links are affiliate links, meaning I earn a small commission if you purchase something by following them, at no extra cost to you)

The Last Warm Day of 2018?

Autoracks at sunset
Autoracks at sunset

Octobers in Winnipeg can be pretty cold. Season temperatures are a high of 10C (50F) and low of -2C (30F). So when it’s warm, everyone gets out and enjoys it while it lasts, before the cold winter sets in.

On October 18, it reached a high of 23.6C (74.5F). Time to get out of the house!

As the sun was setting, I drove up to Wilkes Avenue. The sunset was gorgeous and I was concerned that I had missed the light. As I approached the track, I saw an eastbound train rolling along. I got ahead of it and photographed it approaching Carman Junction.

Oil train at sunset
Oil train at sunset

I always find it interesting how the light changes so much between facing the sunset and facing away from the sunset. Check out this “going away” photo, taken from the exact same spot but pointing the other way.

GREEN OVER RED - CN 2258 and 2956 heading east.
GREEN OVER RED – CN 2258 and 2956 heading east.

It’s like the two photos were taken on different days, instead of just 33 seconds apart.

Here’s the video I took.

I was pretty pleased with the photos – and the video.

For those who are interested, my camera settings were: shutter speed 1/500s, aperture f/4.0, ISO 800. I was using my 70-200mm (f/4.0) lens. I wanted to use a relatively high shutter speed to freeze the action, so I had to bump the ISO up to get the right exposure.

After the train went by, there was no evidence that another train was coming, so I headed home. On the way home, I decided to stop into La Salle to take a few photos of the grain elevator there.

La Salle, MB grain elevator
La Salle grain elevator

It had been a while since I was in La Salle, so it was time to take an up to date photo… or two.

La Salle, MB grain elevator
La Salle, MB grain elevator

I’m crossing my fingers for a continued warm fall. Let’s hope!

Triumph and Tragedy on the Churchill Line

New culverts and roadbed installed
New culverts and roadbed installed. Photo supplied by Arctic Gateway Group.

The Arctic Gateway group and its subcontractors have been very hard at work fixing washouts and repairing track along the rail line between Gillam and Churchill, Manitoba. It has been a tale of triumph and tragedy so far.

They have made tremendous progress since the line was purchased by Arctic Gateway in early September. The clock was ticking, as the construction season is short in northern Manitoba and the possibility of an early freeze made it imperative that crews work as fast as possible to repair the line before winter came.

Washout before culvert installation, September 29
Washout before culvert installation, September 29.  Photo supplied by Arctic Gateway Group.

Paradox Access Solutions was engaged to provide ground stabilization services using their Tough Cell technology. Cando Rail Services has been doing the rail repair once the surface was prepared.

Mile 443.9, October 3
Mile 443.9, October 3.  Photo supplied by Arctic Gateway Group.

A major milestone was reached when high rail vehicles reached Churchill on October 10. Churchill’s mayor, Michael Spence, greeted the pickup trucks as they rolled into the town. The trucks were followed by a Holland rail test vehicle, looking for defects.

Tragedy Strikes

The good news was overshadowed by a freight train derailment on September 15, near Ponton, Manitoba (south of Thompson). Both train crew members were seriously injured by the derailment, and the 38-year-old conductor died on the scene. The train had three locomotives and 25 cars; all three locomotives and four cars derailed.

UntitledThe derailment occurred in a remote location, and it was spotted by a passing helicopter who alerted authorities. It took a significant amount of time for aid to get to the site and for the crew to be extracted.

The Arctic Gateway Group issued a statement, which in part said, “Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of those involved in the accident, and with our employees. We thank all of the first responders and emergency services workers that have assisted in the initial response to this incident, and we remain committed to cooperating with these emergency services teams and all other stakeholders to provide information and support in the wake of this tragic incident.”

Canada’s Transportation Safety Board (TSB) is investigating, and their initial assessment is that two culverts were washed out. Jerry Berriault, the TSB’s senior investigator for Manitoba, told the Winnipeg Free Press that “it looks like there was an upstream release of water somewhere, possibly related to beaver activity.”

Repairs at the derailment site.
Repairs at the derailment site.  Photo supplied by Arctic Gateway Group.

This section of line is traversed by VIA Rail’s trains as well as the Hudson Bay Railway freight trains. The line was last inspected two days before the derailment. VIA suspended passenger service between The Pas and Gillam until the track was repaired.

Next Steps

Now that the washouts have been repaired, the focus turns to repairing the rails themselves and ensuring they are in good shape to support freight and passenger rail traffic.

There is a lot of work ahead for the crews, but they can feel proud of what they have accomplished to date.


Building culverts, October 9
Building culverts, October 9.  Photo supplied by Arctic Gateway Group.

It’s amazing how much progress has been made. One wonders why Omnitrax never did any repairs to the line – although the $117 million investment that Ottawa has made in the repairs and future operations probably has a lot to do with that.

Covering up at mile 444.9, October 5
Covering up at mile 444.9, October 5. Photo supplied by Arctic Gateway Group.

Good progress has been made so far. Let’s hope the weather stays good so they can finish the repairs and get trains moving on the line before freeze-up.

Thanks to Arctic Gateway for giving their permission for me to use their photos in this article. Follow them on Facebook for updates!