A Five Train Morning

I hadn’t really intended on going train watching. Honestly.

It was Saturday, February 20. My wife had left for work and I was sitting in the kitchen, finishing my breakfast, browsing my phone, and thinking about what I should do for the rest of the day.

I got up and looked outside, and saw a golden sunrise through the front window of the house. Well. I couldn’t let that go to waste!

I grabbed my camera bag and tripod and hit the road. Next stop, Symington Yard.

As I neared the yard and the Sprague subdivision, I saw that a train had left the yard not long ago and was heading east on the Sprague. I decided to give chase.

Train One

CN 3097 East near Dufresne
CN 3097 East near Dufresne

The roads were pretty good, clear but they looked like they could be a bit icy. I kept the car’s speed under the speed limit as I gave chase. The eastbound train was going at a good clip, but I managed to reach the head end at Dufresne. There were only a few more miles where the road paralleled the track, so it was now or never.

I took the exit at Dufresne and headed southeast on the graveled #207 toward Ste. Anne. When conditions are slippery, the gravel roads usually give better traction than pavement, since they have a lot of texture for the tires to grab.

I passed the head end near the grain elevator and continued to my favourite location east of Dufresne. I parked the car and jumped out to grab the shots above and below.

CN 3090 in the middle
CN 3090 in the middle

Someday soon that pole line will be gone. I’m trying to include it in a lot of my photos in the area. I used to hate pole lines for blocking shots of trains, but I came to appreciate them for the history they show and the character they add to photographs. I’ll miss them when they’re gone.

Going away
Going away

After that excitement, I headed back to Winnipeg.

There was nothing too photogenic going on in Symington Yard, so I continued on to Transcona. There I saw a container train ready to head east on the Redditt subdivision. Keeping that in mind, I headed out toward Dugald, drove north to check the CP main line – nothing – then back down to the Redditt, where I saw headlights to the west. The container train was on the move.

Train Two

A long way away
A long way away

This train confused me for a while. I rushed east through Dugald to wait for them near the highway crossing, expecting them to be right on my heels, but… nothing.

I cautiously retraced my steps into Dugald, and when I came to the crossing east of the grain elevator, I saw headlights waaaayy in the distance. Looking at the signals facing west, I saw they were red over red – STOP.

Huh. Maybe there was a meet?

I waited for a while. They seemed to have stopped west of Dugald, so I drove a bit east to see if there was a westbound train visible – nope – so I returned to the crossing. Eventually the STOP signal turned to CLEAR and the train started rolling.

The morning light was really nice on the train as it passed the grain elevator just before 10 AM.

CN 2252 East through Dugald
CN 2252 East through Dugald

In the photo below, you can see the high green they were facing.

High green
High green

Here’s the video.

That was worth the wait, in my opinion.

Still scratching my head, I got back in my car and drove west to check on CP again. Still nothing! Sometimes I wonder if I should bother… but from the Deacon Road crossing (here: 49.930, -96.933) you can see for miles and miles to the west. You can practically see a train leave the downtown yard a dozen miles away. The east view is straight too but it’s not as in flat that direction.

Anyway, I returned to the Redditt subdivision again and I saw the east facing signals were lit. This told me there was a westbound train coming, so I headed back toward Dugald. I believe they were going to meet “train #2” above in Dugald but the meet was switched to Anola. That would explain the pausing and the signal change.

Train Three

Westbound
Westbound

I set up at the first crossing west of Dugald, a place I’ve only been to once or twice. By this time it was 10:45 AM so I wanted to get some side light, since the nose of the westbound would be dark. Of course I wanted to include the grain elevator in the shot…

I took one shot while standing closer to the tracks (above), then stepped back before the gates started coming down and framed up a somewhat closer shot with more side light (below).

Side lit
Side lit

There was the one locomotive on the head end, and another on the tail. The tail end was better lit by the late morning sun.

CN 3839 on the tail end
CN 3839 on the tail end

Here’s the video…

I was pretty sure there wouldn’t be any more trains for a while there, so I drove down Deacon Road toward the Trans-Canada Highway and back to the Sprague subdivision. I didn’t see any trains there so I drove toward the city. Right after I made that decision, I spotted an eastbound train leaving the city! A U-turn brought me back to the Deacon Road intersection.

Train Four

CN 3237 on the point of a tank train
CN 3237 on the point of a tank train

This was a tank train but not an oil train. I think the tank cars had a UN 1993 placard – “flammable liquids”. It was definitely a “key train“.

The “going away” shot was horribly backlit but I liked the 60 MPH railway speed limit sign.

60 MPH
60 MPH

After that train passed, I decided to head home. I exited from the Trans-Canada Highway onto the Perimeter Highway, only to see another train leaving Winnipeg. I quickly pulled over and ran back to the overpass over the tracks.

Train Five

Coming out of Symington
Coming out of Symington

This was an intermodal train, following the tank train I just saw. They weren’t going very fast, no doubt because they had to wait for the tank train to clear the block in front of them before they could proceed.

I waited a bit and took a few more shots as the train rolled under the overpass.

CN 3880 East at mile 144
CN 3880 East at mile 144

This train had a mid-train locomotive but my photo of it was not great, so I won’t share it.

Five trains over a few hours – not a bad haul!

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3 thoughts on “A Five Train Morning”

  1. I appreciate the pole line, Steve. Occasionally. Especially the double poles that are every 13 poles or so. But I won’t miss them. Here, they’re on the south side, and even if you miss a pole in a photo, those wires! About a mile west of me, the pole line is down, save for the few bottom feet of a few poles to which the City of Kingston attached their road signs to save money on T-rails! And I thank whoever made that decision to remove the poles coming into Collins Bay!
    Thanks for sharing your five-train day, including those JB Hunt containers we see here on trains coming through from the West.

    Eric

    Reply
    • Hi Eric, those wires do get in the way… but so do power lines. Sometimes you have to walk into a ditch to get them out of the way. Wear good shoes / boots! 😉

      I like seeing the JB Hunt containers too. My current favourites are the Giant Tiger containers – with both English and French sides.

      Reply
  2. There is so much history behind those poles and wires. It will make the shots easier (for me too) but it will still seem strange when they are gone. Everybody railfanning has their favourite container that they watch for. I used to watch for the J.B.Hunt ones but lately have been searching for those bright pink ones that say ONE in big white letters, very distinctive !
    That was quite a day, 5 trains in a row, thanks for sharing.

    Reply

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