A Long Sprint

I recently had to made a quick road trip to Toronto. I’m not going to go into the reason for the trip, but I wanted to share a few observations and images from the run.

It took me 36 hours and 30 minutes to drive to Toronto, and 35 hours and 25 minutes to drive back (The discrepancy is probably due to the time spent at the hotels). It was 2,234 km each way, so that’s an average of about 60 km/hr including time spent eating or sleeping. It was not a slow trip!

I chose to drive through the United States. I could have used the all-Canadian route through Thunder Bay and Sudbury, but the American route has the advantage of much better highways and far more amenities like food, gas, and hotels. The downside is crossing the border four times with its attending annoyances like waiting in lines and using the ArriveCan app. There are no perfect choices.


Grain elevator in Pittsburgh, North Dakota
Grain elevator in Pittsburgh, North Dakota

After waiting at the Pembina border crossing for about 20 minutes, I was on my way south through North Dakota. I stopped briefly to capture phone images of the grain elevators at Joliette and Pittsburgh before accelerating back up to 75 MPH. North Dakota’s terrain is a lot like Manitoba’s – a whole lot of empty.

I saw a few BNSF trains in Grand Forks and Fargo but no more photographs were taken that day – just many miles of driving, through North Dakota, threading through Minneapolis-St. Paul in Minnesota, then into Wisconsin past the lovely Dells before finally alighting at a somewhat seedy hotel in Madison, WI.

I awoke early the next day to have a gluten-free breakfast at the nearby IHOP. The waitress was super friendly and funny – a good start to another long day of driving.

I put Wisconsin behind me – for now – and carried on through Illinois and Indiana. I caught a glimpse of an Amtrak Midwest train on the way, and I saw two smartly-decorated locomotives of the South Shore Freight railroad from the highway.

Eventually I reached the Ambassador Bridge between Detroit, MI and Windsor, ON.

The Ambassador bridge between Detroit and Windsor
The Ambassador bridge between Detroit and Windsor

Some photos were taken by my traveling companion.

After waiting in the customs line on the Canadian side, I carried on through Ontario and arrived in Toronto just after 8 PM on “day 2”. I took one photo to prove that I was actually in Toronto.

View of Toronto
Hey, it’s Toronto.


After doing what needed to be done, I left Toronto just after 1 PM the next day for the return trip.

I crossed the border again into the USA and drove through most of Michigan on “day 3” before stopping in Kalamazoo, Michigan for the night at another sketchy hotel.

The fourth and last day of the trip was a six-state marathon – MI, IN, IL, WI, MN and ND.

South Shore Line train in Indiana
South Shore Line train in Indiana

While driving through Indiana, I overtook a South Shore Line passenger train near East Chicago. My companion captured a few photos of it.

The South Shore Line is one of the last interurban trains in the USA. It was built at the beginning of the 20th century and is currently operated by the Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District.

The rail cars were built by Nippon Sharyo in the late 20th century and consist of single-level electric multiple unit (EMU) cars with pantographs, unpowered trailers, and 14 bilevel EMUs. These four cars were all EMUs but only one pantograph per car was up.

Another view of the South Shore Line train
Another view of the South Shore Line train

An hour or two later, I was in heavy traffic trying to get past Chicago.

Traffic and Chicago
Traffic and Chicago

On the way out of Chicago, I spotted an old Chicago & NorthWestern logo affixed to a railway overpass. It’s nice to see that logo in home territory… I’m used to seeing faded logos on fallen flag cars.

Chicago & NorthWestern logo on a bridge
Chicago & NorthWestern logo on a bridge

Illinois, Wisconsin, and Minnesota flew by. There was a severe thunderstorm warning for the I-29 corridor between Fargo and the border, so I was a little hesitant about driving onward. However, by the time I arrived in Fargo, the sky was starting to clear, so I decided to push on for the last 3 hours to get home.

Just out of Fargo, I overtook a northbound BNSF train. I was in no mood to linger for train photos, but I decided that I could spare two or three minutes to pull onto the shoulder and snap a photo or two with my phone.

I’m glad I did.

BNSF train and a dramatic prairie sky
BNSF and the big sky

I like the photo a lot. The phone blew out the sky a bit and my “real” camera probably would’ve done a better job, but I didn’t want to take any time to get it out. I wasn’t there for railfanning and honestly, I didn’t feel like it anyway.

After a quick border crossing at Emerson, it was another hour to get home. I saw the southbound CN Winnipeg-Emerson train near Emerson but I didn’t stop to take any photos as A) it was dark, and B) I wanted to get home.

At 11:45 PM, I pulled into our driveway to finish the long trip. Whew.

4 thoughts on “A Long Sprint”

  1. bnsf / The sky has a watercolor feel, great photo. shortlist it for the calendar.

    Steve (east)

  2. Hope everything is OK and that nothing too serious necessitated the rush run to Toronto and back. Make sure whenever you are next up this way in a more leisurely visit to let me know and we can hopefully get together. Who knows, maybe by then we’ll all be comfortable enough that C@#^d will be in a place where I am comfortable to have you come visit the layout or take you out for a day Ontario Railfanning if you haven’t driven up.


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