An Anthology of Trains

I like to write long “story” posts, taking the reader through a railfan trip or a “productive” time trackside. Sometimes, though, all I have is short stories – I saw a train, then on another day, I saw a different train. They aren’t enough for a post on their own, so I am combining them here. Call this an anthology of trains, perhaps.

A CN TEST Train

CN 4791 and the TEST train

I was out rambling along the CN Rivers subdivision when I spotted a westbound train in the distance. At first I just saw the headlights, but as I got ready to record it and it drew a little closer, it seemed awfully short.

My first thought was “a passenger train?” but there was no VIA train scheduled. Then I thought, “CN business train?” but it seemed really short for that too. Once it rounded the bend at mile 16, I could see it well enough to identify it as a TEST train.

Rear of the TEST train
Rear of the TEST train

Fortunately, I had my drone with me so I could record it from the air as well as the ground. Tired warhorse CN 4791 was having an easy time hauling a mere two cars – the instrumented and ballasted boxcar and the converted passenger car with the monitoring equipment and crew.

This train does a similar job to the CP TEC trains that I recently wrote about.

Here’s the video!

That was a nice find.

CN 2943 at Dufresne

CN 2943 West at Dufresne, Manitoba
CN 2943 West at Dufresne, Manitoba

On one cloudy evening in May, I drove along the CN Sprague subdivision, looking for trains. I didn’t find any on the drive east, but I thought I might fly my drone by the Dufresne grain elevator and take a few photos.

The elevator is somewhat “in town” so I have to be cautious about where to fly. I don’t want to fly over anyone’s house or any people, so my choices are restricted to northwest or southeast from the elevator, along the tracks.

I popped my drone up and snapped a few photos, then landed it and prepared to leave. I took one last look down the tracks, and lo! there was a headlight. Time to set everything back up in the failing light and take my shots.

I recorded video from the ground and from the air. The ground video was terrible, given the low light, but the drone did a decent job from the air and that’s what you’ll see in the video below, with sound contributed by the ground video camera.

CN 2943 at Dufresne

I was careful in where I pointed the drone to avoid capturing houses in the background. I didn’t think people would appreciate being recorded by the drone so I tried my best not to.

Southbound on the Emerson

I heard that there might be a northbound train, CP 299, with a shiny rebuilt red SD70ACU leading. I drove over to the Emerson subdivision and parked by the tracks to wait. There was a maintenance of way crew hanging around a nearby crossing when I arrived. I thought that maybe they were waiting for the train to pass before they could start their work, so to me that was a good sign that the train hadn’t passed yet.

After half an hour, nothing had happened except that the crew had retreated to their vehicles when it started to rain. They were still there, though, so I was determined to stay until they left or until they started to work on the crossing.

Eventually a few people came to stand near the crossing. Progress?! I looked south but didn’t see anything coming, but when I looked the other way – TRAIN.

I pointed my camera north and took some photos as the train approached. I could see a grubby red locomotive on the head end with two blue locomotives behind.

The waiting MOW crew were in position to inspect both sides of the train, and gave the time honoured wave as the head end passed.

The train rolled on past me, blaring its horn to warn motorists on the Perimeter Highway that it was approaching.

CP 8701 and leased locomotives on their way to the border
CP 8701 and leased locomotives on their way to the border

I saw the two blue locomotives were Citirail leased locomotives. I’m not sure if they were online or if they were heading to the US as returns. Rumour has it that CP is returning most if not all of their long term leased units.

Note the sticker on CEFX 1033 at the right edge of this photo… HORN CUT-OUT. I’ve never noticed that before.

CEFX 1028 and 1033 in Winnipeg
CEFX 1028 and 1033 in Winnipeg

I was surprised to see a mid train locomotive on this train, given the abundance of power on the head end. Maybe those two CEFX units were dead in tow after all.

The golden beaver is alive and well on CP 9840
The golden beaver is alive and well on CP 9840

Notice the pile of tie plates beside the track.

Inbound on the Sprague

Route périphérique
Route périphérique

One favourite spot for railfans is by the Tinkertown Amusement Park in southeast Winnipeg. This is near the south / east entrance to CN’s main yard in Winnipeg, Symington Yard and is the end of CN’s Sprague subdivision. There’s a railway crossing here where you can see trains coming and going from the yard, and it’s just off the Perimeter Highway that encircles the city.

I was driving west on the Perimeter Highway when I spotted a train coming in off the Sprague. I saw it early enough that I could take the exit, get across the tracks to the sun side and get parked before the crossing lights came on. Nice.

Shiny new “CN 100” locomotive CN 3238 was leading, followed by slightly less shiny CN 3907. It’s nice to see locomotives that aren’t grimy yet!

Fun for the whole family!
Fun for the whole family!

The train was a monster, all grain cars, with a huge block of CN’s new high capacity grain hoppers on the tail end.

These cars have a total weight limit of 286,000 lbs, like the grain cars they are replacing. However, these cars have a capacity of 5431 cubic feet, more than 10% greater than the older 4550 cubic feet cars, and are shorter, meaning that more cars can fit on the same length train.

CN 112885, built by National Steel Car in Hamilton, Ontario
CN 112885, built by National Steel Car in Hamilton, Ontario

The car above was built in March 2019 and the one below was built in March 2020. Note the difference in the paint shade, and there’s a new stencil about a third of the way in on each side – “Q4 Quadri-Steer Trucks Applied”.

50 shades of gray
50 shades of gray

I had to do some Google-fu to come up with what Q4 Quadri-Steer Trucks are. Apparently National Steel Car has a trademark on this name. If you look really closely at the trucks under CN 113489, you can see Q4 Quadri-Steer on them as well.

What makes these trucks so special? I have no idea.

Trucks under CN 113483
Trucks under CN 113483

I recall someone asked me to take some photos of the new CN grain cars, so I went wild and took a bunch. Unfortunately, I don’t remember who asked me! 🙁 I’m just glad I took the photos before they become covered in graffiti.

Just One More Thing

Your local railway museums are really hurting from closing due to the pandemic. As things gradually open up, please go visit them… or at least become a member or renew your membership. They need your help to survive.

I have a list of Canadian railway museums on my site. Please visit it and see what museum(s) are near you and decide how you can help. If I’m missing any museums, please let me know in a comment, or via email at steve@traingeek.ca.

Thank you for supporting them.

4 thoughts on “An Anthology of Trains”

  1. With CN and CP receiving more and more of their new grain cars, the old Gov’t cars are not going to be around much longer.
    Nice drone footage Steve!

    Reply
    • Agreed, Sheldon, “shoot ’em while you can” applies to grain cars as well as locomotives, lineside structures, and everything else. Nothing lasts forever.

      Thanks, I keep working on the drone footage. I will be writing a few more thoughts on drone footage / photography soon.

      Reply
  2. Neat to read this presentation style for the way it enriches the individual story “parts” to present a composite of recent Canadian railroading as you saw it. I tend to post a lot of “this is what I saw” stories in a singular form and now I’m curious to give this a try.

    Reply

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