Bracketing Christmas

I hope the end of the year was good for everyone. I was off work for a few weeks and I really enjoyed the rest, and especially the presence of our daughter home from university for the holiday.

Despite “not feeling it” I did do a bit of railfanning, on Christmas Eve and on Boxing Day (Dec 24 and 26).

Christmas Eve

After dropping my wife off at work in the morning, I decided to “take the long way home” and swing by CN’s Symington Yard. I saw that there was a hump yard set of power working, as usual, and there was a train getting ready to depart on the Sprague subdivision.

I took the time to drive around to the “sun side” to get a few shots of the hump power and the train rolling out.

CN locomotives in Winnipeg
A gaggle of CN and GTW locomotives

This hump yard set included two GTW locomotives, described in more detail here, a CN SD40-2 and a slug.

The outgoing train rolled past them on its way east.

Heading out

The crew were lucky to have the “comfort cab” SD75I leading (CN 5641). A rather battered looking CN 2521 was the middle unit.

Battered survivor

I’ve seen that the red paint on these Dash-9 units (CN 25xx) has been looking pretty ragged in the past several years. It would be an interesting modeling exercise to show this fading.

The outgoing train wasn’t moving very fast, so I was able to drive to the Navin crossing well ahead of them. I decided to head up to the highway overpass and photograph them from there. This and the Ste. Anne overpass are the only two overpasses over the west end of the Sprague subdivision.

CN train leaving Winnipeg
Overhead view of CN 5641 East

That was it for Christmas Eve.

After a lovely Christmas Eve dinner with my in-laws, and Christmas day spent with close family, it was…

Boxing Day

CN train in the winter

I managed to muster enough enthusiasm for railfanning to get trackside around noon on December 26. It was a lovely day, not too cold, and I was there to capture VIA 693 on its way to Churchill.

First up was an eastbound general freight train with three units on the head end, including an SD40-2, CN 5373. It’s rare to see these “on the road” these days around here. I understand a fair number of these locomotives are still hard at work north of Edmonton.

Side view of CN locomotive
CN 5373

I liked this “going away” shot showing high green on the north track at Diamond.

CN train and signals
Heading east

I captured the rear end for posterity (posteriority?).

Tail end of freight train on the prairie
The tail end

Here’s the video.

It wasn’t too long before a westbound train came along, a relatively short intermodal train led by CN 3251. Note the prominent snowmobile tracks in the foreground.

CN train on the prairie
Wall of containers

The tail end had “CN 100” locomotive CN 3878.

CN container train near Winnipeg
Tail end


Not long after the intermodal train passed, I saw headlights in the distance as VIA 693 crept up to the lights at Diamond. I expect they were seeing relatively restrictive signals following the freight train.

When they passed the signals at Diamond, the engineer opened the throttle up and the train rolled past at a much higher speed. You can see the exhaust smoke from the units as they are working hard.

VIA Rail passenger train on the winter prairie
VIA 693

The train had the usual two locomotives, baggage car, three coaches, Skyline dome and Chateau sleeper. Looking at VIA Rail’s site, I see you can book sleeper cabins again, so there could have been paying customers in Chateau Bienville. In earlier COVID times only the crew used the sleeper.

Tail end of VIA Rail passenger train
Chateau Bienville

Here’s a very short video of VIA 693:

VIA Rail 693

That was a good outing. I like being outside, and when it’s winter here in Winnipeg, you have to take advantage of the good winter days when you can. After Boxing Day, it turned quite cold (think -30C before wind chill) and being outside wasn’t very pleasant. I did get out with Jason Sailer one time before year end.

Just One More Thing

I just finished reading “Preserving Your Family Photographs” by Maureen A. Taylor. I am acquiring negatives, slides and prints to grow my train photo collection, and I want to preserve them as well as I can.

Amazon links in this post are affiliate links, meaning that I earn a commission if you purchase something using these links, at no cost to you.

I was a little skeptical about this book, based on its title. It sounded like it would be a very shallow look at photography conservation, but I was pleasantly surprised to read how in-depth it actually is.

The book goes into considerable detail about early photographs, from daguerreotypes through ambrotypes and tintypes, and how to preserve them.

I am currently reading about 35mm negatives. Did you know that early 35mm negative film was highly combustible? I certainly didn’t. It was made with cellulose nitrate. As it degrades over time, the combustion temperature of the film can drop to around 41C, leading to spontaneous ignition. Worse, the combustion process releases oxygen so it is self-sustaining. Canada’s National Film Board had a devastating fire in 1967 in their warehouse outside Montreal that destroyed over 60,000 film cans.

I was hoping this book also addressed cataloguing photographs. I have a loose collection of slides and negatives and I need to organize it. I’ve reached out to some railfan friends and they have provided some great input. I’ll probably write a post about this after I finish the book. It did talk about cataloguing them but as per the book title, it was more about documenting who was in the photographs rather than an overall discussion about cataloguing a diverse collection.

I was quite impressed with the thoroughness and detail of this book. I recommend it to anyone interested in preserving old photographs, slides and negatives.

6 thoughts on “Bracketing Christmas”

  1. Good to see that you managed to get trackside a couple of times, Steve.

    I especially like the picture of 5373. It looks like it has been working for a living. As you say, it’s rare to see SD40-2s out on the mainline these days.

    I see that the hump power at Symington is the same as the last time you photographed it.

  2. Hello, Steve;

    You were braver than I ; cold weather is hard on my old bones. Nice shot of the VIA locos working hard. I was not aware the Churchill train was still running during the COVID period and with a sleeper car no less. That train is on my bucket list but I’ll wait ’till the pandemic dies down. Thanks for sharing.

    • Hi Steve, I get cold easily – and I work from my basement! However I find it’s OK to be outside if I am well dressed for the temperature.

      The Churchill train is designated as an essential service so VIA did its best to keep it running.

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