Chasing an Oil Train


There once was a man from the prairie,
Who admired the work of Mark Perry,
He chased an oil train
Across the open plain
Was he up early? Very!

– me

I had the opportunity to do a little railfanning early in the morning after dropping my in-laws off at the airport. Since CP has been cranking out SD90 rebuilds with heritage schemes like the maroon/gray/gold units in script and block lettering, and now the five locomotives honouring the military, there are some interesting units to catch on the Canadian Pacific.

The maroon units have been leading intermodal trains through Winnipeg, and I had yet to catch any. They tend to come through during the day when I’m working, and long-time readers might know that CP tracks are farther away from me than CN tracks, so I railfan them less.

Anyway, long-winded explanation aside, I decided to railfan CP in the hopes of catching a maroon unit.

Beginning the Chase

After leaving the airport, I headed north on route 90 to Inkster Boulevard. As I approached the main line I saw that an oil train was heading west out of the yard. Target acquired!

To be honest, I wasn’t really expecting to catch up to it. I had to get out of the city while they rolled west, but I was hoping they would have a meet that would force them to stop.

I continued up to Inkster Boulevard, then headed west on route 221 toward Rosser. Fortunately I was able to overtake the train before the town of Rosser itself, so I pulled off to grab the photo above. That photo was taken just prior to 7 AM, about 30 minutes before sunrise.

I had to go to ISO 1600 to get enough light to freeze the action. I like these dawn photos; they are also prime candidates for black and white photos – lots of contrast.

Once I crawled through Rosser, the train was well ahead and rocking along at about 60 MPH, so I was just barely starting to overtake the end of it when we passed through Meadows. I still miss that grain elevator.

Between Meadows and Marquette, I continued slowly, ever so slowly gaining on the train but I didn’t think I would catch up before Marquette. At Marquette the road turns south while the track continues west, so there’s no more opportunity for side-by-side chasing until near Portage la Prairie.

Fortunately, as we approached Marquette, I saw that the train was slowing down. Looking ahead in the near dark, I could see that they did not have a green signal facing them. I think it was a combination of yellow and red, which to me meant it was a meet!

Meet at Marquette

Ready for the meet at Marquette
Ready for the meet at Marquette

A train was waiting for them in the siding – CP 8737 East. The consist was a bit odd, almost entirely tank cars, with three hopper cars part way through the train. I wouldn’t call it an oil train, exactly, and in fact I didn’t read the placards so I don’t know what they were carrying.

CP 8737 was slowly rolling through the crossing as CP 8052 approached from the east. It was going to be a rolling meet, so I made a guess at where the meet would occur and stopped my car near there. I hopped out to capture the event.

My guess was good, and they met almost right in front of me.

Meet at Speed
Meet at Speed

I was panning CP 8052 so it appears to be stopped while CP 8737 is in motion, but in reality both were moving… not fast, but moving.

I took this opportunity to pan the Union Pacific loco behind 8052 – UP 2587. Apparently it’s a GE ET44AH. The “H” is for High-adhesion trucks.

Union Pacific FTW
Union Pacific FTW

I lingered to watch the meet, since there was no point in chasing the oil train any more.

The eastbound train had CP 9681 smoking along, looking very much like a Rob Arseneault “Weather My Trains” job. That beaver on the side looked like it had been through a lot.

Smoking up at the back of the bus
Smoking up at the back of the bus

After both trains had passed, I continued south on route 248, then west on highway 26 toward Portage la Prairie. Highway 26 was partly snow covered, so I was being cautious and often driving under the speed limit as I rolled through Poplar Point and past High Bluff. I didn’t see any trains on that stretch of track.

As I approached Portage la Prairie, I saw the oil train approaching the Tucker grain elevator just east of town. They met an eastbound container train there. I was still stern chasing so I didn’t get any photos of the container train there, but I did manage to stop in time to get a long distance photo of the oil train before it entered Portage.

Off in the distance
Off in the distance

At this point I left off the oil train chase to turn back east. I didn’t see the head end of that container train, so I wasn’t sure if it had a maroon unit on the head end or a more normal red CP locomotive.

It turned out that it had a typical CP red loco on the head end, but on the way I made a more interesting discovery instead… but that’s for another post.

Just One More Thing

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