Chasing CEMR

Many railfans are also railway modelers – and vice versa. I’d say the overlap is probably 90% between the two groups.

And they say you’ll never use what you learn in math class after school ends…

Sometimes the full size railway looks like a model…

May 2020

Last spring, I was rolling along the CEMR Carman subdivision, looking for grain elevators – see Revisiting the Grain Elevators of the Carman Subdivision. The CEMR is the Central Manitoba Railway, a shortline in the Winnipeg area owned by Cando Rail & Terminals.

On my way southwest toward Carman, I saw a parked CEMR train outside Brunkild. On my way back, I saw a crew at the train and things were happening.

They were doing some switching at the storage tracks in Brunkild. There’s a grain elevator there, owned by Besco Grain, and the two tracks in Brunkild are often used for storage as well. The crew was pulling four or five cars out of the elevator track and sticking a few others into the track.

One thing I had noted when I passed this train before was that there were two locomotives on the head end (CCGX 4011 and 4206), and another one buried in the train (CEMR 4002). The reason for this became clear when they started doing their switching. This switching was very reminiscent of a model train layout.

Initial position – yellow cars to be pulled, red to be spotted

The crew first detached the two lead locomotives and rolled them east on the main line to sit by themselves.

Detached locomotives

Next, they used 4002 – with three cars attached to its “nose” – to pull seven cars out of the siding.

Pulling cars

They shoved those cars onto the locomotives on the main line.


Finally, they shoved the three cars that 4002 was still carrying into the siding to couple up to the cars that were already there.


When all of that was done, they brought 4002 back onto the main line, stuck the train back together again, did their brake test, and set off for Winnipeg.

All done

I was waiting at the first crossing east of the elevator, and I launched my drone once they started rolling. The snap below from the video I made shows the general track layout at Brunkild. It would make a great model railway location.

Brunkild from the air
Brunkild from the air

It isn’t exactly high speed rail along this section of the Carman subdivision, so it was easy to hop ahead of the train to get another shot. I recorded them one more time for posterity.

If there was still a grain elevator in Sanford, I would have shot them there as well, but that was toppled in early 2019.

One hazard of railfanning in spring in Manitoba is the muck you gather on your shoes.

Manitoba mud
Manitoba mud

Sometimes I clomp off a dirt road with an inch or two of guck stuck to the bottom of my shoes. It’s the only time I feel tall.

Here’s the video of the train, with some nice overhead views of the train.

Just One More Thing

I just finished reading Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir. Wow. What a book.

Mr. Weir wrote The Martian, a fantastic debut novel that was made into a movie starring Matt Damon. His next novel, Artemis, was… a bit of a disappointment. Project Hail Mary makes up for that with a strong story, hard science and more than a bit of humour.

My Amazon links are affiliate links, meaning I earn a small commission if you buy anything on Amazon using my links.

I read this substantial novel in two days. It’s a page turner, with lots of action and a LOT of problem solving. The book alternates between the past – what happened before the mission – and the “present” mission and its problems. It works quite well.

My only criticism of the book is that some of the minor characters seem a little, um, cardboard. I know they are minor characters and they don’t have much of a part in the novel, but it seems like the author felt compelled to give them some depth and it felt forced to me. Give them a name and a role and don’t worry about any personality quirks for the few words they take up in the novel.

I really enjoyed this book and I recommend it for anyone who enjoyed The Martian. Good hard science fiction with a side of humour.

Buy Project Hail Mary on Amazon

4 thoughts on “Chasing CEMR”

  1. I remember the evening I worked on CEMR. We set off several storage cars at Brunkild.

    4011 sure looks much better in its new paint!


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