CN, then CP, then CN

I wanted to be clever and title this post “A CN-CP-CN Sandwich”, but you’ll see that it would have made a lopsided sandwich at best. So we’re stuck with this lame title. Anyway. The trains are the important part, not the blog post title – right? Right.

Whither the Maroon

This was another excursion to try to catch one of CP’s “heritage” locomotives, either the maroon “classic” scheme or one of the military units. You may remember that I did catch one, but there are more to be found…

On February 23, 2020 I headed north toward the CP Carberry subdivision in search of CP action.

On the way, I spotted a CN train on the Rivers subdivision…

Cowl FTW

I was driving west along Wilkes Avenue, paralleling the Rivers sub. My plan was to reach the Perimeter Highway, then head north to the CP main line and see what was going on there.

CN was kind enough to have an eastbound train on that section of track, so I pulled off the roadto record CN 2444 East with my phone. The engineer gave me a nice wave as they went by.

The train had two distributed braking boxcars on it, which was a little unusual. I imagine only one of them was operational. I think there are marshaling rules about distance between braking devices (locomotives or boxcars) to prevent too much braking effort concentrating in one area of the train.

After they passed, I headed up to CP as planned.

Finding no trains waiting for me when I exited the highway, I headed west.

A Big Ol’ Grain Train

I drove through Rosser, respecting the 50 km/hr speed limit. This speed limit is always painful for me when I am chasing a train, as it just kills me to drop from 100 km/hr to 50 for a few kilometres while the train pulls away. Oh well, rules are rules, and it’s not worth a speeding ticket to catch a train.

As I cleared the west side of Rosser, I spotted a train in the distance, heading toward me (east). I drove up to the crossing just west of Rosser and set up to record the train.

I put my main video camera on the tripod on the south (“sun”) side and my Akasa EK7000 on the low GorillaPod on the north side. I stood on the south side as well to take stills.

The video says “four units” but there are only 3 units visible… what gives? Well, you guessed it, the fourth is on the tail end.

This train had quite a motley collection of grain cars, from brand new CP cars through “Coke can” Canadian hoppers to rusty old flat-sided cars.

There was no point in chasing the train back through Rosser, so I sat in my car and warmed my hands up before continuing west.

At this point, I wasn’t sure if I would continue along the CP to Portage la Prairie or switch to the CN on the way home. I could have gone either way… but the next train made the decision for me.

Decision Point

I arrived at Marquette. There was a maintenance of way vehicle in the back track. I think it’s often called a “broom” as it has a set of plows on it for snow plowing and ballast shaping.

It was time to make a decision. At this point the road goes south while the track continues west, so there are several kilometres where the road is far away from the tracks. This was my time to decide to continue west on CP or not.

I sat in Marquette for close to ten minutes, looking for intel on Facebook and hoping something might show up. I then drove to the tracks and discovered headlights to the west!

High Speed Chase

I set up close to where the Marquette grain elevator used to be, wanting to include the “broom” in the photo and video. Soon CP 118-21 came rolling by in lovely morning sun.

Still no maroon, but I’ll take it!

There was a distinctive Quebec Central boxcar in the mix. These cars do stand out.

The next trio of cars also stand out. I forget what they used to say but those blue “swoops” are distinctive. Usually I only see one at a time, so it was nice to see three together… behind the DPU locomotive.

Once the train passed, I threw the gear in the car and started the chase.

On the Road

The road was mostly bare pavement, with a bit of blown snow over the road whenever there was a stand of trees nearby. Say what you will about prairie winds, they tend to keep the roads clear where they have room to blow.

Along the section of track between Marquette and Rosser, CP trains tend to move fast and it’s hard to overtake them. At 100 km/hr I was overtaking it, but not very quickly.

As we approached Rosser, I was ahead of the train, but of course I had to slow down through the town and the head end shot ahead of me again.


Fortunately for me, they slowed down considerably on the east side of Rosser, so I was able to get to the Viterra grain elevator at Makwa siding ahead of them and park on the shoulder to grab the train again.

Here’s the video… partly at Marquette and partly at Makwa. Enjoy!

I was getting short on time, so it was time to leave CP and head home. I did have a bit of time to railfan CN, though…

CN on the Double

I found a CN eastbound train near the Perimeter, and I quickly set up near the new cell tower and the new development called Ridgewood West. I hope the people in this area like trains!

As the train approached, I saw that it had its headlight dimmed… for a meet. Looking over my shoulder, I saw the other train approaching on the south track.

They met at Charleswood Road at the impressive new crossing built there. That crossing has a LOT of lights and gates.

The westbound train had “CN 100” unit CN 3232 leading.

The westbound train had its own moment by the cell tower. The tower used to have another panel with the “zebra stripe” on it but I think it blew off in a recent wind storm. It looks a little strange with only one stripe on it.

The wheels on the train go on flatcars, the wheels on the train…

The End(s)

Just as the head end of the two trains met, so did the tail ends, both with distributed braking boxcars…

Here’s the video of those two CN trains.

Just One More Thing

I finished reading The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand. It took me a long time; this book has over 300,000 words in it. That’s more than half the word count of War and Peace, so it’s a substantial book.

I liked the book a lot.

Ayn Rand is known for her philosophy of objectivism, which is based on four tenets: reality, reason, self-interest and capitalism. The main character of this book, Howard Roark, embodies that philosophy in many ways. At the beginning of the book, I really didn’t like him, but over time you are shown how he really thinks and he becomes more human and more of a heroic figure.

It’s hard to describe what the book is about. Superficially it is about architecture, and the conflict between “traditional” architects who ape past styles and “modern” architects (like Roark) who design buildings without regard for ornamentation. Fundamentally, though, it’s a story about people who create, like Roark, versus “second handers” who feed off others’ work.

I was pleasantly surprised by the book. I started it expecting to dislike it intensely, based on what I’d heard of Rand’s philosophy. My wife was wondering why I would read a book I expected to hate. Fifty pages in, I was hooked and I was in for the long haul.

Given the book’s age, I’m sure you could find it at your local library like I did. Naturally, it’s available on Amazon as well. I make a small commission if you buy something using my Amazon links.

Here’s a New York Times review of the book.

I’m tempted to read Atlas Shrugged too, but that’s almost twice as long. YIKES.

9 thoughts on “CN, then CP, then CN”

  1. Good videos and photos Steve! The two braking cars was a good catch, nice photo!

    Years ago over the course of two winters I read Shelby Foote’s, Civil War a Narrative, three books, 3000 pages, 1.2 million words. I’m a civil war buff, history nut in general, so it’s almost required reading along with James Mcpherson’s book Battle Cry of Freedom, which is 900 pages, best one volume book on the war.

    • My goodness, Sheldon, you are more patient than I am. I can understand why it would take you two winters to get through that series!

  2. Thanks again for the great photos! Glad you liked the book. I highly recommend Atlas Shrugged – and as a railfan, be aware that trains figure prominently in it.

    • You’re welcome, Jeff. Thanks for reading!

      Nobody told me Atlas Shrugged has trains!!! This changes everything!

  3. Nice post, Steve. The two CP containers and two CN DB boxcars made some interesting pairs.

    Thanks also for that book post and keeping the end of this post bookish. Have you tried reading just the dictionary? I heard it’s got all the other books’ words in it anyway!


    • Potential paired post proposal?

      When I was in middle school, I did read the dictionary. I was an odd child. Some could argue I haven’t changed a bit.

  4. Great images! The first video sounds like it must be windy and cold!!
    LOL I always struggle to come up with a clever title and usually end up with something that will just do!

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