Cold Meetup

Recently I was contacted by a friend from Instagram, Maryna. She suggested that maybe she and her partner Tyler could meet up with me for a railfan outing. We talked for a bit and decided to meet at CN’s Diamond just west of Winnipeg. It’s easy to get to and there are a lot of trains.

We agreed to meet at 9 AM. I was up early so I decided to head up early and try photographing some trains in the low light.


Driving east along Wilkes Avenue, I came across a westbound potash train. I pulled off, carefully, and panned the lead locomotive at Harstone Road. That’s the lead photo.

I got back into my car and chased the train west along Wilkes Avenue, easily getting ahead of them. The road was a little sketchy west of highway 334 so I slowed down and stopped near Diamond to capture the westbound train again.

Potash train in the winter

I photographed the train as it approached, but the shot I was there for was the “going away” shot below.

Train approaching signals

I like how that turned out. Fortunately the snowbanks were high so I was able to stand on them to get some elevation.

I retreated to my car as the remainder of the train rolled by, then hopped out again to pan the tail end unit.

Locomotive at the end of a train

It was COLD outside. Environment Canada says it was about -17C air temperature, “feels like” -26C with the wind chill. I was well dressed but I didn’t want to linger outside.

I drove west to check out the signals at mile 17ish, and photographed the speed limit sign against the “sunrise”.

Speed limit sign: 65 MPH
I can drive 65

There wasn’t a real sunrise, as it remained gloomy and overcast.

Cold Meetup

Maryna and Tyler arrived promptly at 9. We chatted outside briefly, and then a distant horn made us scramble for our cameras. I set up my tripod on the snowbank and photographed CN 2907 heading east through the signals at Diamond.

CN 2907 between the signals

The train had CN 2907 on the point, with CN 2858 mid-train and distributed braking boxcar CN 0024 bring up the rear. It still looks strange to have a boxcar on the end of a doublestack container train.

Red boxcar on the tail end of a train
CN 0024 on the tail end

Here’s the video:

That was fun!

We talked about computers and photography and trains for a while. It was a little too cold for standing outside for long periods, so we eventually retreated to our own vehicles to warm up. It wasn’t long before another eastbound train came rolling along, led by CN 8920.

CN 8920 passing the signals at mile 14.3

My video camera (phone) died before the train even arrived, so there’s no video for that train!

There was a lull after those two trains. After a bit of waiting, we all decided it was too cold to stand around any more.

I wasn’t done with railfanning, though.


I drove west to Elie along the CN main line, seeing nothing. From there, I headed north to the CP main line, and ventured a short distance east to the town of Marquette. There, I discovered a little lost locomotive.

CP 5002 at Marquette

CP 5002 was idling on one of the two back tracks in the town. This is one of the 50 SD30C-ECO conversions from SD40-2 locomotives. These units tend to be added to certain trains heading up the CP Minnedosa subdivision.

In days past there were pusher locomotives stationed outside Minnedosa to help trains get out of the valley that the town is in. Nowadays these CP 50xx units are added instead – no extra crews required.

There was nothing else apparent, so I continued east toward Winnipeg. As I approached Meadows, I saw a headlight in the distance – far away, still – so I chose a spot just west of Meadows to wait for the train.

I waffled between using a wide lens and a telephoto lens. I wanted to capture the blowing snow, but I have trouble with the headlights causing lens flare in low light with the telephoto lens, so I chose the wide lens.

Distant train approaching

In retrospect, I believe I chose the wrong lens. I believe it would have been a more dramatic shot with the telephoto lens compressing the scene.

I think it’s important to review some photo shoots to see what could have been done better. It’s not being negative – call it solo constructive criticism.

Anyway – here’s the shot the wide angle lens gave me.

CP 8944 and many more

The train had four locomotives – CP 8944, 2201, 6251, and 8000. Quite a variety of types – ES44AC, GP20C-ECO, ex SOO SD60, AC4400CWM.

Here’s another look at those 4 locomotives.

Four locomotives and blue K+S hoppers
Going away

Here’s the video.

That was it for trains for me that morning.

Thanks Maryna and Tyler for meeting up – even though it was really cold!

10 thoughts on “Cold Meetup”

  1. I enjoyed this story, the write-up and the photos. Where I live, it isn’t as cold as you have it in Winnipeg, and I find winter photography very difficult. Hard to operate the camera, fingers become inoperative in the cold especially if there’s a breeze. Great shots, nice story.

  2. Hi Steve. I’m impressed with how you were able to capture the signal indications in the Going Away and “65” shots. Usually pictures of signals appear quite dark and the indications are difficult to see. Yours are very vivid. Well done. Any ideas on how much longer the searchlight signals will be in service?

    • Thank you, Brian! I appreciate that.

      I’m not sure how much longer the searchlight signals will be around. CN has replaced them on the other main lines out of Winnipeg, so the Rivers will no doubt receive the same treatment. I think they have so much capital work of higher priority… and maybe the retirement of searchlights from other subdivisions has given them a good pool of spare parts for the time being.

  3. Always an enjoyable read and I’m glad to have started my day here. I think this area you are photographing in is so cool. The way the land is a uniform plane of white snow and, in this series, the sky an almost equal plane of white. It really frames the train in an interesting way. And does that red on a CN engine ever pop against this.

    Neat detail about those ECO pushers. So that engine will just rest, idling away, and can just be added as needed. I wonder how they track its use? How it gets back to home when they’re done?


    • Hi Chris, thanks for stopping by! I guess the open plains have their own beauty… sometimes I long for some mountains or trees…

      I wonder what kind of data feed modern locomotives have now. I believe some of them are sending diagnostic data back to the manufacturers and they all have GPS, so maybe their positions are tracked quite well. The railways must have power plans to get enough locomotives in the right place… I hope!

  4. I’m usually out railfanning alone; guess I’m not the only one. I used to think double stack trains were boring and never shot many; but then I started looking at the actual containers and the names of the shipping companies. I started to look for a particular company and I see that in your shoot of CN at Diamond at 2:14 you also found “one”.!!
    Cheers Steve and stay safe (and warm).


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