Cross “Air Force” Off The List

As many railfans know, the Canadian Pacific Railway painted five of their refurbished SD70ACu locomotives to honour the armed services of Canada and the US. Each are painted differently to represent different branches of the militaries and/or time periods. The five are CP 6644 “D-Day”, CP 7020 “NATO green”, CP 7021 “Sand”, CP 7022 “Navy”, and CP 7023 “Air Force”. Until November 14 I had photographed three of the five.

I heard that CP military unit CP 7023 was coming into Winnipeg, leading hot train #100. The word was that it should arrive from the west mid to late morning on November 14. I had secured track time until noon, so I headed out before sunrise to get in position and hopefully catch a few CP trains. I hoped that #100 would come along before I had to head home for other commitments.

But First, CN

CN 2977 and some weird light effects
CN 2977 and some weird light effects

On my way north to the CP main line, squinting through the darkness, I spotted a bright headlight on the CN main line a few kilometres west of the Perimeter Highway. I pulled off to grab this eastbound CN train.

I shot CN 2977 at Hall Road on the Rivers sub, and got some funky light effects to boot. I’m not sure what caused those – maybe some fogging of the lens?

CN is rebuilding the crossing at Hall Road. It was listed as one of the most dangerous crossings in Canada, because the sight lines are not great, especially not to the east. I’m hoping that they will be putting lights and crossing gates in. Right now it is just crossbucks, not nearly good enough for a fairly busy crossing.

After I shot the head end of that train, I headed back to the highway and carried on north to the CP main line.

On to CP

There was a string of cars sitting on the main line east of the Perimeter Highway with no locomotive attached to them. Past experience has told me that this isn’t normal and I should look for the locomotives.

I spotted them in the distance, pulling a string of cars into the nearby Paterson grain elevator loop.

Working the elevator
Working the elevator

By the look of some of these cars, I think they were potash / fertilizer cars for the big NutraGro fertilizer terminal in the same area. Here the locomotives are in front of the big fertilizer shed.

By the fertilizer shed
By the fertilizer shed

Once they finished pulling forward, they pushed the cars back into the large track loop. They then cut off from the cars and came back toward their train, waiting on the main line. I jogged over to get a decent angle on the locomotives with the grain elevator in the background.

CP 8515 and 8557 at Lilyfield
CP 8515 and 8557 at Lilyfield

The crew was very friendly and the conductor gave me a wave and a smile when he got out to line the switch back for the main line. He even showed their STAY SAFE sign.


Once they were back on their train, I headed west to get ready to record them. I thought I might go on the west side of Rosser, far enough away from the airport that I could fly my drone. As I approached Rosser, I saw the headlight of an oncoming train. Whoops!

A quick U turn, and I was back to record the meet.

The westbound train was starting to move, with the two old “beater” locomotives smoking it up as they struggled to get the train in motion.

Smoking like Alcos
Smoking like Alcos

The eastbound train was on the south track so I got a good view of it as it passed by. Candy apple red CP 7029 was leading the eastbound. The paint is quite a bit brighter than what the battered old 85xx locomotives are wearing!

CP 7029 meets CP 8557
CP 7029 meets CP 8557

These “new” 7000s series look great but they do need washing now and then…

CP 7029 leading the charge east
CP 7029 leading the charge east

I took video of the meet.. here.

Smoking it up

Afterward, I chased the westbound to Marquette. I fumbled a bit there, trying to get my drone in the air to record them, and anyway, it was a big mess. Trying to do too much at once.

I ended up ignoring all that other gear and panning the train as it went by. The pan worked out quite well, I think.

After the train passed, I decided to head south to Elie to get a bagel and get rid of the Diet Pepsi I drank earlier. I figured I still had at least an hour, if not more, before CP 100 could possibly be near.

While I was there, I decided to go to East Elie to fly my drone to take a few photos. I am gathering material for a future “Mile by Mile” of the CN Rivers subdivision, and East Elie is hard to see because there are no roads nearby. Fortunately the drone can give me that “eye in the sky” look.

The funny thing about East Elie is that it is west of the actual town of Elie.

As I stepped out of my car, drone in hand, I heard a train horn to the west. Train time!

A Blue Surprise

East Elie
East Elie

Here’s a ground shot of East Elie, facing west from the road crossing near the grain elevator. For safety’s sake, that train was over a minute away from my location when I took the photo, and of course I looked both ways before stepping into the crossing. The track is dead straight in both directions… except for that peculiar “wow” in the tracks that you see. I’m told there used to be a siding in the centre between the two tracks. Now there is a crossover instead.

Train from abooooove
Train from abooooove

The train had CN 5795 leading and blue IC 2457 trailing, and it was a solid train of loaded lumber cars.

I was so surprised to see the blue unit that I never really got a good photo of it. I’m pretty happy with the drone capture, though.

Back to CP

On my way back north to the CP main line, I decided to head west to “Reaburn” as it was recommended to me a while ago. Apparently there is an “S” curve in the track which could make things interesting for photos.

I ended up taking a left where I should have taken a right, and found myself looking at the east end of the Poplar Point siding instead.

Looking at the Poplar Point siding

I looked at the mile marker on that signal (37.3) then looked at my CP Carberry subdivision page. Poplar Point is listed as mile 39.0 and the siding is 16,790′ long. The siding mileage listing should be the middle of the siding, where the sign is. Do the math: 39.0 – (16790 / (5280*2)) = 37.41, and I guess it’s about 0.11 miles from the end of the siding to the signal. Anyway, it was clear to me that I wasn’t actually at Reaburn, mile 31.1.

I messaged my friends to ask if anyone knew where CP 100 was, and someone replied “Poplar Point”. I looked up and there was a headlight…


CP 7023
CP 7023

I launched my drone, started the ground video camera rolling, and shot a few stills as the train approached. This time I managed to not screw any of those up.

I had to be careful with the drone, as it was fairly windy and there were a lot of wires around. It wouldn’t do to hit a wire…

I really like how the drone shot turned out.

CP 7023 from above
CP 7023 from above

One of my friends knew who the engineer of this train was, and he shared the above photo with the engineer. Apparently the crew had no idea that I had a drone up. This isn’t really surprising to me, as my drone is pretty small (and black) and the crew isn’t looking for things up in the air. I’ve always been concerned that my drone could be a distraction to crews, but it sure seems like it isn’t noticeable at all.

The video

I packed my gear up and “chased” the train east toward Winnipeg. I didn’t really expect to catch it, given that they had a head start and a more direct route than I did, but I held a faint hope that they would have a meet and have to slow down or even stop.

As they approached Marquette, I was still trailing by a bit but I still had the train in sight. I pulled off the road to take a quick shot.

CP train 100 near Marquette
CP train 100 near Marquette

That was the last time I saw the train until just outside Winnipeg!

The track between Marquette and Winnipeg is dead straight and CP’s speed limit is 60 MPH between Marquette and Makwa. It’s hard to gain any ground on a train when the parallel highway is 100 km/hr and the highway doesn’t follow the track the whole way.

As I approached the Viterra grain elevator at the Makwa siding, just outside Winnipeg, I saw the end of the train again and I also saw a few cars pulled over and people getting out of their cars. I slowed down and I recognized a few railfan friends.

I parked and joined the group to chat… from a social distance… and only in a group of 5 as per current Manitoba COVID regulations. I also wore my mask.

The rest of the group carried on – in their own separate vehicles – to railfan downtown and maybe catch the train leaving to the east. I was out of time, so I headed home.

One Left

CP had five military themed locomotives painted. Here’s the ones I’ve seen:

  • CP 7020 “NATO green” – NO
  • CP 7021 “sand” – YES
  • CP 7022 “navy” – YES and YES
  • CP 7023 “air force” – YES!
  • CP 6644 “D-day camo” – YES

Come on, CP 7020… come closer…

Just One More Thing

CN has its own heritage units now.

They have a number of new locomotives painted to honour its predecessor railways, including:

  • BC Rail (3115) (Stephen Host photo)
  • Grand Trunk (8952)
  • Illinois Central (3008)
  • Wisconsin Central (3069)
  • EJ&E (3023)
  • CN 8898

I believe there are 18 in total. It was a railfan rumour that there were 18. These six are the “predecessor” locomotives, plus a classic CNR green/yellow switcher/slug set CN 7600/600, and I’ve seen photos of a black Illinois Central slug, IC 601 that will likely have a mate CN 7601.

CN also painted two in camouflage colours for November 11, 2020. One was CN 3015 but I don’t know the other unit number.

I don’t think any of these locomotives are brand new – I’ve certainly seen 3115, 8952 and 3015 before, for instance – but it’s great that CN has chosen to honour its heritage and to honour veterans. It’s going to make being trackside by CN a lot more interesting, just as CP’s heritage units have made railfanning CP more interesting!

12 thoughts on “Cross “Air Force” Off The List”

  1. Hi Steve! Congrats on your catch! It’s nice that the railways are adding new sets to keep the “collectors” among us going – kind of like the Mint releasing a new coin series. I look forward to more of your finds.

  2. Hi Steve,
    CN is indeed repainting 18 heritage units in all. If you send me your
    e-mail I’ll send you the official release with photos (I tried
    but it bounced back).
    Ian Walker

  3. I am still impressed with the length of the trains. It takes awhile to get the loaded cars up to speed ! Just as long to stop them. Would like to hear about the fix for the crossing. My branchline modelling has about 7 or 8 cars max but that is pretty close to what they ran in the years before abandonment. The drone shots are impressive! I look at the engines you called”beaters” and I see modern power! It’s been over 20 years since the line here was abandoned and there’s was very rarely 3 axle power on it. My newest unit is an Alco 424 – which brings me to another point – weathering. Most of the cars in your video show a lot of wear, but I guess it is only power that ever gets repainted! If my Century 424 is brew I won’t have to weather it!
    Enjoy your blog!

    • Hi Jim, these long trains sure take some time to get started and stopped. When you see and hear the locomotives straining to get a train started, you get an appreciation for how powerful they are.
      I guess “modern” is in the eye of the beholder. To me any locomotive more than 20 years old isn’t modern but even the 50-60 year old locomotives can still pull cars.
      It’s pretty rare to see freight cars repainted. Patched, sure, but most companies don’t waste money on paint!

  4. You just know that 7029 is thinking “You GE’s are a disgrace!” but locomotives don’t get to choose when they get a bath.

    The concept of ‘modern’ locomotives does get a bit blurry when you consider that the GE ‘Dash 9’ and EMD SD70 series have been around since the early 90’s and while they’ve both seen several revisions, upgrades, and variants, they have changed very little in appearance. They probably aren’t but those two GE’s do look 25+ years old.

    • I wonder if locomotives like to bathe? Certainly they don’t do a good job of keeping themselves clean…

      Interesting thought about the longevity of the ‘Dash 9’ and SD70 series. I think the same applies with airplanes. Look at the notorious 737MAX, supposedly still a 737 despite the original 737 first flew commercially in 1968. I suppose they have the same number of engines and roughly the same proportions, but I don’t imagine there are a lot of parts in common between the original 737 and the MAX.

  5. Hi Steve,
    I really enjoy your stories, information and photos. I am a newbie railfan (not quite a rail geek yet) and frequently sit in my second floor apartment overlooking the CP lines at the marina in Thunder Bay and noting the units that go by.
    Today engine 7206 headed east with a load of hopper cars. What do you know about that locomotive?

    • Hi Edward, thanks for your comment. Someday I am going to get to Thunder Bay and do some railfanning! It looks like a great area.

      CP 7206? I’m not aware of a CP locomotive with that number. I could be wrong, though!


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