Desperately Seeking Canola

I really enjoyed our family vacation in Banff. It’s such a beautiful location.

However, Banff doesn’t have canola. This bright yellow crop has become a very popular plant for western farmers to grow alongside or in place of the traditional wheat fields. Canola was bred from rapeseed, but it is called canola (CANada, Oil, Low Acid) as a more friendly name.

Canola contains a great deal of oil, which is pressed out in crush plants. The oil is used as vegetable oil in many foods, as well as non-food uses like biodiesel and as a component in lipsticks, inks, candles, and so forth. The crushed remnants are used as animal feed.

I like canola because it is bright yellow and very photogenic… and tasty.

On the morning of July 11, I set out from Winnipeg to find some canola fields to park myself near. My friend Jim said there were some near Elie, so I headed that way.

When I arrived in Elie, the gates were coming down at the town crossing, and CN 2971 East came rolling through with a few miles of containers behind it.

No Canola This Time

CN 2971
CN 2971

After that train passed, I drove west and eventually found a pair of canola fields straddling the CN main line. There was a crossing here at mile 33.71 of the CN Rivers subdivision.

I had my video camera near the crossing and my drone ready to launch for the overhead view.

Eventually an eastbound potash train came rolling along.

Canola Train 1

CN 2332 East at West Elie
CN 2332 East at West Elie

It looked pretty sweet across that bright yellow canola field.

The train had a mix of Agrium and PotashCorp cars along with some unmarked hoppers. Nutrien was formed from the merger of Agrium and PotashCorp, but most of their cars are still painted for the former companies. They do have a few green Nutrien cars and I spotted one for the first time recently.

CN 2334 brought up the rear on the potash train.

CN 2334 on the tail end
CN 2334 on the tail end

Here’s the video of that train, from the ground and from the air.

20 minutes later, another eastbound train came along. Thanks CN for sending eastbound trains in the morning for the best light!

Canola Train 2

CN 8878 East
CN 8878 East

This was a general freight with a blocky SD70M-2 on the head end, with a lot of containers on the tail end. I wonder if this was a train from Prince Rupert.

I waited a while after that, but I ran out of time before any more trains came along.

On my way home, I spotted a westbound train near mile 19. I set up to record them by a handy canola field. It was 11:15 AM so the sun was quite high and the ground photo wasn’t so photogenic.

Canola Train 3

High sun
High sun with CN 2943 West

The train and the canola field certainly looked nicer from the air.

CN 2943 and the canola field
CN 2943 and the canola field

I tried to keep the drone more or less over the train while keeping the canola field in view. Since it was close to noon, the sun was very high in the sky.

Video of CN 2943 West

Canola Cubed

I ended up “getting” three trains with canola – a pretty good score, I’d say.

Now the canola has mostly been harvested, and the sunflowers are out. Time to get trackside again!

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6 thoughts on “Desperately Seeking Canola”

  1. Fields of canola are not unique to the prairies, here in the upper St. Saint John River valley in N.B. and specifically Carleton & Victoria counties, the farmers also produce produce potatoes for McCain. Their corporate offices and main data centre are in Florenceville which is known as the french fry capital of the world. Farmers that supply McCain’s have to follow a regime of crop rotation each year. We who live her get to see not only canola fields but sun flowers, soybeans, corn, wheat, barley and rye grasses. The fields pale in comparison to out west but we do get to see and smell the canola. Next door, our USA counterparts in Aroostook County also supply McCain’s who have a massive plant near Presque Isle.
    All we are missing is a rail service which served our areas well. CPR , CNR and Bangor & Aroostook got the business and now all we have is history. Many changes over time.

    • Hi Paul, thanks for that information. I had no idea there was canola in New Brunswick. Maybe it’s a relatively new thing since I moved away in 2009?

      I’m pretty familiar with the Woodstock area and there are a lot of potatoes grown around there!

  2. I am a big fan of getting pictures where the trains are part of the landscape. While the dramatic wedge shots where the train fills the whole frame have their place, I find they lack context. These shots give you a lot of context about time and place. And yes, those SD70s are boxy. I will go further and declare them as borderline ugly, but that’s just me.

    • Hi Michael, I used to shoot a lot of so-called “roster” shots, zoomed in on the locomotive and cropping everything else out. I really don’t like taking that kind of shot any more and I appreciate context a lot more now. We evolve.

      I like the SD70M-2s, personally – very boxy and to me they are “all business”.

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