Frost and Fog


It was a frosty and foggy morning when I set out from Winnipeg in search of trains. The date was March 17, 2019 and I had a few hours to get some trains and maybe fly my (relatively new) drone.

As soon as I stepped out of my house, I saw the fog and I was excited. We hardly ever get fog here, so it was something different!

My plan was to head to Elie, maybe fly my drone there, and see what trains I could see along the way. The CN Rivers subdivision would be my constant companion.

Right away, CN delivered a train at Diamond, just west of Winnipeg. Two trains, in fact.

A Foggy Meet

Emerging from the fog
Emerging from the fog

I found a westbound train heading out of the city. I drove ahead of it to just east of Diamond (the CN-CP crossing), where the fog was a little clearer and I figured I could get a relatively clear shot (and video) of the train. I hurriedly slapped my tripod together and was ready for the train to arrive.

As I was waiting, I heard a horn blow for a crossing… from the west. The west? I was expecting it from the east.

It turned out that CN 5725 East was coming toward me on the north track, and in fact it arrived at my location first.

CN 5725 in profile
CN 5725 in profile

CN 5725 and CN 3003 rolled on by, hauling a doublestack container train. Mere seconds later, IC 2466 came from the east, followed by leaser ex CSX GECX 7653 and a motley collection of cars.

Love those bluebirds!
Love those bluebirds!

It’s always nice to see a bluebird, especially when it leads!

This Census car was near the end of the train.


Here’s the video of the two trains passing in the fog and sunrise:

Two trains passing..

That was a great start. I set off for Elie… after taking a few hoar frost photos. Fog in the winter means hoarfrost.

Hoar frost
Hoar frost

Flying Around at Elie

Flying my drone at Elie
Flying my drone at Elie

When I got to Elie, I got the drone out and took it for a flight. This was only my fifth flight of the drone, so I was not very comfortable with its operation. I took it for a loop around over a field to get familiar with it, and snap a photo or two of the Elie grain elevator.

Grain elevator outside Elie, Manitoba
Grain elevator outside Elie, Manitoba

I landed the drone and retreated to my car to warm up. It wasn’t super cold outside, but the cold was really making my fingers hurt as I couldn’t operate the drone in heavy mittens. I was wearing these gloves, which are great for around zero Celsius but not insulated enough for extended use at temperatures much below freezing.

Kind Of a Miss

After a five minute wait, I noticed an eastbound freight train approaching. I tried to get the drone in the air in time, but with my inexperience I didn’t get it airborne to record the start of the train. I snapped a few photos with my camera and had to be satisfied with that… and I was.

Can't complain!
Can’t complain!

I did get the drone aloft to record part of the train. Practice!

The train had CN 8834 and CN 2977 powering it.

By the end of that flight, my drone was getting a little low on battery power.

I retreated to my car to wait just a little longer…

Scotty, We Need More Power!

About 20 minutes later, I heard a distant horn from the east. Another train!

I got the drone aloft in time, and flew it toward the elevator to get it into position. A minute or two later, it started complaining about low power!

I guess I found the limit of its battery. I called it “home” and quickly threw together my ground video camera and tripod to record the train instead.

Here’s my (ground) video of CN 3870 West hauling a sand train. CN 3871 was in the consist as a mid-train DPU.

That was the end of my time at Elie. I packed up and headed home, not seeing any more trains along the way.

Just One More Thing

I soon learned that my drone’s battery doesn’t last all that long. It claims to give about 21 minutes of flight time, but that really depends on what you are doing.

I ended up buying a power inverter to plug into my car’s “cigarette lighter” to provide 120V power in the car. I then plug the drone battery charger into that, and I can charge up the battery while I drive to the next location. Power isn’t really an issue any more!

Honestly, I should get a second battery, but they are about $110 (Canadian) so they are not cheap… and I am cheap.

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