The GWWD’s 44 Tonner on the Move

At Symington Road outside Winnipeg
The GWWD at Symington Road outside Winnipeg

The Greater Winnipeg Water District (GWWD) railway is a pretty unique little railway. It was built to service the aqueduct supplying water from Shoal Lake to Winnipeg. The railway was completed in 1915 and has served the city since then. It used to carry passengers along the 102 mile route, but it has not done so for many years.

GWWD map
GWWD map

Today the GWWD exists solely for Winnipeg’s water system. It brings chemicals to the water treatment centre at Deacon’s Corner in southeast Winnipeg, and material and people out along the aqueduct to the end of the line at Shoal Lake. It also hauls waste back from Shoal Lake.

The railway has an interchange with CN. It used to have an interchange with CP, but it has been out of service for several years.

Locomotives of the GWWD

Over the years the GWWD have used GE 44 ton locomotives, MLW RS-23s and S-13s for power. Today GWWD 200 and 202 – both RS-23s – are the primary power.

GWWD 202 in Winnipeg, April 2015.
GWWD 202 in Winnipeg, April 2015.

They sold off their small locomotives years ago, but in 2016 or 2017 they acquired GWWD 100, a GE 44 ton locomotive built in June 1946. The intent was to leave it out at the water intake at Waugh, but it blew a traction motor and has been laid up since then. They also acquired “Chip II”, a GE 45 tonner ballasted to 60 tons, but I’m not sure that has run at all.

GWWD's "Chip II" in Winnipeg.
GWWD’s “Chip II” in Winnipeg.

GWWD 100 on the Move

I heard that the GWWD had fixed #100 and was taking it and a few tank cars to the water treatment plant at Deacon’s Corner at the edge of the city. I made some time to get out and photograph it.

I went out to near Deacon’s Corner and saw there was still snow on the rails, so it was clear they hadn’t reached that section yet. I didn’t see them along the stretch of track through Symington Yard either. I drove toward their yard on Plinguet Street and found them just crossing Dawson Road. They were pulling two tank cars.

I set up to record them crossing Dugald Road. In the distance, I saw them stop and one crew member dismounted. I thought he was protecting the movement across the CN-GWWD diamond, but instead the crewperson threw a switch and it was clear #100 was turning on the wye near Lafarge.

I took some photos from the road, then went back to Dugald Road to wait for them. They put their tiny train back together again and headed up the line toward Deacon’s Corner. As they approached, I was taking shots with my telephoto lens… until the camera’s card was full.

Dang it.

This card had thousands of photos, from my trip to Barcelona in September to now. I knew they were all on my computer, but I had avoided reformatting the card to keep another copy of the photos around “just in case”. Unfortunately for me, my spare card was in my car a fair distance away and I would miss the shot if I ran back to get the card. There was really only one choice.

I reformatted the card on the spot and started shooting “from scratch”. I lost the few photos at Lafarge, but I felt this was a better choice because I wouldn’t have lost the shot.

Moral of the story: reformat frequently.

Anyway, here’s an “approach” photo of #100 pulling two cars, after I reformatted the card.

GWWD 100 approaching Dugald Road
GWWD 100 approaching Dugald Road

The friendly crew gave me a wave as they passed. They were not going very fast at all.

GWWD "going away" shot
GWWD “going away” shot

Once they passed, I gathered up my gear and sprinted back to my car to get to the next spot. I knew I wasn’t going to beat them to the Panet Road crossing, but I figured I could get to the next one, Holden Street. I did manage that, without much trouble at all.

They ended up stopping just short of Holden Street. The next road crossing was highway 59, a busy road, and then they would encounter the triple diamond crossing with CN. Normally GWWD has to wait for the CN dispatcher to give them permission to cross, and it might be a while!

Waiting at Holden Street
Waiting at Holden Street

A container train was rolling through the diamond, so they had to wait. That gave me time to reposition to the other side of Symington Yard to capture them after they crossed the triple diamond at Beach Junction, and another diamond with CN at an industrial spur.

I thought about getting them at Plessis Road, on the east side of Symington Yard, but that’s a busy street and the angles aren’t that great anyway. I elected to carry on to Symington Road, a gravel road that crosses the GWWD line. I had plenty of time before they came along.

Before the train came, this GWWD hi-railer went past.

GWWD Hi Railer
GWWD Hi Railer

I imagine it was a track foreman and crew inspecting the track before the train came through.

GWWD 100
GWWD 100

I was using three cameras here – my Canon 77D for the long telephoto shots, the Canon T1i on a tripod for video, and my iPhone 6 for the wide shots. Just a little juggling! 😉

Entering the crossing
Entering the crossing

After they passed me, I carried on toward the next crossing, Murdock Road. En route, I stopped to photograph the little train crossing the prairie. That’s the Malteurop plant in the background in Transcona.

Little train on the prairie
Little train on the prairie

At Murdock Road, I decided to shoot video handheld. Once they passed, I switched my T1i camera to stills and took a few “going away” shots.

Heading to Deacon's Corner
Heading to Deacon’s Corner

That’s the Deacon’s Corner plant in the distance at the far right of the photo.

I elected not to try to get them at the Perimeter Highway crossing, as I felt I couldn’t get there in time without driving beside the track on a sketchy road, or going the long way around. I was satisfied with the photos I had.

I’ve put a video together showing three different locations – heavily edited so you don’t have to wait too long for the train to pass by!

Thanks for reading!

Books on the GWWD

If you’re looking for a good book on the Greater Winnipeg Water District railway, there is none better than the late Peter Lacey’s “The Muskeg Limited“. This hardcover book covers the first 80 years of the GWWD. Recommended.

Other GWWD Posts

7 thoughts on “The GWWD’s 44 Tonner on the Move”

  1. Excellent post Steve. Many moons ago when I worked in the St. Boniface district I used to see these guys all the time, coming and going.

    Going to have a look see at that book by Peter Lacey, The Muskeg Limited.

    • I haven’t seen the GWWD run as much as I should – it takes a bit of effort and luck to see them run.

      Enjoy the book! If you can’t find a copy, I can lend you mine.

  2. Love watching your blog. GWWD an really interesting story.
    Love the prairies – flat as a board – and then some little thing in the distance and it has to be identified! (a little blip in some cases). Brings back memories of trips out west – seeing a train in the distance and never catching up to it although it is always there and can be seen for miles.

    • Hey Jim, thanks for reading and for commenting! Yes, prairie railfanning is a lot different than it was out east. You can see a train for miles – maybe never catch up to it – but it’s hard to be surprised by a train on the open prairie.

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