I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For

I have climbed the highest mountains
I have run through the fields

But I still haven’t found what I’m looking for
– U2

I’m still searching for CP’s newly refurbished locomotives in the “maroon” and “military” schemes, commonly known as “heritage” paint schemes. These reconditioned SD90s, now designated as SD70ACu locomotives, are roaming the rails, but not in front of my lens!

I went searching for the maroon in late December with no success.

On January 5, 2020 I went out on a rather blustery morning to try to spot one of these elusive units.

Blowing By

Unit #? I don’t see a unit #

This was the first train I saw. As I approached the CP Carberry subdivision, I saw an eastbound train rolling into the city. I didn’t get trackside in time to see the head end, but I did see enough from a distance to know that the lead unit was red and therefore not one that I was looking for.

I found a place to pull off and enjoyed the sights and sounds of the train kicking up newly fallen snow as it rolled past.

The answer, my friend, is blowing in the winter
The answer, my friend, is blowing in the winter

I really like conditions like this for photography. For driving… not so much.

There was a mid train unit, but it wasn’t maroon either…

CP 9730 hustling along

The train had one locomotive on the head end, followed by intermodal (double stack container) cars, followed by CP 9730, with mixed freight on the tail end. This seems pretty common on CP but is quite rare on CN around here. I know there are a couple of Prince Rupert bound trains that are arranged the same but most CN freights are either all intermodal or all general freight. CP likes to mix it up, I guess!

The tail end whipped by in a swirling cloud of snow, with the tail blinking its baleful red eye as it receded in the distance.


That was exciting… but no maroon.

I decided to gingerly drive west toward Meadows and Marquette to see if I could find another train.

I drove through Rosser, then decided to cut north to the crossing just west of Rosser. There I saw the west facing signals were lit. I set up to wait for the train that should be coming. It wasn’t long before CP 9780 East came rolling along.

Oil But No Maroon

Kicking up some snow

This was an oil train, with the usual buffer cars separating the long string of tank cars from the locomotives at either end.

Please compare the photo above with the lead photo in this post. They are the same train at the same location. I did some serious editing, including sky replacement, to produce the lead photo of this post. I used Skylum’s Luminar 4 for the processing. What do you think?

The buffer cars on this train were old SOO LINE grain hoppers, no doubt filled with sand.

SOO and a loco, playing in the snow

I decided there was absolutely no point in pursuing this train, given the road conditions. I managed to get my numb fingers to work well enough to put my camera gear away, then sat in my car for several minutes warming up before I decided on my next move.

Old camera, new tripod

This was my first “field” use of my new tripod, the Cameron CF 650 from Henry’s. I recorded a video review of the tripod. I like the tripod. It’s a big step up from the beat up old tripod I’ve had for the past 15 years. A ball head is a big step up from a fluid head! I’ll try to write a post about the tripod someday soon.

Here’s the video I took.

After I warmed up for a bit, I decided that it would be foolish to drive long distances, given the road conditions. I decided to head back toward home and railfan CN a bit on the way.

CN 8934 East

Big Power

As I crossed over the CN Rivers subdivision, I saw headlights to the west. A quick exit brought me near the tracks and I parked on the shoulder and ran into the ditch to capture this shot of CN 8934 doing sole duty on an eastbound freight train.

I went home after that, but just after 3 PM in the afternoon of the same day, I was out picking my daughter up from work. As we were driving west along Wilkes Avenue, I found this eastbound potash train. Notice how much better the weather was!

2+1 potash train

There were two units on the head end and one on the tail.

Another Try

Late in the afternoon of January 11th, I tried again. This time I went east, toward the CP Keewatin subdivision. As I drove around the Perimeter Highway, I spotted a train heading east on the CN Sprague subdivision. I gave chase and passed it, easy enough when the Trans-Canada Highway parallels the tracks…

I set up and captured CN 2233 bringing a motley collection of freight cars east under a very bland sky. I decided to go with the blandness and emphasized the stark emptiness when I was editing the photo.

The Great White North

I received a new, tiny, video camera for Christmas. It’s the Akasa EK7000, a GoPro “clone”. I’m writing a review so look for that soon. It’s an inexpensive and surprisingly powerful camera. Here’s the video I took with it.


Anyway, back to CP… I went out the Dugald Road and drove north up route 207 to the CP Keewatin subdivision. My intention was to sit near the crossing there and wait for a CP train until the light was gone.

Waiting on the Light


There was a train stopped just west of the crossing at 16:35. It was on the north track, and if you squint really hard at the photo above, you’ll see the three red lights facing the head end of the train. Clearly they were being held there for something.

I looked down the tracks, and way in the distance I could see a headlight. To me that meant the stopped train was waiting for an eastbound train to leave the city. I waited around for something to happen.

Long time readers know that I am not patient, but I managed to hold out a whole 20 minutes while the light slowly faded. Nothing moved.

Eventually I decided that I’d better go see the head end while there was a glimmer of light left in the sky.

I drove around the train, which basically meant I had to drive south on 207 to the Dugald Road, west to the Perimeter Highway, north to Gunn Road, west on Gunn to Redonda, then north on Redonda Street to the next crossing. This was almost 12 km of driving just because the Floodway prevented me from driving beside the train. Good thing that glorified ditch protects us all from flooding!

I was concerned that the trains would be gone by the time I got to the crossing. Fortunately, my concern was unjustified.

Patience Rewarded

Failing light

CP 8787 was the head end locomotive on the train waiting on the north track at 17:05. They had CP 8784 as a DPU way back in the train. Still not maroon!

Notice the green light way in the distance on the south track. You would think a train was imminent, but NO… it was another 10 minutes before the eastbound train showed up.

A crossover hit

CP 8936 East was actually on the north track – the same track as the train waiting to the east of it – so it had to cross over to the south track to get around. Here the lead loco and a few cars are on the south track and the rest of the train is still on the north.

I had two video cameras out to record the train’s passage, and here’s the combined video. Both cameras died before the train finished passing, due to the cold.

Picture in picture FTW


This train had some general freight “junk” on the tail end as well. I liked the little bit of “last light” on the side of the boxcar.

I didn’t wait around for the westbound train, as the light was pretty much gone and I knew there wasn’t anything “special” on the train. I headed home around the Perimeter Highway.

One More

As I approached the CP Emerson subdivision crossing on the highway, the crossing lights came on and the arms came down. TRAIN!

It turned out to be a southbound oil train, with a locomotive on the head end and another in the middle. Naturally, neither of them were maroon either…

I was in my car, so no photos of that train…

The Search Goes On

I had good luck with trains on both days, but the heritage units continued to elude me.

I’m up for the challenge. In fact, I went out again on the very next day, January 12… more to come.

Just One More Thing

I asked for these Wicked Audio GNAR wireless earbuds for Christmas. With my iPhone I don’t have a headphone port, so I can charge my phone or plug headphones in but not both. I decided I wanted Bluetooth earbuds and these seemed relatively inexpensive for their quality.

I’ve used them a number of times and I am really impressed with them. The sound quality is great, they are noise canceling and they are super easy to set up. They come in a battery-powered case that recharges them, like Apple’s AirPods. Think of them like black AirPods at a significantly lower price. They should work with any Bluetooth capable phone. If you’re in the market for wireless earbuds, you can buy them on Amazon.

What comes in the package

Those Amazon links are affiliate links, meaning I earn a (very) small commission if you purchase something using the link. As an Amazon affiliate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Would you mind answering a one question survey about the Amazon links I use? Thanks!

12 thoughts on “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For”

  1. Comparing the lead photo with the other, the lead photo looks like fake news!
    On a serious note, for a photographer having something like Luminar 4 in your palette must give you endless options for editing.
    I liked it all as usual Steve, especially the great white north photo!
    Good luck on the hunt.

  2. I will echo the sentiment on the “Great White North” photo; it’s an excellent shot, Steve. Regarding the lead versus in-line photo discussion, they both look fine. This may be an unpopular opinion, but personally I am opposed to using editing software outside of brightening images or going from colour to black-and-white. Photos like the lead one seem a bit fake to me, so I prefer the original. That said, if you want to edit your photos, Steve, you have every right to do so; I personally wouldn’t.

    On the subject of containers combined with general freight on the same train, I’ve seen that happen on CN 305 (Moncton-Toronto?) before. My understanding is that the stacks are overflow from CN 121 out of Halifax, so it doesn’t always happen. How CN gets the excess containers from Halifax to Moncton, I’m not sure.

    • Hi Michael, thanks for the comments and the compliment on “Great White North”. I’ve found over the years that my comfort level with editing photos has continually increased. I used to be opposed to more than minor edits but I have come to the present where I am OK with doing some pretty significant editing. It’s great that we have the choice on how to edit our digital images, and there’s no “right” way.

      I wonder if 121 was “long” coming out of Halifax and didn’t have room to add any containers that were loaded in Moncton? That would cause the Moncton containers to go on 305. Or perhaps there were higher priority containers loaded in Moncton that “bumped” some Halifax-origin containers.

  3. You had me at the lead photo, Steve! The (lead) lead photo! I think it you stand out there in the cold you should be able to do whatever you want! I have not experienced Manitoba in the winter.

    I was waiting for a Maroon Five reference in the musical/song title references.

    RE: the junk freight. In my previous job, there was a cartoon showing picketing gallbladders, appendix and toenails holding signs saying, “We’re Not Junk!” compared to more interesting pathological specimens’ findings!

    Yes, quite often CN No 305 past here has doublestacks after the DPU. Alternatively, long strings of empty Canpotex hoppers when available. CP started this mixing of various types of freight in Canada that were previously Never To Be Mixed. For whatever reason. You know, like cylindricals Not To Go To Churchill.

    Thanks for sharing,

    • If it’s been five excursions without seeing maroon, the Maroon Five references will come out.

      I think we are colder than Kingston in the winter but I bet you get more snow!

      It’s funny how each profession has its own jokes. you had gallbladders and appendices. I remember many Randy Glasbergen safety cartoons when I worked at NB Power. Sadly I just learned that Mr. Glasbergen passed away a few years ago. Lots of his work is up at https://www.glasbergen.com/

      The railways stick to their rules of marshalling trains… until they change the rules. I guess like the modelers, it’s their railway, their rules.

  4. Hi Steve,
    According to the Power Distribution Summary for January 2020 7011 to 7020 plus the military units and 6644 are “Maintained” in Winnipeg. They are obviously turning back east at Winnipeg considering the number of trips you’ve spent looking for them.
    Maybe try following the CP eastern lines out of Winnipeg. Also if you can get into the yard at Winnipeg, 7013 is tied up at Winnipeg (TUUS/TUUL) and 7016 is tied up (TUUS) at Weston.

  5. I’ve had a similar experience down here trying to catch all of the NS Heritage units “in the wild”. I couldn’t make the big event when NS unveiled them, so my only option has been watching for them on trains around Atlanta and when I travel. I’ve come across a few.

    I know there are the websites that track the movement of everything, but honestly it is still more fun just to see what pops up on the next train by. Not capturing them all means something to look for next time out.

    Hopefully someday some of the new Canadian units will make their way down here.

    • I know many people who are trying to catch those NS heritage units! I agree there is a site for the heritage units but people don’t log the Canadian ones very often so it’s not very helpful.

      I have seen a lot more CP trains looking for those heritage trains, so that’s a bonus.


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