Looking Back, Looking Forward

As I write this on the morning of January 1, 2022, I am conflicted about what to write.

It’s generally expected that one would reflect on the past year, celebrating triumphs and mourning losses, while sharing plans for the new year.

However, the way forward isn’t clear to me and I definitely look back on 2021 with mixed feelings. I’m normally an optimistic person, but I find it hard to get excited about the coming year.

Aerial view of a Canadian Pacific passenger train
CP 7019 leading the business train, September 23, 2021

I don’t really want to dwell on the continuing pandemic and its effect on society. I’m tired of that and I know we all are. I got my booster in December so I’m doing my part. Let’s hope we can get to a better place this year.

Anyway.

2021

Rocky Mountaineer train in the mountains
Rocky Mountaineer at Castle Mountain, July 7, 2021

2021 was a good year for railfanning – maybe too good. I went out chasing trains quite a bit, as there wasn’t a lot else to do. I’m pretty happy with the photos and video I captured. I’m sharing some of my favourite 2021 photos here.

I left the province of Manitoba five times in 2021:

  1. July 2021, family trip to Banff-Lake Louise (Action at Castle Mountain, The Rocky Mountaineer resumes, etc.)
  2. August 2021, moving our daughter to Toronto (GO Transit and More series)
  3. September 2021, business trip to New Brunswick (McAdam Train Station at Night)
  4. October 2021, visiting our daughter in Toronto (no blog post yet)
  5. November-December 2021, trip to Germany to see Christmas markets (no blog posts yet)

You can see that I’m “behind” in writing about some of these trips. I’m choosing to frame it as “not shared yet” rather than being “behind”.

Aerial view of steam train on the prairies
PDC 3 Between Grosse Isle and Winnipeg, May 5 2021

Notable railfan adventures included recording the Prairie Dog Central’s trips to and from downtown Winnipeg for a CBC miniseries (Prairie Dog Central, Movie Star), the CP business train passing through town, and several night train excursions (I Drove All Night, Trains at Night).

I ended the year a little burnt out, with a distinct lack of interest in railfanning. I did get trackside after Christmas once, with my good friend Jason Paul Sailer, and I’ll write about that soon.

Freight train in the snow
CN 3188 West at mile 15, CN Rivers sub, November 21, 2021

I was pleased to have an article of mine about CN’s automated rail inspection portals published in CN Lines magazine, and one of my photos made the cover!

CN Lines Vol 20 No 3

I also contributed some photos to an article on modern grain terminals, including a couple of drone shots.

2021 was a record year in terms of income from my rail photography. It’s certainly not enough to replace my full time “real job” income, but it’s nice to get some side income from my hobby. The most significant sources of income were from editing a book, photographing the Manitoba Marathon, stock photography sales, and advertisements on my web sites and my YouTube channel.

Caboose silhouetted against sunset
GWWD’s caboose heading home, April 22, 2021

I changed advertisement providers on this site in late October and it’s resulted in a significant increase in ad income. I haven’t heard any complaints from readers, though maybe they are just staying away… if you have any comments on the change, please let me know.

In late 2021 I was diagnosed with celiac disease. That means no gluten for me, which has been quite an adjustment for this bread-loving guy. I’m coping and finding substitutes, but I have to say that I miss gluten a lot. Most gluten-free foods just aren’t as good. I’ve started reviewing gluten-free foods on a new site, Gluten Train. I chose the name because, well, trains, and also because I’m “getting off the gluten train”.

2022

VIA 692 west of Winnipeg, July 24, 2021

To be perfectly honest, I don’t have any firm plans for 2022. I wish I did, but it’s hard to plan for anything these days.

I do have some goals.

Freight train by the Bow River
CP 8875 by Storm Mountain, July 8 2021

I also have a mantra for 2022 – “do it now, don’t wait”. I am inspired by my wife, who has always wanted to visit the German Christmas markets, and she made that happen late last year.

So… my goals, in no particular order:

  1. Ride the VIA Rail “Canadian”. I’ve photographed it so many times but I have never been on it.
  2. Photograph grain elevators in Saskatchewan. There are a few that I really want to photograph (hello Dankin, Brooking, Hagen, and more) and many that I haven’t seen.
  3. Visit Bayview Junction outside Hamilton, ON

I think these are are doable. Let’s see how many I can accomplish.

VIA Rail train under a bridge in Toronto
VIA Rail in Toronto, August 26, 2021

I received some good news yesterday. Two of my images will be appearing in the 2022 Canadian Trackside Guide! This was the first time I’ve submitted photos for consideration, so I consider myself fortunate to get some photos in it. I’ll leave which specific photos are in the CTG a secret for now, except to say that they are in this blog post.

Freight train around a curve
CN 3097 near Dufresne, MB, February 21 2021

Over to you – what are your plans and/or goals for 2022?

23 thoughts on “Looking Back, Looking Forward”

  1. Great post!
    To answer your question at the end there, some of my plans are;
    Ride a (any) VIA Rail train. (No specific place).
    Do a railfanning ‘trip’ in/around Portage La Prairie.
    Dedicate an entire day to railfan in Rennie and the Whiteshell.
    And, railfan with others, too often I’m by myself!
    I wish you and your family an amazing 2022.
    -Evan

    Reply
  2. I love that shot of the Rocky Mountaineer at Castle Mountain. My wife and I discovered a lot of Banff, Jasper and Kananaskis country in 2021. I even managed a shot of a heavy freight at Morant’s Curve. As you’re already aware, I’m also a huge fan of photographing prairie elevators, but I’ll take pictures of just about any old place that I find interesting. I’ve also found that I like photography in the mountains. I do hope to get out more and play with a couple of new lenses, but my wife was diagnosed with cancer at the beginning of October, so that put everything else on the back burner. Hoping for a more positive 2022. Stay well, all the best this year.

    -Mike

    Reply
    • Hi Mike, I’m so sorry to hear about your wife’s diagnosis. I’m hoping for a good outcome for her and for your family and a far more positive 2022 for you.

      I’m glad you spent some time exploring the Banff-Jasper-Kananaskis area. I haven’t been in the Kananaskis area but I hear it is beautiful. We love the Rockies and enjoy coming back there.

      Reply
      • Thanks Steve.
        Hit me up for trail recommendations if you want to do a little K-Country exploration. I don’t know all of them, but we found some really amazing ones.

        Reply
  3. Happy New Year Steve. Some thoughts/comments; just to give you a slightly different perspective on life; during 2021, my wife was diagnosed with breast cancer and is now undergoing chemo. And while her prognosis is very good, (the Dr assures her that it has not spread anywhere else in her body because she caught it so early), I would much rather prefer that cancer hadn’t decided to stop by our house last year! But because my wife grew up on a huge wheat farm in Sask., and because the only vacation I ever consider taking is The Canadian (Train 1 & 2), your photos and accounts continue to be (as I told you this time, last year) the first page that opens when I fire up my laptop. Keep up the great work! It means a lot…

    Reply
    • Hi Bob, happy new year to you and your wife. Thanks for that perspective. I’m glad your wife’s prognosis is good. It goes to show you that nothing is guaranteed in life.

      Thanks for the comment and I’m glad you enjoy my site!

      Reply
  4. Hi Steve,
    Your photos look great and I’m looking forward to seeing more in the new year. All the best to you and yours in 2022!
    Cheers, Jim.

    Reply
  5. Happy New Year Steve!

    I hope 2022 brings you a chance to do some of your goals, and many other things. Riding the Canadian has long been very high on my to do list, and we’ve never made any effort to do so.

    Congratulations on the Trackside Guide! I submitted four shots for the first time myself this year, but was not successful. While I am very pleased with my shots, none compare to anything in this post that they chose from you, so congratulations and I look forward to seeing this years guide to see what images you had chosen!

    Cheers,

    Stephen

    Reply
  6. Plans for New Year include finishing my N scale model of an old CN bridge near Alvinston ON, continue support for South Simcoe Railway in Tottenham, work on my lN scale layout, reduce the huge amount of rolling stock I have accumulated, keep reading your posts as it is one place I can watch trains since CP abandoned the Owen Sound Line. Love the photo posted of Via 692 at Winnipeg – perfect shot!

    Reply
  7. Hi Steve,
    Getting out this year with my Rail Buddie Bill. We did A LOT of trips last year. Hopefully we can at least match that this year. We’ve got a least one new person to go visit. Plus a couple of rail friends to come to Ottawa for visits. May do some long distance trips this year. Up in the air as to where yet. Got to do some serious sorting of my slide collection. I’m dragging my feet on that project.

    Reply
    • Hi Ian, I’m glad you have a rail buddy to go out with.

      Sorting a slide collection… I hear you. I have a hundred or more yet to file and I need to do some winnowing.

      Reply
  8. Hi Steve
    I am glad you enjoyed having your article and grain photos in CN LINES and I hope you will share some more in future. Looking back on 2021 is particularly difficult for me considering all the bad tings including the loss of my dear wife of 51 plus years on January 9th. We ran into so many bad weather events out here in BC which greatly affected what we could and couldn’t do and our highway infrastructure out here is so badly damaged that travel is going to be hard for a long time. However I do have the rest of my family close by including my two grandkids who live with me and I have started back on my model railway and continue to be involved in the CNRHA working with great guys like you on CN LINES. Also after a very tough year a miracle did happen when I met Judy on November 3rd and we have had many enjoyable times together since then.
    I look forward to new adventures in 2022 and hope to be able to travel again and get in some railfanning as well. All the best for you and yours in 2022 and thanks for sharing your wonderful rail photography.

    Reply
    • Hi Al, it was a pleasure to work with you on your project. I hope we can do so again!

      I’m sorry for the loss of your wife. I can’t imagine that.

      It sounds like the year ended much better than it started, so let’s look forward to a great 2022 and beyond.

      Reply
  9. Steve-Thanks for a great year pictures, videos, and commentary on rail happenings. I look forward to seeing many more!
    My rail hope for the year is Bernina Express from Switzerland to Italy ( great videos on line); the only train that goes OVER the Alps rather than through in tunnels.
    I have been a yearly rider on The Canadian for over 20 years; 26 trips in total. Should you go, eastbound in better between Vancouver and Winnipeg; more daylight for the Rockies and daylight for Qu’Appelle valley.
    Grant in Victoria

    Reply
    • Hi Grant, thanks and happy new year! The Bernina Express sounds great – I checked it out on YouTube. Love that viaduct!

      Great tip about going east on the Canadian… something to keep in mind! I am still planning…

      Reply
  10. Hello Steve:

    I see that you have taken some pictures in the GTA and Toronto area.

    Do you lead groups or individuals when in the area?

    Reply
  11. Enjoyed the post. I see you may be taking photos of elevators in Saskatchewan this year. I plan on doing the same. Hopefully our paths cross.

    Reply

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