May Surprises

Often when we go trackside, we get exactly what we expected – one or more trains, led by common locomotives and featuring the same ol’ same ol’ freight cars.

Sometimes, though, we get something different.

May 5

CP 7005 leading the way
CP 7005 leading the way

I recorded CP 7005 West passing the Viterra grain elevator near Rosser early on May 5th. The train had one of the rebuilt SD70ACu locomotives leading, CP 7005, with a Union Pacific locomotive behind it, UP 5418.

UP 5418 lending a helping glad hand
UP 5418 lending a helping glad hand

These UP 5400 series locomotives are fairly common on CP, and in some areas of Canada you may see a lot of them. On this day I saw a potash train cross the High Level Bridge in Lethbridge, led by a trio of UP engines.

I was happy to see a long string of blue K+S Potash hoppers in this train. They are sharp looking cars.

A block of K+S Potash cars
A block of K+S Potash cars

The car below seems unremarkable but that little roundel on the side of the car says “Missouri Pacific”, a rarity.

A former Missouri Pacific car
A former Missouri Pacific car

As I was watching the train roll by, I spotted two passenger cars in the consist! These two cars were sandwiched between tank cars and really stood out like sore thumbs.

The two cars were RPCX 9646 and RPCX 9486, “Haverstraw Bay”.

RPCX 9646 on a freight train!?
RPCX 9646 on a freight train!?

These cars were owned by the Bluewater Michigan chapter of the National Railway Historical Society. This organization began in 1982 and used to run charter excursions, mostly behind steam locomotives, but closed up shop in the summer of 2019. They have sold off their equipment, and I understand these two cars were en route to Saskatchewan.

RPCX 9646 is a baggage car, built by National Steel Car in 1957. The other car is RPCX 9486, a Pullman-Standard car built in 1947 for the New York Central.

RPCX 9486 "Haverstraw Bay"
RPCX 9486 “Haverstraw Bay”

I’ve read that these cars were purchased by Gary Southgate several years ago and are finally on the move. Gary has been purchasing passenger cars and locomotives for years and they are scattered across the Prairies at several locations. I spoke with him once and he wants to run complete passenger trains for excursions. I wish him well.

Here’s a video of the above train.

Later that same morning, I was driving home and encountered a southbound train on the CP Lariviere subdivision. A train on the Lariviere isn’t that rare – they run a few times a week down to Morris and/or Altona – but this one had a big GE on the point instead of a pair of the smaller GP20ECO units that normally roam these lines.

It was easy enough to get ahead of them on this slow subdivision. I set up just north of the town of La Salle, at a bend in the track.

CP 8770 doing solo duty on the La Riviere subdivision
CP 8770 doing solo duty on the La Riviere subdivision

In past years I would have set up in La Salle itself to photograph them passing the grain elevator, but that elevator was demolished in August 2020 and I haven’t been in the town since.

May 24

CP 8740 rolling through the Dominion City bridge
CP 8740 rolling through the Dominion City bridge

On Victoria Day (May 24 this year), I headed south down the CP Emerson subdivision. I wanted to photograph the bridge over the Roseau River in Dominion City. This is really the only substantial bridge on the Emerson subdivision south of the Winnipeg Floodway bridge. There are a couple of short single span bridges over diversions but nothing of any length.

I arrived near the crossing just north of the bridge and sat in my car for a second, collecting my thoughts and making plans. Suddenly I heard a train horn in the distance. Yikes!

A quick scramble brought me trackside with my cameras and I got the drone in the air just before the train crossed the river. I would’ve liked the drone to be closer to the river but you do what you can.

CP 8740 and company, from above
CP 8740 and company, from above

After the train passed, I switched to a wide angle lens and photographed the entire train spread across the prairie. Such a long string of beat-up, rusty, faded hoppers. Love it.

The whole train
The whole train

Here’s the video featuring the ground and drone cameras.

Two-in-one video

It turns out that you can get a lot closer to the bridge from the south, but I certainly didn’t have time for that on the 24th. Maybe I’ll visit again soon.

I drove south to Emerson and found CN 533 just leaving town, heading north toward Winnipeg. They had some work to do at Mid Canada Transload Services just south of Emerson, so I took that rare opportunity to photograph them pulling some cars from the facility.

Working Mid Canada Transload
Working Mid Canada Transload

The rest of their train is on the main line, on the right edge of the image.

Just One More Thing

As I write this, Canada Day 2021 is approaching. It was always Dominion Day for me when I was younger, and I’ve only recently started calling it Canada Day in my head.

I’m proud to be a Canadian. We have a great country here and there’s nowhere I’d rather live than in Canada.

However, I recognize that it’s not a great country for everyone here. The indigenous people of Canada have been particularly poorly served by this country. The recent confirmations of mass burials at former residential schools has brought that truth to more Canadians.

We need to do better. We need to move past symbolic gestures like the rote “We acknowledge that event X is taking place on Treaty Y land” and take actual steps to improve the lot of Canada’s indigenous people and honour the treaties that were signed so long ago. It’s a big step but I think a great deal of Canadians are pleading for the provincial governments, and especially the federal government, to take real action.

This Canada Day I will celebrate being Canadian, but I will also mourn the loss of so many children at Canada’s residential and day schools, and the continued treatment of indigenous people as second-class citizens. We have a lot of work to do and we need to move faster.

2 thoughts on “May Surprises”

  1. Steve,

    That wide angle shot might be one of my all-time favourites. Great shot!

    Your comments about recent (and historical) events certainly rings true. I have relatives in the First Nations community in Labrador, and can certainly see the challenges they face. I hope we can all use this Canada Day to remember that we have much to do in this country. We owe it to all of our brothers and sisters to do something meaningful, as you say, instead of symbolic words. At the very least, we can all learn about and engage with our brothers and sisters.

    Brian

    Reply

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