Model Trains in Portage

I mentioned in “A Nice Variety” that I was heading out to Portage la Prairie, Manitoba to see the Portage Model Railway Club‘s layouts in the former CP train station.

After I visited the CP yard, I drove west along the CP main line and found a train approaching the Makwa siding by the Viterra “Rosser” grain elevators. I set up on the 5 E road and recorded them rolling past.

Passing the OLD Viterra grain elevator
Passing the OLD Viterra grain elevator

I think I’ve mentioned that Viterra is building a new grain elevator just north of the one you see in the photo above. It will have a loop track and in fact that track is under construction now.

Note the ex Amtrak ballast car with a car mover. I think that is owned by the nearby Great Plains Rail Contractors, who I’m guessing have the contract to build the loop track.

MERX 154
MERX 154

Here’s the video of that train rolling past the elevator.

That was a good start to the trip to Portage.

I decided to drop south to the CN main line and follow it to Portage la Prairie. I just missed the head end of an eastbound train as I approached Diamond, so I stopped to take a few photos of the miles of containers and just take it in.

Missed it by that much
Missed it by that much

As I watched, a westbound train went rolling by on the south track.

After the trains cleared the crossing, I chased the westbound train on highway 427, slowly overtaking the head end. Soon I saw a headlight to the west, indicating another eastbound train. I got “far enough” ahead of the westbound train and quickly parked, jumping out to set up video and grab one long range photo of the westbound freight train before the eastbound train blocked my view.

CN 8885 East near mile 19

In the video below, you can see CN 3169 West roll by first, followed by CN 8885 East peeking between containers on the north track. I wish I had stopped just a little bit further west so I could have shot 8885 first.

I didn’t see any more trains on the way to Portage la Prairie, but things were pretty hot as I arrived.

The first thing I noticed was a west-facing train sitting in the CP yard.

CP 8106 waiting to head west
CP 8106 waiting to head west

The west-facing signal is green over red (CLEAR) in the photo above, so I knew an eastbound train was coming. I quickly parked at the former CP station.

Open Model Trains Display
Open Model Trains Display

Grabbing my stuff, I quickly ran back across the street to set up for the eastbound CP train.

CP 8915 rolling past the old station
CP 8915 rolling past the old station

The train had a Union Pacific locomotive in the middle.

After the CP train cleared the diamond at the west end of the city, it was CN’s turn to head east through Portage la Prairie. I relocated to the roadway in between the CN and CP main lines and set up to record the train passing the former CN station.

A spot of fall colour
A spot of fall colour

I was happy to include a bit of the fall colour in the shot.

After that train rolled east, I checked back on CP but that “westbound” train was still sitting there. I put my gear in the car and headed into the station.

A model train layout in the Portage la Prairie station
One of the many layouts in the station

While I was admiring this layout on the east end of the station, I heard a train going by – CP 8106 West was on its way. I stepped through the open door on the track side and took a few shots. Note the fence protecting bystanders from the live track.

Tank cars passing the CP station
Tank cars passing the CP station

Back in the station… here are a few more views. I’m not sure how many layouts were on display – more than six – but there was a great variety of scales and scenes.

I believe Portage la Prairie Heritage Inc. owns the station. The station looks great and I’ve been excited to see all the progress made since the 2003 fire.

After I finished touring the station – and talking with Peter and Joe from It’s Train Time – I headed home. I didn’t see a single train on CN on my way home, oddly enough. That was OK.

Peter and Joe published a video about this show – have a look!

Please consider donating to Portage la Prairie Heritage Inc. to support the restoration and maintenance of the station. I have.

Donate to support the train station

5 thoughts on “Model Trains in Portage”

  1. It’s interesting how as the grain industry moves toward 134 and 150 car loop tracks, the older concrete high throughputs with 50 to 112 car spots are becoming less efficient and as a result, obsolete. It looks like the old Viterra elevator has the space to double the number of car spots. But, the costs of the upgrade to both track and elevator, and the fact that the train would still need to be broken up for loading make this proposition non-viable compared to building a new elevator. Who would have thought that we would see the day when these concrete elevators would be replaced when they were being built 20 or so years ago.

    • Hi Brian, yes, it is interesting that these supposed “high throughput” elevators are being sidelined and/or decommissioned. As you said, the problem with the “old” Viterra elevator is that they can’t take a unit train without breaking it into pieces, which is inefficient for the railway. CP just wants to be able to drop a train, come back in half a day, hook on and go. The railways offer incentives to charge the air up, too!

      It’s becoming quite common for the railways to leave their power on the train and just bring crew back to take the train away after it’s loaded. It’s all about efficiency and utilization, things the railways have to concentrate on to keep up with the record amount of grain being moved in the past few years.

  2. Rosser elevator was built around 1986. Only has a full capacity of 9000 tonnes which wouldn’t be enough to fill even a 134 car unit train. Besides its not only loading trains that has to be considered, it’s the speed that trucks can be unloaded and Rosser has had trouble with this for years. The leg could be updated but for an elevator that is already outdated, not in the plans. I’m told it’s going to be used for one crop only. I worked for Agricore in the winter of 2000 hauling super b’s, and Rosser was their oat terminal. All the oats from outlying old wooden elevators was transferred to Rosser to be loaded on trains.

    • 1986 doesn’t seem that far back, yet it is 35 years ago… yikes. I didn’t know about the truck unloading speed but that certainly factors into it. Farmers need to dump their crop quickly and the elevator needs to receive grains as quickly as possible so they can ship them quickly too. Lineups benefit nobody!

      I’ve heard it will be used for specialty crops so presumably there won’t be so much demand for speed – or unit trains – there.

  3. With a capacity of only 9000 tonnes and being built in 1986, the Rosser elevator is both smaller and older than I thought. It makes even more sense as to why Viterra is building a new elevator there.

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