Another starry night and another photography session. It seems that going out at night to shoot with the stars is one of the few ways I like to photograph trains these days. So be it. I am doing what feels right.

It was a night with a lot of misses, a few laughs, a ton of waiting and a big finish.

My first stop was a frequent one, mile 17.8 and the signals there. The moon was full and it almost felt like daytime, save for the stars scattered across the sky.

Railway signals and a starry sky
Almost daylight at 1:30 AM!

I spent a long time here, staring at the green signal facing west and wondering if that bright white light to the west was a train. I have been fooled before at this location by yard lights.

Eventually I tired of waiting. Shortly after I packed everything up and started driving, I realized the bright light had manifested into an eastbound train. With great haste I set up again, but it was too late and I missed the head end of the train.

Bright railway crossing lights at night
Crossing lights are BRIGHT

Imagine – missing a train, at night, on the prairie. How does that happen? I had a good chuckle over that one.

I chose to move on.


Red signal lights on two railway tracks
Red, red lights

All was quiet at Elie for some time. Even the Trans Canada Highway was slumbering under the friendly moon. The cars and trucks seemed to tiptoe by, afraid of disturbing the night.

Soon, a repeat of mile 17.8 – lost patience, relocation, a surprise train, a missed shot.

Train streaking through a railway crossing at night
Shoot the moon

I had a good chuckle over missing two trains in a row. Unheard of!

Fortunately, I took it in good humour. A few years ago, I would have been disappointed and mad at myself.

Near Oakville

Railway crossing sign and tracks at night
Almost daylight

Soon I relocated several miles west to a favourite rural crossing. A dirt road crossing, guarded by simple crossbucks, long obsolete telegraph poles still standing, somewhat askew. Who could ask for more?

Green signals promised a train – again. This time I resolved to stick it out and not move. After a half hour of pacing, peering down tracks and listening for horns, I heard a train approaching from the east.

I had my camera facing west, pointed at the signals, waiting for the train to streak through the shot.

The horns grew louder as the train approached. More horns blew.

Horn sounds from the east… AND the west?

It became apparent that there were two trains approaching me, simultaneously. The westbound train was on the south track, closest to me, as shown by the green signal above.

The two trains approached the crossing, as I fervently wished for the eastbound train to pass my position first so I could see it before it was obscured by the westbound train.

Trains approached, headlights further lighting the already bright landscape, horns sounding…

It was almost perfect.

Train streaking past camera at night
Westbound first, with eastbound coming

The westbound train blasted past first. The photo above shows the blaze of the eastbound train’s headlights.

Ten seconds later, the eastbound train blasted through the crossing.

The passing cars of the westbound train served as a rapid shutter, allowing the eastbound train to show “through” the obscuring train. It was a strange and wonderful effect.

It was a joy to witness this meet under the bright, starry sky.

A railway signal casts a shadow on a passing train at night

Look at that signal, casting a shadow on the passing train – in the middle of the night! This is why I enjoy photographing trains at night. You see so many things you wouldn’t think were possible.

A Trio at Elie

Train headlights streaking past grain elevator
Westbound streak

Back at Elie to try my luck again. This time I made no fewer mistakes. CN blessed me with a trio of trains within 10 minutes.

First up at 03:33 – a westbound train passed the grain elevator. This is a combination of two images – the elevator, and the train.

A few minutes later, an eastbound train passed the crossing. I guessed the wrong exposure and the image was far too bright.

No matter – that train was closely followed by another eastbound train.

No mistakes at 03:42.

10 seconds at f/2.8, ISO 800

I counted my blessings – finding plenty – and headed for home.

The Fog

Red railway signal lights in the fog
East facing signals at Diamond in the fog

Following the eastbound trains into Winnipeg, I discovered a bank of fog enveloping the city – quite a surprise. It made for some amazing views of red signals shining through the mist, creating bright streaks in the vapour. I made a few hasty photos of the east facing signals at Diamond before they switched off.

Carman Junction

20 seconds at f/2.8, ISO 100

Several miles further east, I stopped at the signals at Carman Junction to photograph their streaks in the fog. It was tricky to get a good angle, as there is a large and very bright street light between the tracks and the adjacent road.

As I photographed the signals from different angles, I became aware of yet another eastbound train. I set up to capture them, and captured my favourite photo of the night.

6 seconds at f/8.0, ISO 100

I bore witness as the train rolled implacably by, unaffected by the fog blanketing the city. The trains, they keep rolling in all kinds of weather.

For fun, I took a photo of the train with my cellphone at the same time that my camera was capturing the longer exposure photo above.

1/4 second at f/1.8, ISO 200

Refrigerated containers with blinking LEDs supplied a bit of light, and the mid-train locomotive added its own set of lights to the image below.

13 seconds at f/2.8, ISO 100

After that experience, all I could do was go home, completely satisfied.

“I’m bein’ followed by a moonshadow
Moonshadow, moonshadow
Leapin’ and hoppin’ on a moonshadow
Moonshadow, moonshadow”
– Cat Stevens

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