My 54th Birthday

As my 54th birthday approached, my wife suggested that we do something to commemorate it. In these pandemic times, it’s hard to plan anything too extravagant, and to be honest 54 is not really a milestone birthday… not like my 50th! (psst, my book makes a great Christmas present)

Until then, my only plan was to not work. I don’t like to work on my birthday.

I decided that we would drive east out of the city to Whitemouth, Manitoba along the CN Redditt subdivision and return along the CP Keewatin subdivision. Since my birthday is in late September, there was a bit of fall colour in the trees and I wanted to capture that, with some trains, hopefully.

My wife was totally up for that as long as we had a destination in Whitemouth. I suggested we have lunch at the Spicy Radish, a restaurant I had heard of but never entered.

Off we went.

Bridge over a small creek
Hazel Creek

Unfortunately we had neglected to inform CN of our plans, so the Redditt subdivision was totally quiet between Winnipeg and Elma. I did stop to photograph my favourite bridge over Hazel Creek (above) but otherwise all I saw was empty track.

Fortunately, the Spicy Radish did not disappoint.

Sandwich on a plate
Delicious food

The Spicy Radish was a great restaurant. The staff were very friendly and helpful, the atmosphere was cozy and welcoming, and the food was delicious. I had some kind of chicken sandwich with tomato soup and it was excellent.

After we ate, we walked down the street to the Tickle Trunk store, a rather unique little place. Fans of Mr. Dressup will recognize the name. I didn’t realize it but the Mr. Dressup show started on the same year I was born. I certainly grew up watching Casey and Finnegan.

I thought the Tickle Trunk would be a second-hand store – and it is, in a way – but it also features many local artists and craftspeople. I’m not sure I bought anything, because while we were browsing, I heard a train approaching, so I sprinted out the door to capture this terribly backlit photo with my phone.

Train with containers
Eastbound CP 8610 in Whitemouth

I stood there and watched the train roll by. As the mid-train locomotive came along, I tried to capture it with some of Whitemouth’s main street.

Train rolling through Whitemouth, MB
Train rolling through Whitemouth, MB

After my wife finished her purchase, we drove over to the little museum in Whitemouth so I could photograph the caboose there. It’s under an awning, which probably helps preserve it but doesn’t make for great photography. I guess it’s better to keep this old wooden caboose out of the weather!

Railway caboose under roof

There is a plaque on the caboose that says “CPR caboose built in 1929 donated 1978 Canadian Pacific Railway Winnipeg”.

Given that the CP intermodal had just come through, I decided that the odds of another CP train on the Keewatin were pretty low, so we returned to Winnipeg via the CN Redditt subdivision again.

Track and trees

There were still no trains on CN. You can see a bit of fall colour in the photo above. It doesn’t really get much more vibrant than this on the prairies.

My wife pointed out the subreddit on the many CN crossing signs we saw.

Rail crossing sign
Sub: Redditt

If you don’t get the reference, that’s OK. You have to be a special kind of nerd to get that.

After seeing lots of empty track, we arrived at Winnipeg and I drove around the Perimeter Highway towards home. I spotted a CN train leaving Symington Yard and after a quick chase down the Trans-Canada Highway, I recorded it.

Red and black CN locomotive
CN 3241 with the “CN100” logo

There was no time to get the drone in the air, so here’s the ground video.

Note the inspection boxcar. This was a highlight for me, seeing one of these “on the road”.

These boxcars are part of CN’s Autonomous Track Inspection Program (ATIP). These fully automated boxcars use LIDAR (lasers) to map the track underneath them to look for issues, and upload the data and any alerts for action by CN’s maintenance forces.

Automated boxcar
CNIS 412062

After that train passed, we headed home and spent the rest of my birthday there.

It was a great way to spend my birthday – good food, a road trip, and great company.

Just One More Thing

I devoured the novel Klara and the Sun, by Kazuo Ishiguro, over two days. What a book!

Klara is an AF (an Artificial Friend), an android created to be a companion for a child. She’s in a store waiting to be selected by just the right child. While she waits, she observes everything around her with her keen observational skills and tries to make sense of the world.

I don’t really know how else to describe this book. It’s a fantastic “soft” science fiction book.

2 thoughts on “My 54th Birthday”

  1. r/reddittsub

    What a nice day to celebrate! You’ve mentioned in previous posts that the Redditt sub has been less busy lately. Seems like your birthday was no exception. Any idea why there is less traffic on that sub? Is most eastbound traffic leaving Winnipeg on the Sprague now?

    • I think most CN traffic east of Winnipeg travels on the Sprague instead of the Redditt these days. I don’t know why but my feeling is that the Sprague has at least 2X the traffic of the Redditt.

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