This is the sequel to Steve, meet STEVE
After seeing STEVE – and the rest of the aurora borealis – and the Milky Way – I still felt great, even at 1:30 AM. I decided to fulfill a long-held wish – photograph the Oberon grain elevator at night.
First, I stopped in Oakville, where I caught an eastbound and then a westbound train passing the former Pool elevator.
I had very little time to set up for the eastbound train. The photo isn’t as good as what I would have liked, but I still like it.
Fortunately, I was aware that a westbound train was coming, so I stayed where I was to capture it.
The moon was making things tricky. I elected to let it “go white” rather than attempt to show detail on it and make the rest of the scene very dark.
One thing I love about night train photography is making a long exposure photo and seeing shadows on the side of the train. It seems… wrong… but there it is.
It was a relatively long drive through the middle of the night to get to Oberon. First, drive around Portage la Prairie. West of Portage, the highway roughly parallels the CN and CP main lines, with CP to the south and CN to the north. The highway stays with CP but CN diverges north at MacGregor, heading toward Saskatoon.
On the map, you can easily see the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway’s influence on town names, reeling off in alphabetic order – Bloom, Caye, Deer, Exira, Firdale, Gregg, Harte, Ingelow, Justice, Knox…
At the Carberry turnoff, I took highway 5 north and crossed the CN Rivers sub midway between Gregg and Harte. Well, I would have crossed it but there was a train rolling through when I arrived. So I sat there, car windows rolled down, listening to the “ding ding ding” of the crossing bell and the rumble of doublestack containers skating past on twin ribbons of steel.
Soon I was underway again, continuing north to route 353 and heading a few kilometres west to Oberon. It’s a bit of a drive, but, oh, it was worth it.
Oberon is my favourite grain elevator in Manitoba… maybe even my favourite, period. The old Lake of the Woods elevator at Elva was a close second, but it’s gone now. I fell in love with Helston’s elevator when I saw it in 2014, but I keep coming back to Oberon. It’s a combination of weathered wood and slow decay that gets me.
All was quiet in the town while I went about my business, photographing the moon-lit elevator against a sky full of stars and graced with Northern Lights.
I took advantage of a car’s passage to capture its headlights lighting the east face of the elevator.
The lettering is still visible on both sides of the elevator, standard phrases that used to grace many Manitoba Pool elevators across the province.
CO-OPERATIVE ELEVATOR ASSOCIATION
POOL NO. 228
“SERVICE AT COST”
That was thirty minutes well spent.
If you’re at Oberon, you might as well visit Brookdale… after all, it’s only 6 km further west.
The town of Brookdale is certainly larger than Oberon. That means more street lights and therefore more ambient light, so the photo angles are more limited than Oberon. Still, it’s possible to photograph the J.R. Jones Farms Ltd. elevator there with some stars.
It was 4 AM by this point, so it was time to head home.
Fog had started rolling onto highway 5, so it was slow going down to the Trans-Canada Highway. The fog was strange, almost like very low clouds. At times it felt like driving through a tunnel, with a foggy roof but still clear at ground level for the most part.
Thank goodness the fog hadn’t reached Oberon when I was there!
With the fog, it was relatively slow driving for a while. It cleared by the time I reached Austin.
Austin is a bustling little town and there is a lot of ambient light. It’s hard to take night photos there without a street light or yard light in the shot. I did my best but it wasn’t great.
The Austin grain elevator is looking pretty worn. I imagine it won’t be long before it’s taken down.
I wasn’t going to stop at the new G3 elevator at Bloom – honestly, I wasn’t – but I saw there was a train in the loop track and that made the decision for me.
I set up and started shooting. The train was slowly creeping around the loop, spotting each grain car under the spouts to get loaded with grain from the elevator. The train was powered by a CN locomotive followed by an ex Citirail loco.
As I was photographing that train, I noticed a westbound train approaching. I relocated to the other side of the road crossing and waited. By this time, the sky to the east was getting lighter.
Here’s the train zipping through the crossing:
By the time I reached Elie, the sun was almost over the horizon. The low-lying fog was licking around the base of the elevator.
Although this is neither a night photo nor an elevator photo, I’ll still include it as it puts an exclamation point on a great night of photography.
Just One More Thing
I recently read Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse. This is a recent novel featuring a very bad-ass female Indigenous monster hunter. I liked it a lot.
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Like many good thrillers, Trail of Lightning starts by throwing you into the action with Maggie stalking a monster that has stolen a child. Over time you learn the back story about the post-apocalyptic world that Maggie lives in and her own back story.
Maggie is a fierce but troubled monster hunter who doesn’t take crap from anyone. Think of Linda Hamilton from the Terminator movies plus some magic. She gains a few allies along the way, although she has some serious trust issues.
I really liked that the Navajo culture and Dinétah area is front and centre in this novel. The author introduces some Navajo words and concepts in a way that helps you to understand them without someone stepping out of the action to explain them.