Oil Trains on the Sprague

It looked like a beautiful Sunday morning, very nice for railfanning… sunny and blue skies galore. I hit the road and headed toward Symington Yard, intending to take a look and see if I could find the “heritage” CN 7600 that was at the shops earlier.

Those plans were derailed replaced by a single red light.

As I approached the highway exit for Fermor Avenue, I saw that the west-facing signal on the Sprague subdivision was red. Normally this is flashing white when nothing is going on. Red probably indicates a train in the block behind it.

I took the exit and headed east along the Trans-Canada Highway. I didn’t immediately see any train headlights, so my new plan was to head to Lorette siding, then if nothing was there, come back to Winnipeg and continue on with my original plan.

As I approached Lorette, I saw that the west facing lights were red there too, and there was an west-facing train in the siding.

Waiting at Lorette

Waiting in the siding
Waiting in the siding

One of CN’s now rare “cowls” or “barns”, CN 2451, was the trailing locomotive. The train was sitting there, not moving, so I continued east. I noted the east facing signal was green over red “CLEAR” so all signs pointed to a westbound train approaching.

I saw this series of five freshly painted BC Rail ballast cars on the train in the siding.

BC Rail ballast cars
BC Rail ballast cars

It was strange to see fresh paint on BC Rail rolling stock! Here’s a closeup of BCOL 2861. It looks like they have a solar panel. Maybe they are now capable of remote dumping. Note the “C” and “D” over the dump doors.

BCOL 2861
BCOL 2861

The train at Lorette had a distributed braking boxcar on the tail end, CN 0022.

CN 0022 distributed braking boxcar
CN 0022 distributed braking boxcar

Note the logo on the door in the side – “Built With Pride in Transcona Shops”.

Built with Pride
Built with Pride

Carrying on east, I saw nothing all the way to Dufresne. I looked east down the straight track at Dufresne and saw nothing. I decided to head to the automated rail inspection portal at Ste Anne and wait there.

The Portal at Ste Anne

CN 3153 speeding along
CN 3153 speeding along

I decided to do something different when the train came along. Normally I would freeze the action with a shutter speed faster than, say, 1/250s, and the bright sunlight certainly would allow that. I am getting a little tired of taking 3/4 wedge shots so I decided to blur the train as it went through the portal. In order to do that, I needed to limit the light coming into the lens.

There are a few ways to limit the light coming in. One is to use a neutral density filter, aka an “ND filter”. This is basically a tinted piece of glass that partially blocks light. I don’t have one of those for the lens I was using, so I reduced the aperture to f/22 to basically only open the lens up a tiny bit when I took a photo. That reduced the light enough that I could use a shutter speed of 1/25s.

Back to the story… soon the east facing signal lit up, indicating a train was in the block. I hopped out of my car and heard a train blowing for crossings in nearby Ste Anne. Within a couple of minutes, CN 3153 West came blasting through.

After starting my video camera on its tripod, I panned the head end as they approached, then pointed my camera at the inspection portal and held it steady as the train rolled through. I took several frames but I liked this one the best.

Entering the rail inspection portal
Entering the rail inspection portal

This train was moving so it didn’t take long before the tail end rolled through.

Train passing through Ste Anne automated rail inspection portal
Train passing through Ste Anne automated rail inspection portal

I packed up my video camera and hopped in the car to give chase. Once I got on the highway, I slowly overtook it at 100 km/hr. The engineer was “givin’ er'”.

Here’s the video, by the way.

I thought maybe I could get on the overpass at the Perimeter Highway and shoot them there. As they neared Winnipeg, they slowed down and I was able to get them from the overpass.

Approaching Symington Yard
Approaching Symington Yard

The nice thing about photographing at this time of year is that there isn’t any heat blur. With this shot you can see all the way to the tower on the top of the hump in Symington Yard. In the summer this wouldn’t be possible.

By the way, I’m calling that train an “oil train” but it’s entirely possible they were carrying something else in the tank cars. The train was all tank cars with a Wisconsin Central buffer car at each end.

They slowed right down, since they were facing a red/red signal. You can see the signal just at the edge of the brush on the left, near the Tinker Town sign. I didn’t wait around, intending to photograph them as they came into the yard.

Meet in Winnipeg

CN 3188 in Symington Yard
CN 3188 in Symington Yard

As I neared Symington Yard, I saw that another oil train was waiting to head east. I grabbed a couple of photos, then positioned myself to capture the meet between them and CN 3153 West.

I saw 3153 approaching, and there was also a rail maintenance vehicle bouncing along beside the track.

Suddenly I heard the roar of a locomotive, and CN 7500 came shooting up past the waiting oil train.

Surprise slug set
Surprise slug set

It was one of the “hump yard dogs”, the GP38 / slug / slug / GP38 set that pushes cars over the hump in Symington Yard. OK, I guess they’ll meet 3153 then…

CN 7500, meet CN 3153
CN 7500, meet CN 3153

Is it a “meet” if there’s nobody aboard CN 7500?

I photographed the full hump set. I am sure I have plenty of photographs of these units, but I know they aren’t going to last forever. Shoot everything!

CN 7522 / CN 517 / CN 521 / CN 7500
CN 7522 / CN 517 / CN 521 / CN 7500

That was my morning of railfanning… better than I had expected!

Just One More Thing

I just finished reading How to Be Less Stupid About Race by Crystal Fleming. Wow. What a great book.

The title says it all. The author helps you be a little less stupid about race and gives you a little more knowledge about what it’s like to be a black woman in America.

I said on Twitter, “blunt, unflinching, often funny, and always direct”.

If you’re going to read one book about race, this should be it.

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