Playing Leapfrog

I had the good fortune to follow an empty grain train down the CP Glenboro subdivision recently. I mentioned at the end of a recent post, Chasing an Oil Train, that I found something more interesting to chase and this was it.

Aside: We railfans often talk about “chasing” trains. In some cases we are indeed chasing them, but in many cases we are really “leapfrogging” them… chasing, then photographing them as they overtake our position, then chasing again… with the train and its crew as an unintentional participant in our game.

This post is definitely in the “leapfrog” category.

via GIPHY

Anyway…

Introduction

I spotted this train rolling under the Perimeter Highway as I was driving north on said highway. I was en route to the CP Carberry subdivision to try to intercept a container train I spotted leaving Portage la Prairie. This grain train was crawling along the CP Glenboro subdivision, just departing Winnipeg.

Once I got close enough to the Carberry sub to see the container train, and see that its lead engine was a typical red GE locomotive, I knew I wanted to get back and chase the grain train. I didn’t think I would have trouble catching it, and I was right.

When I returned to Headingley, it was still crawling out of Winnipeg. Since it was still early morning, I knew the light would be good on the railway bridge crossing the Assiniboine River, so I headed there. I parked nearby and carried my tripod, video camera and still camera onto the parallel road bridge and set up for the train.

The CP Glenboro Subdivision

Map of the CP Glenboro subdivision (east end)
Map of the CP Glenboro subdivision (east end)

Crossing the Assiniboine

Crossing the Assiniboine River
Crossing the Assiniboine River

I planted my tripod in the snow on the bridge’s walkway and waited for the train to arrive. I didn’t have to wait long, which was fortunate, since the air temperature was around -16C. You can see that ice was beginning to form on the river. I was glad that there was enough open water to get a reflection.

DM&E FTW

I watched and took photos as the train rolled across the Assiniboine. Eventually my video camera’s battery died, so I packed up and ran back to the van to continue the game of leapfrog.

Diamond

The next location was Diamond, where the Glenboro subdivision crosses the busy CN Rivers subdivision. Fortunately for CP, there were no CN trains around and they could go across right away.

I took the above photo from the road crossing, with a 200mm telephoto lens and cropped it in.

The “going away” shot below was taken from Diamond as well. You can see the signal at right that protects the diamond crossing.

I drove west, then south toward highway 3, trying to cut them off before they got to Springstein, but I didn’t make it before they did.

Springstein

I see a little silhouetto of a train
I see a little silhouetto of a train

I cooled my heels at the crossing, waiting for the train to pass, then took a “going away” shot before proceeding to Starbuck.

I had no idea where they were going to stop with their grain cars. The major elevators on this line are at Starbuck, Fannystelle, Elm Creek and Rathwell.

Grain cars, going away
Grain cars, going away

Starbuck

I arrived at Starbuck shortly before they did. It was clear that they did not intend to stop here, as they didn’t slow down at all. According to a 2008 employee timetable, the maximum speed is 30 MPH. I don’t think they were going that fast.

Leaving Starbuck
Leaving Starbuck

There were plenty of opportunities to photograph the train. I was trying not to be too repetitive with my photos. Fortunately, there are some curves on the line so you can get the whole train in the photo without having the “vanishing point” type of photos I often take.

There are even a few props along the line…

Fannystelle

Train and hay bale
Train and hay bale

I decided to shoot from the highway at Fannystelle to get a broad side shot of the train with the elevator. The train took its time getting to town, leading me to briefly wonder if they were stopping here. Maybe they encountered a slow order?

Anyway, I composed the shot to include the large Viterra concrete elevator at left and the tiny Stevens & Company elevator at far right. Learn more about these elevators.

Grain train passing the Viterra elevator in Fannystelle, MB
Grain train passing the Viterra elevator in Fannystelle, MB

The light was great on the side of the train.

Culross

Blowing snow near Culross
Blowing snow near Culross

I really wanted to photograph them passing the white Paterson elevator at Culross. This is one of my favourite grain elevators in Manitoba.

First I grabbed a roadside shot (above), then proceeded on to the elevator to set up for video. The train came rolling by on cue and I got the shot I wanted.

CP 8872 passing the Culross grain elevator
CP 8872 passing the Culross grain elevator

I decided to record the entire train here as well. I figured that would mean I would give up the shot coming into Elm Creek, as it isn’t far from Culross, but to me it was worth it to maximize my time at Culross.

After the train passed, I threw the equipment in the car and beat it to Elm Creek.

Surprisingly, I made it there a good two or three minutes before the train did.

Elm Creek

CP 8872 and Cargill in Elm Creek
CP 8872 and Cargill in Elm Creek

I decided that I wanted to do a “going away” shot here, to include the Cargill grain elevator and its locomotive. Cargill has had a loco here for several years to do local switching. It’s pretty sharp looking in its white and green livery.

I didn’t know whether they were stopping in Elm Creek or continuing on to Rathwell. It looked to me like they weren’t stopping, but they did slow down quite a bit going through town, so maybe the conductor stepped off and they were going to back the train into the siding.

I had places to be, so I couldn’t hang around or pursue them to Rathwell. One day I will chase that extra 25 miles.

The Video

Video: Chasing CP 8872 West down the Glenboro subdivision

Just One More Thing

Here are a few posts about the Glenboro subdivision and its trains and grain elevators:

9 thoughts on “Playing Leapfrog”

  1. Good job Steve! You know how I like the CP. Especially the shot of leaving Starbuck as she leans into the curve. Also on the curve with the bale, good work!
    Just for your info, the elevator at Rathwell is no longer a Louis Dreyfus, They have been bought out by P&H.

    Reply
  2. I discovered that park next to the bridges a couple of years and it looks like a great place to relax and watch trains. Too bad the sub doesn’t have much traffic.

    Reply
  3. What I love with some of the roadside shots is that you really captured the contours (or lack thereof) of the countryside. Coming from an area considered to be Ontario’s version of the prairies, I always appreciate the wide open spaces.

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  4. Hi, Steve; I counted 112 cars on that train; were they all going to that last grain elevator ? Also, at 112 covered hoppers, not bad with one engine ! Enjoyed the scenes, especially the curve showing the whole train. The prairies are so flat !! ( Quebec railfan)

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