Prairie Dog Central, Movie Star, Part 2

In part 1 we followed the Prairie Dog Central’s train to downtown, where they were going to participate in the filming of The Porter, an upcoming CBC mini-series about Black railway porters.

Picking up the story, they had just rolled past the station and had to back in from the north/east end. The head end of the train was almost on the CN bridge over the Red River.

The Prairie Dog Central in downtown Winnipeg
The Prairie Dog Central in downtown Winnipeg

The train was attracting a lot of attention from passers-by, who were snapping photos with their cell phones. One woman saw me using my DSLR and said, “this is the ONE day I didn’t bring my camera!” Oh, I know that feeling…

The train sat there for quite a while. I think maybe they had a problem with the switch into the station. At least it gave me some time to try different angles.

You've heard of leading lines, how about leading baseballs?
You’ve heard of leading lines, how about leading baseballs?

I wanted to feature the downtown in the shots, to give a sense of place.

300 Main and the TD Tower in downtown Winnipeg
300 Main and the TD Tower in downtown Winnipeg

Eventually they did get moving, and I captured some more images as they rolled past the downtown core.

Passing the Nutty Club
Passing the Nutty Club

The Nutty Club warehouse, built in 1905, is a well known landmark in downtown Winnipeg. I was happy to capture it with the train.

Prairie Dog Steam in Downtown Winnipeg

After they started to push into the station, I quickly relocated to the north side of the tracks to capture the train with the Canadian Museum for Human Rights.

Posing by the Museum of Human Rights
Posing by the Museum of Human Rights

That was their arrival downtown. I was happy with the series of photographs I took.


During the 10 days they were downtown, they made one excursion out of the station, east to Beach Junction to turn the train around on the wye. I wasn’t able to get out to photograph that but my friend Jim Burnside recorded it leaving downtown on its way to the junction.

Jim’s video of the train in downtown Winnipeg

A few days after that, I got word that the train was due to leave the station and head back home to Inkster Junction.

The Return

A great walking bridge
A great walking bridge

I headed to downtown Winnipeg and parked at the Forks. My intention was to record them crossing the Assiniboine River, and my thought was to take the video from the ex CN bridge over the river just south of the train bridge. It had a good view of the CN bridge as well as the whole Forks tourist area, with the downtown as a backdrop. I think the Prairie Dog Central must have used this bridge a lot in their early days when they were stabled at the CN yard that is now the Forks.

It was a great plan…

I heard the ding-ding of 4138’s bell as they started pulling out of the station. Finally! I readied my equipment… then I heard another bell ringing. It quickly dawned on me that this meant there was another train, a CN train, coming on the south track. The Prairie Dog was on the north track, and I was south of both tracks… oh oh.

The question was, who would come first? CN or the PDC? I saw headlights through the trees, then…

Blocked by CN...
Blocked by CN…

DANG it!

CN 8855 West came rolling along, seconds before the Prairie Dog’s lead locomotive rolled out of the trees. The photo below was taken 13 seconds after the photo above. You can just see the nose of 4138 behind the first car of the CN train, which happened to be a long string of rail cars.

Ordinarily I would be pretty excited about seeing a rail train, but this time… not so much.

PDC 4138 hiding behind CN
PDC 4138 hiding behind CN

The PDC train stopped on the north track for a bit – presumably to reline the switch to VIA back to “normal” – then continued on their merry way, all behind cover of the CN train.

I quit gnashing my teeth and beat it for my car, thinking about where I could photograph them next. Here’s the map I posted before showing their route – reverse the green arrows for the return trip!

I figured I would head to Taylor Avenue and check the BNSF yard to see if they had arrived there yet. I caught up to the train as they were passing through Fort Rouge, and I just made it to the BNSF yard before they did.

PDC 3 crossing Taylor Avenue
PDC 3 crossing Taylor Avenue

The cars were not in the same order as they had been on the way down to the station. I guess they were rearranged either in the station or while they were turning on the wye at Beach Junction.

They paused in the BNSF yard for a short time. I drove north to catch them crossing the Assiniboine River again, over that same shared CP-BNSF bridge I recorded them crossing on the way south. This time I elected to record them from beside the bridge. I was a little concerned that the train would be obscured by the fences, but I think it turned out all right.

Crossing the Assiniboine River again
Crossing the Assiniboine River again

A drone would have been great here, but I can’t legally fly my drone anywhere along this route as it is too close to the airport.

I jogged back to my car and drove north on route 90, heading for the soccer field just south of the CP shops. I thought I might be able to get there before the train, and again I got there just in time to see them come off the Lariviere subdivision.

PDC 4138 at the CP yard in Winnipeg
PDC 4138 at the CP yard in Winnipeg

They pulled deep into the CP yard. I took this time to head over to Woodman, where the CN Oak Point subdivision connects to the CP Carberry subdivision. The Prairie Dog Central normally runs on the remainder of the Oak Point subdivision north, so they would use this connection to get back to their home.

It took a while, but eventually they came rolling along. They had run the diesel locomotive around the train so it could lead on the way home.

The Prairie Dog Central at Woodman Junction
The Prairie Dog Central at Woodman Junction

The train has just entered the CN Oak Point subdivision. The main and passing track of the Carberry subdivision are on the right, and the diverging track on the far right is the start of the CP Glenboro subdivision.

I chose to use a wide angle lens here to capture a bit of the city skyline. This was near noon and the sun was pretty high in the sky.

A quick jog brought me to Omand’s Creek where I captured the train crossing the wooden trestle over the creek.

Crossing Omand's Creek
Crossing Omand’s Creek

It was VERY windy here. I had my video camera on the tripod, and during filming it started to fall over. Fortunately I was standing right beside it, and I stomped on one of the legs to right the tripod and keep it from toppling.

At this point we were pretty close to Inkster Junction and the PDC’s home. I parked in the PDC parking lot – since I’m a member – and took a few photos as they put part of the train in the shop.

They left the remainder of the train on the main line and “went to beans”.

I headed home at this point, satisfied with a good series of photos to document the occasion. Kudos to the Vintage Locomotive Society, owners of the PDC, for a professional job all around. I really look forward to seeing the train in The Porter when it airs.

Here’s the combined video of the “coming and going” of the PDC to downtown Winnipeg.

You can see part 1 of this story here.

Visit the Prairie Dog Central Railway’s web site!