Railfanning for the Weekend

Everybody’s railfanning for the weekend
Everybody wants heritage units
Everybody’s goin’ down to trackside
Everybody needs a million likes, oh

– What Loverboy might have written if they were railfans

This weekend, I had several opportunities to railfan. I spent them on the CN Rivers subdivision, and I’ll share the results with you.

Friday Evening

I went out along the Rivers around 7 PM. It was promising to be a decent sunset, so I wanted to capture some trains. CN didn’t disappoint, sending me four trains in the span of an hour.

I flew my drone for the first three. I recently had some problems with it and wanted to ensure it was working OK now.

The first train was an eastbound general freight, with CN 2663 leading.

CN 2663 East

My drone performed flawlessly. It had been drifting and flying a bit erratically, until I recalibrated the vision systems. After that, it was rock solid and held its position. Drones are complex machines.

The next train came along 17 minutes later, another eastbound with cowl unit CN 2432 leading.

By this time, the sky was looking really nice. Check out that red!

CN 2432 East

Five minutes later, a westbound came rolling by. CN 3164 was the lead unit, with a blue ex demonstrator trailing. I can’t read the number of that one, though. Too dark!

Note the distributed braking boxcar on the tail end of the train. These are used to maintain air pressure in the train, something that is required in cold weather when hoses leak more often. This means winter is coming! 🙁

CN 3164 in the falling dark

I decided it was getting too dark to hang around, so it was time to pack it in. I put the drone and video camera away and started driving toward the Perimeter Highway and home.

This is where I saw the fourth train coming. It was dark enough that I didn’t know what the lead unit was until I edited the photo at home. It turned out to be a Citirail leaser, CREX 1524.

CREX 1524 leading the charge
CREX 1524 leading the charge

I had enough time to set my other camera up on the tripod so I could take some long exposure photos. Here’s CREX 1524 streaking through the west-facing signals protecting the diamond at CN Diamond.

Approaching the signals
Approaching the signals

The shutter speed I chose for the panning was a little low. I think I was using 1/6 or 1/8s and I really should have used 1/15s or 1/25s. The trailing unit on this oil train was a little jittery – or I was!

The tripod mounted camera was not jittery…

The trailing locomotive's lights smear through the signals
The trailing locomotive’s lights smear through the signals


Sunrise train
Sunrise train

I was heading to Manitoba Mega Train 2019 on Saturday morning. I got up early to get a little railfanning in en route. I drove westward along the Rivers sub and found CN 5705 East rolling along. I set up to catch them coming through Diamond, but they ended up stopping short of the crossing near mile 15.

I drove down to see them there and it appeared they were waiting for a meet. I decided to pop my drone up to take a few photos in the lovely morning sunshine. You can see the result above.

I took some photos from the ground as well…

CN 5705 at mile 15
CN 5705 at mile 15

After waiting a bit, I decided to head east toward Winnipeg. It was getting close to opening time for the train show. As I drove past the signals at Diamond, I saw the east facing signals were green… train time!

Early morning glint
Early morning glint

Boxy CN 8829 led the train, with BC Rail 4610 in good old red, white and blue helped out. The train had an odd pattern of a few autoracks, followed by a bunch of tank cars, then autoracks, then tank cars… just a bit odd.

The old red, white and blue!
The old red, white and blue!

Here’s the video of the westbound train “splitting the signals”.

Here you can see the westbound train approaching the stopped eastbound for a meet. The “eastbound” crew was getting ready to do their rollby inspection. That’s the CP Glenboro subdivision in the foreground below.

Ready for the meet
Ready for the meet

Right after the westbound train passed, a taxi passed me to go pick up the crew of the “eastbound” train. I guess they had run out of time!

Speaking of running out of time, it was time for me to get to the show. I had a great time and you can read about it here.

After the Show

It's coming... eventually.
It’s coming… eventually.

As I drove home from the show around the Perimeter Highway, I crossed over the Rivers subdivision again. I spotted a headlight to the west, so I took the exit and went to Hall Road to get a quick photo there… or so I thought.

The train kept coming… and coming… and coming… and then came to a halt just short of the road.

I haven’t seen this kind of thing on CN for a while. Last winter when they had a lot of congestion, it was common to see trains parked here and at other spots, waiting for their turn to proceed, but it hasn’t been like that for a long time.

This day, it happened twice! I wonder what was going on in the network to cause this kind of congestion.

CN 3140 and company
CN 3140 and company

Anyway, I took the time to take some photos of CN 3140. I particularly like the one below, taken by climbing down into the ditch on the side of Hall Road with my telephoto lens.


I decided to head on home, but as I was getting in my car, I heard them start the bell ringing and the train started creeping forward.

One more shot?

Sure, why not.

I drove half a klick* east to the power transmission line to frame up a photo there. You may recall I took this same shot a while ago. Time for another try at it!

Under the wires
Under the wires

Maybe another fraction of a second would have been better to centre the unit.

* does anyone say “klick” any more? My dad said that all the time instead of “kilometre”.


Containers in the rain
Containers in the rain

On Sunday I had to return to the train show because I had a problem with one of the locomotives I bought. On the way up to the show, I spotted a westbound intermodal train.

It was raining and the light was pretty low, so why not do a pan? Why not, indeed.

Panning CN 8836 - nice wave from the conductor
Panning CN 8836 – nice wave from the conductor

A big thank you to the conductor for the wave!

I went to the train show. My “new to me” locomotive had a weird problem, where I could control the headlights and sound on it, but it wouldn’t move. I took the hood off and checked the wiring and nothing seemed amiss.

I met up with Marcel Blair (?) who did a little troubleshooting on his DCC track. When he sent a command to the locomotive and it twitched in acknowledgement, I knew we had a good connection to the motor. I asked him to reset the decoder entirely and he did that, and then it worked fine. I guess the previous owner had done something to it – who knows. Anyway, thank you Marcel for the help.

On the way back home, I found another westbound train. I ended up at one of my “go to” locations, just west of Carman Junction. In the photo below, you can see the track branching off to the right of frame to the CEMR Carman subdivision.

Locos in the rain
Locos in the rain

It was still raining so I wasn’t too keen on standing outside very much. I had the lens hood on my camera so I didn’t worry too much about the water. Note that beautiful fall foliage 😉

CN 2593 rounding the bend
CN 2593 rounding the bend

So that was my railfan weekend. Pretty busy!

Don’t forget, I wrote about Manitoba Mega Train 2019 over on my model train blog. Check it out!

Just One More Thing

Expect a few book reviews soon. I just finished “Streamliners” by Brian Solomon and now I’m reading “Self-Propelled Cars of the CNR” by Anthony Clegg. I forgot how many of those ran around New Brunswick, and I never knew there were any battery cars on the CNR at all. I’m learning a lot.

3 thoughts on “Railfanning for the Weekend”

  1. Enjoyed my fix for trains for the week!
    No tracks or trains where I live – all abandoned. Liked the first video – incredibly long train and I enjoyed the sound of the train and cars. Second video the train was shorter but was not impressed with the music – kind of boring with the flat terrain and all. I am not used to such long trains and I had forgotten how flat it is on the Canadian prairie! The other still photos were neat. I am also not used to seeing the big power that runs out there. Best photo forme was the pan shot of the loco! Thanks!

    • Hi Jim, thanks for your comment! I understand living in a no-train area. When I was in Fredericton, New Brunswick it was at least a 30 minute drive to find active tracks. Winnipeg is a railfan mecca by comparison.

      We do have big power and long trains, maybe a bit TOO long for video. 😉

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