April 28, 2018 was a busy, busy train day for me. I had just returned from a conference (PI World) in San Francisco the day before, and I was eager to get out and see some trains.
Before we get to the trains, check out this retro themed Air Canada jet I saw in Toronto airport!
In the early afternoon, I headed up to St. Boniface to see if I could see any CP action. There was nothing going on so I carried on to Panet Road.
As I arrived at Panet Road, there was a westbound intermodal train rolling past with CN 2837 leading on the south track. There was an east-facing train sitting on the north track with CN 5656 on the point.
I recorded the tail end unit as well – CN 2929 – then I went to try to find an angle to photograph the stopped train. I couldn’t get a good look at it, and while I was searching, another westbound came rolling along.
It turned out to be a rail train, headed by CN 8001. I quickly parked and ran over toward the crossing to take a few photos.
There was a bunch of maintenance equipment on flatcars on the head end, followed by loaded rail cars.
The big surprise was the tail end of the train.
One of CN’s few (two? three?) Operation Lifesaver cabeese was trailing, CN 77014. It’s always a nice surprise to see a caboose on a train.
After the caboose passed, I stepped up to the crossing to photograph the east-facing train.
I decided to wait. How long could it be before they got the green light?
29 Minutes Later
The front-end power was decent – a nice change from the GEVOs everywhere – but the freight cars farther down in the train were the real prize.
Two ex Westray Coal cars were in the consist!
Some of you may be too young to remember the Westray coal mine disaster in 1992. An underground methane explosion killed 26 miners on May 9, the worst mining disaster in Canada since the the 1958 Springhill mine “bump”.
Many concerns were raised about the mine even before it opened, and after eight months of operation, 26 men lost their lives.
Some good did come of it, eventually. In 2003 the “Westray bill” (C-45) passed, establishing criminal liability for manager and directors of companies who don’t take reasonable steps to ensure their workers’ safety.
Eric Gagnon has a blog post on the 37 new coal hoppers that were acquired by CN and painted bright blue. After the explosion, they were dispersed and ended up in western Canada in coal service, with the Westray name painted over.
The Westray name is starting to show through on at least one car…
In case you’re wondering what that shield-shaped thing is in the center of the car, under the “E”, it was a coat of arms featuring a lion rampant, part of Nova Scotia’s arms.
I headed home after that, but went out again in the evening for more trains! Back to my favourite, the Rivers subdivision…
Carman Junction and Beyond
I caught a westbound in the sweet evening light just before 7:30 PM. The trailing unit was a BC Rail locomotive, so I resolved to chase it west and photograph it again.
It looked really nice stretched out along the prairie as they approached Diamond.
Looking at the empty centrebeam flatcars on the tail end, I have to guess this was train CN 347.
The BC Rail unit (BCOL 4617) looked nice in the golden sunset.
After the train passed, I headed east on a gravel road to Sanford, to photograph the grain elevator there.
Little did I know that the elevator would be toppled less than a year later.
I made a video to remember the Sanford grain elevator.
Just One More Thing
I saw a few other ex Westray coal cars in 2018 around Winnipeg. Above is CN 347005 on January 14, 2018.
I spotted CN 347023 on a freight train through Dufresne on May 26, 2018. I didn’t get a great photo of it.
The biggest bonanza was six ex Westray cars on a single train, in Elie, Manitoba on July 29, 2018 – 347013, 347016, 347017, 347002, 347001 and 347005.
You can see them in this video.