Rattling Around Winnipeg

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!

Trans-Canada Air Lines (C-FZUH)
Trans-Canada Air Lines (C-FZUH)

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.

Panet Road

CN 2929 trailing
CN 2929 trailing

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.

Rail Train

CN 8001 leading a rail train
CN 8001 leading a rail train

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.

Rail train heading west
Rail train heading west

There was a bunch of maintenance equipment on flatcars on the head end, followed by loaded rail cars.

Loaded rail cars
Loaded rail cars

The big surprise was the tail end of the train.

Operation Lifesaver caboose CN 77014
Operation Lifesaver caboose CN 77014

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.

Caboose passing CN 5656 East
Caboose passing CN 5656 East

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

CN 5656 leading the way
CN 5656 leading the way

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.

A pair of Westray Coal cars
A pair of Westray Coal cars

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.

Ex Westray Coal car CN 347025 in Winnipeg
Ex Westray Coal car CN 347025 in Winnipeg

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…

CN 347019 - ex Westray Coal
CN 347019 – ex Westray Coal

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

CN 5734 at Carman Junction
CN 5734 at Carman Junction

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.

Big train across the prairie
Big train across the prairie

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.

BC Rail 4617
BC Rail 4617

After the train passed, I headed east on a gravel road to Sanford, to photograph the grain elevator there.

Sanford grain elevator
Sanford grain elevator

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

Ex Westray car CN 347005
Ex Westray car CN 347005

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.

A CAT and an ex Westray car
A CAT and an ex Westray car

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.

CN 347001 and 347002 in Elie, Manitoba
CN 347001 and 347002 in Elie, Manitoba

You can see them in this video.

8 thoughts on “Rattling Around Winnipeg”

  1. Of course, loving the Westrays! The one that I (ever?) saw in Kingston definitely caught my eye, and even in 2018 they were still eye-catching!

    That Elie trestle is a picturesque location!

    Thanks for sharing, Steve.
    Eric

    Reply
    • They do stand out! Anything that isn’t dull gray or boxcar brown seems to catch the eye.

      The Elie bridge is weird, because it’s two single track bridges side by side. The south one is a boring concrete one but the north one is much more picturesque.

      Reply
  2. Steve-
    Lovely photography as always. I was dismayed to learn that those Westray cars are still around – grim reminders of a truly horrible event here in Nova Scotia. 11 bodies were never recovered and are still underground in the mine. Clifford Frame, the founder, principal shareholder, developer and chairman and CEO of the company behind the mine died in May of 2019, having escaped prosecution due to a completely botched legal process. Wikipedia has a good entry on the whole miserable business.
    — Peter Payzant

    Reply
  3. Great article. I have always wondered if the mega elevators are really more “efficient” than the local elevators such as the one at Sanford. The measurement must include environmental and community impact.

    Reply
    • Hi Mike, I guess it depends on what level of “efficient” you look at. From the elevator company’s point of view, and the railway’s point of view, definitely the mega elevators are more efficient. From a farmer’s point of view, definitely not… a lot more driving to reach an elevator and more diesel burned by the farmer.

      Reply
    • Thanks, Tyson. All we can do is be vigilant and speak up when we see unsafe conditions. Fortunately the laws are stronger now so that if you’re made aware of a safety issue, you have to do something about it (“due diligence”) or face the consequences if something tragic happens.

      Reply

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