Searching for the Maroon

An old scheme in a new Decade
CP 7010 – photo by Chris Chadwick – from Flickr

Canadian Pacific Railway has been sending its old EMD SD90MAC away for rebuilding to Progress Rail in the USA. These SD90MACs were unreliable when delivered to CP (and Union Pacific) and were stored for years, many here in Winnipeg. Progress has been remanufacturing them into “SD70ACU” units; Norfolk Southern purchased some from UP for the same purpose. They have a new cab, new electronics, Positive Train Control (PTC) and will be rated at 4500 horsepower. They will be numbered in the CP 7000-7059 series.

The first four were received by CP in August 2019 and went into coal train service in Alberta and British Columbia. In September, CP unveiled two painted in the classic “maroon” (Tuscan red) scheme, announcing that CP 7010-7014 will have “script” lettering and CP 7015-7019 will have “block” lettering.

On November 11, 2019 CP unveiled five more units (CP 7020-7023 and 6644) painted in commemorative military schemes for Remembrance Day.

I have yet to see any of these units. They have been running back and forth through the province on intermodal trains but I haven’t managed to catch one yet.

Starting Out

On December 23, 2019 I went out in search of the maroon. I drove up to the CP Carberry subdivision (the CP main line) and headed west from Winnipeg. My thought was to go to Portage la Prairie and sit there with the CN and CP main lines and railfan until it was time to go home.

I had a few indications that a westbound train was going to leave Winnipeg, so I decided to head a little west and hope to catch something, and then set up somewhere to wait for the westbound.

I saw nothing at all through Meadows and Marquette (RIP grain elevators). At Marquette the highway diverges from the rail line, so there is some risk of a train slipping by. The signals were all dark so I decided to carry on west and accept the small risk of missing a train. I don’t think I missed anything.

After driving through Poplar Point, I came to the location called Esmond and decided to wait there.


CP 9375 and friends at Esmond
CP 9375 and friends at Esmond

Eventually a train did come along… from the west. I had plenty of time to set up for it. I saw the snow fence on the other side of the tracks and wanted to include that in the shot. You can see it in the photo above. Also note that I was a fraction of a second too late and the locomotive is casting a shadow on the ESMOND sign. Oh well!

The train had a mid-train locomotive, long term leaser CEFX 1048.

CEFX 1048 caught in the middle
CEFX 1048 caught in the middle
The train through Esmond

Once that train passed, it was obvious that there wouldn’t be a westbound train any time soon, so I decided to continue west to Portage la Prairie and wait for the westbound there.

Portage 1

Thar's OIL in that train
Thar’s OIL in that train

I drove up to the crossing at Tucker just east of Portage la Prairie. I didn’t see anything coming from the east, but the signals facing east were solid red.

A little scanner chatter indicated that there was a train getting a clearance for the Minnedosa subdivision, and also a train was calling the signals for Tucker – hey, that’s here!

I quickly pointed the video camera westward and an oil train came rolling around the curve. This was CP 374.

Grubby CP 8799 was leading, followed by a pair of SD30C-ECO units, CP 5021 and 5029. You might recall that I saw CP 5021 on an oil train at Solsgirth earlier in 2019.

I waited around to see what was on the tail end, and I was rewarded with a Kansas City Southern (de Mexico) unit, KCSM 4557. Below, you can see them passing the Viterra grain elevator at Tucker.

KCS 4557 on the tail end
KCS 4557 on the tail end

That long awaited westbound train met the oil train at the far end of the Tucker siding, and it came past me shortly after the oil train cleared.

Portage 2

CP 8802 doing solo work
CP 8802 doing solo work

CP 8802 was the sole locomotive on that train, hauling a pretty long string of cars west.

Once that train passed, I hit the road back eastward, as I heard that the oil train was meeting a train at Poplar Point.

Poplar Point

CP 9374 peeking out
CP 9374 peeking out

The siding for Poplar Point is not actually in the town itself, but a little east of it. When I arrived, I could see the oil train in the distance doing the meet. The siding is not close to the highway, so I decided to backtrack into town to record the westbound train (CP 411) passing through there.

There were two cars sitting on the back track in Poplar Point. One was a very grubby SOO LINE car (SOO 75412) and the other was CP 390167 with the former owner’s name, Santa Fe, still visible through the paint.

CP 9374 and 8026 were on the head end of this general freight train, with no DPU. Still no maroon!!

A pair of powerful pullers pass Poplar Point
A pair of powerful pullers pass Poplar Point

I was getting short on time at this point, and with no more trains to see, I decided to see if I could get that oil train one more time before they reached Winnipeg.

Short answer – NO. It was running like a bat out of hell and, although I caught glimpses of the tail end unit now and then, I never caught up to it.

Oh well.

I hit the Perimeter Highway and headed for home. As I drove counter-clockwise around Winnipeg, I passed over the various subdivisions looking for more trains. CP Glenboro – nope. CN Rivers – no. CEMR Carman – no. CP La Riviere – no. CN Letellier – YES!

A flash of orange told me that there was a southbound train heading out of Winnipeg with a BNSF unit on it. Time to give chase!

CN 532

CN 2316 south of St Norbert, MB

I chased the train through St. Norbert and then out onto the open prairie. Once out of St. Norbert, the highway speed limit climbs to 100 km/hr and it is easy to get ahead of the train. I picked a wide open location and carefully parked my car on a side road – it was pretty icy – and launched my drone while waiting for the train to arrive.

That second unit was BNSF 292, an EMD SD75I. I was wondering if this was the BNSF Manitoba locomotive going south for servicing but this is too big for the local switcher. I guess CN had borrowed it or it came up on some other train.

BNSF 292
BNSF 292

Anyway, the drone video turned out OK in my opinion. Here it is:

Not really the last drone video of 2019…

The title is “Last Drone Video of 2019?” It’s a good thing I included the question mark, as I actually did shoot one more drone video in 2019…

The Search, Round 2

CP 8850 East near Rosser, Manitoba

I did a quick visit to the Carberry subdivision again on December 29th. I headed west through Rosser and spotted a set of headlights to the west. I decided to backtrack through Rosser to catch them by the multitude of transmission towers near the Dorsey Converter Station.

This converter station changes transmission line voltage between AC and DC. Electricity generated by the dams in Manitoba’s north is transmitted over high voltage direct current (HVDC) lines for greater efficiency. At Dorsey (and other converter stations) it is converted into alternating current (AC) for local transmission and to exchange with the USA and adjacent provinces.

Anyway, after I backtracked, I parked on a side road and launched my drone to record the train coming. I was somewhat disappointed to see yet another non-heritage CP unit on the head end, but I did like the frost all over it.

Frosty CP 8850
Frosty CP 8850

Here’s the drone video.

My actual last drone video of 2019

There was no other locomotive on that train – one loco to pull all the containers. Impressive!

After the train passed, I packed everything up and headed east toward Winnipeg. As I neared the Perimeter Highway, I saw that there was a headlight to the east indicating a westbound train. The Carberry subdivision is double track between Makwa and Winnipeg so the two trains could pass each other easily.

I stopped by the Viterra grain elevator and photographed the approaching train.

Another Oil Train

CP 8796 leading an oil train
CP 8796 leading an oil train

This train was an empty oil train, with four locomotives on the head end. CP 8796 was followed by a BNSF unit…

BNSF 6159
BNSF 6159

The last two units were very familiar. They were CP 5021 and CP 5029, heading back west. I understand these units are used as “helper” units through the Minnedosa valley.

CP 5029 through the crossing
CP 5029 through the crossing

The oil train had an interesting buffer car on the tail end. You may know that oil trains like this require “buffer” cars in the US, although they aren’t required in Canada. These buffer cars theoretically protect the dangerous goods tank cars from the locomotives and vice versa.

Normally buffer cars are old grain cars filled with sand, but occasionally you’ll see some other type of car. This train had an old boxcar on the tail end, DME 5484.

DME 5484 boxcar on the tail end of an oil train
DME 5484 boxcar on the tail end of an oil train

Still no maroon and still no military units.

I’ll keep trying!!

Thanks to Nelson Braun for corrections on the railways that purchased the original SD90MACs.

4 thoughts on “Searching for the Maroon”

  1. I love the shots near the hydro towers. The frost and the lattice work of the towers makes for an interesting backdrop. Keep up the hunt for the maroon. I look forward to seeing it on the blog soon!

  2. Steve, your shot at Esmond is what I consider a truly great railfan shot. This is the way I try to set up my shots but it doesn’t always come out like this one. Super.

    BTW, I loved your use of ” grubby” for the CP unit; from what I’ve seen round Montreal, the CP units don’t get very much cleaning if any. Too bd especially since they are now doing heritage units. Maybe they will do a better job on these. The military units look so great would be a shame to see them “grubby”.


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