Surprise! It’s the GWWD

I was driving around one evening recently, roaming around the east side of Winnipeg looking for trains. I ended up with a few sunset drone photos of the Dugald grain elevator – both the old wooden one and the new Parrish & Heimbecker one under construction just east of the town. But no trains.

Dejected, I started to head home, driving down Deacon Road toward the Sprague subdivision, when I saw the crossing signals across Deacon Road light up. This was the Greater Winnipeg Water District Railway’s crossing (here), right next to their Deacon Road water treatment facility.

GWWWWWWWWWWD!

I quickly pulled off the road and rolled my car window down, grabbing my camera to fire off a few shots. Unfortunately my camera had the “long lens” on and was set for my previous shots, when it was brighter out, and the shots were pretty dark. The magic of RAW photos meant that I could recover a half decent shot in editing later.

I switched to my phone to get the lead photo of this post, a more wide angle view showing the entire train. The train trundled across the road at maybe 10 MPH and entered the Deacon Road facility.

At this point I had a choice to make. The GWWD train was heading west toward the city. Their next road crossing was the Perimeter Highway, then a long run to Plessis Road. Should I try for the Perimeter, where they had only a short distance to go while I had to drive all the way around, or should I give up on that and head directly for the Plessis crossing?

On the map below, I was at “star 1” on the right edge of the map. To get to “star 2”, the Perimeter Highway crossing, I had to drive a long way around. I was confident I could beat them to “Star 3” because the GWWD doesn’t go very fast.

Winnipeg East Side with GWWD
Winnipeg East Side with GWWD

I drove south on Deacon Road to the Trans-Canada Highway at Deacon’s Corner, then headed northwest toward the Perimeter Highway interchange. Looking north I didn’t see a train crossing the Floodway, so I decided to take a chance and head to “star 2” and got onto the Perimeter Highway.

As I approached the crossing, I was rubbernecking looking for the train, and I spotted them – still on the east side of the Floodway!

What I forgot was that there is a fence around the Deacon Road facility and they have to stop at the gates to unlock, proceed, and lock, on both sides. That was a big delay and allowed me to get into position before they came to the crossing.

I parked off the highway and ran over with two cameras, my still camera and my video camera on a tripod. It turned out that I really didn’t need to run.

Starting to cross the Floodway
Starting to cross the Floodway

In the shot above, you can see the fence behind the train that they had just passed through. The Floodway bridge is visible “below” the train.

I repositioned myself to shoot “down” the bridge with my long lens. GWWD 202 has LED headlights and ditch lights, so they are BRIGHT!

Super bright LEDs
Super bright LEDs

As they came off the bridge and started rounding the corner toward the highway, I quickly adjusted the exposure on my camera and fired off a few more shots.

GWWD 202 crossing the Perimeter
GWWD 202 crossing the Perimeter

Using my phone as a wide angle camera, I recorded the cars on this oh-so-long train.

The honey wagon
The honey wagon

The first car behind the locomotive was an unnumbered tank car. I believe this is the “honey wagon”, carrying waste from the Shoal Lake facility at the end of the line.

The rest of the cargo
The rest of the cargo

The other two cars were flat cars, one of which was GWWD 1214. One had a fuel tank and the other had a dumpster. On the end was GWWD’s caboose, 1360, where the conductor was riding.

As they crossed the Perimeter Highway, I ran toward the crossing to get a “going away” shot of the train.

Into the sunset
Into the sunset

I am really happy with how this turned out.

It shows how flat it is around here when you can see the silhouettes of downtown buildings from 13.5 km away.

After taking that series of photos, I threw everything in the back of my car and headed to the Plessis Road crossing. The Perimeter Highway doesn’t have any way to cross the median legally, so I had to drive north to Dugald Road, head west, then south on Plessis Road. The “long way around”.

Fortunately the GWWD isn’t fast, and they seemed especially slow on this evening. They have to cross CN’s tracks twice on their way home, so I believe they were dragging their heels waiting for the signals to turn green so they didn’t have to stop on their way through.

This gave me time to set up to record their passage one more time. The sun was well below the horizon by this point, so the light was getting pretty sketchy.

Getting dark
Getting dark

I had my drone in the air for this pass. You’ll note the giant power lines right over the tracks. I flew the drone under the lines, then increased the altitude carefully while keeping an eye on the wires. It’s tight quarters here! Fortunately it wasn’t windy at all so I had no concerns about the drone being buffeted about.

Drone view
Drone view

The Lyncrest Airport is nearby, so drone pilots have to be aware of that as well and keep out of the way. I figured that the planes wouldn’t be flying this close to the power lines (and this close to the ground) so there should be no issue.

After the train passed, I took another “going away” shot but I was a little slow in getting into position and missed the signal showing green. They are approaching the crossing of CN’s triple track, the outlet of Symington Yard leading to Beach Junction.

Soft sunset
Soft sunset

That was enough chasing for me. The light was getting quite low and it was time to head home.

I made a video:

Other GWWD Resources

10 thoughts on “Surprise! It’s the GWWD”

  1. Great photography and storytelling as usual. I wonder why the continued use of a van on the GWWD and was/is it crewed? The last shot it appears to be empty.

    Reply
    • Hi Mike, thank you. The conductor was in the caboose on the engineer’s side of the train. Both crew waved at me before they crossed Plessis Road. I think the conductor is riding there for COVID social distancing.

      Reply
  2. Great shots Steve! How often does the GWWD go all the way out to Shoal Lake? I have often crossed the tracks, and they always appear to have a bit of a shine on them, but I have only ever seen a train once, and it was moving inside the Perimeter (around the Plessis Road crossing actually).

    Wes

    Reply
    • Hi Wes, thanks for your comment. I think they go out to Shoal Lake every week or two. I don’t think it’s on any schedule other than “as needed”. They go to Deacon Road more frequently.

      Reply

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