The BC Rail Heritage Unit

I mentioned in a recent post that CN had five locomotives specially painted to honour the railways they acquired since their 1995 privatization. Naturally, railfans chimed in with their opinions, the railways don’t care, and the trains keep rolling. Ahem.

The word circulated that CN 3115, the BC Rail “heritage” unit, would be leading train Q183 through Winnipeg on the weekend.

As an aside, I find it interesting that CN had existing locomotives repainted while CP’s heritage fleet is all rebuilt SD70ACu locomotives that were being repainted anyway. Here’s 3115 from a couple of years ago in its original CN colours.

CN 3115 in Dugald, May 31, 2018
CN 3115 in Dugald, May 31, 2018

It was due into Winnipeg in the early afternoon. It was a relatively mild, sunny day, so I decided to head out to try to catch it coming into the city. I headed around the city toward Dugald, thinking that I would catch it going by the grain elevator there.

As I drove east along Dugald Road, I saw an eastbound container train – going the same direction I was. That was good… it meant that the westbound Q183 couldn’t slip by me as I was driving.

The train and I both approached Dugald. The train got there first, and started into the siding. A meet… and I assumed the meet would be with Q183.

I scotched my original idea. The train in the siding would block the view of the westbound train unless I photographed from the north side of the tracks, and then I would be on the shadow side of the train. Time for plan B.

I headed east out of town. I briefly considered shooting at the point where the railway crosses the Dugald Road, since there is a curve there, but I felt there wouldn’t be light on the nose of the unit and I really wanted to capture those stripes. So, onward.

I turned right at the next grid road to get to a crossing quickly and get an idea of where Q183 was. As I rolled across the tracks, I saw a very distant headlight to the east. Train! I quickly parked and started unloading my gear.

There was a collection of CN pickups and people on the ground a mile or so east of me at the next crossing. This is where the new Parrish and Heimbecker grain elevator is being built. It will have a loop track, so maybe the CN crew were working on the connection to the CN Redditt subdivision.

CN 3115 Outside Dugald

CN 3115 approaching
CN 3115 approaching

I launched my drone and flew it east a few hundred metres until it was close to the signal shown in the photo above. My video camera was on the tripod, my Akaso mini camera was close to the crossing, and I had my Canon DSLR on a sling. I was bound and determined to record this thing as many ways as I could.

BC Rail heritage unit CN 3115 near Dugald, MB
BC Rail heritage unit CN 3115 near Dugald, MB

Fortunately everything worked great and I recorded it from a few different angles. Those nose stripes look GREAT, don’t they?

CN 3115 from below
CN 3115 from below

It looks pretty good from below, too!

I took a quick shot after it passed to get the rear of the unit. Note the icicles between the numbers!

CN 3115 going away
CN 3115 going away

I’ll include the video at the end of this post so you can see all the angles.

Relatively boring CN 3818 was a mid train DPU farther back.

CN 3818 in the middle
CN 3818 in the middle

After the train passed, I recovered the drone and threw all my gear in the car. I thought I’d photograph the train in the siding at Dugald, then head home.

A Bonus

As I approached the siding, it looked like the eastbound train was in motion… but it was only the head end plus a few cars. The crew had cut the train at the crossing to let traffic through. To me, that meant that it wasn’t going anywhere soon.

Could there be another westbound?

I returned to the same crossing I shot Q183 at and sure enough, there was another headlight in the distance. I decided to try the Dugald Road crossing for this one to see how the light was.

I parked nearby and trotted over with my video camera and DSLR. I set up the video camera on the tripod, and it wasn’t long before CN 2312 came around the corner.

CN 2312 rounding the bend into Dugald
CN 2312 rounding the bend into Dugald

I like this angle! I think it is better later in the day when the sun is lower but it works well for westbound trains. When that P&H grain elevator is finished, it will provide a great backdrop.

The video didn’t work out, alas. That meant I didn’t have to wait around for the entire train to pass, so I headed out a few minutes earlier than I planned.


I headed home, not really expecting to go out again for 3115.

My friends kept messaging each other with updates. Q183 stopped in the Transcona yard to refuel. Then it pulled forward a bit, maybe to refuel the DPU. Then it waited for a light.

Eventually it sounded like Q183 was ready to head west. I decided to head up to Diamond to catch them leaving the city.

I arrived at the CN main line at about 3:30 PM. The sun was behind clouds and approaching the horizon, so the light wasn’t great.

As I approached I saw a westbound CN train. There were two lead locomotives and neither was the “BC Rail” unit. I drove west and passed the head end easily enough.

I decided to stop at the west facing signals at mile 14.4.

You Again?

CN 2312 blurring through the signals
CN 2312 blurring through the signals

It turned out to be the “bonus train” from earlier, led by CN 2312. Despite following Q183 into the city, they got out first. I guess they were higher priority!

I elected to blur the train so I “stopped down” to f/22, giving a shutter speed of 1/15s and a nice blur.

As I watched the train pass by, container car after container car, one caught my eye and I barely caught it with my camera.

TTX - on Track for A Cure
TTX – on Track for A Cure

Apparently there are a few of them – DTTX 475412, DTTX 654811, and a 3-pack DTTX 732301 – and at least one pink TTX boxcar FBOX 504927. I think this was DTTX 654811 but I can’t really read the number.

As the train was passing, I noticed that the west facing signal was green on the north track. Could there be an eastbound train coming?

A Second Bonus

Starry starry train
Starry starry train

It turned out to be a fast moving grain train. I set up at the curve at mile 16 of the Rivers subdivision to record it. I barely had time to get my drone in the air before the train arrived, and it was moving.

Here’s the video.

CN 5703 East

Once that train passed, I returned to mile 14.4 and the west facing signals.

After a 30 minute wait, I saw another headlight to the east and I really hoped it was Q183. The light was almost gone!

Q183 On the Way Out

CN 3115 "BC Rail" at mile 14.4
CN 3115 “BC Rail” at mile 14.4

It came rolling through on the south track and I dutifully recorded it with the drone, video camera and my still camera. “Only” three this time!

It was definitely getting dim as the train is a bit blurred in the photo above – a still frame from the video – and the frame below, taken a second or two later, is quite blurred.

Blurred red, white and blue
Blurred red, white and blue

Given the low light, I elected to pan the locomotive as it passed me. It also gave me the opportunity to get a broadside view of the locomotive that I didn’t get before.

BC Rail heritage unit CN 3115
BC Rail heritage unit CN 3115

That little decal on the nose says “CN IPO25” commemorating 25 years since the Initial Public Offering that turned CN from a public service to a private company.

That was it for me. A very satisfying outing!

The Video

Three cameras, two locations!

I hope you enjoy the video. It’s relatively short, as I cut out most of the train itself.

Just One More Thing

If you like BC Rail, check out this great video by the late David Othen featuring BC Rail in 1995.

BC Rail, 1995

10 thoughts on “The BC Rail Heritage Unit”

  1. Real nice photos and vids Steve! Sharp looking paint scheme! I sure like the idea of railroads heritage paint, it’s great visually and may lead you to look up the history behind it.
    Looks like the new P&H elevator is coming along.

    • Thanks, Sheldon! I like the idea of heritage paint too. People are going to have opinions but in general I like that railways sometimes want to show something different than the hundreds of other identical locomotives they have.

      Yes, that P&H elevator is showing a lot of progress. I’m not sure when the official opening date is but I imagine it’s around early spring next year. The original announcement said construction would start in June 2019 and open approximately 18 months later.

  2. I love how 3115 is travelling between my friends cameras across the country allowing us to follow its travels. It was in Halifax earlier. I hoped to join in on photographing it but that didn’t work out – instead it’s been neat, as I say, seeing it through everyone’s photos. We’re quite lucky that CN is moving the engine across the system like it is and that it hasn’t gotten trapped on a particular train.

    I wonder what the plan for the other heritage engines is? Will the others roam the entire network? Wouldn’t that be cool? We’ve had BC Rai liveried engines in Halifax before but some of the other heritage schemes have never operated in our region. The novelty here is richer than just the heritage engine but first times for new paint too.

    • I sure hope the others roam the system as well, Chris. I’d like to see the EJ&E unit for sure, and I know the WC and the IC units have been in Manitoba. If it wasn’t for this darn job I could have caught those too! 😉

      It is cool to railfan vicariously through others and see your friends “catch” the units as they roam about.


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