The British Are Coming!

Well, going, anyway…

I received a hot tip that there was a CN train in Symington Yard in Winnipeg, waiting to go east, with a string of military equipment on flatcars.

I gulped down my supper, grabbed my ready-to-go camera bag, and hit the road. I had to drive a quarter of the way around Winnipeg to get to the Redditt subdivision to intercept the train, so time was of the essence.

About a kilometre away from the track, I saw an eastbound train rolling out of Transcona and onto the main line ahead of me. I could clearly see the military equipment a few cars back from the locomotives, so I was just in time.

Turning east onto Dugald Road, I proceeded east as fast as I legally could.

There’s a stop signal just east of the Floodway that turned red as I approached, so I had to sit and watch part of the train roll by. I took that opportunity to photograph a couple of flatcars.

Mastiff vehicles on flatcar (MOFC)
Mastiff vehicles on flatcar (MOFC)

I found out that these were British Army vehicles, heading east from Suffield Alberta where they were on exercise with the Canadian military. I believe the vehicles above are Mastiff 6 x six wheel drive vehicles, capable of carrying eight troops plus two crew. They can have a 7.62mm machine gun, a 12.7mm heavy machine gun, or a 40mm automatic grenade launcher. Details here!

The wire “fence” on the side is to detonate rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs) prematurely so they don’t penetrate the armoured sides of the vehicle.

The Mastiff is based on the highly successful Cougar MRAP (Mine Resistant Ambush Protected) vehicle built by Force Protection Inc. (now owned by General Dynamics). Thousands of these vehicles have been built and have been very resistant to IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices) in Afghanistan and elsewhere. Canada has about 40 Cougars.

Note the big mufflers on the roof!

Anyway, once the light turned green, I was able to close on the head end of the train again. I debated whether to intercept them before or after the town of Dugald. If I got them before Dugald, I would be sure to get a shot but I wouldn’t have enough time to get my drone in the air. If I tried to get them after Dugald, I ran the risk of a red light in the town and/or getting behind slow traffic and having them beat me out of town.

I decided to take the risk and proceed through Dugald. As it happened, the traffic gods smiled on me this time, the light was green, and traffic was brisk. I was out of the town well before them and on the way toward Anola.

I chose to take the first crossing and hurriedly parked. I put my drone on the ground and powered it on as I got my camera and the drone controller ready. By this time I could see the train’s headlights in the distance.

The drone acquired GPS signal quickly so I was able to get it airborne and a little west of my position before the train crossed the highway a kilometre away.

I took a long distance photo of the train rounding the bend after the highway crossing. If I had more time, this would have been a good spot to put the drone to catch them turning, but there certainly wasn’t enough time to fly it there. I don’t think there is any way to get close to this bend on this side without trespassing on someone’s land.

A long shot
A long shot

I fired off one more frame as the train approached, before concentrating on the drone controls. You can see that the military equipment is all on flatcars, with four cars of general freight between them and the two locomotives.

CN 3141 leading the charge
CN 3141 leading the charge

Here’s a still from the drone video. I made sure the video was on!

An aerial view of the train
An aerial view of the train

The Vehicles

Here’s the start of the string of vehicles.

Start of the series
Start of the series

Not all of the vehicles are Mastiffs. Some vehicles only have four wheels.

Ridgback and Mastiff vehicles
Ridgback and Mastiff vehicles

I believe the four wheeled vehicles are Ridgbacks. Note the lack of an “e”… not a typo. They seem to be very similar to the Mastiffs in capability.

Here’s the complete string, from the ground.

The whole string
The whole string

That was pretty exciting!

I understand that the British Army also shipped a set of Challenger tanks, but on CP instead of CN.

Here’s my video, with some royalty free music from added in.

CFB Suffield

CFB Suffield (Canadian Forces Base) is located about 30 minutes outside Medicine Hat, Alberta. It maintains a world-class range and training area for the Canadian military and other militaries. The British Army Training Unit Suffield (BATUS) is located here. This is the largest British training base by land area and is equivalent in area to all British training areas in the UK and Europe combined.

Check out this video about BATUS and/or this article about BATUS.

One challenge with military vehicle training is finding enough space to realistically operate the vehicles and especially to fire weapons without hitting anything you don’t mean to hit. I lived near CFB Gagetown in New Brunswick for many years, and it was said that they had to be careful when they fired the main tank guns because at the right angle and direction, they could easily lob a shell into a civilian area. Gagetown is the second largest base in Canada with an 1,100 square km training area, only surpassed by Suffield’s 1,588 square km.

I remember hearing the crackling of machine gun fire at night as they were doing exercises in the field in Gagetown. It was a little unnerving at first but you got used to it.

The CP Equivalent

More military equipment, on CP. Photo by Nicholas Kasim.

Nicholas Kasim photographed the movement on Canadian Pacific of numerous British military vehicles, including Challenger tanks. The train was headed by CP 8145 and CP 8034, with private car Tioga Pass on the tail end.

Tioga Pass on the tail end. Photo by Nicholas Kasim.

These are from Nicholas’ video. The train was quite long and the military equipment was on the end.

Thanks for the permission to share those, Nicholas! Check out his YouTube channel.

Just One More Thing

Here are a few posts I wrote about other “military trains”.

Also, here’s a quartet of military trucks on flatcars I spotted in Winnipeg in September 2009 that I never blogged about… at Beach Junction, maybe?

Military trucks on flatcars
Military trucks on flatcars

Also, two sets of flatcars with wheeled Canadian vehicles on them in the CN Fort Rouge yard in November 2011…

Lots of army green
Lots of army green

Finally, here I am helping my daughter climb into a Canadian Leopard tank at Armed Forces Day in August 2006 in New Brunswick.

She loves it!
She loves it!

She was pretty happy to be in there. She got to go in the big trucks too. Lots of smiles – on her face and on mine.

4 thoughts on “The British Are Coming!”

  1. Great catch, Steve! It’s great to see such unusual cargo (especially when it appeals to the little kid in me). Any idea where it was headed? Guessing Montreal or Quebec City to be loaded on ships to head back to the U.K.?

  2. I’ve caught a few military trains here in the US heading either to or back from the desert training center out in California.

    When I used to go to Columbus, Georgia for work we were right next to Fort Benning. The first time I was there, I thought I was hearing thunder. One of my co-workers said, “nope, that’s the artillery range”. After a couple of years I hardly noticed it anymore.

    • It’s funny how those things become part of the background noise, isn’t it? I got used to helicopters flying over my house near CFB Shearwater and never really noticed them after a while.

Comments are closed.