Trains at Sunrise

This post follows Trains at Night.

After driving around all night to see trains, your intrepid railfan ended up near Oakville, MB shortly before sunrise. It was turning out to be a beautiful morning and it was nice to be outside. The birds were back and making their presence known with a variety of songs.

The sound of a distant horn from the east was heard first, followed by the sight of a light moving across the horizon – a westbound train crawling across the prairie. Go time.

The preparation:

First, choose a location – a rural crossing, mile 39.02 of the CN Rivers subdivision.

Second, take some test shots to lock in the exposure.

A light on the horizon
A light on the horizon

Third, wait.

Trains always seem so slow, from a distance. Yet, when they are finally near, they seem to suddenly accelerate, rushing past in a cacophony of horns and bells and pounding ties.

So it was with this lengthy train, hurtling past under the soft dawn sky.

Forlorn telegraph poles still stand along this line, severed wires dangling in defeat, no longer wanted. Instead, unseen fibre optic cables buried near the right of way pulse with data, their presence marked by orange sticks marring railfan photos everywhere.

The thunder of seemingly endless double stack cars was punctuated by the roar of the mid-train locomotive.

The rattle of double stacked cans faded in the distance as the moving wall of steel continued on its way.

Time to move.


Elie’s sole remaining grain elevator loomed large at sunrise. The complex set of piping on the roof of the ex Pool elevator seemed like a stainless steel spider’s web silhouetted against the rising sun.

Canadian National’s tracks remained silent and empty, so it was time to cast the dice on CP’s table and see what came up.

The signals protecting the east end of Marquette siding were dark, unlike the golden sun rising above the empty prairie.

A short drive east yielded a catch, one of Canadian Pacific Railway’s doublestack trains passing the site of the former Meadows grain elevator.

Ground camera and drone caught one of CP’s many GE ES44AC locomotives, 8855, leading the charge westward out of the rising sun.

So far CP’s table was proving as profitable as CN’s – why not double down and continue east?

This gamble was rewarded in short order with another westbound train.

CP had entrusted this mid-length train to a single locomotive, CP 8861, seen passing the lunar signal at Makwa. On the head end are a brace of reefer boxcars, no doubt to be set off in Portage la Prairie for McCain or Simplot.

A surprise near the end was a series of tired ex Government of Canada grain hoppers, hastily relettered for Saskatchewan’s Great Western Railway. Faded wheat sheaves still proclaim their proud heritage, despite the multitudes of graffiti scrawls that cover the bottom edges.

It was time to head for home, satisfied with a night and morning of stars and trains and sunrise.

En route home, a reunion with the CN Rivers subdivision yielded one more train. CN decided to even the morning’s train score at 2-2 with an eastbound general freight train, led by a pair of venerable SD75I locomotives.

There were still things to do: image files and video files to copy, batteries to recharge, sleep to be regained. All in good time.


14 thoughts on “Trains at Sunrise”

  1. I’m glad to see all those reefer cars protected from the lead locomotive by a tanker buffer car.

  2. Great pictures of a glorious prairie morning! Thanks for sharing. Really enjoyed the writing style – the similes and metaphors work well, especially with the pictures to illustrate.

  3. Those GWRS hopper cars were indeed painted out in a hurry. Someone decided to paint out the words Government of / Gouvernement du but left Canada uncovered. They also painted out part of the era’s government’s flag logo by covering bar on the left side, but left the maple leaf.

    It would be interesting to know the heritage of these particular cars. I wonder if they are some of the government cars that got CTRW and then NDYX reporting marks If that is the case, then they have changed hands a number of times..

    • Hello Brian, yes, it would be interesting to know. The cars in that train were consistently painted out as you described – “Goverment of / Gouvernement du” painted over and part of the logo covered but the maple leaf left alone. I found it really odd that the railcar number was apparently printed on some giant sticky vinyl tape and pasted on. On some cars the tape is peeling off.

  4. Enjoyed the sunrise photos. I am still boggled at the length of the trains and the size of the engines. I have never seen in person these huge engines – no working lines where I live. The biggest engines on my layout – a Century 424 and trains on branch lines of 6 cars. I really enjoy seeing your videos of real trains!

    • Hi Jim, thanks for your comment. We do have monster trains out here… and I imagine the railways would like to have them be even longer.

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