Two If By Air

Oil train across the Canadian prairie
Oil train across the Canadian prairie

I’ve had my drone for a few months now and I can say that I am starting to get the hang of it. I’m still no expert but I have used it enough that I have confidence that I will get a decent video out of it.

I was out for my regular late Tuesday afternoon railfanning and had the opportunity to fly my drone for two trains. I drove along the CN Sprague subdivision down to Dufresne, where I found this oil train inching along the siding.


Clearly they were “in the hole” in the siding waiting for a meet.

I’ve been considering whether I can fly my drone near the Dufresne grain elevator or not. There are rules about how close you can fly to vehicles and people (30m for my drone’s size), but also there are general ethical considerations. There are houses nearby and I don’t want to buzz around houses and bother people. So far I haven’t felt comfortable flying my drone in Dufresne… still thinking about this.

Anyway, I headed back toward Winnipeg, thinking that I might set up at the Lorette siding to see the train they were meeting. Also, I had a hard deadline so I couldn’t hang around Dufresne too long.

I spotted the eastbound train near Lorette siding, so I made a U-turn and drove back toward Dufresne to get far enough ahead of the eastbound so I could set up. I found a crossing and pulled off and parked, then raced to set up my ground camera and then get my drone in the air.

This was another case of trying to do too much at once and I didn’t lift off in time to catch the head end. In the photo above you can see my camera on a tripod in the ditch, and in the video below you’ll see the train go by as seen by the drone on the ground and the camera on the tripod.

CN 3169 was leading the train with CN 2824 as a mid-train DPU.

I do like the “picture in picture” format here. It gives sound to the drone – which doesn’t record sound – and it gives a different perspective.

Drone video

After that train passed, I considered whether I had time to wait for the oil train or not. I had “some” time but not a lot. I figured that if they got moving right away, I could catch them, but if they had to wait too long for the dispatcher to line the switches, I would have to leave.

It ended up being pretty close, but I had enough time. I had already packed up my ground video camera – to be ready to go as soon as the train passed – so this video has music instead of the “picture in picture” sound and video.

CN Oil Train from the air

As soon as that train passed, I put the drone away and hit the road for Winnipeg. I made my deadline with seconds to spare, so it was all good! I hate being late.

Just One More Thing

I’m going to write a review shortly, but you should order Bill Linley’s new book, Trackside Newfoundland. Check it out.

6 thoughts on “Two If By Air”

  1. Really like the in picture sound with the passing train in the first video! Great idea!
    I’d get a drone but I’m scared to fly!!!

    • The nice thing is that the drone does the flying! 😉

      Seriously, if you get a drone, take it slowly and cautiously. I’m pretty comfortable flying it now but I am very cautious around any power / telephone lines.


Leave a Comment