VIA Coming and Going

This past weekend, I decided to make a point of recording the Winnipeg-Churchill train, both coming into Winnipeg and leaving from Winnipeg the next day. VIA 692 is the incoming (to Winnipeg) train and VIA 693 is the outgoing (to Churchill) train. Odd numbered trains go west, even go east.

VIA 692

Short but mighty
Short but mighty

A few of my railfan friends discussed whether to go photograph VIA 692. After it was determined that it had the “normal” locomotives powering it – not the “love the way” wraps – and no Park car, so Jim Burnside and I were the only two who ended up photographing it.

You may recall that Jim participated in the VIA 12 photographic explosion recently. He was out at the mile 21.87 signals on the Rivers subdivision. I had never been to that particular location, so we agreed to meet there to photograph VIA 692 coming into town.

The "Going Away" shot
The “Going Away” shot

I drove down the paved road to near Diamond at mile 14.4, then the gravel road to around mile 21, then the dirt road up to the crossing. That dirt road was a little… sketchy… with a lot of ridging. Since I drive a Honda Civic, there’s not a lot of ground clearance and you don’t want to risk bottoming out. Fortunately, the road was dry so it was passable.

Jim and I stood around and chatted at a social distance while waiting for the train. Soon the west facing light turned green and it was show time.

Once I saw the headlight in the distance, I launched my drone and sent it a little west to stay out of the cameras and also to be far enough away that the buzzing didn’t get picked up on the videos. Jim had his video camera pointed east to catch the “going away” shot with the sun on the tail of the train.

Here’s my video. Jim hasn’t posted his yet but I will include it when he does.

After the train passed, we both went home. I ended up recording a CN westbound train before getting all the way home.

Once home, I found that I had two unwelcome stowaways – ticks – but dealt with them and made sure I didn’t have any more. I am going to have to spray before going out on these excursions again!

VIA 693

VIA 693 on the way out of town
VIA 693 on the way out of town

For VIA 693 – the Churchill bound train – I decided to record it near mile 16, not quite so far west as the previous evening. The train left on time under brilliant sunshine.

One little wrinkle was that it was super windy. I don’t know what the wind speed was – I have this anemometer in my Amazon wish list – but it was pretty strong. And gusty.

Before the train arrived, I launched my drone to see how it would perform in the wind. It bobbed and weaved a bit, but it was producing stable video. DJI’s magic gimbal did good work to stabilize the image. I landed the drone and swapped batteries to ensure I had a fully charged battery for the train video.

As the train approached, I popped the drone up again and kept a very close eye on it. I kept it fairly low to the ground and not over anything valuable, so if it did crash, nothing but the drone would be damaged. Fortunately it handled the strong wind like a champ and performed well.

The lead photo of this post is one frame from the video below. That 4K video provides some great stills.

Once the train passed, I tried a few long distance shots with my camera but the heat haze really prevented me from getting any clear shots… also my camera kept wanting to focus on the close rails rather than the distant train. Oh well.

Here’s the very short video of the train passing. You can see me standing on the side road at the right in the video. Through the magic of Adobe Lightroom I erased myself, and my tripod, from the lead photo of this post.

The consist of VIA 692 and 693 was: VIA 6432, 6433, 8621, 8139, 8127, 8506, 8218.

But wait! There’s more!

Another VIA 12

VIA 12 after heavy editing
VIA 12 after heavy editing

Readers may recall that VIA ran a special “hospital train”, moving idled stainless steel cars from Vancouver and Jasper to Toronto and Montreal for inspection and maintenance. This train was designated VIA 12 and several railfans around Winnipeg were out to see it. Here’s my previous post.

Much to my surprise, VIA ran another VIA 12 train out of Vancouver. This one moved sleepers and coaches and didn’t include any Skyline or Park cars. That meant that this train had no domes at all… unusual around here!

My wife and I drove up in the evening of May 27 to catch VIA 12 coming into Winnipeg. Unfortunately I overestimated the time of arrival, and I spotted the train heading east while I was heading west out of the city. A quick U turn brought us in pursuit of the train, and fortunately we were able to overtake it before the track diverged from the road.

I parked and jumped out to grab several photos of the train rolling by. It’s not the angle I wanted but it’s what I had!

I tried to photograph every car, but some of my photos didn’t turn out at all. I did like the pan of the tail end car above, though.

The end of VIA 12
The end of VIA 12

The consist of this train was: 6438-6458-8329-8331-8130-8133-88213-88204-8312-8318-8338-8306-8342-8307-8314-8340-8341-8333. The two “88xxx” cars are Prestige class cars. In Winnipeg they added baggage car 8615 onto the tail end.

Even before this train, VIA Rail ran another VIA 12 train out of Winnipeg to clear out the cars stored at the Winnipeg Maintenance Centre. I don’t think any other railfans photographed that one, but I did see the train sitting at the WMC the evening that it left (May 21). The train left late that night.

Waterton Park in the Fort Rouge yard in Winnipeg
Waterton Park in the Fort Rouge yard in Winnipeg

That train had VIA 6428 / 6421 / 6451 / 8211 / 8510 / 8205 / 8335 / 8600 / 8125 / 8212 / 8707 / 8221 / 8415 / 8612 / 8103 / 8119 / 8504 / 8228 / 8620 / 8120 / 8505 / 8201 / 8122 / 8704 / 8717. Waterton Park above is VIA 8717.

Just One More Thing

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the demonstrations and riots sparked by the murder of George Floyd. As a white dude living in Canada, I really have no standing to say anything about this other than I hope that it can come to a peaceful resolution and lead to a real improvement in race relations, soon.

I’ve been reading and reading, trying to learn more. Here are a few people I have been following:

  • Rachel Cargle
  • Check Your Privilege
  • Natalie Bell (here in Winnipeg!)
  • Ibram X. Kendi

Please chime in and recommend other resources.

2 thoughts on “VIA Coming and Going”

  1. Mark Sampson and I had a discussion about what this train should be called. Previous ‘hospital trains’ carried equipment headed to the hospital (shop) for treatment (repair), while these empty cars were being repositioned. ‘Deadhead equipment move’ might be more appropriate.

    I’ve been more vocal than usual on Facebook re: the current political situation south of here. Solid leadership is needed.

    Thanks for sharing, Steve.


    • Perhaps a “deadhead equipment move” is more appropriate, but given the rumours about corrosion in the stainless steel equipment, “hospital train” might be appropriate after all!

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