Visiting Stony Beach

The Stony Beach grain elevator

It has been a long time since I was in the Regina, Saskatchewan area… August 2015, I guess!

A member of my wife’s family passed away and we had to travel to Saskatchewan for the funeral. We spent a few days in Regina to attend the funeral in Moose Jaw, and to catch up with her extended family, who are scattered across the western provinces. It’s funny how weddings and funerals are where the family comes together.

Since we were there for a few days, I negotiated some time to go railfanning for two mornings. I had my eye on the former Saskatchewan Wheat Pool grain elevator in Stony Beach, as well as a few elevators relatively near to Regina. I had already been along the Stewart Southern Railway and photographed the elevators down to Stoughton, but there are plenty more near Regina to see.

I set out before sunrise, headed for Belle Plaine, Saskatchewan, then north to Stony Beach. The CP main line runs through Belle Plaine and they have a yard there to service the Mosaic potash mine. I spotted a pair of CP switchers working the yard.

CP 3031 and 3048 at Belle Plaine

It was still pretty dark, so I used ISO 3200, f/4.0 and 1/40s as my camera settings to get some kind of photo.

It was quite cold outside, below -20C, so many of my photos were taken from the car. Given the low light, I used the window’s edge or the side mirror as a “tripod” to rest the camera’s lens on for some stability so I could use low shutter speeds.

A short drive north from Belle Plaine brought me to the hamlet of Stony Beach.

Stony Beach

The grain elevator at Stony Beach

I really like that old wooden elevator. Those Saskatchewan Wheat Pool logos almost look new!

Stored grain cars at Stony Beach

Stony Beach is on the CN Central Butte subdivision between Regina and Moose Jaw. There’s a spur just west of here to the giant Mosaic potash solution mine at Belle Plaine.

I saw an old church and what might be an old railway section building in the town as well. I wrote a bit about it on the blog The View From Here.

Might be a railway building?
Might be a railway building?

After I was done taking photos there, I headed back south to the CP main line. I paused there to take photos of a new industry at Belle Plaine.

Ilta Grain

Ilta Grain and their locomotive
Ilta Grain and their locomotive

Ilta Grain completed this new state-of-the-art specialty crop cleaning and processing facility in late 2016. This is nearly identical to one near Saskatoon. Ilta purchased four facilities from Parkland Grain in early 2012 and Belle Plaine was their 7th.

Ilta Grain at Belle Plaine
Ilta Grain at Belle Plaine

They appear to “stuff” containers with product, as there are quite a few containers on site. Companies have been shipping specialty grain in containers for the past several years. CN is promoting it. I found this article from 2007 discussing the technique.

Unfortunately Ilta Grain went into receivership in mid 2019.

The Belle Plaine facility has a 120 car rail car loop and their own locomotive, HLCX 3839. Note the odd horn above the cab.

HLCX 3839 in Belle Plaine
HLCX 3839 in Belle Plaine

HLCX 3839 is a GP38-2, originally built as Conrail 8276 and wearing a blue “Operation Lifesaver” scheme. It was acquired by Helm sometime between 2006 and 2010 and painted into their generic solid red scheme.

After photographing the locomotive, I carried on west toward Moose Jaw.

Pasqua

The G3 grain elevator at Pasqua
The G3 grain elevator at Pasqua

I knew that G3, the company that used to be known as the Canadian Wheat Board, had built a new grain elevator near Pasqua. I took this photo of the Pasqua grain elevator from the highway. Note the grain cars in the loop track. They had a CP locomotive on them, presumably doing some loading.

I spotted an eastbound intermodal train, so I decided to turn around and chase it back toward Regina. My thought was to get it passing the grain elevator at Pense.

As I drove past Belle Plaine again, I saw a Union Pacific locomotive coupled to a CP locomotive in the yard. No time to get it!

Unfortunately for me, the highway was pretty slippery so I wasn’t able to safely drive at the speed limit. At a reduced speed, I made it to Pense not much before the train arrived. I parked and ran with my camera to try to get the elevator in the shot.

Alas, I didn’t have time to change lenses so I still had the “long” 70-200mm lens on. This didn’t allow me to get the elevator and train together, so I settled for a shot like this. It’s unfortunate that I caught it with the support for the safety lines right above the loco.

CP 8771 passing the Pense grain elevator
CP 8771 passing the Pense grain elevator

I panned the lead locomotive, CP 8771, as it went by.

CP 8771 at speed
CP 8771 at speed

As the train kept rolling past, I kept backing up to try to get the whole elevator in the shot. The mid-train locomotive, CP 8509, rolled by in a cloud of snow. By the time the tail end locomotive came into view, I was far enough back to get the elevator in.

CSX passing the Pense grain elevator
CSX passing the Pense grain elevator

The tail end locomotive was CSX 3445. This is a GE ET44AH, which is a lot of letters! (Evolution series, Tier 4, 4400 horsepower, AC traction, Heavy). According to Wikipedia, the “H” is a CSX-specific designation for locomotives that have very high tractive effort at low speeds.

I just liked how it looked in the blowing snow.

Snowy times for CSX 3445
Snowy times for CSX 3445

After the train passed, I walked back to my van. I dug into my pocket to get my car keys out…

No keys.

I checked my other pockets…

No keys.

I said a bad word, then tried to decide what I would do next. I had to be back in Regina by 10:30 AM and here I was in Pense at 9:30 with no car keys.

I tried to remain calm. I retraced my steps – easy enough in the fresh snow – and thank goodness, I found my keys.

Car keys in the snow
Car keys in the snow

I’m glad the snow wasn’t deeper!

Once I was back in my van, I figured I still had some time – provided I didn’t lose my keys – so I headed back to Belle Plaine to try to photograph that Union Pacific locomotive I saw earlier.

What’s UP in Belle Plaine?

By the bins
By the bins

When I arrived, the two locomotives were in motion, slowly rolling west through the yard. I went to a nearby crossing to photograph them as they passed.

UP 5527 at a rural crossing
UP 5527 at a rural crossing

They appeared to be backing onto a string of grain cars. There were quite a few people in safety vests on the ground observing. I think there were some trainee conductors in the mix as there were some green vests there. I didn’t linger and, out of respect for their privacy, I didn’t photograph the people there.

That was the end of the railfanning morning for me. I headed back to Regina to meet up with my family.

Just One More Thing

The life celebration for my wife’s grandmother, Helen Cooper, was very moving and there were a lot of laughs. I like that format a lot better than a traditional funeral. I think it’s better to celebrate someone’s life. Helen was quite a character. Here she was in 2009 listening to Lady Gaga with my youngest son.

Just wait to the next day of railfanning… a trip down the CP Weyburn subdivision!

5 thoughts on “Visiting Stony Beach”

  1. Great post, Steve – sorry for the loss in your family. I agree, it seems that funerals and weddings seem to bring the family together, despite the long distances.

    I’ll have to go and re-visit Stony Beach, the last time I stopped there was in 2015.

  2. I’ve had a few occasions where I have had to search a bit for my car keys after making a hasty exit from the car. Good that you found them.

  3. At Christmas, I recieved a pair of pants with zippered pockets. Ever since, I’ve been wearing them as much as possible when railfanning. With so much moving around and stuff, it’s so easy for things to fall out, so having pockets that close shut is really nice to have.

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