Worth It

It had been a while since I took a photo of a train. A long while – about six weeks.

I just haven’t been inspired to go trackside. I’ve written about this before (It’s Been a While, Seasons of Interest).

However, on Christmas Eve I actually went trackside again.

My wife was working that day and I drove her to work for 8 AM. I planned to visit a local gluten-free bakery after it opened at 10, so that left me 2 hours to wait. I didn’t want to drive home so I brought my camera gear along and headed west to Diamond on the CN main line just outside Winnipeg.

It was bitterly cold outside (-25C plus wind chill) so I stayed in the van and watched the signals. They lit up soon after I arrived, and after a bit I figured out that a westbound train was approaching. I set up to record them coming out of the sunrise.

CN train at sunrise between railway signals

At 08:28 CN train G85341 24 passed through Diamond with CN 2327 leading. The second unit was one of the few BC Rail locomotives still roaming the system, blue BCOL 4650.

BC Rail locomotive

I had my phone on a tripod to record video. It conked out shortly afterward due to the cold, so it didn’t record the full train. Here’s the abbreviated video.

The crew acknowledged my presence by ringing the bell as they passed. I gave them a wave and retreated to my van until the tail end came by.

Tail end of train under a pink sky

I waited around for a few minutes, then headed north to the Canadian Pacific main line near Rosser. The signals were lit at Makwa, and I soon determined that there was a westbound train leaving Winnipeg.

I set up at the “standard” location just west of Makwa siding and captured CP train 101 rolling out of the sunrise in a swirl of sunshiney snow.

Snowy train coming out of sunrise with grain elevator in background
Snowy Canadian Pacific train at sunrise

I wanted to capture the grain elevators and the snow fence beside the track. I liked how the number boards were covered with a thin film of snow.

This unit had distributed power up the yin-yang. Four locomotives were spaced throughout the train: CP 8948 + 8761 + 8876 + 8509, all individual locomotives.

Canadian Pacific locomotive

CP 8876 is one of several* locomotives decorated for the 2010 Olympic Winter Games held in Vancouver. CP announced it in early 2007 and the units roamed the system with the Olympic logo proudly shown… until right after the Games ended, when they were hastily patched over. I guess the licensing agreement ran out.

* I recorded CP 8859, 8864, 8865, 8870, 8872, and 8876 with Olympic markings. There may have been more.

This time I stayed out to record the entire train, since the locomotives just kept on coming. My phone decided to stay on for the entire train and the video is here.

Tail end of container train in snow

It was 09:10 by this time, so I was starting to think about heading toward the store. I still had a bit of time, and a message from a good friend told me that an eastbound CN train was inbound. I elected to head back to the CN main line to catch it, then head to the store.

When I arrived at the CN line, I found the train quickly. It was making quite a show as it slammed through finger drifts**. I did a quick U-turn and headed to a spot where I thought there might be more drifts.

** for those who don’t experience snow on a regular basis, a finger drift is when the wind blows a thin stream of snow across a road (or track). It’s not a wide snow drift; just a “finger’s width”.

I parked at a quiet crossing (Harstone Road) and pointed my “long lens” down the track as the train came smashing toward me. The snow wasn’t super deep but it was making quite an impact.

CN train punching through snow drifts

I took a series of 17 shots as the train approached. Here are a few of the more dramatic ones.

CN train punching through snow drifts

THIS was worth being trackside for!

CN train punching through snow drifts

After the head end passed, I returned to my van and drove off to the store to do my shopping. I honestly couldn’t wait to get home to look at the photos on my computer but I forced myself to be patient.

Maybe I’ll have to go trackside more often when there’s a wind blowing…

10 thoughts on “Worth It”

  1. Your pictures of CN plowing through the finger drifts are amazing, Steve. Well done!

    To me, the picture of 2327 says ‘cold’.

  2. Lovely work, Steve. The exposure control on the snow is most impressive, and the low morning light is so attractive.

    • Thanks, Peter! I always shoot in manual mode now so I’m not (as) fooled by the exposure meter in the camera.

      I do love morning light.

  3. Thank you. CN 3087 shots are absolutely beautiful and really capture the Canadian winter.
    Well done, Steve. It was a worthwhile morning.

  4. What a wonderful series of photos. It just looks so cold. Maybe it’s the way the snow drifts are breaking apart? I don’t know.

    Glad to see you made it back out. Railfanning and photography are hobbies “of” us but because so they’ll move in and out of our lives like any other part of our living. It’s fascinating to return to them when we’ve been away isn’t it?

    • It was quite cold and quite windy too. I imagine there wasn’t much moisture in that snow, making it pretty brittle and easily blown.

      I agree they are hobbies “of” us… although I struggled with that when I first started losing my interest in railfanning ALL the time. It was a large part of my identity and I’ve had to adjust a bit to understand that being a railfan is not necessarily who I am – just something that I do.

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