A variety of flight delays put us on the Canadian prairie later than we would have liked. After clearing customs we headed west from Winnipeg to Portage La Prairie, Manitoba, where we caught an eastbound Canadian National train in the setting sun on August 22, 2013.
Welcome to Photo Line! There is no place quite like the Canadian prairie with its mix of stack trains set against the backdrop of vanishing wooden grain elevators. On August 22, 2013, I headed to Winnipeg with my friend George Pitarys and my brother Bruce with an agenda focusing on short lines and branch lines wherever possible. Over dinner it was our ritual to pick "The Shot Of the Day" (TSOD), recounting the day's activities. Enjoy my picks for TSOD as we explore railroading north of the border.
Cranberry Portage, Manitoba
Our big goal for the day was the mixed train operated by the Keewatin Railway north from The Pas. A long deadhead move had us heading to intercept the southbound train at Cranberry Portage well before its scheduled arrival at 1700h. Alas, the train shot by us south of the station at 1545h, well ahead of schedule. We were fortunate not to miss him in the woods. We bagged this shot near Goose Lake just south of Cranberry Portage on August 23, 2013.
After returning from the deep woods of upper Manitoba we followed the Canadian Pacific main line west towards Saskatchewan. We picked up a westbound train in the early afternoon and bagged it a few times, including passing the former Saskatchewan Wheat Pool elevator at Punnichy on August 24, 2013.
It's hard to turn down shots of grain elevators and trains. The morning of August 25 found us along the Canadian National main line at Bradwell, where a wet summer has kept the wildflowers in bloom near the former Wheat Pool elevator.
Our goal for this day was the Last Mountain Railroad operated by MobilGrain. After stopping at the office in Bethune we were told there would be no trains this day. But as we sat in the parking lot pondering our next move, a crew came out, tossed their grips on the train, fired up the nifty SD40-2 and headed north to Chamberlain to work the former Wheat Pool elevator on August 26, 2013. And to think we almost left just a few seconds too early...
Not tiring of grain elevators, we made them our target once again as we got information of a train lifting 112 grain cars from the large elevator at the north end of Canadian Pacific's Outlook Subdivision. We got to Loreburn at the same time as the light engines. We watched as they switched four cuts of 28 cars each, putting one unit at midtrain and one on the head end. The southbound chase included getting the train passing the Wheat Pool elevator (complete with the Pool logo) at Elbow on August 27, 2013. This elevator is now a museum.
Stony Beach, Saskatchewan
Two of the best shots of the trip happened on the same day, and we allowed two first place votes to accommodate the situation. After breaking off from the Outlook Sub we headed over to Canadian National's Central Butte Sub and the classic elevator at Stony Beach. A day earlier we had missed the one train a day here by 15 minutes at 1545h. Today we arrived at 1530h and the dirt grade crossing showed no evidence of a train having yet run. We decided to wait it out until dark. Some three hours later we heard the train leaving Regina on the scanner, and it covered the 22 miles to us in just under an hour. After a four hour wait, we bagged this shot just five minutes before the sun vanished for the day on August 27, 2013.
Another short line was on tap for this day, this time the Stewart Southern heading southeast from Regina. We were a bit disappointed to see a GP15D on the point (we saw the railroad's entire roster over the course of the day, including the other GP15D's, and this one was the only locomotive on the entire roster not lettered). Nonetheless, we chased the train almost to the end of its run on August 28, 2013. We had to wonder, though, if these GP15D's that we didn't care much for today would become the BL2s or C415s of tomorrow.
We returned to the Canadian National main line in the afternoon on this day, as both the eastbound and westbound VIA Rail Canadians would be running. We caught Train No. 2 with its stainless Budd-built beauty gleaming in the setting sun in the Manitoba prairie town that shares a name with Railfan & Railroad's headquarters. What a wonderful way to wrap up our trip, celebrating 25 years of adventures north of the border.