Sunday, January 27, 2008

No Train Saturday

Yesterday I went out in the hopes of stumbling across a couple trains like last Saturday. That was not the case this time. As I pulled out of the gas station, I made my way directly for Highway 549. As I drove across the crossing, I saw no lights in the distance. I would have liked to have had a scanner at that point, maybe I’ll go into town and by one today. No train, no worries. I’ll use this time to look for some picture locations. I knew of a couple from when I chased CPR 2816 Empress back in October.

So I continued on 549 until I came to a road just before cresting the hill. I should have paid more attention to what this road is called as it’s not named in my map book. I will call it “Unknown 1” for now. I drove down until I came to a driveway leading into a field. I parked the car and got out to take a few pictures of the area. This would be a great location for when the train is southbound. You can park the car and walk in closer to the tracks if need be. On to the second location I had in mind.

Highway 549 turns into Highway 582 after the turn, so I continued on until past 242nd Avenue. There isn’t much room to park your car here in the winter without worrying about getting stuck in the snow. This location favors the summer more or a snowless winter. At this location the sun favors the southbound train, but you could still get a nice picture of the northbound if you are not concerned about the sun. The northbound makes its way on a downhill ‘S’ which, if in the right position, could give you a really nice shot. On to the next photo opportunity location.

I headed north on 582, east on 226th Avenue and south on Pine Creek Road until I got to a crossing just before De Winton. I then turned north on 250th Avenue. This is a nice spot for when the sun is more into the later afternoon time frame or late morning early afternoon in the winter. There’s a spot to park the car a little further up. There is a nice flat shelf at a lower elevation than the road but it is higher than the tracks. I will definitely have to try this location. I wanted to try and get to the siding in De Winton, but the only road I could see heading toward the track looked like somebody’s driveway, so I continued to the next location.

So I made my way through De Winton and turned down this road that seemed to be a shortcut to 274th Avenue. Well I won’t be taking that road again any time soon. From where I was coming from it was a very narrow uphill drive. I wasn’t sure if a car was going to be flying over the hill and hit me dead on. Next time I’ll take the long way around.

At the forth location there are some good photo possibilities on a southbound train for just about any time of the day. You can position yourself to the east on 274th Avenue up the hill a little bit or to the west to catch the marsh in the foreground. If you go down Meridian Street, there’s a not too bad spot at the loop. The high ground to the west is more accessible than the east if you are looking for a far and wide shot. All in all, I like this location and I will have to make note to explore this area a little more. I also took this opportunity to check out and take some pictures of a switch.

After looking at my map book, the overall view showed the possibility of another couple locations along 306th Avenue. Once I arrived there, it was a different story. I wish I would have had a more detailed map of this area or even a print out from Google Earth would have given me some kind of idea as to the landscape. I drove to 3 dead ends and there were no easy possibilities here. After that I decided to head home.

Download the Google Earth kmz file.


Friday, January 25, 2008

Snow Storm Saturday Train

I braved last Saturday’s snow storm to go to Okotoks and fill up my car with gas before going to a company function later tonight. But first, I grabbed a coffee and bagel at Tim Hortons. After I left the Shell station, instead of turning right onto Riverside Gate to head back home, for some reason I decided to keep going east on South Railway Street up to Centre Avenue and probably east on Elizabeth Street to see how close I could get to the steel truss bridge, and then head home.

As I crossed over the grade crossing on Centre, I glanced down the tracks and as luck would have it, there was a train coming in from the west just before the crossing on Northridge Drive. Fast thinking had me turn down Daggatt Street to snap a shot of this train just after what I think used to be a small grain elevator in the past. To my surprise, this was a really short train. As I don’t yet own a scanner, I couldn’t monitor which train this was or where it was heading. Two power units, CP 9513 & 9808, and a bulkhead flatcar with a load of pipes went by at about 13:20. But where is the rest of the train? Before I get to that, back to finding out about the bridge.

I headed east on Daggatt, turned right onto, take a guess at what this street is called, North Railway Street and drove to the end. The bridge is still about a quarter mile down the tracks and the only way to get to it is to walk there. But with the snowy weather conditions, and the fact that I wasn’t prepared to go trudging through the snow, the shot from where I was would not have turned out. Now to go find the rest of the train!

I headed back west toward Highway 549 by way of Lineham Drive, South Railway Street and Northridge Drive in search of this “lost” train. I wasn’t sure how far it would be, but I was prepared to go as far as De Winton about 20 km north. As I came to the crossing on 549, I noticed the butt end of a gondola car. I arrived at another crossing not too far down the road and noticed that 7 cars were separated from the rest of the train to allow passage through the crossing. I went through the crossing and turned around. I grabbed a few photos of some of the cars here.

All I could do now was sit and wait until the power for this train came back to grab the rest of his load. So I grabbed a coffee at Tim Hortons and parked my car in the driveway of truck and RV wash bay that is right beside the tracks on Elizabeth Street. I reviewed my 2008 Calgary & Southern Alberta Street Guide Atlas to see if I could pick out some good locations in Calgary and other towns and read through some of the user guide for my new camera and proceeded to wait. Elizabeth turns into Highway 549 further down the road. I knew where I wanted to try my next couple shots, which was just down the road from me. The snow was still coming down pretty good.

Finally at about 15:30 I heard the horns blowing at another crossing further up. Time to move to my third location and get into position. This location is pretty nice as there are plenty of trees in the back you can get close proximity to the tracks and there is place to park you car across the road. There is also a hillside across the road which would be nice to get a higher angle, but it unfortunately fenced off. The train blew by at 15:35.

I drove back to my second location to grab some shots of the train hooking up the separated train back together and this is where the brown stuff hit the fan! As I was turning around as I did earlier, I drove ahead too far and my right front tire went over the edge just enough to say that I was good and stuck. Fortunately there was guy driving by on the main road that noticed I was stuck. His name was Nick and he was more than happy to pull me out just so he could test his new tow rope. Thank you Nick. The unfortunate part of this whole incident is that I was caught on the wrong side of the tracks and couldn’t get ahead of the train to grab a few snap shots down by the steel truss bridge in Okotoks. Oh well, better luck next time.

I was wondering if that load of pipe went to Alderside so I headed out that way. As I was driving down Highway 7, I saw the lights of a westbound train coming from Alderside. I pulled a u-turn in the middle of the highway and made my way back to my third location just west of Okotoks. CP engines 8521 and 5746, an AC4400CW and an SD40-2, passed by at
16:36. I then proceeded to make my way back toward Alderside.

Once I arrived at the crossing in Alderside, I noticed bulk flat car pipe load on the north side along with a cattle car on a siding. Further down the track to the south, some other cars on another siding. After taking some pictures here, I figured it was time to head back home as it was getting late and the light was failing. The salt melted roads were starting to freeze and would most like get very slippery. Needless to say, I didn’t go to my company function due to the worsening road conditions.

Google Earth kmz file.


Thursday, January 24, 2008

Lunch Time Train

I am fortunate that my place of work is beside a spur line that services a few local industries. Yesterday I was sitting at my desk when I heard the familiar sound of a train horn. At this point the train was about to cross 19th Street Southeast. So I hurried to dress up for the outdoors, grabbed my camera and walked up the hill.

At my first position I snapped a few shots of the train crossing Barlow Trail. One of the crew jumped out to align a switch I assume is used as a derail in case freight car comes rolling down the hill. You can see the switch in the third picture. After the crewman jumped off the train slowed to a very brief stop and then started to back up back down toward 19th Street. I have no clue why he did this as I don’t own a scanner yet to monitor any chatter. This is the first time I’ve ever noticed this happen before.

I decided to change position and crossed the street to try to get a better shot of it coming around the first bend. I would have stayed there to try to get a shot of him on the S but this time he was coming up the hill at a much faster pace then before and I had another position I wanted to try.

At the third position I was just shy of eye level with the engineer. I probably should have stood a bit further back to get a bit more angle and get a little more of 1567’s side. What can I say, I’m still pretty new at this. I also grabbed a few shots of a couple crewmen standing on the back deck of the caboose.

At about 3:45, they finally returned and I grabbed a couple shot from my desk of the cars they parked just before 19th Street. This is the first time I’ve ever noticed this as well. If you look to the right, the rugged sillouette in the background is the Rocky Mountains and to the left part of Calgary’s downtown’s core.

Google Earth kmz file.