Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Just Observed!

Just finished! Portage la Prairie! It only took thirty-some years, but I collected and collated my trackside observations from Portage. There are GMD1s, CP F-units on freight (above), grain train consists, lumber trains, VIA trains and so much neat stuff!

I've got dates, times, locomotive consists, car counts, caboose numbers. Organized. These will fit very nicely in this upcoming project, accompanied by photos.

Look up, look way up.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Grain Cars!

Canada's unique grain car fleet. Often-photographed but seldom written-about.

Tired, old 60-ton boxcars to more modern, cylindrical Coke can covered hoppers (both shown at Westbourne, Manitoba in 1984 - above photo) these steel servants purveyed Canada's golden grain harvest away and abroad.

The 1970's and 1980's saw the end to destitute denizens of elevator tracks across the West. Desperate for cars, the Government of Canada entered the market with cylindricals in brown, yellow and aluminum. I can remember when grain trains were unbroken strings of cylindricals. I'm now compiling some consists, reviewing some rosters and preparing to peruse some photos. 

One simply can't separate grain elevators from Prairie branchlines from the grain car fleet. They were inter-dependent and interesting. At least they are to the ten people that are going to 'get' this project. Okay, maybe eleven. Could one of them be you?

Look up, look way up.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Oh to have explored Canada's Prairies back then

I see photos like these being posted on Facebook. I read the comments that say "Oh to have explored Canada's prairies back then". It's then that I realize I'm on the right track with this Trains and Grains project. Right where I need to be. The sweet spot.

How can such a recent era be so forgotten due to being under-documented? Actually, very easily.
Aluminum hoppers and Standard, Alberta harvesting.
Look up, look way up.

Saturday, October 14, 2017


As I parked my rented Chevy Cavalier in the shade of the former CN water tower in Wartime, Saskatchewan in 1986, I realized I was fortunate to be in a very special place. The area around Saskatoon was dotted with a plethora of pastoral prairie scenes, with every horizon down the road hosting another approaching elevator town, still rail-served at the time. And I was able to go and explore them!

It's that feeling that I'm trying to recapture more than thirty years later. But it's never too late, is it?

Now that our warm autumn is upon us, it's time to set to work on this project. I'm currently gathering source material and deciding what the reach will be. Wide and encompassing, or perhaps a tighter focus.  

Look up, look way up.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Project Proposal

So by now you know that my fall and winter project has two main subjects. One is trains. They've been around for a hundred and fifty years in Canada's West. Shortly after they appeared, and as soon as the farmers arrived and got seed in the soil, they needed a place to store that grain. Google 'Niverville' sometime if you like.

Jason Paul Sailer knows a thing or two about Western Canadian architecture. He was curious about this blog, as I still am. What will it become?

Well, look no farther than the peaceful hamlet of Meadows, Manitoba. Ever-more peaceful now that the elevator there has been demolished. Kevin Siemens covered it in The Trackside Photographer. Meadows' was flattened in July, 2017. 

Waaaaaay back in 1984, I happened across Meadows (top photo). At that time, I was circling Portage la Prairie looking for elevators to photograph. It was apparent the end was in sight for the Western Canadian grain handling system as we knew it.

Now other folks are doing the circling. Here are some of the challenges they face:
  • Wooden elevators have gone the way of Meadows'
  • Wooden elevators that survive are no longer rail-served
  • Wooden elevators that survive are privately-owned, not Pool-owned
  • The Pools became legally ashamed of their wooden elevators and couldn't get their logos painted out fast enough to avert potential liability.
I am of an age that remembers wooden elevators proudly in service. And the trains that served them. Hence, trains and grains. It's just a matter of preserving the past. And how.

Look up, look way up.

Coming soon

Watch this space for an exciting new fall/winter project.