A Railfan Visits
 Swift Current, Saskatchewan

A trip to Saskatchewan in late June, 2015, afforded a chance to do—what else?—a bit of railfanning. It started with the journey along the Trans-Canada Highway from Winnipeg. For many kilometers along the way the highway parallels the Canadian Pacific Railway (CP) mainline and, in a few places in Manitoba, the Canadian National (CN) line. In some places, the tracks are very close to the highway. If you are lucky, you will come across trains in those places. I was not very lucky on this trip, seeing only a few trains up close.

Our destination was Swift Current, with a side trip to Saskatoon. Read more

Poetics of Place

I grew up in a neighborhood in the Bronx (the only part of New York City, as I always love to point out, that’s on the North American mainland) that was adjacent to the mainline of the New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad and its no longer active Van Ness yards. This was in the 1940s. As a little kid I’d take walks there with my father, and marvel at the trains, tracks, and rail-side and yard hardware—the signals, towers, cranes, etc.

Although our apartment was small by most anyone’s current standards, my parents managed to find room to somehow set up a small Lionel O -gauge layout for me and my brother. The engine had to be Santa Fe. Why? A little kid fixation I suppose. During the war my father’s business relocated him to Amarillo, Texas. He went ahead to get settled. My Mommy and I followed. We rode out on the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe (at least west out of Chicago) on the Super Chief. That catchy McGuire Sisters song was regularly on the radio too. These sorts of things stuck and sunk in. They still resonate to this day. For many of us who loved railroading from early on in life, those early experiences perpetuate some essential atoms of our childhood throughout the course of all our accumulated decades. Read more

A Trackside Photographer—Canadian Style!

Canadian Pacific #9371 traveling westbound between Ingolf, Ontario and Caddy Lake, Manitoba,. through the Canadian Shield.

This past New Year my wife and I took a vacation to the Whiteshell Provincial Park where we spent ten days in a cabin so that we would have two weeks to do nothing except relax and do all the stuff that we love to do in the Canadian wilderness.

The Whiteshell Provincial Park is located in the boreal forest of Eastern Manitoba, which is also part of the Canadian Shield named after the jagged granite terrain.

So to begin my story as a “Trackside Photogapher”, I find myself standing along a Canadian Pacific (CP) main line waiting for a westbound freight. Trains were on a holiday schedule, so I had some time between freights to think.  I ask myself and wonder what it’s like to be a Trackside Photographer in Kansas, or Virginia, or some of those cool places where there is so much more diverse landscape to capture. “Not sure”, I reply to myself, as I ponder in envy. But I am a Canadian Photographer on the prairies, and I endeavor to make my photography fresh and unique . . . so let me tell you how a good ol’ prairie boy makes his train photography unique. Read more

Grade Crossings

Several years ago, I lost patience waiting around for a train to photograph and started to pay more attention to the landscape that the tracks run through. I became absorbed in the things that surround the railroad, and that the railroad alters and defines as it passes through. So absorbed, in fact, that trains occasionally rumbled by un-photographed.

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The New River Gorge

Part Six

Approaching MP 365, looking track east about half-way between the town of Sandstone, West Virginia and Sandstone Falls.

Across the river from Thurmond, West Virginia, we continue our journey eastward along McKendree Road. After about two miles the road crosses the river at Stone Cliff. After crossing the river the road turns to dirt and gravel. At Stone Cliff camping is permitted and there are rest rooms but no shower facilities or electricity. A footpath from Stone Cliff up along the river is a nice area for spring wildflowers and after about one mile you come to Big Stony Creek which has some nice waterfalls when water flow is up (best time is in spring). I’ve never ventured beyond Big Stony Creek so I don’t know how far the path goes. Read more

Wheat Kings and Pretty Things

Lost in the land of living skies.

One day this spring,through a Facebook group, I was apprised that the local short line, Forty Mile Railway, had received empty grain hoppers from Canadian Pacific (CP) at their transfer track just east of Stirling on the former CP Stirling subdivision, and that Forty Mile would be moving the cars sometime the next day. After some text messages to my contacts in Foremost, it was confirmed around 8:00 am on Sunday (which was Mother’s Day) that the Forty Mile train would be heading east towards Foremost. After talking with my wife Becky, we agreed that I would get the morning to chase the train and then the afternoon I’d take her and our daughter Kayla out west to the Crowsnest Pass for a relaxing drive.

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