Wednesday, May 13, 2015

The Drive: Part III (Minneapolis - Weyburn)

After a quick overnight stay in Minneapolis, we continued on our way. This is the final, and longest leg of the trip to Weyburn from Ottawa.

The day, wasn't the best weather wise, as we drove through a snow storm from Minneapolis until almost to Fargo. After the storm cleared, the winds were roaring at what must have been at least 80 kilometres per hour. Not the best for railfanning, or driving to say the least.

Once we were west of Fargo, the BNSF northern mainline was within view of I-94, but the weather still wasn't favourable, and we wanted to make good time on the day, so that left me waiting to catch some trains (from the car) until we met the CP mainline near Carrington, North Dakota.

Once in Carrington, we did a quick driver swap, so that I could rest from driving, and take some pictures. It just so happened that where we pulled over to switch, ILSX 1328 was in view.

ISLX is the abbreviation of Independent Locomotive Services, and 1328 is an SD38 that now acts as the switcher for Central City Grain in Carrington. Prior to ISLX purchase, 1328 was PC 6935.

After snapping the above shot, we quickly got back on the road, and continued on.

It wasn't long until we came across some CP trains. The first was CP 198 parked just north of Harvey. 198 was lead by CP 9597, and had a mid train DPU in the form of CP 9823.

As we approached the tail end of 198, it was clear that there was an oil train sitting in the siding, waiting to move north, and was being lead by a BNSF unit!

BNSF 4672 on the head end of a northbound oil train. Harvey, ND

The next train was CP 6016 in the siding at Drake. 6016 in the "Pac-Man" scheme, was in control of a local train of a whole 2 cars.

Once north of Drake, we found out why 6016 was in the siding. They were waiting on CP 8738 south. 8738 was accompanied by 9677, and at this point the wind was kicking up quite a bit of snow and blowing it around as seen in one of the below shots.

That was the it for awhile, but not the last train on the day.

A few hours later, as we were beginning to get closer to the border crossing at Portal, I spotted a train parked in the distance. Using the digital zoom to its maximum (resulting in a not so great picture), a Norfolk Southern unit sits with another unknown unit. I could be wrong, but I am fairly sure these units were parked on the Western Sub of the Dakota, Missouri Valley, and Western Railway.

A few minutes later, we arrived at the border crossing back into Canada at Portal.

At this point, it was starting to get dark, but we got lucky with catching a northbound just as we were crossing over the CP Weyburn Sub at Estevan. CP 9814, CSX 4837, and CP 8857 were leading a northbound mixed freight. Not a bad catch for my first train in Saskatchewan!

That was it for trains that I could catch in picture form. We passed two other trains between Estevan, and Weyburn, but it was too dark to get pictures or numbers.

Our trip finally came to an end late on March 3, 2015. It was an interesting trip. Wish we had more time, but I am glad that I got to see what I did.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Abandoned Rails: CN Turtleford Sub

This is first instalment of "Abandoned Rails" on the Going Trackside Blog, and will feature the former CN Turtleford Sub in St. Walburg area, as I had visited some friends there in April 2015.

Former CN Station at St. walburg

The Turtleford Subdivision was a line that ran 77 miles from North Battleford to St. Walburg, Saskatchewan. Today, all that remains are 10 miles of track from North Battleford to Hamlin.

Lets start with a bit of history about the Turtleford Sub.

In 1919, the Canadian Northern Railway planned to extend into North Eastern Saskatchewan, but the planned routing took it 5 miles from the 1919 location of St. Walburg. The residents, knowing the value of having a railway in their town, packed up and moved to the present day town location. 1921 saw the completion of the railway into St. Walburg, and it became known as the Turtleford Sub.

Former routing of the Turtleford Sub (red). Current CN operations marked in orange

According to this article by Sean Pratt of the Western Producer, the Turtleford Sub hadn't seen a train since August of 2000, and April 2, 2002 marked the first train in nearly 2 years. The only reason that the line did see a train was because of farmers loading railway cars on their own. They did this because they felt that they shouldn't have to ship directly to the new concrete elevators to the south.

Prior to abandonment, the main customers shipping on the line were from the numerous grain elevators. After many of the elevators on the line closed, CN abandoned north of mile 10 in 2005. July of 2008 marked the end as CN began pulling up the rails no longer in use. A good source of pictures from the 2008 work is this website, showing the rail train at work.

Milepost 69
If you drive from North Battleford to St. Walburg, as I did in April, you will follow along the old right of way for the majority of the trip. It is interesting to note that although CN has torn up all the rails and ties, they left the old milepost markers in place. The highest marker that was within view of the road was mile 69 just north of Spruce Lake (photo on left).

As mentioned before, the subdivisions main customer was the numerous grain elevators. St. Walburg alone had three still standing in April. Below we will have a look at those three.

The first was the former Pioneer elevator which was the most northern on the line, and was located directly off of Railway Ave. This elevator wears the classic Pioneer orange, as seen on the right.

Also located on Railway Ave. was the next elevator in the form of the former Searle/Federal Elevator. The old circled S was still visible when I visited (as seen on the left). Here is a better view of the old elevator from 2008.

Finally, we come to the ex. Sask Pool elevator. The Sask Pool logo had been painted over, and just below where it used to be now showed "St. Walburg Agro Ltd.". This elevator looked as though it may still see some use, but at the time no one was around. Below is a shot from the former railway crossing on  highway 26.

After scouting out the areas elevators, I went back to the old railway station which I had past earlier in the day. 

This old building located on Railway Ave. was built in 1922, and closed in 1982. It is now a municipal heritage building, and used as a "chuckwagon interpretive centre". When I was there, the building wasn't open to see inside, so I took a walk around and got the shots below of the front (left), and west side (right) of the building.

Finally, a look back at the two elevators from the station, which are now sitting vacant, aside from the birds, mice, and old animals that likely now call them home

Extra content!

While exploring, I came across the former Bolney Spur which ran from Spruce Lake Junction to Paradise Hill, a length of 15.4 miles. The interesting point here is that the rails are still in place, and the road crossing has simply been paved over as seen in one of the pictures below. 

Looking east at highway 26

Looking west at highway 26