Saturday, June 27, 2015

Shortline Profile, Episode 1: Stewart Southern Railway

After starting the Abandoned Rails series, I decided that I would do something similar, only for currently active shortlines.

The first profile will be that of the Stewart Southern Railway (SSR) which operates 132 km over the former Canadian Pacific Tyvan Subdivision.

GMTX 2219, and 2222 head south into Stoughton, May 2, 2015
The SSR began operations in 2010, when Blair Stewart and an investors group purchased the Tyvan Sub after CP put it up for abandonment.

Built in 1904, the Tyvan Sub was at one point the longest stretch of straight railway track in the world. It is now second only to a stretch of track in Australia

Prior to the purchase (not sure if this has changed since), the last major upgrade to the subdivision was in the 1980's when the line had 100 pound rail installed. Today it is still jointed track  from start to finish. And as you can tell in the below video, leads to some rocky trains.

MOW equipment working on the SSR in May 2015

Originally, the main commodity to be shipped on the Stewart Southern was grain, with potential for other customers to come on-line in the future. That didn't take long, as the oil sector growth in Stoughton, and surrounding areas grew quickly in the years following start-up.

In 2012, the Stoughton Oil Trans-loading facility opened, and began shipping by rail via the Stewart Southern. The oil is loaded into rail cars in Stoughton, shipped north-west to Regina, interchanged to CP, and then onto the final destination from there. I've heard that CP runs some of this oil east over the top of the Great Lakes on trains 550 (formerly 608), and returns them on 551 (formerly 609).

SSR power sits idle at the Stoughton Oil trans-loading facility.
As you can see in two of the above photos, Stewart Southern has mainly been operating with leased GMTX power. I've seen three pairs of units in operation. The first being 2222, and 2219. Second being 2237, and 2213. And thirdly 2212 paired with a number I haven't yet had the chance to see.

SSR is also home to some older power. SSR 1010, 4255, and 1009. These three units are old GE B23-7s. One of which still sports a Santa Fe paint scheme. Below they are seen sitting on the wye at Stoughton, which is the location of the former junction between Canadian Pacific's Tyvan, and the Kisbey Subs.

I have yet to see these units in action. Not sure if they do see any any more.

In May I did a quick trip from Stoughton to Francis on the SSR, snapping a few pictures of the elevators along the way.

Cars parked in Creelman. A cloud decided to pop up as I pulled in here for a shot.
Fillmore Seeds Inc. at Fillmore, SK
Another shot at Fillmore.
And finally the elevator at Francis

At just about every crossing, Stewart Southern likes to remind drivers that any time is train time,

Before our parting remarks, an interesting read from Pipeline News Suggested that perhaps Stoughton could one day be connected to Northgate, SK where Ceres Global Ag. is in the process of building a large trans-load facility for both grain products, and oil. The site is also connected directly to the BNSF for easy access to the U.S. The main reason the question is asked is because Ceres holds a 25 percent stake in the Stewart Southern. I may have  misread the article, but they seem to think that the old right of way runs directly from Northgate to Stoughton, but there is a gap of about 21 miles between the former Kisby Sub trackage south of Stoughton, and the former Northgate Spur at Lampman. I have shown this in the picture below. You can read the story here.

That's it for the Stewart Southern Railway for now, but expect to see more on them in the future, as they are only a 30 minute drive from Weyburn.


Ceres Global
The Western Producer

Thursday, June 11, 2015

A Journey to Lloydminster

On May 8, 2015 I found myself taking a trip to Lloydminster to meet up with some friends, and play a few rounds of golf.

On this trip I would be travelling alone, so I decided to take the "scenic route". The scenic route took me from Weyburn to Aylesbury, Saskatoon, Keppel, Biggar(didn't see any trains here), North Battleford, and onto Lloydminster

Departing Weyburn at around 11:00, it wasn't long before I came across a train.

As I drove north-west on highway 39, I passed a busy MOW crew working to the south-east of Yellow Grass. Shortly after, the scanner came to life, and told me that a work train would be coming south with CP 3104 in the lead. I made a quick stop in Yellow Grass, and waited for the work train which I could see coming in the distance, and it wasn't long before they rolled past me with five ballast cars in tow.

Later in the day, I learned that this train, and the MOW crew were working on repairing the tracks after a train had derailed overnight. Obviously it was not a serious derailment, as there was no sign of any derailment when I drove past, aside from the working crews.

Continuing on my way, the next stop was Aylesbury, which is located between Regina, and Saskatoon on highway 11.

Aylesbury is also home to the shops of the Last Mountain Railway (LMR), which is part of the MobilGrain family. The LMR runs from Regina to Davidson, and is home to some interesting power. Luckily for me, some of their units were parked in Aylesbury on this day. Below are some shots of the power.

M&ET 608
CP 5491, and 5493
MobilGrain 6901, and M&ET 604

It was a quick stop here, before I was on my way again. The next stop was to be CN near Saskatoon, since it had been awhile since I last shot a CN train!

Arriving at the CN crossing at Range Road 3051 just to the south of Saskatoon, I noticed lights in the distance to the east! A quick set up of the video camera was needed, and resulted in a decent shot of CN 2681, and BCOL 4650. Not a bad first catch of CN in a few months. I was in for a surprise though! As the tail end of CN 2681 west cleared, I heard a horn from the west. It was IC 2701 (in CN paint) leading an eastbound. Trailing IC 2701 was CN 5544, and acting as DPU was CN 8851.

It was starting to get a bit later in the day, and the main spot I wanted to get to was Keppel, so I hopped back in the car and headed west.

Keppel is located about 80 kilometres west of Saskatoon, and is also where the CN Watrous Sub parallels the CP Wilkie Sub.

I was lucky in that the ground was dry, as I wouldn't try and get into Keppel in my Ford Focus otherwise. The road to access Keppel is a narrow farmers road, and if wet, would likely be quite muddy and sticky. Below is a screen shot of the area.

As I arrived on scene, I grabbed my bag and tripods out of the car. As I was doing so, a horn echoed in the distance! I ran up the hill, did another quick set up, and within a few seconds CN 2123, and 2429 lead a potash train past me heading east. Bringing up the rear of the train as DPU was IC 2725.

CN is single track here, so I knew it would be a little while before a CN train would come west, and I had the scanner handy to get a heads up.

I also knew that it would be awhile before a CP train came along, as the drive from Saskatoon follows the CP Wilkie Sub for a good portion of the way, and there were no trains to be seen.

After waiting about an hour or so, the next train began to make its presence known with its distant horn. This time I would be prepared, and have the camcorder's rolling, and the camera ready.

A few minutes later, CN 2303 came rolling around the corner heading for points west. Trailing was CN 5406. Below is the picture, but you can watch the video here.

After the 2303 and its train passed, the signal on the right went green for a while, but changed back to red meaning a train was approaching.

I figured it would likely be CN 2681 again, and it was! This time I was ready for the shot, and believe it or not, had another perfect timing with CP 9739 west rounding the curve just as 2861 cleared view. (Video Here)

By the time CP 9739 had rolled past, I was getting hungry and decided to run into Biggar for something to eat, and then head north to CN's Prairie North Line (PNL).

North Battleford was the first stop on the PNL, which is a divisional point between the Aberdeen (to the east), and Blackfoot (to the west) Subs.

As I was driving into town, I heard 452 getting a clearance to head east. Unfortunately, I didn't want to head east because the ultimate destination was west. Fortunately, they were restricted to just out of town, where 453 would be meeting them. So, I quickly found a spot and waited for 453 to slowly roll into the yard with units 5546, and 5523 on the head-end (Video).

Now it was time to head for Lloydminster. I wasn't expecting to see any more trains, but would keep an eye out for some as the highway from North Battleford to Lloydminster parallels the CN Blackfoot Sub the majority of the way.

Sure enough, I got just to where the road and rail start to follow each other and along came IC 2718 (in CN paint) with 2243 trailing on a short eastbound train near Delmas.

I screwed up by not tightening the nob on my tripod, and it slowly tilted and messed up the video a bit. I managed to save the video by straightening it out as the tripod slowly leans. You may notice a bit of a shake when I noticed the problem just after the head end passes by.

As I got back on the road, I heard over the scanner that another train had given IC 2718 a roll-by inspection! Awesome!

So, I kept an eye out for this other train, and before I knew it I could see its tail-end. By time I got to the other side of Delmas, I was ahead of them and had set up and waited.

This is probably my favourite catch on the day, as well as the last.

Hope you enjoyed following along on this adventure. It was a great day out for sure.