Thursday, May 3, 2018

Spring has arrived!

With Spring finally here in the Edmonton area, I've felt a little more motivated to start writing again. And what better to write about than a day trackside enjoying the weather.

It's May 3, 2018 and I'm up at the crack of dawn to shoot some trains, beginning in Spruce Grove where CN 2314 comes rolling through. The sunrise provided a nice backdrop for this shot.

CN 2314 under a rising sun. Spruce Grove, Alberta

After 2314 had passed, I  journeyed west to have a look at the double track work CN is doing between Spruce Grove and Carvel. There were workers at every crossing I stopped at, and I didn't want to get in the way so there are no pictures.

I can say that even just the tree clearing that has been done has opened up a number of new angles that were not available previously.

After checking on the work, I moved back eastward again to Spruce Grove. As I arrived, I heard CN 772 receive clearance through the double track work zone. Before long, CN 8827 was rolling onto the south track heading for Edmonton.

CN 8827 leads train 772 east through Spruce Grove, Alberta

CN 772 is an empty sand train that runs from the Grande Prairie, Alberta area to Wisconsin. This train had some freight tacked on the head-end as can be seen above.

Empty sand cars eastbound through Spruce Grove, Alberta

That was the first of three eastbound trains through Spruce Grove. The second would be mixed freight train 416 with CN 8952, and 2017 providing the power.

I attempted a shot across a field, but I'm not sure how much I like it.

CN 416 rolls eastbound along a field near Spruce Grove, Alberta

The third train, which was gaining ground on 416 quickly, was VIA 2 a.k.a. the Canadian. VIA 2 hit the mile 23 hotbox detector at 65 miles per hour, and then the mile 15 detector at 69! They were looking to make up time as they were already running 3 hours late.

A late VIA 2 speeds east through Spruce Grove, Alberta

I had to run home quickly to drive the Fiancee to work. When I got back out trackside, CN 419 was preparing to head north on the Westlock Subdivision. 419 runs Edmonton to Mclennan, Alberta by way of the Westlock and Slave Lake Subs.

For 419 I elected to find a new location that I hadn't seen anyone else shoot at. It required a bit of wandering through a field and the woods, but I found the location. And it paid off.

CN 419 crosses a wooden trestle north of Saint Albert, Alberta
Not bad! I'll be back.

419 would be meeting 590 at Morinville, and I had just enough time to get back to the car and head about a mile north to shoot 590 crossing highway 37.

CN 590 crosses highway 37 heading south to Edmonton

That was the end of my day, but hopefully it is the start of a good summer. This may also be the inspiration I need to start writing again.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Mainline Profile: Canadian Pacific's Weyburn Subdivision

I decided to try something a little different from I have been doing on YouTube. With lots of extra video sitting around from my time on the Weyburn Sub, it was time to put it to use.

The result is the below video profiling the subdivision from Pasqua to Roche Percee, with maps and commentary to help show the information.

For those unfamiliar with the Weyburn Sub, it stretches 160.8 miles from Pasqua, SK to North Portal on the American Border. It also acts as part of CP's mainline from Chicago to Vancouver.

Related reading:
Weyburn, SK Through the Eyes of a Railfan
Shortline Profile: Long Creek Railway

I hope you enjoy.

Friday, August 11, 2017

A Day with the Canada 150 Train

July 31, 2017 saw Canadian Pacific's Canada 150 Train roll into Edmonton. CP had posted on their website well in advance which day the train would arrive in the city. This provided plenty of time to plan out the day. One extra challenge was using public transit to get to the shots I wanted.

The Plan

Prior to heading out, I needed to decide on where to shoot the train entering and leaving the city.

One thing that I always tell myself is "Google is your friend". Google search, earth, maps, images, and YouTube (Google owns YouTube for those that don't know that) are great resources for finding the right location. Despite searching Google, watching a few videos, and browsing images, I decided to try some different spots. The first being Parson's Road under the Anthony Henday Drive for arrival, and the second being the 23 Ave overpass for the departure.

I chose the Anothony Henday for the northbound arrival as it looked to have a nice curve, and was easy to access from public transit (both from home, and the destination) by way of busses 23, and 78. It would also be an easy trip to the event at South Edmonton from here. Back on to bus 78, transfer to LRT, and then bus 4 directly to the event where I would meet the Fiancee with the car to enjoy some music, and getting up close with the train.

The second location was not as much of an issue to get to, as I would now have a vehicle. That being said, 23 Ave was an easy choice as I had scouted it out on Google Streetview a number of times before, but was waiting for the right train to shoot here. The overhead shot of a train with downtown looming in the background is what drew me here.

Executing the Plan

I woke up that morning with the basic plan in mind, but was also receiving updates on the trains location from a friend, as well as from the RailsAB Facebook group.

At 12:30 I was out the door to catch the first bus, and arrived well in advance. As I walked up to the first location at Parson's Road I noticed something I hadn't considered. A tall fence that lined the tracks. There's a reason I always try to carry my gorilla tripod in my bag, and I would use it if necessary. Luckily, the underpass had a flat concrete barrier which allowed me to set my video camera up almost perfectly for the shot (needed to angle it downward a bit with a spare battery).

After about an hour of waiting, the scanner finally picked up 40B - which is the ID the train was running with - talking to a foreman. They were close. Quickly, I got the video camera rolling, and made sure the settings were correct on my Canon Rebel XTI for the pictures.

2 minutes later, they came rolling around the corner.

Not bad!

As the tail passed me, I packed up and it was a quick 5 minutes walk back to the bus stop to get to the event location.

Upon arrival at South Edmonton, myself and a few others found that there would be no access to the event site until 16:45. Time to sit around, relax, and snap a few shots from the edge of the property.

The hour or so went by quickly, and we were granted access to the event. Where I grabbed a number of pictures of the train, as well as the concert.

Above: Performers get the crowd ready for Dean Brody to hit the stage.

Left: CP 1401 sits parked at South Edmonton.

 Above: A CP employee stops to chat with some members of the crowd before continuing his inspection of the train.

Left: People write their hope and dreams on the Spirit of Tomorrow Car.

Below: Dean Brody has finally taken the stage, and is putting on quite the show.

Alright, I've got the shots I had hoped for at the show, time to head to the 23 Ave overpass.

A quick 5 minute drive later, and I've parked at the McDonald's nearby and am walking up to the overpass. Upon arrival I noticed some power lines hanging over the tracks, and blocking part of the skyline. After a quick debate with myself over moving, I figure it is worth the shot, and I can use Lightroom to remove the lines later.

I'm glad I stuck around, as the finished product looks pretty nice!

That was all she wrote for my day with the train. It goes to show that things don't always go perfectly, but if you are prepared, you can make it work.

Enjoy the video below from the day showing shots from each location.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Thinking Out of the Box With Railway Photography

Myself, and a few friends had a conversation recently about the way we compose our shots. Mainly we spoke about lighting, framing, and editing.

That conversation got me thinking about writing this post, and how I compose my own shots. In the next few paragraphs I will try my best to explain how I think about, and execute my photos.


Lighting plays a huge role in the way your photos will turn out. When it comes to shooting trains, this one element can be difficult to get just right due to a number of factors, such as which direction a train is running, partly cloudy days where the sun is constantly in and out from behind the clouds, and back-lighting, among many other things.

Before picking a spot to shoot I will always try to think about where the sun would be if it were to come out. For example, if I'm planning to be out during the morning hours I try to find a spot that is good for eastbound trains, and shoot from the same side of the tracks as the sun. This way the sun lights up the entirety of any trains that may come along. Standing on the same side as the sun also means that if a westbound train does come rolling through, I have eliminated (for the most part) the threat of back-lighting.

The below shot is an example of a day where the clouds were constantly blocking the sun, but got out of the way just as a train approached. Had I not been thinking about where the sun was when choosing a spot, this shot may not have turned out as well as it did.

Sometimes you can't avoid back-lighting, and that's okay. Properly exposing, and doing some editing later can save those shots.

Take a look at the below picture. It is of the Canadian Pacific Holiday Train rolling north on the Leduc Subdivision. As you can see the sun is directly behind the train, but I've managed to save the image. I achieved this by shooting in manual, taking a number of practice shots until I found an exposure in which the foreground was properly lit. and then later editing the image in Lightroom.

You might ask "well what editing did you do?" and I would explain that aside from the average stuff, all I really did was deeply reduce the highlights and bring up the shadows and saturation.

Steve Boyko has a decent write up on what he does, and for the most part it is the same for me. Read his steps here.


When it comes to shooting trains, you may find yourself constantly shooting from the same angles over and over and over. I found myself doing this, and started to get bored. Instead of giving up the hobby, I tried to reinvent the way I shoot/frame my pictures. In doing so, I find myself enjoying the challenge of trying to find something different. I try to avoid the over shot areas, but if I can't I'm looking for a way to shoot it in a different way.

For example, in October I found myself in Florida at the Plant City viewing platform. If you look up photos from the location the majority are all from the same angles.

Upon arrival I explored around a bit, and found myself hoping for train to come along from the east to get a shot through the window on the lower level. The below train did not come from that direction, but had the locomotive pushing on the end, as they were reversing to service some businesses in the area.

Simply shooting through the window, and framing the train properly gave the photo that difference that I always hope to find.


When it comes to editing, it always comes down to what I personally think looks best. Everyone has their own style of editing. For myself, it is always about getting the colours to look proper by adjusting exposure, contrast, saturation, highlights, shadows, and a few others. Sounds easy enough, but sometimes it takes playing around with a number of different things to get that look.

I also try to put the train info, location, and date on the photo itself. I do this so that anyone viewing my pictures doesn't have to do a lot of searching to find out those things. A personal pet peeve is when there is little to no info given on a post. Put a little effort into your post, and give a description so that others know what they are looking at.

Having said all of this, I hope that others will take the time to develop their own styles. Think outside the box, and have fun. That is what it is all about.

Thanks for reading,

David Gray - Going Trackside

Thursday, January 26, 2017

First Day Trackside in 2017

First of all, happy new year to all of the readers here. Hope everyone had a great 2016, and here is to an amazing 2017

January 7 brought my first day trackside in 2017, and it didn't disappoint.

The day started as may others do for me, by dropping of the girlfriend at work in Spruce Grove. Today was a 9-5 shift for her, providing lots of time for me to be out. So, I decided to head west towards Wildwood, and explore a few locations I had spotted on Google Earth. 

The first stop was the Lobstick s-curve which is just east of Wildwood. I liked the look of this spot because the road crosses right in the middle of the s-curve, providing a curve shot in either direction.

The Lobstick S-Curve Crossing

Shortly after arriving here, I heard over the scanner that an eastbound would be coming soon. I quickly set up on the north side of the crossing, and before long CN 304 came speeding by.

Not a bad shot at all!

The opposite direction provided a nice going away angle as well.

304 would be meeting 105 at Evansburg, so I decided to relocate quickly into Wildwood itself.

Before long 105 came rolling into Wildwood with 2930 leading the way. The below shot would have turned out better had it been properly focused, but you can't win 'em all!

After 105, I knew there would be a bit of a break between trains, as they would likely have to do a meet at Leaman.

Taking this into consideration, I moved west and found another curve to shoot at Granada. This crossing is a few miles west of Wildwood.

Before long, I heard a horn in the distance, and CN 302 came around the corner with 2902 leading 2874. 

After 302 rolled by, it was time to start heading east again.

As I did so, I heard 302 meeting 119 at Evansburg. Knowing 119 wouldn't be long, I decided to try a shot of them with Chip Lake in the background.

Not bad, but would be better for an eastbound in the summer. I'll take it though.

It was a bit of a break between trains, as 111 was out there somewhere with engine troubles. I returned to the Lobstick location to wait.

About 30-40 minutes later 111 finally showed up with 2679 leading the long stacker.

Another nice curve shot for the day.

After 111 had passed, I received word from a friend that 843 would be coming shortly with 5412 leading the way. So I decided to stick around for them.

I waited, and waited.... finally a horn in the distance! But... from the wrong direction.

Turned out that 111 had a meet with 310 at Leaman. I quickly adjusted for a different angle, producing the below shot.

2100 leading! Nice!

They would be meeting 843 at Evansburg, so again I waited.

Finally 843 began blowing for the crossing east of me, and before long they were right there with a nice surprise trailing unit.

Definitely worth the wait.

After that I decided to head for home, but in doing so got ahead of 310 again. "Might as well shot them again" I said to myself.

I got to the Gainford and set up by the trestle, producing this shot.

You'll notice the burnt side of IC 2704 in this shot.

The final shot of the day came at Carvel as 310 once again rolled by.

As it began to get darker, that was it. Time to pick up Lauren from work.

Hope you enjoyed the journey. More to come this year.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

An Unplanned Chase

A foggy and overcast November 21st began with a plan to drop the girlfriend off at work in Spruce Grove, and then head back into Edmonton to shoot around the city. Having said goodbye and started back east, I took the 16A.

The 16A Passes over the CN Edson Sub just out side of Spruce Grove and here I saw a a headlight coming west. So, I quickly pulled off at the next crossing to get a shot. As the gates came down, I brought the camera up to shoot a side on shot. The train rushed by, and I saw IC 1001 leading CN 2574.

As the train continued to roll by me, I stopped for a second to make sure that the shots had turned out ok. Of course I had forgotten the focus was set to manual from a previous day! Not wanting to miss out on a decent picture, the chase was on!

Failed attempt at shooting IC 1001
Hopping back on the 16A westbound, I heard the train get a clearance through a foreman's limits in Spruce Grove. This clearance also told me that the train number was CN 301.

I made sure to get far enough ahead to be able to set up, and decided to pull into a road that dead-ends at the tracks between Carvel, and Duffield to shoot some pictures, and video (watch the video here).

As the train approached, I did some practice shots to make sure things were focused. They came closer, and closer, and.... oh crap my camera won't shoot now! A quick off and back on, and it was too late. They were by me.

Too late!
Once again determined not to be denied, I jumped in the car and headed west. This time I got to the trestle over the Trans Canada west of Gainford and set up for a shot of an eastbound train 102, which would be meeting 301, and 199 at Gainford.

After 102 had passed, I went to the next crossing to the west to get 301. Before long, I heard 301 give 102 the old "looking good on both sides" and call a clear signal at Gainford. Meaning they were once again coming west.

Soon enough they were within sight again, and I snapped some pictures without any problems this time.

Finally, I had what I wanted.

As the tail-end passed, I was back in the car heading east to shoot 199 beside the stopped 102.

I like the low down angle in this one.

After that I decided to head into Wabamun to try a few different angles there as well, but they didn't turn out how I had hoped and I decided that was the end of the day for me trackside.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Shortline Profile, Episode 3: Southern Rails Co-operative

Episode 3 of the Shortline Profile series bring us to the Southern Rails Co-Operative (SRC) south of Moose Jaw.

The SRC began operations in 1989 running over the former CN Avonlea Sub from Moose Jaw to Parry, as well as the former CP Colony from Rockglen to Killdeer. Today however, SRC operates only on the Avonlea Sub from Moose Jaw to Truax where the rails end.

We begin our journey along the shortline in Moose Jaw where the interchange with CN is located.

The photo to the right is looking at CN trackage. The tracks to the left are CN's interchange with CP, and straight is back to their own operations. Directly behind me would be the beginning of SRC tracks.

As you can tell from the first picture, it was a dreary, overcast day. Luckily the rain held off until I was finished for the day, so lets continue southbound.

The next stop was the trestle just on the outskirts on Moose Jaw. While from the below angle the bridge looks to be in a bit of disrepair, it does in fact still get used by the SRC. The low speed at which the line is operated makes this track ok for the SRC to pull their mainly grain trains over. I say mainly because they also pull a few tank cars, and on this visit they were storing potash cars

Not much farther south was another trestle which I stopped to snap a side shot of. This one is also quite impressive with its wooden support.

Our first village stop was at Briercrest, which is about a 47km drive from Moose Jaw. This little village was incorporated in 1912 housing approximately 100 people. Today, there are only a handful more people living in the village, but it is still home to two old grain elevators.

Both elevators here wear Briercrest Grain Limited marks, which according to their site moves Alpine Fertilizer, and Agrimaxx products.

The elevator pictured to the left is an ex Federal elevator, but did not appear to be in use anymore. Or at least not in a while.

The other elevator here was definitely still in use, but no one was around on this day, so I rolled down the service road to grab a few shots of it, and the equipment.

This elevator is an ex Sask Pool which, as you can tell from the picture below, has had a number of modifications made to it in order to move different products.

Continuing southeast now, we come to Avonlea. This small community is home to a number interesting items, including the Avonlea Heritage Museum.

Housed in an old railway station, this small museum is home to a number of railway related items, including an old caboose. As you may see in the picture to the right, the museum itself was closed on the day of my visit, so I quickly looked around before moving on.

After the quick stop at the museum, I went to check out the new unit that was on property in Avonlea. GMTX 2674 sat just south of the of the elevator, and had only arrived on the SRC the previous day.

Prior to arriving on SRC, GMTX 2674 had spent some time with the Great Sandhills railway. It didn't last long here either though, as it was seen a few weeks later in Edmonton.

Having shot the museum, and GMTX unit in Avonlea I decided to continue on to the next stop, Truax.

On my way to Truax I came across the potash cars that SCR had been storing. They don't travel south of Avonlea to Truax often (if at all), so these stored cars are out of the way of other operations on the line.

Moving into Truax itself, this small unicorperated community was once home to many businesses, but today is very much a ghost town. Truax may now be much smaller than it once was, but the elevator still stands here. It was built in 1964 and is now a heritage property, which hopefully means with will avoid any wrecking balls for a long time.

The end of track is located just on the southeast edge of Truax, and here I found some old maintenance of way equipment.

This was the end of my shots on the active SRC line, so I began to head home. Luckily for me that meant following the inactive portion of the CN Avonlea Sub southeast a bit more.

The first stop was Parry where the old elevator still stands, and some CN heritage shows on the old Parry sign nearby. Parry was much like many of the other small communities along this journey, in that in its day it would have been a much busier place.

The final stop of the day was Moreland, where the pictures can speak for themselves.