Wednesday, May 27, 2009

CN & CP serve Portage la Prairie's Manitoba Pool 'B' grain elevator

The Manitoba Pool 'B' grain elevator in Portage la Prairie (middle above) was a single elevator served by two railways, CN and CP. Each railway had a spur, with CP's on the north side and CN on the south. An earlier photo shows the Cominco Elephant fertilizer elevator, Portage Pool 'A' and Portage Pool 'B':
Built in 1961, with an annex built in 1975, the 4800-tonne capacity elevator was relatively modern. Located across from CN's Portage station, the elevator made a natural backdrop for train photos taken from any side. An eastbound CP grain train passes on its north side in August, 1978:

Shortly thereafter, CN 5104 passes on the south side, westbound. CN sometimes loaded boxcars. Notice the wooden grain doors used for boxcar loading, stacked between the hydro pole and the dust collector bins:

In 1984, a 101-car three-unit CN freight with 5560-9169-9192 passes south of Pool 'B' and underneath the Skyview bridge, which afforded a good view of three sides of the elevator.

Up on the Skyview bridge in 1981, a top view of CNWX covered hoppers (front to rear) 100191 - 108218 - 395121 being loaded. CN engines 1353 - 1354 had just lifted two other cars from the elevator track, a Saskatchewan Grain Car Corporation car and a CNWX silver-and-yellow car just visible at top right, being pushed back towards CN's Portage yard:

In 1979, a CP freight rumbles by with SD's 5536 - 5518 - 5717 - 5758 - and M-630 4568 for power. Pool 'B' was located across from CP's Portage section car sheds:

One drawback to the elevator's central location in town was just that - its central location. Farmers trucked their grain through town, when momentum was already shifting to larger trucks unloaded at larger elevators, located outside town.

An eastbound CP freight passes as three Canadian Wheat Board covered hoppers, CNWX 395552 - 396753 - 396491 are loaded on the CN side:

Here's a view of CP's loading spur, guarded by a classic CP target switchstand. The spur was on a switchback that also served Engro fertilizer, and a small CP freight loading platform, as a CP freight behind 8807 - 4431 - 8493 trundles toward Winnipeg in 1981:


Unfortunately, a fire started at the base of the elevator on Sunday morning, September 30, 1984. Portage's five fire trucks responded, as well as trucks from Carberry and CFB Portage. The fire resulted in $1.75 million in damages, and the loss of the structure:
The elevator's proximity to CP's mainlines caused problems for passing CP trains - heat stress to the rail and grain spillage onto the tracks as the fire spread, and gravity drew the grain downwards. Winds blew burning embers toward the CN station, which received minor damage. By 1986, there's no trace of the elevator behind the trees, as an eastbound CP grain train heads east behind 6041 - 5965. A shout-out to my homeys in Gladstone who spray painted "GRAD 85 GLADSTONE" on that car:

Ironically, Portage Pool 'A' built in 1951 burned on September 9, 1982. Not to worry, Manitoba Pool Elevators was busy building new elevators outside Portage, on CP at Burnside to the west (below), Westroc to the north, and Tucker to the east.


In 1994, the westbound VIA Canadian departs Portage at dusk. A lone cyclist but no Portage 'B' witness its departure in this L.C. Gagnon photo:
Running extra...
I discovered this grain elevator blog today, which has some interesting photography and effects:
Just finished Jeff Shaara's Civil War Battlefields - Discovering America's Hallowed Ground on CD. After the war, several famous artists painted Cycloramas, circular paintings of famous battles such as Second Bull Run and Gettysburg, designed to overwhelm viewers with vivid detail of historical events. This Pool 'B' post also provides a sort of circular view of the elevator a few years before its demise.
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Next up on the listening list, W.O. Mitchell's classic 1947 novel Who has Seen the Wind, set in southern Saskatchewan during the years of drought and depression. Mitchell captures not only the sweep of the prairie and the loneliness of skies scoured by unending wind, but the varied richness of human nature and the strength of the human spirit. An excerpt: "My Dad's a conductor," Forbsie said, "on the C.P.R. He has got silver buttons."

Saturday, May 16, 2009

CN's Cataraqui Spur, Part 2


CN's Cataraqui Spur continues (see Part 1 here)heading south from Bath Road, through conservation area wetlands. Snowplow service-equipped 4510 pushes covered hopper NAHX 43590 - tank cars DOCX 23507 - DOCX 23501 -transfer caboose 76555 towards Lake Ontario, having just crossed Bath Road in July, 1979. A siding, since lifted, was on the lower part of this segment of the spur, and was used as a run-around track by crews switching the lakeside industries. Stored ballast cars fill the siding in February, 1989:

Here just above Front Road, the spur branched to DuPont and the other industry along the lake: the now-demolished Canada Steamship Lines transfer grain elevator. New Canadian Wheat Board CNWX covered hoppers are at the elevator in early 1981:


In 1984, the rails to the elevator are coated in rust. CSL ships Hochelaga, Nipigon Bay, Metis and T.R. McLagan are laid up, and the Whitefish Bay is at the working side of the elevator.

In February, 1989, 3640 pushes a six-car train towards the sunset, across the third trestle on the spur. The DuPont plant looms in the background. A typical consist includes tank cars of hexamethylene diamine, and covered hoppers of adipic acid. With some exceptions, these cars were in captive service between Kingston and the sister plant in Maitland, which produced chemicals used in Kingston.




Flashing lights were added at the King Street crossing in early June, 1996. The deck of this trestle was replaced in a blitz by a crew of 50 workers and two cranes in July, 1999:

In early 1985, 3732 has a 12-car train in front of the plant, ready to head north to the Kingston Sub. Front Road is in the background. Within 15 minutes, the train will be at the mainline switch.

In January, 1994, 4121 and 4118 are deep in the DuPont plant lifting empty tank cars. Due to plant expansion, this track was removed, and a new unloading track laid east of the plant. A typical consist in February, 1990: 4122 - NCHX 43550 - NCHX 43590 - NCHX 43515 - NCHX 43509 - NAHX 455029 - NAHX 455375 - NCHX 43580 - DOCX 23506 - DOCX 23502 - PROX 73710 - 19537.

On January 25, 2008, CN No 590's consist was 7001 - 4789 - AEX 8755 - ACFX 58568 - PROX 73728 - DOCX 23501 - DOCX 23506 - DOCX 23504. Now that the plant is owned by Invista, reporting cars on tank cars are INVX. To show how captive these cars were, here's a hazmat response form from 1981 for 73728:


A 1967 photo of the elevator shows several ships docked by a Canadian Steamship Lines strike, looks north. The Cataraqui Spur can be seen middle top of photo, then splitting to DuPont and the elevator, past the large range light. (Photo from CSL files at Marine Museum of the Great Lakes, Kingston)
A 1930's colourized postcard view of the elevator looking east:

Loose Caboose postscript: The May, 1986 UCRS Newsletter included a Brian Schuff photo of CP 437010, one of the train-order signal vans profiled in an earlier post. During the installation of CWR on the Carberry Sub west of Winnipeg, 437010 was used to protect a work train near Rosser, Manitoba. 437010 and 437188 were retired in February, 1991. 437010 is preserved in Winnipeg Beach, and 437188 was sold for preservation in Saskatchewan.
Running Extra...
Scott Duffus' Prince Rupert Rail Images has joined Trackside Treasure's blog roll. Another fine source of railway information from BC and the Pacific Northwest, to Alberta and New Brunswick, plus the model railway scene. Be sure to check out the photos Scott posted in early May, showing what happens when a cut of grain cars gets pushed through an enginehouse.
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So VIA is going to upgrade the LRC car fleet. Think they'll retrofit the boarding steps to their original hydraulic operation, from their current "clunk" when the train arrives in the station and the doors slide open? Makes one long for the days of Dutch doors and sprung traps.
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Finally watched Oscar-winning film "Slumdog Millionaire"...watch the movie, stay for the credits. Massive Bollywood choreographed dance number on platform of Mumbai railway station. Two thumbs up!


Saturday, May 2, 2009

Springtime in Shannonville

Trackside treasure...today. A sunny spring day in Shannonville, Ontario just east of Belleville, where CN's Kingston Sub and CP's Belleville Sub are only a tire squealin' acceleration away from each other. There's nothing 'retro' about this railfan report, it's as new as the buds on the trees.
Just missed a CN westbound, then a CP 5-unit westbound, No 115 with leader 8702. No 115 was meeting No 158 from Detroit at Belleville, so I waited and listened as this eastbound intermodal approached.
8857-9558 and slew of sea containers sail across Shannonville Road. No 235 is waiting in Lonsdale siding, just around the next curve. Once No 158 calls the signals at Lonsdale and greets the westbound's crew, the detector decrees, "CP Detector Mile eighty two point one Belleville Sub temperature fourteen degrees total axles two seven six no alarms message complete." 5857-5642 have grain cars and auto racks in tow heading for Toronto. And that is a multimark, not a Pac-man.


CN No 149 is a few miles from Belleville, but the yardmaster is already planning a move to lift 14 cars of aluminum ingots from the yard. 2666-2694 are hauling lots of MSC containers, about to enter a curve that will lead them under CP's main as it heads south to the Bay of Quinte at Belleville, and CN becomes the northerly of the two mainlines.


The cans seem to float on last year's dead grass. The barking dog at the neighbouring house can no longer be heard announcing my presence, as the train squeals and rumbles through the curve.

My Tim Horton's coffee is forgotten as a westbound train of grain empties pulls into the south side of Belleville yard. 5796 soloes with a string of innumberable covered hoppers. I counted 70 CN, ALNX, CNWX, CNA, IC, BCOL, USLX, HS, DWC and SKNX before the train slid to a halt, its tail-end hanging out past the former yard office at extreme right, and the crew left in a taxi. The yard was awash with stored auto racks and gons. A yard extra was trimming cars deep in the yard somewhere with 4140.

One of the first brown-and-yellow government grain cars, CNWX 100007 bears a build date of 12-72. It bears the scars of a sideswipe or two, the indignities of graffiti and those yellow trucker strips, but still retains its ACI label years later.


CN 382481, graduate of Marine Industries class of '81 is unrepentantly and simply CN, no website address or reflectorized strips, but it's as rusty as a Ford fender.


Only the keenest rolling stock fan would know the pedigree of this car, baby-blue DWC 384896. The Duluth, Winnipeg & Pacific still exists, if only as a set of potential reporting marks.


It was a super day to be trackside, watching CN and CP move freight. The front lawn grew a little longer at home, but first things first. Enough of the present, we will now return to our regularly-scheduled retro-ness.