Sunday, February 13, 2011

Trackside Modelling Portage la Prairie 1984

Portage la Prairie, Manitoba is a railfan hotspot. The confluence of CN and CP mainlines means a high frequency of trains. Are you interested in modelling Portage and its railways in scale? In 1984, I was modelling Manitoba in HO scale. While railfanning there, I snapped some additional trackside photos to allow more faithful reproduction of various elements in the Portage scene. Most important - the trains. Instead of building just a static diorama, this was a dynamic environment through which trains passed. In 1984, SD40's and SD40-2's ruled. GP38-2's, GP40-2's, GP9's and F's were powering trains. A 103-car CP coal train behind 5791-5795 pounds the west switch for the VIA connecting track between CP's Carberry Sub and CN's Rivers Sub, which was used by VIA trains to switch to CN tracks between Portage and Winnipeg (above) DETAILS: switch heater, signal bungalow, tan-coloured gravel and ballast, tilled field. With CP's Carberry and Minnedosa Subs to the west, Portage could see multiple CP trains at once. 6053-5809-3017 wait with a 67-car general freight for the Carberry Sub, while 8626-8806 wait with 31 ballast cars for the Minnedosa Sub. They're waiting for VIA No 2 to switch from CP to CN at West Tower. CN trains on the Gladstone and Rivers Subs to the west meant multiple CN trains too. DETAILS: switching lead and mainline rail, Mitsui OSK containers.
CN allowed farmers to load grain cars across from the CN station. A maple-leaf boxcar is spotted on the team track as 5213-5209 grind by with an eastbound (above). Running behind the boxcar, Pacific Avenue was the best route to view the action. Note the agent's car parked in front of the operator's bay on the platform. Engro Fertilizers, part of Esso/Imperial Oil operated a fertilizer shed served by CP. CN or CP fertilizer cars were unloaded by an under-track conveyor. Here, a FBH Transport truck is loaded by conveyor (below). DETAILS: Agent's pickup truck, switch stand, crossbucks, Portage water tower in background.
This speeder shed is located on the ladder track to CN's yard. From here, section forces could putt-putt out to inspect and repair track. These days it's a big ol' hirail truck. Yellow CP insulated boxcars are visible in CP's yard in the background. DETAILS: speeder, track signs, smokejack on shed, run-out rails, bench along front wall.
Behind the speeder shed, Co-op also had a fertilizer shed, served by a CN spur, just east of Third St beside CN's team track unloading ramp and welding crew office cars. This Quonset hut has a weathered look. DETAILS: shrubs, CN timber ramp, wooden outfit cars, shed vents and cupola, CP station and train-order board (far left).
West of town, Co-op had a bulk fuel facility served by another CN spur. A good place to mix tank cars and tank trucks. DETAILS: Co-op logo, ladder and cage to tanks.
The Esso dealership east of Third St was located next to Shell and Texaco dealerships, all in a row and served at one time by a CN spur. DETAILS: old and new signage, steps and pumps on loading dock.
A view of Esso's oil tanks, with fuel truck ready to go at loading platform. Rural service fuel trucks had a rack on the back to hold drums of fuel or lubricants. DETAILS: yard light, berm around tanks, lots of poles and wires.
I parked in front of Tony's to get this photo of the "down by the tracks" flavour. Texaco buildings at left are clad with tin. Both CN and CP have yards and wyes east of here. CP had a team track and yard switcher storage tracks, plus spur off wye to McCallister Pea & Seed. Then it's double-track on both railways into Winnipeg. DETAILS: pickup trucks...lots of pickup trucks, Shell Farm Service sign, painted concrete curbs, Coke signs.
At the Engro fertilizer shed, these pull-type fertilizer spreaders were among four ready for use by area farmers. Covered hoppers behind them were loaded at Portage Pool 'B' which was served by both CN and CP. DETAILS: weathering, crooked telegraph pole cross-arm.

There were lots of other unique vehicles seen on Portage-area roads that were ideal candidates for modelling. New Chevy grain truck for sale at Portage Leisure & Truck Sales:
A Manitoba Telephone System truck is at the scene of construction along Saskatchewan Avenue. DETAILS: mix of old and new building styles and signage.
Here's a schematic of CN and CP trackage west of the stations to West Tower. CP often spotted outfit cars in the yard trackage west of the Skyview Bridge, as did CN in the spur near the UGG elevator, as well as in the CN yard. CP trains could use either main or either lead to get through town. CN trains could also get to their yard from the lead track. Both railways interchanged in the yard, often switched by westward trains, although eastbounds also worked the yards.
Trackside Treasure's recent poll showed that 78% of readers who responded would rather be trackside in Portage in 1984, 14% in 1959 at the end of steam, 7% earlier and perhaps not surprisingly, none in 2011. Watch for more Portage railfanning posts from the 70's and 80's, including VIA 'circus' trains, GMD-1's, CP's longtime switcher 6569, and CN 9100-series F-units.


Tyler said...

Thanks for the great post Eric! I've finally started construction of my layout that will feature Portage and your track schematic has helped confirm my own research. I've had to simplify the track plan to reduce the number of spurs and yard tracks but the overall feel should still be there. I'll pass along soem pictures once it is all spiked down!

Zartok-35 said...

This should prove a very useful resource in modelling a rural setting...which, to be honest, is something I am working on right now.

I look forward to the upcoming mentions of F-units and the 6569!

Eric said...

Thanks for your comments,Tyler and Elijah. Portage definitely needs some selective is a lo-o-o-o-ng yard. Even without prototype track lengths or even number of tracks, a lot can be done with getting details in structures, rolling stock and vehicles right to get the "feel" of Portage. Of course, that also means lots of trains.

Zartok-35 said...

A question, if you don't mind:
I notice on the schematic that there is a spur to the north that goes to a Campbells soup plant. Did this generate any interesting or noteworthy traffic?

Eric said...

Good question. Yes it did, Elijah. How about a CP S-3 hauling CN 86-foot high-cube boxcars past grain elevators? Soup, frozen food and other prepared food for western Canada. Toured the plant in August, 1978. Closed now, but watch for an upcoming post with consist information.

Tyler said...

By the time of my era, only the two UGG elevators remained, which opens up more "empty space" and makes compression a bit easier. Concentrating on the area from 3rd Street to the west also helps things.

I do recall the CP S-3 either buzzing around Portage or being tied-up across from the station during the early 90s.

I never saw any cars spotted at the Esso/Engro fertilizer shed, so I am still not sure what types of covered hoppers were spotted there. The black CP cylindricals perhaps?

The Can-Oat facility on the CP west of town was another interesting industry served by the railroads in Portage and later the large McCain plant north of town became an interesting source of traffic.

Eric said...

Hi Tyler,
Yes, more space plus fewer elevators to build.

Is it possible to have the area east of Third St as visible or non-visible staging? Also, that is the source of interchange between CN and CP, which, while not huge, was a steady source of cars for both railways. Road power could disappear there for a while and bring forth a few cars at a time.

6569 and brethren snoozed under the trees in the former station park. Watch for an upcoming post.

Engro received a wide variety of CN, CP and leased cars, yes cylindrical but other types too. Likely dependent on the source of the fertilizer being unloaded. I have some further photos of the unloading conveyor that I'll dig out.

Can-Oat and McCain's definitely worth modelling in later eras, including larger capacity cars. The soil around Portage is definitely conducive to growing a wide variety of crops. Good for a growing layout!

Thanks for your comments and questions,

Tyler said...

Yes, 3rd Street is the gateway to staging on the plan. I would use the Skyline bridge to conveniently help make the tracks disappear but unfortunately both of the depots are between the overpass and 3rd Street and they are an essential component to the scene.

Speaking of the depot, if you have an older pictures of the CP depot they would be appreciated. I have some photos from the early 90s when it was still being used by CP crews but most of my detail shots are from several years later after many of the windows and doors were swapped for standard models or simply covered over.

It is very tempting, after seeing your photos, to model Portage as if Pool B had never suffered the fire, even though it was never around for my teenage railfan days in town (that I hope to recapture with the layout).

Eric said...

Yes, not too many modellable towns in Canada where CN and CP stations are so close, Tyler.

I'll look through my CP station photos. Pool 'B' can generate traffic for both railways.

It would be nice to see updates on the layout, when you have them.

Ian Lisakowski said...

This is a fantastic post Eric! Thanks for the track layout diagram. I almost planned double track on the CP line through the diamond!!

I can't wait to see more, especially on the CP switcher(s). It was either the 6709 or 6710 that I spent the day on back in my youth thanks to a wonderful hogger.

Eric said...

Thanks for your kind comments, and glad to hear the diagram is useful. I was really surprised as I recalled the odd arrangement of the CP main lines at Eighth St. Nothing looked better than a fast-moving CP hotshot with ditch lights burning swinging through the curve to the diamond. Power!

I never thought to ask for a ride on 6569, but I was happy to see a photo of the plant being switched in Bill Linley's Morning Sun book Canadian Pacific in Color Vol 2 - Western Lines, a book I would highly recommend. I'll get to work on the Portage switching post.

Steve Boyko said...

Very timely post, Eric, as I am working on a track plan for my new layout. I have considered Portage and your track plan will come in handy if I go that way.

My main concern about modeling Portage is the volume of traffic! Much staging would be required. I agree with you and the others that some selective compression would be required too.

Eric said...

I appreciate your comments, Steve. This post has generated more comments than any other I've done; there's lots of interest in Portage modelling for sure.

Volume of traffic? Sure, could be an issue. One suggestion for you: change the motive power on a grain or potash train, and run it back the other way out of staging.


Steve Boyko said...

Yes, that's a good idea, do a power swap. Since I'm going DCC I will have a power shortage for a while until I get decoders installed...

Do you happen to have a CN car control manual covering Portage? I have one for the Winnipeg Terminals circa 1990 but not for Portage. I find car control manuals to be great references for modeling.

Eric said...

Yes I do Steve. I'll scan it for an upcoming post covering CN's switching of Portage industries. I need to find out more about why CN combination-door boxcars kept ending up at the North American Can of Canada Ltd warehouse, which was across from the CP station.

Tyler asked about detail shots of the CP station's windows prior to replacement. I don't have much to add, other than that each window had many small panes in it. It seems that the front of CN and CP stations were usually in the shade.

I do have quite a few photos of both railways' operators hooping up train orders, sometimes just in the nick of time as the train bore down on the station.


David Munro said...

Hi: out of the past I know there was a rail line from Portage out to Delta and was used for grain and special trips such as Prince Edward out to the marsh for Duck Hunting and to the lodge west side of the diversion enterance into the lake. There were stories of a Van Horn coach left out in the marsh ??


Eric said...

Hi David,

Thanks for your comments. That would be CN's Oakland Sub, with its stations: Alpha to Delta, and yes, the Van Horne car is another notable feature.

Stay tuned for a post I'm preparing on the Oakland Sub and the close of its grain business.


Steve Boyko said...

Thanks Eric, I look forward to hearing more about Portage. I'm still drawing my track plans for my new layout and doing research on how Portage was, thirty years ago.

Eric said...

OK Steve, I've got lots more grist for the 'modelling Portage' mill. Watch for an upcoming post about VIA transcons through Portage in the 80's. Then there are the Churchill trains too...


Manny said...

Hi Eric, I LOVE this writeup. All that beautiful CP SD40-2 action and those nice old grain elevators. In the '80s I believe they were parking lines of cabooses underneath the overpass. Did you get photos of this? It would be nice to see some roof shots of those vans or any caboose action shots from Manitoba? Do you have any material like this for a possible future post? What a great website! You have lots of great content, thank you for sharing!

Eric said...

Hi Manny, thanks for your kind comments. I didn't see those lines of CP vans at Portage, as it likely would have been 1990+ and therefore after my last visit to Portage. I would also like to have seen the movements of 40+ vans heading west through Portage for scrapping at Ipsco in Regina. Sad, but an awesome sight just the same.

I know you've seen this page, but I'll post the link again anyway:

Based on the plethora of comments received, you bet I'll keep the Portage retro railfan reports coming. It's what Trackside Treasure's readers want, so I'm more than happy to share.