It was July, 1976. It was Portage la Prairie, MB. We'd just arrived from the east and this was a whole new world of trains to be explored. As my Dad and I headed down to the CN and CP stations to find two SD40-2W's idling on the team track:
CN caboose 79610 accompanied the two units. They idled their for 4 days! All these photos, taken in 'retro' 126-format black & white print film, lead off Volume 1 - Trackside Observations in Manitoba 1976-1986. The first of nearly 10 years of visits, this visit was memorable due to its novelty, despite its brevity. Try to find railfan photos of Portage in 1976. Well, you can find them here on Trackside Treasure (see sidebar at right for more Portage posts), and in Volume 1. Nearly 10 years ago, I planned to scan and share these photos on my blog. Who knew they'd appear in print? Over 700 of them in the two volumes. Back to those idling units...
Also on the team track was this CN tamper, with Portage Pool 'B; elevator in the background on a sunny Portage morning:
The introduction to my Trains & Grains books begins this way...
My first memories of being trackside on the Prairies were made on a sunlit evening trackside in Portage, during that 'golden hour'. The last of the day's sunrays glinted off CNWX-lettered Government of Canada aluminum covered hoppers, not far from the towering shadows of Portage's elevators. The nearness and number of freight trains on CN and CP made a huge impression on me.New CNWX silver and yellow aluminum covered hoppers with some of their first loads. In Portage yard, July 4:
CN 1074-1068 in the yard with a westbound, as an eastbound train's caboose enters the yard at left. 1905 July 4.
CN 5144 leads 116 cars westward solo past the tamper, with CP's station in between them. My Dad's frugal compositional talent for including as many subjects as possible in one photo! The crew gets its orders from the Portage operator at 1500 on July 5:
Tailend crew on CN 79585 also receive orders:
CN 9524-9629-5274-5148 led this eastbound, whose tailend crew on CN 79243 are both out to get the orders. CN boxcar 440551 is on the adjacent mainline. July 4 at 2000:
Orders for CP, too. The operator has just had the hoop snagged out of his hand! CP 437140 leads 434445 past the CP station at 1934 on July 4:
Slabside and cylindrical covered hoppers being loaded at Portage's United Grain Growers elevator just west of the CN station. A ballast train backs toward the yard, at right:
CN boxcars being loaded, wooden grain doors and all, at Portage Pool 'B' as a CN boxcar and gondola repose on the team track:
CP 6569 cab-end view. Responsible for switching local industries once or twice a day, this switcher was a constant sight at Portage. Idling in front of the CP station. It spent its nights in the wooded copse across from the station.
CP 5633-5756 head east with grain loads for Thunder Bay at 1432, July 6. Those are CP's speeder sheds. Note the looming Portage Pool 'C' which later burned down, just to the right of the cab:
Orders for crew are hooped up to van CP 434359 from the CP operator. Note the train order signal at left:
Four elevators are visible as CN 9420-9566 head east with seven CN ballast hoppers and caboose 79650, approaching the CN station from the west on July 5:
Eastbound CP freight in the yard, tailed by van CP 434507 at 1440 on July 6. Tail end crewman was out for a pull-by:
Even today, these photos remind me of the scintillating, sunlit sizzle of Portage railfanning at its zenith.
Summer is essentially upon us. That means it's time to complain about the heat, the humidity, the bugs and construction. And politicians, especially in the wake of a provincial election. The Liberals did not win, we didn't go down the Horwath path, and we're test-driving a Ford. And we all know what the FORD logo stands for...Fix Or Repair Daily!
We're approaching Trackside Treasure's tenth anniversary. Now, how to mark that?
We're marking the two-week anniversary of grandparenthood...with a first road trip for the little armful and his parents to visit the homestead, celebrate with ribs, potato salad, cole slaw and tabouli. And a realization that that Gold Peak iced tea tastes about the same as the no-name brand!
Thundercows and Blackwidows and Hellcats oh my! Wish I could've climbed on the porch of those new SD40-2s with you! I look forward to reading about your sightings in the books!
I saw in the first trackside with VIA book that you and your father got to observe a Super Continental at Portage, shortly after the solo Blackwidow at 16:07 on July 5th, with an A-B-A brace of Yellowheads along with a Passenger GP9! Apparently in summer 1976, the Super ran longer and heavier than ever before, including a Cape, Dinette, and Club lounge and Diner! 22 cars in all, putting the 4 units to good use! I think I have new project in my sights.
It was indeed a unique time in Canadian railway operations!
I share your enthusiasm, Elijah!
Thanks for your comment,
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