Thursday, January 4, 2024

Dive right into 2024 (Stratford Part IV)

Happy New Year, fellow friends of the iron horse. I was considering how to start the new year and what to write about when it hit me. Just start with some cool train photos. That was what I decided. There is lots of material left over from last year's adventures, which will be shared over the weeks and months to come. Sadly, I wasn't able to make it trackside over the Christmas holidays, but that's okay. There was very little snow after Dec. 25 and I was still working my regular hours at home, so the opportunities for something seasonal didn't materialize.

So let's start with some shortline summer action shots, shall we? On July 30 while in Stratford for a family reunion, I had a chance to stop by the Stratford station to see if there was anything going on in the yard. Luckily, there was. The GEXR crew had two geeps idling in the yard and ready for some work. Later on, CN 568 came passing through, which you can check out in this post. In the harsh early morning sunlight, I wandered around the yard from publicly accessible vantage points, as the crew assembled a string of hoppers that seemed to be destined for Goderich or other points along the GEXR Goderich Subdivision. Here's a shot from the crossing. The morning sun was washing out the sky, but I still like this shot.

I have a friend who takes shots from this vantage point, so I decided to follow his lead and get an overall shot of the yard action. This is in keeping with what I started last year, in the Year of Different. the goal is to get some railway images that aren't dominated only by the train. In this case, I wanted to get the grain elevator and the overall yard in the image. I didn't get all that I wanted, but I think this shot conveys the overall size of this railway operation.

Here's another example of a shot that is different. I wouldn't have taken this shot even a few years ago. The crew in this shot is getting ready to couple its two hoppers with a few more cars, some that are hidden behind the boxcar. It's the human element that I like in this shot, even though the morning sun did not do me any favours.

The engines went back and forth getting the cars the crew needed to take up the Goderich Sub, which allowed me to think about different shots and elements to capture. There's nothing like a good smoke shot! In fact, I dedicated a previous post to smoke.

As everyone knows, GEXR is a shortline owned by the Genesee & Wyoming Inc. shortline company, so it's not uncommon to see orange units in the yard that aren't technically GEXR units. In this case, the power was supplied by a Southern Ontario Railway GP38-2 2111 and Huron Eastern GP38-2 3510. Here's a closer look at the Huron Eastern logo, which is a small departure from the G&W logo.

While SOR has been absorbed back into the CN empire, HESR continues to operate close to 400 miles of track in Michigan's thumb area and into Flint and Saginaw in the lower peninsula of the state. Here's something that I thought was odd, though. Since I have been taking shots in this yard in Stratford, I have spotted more G&W units that are not GEXR than I have actual GEXR units. I would imagine the reason for this is that things are likely quite fluid between the various operations that G&W oversees across North America.

One more observation from this shot. The aftermarket horn on the SOR unit, as it was moving across the crossing, was more like a car horn than a train horn. It was quite pathetic, to be honest! I often see people on train forums that can rhyme off the actual make of horns on engines. In all honesty, that is a level of detail I just don't have room for in my brain.

Here's shot that required some editing, as the morning sun was playing havoc with my shots. I decided I would accept some form of distortion and shadow for the chance of getting a shot of the engines in action against the backdrop of the grain elevator. I liked how this turned out, despite the obvious imperfections. It screams early morning or late evening. 

Here's one final shot with a blue sky in it, as the sun was throwing me a bone. The shadows were harsh still, but the colours came through pretty well in this shot as the crew stretched out its consist before backing it up again to pick up more cars. I didn't stick around for it to depart, as my daughters were getting a little impatient, so I decided to wrap up my wanderings shortly after taking this shot and a few more.

Looking through my photos from Stratford this summer, I can see I have a lot more to share. This early morning bit of shunting was fun to see but there were a few more surprises the yard still had to offer me. However, it wasn't until I returned to Stratford in November that these surprises were fully revealed. All in all, it was a fun bit of railfanning on a pleasant July morning. And that wasn't counting the mainline freight that came through later on.

I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas break. Here's to more rail musings and conversation in the year to come.


Keith Boardman said...

Happy New Year Michael!

Not a real comment on your post, but a comment about horns. I've managed to catch the new Siemens units twice this week passing through Vars around 4:18. The horn is definitely weaker than what I'm used to. My opinion is that they are more car like than train like.

On another note, the power seems to be more quiet than the F40 or P42's that have been travelling this corridor for the last 20 years. They may be the future, but they're not as exciting.


Eric said...

'Cool train photos' every time FTW, Michael!

Happy New Year to you and your family and as always, thanks for sharing!


Kevin from Windsor said...

Nice photos as always! Do you know what kind of commodities the GEXR carries? I see a lot of hoppers and tank cars there, but also some boxcars. I know there’s a salt mine in Goderich; wondering if that generates any traffic?

Michael said...

Keith - I'll have to take your word for it. I just saw a Siemens trainset coming in to Fallowfield Station and it didn't use its horn when approaching Woodroffe Avenue. Either that, or I didn't hear it. Usually, Via uses its horn on Woodroffe, but this time it didn't or it was too quiet to hear from where I was.

Thanks for the comments, Eric and Kevin. To answer your question, Kevin, I'll have to ask my inside source on GEXR who hopefully can give me a better idea of what it carries. You're right that it serves the Goderich salt mine, but it also has agricultural business, with all the covered hoppers it classifies in its yard. I'm not sure how many customers it would serve on the Goderich Sub that would require tank cars, boxcars etc. There isn't a lot of conventional industry left on this line, although that it just my guess through past observations.

Steve Boyko said...

I don't have room in my brain for train horn types either. K5LA or R2D2, it's all the same to me. Horns definitely sound different but I can't identify them.

Nice shots from Stratford! It's a location I don't see photos of very often.