“Is this really happening?”

Friday was already a pretty good day, railfanning-wise, with a wonderfully reconnection to Dartmouth trains as a start to the day. Those clouds parted, that rain moved on, and there came the sun and it was alright. We are Cape Breton focussed. It is time. It has been time for long enough and we don’t just want to be there, we need it. These last few weeks, these last few months, feel like they have just consumed so much of us in ways work just shouldn’t have access to yet seems to take anyway. I like Truro and find it hard to avoid an excuse to stop in. This time, that excuse started as a visit to Noveltea for a solid cup of coffee and a late lunch. Our cups recharged with their good things we’re on our way. “Mind if we just swing by the yard on the way out of town?”

It’s become a bit of a running joke I maintain that I’m the last railfan in Atlantic Canada to see a moving Cape Breton & Central Nova Scotia train. I mean, I’ve seen their trains parked but never one moving. You can imagine my almost disbelief-like state when this happened.

3364 is leading 3365 and 1705 and they’re still in their end of the Truro yard and assembling their train for the trip home. There’s a lot of back and forth that is set to a chorus of GM diesel sounds and it sounds amazing. I’ll take this over Alco any day of the week–the way they load up, the way they whine, I love every single note of this work. Also, I’m so excited to finally see this, here, that I’m making quite the immature display of myself as I hop into and out of the car.

“Is this it?”

“Are they headed out?”

We’re staring into the late afternoon sun and my need to photograph the train is really marking more the moment than any belief that me and my verging on obsolete iPhone will ever record on “film”. In conversation I’d calmly remark how much I enjoy the waiting parts of railfanning for their meditative opportunities. Memories of waiting in places like trackside in Bowmanville would be present in my mind as describe the calm before the train and the joy waiting to be discovered while photo locations are pondered, wind in grass is felt, and the anticipation-filled conversation you have with yourself as you imagine what forms in the place between the know of a train that will be here and the unknown of what that train will consist of happens. But not here; not now.

The two SD40-2’s I’d photographed a few weeks ago in Stellarton and that GP is something I’d longed to see out on the road–seeing it trailing was just one more treat in a day that felt like one of endless rewards. As they lift out of Truro the train is an interesting one that summarizes today’s CBNS: chip hoppers and flat cars for Valley, carbon black cars for Michelin, tank cars for elsewhere. Every trip trackside changes you just a little for the memory of that moment. Watching this come together certain marks the movement of one chapter to another which feels particularly fitting on this particular day of the year.

Continuing our drive and as we cross the causeway into Cape Breton I remembered that I’ve been incorrect in perpetuating this statement about “never seeing a moving CBNS train” because I have seen it happen before. It’s just that those CBNS’s seem like a different world. Part because I was a different person at a different time in my life and part because that was a different railroad than today’s G&W iteration.

  • In the fuel or film era of my life I vividly recall seeing CBNS black MLW’s (“bigs”) in Truro yard at work.
  • I remember that time when CBNS ran excursions for the MFMR train show in Truro using one of the Bigs and their passenger car and caboose.
  • My brother lived in Sydney for a while and on one visit I remember seeing a CBNS GP at work, shunting, near the causeway.

I’m not a fan of how model railroaders set up a conveyor that feeds into a woodchipper of layout consumption because not everything needs to be modelled, become a model railroad, or mean you need to buy something. I’ve said that so I can say this: “I’m not really sure why I’m not modelling today’s CBNS.” James has been doing some amazing models of Terra Transport rolling stock as part of our fictional recast of that as the new face of Atlantic Canadian railroading. Standing trackside in Truro I couldn’t stop thinking about how I’d model it exactly as it is but swapping out all that G&W for a lovely shade of green. That’s the only thing I’d change to make it ours. These are the thoughts that would remain with me and return to periodically while swaying in a hammock against the ocean, in our little retreat weekend.

Categories: CBNS Cape Breton & Central Nova Scotia Railway, Truro railfan

Tags: , , , , , ,

4 replies

  1. I do love that GP9, I bet it’s 567 sounds great contrasted with the turbo 645s in the SD40-2s…
    I can just squint and imagine 1751 down in the yard, borrowed from HSW.

    • A friend who chased this consist, this train, but on another day also mentioned about how the set of three was a constant but a shorter train length brings into mind the idea of engines working or just along for the ride (offline). That too is a fun moment in aesthetics to think about. I love that look of the GP leading those bigger SD’s. That said, this is a superb consist that’s as good in either direction.



  1. Great day to be a railfan… – Prince Street
  2. the regulars – Prince Street

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