last weekend

I promised myself to spend more time with my camera and practising not just the technical parts of using the camera but, because it’s capable of different opportunities, learning to see as it does. This is a good promise to have made to myself because it’s also supporting the need to be active, outside, and “focus” is as much a photography term as one of overall health. Here’s some highlights from last weekend.

8:00AM Saturday — Wright’s Cove

National Gypsum’s Wright’s Cove operation remains a constant muse. So strong is this impulse that, this morning, it’s wonderful that their main gate is closed, locked shut, so I’m “through the fence”. Watching their shunter at work is a complete joy but also the moment of CN’s power, inching through as the guest, to hook onto the front of the morning train, is a wonderful contrast of scale and collaboration. They’ll hook on and shove back, out, to their tracks to head to Milford.

8:30AM Windsor Junction

McDonald’s coffee is on sale for a dollar and I have one beside me and fully-intended to just wait on 511 at Akerley Boulevard but, despite the cold, I wander off to Windsor Junction. My inexperience with Windsor Junction is obvious by the way I fidget between locations. Then the signal, protecting the east, changes to red and things are going to happen whether I’m ready or not. Unsure of how to do “new” I head back to the usual place at the end of the bar road. 120 blows through like Awdry’s Gordon would, an expression of purpose so pure, and it’s now obvious why 511 isn’t here yet. I love how railfanning is a long period of calm, interrupted by occasional bouts of “something happens”. There’s coffee and a chance to chat with my friends on the Island—I miss them so very much. Mostly, it’s quiet and peaceful, and cold.

9:35AM Windsor Junction

511 would have to wait for 120 to clear and then wait, long distance, to be allowed out. A few tries, now staring into the sun and welcoming success Ikarus would appreciate, and I dart across the road for this and think: this could be a favourite.

9:51AM Rockingham

With the GMD1’s gone it makes sense the GP9’s will be next. They remain a favourite class of locomotive but I believed I had seem my last, last July, but here we have one more chance. 4139 has been in Halifax for a couple weeks and I’ve watched it at work though mostly at night. I feel it’s becoming as important to build a layer of witness instead of collecting a photograph so have been gambling on that investment. Nonetheless, it’s parked at the Rockingham office and too good to not be with. Way, way, way off in the background and buried in cold wind and deep-enough snow the big yard power is working the strings of containers and “junk” in this background.

10:15AM Burnside

The Saturday Dartmouth shunter “has to be here, somewhere” but I can’t find them.

7:04PM Rockingham

14 is running late but you’d never, never ever, know it as it blows through Rockingham as if it can travel backwards in time to be where it should have been. I imagined I’d have all kinds of time to a bunch of fidgeting around. I have, this.

But also this. 4139 is working its heart out on containers. Building 121? Assume so.

4:41PM Sunday — Wolfville

We’re walking along the Dominion Atlantic and it’s just beautiful. I never appreciated this as a working railway but each visit, now, is another layer of connection.


It’s a kind of weekend needed and it felt wanted. It’s winter and I’m grateful to be here, do this, be with her.

I remain,


I didn’t plan to get that Wham song stuck in my head when I titled this post and here we are. I like the song so this ends well anyway?

Categories: How I think

8 replies

  1. Chris you know what, I love the contrast here between your day and my hour ( Whilst I yearn for more variety, or am nostalgic for the past I feel I take for granted just how accessible our railways are over this side of the Atlantic.

    Your perseverance with the camera is paying off as there are some lovely compositions here… savour that GP9 both behind the lens and fully faced, as it’s not going to be around forever.

    (By the way, song lyrics are much cooler than the puns that sneak in to my interneting).

    • Wonderful thoughts. Thank you.

      It seems there’s so many excuses to not go trackside for even a second, and like in any hobby, seemingly the inverse amount of time to complain how those that do aren’t doing it right. I know how much the real thing means to me and accept that it’s an invitation to discover its character and what makes it attractive. In that way, the experience is a chance to spend time with trains, always good, and use that as real life practice for being better people—how we learned to discover the good in what is there plus how we learned to be proud of what makes us happy and how to productively express that to others, seems like, a life earned and lived well.

      As other locomotive classes left the rank of CN’s fleet my want to witness their last moment was something I probably did because it’s what we all did. Starting at the S13’s and now, a second time, with the GP9’s being there to receive and absorb, inspire, them as they are seems like something directly of me, for me.

      Puns? Always welcome. Please join in. They’ll always be welcome here, not just Last Christmas…


  2. Great railfanning post, Chris.
    Of gypsum, Gordon and grounds.
    Gee, I enjoyed it.

    • All things of “ground” eh?

      Gypsum in the ground;
      Gordon racing across the ground;
      Coffee beans ground to carry in my cup over ground;

      Thank you for the compliment. It means a lot and I appreciate it.


  3. When I wrote this post I foolishly used a bulk rescale on the images which I now regret. I definitely need to resize these.


  4. Chris, next time your in wrights cove drop into the office for a visit. I enjoyed your blogs on the plant.

    Zac McCready.

  5. I will resize the images from this post but, until then, link out to the albums attached to Prince Street’s Facebook page:

    I started this album for a few photos from a day visiting at Wright’s Cove but have been adding to it since:

    This link opens my main folder for Dartmouth railfanning:


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