CN Brookfield

Just past Truro, Nova Scotia, on the way to Halifax, CN’s mainline connects with a spur that exists to serve Canada Cement and Marwood Industries, in a town called Brookfield. The spur itself is served by the local switcher out of Truro. The combination of local train service and the simple arrangement of the spur makes it very attractive to me and I’ve always thought it would be neat to spend some time watching a train on the spur, working these industries. On a sunny Saturday afternoon, I was given that chance.

For a short stretch after Truro the CN mainline runs somewhat parallel to the highway. The Brookfield spur itself actually crosses directly underneath – while Marwood is close to the mainline, Canada Cement’s large plant is just under three miles off the mainline and the spur crosses under the highway overpass. Like any well-seasoned railfan, I can’t seem to drive across a bridge without a quick sideways glance to check both sides of the track below for a sign of a train. It was during one of these spontaneous checks that we spotted a certain pair of headlights staring back at us. The chase, as they say, was on.

When we caught up with the train, it was just a light engine creeping carefully along the branch and making its way back toward the mainline and Truro, presumably having dropped some cars at Canada Cement. The camera was still in the back of the car but that’s okay as it provides a chance to just enjoy the sight and sound of the engine in a low idle, slowly working its way down the line. If you can imagine the arrangement of the spur, it runs perpendicular to the mainline. Canada Cement’s facility is at the extreme end. At the point where the spur rejoins the mainline, Marwood Industries operates a small facility to load finished bundles of lumber onto rail cars. Their spur is in the former station site for Brookfield and immediately at the point where the spur itself connects to the main.


We arrived at Marwood before the train. Time to enjoy the scene and grab a mouthful of tea while waiting for the train to arrive.

In the MLW days, the railfan could scan the skies for a trail of black exhaust and a certain ticking sound as the engine barked it’s way closer. I’ve discovered I quite like the more subtle whine these GM diesels exhibit. Where the MLW was so overt in its expression, the GM is the more like the sleeping giant. Regardless of the sound, it was great that today’s engine was still proudly wearing its stripes – a paint scheme I still think is my favourite of the many CN has used.

Past the switch, it’s time for the crew to get to work. Unlock and line the turnout for Marwood. Next, remove the derail protecting the siding and then counting the distance until they’re tied onto the waiting cars. There’s nothing like time trackside to really remind one of all the steps required to actually switch cars, either picking them up or dropping them off. It’s easy to just run our model engines into the siding, grab the cars, and leave. Watching the experienced crew carefully going about their work was an education in all the other steps in this movement. There’s time to connect air hoses, charge the brakes, and then inspect that everything is working. In addition, there’s time to walk the length of the train to make sure that the cars are in good order and the loads safely secured – once these massive railcars are in motion there will be no time or safe place to correct an oversight here. Finally, there’s time to manage paperwork between the shipper and the railroad.

In model railroad operating sessions there’s a certain trend toward incorporating extra time into our movements to represent the time spent, in real life, on brakes, loads, and in paperwork. Of course, this time can feel arbitrary and hard to justify since we’re really not actually doing anything practical and related to operating a model train. Sitting trackside, we found time to appreciate the crew practising the skill of their craft, at their best, and doing their work with an ease that only experience brings. If anything, when considering the idea of building time into the model railway operating sessions it’s not just so that we have time to pretend we’re busy with brakes and paper but so that we have the time to appreciate just being present and part of the moment.

With the work of railroading largely completed we move toward the final phrases of this main act. A notch on the throttle and the engine lifts its cars forward and toward Truro. Of course, not without pause to close and lock the switch once for the siding and then in a hundred feet or so as they rejoined the Bedford Subdivision and the return home.

Steve Boyko has posted a great page on the Bedford Subdivision at:



New year. Same great Montreal.

This year started with a quick run to Montreal to drop my kid back off at school. Though I really hadn’t intended to spend any time trackside there were a few occasions where chance afforded me just that kind of opportunity. It’s been just over a month since I was in the city and I’d forgotten that I’d grabbed a few train photos while there – until now. I didn’t take many and here some favourites I’d like to share.


Most of the morning trains are finished for the day but waiting at Lucien l’Allier were these two train sets.

As I stood on the platform admiring the view it occurred to me I had the time to run about a block along the line to Guy overpass. From here, there’s a terrific view into the station and I managed to get there just quick enough to catch 1330 shoving its train out. Despite the backlit conditions, I really rather quite like these two photos.

Later that day and it’s time to start heading back the hotel and, ultimately, my car for the drive home to the Island. Again, my connections take me right through LuLa and timing provided a quick pause to check out the evening’s trains. 1330 is still working and on the adjacent platform is one of AMT’s new ALP45DP engines. Though I don’t have a photo, about an hour after I took these I was pulling into the parking lot of superb Montreal hobby shop Hobby Jonction, just in time to watch perhaps the same ALP45DP shoving a train west.

On that same camera role a few “firsts” for me. Despite the popularity of taking “selfie” photos I do not like having photos of myself. Then, there was this moment where I had a bit of time on my hands and broke the selfie ice with this:


Kind of in focus? Check.

Smiling? Check.

Not too creepy? Well, two out of three eh?

Let’s call this a win. I haven’t taken any others since but it’s neat to pretend I’m doing something cool for a change. Of course, this sort of stuff is just a gateway isn’t it for other popular photographic activities. A few hours after taking my first selfie I took this one, of a truly excellent coffee I was enjoying at Eva Bee:


My kid raves about this crazy store. It was a blast visiting for the first time. I have no idea how I could possible describe the experience or what the store is really all about. What I do know is the people are super cool, the music was fun, and this coffee was one of the finest I’ve ever enjoyed. It’s likely the most grand coffee presentation I’ve ever been offered and this cost about two dollars – for everything. I felt almost guilty. Needless to say coffee this good was a welcome invitation to lunch and soon this platter was joined with more. The food is all local and made to order. Everything was terrific.

Great food and commuter trains. Most of all, I was invited on a road trip by my kid and I’m so grateful to have been a part of that. Thanks for bringing me to your Montreal Des! I had a blast and can’t wait to go back. Hopefully for longer next time!


Beaconsfield magic

High on the adrenaline rush of trains already sighted, we were pacing that AMT West Island train and the temptation to indulge in a chase was too great. Between stations there would be no way we could keep up but the traffic was moving really nicely and, unlike the train, we didn’t need to stop at every station. I reasoned we could run as far as Beaconsfield and that distance might give us just enough time to park the car, grab the camera, and get out onto the platform in time for the train to arrive. With only minutes to spare we wheeled into the parking lot and with the car barely stopped we ran onto the platform in a manic style that really only those that have gone train chasing can truly know. We were in luck. The train hadn’t arrived yet and for those waiting on the platform, our mania provided a little evening rush hour entertainment. The evening’s sunset was just beautiful and I’m pretty proud of this set of photos.

Walking back to the car I remarked that it would be evening cooler if we got to see one of the evening VIA trains. No sooner did I finish that comment did it appear.

What a great pile of fun!

Not done yet

Still on Autoroute 20 we continued our drive west across Montreal Island. It was around six o’clock and I hoped that we might see one of AMT’s West Island trains rushing commuters home.

“Hey Dad!” was the battle cry in the car and then the train appeared beside the car. Emi still had the camera in hand and she grabbed this shot:

DSC02108Another great photo Emi.

She’s shooting this through our bug-stained windshield and into the sun. You’d never know it. Heck, with this kind of talent on the camera I really don’t think I need to be a part of that at all. The future of railfanning in Canada? The kids are going to be okay and everything is going to be fine.

Better than I ever had

Canadian railfans know the worst part about Montreal traffic isn’t the speed you’re driving at or getting used to the general pace of moving through the city but the fact that CAD Rail’s property borders Autoroute 20 and trying to navigate in that traffic while trying to take an inventory of what’s in their yard using your well honed peripheral vision is a feat worthy of Olympic recognition.

Emi had mentioned how neat it would be if we could see some trains while we were in Montreal and I was describing CAD Rail to her. I joked about how hard it would be to ever photograph anything there as the yard itself is beside the highway and just pulling to the shoulder just isn’t realistic. As we neared their yard I could see what looked like a Santa Fe GP in the mix along with some former GO Transit green. It was then that she grabbed the camera and took this photo.


Considering the speed and how fast this photo came together it’s really great. I’m quite proud of it in fact. Sure is one heck of a lot better than anything I ever would have taken.

Way to go kid!

New Hampshire and Vermont #405 in 1993

I’ve referred to watching the New Hampshire and Vermont Railroad at St. Johnsbury, Vermont, before. Memories of chasing RSC14’s here on PEI made watching the NHVT’s RS11 in person all that much more meaningful. I’d seen this video posted on Youtube before and thought I’d post a copy here now for those that haven’t seen it already and because the style of railroading here really reflects that which I had in mind for the plan I’ve shared.

I went to St. Johnsbury to chase CP in Vermont and hoping to catch memories of the Lamoille Valley or it’s predecessors. The town never failed to let me down.

AMT Dorval – Pine Beach railfanning

I shot these from the Hobby Junction parking lot just past Dorval on October 29th while in Montreal to attend the Canada Central open house. The scene is just so very different from the AMT that caught my attention and we’re a long way away from platforms filled with FP’s and GP’s pushing half-century old commuter cars. That said, this is all excellent progress and I’m really just as excited about this AMT as I was with the one of old.