One of the things that can drive you crazy out this way is that every day is pretty much the same as the next. Days turn into weeks and the weeks turn into months. Changes happen over time. Seasons for example. Those changes you notice.
I’m not whining about that. There’s a curse that goes, may you live in interesting times, and interesting times in my job are usually related to customer dissatisfaction, something to avoid, or even worse, there’s been an accident. Also something to avoid. Boring can be good.
So yesterday we had a foreign car through here that I’d only seen in magazines but never first hand. For me, this is kind’a special. How it got mixed in with our usual stuff I don’t know but there it was. I had my camera, I had the time, and I was off to Hudson’s Mill.
It was already late afternoon when I got to the station. By the time I set my tripod in a nearby field I could hear 5604 crossing highway 40 and moving towards the river. I wouldn’t have long to wait.
They were tucked in right behind the engine. A couple of very familiar CN cars now used almost exclusively for ballast were acting as bookends for an odd pink hopper still clearly lettered for the Farmers Co-op Company. Clearly a grain car or perhaps now used for fertilizer.
Much of the former eye catching colour had faded over the years of hard service south of the border. There were obvious patches of new paint, of a not so perfect match, as well as the day to day scraping and the spot rusting that collects over time. Structural steal frames had been replaced and not painted – or left off completely – and stirrups were not original. Still, it was nice to see.
The 5604, a new GP38-2w, pulled the three hoppers short of the terminal siding. The brakeman, who’d been dropped off at the power plant, uncoupled the train ahead of a string of British Columbia Railway 52 foot boxcars and called ahead. The hoppers moved again in tune with the sound of the big engine rising behind the Hudson’s Mill warehouse.
The brakeman jumped aboard and road out past the switch while I chatted to courier fellow who’d just stopped his delivery for a moment to watch. I asked if he happened to like trains. He said no but I could see the interest in his eyes as he moved around his car, closer to the track, to get a better view. You can’t kid me. Just about no one can turn away.
I said a quick good-by and walked along the empty spur that served the freight doors at the other side of the warehouse. There wasn’t much farther I could go without getting wet but 5604 had eased itself over the small steel bridge at the old weir.
The engine seemed to idol there for an inordinate period of time. It might have been the idyllic view from the cab but it was probably just an issue with that switch three cars back.
With the three cars properly spotted at the terminal the job here was done. The sun was ready to end its day as well as the rest of the train, now made up of empties for Winter Valley, forged ahead into the prairie evening. The warehouse there was floor to ceiling with oil and gas equipment destined for northern BC.
This shallow pond formed by the weir was one of my favourate summer places as a kid. On a hot, sunny weekend I’d often cooled down in Hudson’s Mill or simply cast a line off the wharf. In those days, the last of the steam engines had already passed by and I’d been enthralled by the speedy looking F7s and the, in-you-face, workman like power of the GP7s and GP9s.
In those days too, it was an all CNR operation of course. We still see some CN engines, as we did today, as borrowed power on scheduled WV freights or heading up the odd CN extra with special consignment for the north.
Back on home turf in Winter Valley the night had set in. It’s a weekday. Everything is quiet in town and down at the station. The only sounds were the sharp cracks heard now and then as rails, heated by the summer sun, realign themselves in the small yard.
I set up a camera at trackside and hurried across to the only place open on Station Street. Teen Burger (no relish or ketchup) rings and a root beer. The sound of a whistle was still far off so I wasn’t going to be late getting back.
Now, almost ghost like, a light makes an appearance in the distance and then grows brighter as it passes the yard limits west of town. If you’d expected to hear the roar of a diesel engine, the whine of the fans and the sound of steal on steal you’d have been disappointed. Modern engines can really sneak up on you making themselves known only when it’s already too late to get out of their way.
The crew brought her to a stop and climbed off across from the park. They would soon find out they could shut it all down for the night. There would be time in the morning to sort out the list and I had all the pictures I needed for my growing collection.