Splendor in the Grass

Posted by George Hamlin
on Wednesday, April 1, 2020

No, this has nothing to do with Wordsworth’s poetry, nor to a 1960’s movie starring Warren Beatty and Natalie Wood that used the same title.  Instead, think the Canadian Prairies, and a search for some of the few remaining wooden grain elevators along Canadian Pacific’s Aldersyde Subdivision, between Calgary and Lethbridge, Alberta, on June 11, 2005.  Early on, it had been a somewhat frustrating exercise.  I’d caught up with a southbound, behind one of the leased CEFX SD9043 MACs, and even gotten it coming past the elevator at Brant, but a good-looking shot wasn’t possible in the gray drizzle.

Further south, there was an orange Pioneer elevator at Vulcan, but no trains, and the weather, while improved, was still gray-sky grubby.  Finally, at Carmangay, I encountered both a northbound, behind another SD9043, and some sun.  By the time I reached Barons, with its trio of elevators, both old and new, there was bright sun to photograph the structures, but I assumed that I’d seen my quota of trains on this stretch of railroad.

Closer to Lethbridge, the light got even sweeter as the end of the day approached.  And at Nobleford, there was a bright orange Pioneer elevator, along with another less-colorful one to the south.  Great light, excellent subject matter, but no train.  Until, fortuitously, a horn sounded to the south.  From a lighting perspective, the obvious shot was from the far side of the track, but there was a problem: the grass.

It looked fine, but it was high enough that it was impossible to ascertain whether slithering creatures that feed on the mice and rats that often dine on the grain in the vicinity of an elevator were present, and while I was willing to share the environment with them for a brief period, I had no desire to encounter one.

Recalling that snakes will typically flee when given any warning, the best option seemed to be to land hard at several spots in the grass in quick succession, creating mini-earthquakes as warnings for any denizens of the dirt in the vicinity.  Fortunately there apparently was no one with a video camera in the vicinity to record this for posterity.

In any case, nothing stirred on the ground, and I was rewarded with a classic shot, in beautiful light, enhanced by the trio of action red CP SD40-2s on the point.  Success!

(Photo by George W. Hamlin)

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