“I hear the train coming, it turns around the bend …”
If you’re like us, the first thing that comes to your mind when you approach a railway crossing and hear a warning signal ringing is: “Great … a train”.
It’s the same with Evan McRae; only in his case, it is rather “Super! A train!”
Evan is the person behind Manitoba Rail Productions, a YouTube channel with a decidedly unique thread. Almost every week, the 13-year-old student at HS Paul School posts videos of passing trains that he records when he goes out with his parents and they find themselves on the wrong side of a door arm, or – as is the case today – when he rides his bike to a predetermined location, confident that a train will pass at any time.
“There were days when I went out for five hours and came back empty, but that never was the case here – we should see something soon enough,” he says, standing in a grassy field. across from a section of the Greater Winnipeg Water District Railway, immediately north of Symington Yard.
His common sense is correct; moments after attaching a GoPro HERO7 Black action camera to a tripod, devices he bought with the money he earned from a summer job stocking shelves in a country grocery store, he gives a thumbs up, nodding his head in the direction of a line of wagons rapidly approaching from the south.
“It might sound strange, but I can usually smell a train coming from a few hundred yards,” he said, wearing a black Canadian Pacific T-shirt and a matching baseball cap.
“My parents were always saying how I should get out of my computer and get out more and since I love trains so much, that seemed like the perfect solution.” –Evan McRae
“Most of my friends think what I do is cool, although there are a few who joke, call me crazy. But my parents always said how I should get out of my computer and get out more and like i like trains, so a lot, it seemed like the perfect solution. ”
Evan is what is commonly referred to as a trainpotter, a term that dates back over 80 years. In the early 1940s, loco-spotters, as they were called at the time, began to chronicle what they witnessed in a bird-watcher-type book written by Englishman Ian Allen which listed the names, numbers and classes of various locomotives that regularly crisscrossed Britain.
How popular was the hobby at the time? A few days after its release, the entirety of Allen’s first series ABC of southern locomotives – 2,000 copies – was completely sold out.
In a recent article published in Rail magazine, it has been estimated that there are currently around 250,000 trainpotters in the world, a number that is decreasing each year, as the vast majority, Evan being an exception, are 60 and over.
“It’s not portrayed as hip and fashionable, the stigma is stupid,” said an observer in his 20s. “Now you go to a school and you won’t find a single boy who is willing to admit that they are passionate about rail.” (Regarding the “a boy” comment, the article goes on to state that “women are not interested in spotting trains or are not encouraged to do so … mothers do not seem to encourage it. with their daughters. “)
Like many children, Evan traces his introduction to trains to Thomas the Tank Engine, “star” of the long series for children. Thomas and his friends. At the age of six, he looked forward to trips to Tinkertown with his parents and older brother; not so much for boarding the theme park’s iconic merry-go-round, a 70-year-old G-16 Streamliner model train that circles the property every 30 minutes or so, but rather to keep your eyes peeled for the real deal. .
“If you know Tinkertown, you know there is a track that connects it to the highway,” he says. “I loved being on the little train when a big one was passing, honking at all of us riders.”
In December 2019, when he was regularly studying YouTube videos posted by local railroad enthusiasts such as Winnipeg Railfan and Central Canada Railfan, the reason he knows that an engine passing directly in front of us is an – easy for him to say – GE ET44AC, Evan persuaded his father to escort him to a section of Warman Road, east of Boulevard Lagimodiere. He had often seen trains pass by on their way to hockey practice and he hoped to try his luck by filming a train or two as well.
No sooner had his father parked the car than he reached out for his iPhone 5 to capture a train moving quickly towards them.
“The conductor waved to me, which was kinda neat, and when I got home a few hours later, I thought, ‘OK, it’s finally my turn. to put something on YouTube. ‘”
“I guess the most important thing is the thrill of the chase.” –Evan McRae
Within hours, people from as far away as Europe and Australia tagged her post, leaving “Great photos” and “Cool video” comments. But it was a message from Steve Boyko, a Winnipeg photographer who runs by Train Geek, that stunned him.
“I’ve been following Steve for a while and having one of my inspirations to write ‘Nice catch …’ totally blew me away,” he says, equating Boyko’s praise with what he presumes it would be. hear Winnipeg Jets captain Blake Wheeler say, “Nice goal.”
OK, so what fascinates him so much about trains? We mean, now don’t they all look the same?
That’s the million dollar question, he replies, settling into a camping chair he brought with him, an indication that we might be here for a while.
Perhaps this is the sense of wonder: where does this or that train come from or where is it going? Maybe it’s the mystery of what’s inside the boxcars, or the joy he gets from picking up an Illinois Central or Union Pacific logo, models “you don’t see every day.” .
“I guess the most important thing is the thrill of the hunt,” he continues, mentioning that his mother and father obligingly drove him as far west as Portage la Prairie and as far south as Emerson to watch trains in all weather.
“I have an app on my phone that lets me know where the trains are in the city at all times (hey, can we take that the next time we get home during rush hour?” ), but that doesn’t mean I know what type of train it is.
“So yeah, every time we pass I’m looking for something out of the ordinary, like a medium locomotive called a DPU, a distributed power unit, or even some super cool graffiti painted on the side of it. a car. It always makes a great video or photo for Instagram. ”
Still young, Evan has plenty of time to decide what he wants to do, from a career perspective. That’s not to say he’s not already debating videography – he puts his hand in his backpack to show off a second camera he owns, a Canon Rebel T8I – and rides the rails. in a professional manner.
“I took a few tourist trains, one in the Black Hills of South Dakota and, of course, the Prairie Dog Central. I would like to be an engineer or whatever, ”he says.
“But what I also read is that the railroads sometimes hire people to shoot videos of their own trains. I mean, would that be a great job? It would be like the best of both worlds, no?”