Industrial Railway Photography for Cando Rail

Written by Robert Lowdon

Robert Lowdon is an internationally published commercial photographer based out of Toronto, Canada. He spends his time photographing architecture and industrial projects for the most part.

Published May 15, 2018

locomotive face on image a rail facility

We will talk more about the railway photography we completed for Cando, but fist some history:

The railway industry has a long and significant history in Canada. The advent of railway technology changed the way we work and live, and helped to shape Canada as a nation.

British Engineer Richard Trevithick built the first working full-scale steam locomotive in 1804. By the 1840s, railways were crucial for transporting goods and supplies required for industrialization. As agrarian life gave way to city dwelling during the Industrial Revolution, railways made it possible to transport goods across this vast land, connecting parts of North America that previously lacked a viable transportation route.


A crew member in an orange jumpsuit and hard hat looks towards the tracks and trains. This photograph captures the employee’s view from over his shoulder as he walks along the tracks.

A crew member in an orange jumpsuit and hard hat looks towards the tracks and trains. This photograph captures the employee’s view from over his shoulder as he walks along the tracks.

A Timeline of Canadian Railways

The first Canadian railway, which opened in 1836, was the Champlain and St. Lawrence Railroad, built near Montreal to connect river traffic. In 1840, the Albion Railway opened in Stellarton, Nova Scotia, connecting coal mines to a seaport. The government saw the railroads as an opportunity to unite the vast nation and promote trade within Canada and with the US. By 1853, the Grand Trunk Railway (GTR) linked Toronto and Montreal, and included lines to Portland, Maine, Michigan and Chicago.

The GTR was a huge feat, and by 1870 had become the longest railway in the world. The building of the Intercontinental Railway was viewed as being so integral to Confederation that it was included as a condition in the Constitution Act, 1867. The Maritimes were linked to Quebec and Ontario by the Intercolonial, completed in 1876. (Canadian Encyclopedia online, February 2019).


A cando train pulls into the yard. To the right of the train are two large storage basins. The image feels particularly industrial because there are no people visible.

A Cando train pulls into the yard. To the right of the train are two large storage basins. The image feels particularly industrial because there are no people visible.

The railways played an integral role in expanding the settlement in the Prairies, and the growth of various industries, such as coal mining, lumbering and paper making. Railways created employment opportunities, as entrepreneurs invested in the manufacture of materials required for building, operating, and maintaining railways, such as fuel, iron and steel. Construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway (CP) began in 1881, and the railway was greatly influential in the formation of new cities out west from Winnipeg to Vancouver.

In 1923, the government merged the Grand Trunk Railway, Grand Trunk Pacific, Canadian Northern and Intercontinental Railways, forming the Canadian National Railways (CN). Both CN (which privatized in 1995) and CP remain integral to the transport of bulk materials, and commodities, like coal and grain, in North America. Rail transport is also beneficial for transporting finished goods, which can be packed in railway containers for easy transfer between trains and other modes of transportation.

Who is Cando?

Cando Rail Services prides itself on providing a complete rail solution to customers across North America. The company is a one-stop shop for railway services, offering industrial switching, terminal and transload services, logistics, material handling, short line operations, mechanical services, rail car storage, engineering and track services.

Cando’s goal is to ensure that products make their way through the supply chain safely and efficiently, supporting their industrial customers and Class 1 railways (a class that includes CN, CP and VIA Rail Canada, as well as Amtrak, BNSF, CSX and UP in the US). The company’s headquarters are located in Brandon, Manitoba, with more than 400 employees working in locations across Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, British Columbia, and in parts of the US.


This image captures the view from on top of a tank car. The leading lines of the grey, cylinder-shaped, tank cars guide the eye towards the horizon. It is a powerful image, with the rows of train cars lining the tracks as far as the eye can see.

This image captures the view from on top of a tank car. The leading lines of the grey, cylinder-shaped, tank cars guide the eye towards the horizon. It is a powerful image, with the rows of train cars lining the tracks as far as the eye can see.

History

Gord Peters and Rick Hammond founded the company, originally known as Cando Contracting Ltd., in 1978. In the beginning, the work primarily consisted of track removal and material salvaging. However, the small Manitoba-based rail line dismantling and salvage company has grown substantially over the years to become an integrated solutions provider for customers in the rail sector and bulk handling industries across North America.

Employee Ownership

In 1996, Cando implemented an Employee Ownership Program, and now employees are also corporate shareholders. For Peters, this was an important part of ensuring the company’s continued success. As stated on their website, “My vision and legacy for this company is that it will continue for future generations in the capable hands of the people that know the business best – the employees. Our employee-owned company will continue to deliver industry leading rail services based on safety, customer satisfaction, employee development, innovation and sustained growth” (Cando Website, February 2019).

Railway Photography


A crew member in an orange jumpsuit sits in the first car of a cando train. The photograph is taken at a low angle, to include some of the exterior of the train, and provide a sense its height.

A crew member in an orange jumpsuit sits in the first car of a Cando train. The photograph is taken at a low angle, to include some of the exterior of the train, and provide a sense its height.


An employee in an orange jumpsuit and hard hat works on the tracks. The rails create leading lines in the photograph, guiding the eye to the employee hard at work. Tank cars line the tracks behind him.

An employee in an orange jumpsuit and hard hat works on the tracks. The rails create leading lines in the photograph, guiding the eye to the employee hard at work. Tank cars line the tracks behind him.


Railway photography of switch with locomotive

A train approaches in the distance, while an employee works beside the track. This railway photography image depicts the vastness of the yard, with an assortment of equipment and facilities visible in the background.


In this full shot image, an employee monitors activity in the yard, as a train moves along the track.

In this railway photography image, an employee monitors activity in the yard, as a train moves along the track.


A close-up photo of a crew member. In this stylized photograph, only the employee is in focus.

A close-up photo of a crew member. In this stylized photograph, only the employee is in focus.


An employee walks on the gravel beside the train tracks towards a section of the track where a switch is located. This photograph is captured in motion, as can be identified by the blurring of the gravel and track in the foreground.

An employee walks on the gravel beside the train tracks towards a section of the track where a switch is located. This railway photography image is captured in motion, as can be identified by the blurring of the gravel and track in the foreground.


An employee sits aboard a train, looking out the window onto the rail yard. This image features a creative composition, positioning the employee in the right segment of the photograph.

An employee sits aboard a train, looking out the window onto the rail yard. This railway photography image features a creative composition, positioning the employee in the right segment of the photograph.


A crew member works inside the railcar.

A crew member works inside the rail car.


This image shows the complexities of the track up close, and uses the train rails to lead the eye down towards the trains on the track. There are multiple switches on the track that need to be maintained by cando crew.

This railway photography image shows the complexities of the track up close, and uses the train rails to lead the eye down towards the trains on the track. There are multiple switches on the track that need to be maintained by Cando crew.


An employee is crouched down between two train cars to inspect the couplers.

An employee is crouched down between two train cars to inspect the coupler.


An employee tests the hand break on a train car.

An employee tests the hand break on a train car.


This image captures the extent of a train that sits on a winding section of the track.

This image captures the extent of a train that sits on a winding section of the track.


This image accentuates the colossal size of the tank cars by drawing a comparison to the size of an employee who stands beside to cars.

This image accentuates the colossal size of the tank cars by drawing a comparison to the size of an employee who stands beside to cars.


An employee walks along the tracks in the distance. Train cars sit along the tracks at varying distances.

An employee walks along the tracks in the distance. Train cars sit along the tracks at varying distances.


Cando trucks drive along the gravel, in front of a freight train.

Cando trucks drive along the gravel, in front of a freight train.


A crew member works on top of a tank car. This dynamic image is captured at the employee’s eye level.

A crew member works on top of a tank car. This dynamic image is captured at the employee’s eye level.

The railway photography created for Cando Rail reflects the type of dynamic work they do. The use of different angles and composition techniques — such as leading lines, foreground interest and depth — helps to create visually stunning images, while also telling the story of Cando — who they are, what they do, and what they value. It was important to use railway photography to document the various services Cando provides, the equipment they use, and the work environment, but also, and perhaps most of all, it was important to capture the hard work of Cando’s crew members, as they are the backbone of this employee-owned company.

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