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Budding Elk Valley photographer turns lens to the rails

Yohan Simpson is nurturing a talent for catching photos of locomotives passing through the valley
CP Rail Heritage unit 7011, a EMD SD70ACU diesel-electric train with Fernie’s iconic Three Sisters behind. Pictured in winter 2022. (Image courtesy of Yohan Simpson)

A lot of trains come through the Elk Valley, but have you ever stopped and watched one go by? Being stuck at a crossing doesn’t count.

14-year-old Yohan Simpson does one better, making a hobby out of snapping catching photos of locomotives trundling along the network that stretches through the region.

Simpson is the talent behind the pictures shared online of locomotives set to the stunning Elk Valley backdrop.

“I started to like trains back when I was 4-5 years old, I just enjoyed the feeling of them flying past you,” he said.

“A couple years ago, I realized there was a whole community of people that liked taking pictures of them, and I just joined in.”

Otherwise known as ‘railfans’, there’s a healthy community of people that snap photos of the different trains that pass through their communities, taking goods from one end of the country to the other.

“The community of railfans was bigger than I thought it would be when I joined in,” he said, saying that he got some tips off similarly minded folks on how to improve.

Simpson started taking photos with his phone a year ago, and has since graduated to using a DSLR camera. Living near the tracks between Fernie and Hosmer, he knows when they’re coming.

“I’ve got a radio so I just listen often and hear when they’re coming … whenever I hear something coming I just bike to town.”

Most of the trains that come through the area at CP Trains pulling coal and headed to the coast, but Simpson said he mostly enjoyed taking photos of trains pulling anything other than coal. There was lots of variation in companies too.

“We live next to the border (Eastport) so we get a lot of foreign stuff.”

Simpson shares a lot of his best pictures on railfan Facebook groups, and hopes to keep honing his new talent this summer.

READ MORE: Rain, snow and shine: Local student pedals through Fernie weather for whole school year
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