Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Wow-That was Cool!

Today was a real treat. During the course of work I noticed a unit train being loaded at an elevator, and after I got done with work I swung by to shoot some pictures. After one or two shots an arm came out of the cab window of the old GP unit and waved me over. I walked over and the engineer asked me what I was up to. I told him just shooting some pictures and he invited me up into the engine.

This was pretty cool, but after chatting with him for a couple of minutes (interrupted by frequent calls to shove the 50+ car sting a few feet further forward to facilitate loading) he asked if I would like to head up to the loading office to shoot some photos. I jumped on that and asked it was really OK. He said sure, I'll call ahead on the radio and tell them to expect you. Wow!

I got a shot of the George in the loco before I left. He said a lot of guys don't like his job because it can be boring, but he really enjoys it. He is the retired manager of the operation.

He was a great guy and we had a really nice visit about railroads, grain prices, and a number of other issues.

I headed into the elevator facility and parked out of the way. When I got to the truck unloader they asked if I was Jim, and I said yes. The guy I talked to said "George said you would like to go up into the loading room-follow me." Next thing I knew I was up there, looking out over a 60 car string being loaded. Here are some shots

They can load a 110 car shuttle train in 10 1/2 hours. The elevator they were loading at has enough storage to load almost 20!!!! shuttle trains from what they can store, and they are getting more grain delivered all the time. This particular facility is on the DME and they hand it over to the BNSF at Florence, I think. This train was bound for the west coast but some trains have domestic destinations as well.

The entire process is computerized, and samples are taken from the corn being loaded into every individual car and tested for quality. There is a scale integrated into the loader and the computer knows how much each car weighs. Very technologically advanced!

All in all a really cool experience. I was impressed with what a system they have and at least 4 guys were busy all the time loading this train. Here is a shot of the loco I got after stopping back when they were done.

Thanks George and the rest of you!

Saturday, April 26, 2008

What Could Have Been...

Presented for your enjoyment-a story of railfan frustration.

After I arrived home on Thrusday night, I didn't feel like checking email or anything else. I just wanted to relax and try to recover from my trip. Friday was a catch up day for me, cleaning up paperwork and work email in preparation for being out of town all week next week as well. So when I finally got around to my stuffed personal inbox Friday evening, imagine how I felt when I read this:

Re: Photo http://www.railpictures.net/viewphoto.php?id=193693

Hi Jim, I work at the St. Paul Pioneer Press. We're doing a story this Sunday
in our Travel section on the Empire Builder route from St. Paul to Seattle. I
contacted Amtrak for photos and they sent a nice one from Glacier. But
they also recommended railpictures.net. I found your nice image from
Staples, Minn 193693. With your permission, may I use it for this article? I
would certainly give you credit. I would need to know by Wednesday, April
23. Thank you.

Best regards,Diana Boger

Features Designer

St. Paul Pioneer Press

I was mighty disgusted with my failure to monitor email at that point. Just as soon as I was finished kicking myself in the nether regions, I immediately sent off a reply explaining the situation and offering cooperation if another opportunity like this ever came up. Like that would ever happen to me.

I can remember the day I shot this picture-July 4th last year, when I got up early and called Amtrak for an update on the Builder. I really like this shot-it's something different from the normal wedgie on the prairie that I usually shoot.

Oh well, live and learn. It really was cool to even get contacted about using a photo you have taken.

UPDATE: On April 28, I received another email from Diane, saying she was sorry she was not able to give more notice and that as it turned out the Sunday paper was too full to publish an Amtrak photo that week anyway. So, nothing was lost in the end. Still was an exciting communication, though.

Finally Back on Line

With the recent attacks on Coppermine photo galleries and the severe damage that my old photo site suffered, I have gone without much of a web presence for nearly a month now. After researching what it would take to clean up the mess I had, and reading about the difficulties others were experiencing, I decided a totally new approach was in order.

After seeing signs this evolved from near grade crossings, I always thought there was something cool that could be done with the "Look for Trains" phrase. I decided it would make a good domain name and checked to see if look4trains.com was available. Since it was I grabbed it and set up a blogger account pointing to it. The rest, as they say, will some day be history.

Having spent the first 4 days of the week in the Warren and Hallock area I have a couple of shots that I wanted to share. The first one is of a GP38-2 in the H3 scheme. This engine was on the point of a southbound Noyes local Wednesday as I travelled north between Warren and Argyle. Work was keeping me jumping but I made time to stop and shoot this while the sun was out.

The second shot is of an industrial switcher at Northwest Grain in Warren, where there is a loop for (I think) both loading unit grain trains and unloading unit fertilizer trains. This is also where the Noyes Sub crosses the Northern Prairie Railroad. I enjoy finding these old switchers that have discovered a new life in industrial service.

Another interesting tidbit I heard while I was up there was that the loop at the Argyle grain facility is going to need a complete rebuild due to poor subroadbed. Apparently when the contractor built it they used rounded river rock in the "foundation" and it never locked together like crushed rock would with its sharp edges. Local word was that this has resulted in at least one derailment on the loop. When, I don't know.

Hey, it's a start, and I have lots more photos to get reposted over time. I just hope I figure out how to use this to the best advantage. Comments or suggestions on how to best present information are always welcome.