Friday, July 25, 2008

Quick Range Roundup

Honey, I'm HOME!!! After having left Monday evening for the range (had business in Virginia this week) I made it home Thursday evening. I don't have the plethora of shots I would have liked to have captured but maybe one or two of these examples will be of interest.

Since I didn't have a good place to stay in Virginia I commuted to Grand Rapids two days, and on the return trip Tuesday I decided to pull in at the Kelly Lake sign since a track crosses 169 there and I know that I have heard it mentioned frequently on the Orerail list. As I drove in to the hamlet, I notice a blinking yellow signal on the south leg of the wye, and though it might indicate traffic. I didn't see or hear anything, though, and I found my way to the small yard. Their were a bunch of BNSF covered hoppers in the yard, along with this set of power waiting for someone to fire it up and head somewhere.

I need to learn more about BNSF operations on "da range" as there are tracks leading every which way and, of course, the out of service line from the Keewatin area to Grand Rapids, where empty well cars are being stored. This seems like a terrible shame, as there has obviously been a lot of money invested in this line, especially the trestles and bridges, and there is no traffic. From a railfan perspective, it is one of the most photogenic areas I frequent and it would be great to get some pictures of trains crossing the trestles alongside Highway 169.

Wednesday evening I decdied to lay over in Virginia proper and spent some time snooping around the former DMIR trackage in that area. I was thrilled to get a shot of a loaded Minorca train headed south at the intersection of CR 7 and CR 107, just north of Iron Junction. I guessed he would head toward Two Harbors and it proved to be a lucky guess. The first photo shows one of the rare maroon (I think only two are left) SD40-3's leading this train, along with an IC unit and a repainted tunnel motor.

And here he is, backlit, acting as a mobile mosquito repeller. This unit seems to have some exhaust issues.

As you can probably tell from that photo, clouds were rapidly closing in. As your intrepid correspondent, though, I knew that I had to keep looking 4 trains, and luckily I heard a loaded Minntac train call for permission to leave the plant. Dispatch told him he would have to wait for an empty that was passing Fayal, so I high-tailed it to Wolf and shot the empty behind three CN painted units, including a pair of tunnel motors, at that location.

I didn't know if there was an easy way to catch him again, and I floundered around on back roads in the Mt. Iron area until he reached the plant. By that time the clouds were really heavy and I packed it in.

As I left Virginia on Thursday, a northbound CN train looked like it was preparing to pull out of the Virginia yard, so I pulled over and shot him from the 169 overpass. The light was bad, but here is the result.

Hopes of catching any other action on the drive home Thursday proved to be futile until I reached the Staples Sub. As I passed through the namesake town I spotted a westbound drifting by the yard. I was able to overtake him fairly easily and managed to photograph the train twice between Staples and Wadena. Here is the shot at the Wadena crossovers, a very short (178 axle) merchandise train with lots of power and, guess what, a CN unit in the consist.

So let's take stock-a little over a train a day, got some cascade green in a new location, and every train but that one included a CN painted unit in the consist. The highlight of the trip was no doubt catching one of the few remaining maroon DMIR units leading a train. Next week I will be back in that area, and hopefully the weather and the trains will play well with each other and I will have some time to spectate.

Jim, out.

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