Monday, August 25, 2008

Discovering Northtown Yard

Wednesday, August 20 found me overnighting in the Metro and with time to kill in the evening I decided to do some urban exploration and try and figure out where the heck all the trains on the east end of the Staples Sub are travelling to and from. A look at a road map of the Cities and some common sense told me that I should head down along the east side of the river. A railroad yard has to be tough to miss, right?

Well, as it turned out, you shouldn't miss it, but you might have a bit harder time finding a way to photograph it. I found an overpass that carries the road across multiple yard tracks, and decided to head out on foot and try some photography.

I parked in a parking lot on the east side of the bridge and headed out on the bike path on the south side of the bridge. Sure enough, what looked like a local was resting in the yard waiting to go somewhere. My first photo attempt was of the power on the local, with the Minneapolis skyline in the background. As you can see it was a bit of a hazy, overcast day, but the big buildings seemed an attractive target to me.

A shot of the entire train from the sunny side had a "Malt One" elevator in the background.

There was a railroad overpass to the north of the bridge I was on that paralleled my route, and soon a CP train passed over it westbound. I thought of giving chase but quickly remembered the traffic I had battled through on the freeways to get here, and not knowing where I was going, decided against it. Instead, I drove around to the south for a bit, finding another overpass (visible in the shot just above) and walking out on it after parking on a side street. To my southeast, there was a big accumulation of containers, and three CP units shuffling back and forth for an unknown reason. I shot them off the bridge, with wires in the way.

With no other traffic evident, I decided to head north, and found ANOTHER overpass, and this time I knew I was at Northtown yard with hump and locomotive shops abuzz with activity. After parking in the General Mills (I think) lot on the east side of the bridge, I walked out on the pedestrian walkway and shot some photos. One of them again used the Minneapolis skyline as a backdrop, with a GP/slug combo front and center.

The tracks on the north side of the overpass held some old power along with a long string of boxcars. I used my olympian gymnastic skills to contort this old body into a position where I could get this shot of some old SD and SW units.

While these photos are far from a great representation of the goings-on at Northtown, it was fun to get to see the facility from the road, and to observe the many small details that make it a working yard. There was a string of cars being pushed over the hump, but not uncoupled, while I was watching. I don't know what the purpose of that was, but it made me wonder.

I'm sure there are better vantage points to view the yard from. If anyone has any suggestions about how best to fan the actions, email me or leave a note in the comments. Thanks for looking.

Jim, out.

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