Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Western Adventure

On Sunday, August 24, having missed out on a run to Staples for the weekend, and inspired by a post to the OMR list, I got the bug to head over to the western end of the Staples Sub for some photo ops. The sun was out and it was a beautiful day, so Mrs. L4T who is always up for a drive, said "why not?".

So it came to pass that around 3 PM we loaded up and headed west with a destination of somewhere around Lake Park sometime today. The sun was still pretty high in the sky and quite a ways south so I decided I would stake out the Frazee area for a little while as the s-curve gives you decent afternoon light for eastbounds. We waited for a train with no luck, and after about 45 minutes I decided to head to Detroit Lakes to get gas, since I had heard it was the cheapest location in the state at the time.

While we were gassing up at Holiday, an eastbound coal train cruised through DL with a 1x1 DPU consist. I knew I could beat him back to Frazee so we headed back to the s-curve. As I turned off Highway 10 I spotted an empty headed my way as well, and really moving. I wasn't able to get ahead of him for a shot. I did set up for the loads and got BNSF 9999 leading the train. The engineer gave a friendly toot on the horn as he passed.

I knew the DPU was pointed to the rear and quickly ran down to where the track curves toward the east so I could shoot him going away. The sun angle wasn't the greatest, but this was the first time I have seen an ES44DC used in coal service, especially as a DPU. They aren't unknown on grain trains, leading or DPU, but the coal trains are pretty much all GE AC units or some type of EMD. Obviously there is no rule that can't be broken. After all, BNSF has ACe's leading manifest trains as well.

Having captured that train, hunger pangs were starting so Mrs. L4T and I stopped at the Burger Time in DL and grabbed supper, eating as we continued west. I heard the dispatcher give a warrant to an eastbound and tell him there were two Z's headed west so I knew there would be some traffic into the sun this evening.

I set up first at the old wooden bridge just west of the Highway 32 overpass near Hawley. I'm new to this area so was just experimenting. Shortly after I arrived I saw a headlight to the west. Turned out to be another coal load, and he was working hard dragging the coal up the hill. This train had two units up front and one at the rear.

Quite a change from the trains that fly through Wadena at track speed. Here you could really feel the power that is needed to lift heavy trains up the grade.

Mrs. L4T encouraged me to work the curve under the Hwy 32 bridge into a photo. Soon the first Z train of the evening showed up.

With that I was off to Mt Muller, my destination for the evening. I knew another Z was on the way, and I heard him hit the detector at MP221. I had no idea how close I was cutting this, though, until I parked and started climbing the hill with a pop in one hand and lawn chair in the other. I heard a curious roar and suspected a train. Dropping my cargo, I sprint-waddled up the hill as I unlimbered the camera, only to be greeted with this:

I felt like the Navy SEAL who has to take a shot after a 3 mile dead run. I literally had less than 5 seconds to zoom, compose, and release the shutter. I was pretty happy with how it came out.

After taking a minute to gather myself and find my cargo, I took a seat at the top of the world and waited. The scanner was in the car, with the antenna, and soon my cell phone rang. Mrs. L4T reported that "someone was talking on the radio about Wadena and Richards Spur and stuff". When I asked if they mentioned Main 1 or 2 she responded that if I wanted that much detail maybe I should come down and listen myself. She did offer that she had hear Glyndon mentioned as well so I surmised an eastbound was getting a warrant. Sure enough, about 20 minutes later I heard a horn drifting across the landscape from the west. I got a shot of the power as it rounded the curve heading toward Lake Park. You need to click on this one to see the power.

As I watched the train recede into the distance, another headlite popped up right beside it. Another westbound! This one was a merchandise train with two Dash 9's up front, the lead one in H1 paint.

It was getting time to head for home, so we packed up and pointed the Escape east. I spotted a CP northbound as we entered DL and got permission for one more chase. After an interminable wait at the Hwy 10/Hwy 59 light, I scooted north and caught up to the slow moving freight just a few miles north of town. I tried to catch him at the slough where MN Chris once took a great reflection shot (can't find a link to it now), but the light was poor, so I settled for this instead. The CP train had a single GE for power.

All in all, a fun and rewarding afternoon and evening with a cooperative partner. The weather and scenery could not have been better. Thanks for listening to this long-winded story, and be sure to keep looking for trains.

Jim, out.

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