Thursday, December 31, 2009

2009-Year in Review

I've been pondering doing a "year in review" post for a couple of weeks, and even made a list of some the memorable experiences I had railfanning in 2009. I figured it would be tough to come up with a list of unique happenings-after all, how exciting can it be to get out trackside and aim the camera at a train?

It was surprising when the list ended up being to cover in a post. A whole bunch of neat things happened in the area this year-some of them that will be repeated, and some that won't. I went in the ditch for the first time while chasing trains (which I hope NOT to repeat). BNSF's ES44C4's were common on the Staples Sub for a couple of months, and I managed to catch more than half of the 25 units in this area. I was lucky enough to encounter a "monster train" as it passed through the Little Falls area. I made it back to the Kate Shelley bridge for the second year in a row. I got a shot of the Brainerd local doing some street running. And I got to spend time with a bunch of fellow railfans. These are a sample of what I was lucky enough to experience this year.

But I decided to focus on what I thought were my top 5 railfanning experiences, and in true David Letterman style, am counting them down in reverse order. So here goes:

At number 5, just about a year ago I became the proud owner of a new camera. I have about a year under my belt now with the Pentax K200D, and am at about 5000 shots. So far I have been fairly happy with the camera, and would definitely do it again if I had the choice to make. There was (and is) more of a learning curve than I expected, but that's part of the fun to me. One tip to anyone using a camera that takes AA batteries for power-buy a set of the Energizer Ultimate Lithiums. I am on my 4th set. Yes, I do get more than 1000 photos from a $9 set of these batteries. Amazing.

One other thing I have learned, because I am stubborn and won't take advice without having it proven to me the hard way, is that all the advice about the importance of lenses is 100% true. If there is one piece of equipment that I would love to have for railfanning right now, it is a fast, high quality, medium range telephoto lens. I now realize why people buy these lenses even though they do cost an arm and a leg.

PS: I must be a glutton for punishment, because I actually kind of enjoy the abuse I take as a Pentax owner. So bring it on.

Number 4: My experience with ATCS. I was a late adapter, and actually was running a server from house for a few months before I started using ATCS myself. It has changed the way I railfan just like fishing with a depth finder changes the way you fish. The change is not all good, as the thrill of the hunt can be reduced, but being ready for more of the trains you see, and outings being more productive, makes up for that. The real change for me came when I found the feature that lets me publish a screenshot to my webserver every minute and access ATCS from my BlackBerry while trackside. Combined with a scanner, this is very powerful railfanning technology. I often know what is coming and where it is well in advance of arrival. I would hate to give up ATCS now that I have experienced it.

In the show position at number 3, I slotted in the day Mrs. L4T and I spent in the Powder River Basin area in October. The sheer volume of trains was amazing, and the weather cooperated for the only day of our vacation. I would be thrilled to return and shoot coal trains again. The scenery is totally different than anything I see in Minnesota, and the spectacle of loaded coal trains working their way up 1% grades while you stand on an overpass is hard to top. 2009 was the second consecutive year that the Mrs. agreed to travel to a railfan Mecca with me, and I sure hope that trend continues in the future! If you get the chance to visit Wyoming, by all means, do it.

I put my first ever experiences with working steam locomotives in the Number 2 slot. July found the SP 4449 headed east across the Staples Sub. I chased it from Detroit Lakes to Staples, and was flabbergasted at the number of people that came out to see the Daylight engine pass through the area. It was everything I had imagined and more. The cry of the whistle as 4449 approached a crossing, especially leaving Staples, is a sound I will never forget. I also caught the return trip as the engine passed through Bluffton, and the crowds were once again large. People love steam engines, especially when they are working. This is one of my favorite shots of 4449 on the Staples Sub.

And strangely enough, between these two trips, I got to ride behind a working steamer when I attended the Steam Threshers Reunion in Rollag. So in 2009, it didn't just rain steam sparks on me, it actually poured.

A long time ago, when this blog was in its infancy, I posted something talking about why I do this. One of the big reasons was because of the people that I meet and interact with through railfanning. That was driven home this year at the Verndale Rail get-together, which is my Number 1 fanning experience of 2009. The turnout was very good, and everyone seemed to enjoy themselves. Even the BNSF cooperated, running a fair number of trains on a decent afternoon in Verndale. We enjoyed good food, videos, stories, much debate about camera brands, and most of all, time spent with people who share the same interest. What a great bunch of people to spend an afternoon with. MN Chris was a big part of putting this together and I wanted to again say thanks for pushing this.

Here's hoping that 2010 holds out the promise of many calls of "Hot Rail!"


Sunday, December 27, 2009

Post Christmas Snow in the Sun

Having suffered from a railfan drought for almost the entire month of December, Mrs. L4T and I decided to head out this afternoon to check on a train that was showing westbound from Staples. Since the sun angle in the Wadena area this time of year is not at all conducive to afternoon photography, I headed for the only spot where there was a chance for nose light-Bluffton.

After a short wait we we greeted by an empty Dairyland Power coal train, headed up by three EMD's. I shot him as he crossed the bridge over the the Leaf River.

One more shot as he approached the grade crossing, kicking up a cloud of the fresh snow we received over the Christmas holiday.

The defect detector at MP 174.1 told me this train had 442 axles, which meant only 106 empties, a bit shorter than the average coal train on the Staples Sub.

I suspected there was an eastbound out and about as well, and as we chased the coal empty west, sure enough, we met an eastbound Z train. After a U turn and short chase, I grabbed a photo near the same location as the first two, unsuccessfully trying to capture the setting sun as the train passed. A matched set of three Dash 9's in the H2 scheme is getting to be less common than it once was.

And then we headed home. Hopefully the chances we get to check out the rail action will increase over the next few months, along with the length of the days. All for now.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Staples Snow Squall

A quick trip to Brainerd today gave Mrs. L4T and I the chance to check Staples for any rail action. We met a Herzog inspection truck on the way over, and they must have found a problem at Aldrich as the section was just beginning with what looked to be replacing a chunk of rail on Main 1, I believe.

A couple of trains in the yard at Staples, but we didn't have time to stop on the way over. After an appointment at Mills Ford and a quick shopping stop, we were on the way home in light snow flurries.

I spotted a coal train resting on the Staples Sub from across the lake as we approached Staples. If he was moving, it was mighty slow. As we entered town, there was a stopped train (looked like Becker empties) east of both crossings. I decided to grab a shot even though this area is might cluttered by wires.

Looks like a couple of pretty fresh GEVOs on the point of that one, along with an ACe in third place.

I could see some trains in the yard from that vantage point, and so we ran down on the south side of the yard from where I was able to get this. The snow was picking up a bit at this time.

Couple of loads in the yard, and a MERC empty waiting to head west. I heard another train on the radio, a westbound that had just passed Lincoln, but needed to get home and go back to work.

Another interesting item in that second shot is the trainset furthest to the left. I presume it's a stored Laskin Energy set, all black BN steel hoppers. It's been sitting in Staples for a few weeks now. I've never seen one being stored here before.

Met a couple of eastbounds as we travelled the final leg home to Wadena. I didn't see any more MOW action but suspect something was going on further to the west that had one main tied up. If I could have made it back out an hour or so later, I might have had some action as all those parked trains headed for Dilworth.

Seeing some trains in the white stuff kind of got the juices flowing again. Hopefully I'll start to get a little time to get out and about, get some photos, and find the time to post them.


Wednesday, November 25, 2009

It's Been a While

Yes, I haven't been posting for a couple of weeks. There are a few shots that I could probably weave into something, but I haven't had the ambition lately, for whatever reason. Crappy weather plays into it somehow, I'm sure. Takes a lot of the fun out of railroad photography.

Today, though I was lucky enough to stumble across something that warranted unlimbering the camera even though the weather continues to live up to the definition of crappy. A business trip to Hawley gave me the chance to check out the Staples Sub. I didn't stop for any shots on the trip over, but on the way back I met a train just as I approached Walmart in Detroit Lakes. When I spotted the lead engine, I made an immediate U-turn.

After a short chase I got ahead of this mix of grain cars behind an SD40-2 (or at least that's what it says on the frame) and an H3 GP unit. I predicted early this year that I might never see another one of these classic units lead a mainline train on the Staples Sub. Happily, it looks like I was wrong.

And strangely enough, I was in New York Mills yesterday and spotted what I though was three SD40-2's leading an eastbound through town. I had no chance to get a photo due to work obligations but was kind of watching to see if any other fans might have spotted the same thing, or I was just imagining such a sight. The above photo makes me think my eyes might not have been playing tricks on me.

As I passed through DL, I looked south from the Soo Line overpass on Highway 10 and saw that a meet was happening. I decided to swing around to see if I could ID the southbound, but it was gone from the Willow Street crossing when I arrived. The northbound had crept under the Highway 59 overpass by this time so I ran up by the diamond to shoot a local as he approached.

I spotted a couple of more trains on the way back to Wadena, including what looked like a very short Z train led by a warbonnet Dash 9. But with heavy overcast and the light fading, I decided to let him go, so I have no other photos to share from today.

But to see an SD40-2 once again gracing the rails of the Staples Sub made the day worthwhile. It's discoveries like this that keep me looking for trains.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

I Saw a Train

Actually, Mrs. L4T was along, so technically, we saw a train. The particulars: Saturday, in Aldrich, MN, which is not so unusual, it was a westbound coal empty (yawn), GE on the front (ho-hum), and the sun was shining.


Yes, the sun was shining. So I took a photo, which I share with you here.

Obviously late in the afternoon, and that time of year has arrived when shooting on much of Staples Sub is tough due to the sun being so far south. The section of track from Staples to Aldrich is one of the areas where you can get a little afternoon nose light. We were on our way to Staples when I heard this guy clear up his warrant on the Brainerd Sub so crossed my fingers and made for Aldrich. I beat him by about a minute and jumped out for this shot. It would have been nice to get a little further east and avoid the tree shadows, but at this point I'm just thankful that the sun shone enough to create shadows.

The we headed on to Staples, for supper and to see what was in the yard, which was about nothing on Saturday evening. I did take a couple of shots of the depot sporting a new roof. Here are some compare/contrast shots. Before:


And again, before:

And after:

I know I've questioned the likelihood this building could survive before but with the work that has been done, its chances look to be improving. Poor pigeons are going to have to find a new place to call roost, though.

And that was it. Supper was at the Spot, and very tasty. A couple more trains were spotted after dark, which comes all too early time of year. Soon enough we were snug in our house and dreaming of solid consists of SD40-2's rolling freight trains to and fro.


Coal to Newcastle

Mrs. L4T and I piled into the Escape and pointed it east on I-90 early the morning of October 7. I had a rough plan in mind, which called for paralleling the Black Hills Sub as far as Newcastle before peeling away from the tracks to traverse the Spearfish Canyon Scenic Byway. Our target for the evening was somewhere in the Medora area.

We passed the WyoDak power plant as we headed east out of Gillette, and could see Donkey Creek Yard to the south. I was hoping for some action along the highway and the BNSF didn't disappoint. I caught a loaded eastbound before we even made it to Moorcroft. My first shot of the (very cloudy, again) day was of the power on a TXU train as he entered Moorcroft. Matching MACs!

We made a quick stop in Moorcroft and I figured the train would pass us by. There must be a grade up out of there, though, as he was grinding out of town as we left. The tracks curve away from the highway, but I knew I could get ahead of him and took a side road to the southwest a couple of miles out of town. I had to wait for the train to show up, and got him as he snaked up the hill. See if you can find the antelope in this shot.

With miles to go before we slept, working this train wasn't really an option. We were off again, and it wasn't long before another load showed its DPU. TXU again, this time the power was a matched set of GE's. I leapfrogged him to Upton, site of a small Black Hills Power generating plant. As the track curves back toward the highway here, I stopped to shoot him under very cloudy skies. But before the loads showed up, an empty from the southeast came bounding into view.

The loads behind the GE's showed up as the empties were passing by. Didn't leave much to work with but since I was there I pressed the shutter release on this.

Somewhere in this general area the land had gone from treeless prairie to, all of a sudden, pine trees. It was like there was a line, with grass on one side and trees on the other. I've no idea what caused such a drastic change.

Anyway, I once again sped past the loaded train in search of another shot. Some curves just outside Newcastle seemed promising, and I took a peek, but decided to head into town. In the meantime another empty showed up and I didn't even get a shot. I decided to stake out the loads where the track passes along the hill on the north edge of Newcastle. The sun was even playing games with me by this time.

The loads took more time to arrive than I expected, but finally showed up. I got a couple of shots as they passed through town, but even with nice scenery I couldn't make much of them. The sun wasn't helping, either, as you can see in the second shot.

And we had arrived at the end of our journey with the Black Hills Sub. Highway 85 beckoned us toward the Black Hills, and we headed north for what turned out to be a gorgeous drive. I'll be posting some of those shots on my photostream over the next few days.

That's it for my Powder River Basin adventure. I got one day of fantastic weather, a lot of trains, and a good feeling for what the area is like. I would love to go back someday, and would be able to use my time more efficiently now that I have an idea of what is what. If you ever have any questions about the area, I would be glad to offer any information I have. Just email me and I'll be in touch.


Saturday, October 31, 2009

Orange (and a touch of Green and Cream) in the PRB

A little Wyoming trivia: there are not a lot of trees in the Powder River Basin.

What the area lacks in trees, though, it makes up for with a pretty good assortment of BNSF locomotives and coal trains. The train pictured above is grinding north (railroad west) at Lawyer Road the morning of October 6, 2009. As you can see, the previous night's snow has not yet had a chance to melt. This is the first of many BNSF coal trains I will see on my day in the PRB.

So where to next? Mrs. L4T was pretty convinced that she would be more comfortable with an idea of where the nearest civilization was. The logical response was to find the city of Bill, Wyoming, well south on the Orin line. So that we did. But as we crossed the multi-tracked mainline on Wyoming State Highway 59 about 15 miles north of Bill, my keen eye spied a train stopped to the north. I pulled over and got out to grab a shot, and luckily, I had eaten well the previous evening or I may have been carried away by the wind. I managed to make my way to the overpass, where I was able to brace myself for this shot. It even turned out that a UP empty showed up to insert itself into the photo as well.

I know you can't tell from this extreme tele shot, but the orange unit facing you is the last thing I expected to see when I visited the coal fields. It's one of BNSF's 25 ES44C4 units, seen here on the point of a ballast train. See, when you get out and look for trains, you never know what kind of oddity you may find.

Continuing on to Bill, traffic was what I consider heavy. I grabbed a shot of BNSF loads rolling by UP loads headed south. BNSF has the advantage of being able to route loaded trains out either end of the area, while UP is limited to sending trains south. Once again the Bill water tower makes an appearance.

After lunch we were once again northbound, and at some point found ourselves hot on the trail of a BNSF northbound empty. In this shot the train is passing a stopped UP empty as it approaches Reno Junction, where a spur heads east to Black Thunder Mine and Jacobs Ranch Mine.

And here we have trains staged in the yard that sits alongside the spur to the two mines mentioned above.

Think about this for a minute. According to this site, Black Thunder has produced a billion tons of coal in 27 years. That's 1,000,000,000 tons. Current production rate is 91 million tons a year. At 15,000 tons per train, that equals 6000 trains a year, or 16 trains a day, from one coal mine.

My. That is a huge amount of coal.

Makes for a great place to take pictures of trains.

And one oddity (the first one was seeing an ES44C4 in the PRB) wasn't enough for the day. I waited for the DPU on another train in the hopes of getting a going away shot. While it turned out the engine was presenting its tail to the sun, it was interesting enough to shoot. This lonely C44-9W must have felt out of place in what seemed to me like an ocean of AC units. It was one of the only times I have ever seen a DC motor GE on a BNSF coal train.

I'm honestly embarrassed to admit that by late afternoon, I was just about railfanned out. It wasn't the gorgeous weather, or the lack or trees, or the physical exertion of getting in and out, and racing across ditches and fields to shoot trains. It was mental overload. Trying to read maps and signs, spot trains, listen to the scanner, and avoid antelope while taking pictures of dozens of trains wears a guy out. And so we retreated to our motel for a few minutes rest.

Refreshed, I headed east of Gillette to once again check out Donkey Creek Yard. I never did find Donkey Creek, but you can't miss the yard. Luckily, I was able to catch the DPU on a loaded eastbound as it passed the sign identifying the yard.

I shot my last train in the Powder River Basin proper in the same location as my first. This southbound empty had just negotiated Donkey Creek Junction on the way to a loading slot at one of the mines. It also seemed kind of symbolic to me that I had finally captured one of the my favorite locomotives (SD70MAC) in my favorite paint scheme (although someone had defaced it by removing the nose logo) doing just exactly what it was built to do-pulling a coal train in the Powder River Basin. I doubt that there are many success stories in railroading like this-a revolutionary locomotive, built to do a single job, and doing so successfully, over such a long time period. Congratulations, EMD and BN. You have done well. Thanks for the memories, and here's to many more.

Note: This is the 150th post I have made to Thanks to all the readers. I hope you find them a bit entertaining. They are fun for me to put together.


Friday, October 30, 2009

ISO 800

Just a quick note to share a couple of photos from the ride home today. I spotted a DPU crossing Highway 65 westbound as I neared the Highway 2 crossing. A short chase west allowed me to catch a westbound loaded coal train as it approached Warba. Must be a reroute of some sort-there is no reason to run loads west here, unless the Lakes Sub is tied up and they are trying to get to Cohasset.

The other train was stacker coming into Staples in snow flurries. Just a couple of Dash 9's but this what some of us are waiting for.

Both at ISO 800, which was unusable on my old camera. It's still noisy on this one but presentable.

All for now!


Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Buddy, Can You Spare an SD40-2?

On Monday October 26, my Outlook calendar told me I had to be in the Cities for a meeting. Back on the road! Luckily, Mrs. L4T agreed to ride along on this day trip so she could take advantage of the retail opportunities the metro area offers.

Cloudy skies spoiled a couple of photo opportunties on the way down, where two trains met in Clear Lake, a coal empty was leaving Becker behind four units-a pair of AC GEVO's leading, trailed by a pair of Grinstein MAC's. I should have tried to get a decent shot of that consist, I don't think I have ever seen that particular combo before.

After my meeting, we decided a swing by Northtown yard was in order. I gave the Mrs. a quick tour of the area, which I am not all that familiar with anyway, and then parked so she could enjoy her magazines while I spent a little time on the St. Anthony bridge. Seems that FURX might be getting some SD40-2's returned, given the accumulation at Northtown.

Of course some of those units are SD60M's, and there might be some SD75's in the mix as well, but there are a whole lot of -2's in this photo.

One of the units doing some switching was also an SD carbody, I'm assuming now called an SD39-2. I haven't seen one that wasn't re-numbered for some time, so this was kind of a treat. They did have to pick one of the rattiest looking cascade green units I have seen to use that day, though.

I grabbed a straight on shot of one row of the 40's from the bridge. The fourth one back was painted in a FURX scheme.

I was just about to leave when I saw headlights approaching from the south and wandered back out on the bridge to see what was coming. When I spotted the train I was glad I walked back out on the bridge. I trotted all the way across to shoot a "practice" Northstar train as it passed through Northtown yard. I've caught a couple of the coaches before but this was my first time seeing the power live. Sharp!

I never did really get any decent light, but it's always fun to stop by Northtown to see what BNSF is up to. We headed home in the clouds and spotted a couple of trains on the way home, but no photos. That's it for now.


Friday, October 23, 2009

Meet Me in Mahnomen

It was a dark and gloomy morning, last Monday as I pointed the Escape northwest for a trip to Hallock. It's kind of a neat drive for me, since you can parallel tracks almost the entire way. Oddly, by the time I made it to Detroit Lakes and made a hard right to follow the CP, I hadn't yet seen a train. It's kind of unusual to make the Wadena to DL run without seeing a train on the Staples Sub.

I didn't expect much on the CP DL Sub as that has always been a tough place for me to catch a train, but for the first time, I stumbled across a meet in Mahnomen. The northbound train was waiting for the southbound, which I have to assume was to take the siding. I didn't have time to wait around and see. I did snap a cloudy day shot as the train crept toward the crossing on the north edge of town.

Just as I left the crossing the southbound appeared. I pulled over and again grabbed a shot under leaden skies.

Having caught two trains, I knew I was safe the rest of the way to Erskine. As I headed west on Highway 2, my expectations were still pretty low as the clouds gave no sign of thinning. I took a close look at the shuttle elevator, and saw no activity there.

I confess to being shocked to see a headlight coming toward me as I rounded the curve near the elevator. Dashing across the tracks to the south at the first available crossing, I peered into the gloom to identify the oncoming train. There was something unusual about it, that I couldn't quite place. The first horn blast confirmed that this was not the usual Cass Lake local Geep. Imagine my surprise.

Take a close look at the second unit, this isn't the last you will see of it.

I continued on to my destination, spending the rest of the workday in Stephen right along the Noyes Sub. I've been lucky there in the past, but not today, as the BNSF didn't run a train for my enjoyment either on the Staples or Noyes Subs, and the only train I saw on the GF Sub was the Minnesota Northern one.

Pipeliners have literally taken over the extreme NW part of the state, and I ended up going to Thief River Falls to find a motel room. That turned out to be a lucky break, as the sun tried to peek out for a few minutes just before dark and I was able to get a couple of pictures before retiring to my motel.

As I headed up to the yard, I came across this car scrapping operation, which was shut down for the evening. It must be where EEC hopppers go to rest.

There was still a substantial line of stored SD60's in a couple of paint schemes in the yard, but no decent photo opportunities. Same story with the repainted switchers, I think at least one was an MP15, but no chance at a decent photo.

NPR was putting a train together, though, and I grabbed a quick shot at the north end of the yard. That must be a fertile engine, to have a light pole growing right out of the top of it.

Last up was the ILSX 1381, second unit on the morning Minnesota Northern train. Evening found it resting just north of Thief River Falls, coupled up to more fodder for the scapper's torch from the writing on the car. I got it in the only sun I saw all day.

I also walked out across a stubble field, that was surprisingly dry (although it wouldn't be by morning) to shoot the entire train. Some day I want to go up and chase them to Roseau.

Next morning I was off for Hallock well before dawn, and made the return trip to Wadena in the evening. The skies were still dark and gloomy, and the trains were rare. I was just thankful to have seen the action I did the previous day.

Keep looking for trains,


Wednesday, October 21, 2009

ICE on the Pink Granite

Over the last couple of weeks I've shared some photos from my recent venture to southwest Minnesota. This will be the last I have from that trip, all focused on a single train I caught on my last evening in the area.

After work I was headed back to Marshall for the night when I decided to make a stop at the DM&E crossing of the Marshall Sub. There was another car pulled over at the overpass, and my railfan detector was starting to go off. Sure enough, just as I got out of the car he waved for me to hurry over the bridge. I got this shot, which I really like, and the mystery railfan was gone in an instant, before we had even had a chance to talk.

The train was heading west into the descending sun and I had scouted the immediate area a bit that morning, so off I went as well. He stopped to throw a switch here at what was called Florence, so I managed to get ahead of him relatively soon. Next up, ICE power curves around a slight rise covered in corn.

If anyone ever tries to sell you on the idea that these trains just meander across the prairie, don't buy. This guy was moving right along, and I had to slow down passing west through Tracy. As a result of this, and my unfamiliarity with the country ahead, I blundered about looking for a shot and finally settled on this one as he left Verdi, MN.(Side note: I really blew any shots as the train made his way from Lake Benton to Verdi. Seeing the country on the return trip, I was greatly disappointed that I didn't make the right guess leaving Lake Benton so I could have shot the train twisting through the bluffs and climbing out of the river bottom. I need to get back there sometime!)

Anyway, here he is, leaving Verdi behind. Nice sky.

Finally, I caught a glimpse of the mystery railfan I seen earlier. It was Craig Williams. We didn't get a chance to talk much, but he did clue me in the cause of this last photo-apparently, the switch wouldn't throw as it had been run through earlier, and the meet was delayed while repairs were made. As the overcast was moving in I tried a little B&W action. My first South Dakota shot, with Elkton in the background.

And that's it for this trip to the southwest part of the state. I'm still working on getting some PRB stuff ready to go, and have two or three overcast shots from a trip to Hallock early this week, including something that is a first for me. You'll have to check back to see what that is.

See you along the tracks,


Saturday, October 17, 2009

Fighting the Fog on the Staples Sub

Saturday morning dawned foggy, but the computer promised that upper levels were finally clear of clouds! Your correspondent was out the door before 8:00 AM, confident that the sun would soon have the fog burned away, even afraid that it would happen before there was a chance to shoot a train making its way through the gloom. Obviously, that was an unfounded fear. The image above gives an idea of what the atmosphere was like at the CR75 crossing on the west side of Wadena this morning.

This second image is evidence that the fog was in charge even on the far side of Verndale. I was chasing this manifest train, and at the time I shot this photo fully expected to find another spot to take a shot of him emerging from the fog.

As I passed through Aldrich, the fog began to lift. In fact, by the time the train reached the CR 9 crossing, it was lit by a strange glowing sensation. Oh that's right, it's the sun.

The second photo and third photo were taken 6 minutes, and about 5 miles, apart. What once was fog had become clarity.

Continuing on to Staples, I found a pair of loaded coal trains laying over in the yard. As the sun has now gone around to the south in the morning, I grabbed a shot of them from the far side of the yard. Too bad the ACes couldn't have been leading.

ATCS revealed another eastbound, which passed the Staples detector just as I got back in the Escape. The first shot was right down the yard lead from the 7th St crossing.

Next shot, as the train passes the Staples depot. The new roof is on, and work on the soffit and fascia is also progressing. It seems the depot has received a new lease on life.

One other thing I noticed while waiting for this shot-Staples apparently is now whistle-free, as none of the trains passing through this morning blew for the crossing, and there are signs in place warning motorists "No Train Horn".

Time to head back to Wadena. The highway was free of fog as far as Aldrich, where it was still socked in. The fog continued all the way to Wadena, where I stopped at the depot to grab this shot of an eastbound Z train:

Hard to believe it can be clear blue skies in Staples while Wadena is still socked in, but that's the way it was. Even now, at 1:00 PM, skies in Wadena still have not cleared. Oh, well, at least I got to see a little sun this morning.

See you along the tracks.