Friday, February 20, 2009

A Pair of ACes (or, Go West, Old Timer)

I can hardly call myself young man, given the condition I ended up in after clambering up the hill from the frozen surface of Acorn Lake to Highway 10. Wait a minute, let's get back to the beginning of this edition of the adventures of Mr. and Mrs. L4T.

February 15 dawned clear and sunny, tempting me to venture out with my new camera and see what traffic was about. After a hearty breakfast and church, the clear skies looked like they would hold out for at least a while longer, and the two of us climbed into the Escape and headed west.

As we approached the Hwy 71 crossing in Wadena, I found it was occupied by a westbound coal empty. Well, at least I will have one train to mess with this afternoon, although he was rolling along pretty good and would probably beat the sun as far as I was willing to go.

Heading out of Wadena, I finally managed to catch the head end and found that the power was a pair of 9100 series ACes, elephant style. Neat consist. The train would be pretty much side-lit as far as Hawley this early in the day, and it popped into my head that it might be time to try and catch him as he passed Acorn Lake just west of Frazee. So off I went, trying to get far enough ahead of him to have time for the climb down to the lake.

About halfway between Perham and Frazee, I spied an eastbound headlight, and was faced with stopping to try a shot on a fairly well-lit train (and possibly missing the ACe pair at the lake) or passing up the eastbound. I decided to risk the shot, and pulled over just to shoot this short vehicle train:


As soon as I shot him I was back on the road flying west. I parked along the guard rail above the lake and dove over the side. This is one steep hill. Luckily, the snow was hard enough that I didn't sink in too far and it gave good footing. I made it down to the lake surface with a few minutes to spare. Soon I heard the rumble of the approaching train and he rolled into view quickly. It's kind of a neat shot, but I had built this location up so much in my mind I couldn't help but be a little disappointed.


I still had some crazy fantasy about running up the hill and beating him to Hawley.

That notion went out the window about 1/8 of the way up Mt. Acorn. The same snow that had helped to ease my descent was making the trip back up wild. Half the time my steps would cause the snow to give way and lead to NO upward progress. And since I was in a hurry, I was going what for me is all out. By the time I was 2/3 of the way up, my lungs were burning, my legs were getting rubbery, and the spit was starting to spray out as I breathed. But I made it.

By that time, though, I had about given up hope of catching my pair of ACes again. I made a half hearted attempt at a chase, but I had to deal with stoplights in DL, which the train was immune to. Hearing the dispatcher giving a couple more eastbounds warrants was a slight consolation, even if they would be backlit.

I thought I had a chance at the first eastbound at Lake Park, and headed to the S curve. I beat him by quite a bit, and the sun got around on me in the 20 or 30 minutes I waited, which combined with my stupid choice to change to a short lens left me with no good shots of that train. It seems like a morning spot and I decided to head a little further west.

When I made it the Hawley area, nothing was stirring and I asked Mrs. L4T if she was interested in checking to see if anything was going on in Ulen. She is always up for a ride so said sure, but we made it only about a mile up Hwy 32 before I heard a westbound clear up his warrant from Wadena to Richards Spur, so Ulen would have to wait for another day. This train turned out to be a stacker behind an H1, and I had decided to try a shot from the Hwy 32 overpass. I got him in two locations, this one and a little closer in this view:


I really like this shot, although the focus is just a bit off on the view posted above. The one I linked is a bit sharper, I think. Very nice location.

Clouds were building in by this time. I knew there was still one eastbound out there, and in just a few minutes I heard another westbound pass Richards Spur. I camped out on the County Bridge just west of Hwy 32 in hopes of a meet. Turns out I was a bridge too far east. I shot the GE's on the eastbound as they approached, just after the westbound rolled out of sight.


For once, the clouds rolled in just as the traffic level slowed. I saw two more trains before we left the area. We had a Dairy Queen supper with the son & heir to the throne, who was up for a couple of double cheeseburgers.

All in all, a great day of fanning. I even managed to get my exercise and avoid a heart attack at the same time. Thanks for looking, and keep looking 4 trains!

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