Saturday, March 14, 2009

Friday the 13th Part II-Delay of the Empire Builder

Yesterday I talked about looking forward to midnight and the end of Friday the 13th for a change in my luck. And while my luck seems to have taken a turn for the better, there is a group of Amtrak passengers and employees who no doubt have yet to see a change.

I learned this morning that today's #8, the eastbound Builder, was looking at a significant delay. With sunny skies, I had already floated the idea of a railfan outing with Mrs. L4T, having proposed a trip to Detroit Lakes to catch BNSF traffic as it passed through and with luck hook up with a CP eastbound and chase him through hill and dale south of DL. The reaction was positive and such an outing was pencilled in on the L4T activity calendar. The news about the late Amtrak called for a slight change in plans. Given what we knew, it looked like we would be able to catch him in nice light at the Lake Park S-curve, so off we went.

Traffic was light on the trip over, with the scanner quiet and only one train spotted, an eastbound near Audubon that I chose to pass up so I wouldn't miss the Builder. BNSF 7545 got a warrant at Hawley and I suspected it might be the Builder, but alas, it was not to be. Instead this turned out to be a huge manifest train (530 axles) with 5 mismatched units up front. The leader was an ES44DC, followed by an SD75M warbonnet, some kind of cascade green GP, a 6000 series ES44AC, and a blue leaser geep. I was ready and waiting for him at Lake Park.

And I never even noticed this oversize or heavy load right behind the power until I got home and took a look at the photos.

At this point everything was quiet on the western front. A decision was made to head for Hawley, for some reason, and just as we arrived there I heard a westbound clear up a warrant from Wadena to Richards Spur. I headed to the curve coming into town, where I shot this warbonnet in so-so light.

With a hope of finding a better angle given the position of the sun, I investigated the other side of the tracks. It affords a magnificent view of the elevator, and should permit working a train into the shot as well. BNSF delivered with a second westbound, this one a coal empty with a GE leading. I'm predominately a tele shooter but I broke out the kit lens at 28mm for this shot.

I've no idea what train this was or where it was coming from. These cars are unfamiliar to me, and there were a bunch of old steel BN and Santa Fe hoppers mixed into the train as well. This hopper car was built 01/08, so someone somewhere is still buying steel bottom dumps.

Just before 2:00 I heard something that sounded like Amtrak clearing a warrant. I figured they would be along shortly and headed back to Lake Park with the hope of good light. And good light it was, at that time. I spotted another photographer on the bridge in Lake Park, and stopped to consult. Turns out it was a couple who were supposed to be on the train but had given up due to the lateness, which would have caused missed connections. They decided instead to take advantage of the rare daylight passage through the area. They had news relating to the cause of the delay, involving stopping to set off drunks, hitting a car west of Minot, and waiting for a St. Cloud to crew to be cabbed to Hillsboro after another crew died on hours. Indeed, it was a Friday the 13th sequel. After learning the train had yet to leave Fargo, they opted to head to Manitoba Junction for photo ops.

A radio conversation between SWA and the crew of the Amtrak confirmed that they were indeed being led by a pumpkin C44, due to a grade crossing accident west of Minot. Shortly after that I heard the train signal its approach at the crossings west of Lake Park. I shot him as he approached:

A couple of times in the curves,

and once more after a mad dash to Frazee which luckily involved hitting a grand total of ZERO red lights in Detroit Lakes. See, I told you my luck would change.

Then we chased him all the way to Wadena, starting about a mile behind him leaving Frazee and just catching the power as we arrived at Wadena, thanks to a slow order near New York Mills. Even with a pumpkin up front he was stepping along nicely.

After that, back home and taking a look at the photos. Hope you enjoy them, and take the chances you are given to look for trains.


1 comment:

srg180 said...

Very nice - I like the way you plotted the day out to get the Builder. Wish I could have been there. Excellent work!

Steve Glischinski