Friday, March 13, 2009

Friday the 13th....

Yes, I admit it. I am just a bit of a believer in the old legend that bad luck awaits on Fridays the 13th. After my experience today it might be proof of a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Today's schedule called for a trip to Lake Park for meetings during the day. I was lucky to have company for the drive over and back, someone to share my extensive knowledge (kidding!) of the Staples Sub with. Thanks for being a good listener as I expounded on the intricacies of railroading in west central Minnesota.

The day's first train was an eastbound coal load headed up by a GE. We were just west of Perham when I spotted the oncoming headlight and made for the nearest crossing so I could get on the sunny side of this train. My travelling companion got a good laugh as I tried to clamber to the top of a handy snowbank while the train approached. His only comment upon my return was that he was looking for a tarp to cover me up as it would have been impossible to pull me out if I hadn't freed myself.

You can see the entire train stretched out in that photo. Now if only that darned power line didn't clog up an entire stretch of the West Staples Sub.

As we passed through DL I heard BNSF 9330 getting a warrant from Richards Spur to Wadena at Hawley. Given the hard work coal trains do coming up out the valley, I thought there was a chance I would beat him to the Lake Park curve. As we came into town I headed straight there, and as I rounded my curve here came the train around the first of his. I grabbed a few shots as he approached, and I like this one the best.

I know the engines are backlit, but I like how I can see much of the train. I also liked how the timing was almost perfect. Very un-Friday the 13th like, but I would pay later, both literally and figuratively.

We finished with our business, which included me having the chance to share a few of my shots on Flickr (thanks to a kick-fanny unsecured wireless connection at the Lake Park Library) with the guys I was working with. I think they get a kick out of my fascination with trains. Time to head for home.

As we approached DL from the west, I heard the dispatcher rattling off warrants to eastbounds one after another. I figured I might have a chance at a fleet as they flew through the Frazee curves, with the sun in just about the right place. A quick stop in DL allowed the first train to pass us, and the second, the Wadena local, snuck by as well. I heard something with 40 axles pass the detector at MP 203 and made an educated guess to my passenger that we would be passing a short train, two engines and eight cars, somewhere between Frazee and Perham. Turns out the GP's on the local must have been loading very well today as we didn't catch him until we were east of Perham. By that time the sun was too far to the west to get a well lit shot.

After discharging my passenger, I overtook the local between New York Mills and Wadena, with the aim of catching him at the crossing where the 4 lane ends just west of Wadena. I made it but just got a grab shot of the lead engine. Nothing at all special.

But I knew there was still an eastbound out there. I had heard him get a warrant, and this was my chance to try a new thing. I had spotted a fresh angle near the above crossing a few days earlier, and wanted to try it out. When I headed up the gravel road and turned around, I spotted a westbound approaching fast, and grabbed a shot from my new vantage point. I'm not totally happy with this due to the trees in the foreground, but if I can get the sun and train in the proper place at the same time, I might be able to put something together here.

The eastbound was having FRED issues, and trying to ring up Fort Worth mechanical, which I chalked up to Friday the 13th. I decided to pull over and wait a few minutes for him, since he was less than 10 miles distant (I heard him pass the detector at 174.1). The county snowplow operator had done a bang-up job of winging back the plow bank, as I found when I pulled over to the edge of the road and promptly entered the ditch! A little rocking only served to get me more stuck, and I got out to examine my predicament. Oh, I was stuck all right. I called Mrs. L4T to bring a shovel from L4T world headquarters. After refelcting on my situation for a few more minutes, I decided a shovel was a futile effort and I also called a wrecker. Mrs. L4T beat the wrecker by less than 5 minutes, and I was still playing in the snow when my ticket out arrived. He hooked me up and had me back on the road in minutes. I only missed TWO trains due to the mishap, which momentarily stifled my desire to shoot photos.

However, as I got un-stuck, I heard the crew of the local tell the dispatcher they had tied down their power, locked the derail, and that their ride was there. Hmmmm, wonder where their power is? After paying the wrecker bill, I swung by Drywall Supply and sure enough, they had "yarded" their train and the GP's were purring south of the main.

With that, I headed for home. I don't know if I can blame my mishaps on Friday the 13th or not, but I like to think I can. At least that way I can pretend they will be behind me at midnight tonite. And even when there are roadblocks, remember, keep looking for trains.

Jim, out

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