Sunday, May 10, 2009

Fire One

Mrs. L4T and myself were set to celebrate Mom's Day with a trip to the Staples Dairy Queen this evening. After a lazy day recovering from the physical effort of helping our son move yesterday, we decided to head out about 5 PM. A quick glance at the ATCS display revealed a westbound train approaching Wadena, so I prompted the guest of honor to hurry and get ready. Even with my cajoling, we were a bit late in getting uptown as the train was just clearing the crossing. I vowed to catch up with him, even though he was headed away from Staples. After all, Perham has a Dairy Queen, too.

We reached the Bluffton curve in time to see the tail end of the train. When I glanced up towards the tracks to dream of what might have been had we left a few minutes earlier (could have shot this train in nice light rounding the curve), I caught a glimpse of smoke coming from the ROW. I immediately decided my citizenly duty was to investigate the source of the smoke. As you can see above, it wasn't a conflagration, but the smoke was enough to indicate something was definitely burning.

I wasn't going to try and put the fire out, and thought someone needed to know, so I called the BNSF emergency number and gave them the crossing number as a location. I noticed later that the rail looked freshly ground, and suspect that might have been the cause of this fire.

By this time the westbound was well out of reach. We decided to head east again, in the hopes that something would develop from that direction. I had an inkling something was coming up the Staples Sub, but just as we reached Aldrich, I heard a coal empty call the Staples dispatcher for a warrant as he came off the Brainerd Sub. He got his ticket, and word that he would have to wait for a westbound Z on Main 1 before he could enter the plant at Staples.

This gave us a chance to swing through the drive up at the DQ and grab some tasty fast food-chicken strips for me, and popcorn shrimp for the Mrs. We settled in for supper and to wait for the coal empty to head west. Soon enough the zipper passed and the coal train throttled up. I grabbed a shot as he swung onto the Staples Sub.

After trying a shot of the DPU ACE passing the depot, I decided that maybe we could still get ahead of this train for one more try. Turned out to be quite a struggle.

It took all the way past Bluffton before I could cut him off. I got him again at the Ottertail County 147 crossing as he rounded the curve.

All in all we saw three trains this evening, two backlit eastbounds and the westbound coal train. I guess you could call the tail end of the first westbounder a fourth train but I never caught up to him. I think we did our good deed for the day, reporting a tie fire, but the reaction at the emergency number didn't really tell me if they appreciated it or not. Anyway, it was a gorgeous evening to spend travelling along the tracks in early May here in central Minnesota, looking for trains.

Jim, out

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