Thursday, July 30, 2009

BNSF Monster Train-and some other East Staples Stuff

Greetings railfans. Today we'll take a look at a couple of warbonnet-led trains on the Staples Sub, and what I have dubbed the "BNSF Monster Train". Let's get right to it.

After an almost four day business trip I headed for home today after lunchtime and saw nothing but MOW crews between Anoka and north of St. Cloud. Not a train was moving. When I got to Darling, I spotted the rear end of a westbound intermodal in the siding. After I passed the head end I pulled over for a shot.

Given that the clouds were on the prowl, the sun was high, and I hadn't been home for four days, I pretty much wrote off the eastbound that this guy was likely holding for. I decided that if I could get a shot near the curve south of Randall I would try it, but when I met a worm train just a little too soon, I decided to just keep going.

Imagine my surprise when all of a sudden where it seemed the end of the train should be a mid-train helper blasted by me with another long string of grain cars snaking around the curve behind him. That, as they say, changed everything. I have never ever seen a mid train helper on the Staples Sub before, and made the first available u-turn. After engaging warp drive on the Escape and phoning home to inform Mrs. L4T that I would be a bit late, I set off on the task of catching the head end. The train wasn't moving too fast but I still hadn't caught the lead units when they passed under Highway 10 entering Little Falls. I decided to head on south and try to get up on the old Soo Line overpass in hopes of getting a shot of the train all stretched out.

I made it to the overpass with a minute to spare, and decided to take the short route up the side of the fill. That was a project in the wet weeds, but I made it all the way up and double-timed it across the bridge to catch the lead units pass under me.

I started counting cars and trying to shoot photos at the same time. The rough count I came up with was 220 cars plus locos, which if correct, the detector would have announced as "TOTAL AXLES NINE ZERO FOUR". I never heard a detector though, so I'm not sure if my count was accurate. Even if not, I know it was close. It was by far the longest train I have ever seen anywhere myself.

I wanted to make sure to get a shot of the rare (to me) mid train DP unit, and here it is.

The train, according to the EXIF files on the pics I shot, took about 3 minutes to pass. I know it seemed like a long time. The mid train unit seemed to be pretty much exactly in the middle of the train. In fact, I suspect this was two trains combined into one.

Finally, the rear DPU came into view. Once again, photo documentation was called for.

And then he was gone.

I resumed my journey home and once again, traffic was light. The sun was peeking out from between the clouds on occasion, but just as often it was raining. When I got to Staples, I found a manifest train in the yard with another warbonnet leading. This train had a bit more unusual third unit in its consist, though. I shot the power set in the rain from Highway 10.

Two eastbound coal loads passed by as i travelled from Staples to Wadena but no shots of these MERC trains. And that's it for today's trip from the Cities to Wadena. I got to see the "Monster Train". Always keep looking.


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