Sunday, August 30, 2009

BNSF 9303 East-"You have a defect"

To continue from our last installment, Ian (Trainspotter USA) and I are now at the Highway 32 overpass near Hawley, with a loaded coal train headed toward Lake Park. Here's another shot from that location, just to set the stage.

We knew there was a westbound out there somewhere as well, from dispatcher chatter with a foreman who wanted track and time near Detroit Lakes. It sounded like he would have to wait about half an hour, so we had a decision to make. Given the overcast, the fact that we didn't know if there were any more eastbounders near, and wanting to have something to chase back east, we elected to turn around.

First stop was to be the S-curve at Lake Park. I was pretty confident that I would make it in time to catch this train come through, even though we waited a couple of minutes before giving chase. As we pulled up near the curves, though, there was no time to waste, as the train was working his way through. As a result, this is a less than perfectly composed grab shot:

Well, then, let's blast of for Frazee. I know we can beat him there. So off we went, arriving in good time with little traffic light delay in DL. We set up, with the skies clearing to the east but the sun still obscured. And waited. And waited. And waited some more. One time, when I wandered back to the Escape for a slurp of Diet Coke, I heard a reference to "", and waved Ian over. It turned out our target was stopped somewhere to the west with a hot bearing, and a lengthy discussion was taking place about what to do next.

After more back and forth, it was finally decided that the car would be safe to take to Perham and drop in a siding. Of course, the conductor still had to walk up to the head end and the train had to get started. The bright spot in all of this (literally) was that the delay had given the clouds time to break up. This train would finally be in the sun when he passed us. As the train passed the detector near MP 203, we picked up that the train had a defect on axle 285, right side, Main Track Two. The dispatcher confirmed that this was the same axle and they continued on.

Which didn't help me that much, as all the shots I have from that location are slightly out of focus. You'll have to wait for Ian to post some of his, along with the video. I have to say, this was a mighty freindly crew, and they gave us a short toot on the horn more than once when they passed us.

Ian shot some video at the curve west of Staples again, and the train began to slow as he approached town. We had no problem getting in position for some shots as he jockeyed around in town, blocking some crossings in the process, while setting out the BO car. Here he creeps past the Tuffy's dog food factory.

Since he had stopped in Perham, we had more photo ops as well. Ian chose more of a broadside as the train crossed the Otter Tail River, but I got him head on. Usually trains are moving fast here, but this one was slowing to a stop to pick up his conductor after clearing all the blocked crossings. I got a chance to tell the engineer "good luck on the rest of your trip" while he waited.

One last shot to share from my camera-this is shot near the Bluffton curve just west of Wadena. I think it's a unique perspective I've shared once before. I'm curious to see what Ian got here as well.

All in all, a great trip. The weather turned around for us, and we got a chance to closely study a coal train. The crew of the 9303 probably has us memorized, given the number of locations where we managed to shoot them. And thanks, Ian for the company.


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