Sunday, August 2, 2009

A Look Back

One of the things I have learned as a railfan is to shoot what you see while you are trackside. You never know when it might disappear. The traffic downturn and resulting storage of older locomotives over the last several months serves as a potent reminder of this axiom.

I've been working to re-edit a number of photos in preparation for uploading them to my Flickr photostream. I got curious as to whether I had done any railfanning a year ago, so looked in the image folder for August 2, 2008. Sure enough, I had made a trip to Staples that day, and shot a photo that I highly doubt I will ever have a chance to repeat due to the consist of the manifest train.

What are the odds of seeing a mainline BNSF freight train powered by an SD40-2 in the H1 scheme, a rebuilt GP30, and a bluebonnet SD ever again? Such an occurence is unlikely at the very least. Yet at the time I shot this train, it never occured to me that the days of the SD40-2 on the mainline were limited. I knew that they were getting a bit long in the tooth, and new locos continued to be delivered that would someday replace them, but surely not so soon. Yet I was less than two months from seeing my last SD40-2 leading a mainline BNSF train, for some time at least, if not forever. I know they will never again be common out on the high iron.

The investigation of one year ago naturally evolved into what was going on two years ago. Surely I would see nothing from those shots that evoked a similar nostalgia? Well, I didn't have any shots from August 2, 2007, but I did from August 5, and so I took a look at them. This one is surely a scene that is very unlikely to ever be played out again along the Staples Sub. An Oakway SD60 and a bluebonnet Dash 2 teamed up with a GE pumpkin on this manifest as it crossed over from Main 2 to Main 1 in Wadena, headed west.

And stranger still, although I believe I have heard such a thing may still exist, an unpatched SD70MAC was in charge of an empty coal train as it passed through Verndale behind 4 units. I can still remember how I felt when I heard the dispatcher talking to "BN 9618" The consist included a pair of the cream and green MAC's, a leaser SD70 or 90, while the rarest unit given today's situation was the trailer, a "green giant" SD60M.

Sometimes it's good to look back. Not only do fond memories get reawakened, the lesson about enjoying what's out plying the rails today is reinforced. Just like fans of 25 years ago thought the SD40-2's and the C30-7's would never be displaced, we tend to expect that the Dash 9's, GEVO's, and ACe's that rule the road trains today will reign forever. They won't. And everyone who is out trackside, shooting another pumpkin as it treks across Minnesota, is recording something that someone, someday, will look back on fondly, with the comment, "Those were the days.".


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