Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Fish in a Barrel

On Monday afternoon, I made a quick post as I headed out the door, and stuck in a screenshot from the Staples Sub ATCS display. A strange confluence of trains, weather, and time was coming together in rare fashion. On a day off, with nothing pressing to attend to, a fleet of 5 westbound trains was approaching Wadena just as the sun was beginning to work its way down into the western horizon. Suddenly, there WAS something pressing to attend to.

My first order of business was to get the Mrs. engaged. Since this involved a ride, and likely eating out, that was easy. Camera? Check. Phone? Check. Radio? No, that's still broken. Oh well, we can go without that. Our first stop was to fill with gas, then we headed east.

I pulled over at the Verndale sag, and I could see a headlight in the far eastern distance. This was working out just like they draw it up in the railfan playbook! My first shot was of an intermodal train as he came through the sag.


It was time to develop a strategy. With so many trains on the move, how best to handle them? I decided to head east a bit more, and see what the second train was. While I waited a bit longer at the crossing east of Verndale, it was still less than 10 minutes before the second train showed up. This one was COLX empties behind a GEVO and a pair of MAC's.


I decided to chase him west. By the time we reached Wadena, I was halfway to the front end. After we got out on Highway 10, I was able to overtake and grab a shot near the big woods east of Perham.


As long as we were headed west, I decided to shoot him once more before letting him go and poaching the next three westbounds. When Ian and I had been over west the weekend before, we thought the curves just west of Frazee looked pretty attractive, so I headed there. Even though I had been sailing along on the highway, I still had to run to get this, my last shot of the 5630 for the day.


It was about 5:00 by this time, and we decided to refuel our bodies for the chases to come. A quick stop at McDonalds in Detroit Lakes and we were again westbound. Right on cue, the third westbound of the afternoon came through Richards Spur and around the corner, where I was waiting to catch him passing a bit of sumac just beginning to signal fall is arriving.


So far, this journey had been going like clockwork. My idea was to continue working west, as the few clouds that had been dancing with the sun had by now disappeared. So it was off to the Highway 32 overpass, where I shot this same train, albeit with disappointing results. The sun was just too head on. Well, the cure for that is simple-move to the first wooden bridge to the west. I knew that all the trains were well past Wadena at this point, and ATCS revealed that an eastbound should soon show itself. I took up a position where I could handle whatever the BNSF would throw at me. You have to defend the high ground.

Before long, I spotted a headlight well to the west. Its slow rate of advance told me it was likely a coal train, working hard upgrade. Only a couple of minutes later, I spotted some motion to the east as well. I wasn't concerned as the sun was on my side-I knew I wouldn't get blocked out on the westbound. So, I just relaxed and enjoyed the show as the coal loads thundered under me.


The meet took place just as the coal train ducked under the Highway 32 overpass. I ran up along the tracks a ways to shoot the vehicle train in nice light.

I asked Mrs. L4T where she thought the nicest spot in the area was. She told me that the bridge south of town was attractive, and with one more westbound due I decided to run down there for a shot. The light was great as we pulled up, and the farmer's dog that chased us down was really friendly. Some days things just seem to go right.

I waited out on the bridge for about 15 minutes, then heard the train blowing for the crossings to the east. With some time to contemplate the shot, I almost went for something different but after seeing this one I am real happy with what I did.


I got real lucky with the light reflecting off the nose logos, and what are the odds the MAC in this consist would be repainted into the new scheme? I think I should have bought a lottery ticket yesterday too.

Stats for the day: First shot at 4:23 PM, last shot at 6:38 PM. Shot 6 trains, in a total of 8 locations, an average of a about a shot every 15 minutes. Saw one train that I did not shoot, an eastbound in DL. All in all, a great afternoon and evening. Got to eat my quarter pounder in peace, even with this level of action. I have to say that ATCS really worked like it is designed yesterday. It was great knowing that the trains were lined up out there.

I suspect it will be a while before I have another railfanning experience as lucky as yesterday, but I will always have the memories of "shooting fish in a barrel".

Jim

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