Saturday, September 19, 2009

Saturday CP Surprise

Picture this. Mrs. L4T is lounging in her chair, while I contemplate the opportunities presented by the BNSF on this day. I decide to check the ATCS display, in hopes of coming up with a plan for the afternoon and evening. In a matter of moments, a plan is born, and instantly goes from being nothing more than a wisp in my mind to a fully formed trip.

With that, we were off to new grounds. What sparked it all was a CP train showing up westbound out of Shoreham Yard on the ATCS. My brain calculated the distances involved, relative speeds, and spit out a conclusion, saying, "If you get your butt in gear, and traffic cooperates, you should just about see him clear the overpass at Paynesville as you pull onto Highway 55".

When inspiration of this level strikes, there is no time to waste. In less than 5 minutes, we had wiped the sleep from our eyes, found shoes, pop, magazines, and books to entertain us just in case this exquisitely formed plan didn't materialize, and we were off.

It didn't quite work out the way I had envisioned it in that moment of clarity.

Two hours later, we were sitting at a grade crossing west of Paynesville, waiting for the westbound that (we hoped) had been delayed in his transit of the CP. Mrs. L4T was deep in a Women's Day or Readers Digest, and I was studying my own text, when my head snapped up at the sound of a diesel horn. But wait, the horn was to the west, not the east. What is going on? Surely, no good can come from this. Yet, the intrepid railfan that I am, I broke out the trusty Pentax and struck out for a vantage point that would allow me a shot of whatever was coming that at least partially mitigated the backlit conditions we would suffer shooting an eastbound train.

As I drew a bead on the approaching train, you could have knocked me over with the veritable feather. My railfan network had completely neglected notifying me that some type of passenger special was traversing the CP Paynesville sub this gorgeous September afternoon.

The plan we had worked out every detail on-from where to eat, to what route to take back to Wadena, to when we would likely arrive home-went out the window with the sight of this train. In its place, a new plan emerged-chase this train. I know, it's not too detailed, and lacks the specifics of the old plan, but one sometimes must respond to changing conditions. This was one of those times. And we were off.

We shot him between Paynesville and Eden Valley, across a field.

We shot him at the overpass between Watkins and Kimball, coming at us, and...

Going away, with what I am guessing is about 150 years of railroad experience riding the observation platform. We shot him at other locations I will be uploading to my flickr page as well.

And then we let him go. At this time we were without a plan, drifting about central Minnesota, trying to decide the best way to proceed. I had a hunch there was still a westbound about, but the Staples Sub was calling as well. Without a firm idea of what was moving, (and my darn radio still doesn't work), I wrestled to come up with an idea. Finally, after a cold Diet Coke, I decided to work my way east a few more miles, and if we didn't encounter another train, we would cut north at Annandale and parallel the Staples Sub back home.

Only about a mile outside of Kimball, we both spotted what looked to a headlight, high up on a hill. Further investigation revealed the westbound I had been looking for, just starting out of a siding. Again, a new plan fell into place-this one involving another chase, in the opposite direction. I set out for the first location i would shoot, just west of Kimball:

As this train was only making about 40 mph, I had no difficulty leapfrogging him after each shot. I shot him in a number of locations along the highway, then entered farm country as he made the trek from Eden Valley to Paynesville.

There is some gorgeous scenery in this area, including a bridge that I didn't find until the power was over it. That would have been the shot of the day.

I was sitting in the Escape as I took this picture, out the passenger rear window. This bridge (this is not the same bridge I referred to earlier, that one is a railroad bridge across a stream) was very reminiscent of the wooden bridges east of Hawley. All in all a great stretch of railroad for photography. Bryant and Jer have a real jewel in this area.

I overtook the train again as we left Paynesville, and was able to shoot him as he rounded the curve near the intersection of Highways 4 and 55, here:

The chase continued all the way to Belgrade, where building clouds and hunger rumbles led us to break north for Sauk Center.

All in all, it was a very entertaining trip. The highlight seemed, at first glance, to be the unexpected passenger special, and it was fun to see, but beginning to learn this section of railroad and some of the photo locations it offers will provide the long term enjoyment. I can see more trips to "CP Country" in our future.


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