Friday, October 23, 2009

Meet Me in Mahnomen

It was a dark and gloomy morning, last Monday as I pointed the Escape northwest for a trip to Hallock. It's kind of a neat drive for me, since you can parallel tracks almost the entire way. Oddly, by the time I made it to Detroit Lakes and made a hard right to follow the CP, I hadn't yet seen a train. It's kind of unusual to make the Wadena to DL run without seeing a train on the Staples Sub.

I didn't expect much on the CP DL Sub as that has always been a tough place for me to catch a train, but for the first time, I stumbled across a meet in Mahnomen. The northbound train was waiting for the southbound, which I have to assume was to take the siding. I didn't have time to wait around and see. I did snap a cloudy day shot as the train crept toward the crossing on the north edge of town.

Just as I left the crossing the southbound appeared. I pulled over and again grabbed a shot under leaden skies.

Having caught two trains, I knew I was safe the rest of the way to Erskine. As I headed west on Highway 2, my expectations were still pretty low as the clouds gave no sign of thinning. I took a close look at the shuttle elevator, and saw no activity there.

I confess to being shocked to see a headlight coming toward me as I rounded the curve near the elevator. Dashing across the tracks to the south at the first available crossing, I peered into the gloom to identify the oncoming train. There was something unusual about it, that I couldn't quite place. The first horn blast confirmed that this was not the usual Cass Lake local Geep. Imagine my surprise.

Take a close look at the second unit, this isn't the last you will see of it.

I continued on to my destination, spending the rest of the workday in Stephen right along the Noyes Sub. I've been lucky there in the past, but not today, as the BNSF didn't run a train for my enjoyment either on the Staples or Noyes Subs, and the only train I saw on the GF Sub was the Minnesota Northern one.

Pipeliners have literally taken over the extreme NW part of the state, and I ended up going to Thief River Falls to find a motel room. That turned out to be a lucky break, as the sun tried to peek out for a few minutes just before dark and I was able to get a couple of pictures before retiring to my motel.

As I headed up to the yard, I came across this car scrapping operation, which was shut down for the evening. It must be where EEC hopppers go to rest.

There was still a substantial line of stored SD60's in a couple of paint schemes in the yard, but no decent photo opportunities. Same story with the repainted switchers, I think at least one was an MP15, but no chance at a decent photo.

NPR was putting a train together, though, and I grabbed a quick shot at the north end of the yard. That must be a fertile engine, to have a light pole growing right out of the top of it.

Last up was the ILSX 1381, second unit on the morning Minnesota Northern train. Evening found it resting just north of Thief River Falls, coupled up to more fodder for the scapper's torch from the writing on the car. I got it in the only sun I saw all day.

I also walked out across a stubble field, that was surprisingly dry (although it wouldn't be by morning) to shoot the entire train. Some day I want to go up and chase them to Roseau.

Next morning I was off for Hallock well before dawn, and made the return trip to Wadena in the evening. The skies were still dark and gloomy, and the trains were rare. I was just thankful to have seen the action I did the previous day.

Keep looking for trains,


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