Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Second Coming of 4449

On Tuesday, October 13, the SP 4449 "Daylight" steamer began its trip home from the Twin Cities area back to Portland, Oregon. Seeing as how it was using the Amtrak route, which includes the Staples Sub, to head west, it hardly seemed like a Staples Sub railfan could ignore the passage.

I had made extensive arrangements to fan the trip east in July. This time, having just returned from a week long vacation, taking the entire day off hardly seemed doable. I still wanted to get a glimpse of the engine passing through the area, though, and Mrs. L4T and I managed to sneak out on a late lunch break to wait for him in Bluffton. I figured this was the only spot nearby where I would have a chance at decent nose light, so Bluffton it was. Before we even made it out of Wadena, we came across the Wadena local posing for a photo on the siding north of the mains at the depot, so out came the camera.

After that shot we headed west. We made it to the crossing about half an hour before the crowd began to arrive. Soon after parking and setting up the video camera, a couple more vehicles pulled up. One was carrying two older gentlemen who were following the entire trip, from the Twin Cities to Portland. The rest were locals who just wanted to see the steam engine pass. I got a shot of the fans as we waited for the train.

Before the steamer showed, we were treated to the passage of a Z train the dispatcher had run around the former SP engine during the Daylight's service stop in Staples. The crew on this train probably never expected this kind of attention in the sleepy burg of Bluffton.

I had the ATCS fired up, and along with the GPS on the steam train it was obvious that we didn't have long to wait. The video camera was all ready to go, and shortly the wailing of the steam whistle could be heard approaching. I decided to try a long range tele shot down the throat as the train crossed the Leaf River bridge, and it didn't turn out too well:

I liked the results of the wedgie a lot more-this is the first sunny shot I got of the 4449, after a bunch of cloudy shots on the earlier trip.

Now that's more like it.

And then it was time to say so long to a new friend. Farewell 4449, and may you return again, soon.

I slowly packed up and watched the rest of the crowd race off to the west. Mrs. L4T, my trusty railfan companion, made the comment that chasing the engine all the way to its Portland home seemed a little excessive, and I couldn't help but agree.

We talked about the runby, and agreed that the second coming of the 4449 didn't stir the same excitement as the intial trip. It was still fun to see, and well worth taking the time out of the day, but it's hard to match a person's first encounter with a steam engine.


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