Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Tilting at Windmills (Part 1)

Everyone knows the prairie of Southern Minnesota is flat.

Isn't it? Well, if it is, it's news to the crews of BNSF trains that operate along the Marshall Sub between, say, Granite Falls and the Ruthton area where the line crosses Buffalo Ridge. This 50 miles of right-of-way rise from about 600' above sea level in Granite Falls, climbing all the way to about 1300' ASL as the line snakes through the "pass" through the hills.

I spent a few days in the area a couple of weeks ago. Part of the time featured spectacular weather, and I was able to spend my free time trackside after work. There was still enough evening light to allow some photos. My first evening, I heard the dispatcher setting up a meet at Ruthton (hooray-I finally have a working radio again!) and made it in time to see what the southbound was meeting. I think this rig has been spotted across the state at various times over the summer.

With that backlit shot out of the way, I was free to set up for a shot of the southbound as he snaked through the pass crossing Buffalo Ridge. This is one of my favorite spots in Minnesota for railroad photography, and my interest is a result of a wonderful shot by Mike Vandenberg. I still haven't been able to come close to what he has done in the area.

This southbound had another interesting feature-two what have been called "hospital cars", hauling wreck damaged covered hoppers to a body and fender shop somewhere for a little repair work. I think it's sweet how they keep the parts from the car together-wouldn't want the trucks getting separated from the carbody, now would we?

And with that, having driven much of the way to Pipestone, I headed back to Marshall for the evening and a little homework to get ready for the next day. Luckily I managed a little time trackside then as well, and will share the photos in a future post.


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