Wednesday, November 25, 2009

It's Been a While

Yes, I haven't been posting for a couple of weeks. There are a few shots that I could probably weave into something, but I haven't had the ambition lately, for whatever reason. Crappy weather plays into it somehow, I'm sure. Takes a lot of the fun out of railroad photography.

Today, though I was lucky enough to stumble across something that warranted unlimbering the camera even though the weather continues to live up to the definition of crappy. A business trip to Hawley gave me the chance to check out the Staples Sub. I didn't stop for any shots on the trip over, but on the way back I met a train just as I approached Walmart in Detroit Lakes. When I spotted the lead engine, I made an immediate U-turn.

After a short chase I got ahead of this mix of grain cars behind an SD40-2 (or at least that's what it says on the frame) and an H3 GP unit. I predicted early this year that I might never see another one of these classic units lead a mainline train on the Staples Sub. Happily, it looks like I was wrong.

And strangely enough, I was in New York Mills yesterday and spotted what I though was three SD40-2's leading an eastbound through town. I had no chance to get a photo due to work obligations but was kind of watching to see if any other fans might have spotted the same thing, or I was just imagining such a sight. The above photo makes me think my eyes might not have been playing tricks on me.

As I passed through DL, I looked south from the Soo Line overpass on Highway 10 and saw that a meet was happening. I decided to swing around to see if I could ID the southbound, but it was gone from the Willow Street crossing when I arrived. The northbound had crept under the Highway 59 overpass by this time so I ran up by the diamond to shoot a local as he approached.

I spotted a couple of more trains on the way back to Wadena, including what looked like a very short Z train led by a warbonnet Dash 9. But with heavy overcast and the light fading, I decided to let him go, so I have no other photos to share from today.

But to see an SD40-2 once again gracing the rails of the Staples Sub made the day worthwhile. It's discoveries like this that keep me looking for trains.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

I Saw a Train

Actually, Mrs. L4T was along, so technically, we saw a train. The particulars: Saturday, in Aldrich, MN, which is not so unusual, it was a westbound coal empty (yawn), GE on the front (ho-hum), and the sun was shining.


Yes, the sun was shining. So I took a photo, which I share with you here.

Obviously late in the afternoon, and that time of year has arrived when shooting on much of Staples Sub is tough due to the sun being so far south. The section of track from Staples to Aldrich is one of the areas where you can get a little afternoon nose light. We were on our way to Staples when I heard this guy clear up his warrant on the Brainerd Sub so crossed my fingers and made for Aldrich. I beat him by about a minute and jumped out for this shot. It would have been nice to get a little further east and avoid the tree shadows, but at this point I'm just thankful that the sun shone enough to create shadows.

The we headed on to Staples, for supper and to see what was in the yard, which was about nothing on Saturday evening. I did take a couple of shots of the depot sporting a new roof. Here are some compare/contrast shots. Before:


And again, before:

And after:

I know I've questioned the likelihood this building could survive before but with the work that has been done, its chances look to be improving. Poor pigeons are going to have to find a new place to call roost, though.

And that was it. Supper was at the Spot, and very tasty. A couple more trains were spotted after dark, which comes all too early time of year. Soon enough we were snug in our house and dreaming of solid consists of SD40-2's rolling freight trains to and fro.


Coal to Newcastle

Mrs. L4T and I piled into the Escape and pointed it east on I-90 early the morning of October 7. I had a rough plan in mind, which called for paralleling the Black Hills Sub as far as Newcastle before peeling away from the tracks to traverse the Spearfish Canyon Scenic Byway. Our target for the evening was somewhere in the Medora area.

We passed the WyoDak power plant as we headed east out of Gillette, and could see Donkey Creek Yard to the south. I was hoping for some action along the highway and the BNSF didn't disappoint. I caught a loaded eastbound before we even made it to Moorcroft. My first shot of the (very cloudy, again) day was of the power on a TXU train as he entered Moorcroft. Matching MACs!

We made a quick stop in Moorcroft and I figured the train would pass us by. There must be a grade up out of there, though, as he was grinding out of town as we left. The tracks curve away from the highway, but I knew I could get ahead of him and took a side road to the southwest a couple of miles out of town. I had to wait for the train to show up, and got him as he snaked up the hill. See if you can find the antelope in this shot.

With miles to go before we slept, working this train wasn't really an option. We were off again, and it wasn't long before another load showed its DPU. TXU again, this time the power was a matched set of GE's. I leapfrogged him to Upton, site of a small Black Hills Power generating plant. As the track curves back toward the highway here, I stopped to shoot him under very cloudy skies. But before the loads showed up, an empty from the southeast came bounding into view.

The loads behind the GE's showed up as the empties were passing by. Didn't leave much to work with but since I was there I pressed the shutter release on this.

Somewhere in this general area the land had gone from treeless prairie to, all of a sudden, pine trees. It was like there was a line, with grass on one side and trees on the other. I've no idea what caused such a drastic change.

Anyway, I once again sped past the loaded train in search of another shot. Some curves just outside Newcastle seemed promising, and I took a peek, but decided to head into town. In the meantime another empty showed up and I didn't even get a shot. I decided to stake out the loads where the track passes along the hill on the north edge of Newcastle. The sun was even playing games with me by this time.

The loads took more time to arrive than I expected, but finally showed up. I got a couple of shots as they passed through town, but even with nice scenery I couldn't make much of them. The sun wasn't helping, either, as you can see in the second shot.

And we had arrived at the end of our journey with the Black Hills Sub. Highway 85 beckoned us toward the Black Hills, and we headed north for what turned out to be a gorgeous drive. I'll be posting some of those shots on my photostream over the next few days.

That's it for my Powder River Basin adventure. I got one day of fantastic weather, a lot of trains, and a good feeling for what the area is like. I would love to go back someday, and would be able to use my time more efficiently now that I have an idea of what is what. If you ever have any questions about the area, I would be glad to offer any information I have. Just email me and I'll be in touch.