Sunday, March 28, 2010

Staples Sunday Surprise

With the sun out, the craziness of a Palm Sunday breakfast to be organized behind me, and hopes that a few trains would be out on the Staples Sub, Mrs. L4T and I decided to run over Staples way and see if the Spot Cafe had shifted to summer hours yet.

We nearly made it before I was surprised by a train of what looked like crude oil cars that I hadn't seen on the ATCS before leaving home. One thing about ATCS, sometimes you THINK you know what's going on, but you really DON'T. For example, this train had come off the Brainerd Sub and snuck up on me. Which is kind of entertaining sometimes, in itself. Anyway, back to the Dower Lake Road for a shot as the three AC units accelerated the train out of town.

Last time I was in Duluth, a few weeks ago, it seemed that there were a bunch of these cars in Rice's Point Yard. I rememeber thinking at the time that they were likely intended for crude service, cycling between western ND and the refinery down south. Since these had no placards, I figure they were making their maiden voyage in this service.

It turned out the Spot was still on winter hours, so we diverted to the DQ. There was one more westbound in range, down around the Darling area when we ate, so after supper, we settled into a spot near the east crossing in Staples for the short wait until this showed up.

That trailing MAC has one ugly peach colored paint job. I nominate it to be "wedgified". The crew on that train gave a friendly wave, so I thought we may as well run them down for a second shot. In order to get a little different angle, we travelled a little further toward Aldrich for this shot.

After one more run through Staples, it seemed like time to head back home and upload some photos. So that's all the shots I have for tonight. Hope you enjoy them.


Saturday, March 27, 2010

Homebound on Highway 10

Thursday, I was in the north metro all day and managed to complete my assigned duties by quitting time. Home was calling, and the most direct route took me right up Highway 10 all the way to Wadena.

The thought occured to me that there should be some Northstar trains out and about. I hadn't yet had the chance to catch them in action, just a couple of the cars as they came through Red Wing last year and a test train one afternoon last fall when I had the chance to stop at Northtown Yard.

Highway 10 was its usual clogged-up self as I passed through the Anoka and Elk River areas, but was clearing out pretty nicely by the time I reached Big Lake. I didn't know what the Big Lake station was like, but the signs along the highway made it easy to find. After waiting only about 5 minutes, a headlight appeared to the east, and soon materialized into one of the evening Northstar trains. My first photo shows him as he drifts to a stop near the platform.

The train had barely stopped when the doors opened and a rush of passengers spilled out of the cars. These trains certainly do sport a flashy paint scheme.

Having been gone for 4 days made me anxious to get home. Although I spotted a train or two over the next hundred miles or so, nothing offered the opportunity for a quick shot. I did have to detour past Camp Ripley due to the flood damage to the Highway 10 bridge at Little Falls, which offered the opportunity to see the "street trackage" across the river bridge at the Camp. Is that trackage still used?

An empty coal train was just clearing the crossing in Motley, which offered the chance at a photo on the Brainerd Sub. I passed the train about halfway between Motley and Staples, and crossed over to the south side of the tracks for these two shots. Obviously, clouds had moved in as I travelled northwest, and there was just a crack to the west letting the sun through for this shot.

I decided to shoot the DPU as well, since there was no choice but to wait for it to clear. Here is the result:

The sun was gone before this train made it through Staples. Coal traffic was healthy, though, as one loaded train was waiting for these empties to clear so it could head east on the Brainerd, and I met a second loaded DEEX train before making it to Wadena. And that's all for this episode of your railfan reality blog.


Friday, March 26, 2010

More Missabe

On Wednesday afternoon, I had to leave Hibbing for the Metro area. Since I had no deadline of when to arrive, CR 7 seemed to be a good alternative to Highway 53. The sun was out and it was beautiful afternoon.

As I approached Forbes I could see loaded cars moving west. For a minute I wondered why a T-bird train would be moving away from the plant while loaded. It took me a bit to realize I had lucked into United Tac loads headed for the docks.

I was quickly able to get ahead of the loaded train, powered by a matched set of tunnel motor units. I don't know the place names, but here's the shot of the train as it rolls south.

Even though it was a pleasant afternoon, the pellets were still giving off a wisp of steam as the train passed. I stopped and shot him a couple of more times as we traveled south together. Then all of a sudden, I noticed my low gas light was on. Out in the middle of nowhere. I decided my best chance of making civilization was to head for Meadowlands, so I left my lucky train and struck out west.

I made it to town and found the only gas pump was at what appeared to be an abandoned gas station. Something moved me to pull in anyway, and a sign taped to the window pointed me to the brown house with a green roof, to the right. Before I could even find the house, the friendly pump jockey came out and asked if I needed something. What a relief! I was running on vapor. With only $13 cash to my name, I bought all I could afford, thanked my rescuer after a pleasant visit about the upcoming Empire Builder trip he and his wife had scheduled, and continued my journey. Next thing you know, I was on Highway 53 at Independence. After a short jaunt down MN 33, I spotted the tail end of my loaded train disappearing as I crossed the tracks. A quick about-face and I was off again. This was all new territory to me, down Saginaw road and Highway 2 to Proctor. I snapped off a couple of poorly lit photos on the drive, and wound up the day's fanning with a shot off the overpass at the end of the Proctor yard. Limestone was stage to head north.

After topping off my tank at the Proctor Holiday station, it was on to I-35 for the rest of the trip. I spotted what looked like a northbound empty all rail some miles down the interstate but didn't even think about chasing, since there was no exit nearby. So, these two shots are all I have to offer from my trip down the Missabe.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

An Hour at Iron Junction

While I've never had the opportunity to do a lot of railfanning of the DMIR, my occasional trips to the range area are always interesting. I lived in Virginia when I was just a youth, and can clearly remember high nose SD's and beautiful wide vision cabooses working the industrial area, sometimes delivering coal hoppers to the municipal power plant across the street from the Junior High and Roosevelt High School. Oh to have had a digicam in those days!

Iron Junction is also the site of the first real railfan trip I ever took, which lasted a total of about 2 hours due to other commitments that same day. But I was lucky as the Missabe put on a show, with one of the then fairly fresh tunnel motors teaming with a pair of SD-M's on Minntac loads bound for Two Harbors. I still have that photo somewhere.

So when work takes me to the range area these days, I always try to find a little time to visit the Iron Junction area again. Today was one of those times, as I finished up with my responsibilites in Hibbing about 3:30 and left the building to an actual sunny spring day. I was off.

My wait for a first train was short as I soon heard a horn to the north. A short three car train behind a pair of units came off the Two Harbors main (I can never remember what is what in that area, sorry) and crossed over to the west main at Iron Junction. Hey, a GT unit and a CN unit. No maroon here.

It was only about a 15 minute wait for the next train. This one was a loaded T-Bird, with an IC "death star" up front and the 403 trailing, still in maroon! So far I've seen four engines, in four different paint schemes.

If you take a close look at those two pictures, you can see that a northbound green signal lit up between the appearance of the two trains. I figured I would soon see more action, and sure enough, here came a T-Bird empty behind a pair of repainted tunnel motors. Backlit, but there was some dust being kicked up. I've barely been there a half hour and already have three trains bagged.

For some reason (actually, because I had work waiting in my hotel room), I decided to head out. Just as I crossed the tracks on Highway 7, another headlight showed up. Off I went, to shoot my first J-ball, the EJ&E 674, on the point of some morphodite train. A few gondolas, three covered hoppers, and a long string of old low-side ore cars. There weren't enough for a whole train, though. I wondered if they were being taken to a scrapyard somewhere, given that new cars are showing up.

And with that, I did head for the hotel, albeit with a short detour to Shelton Junction in the hopes a southbound CN Manifest would roll through. No such luck, so back to Chisholm it was. And now that I have done my preparation for tomorrow, I found enough time to sort-of edit a few photos and make this post. It was a great evening, with less than an hour between the first shot and last. Now you know my story of an hour at Iron Junction.


Sunday, March 21, 2010

4 Way Meet

Got a bunch of photos this afternoon, but wanted to share one now. The rest will trickle out over time.

Mrs. L4T and I wound up in Hawley and in the midst of a 4 train meet. I can't think of another time I have had the chance to get 4 trains in one frame on the Staples Sub, other than in the Staples yard.

I know it's hard to see the fourth train-a westbound coal empty parked behind the stack train led by a pair of NS GE's. Really, all you can see in this shot is the headlight. Still, it was kind of cool. It also created some interesting operations that I will detail in another post later.


Saturday, March 20, 2010

Cloudy Staples Sub

Last Tuesday found me Owatonna bound. Travel from Wadena to Owatonna allows one to fan a good section of the Staples Sub, although the cloud cover on that day did tend to take a bit of the fun out of the adventure. Still, a train under cloudy skies is still a train. So, I remained intrepid as I patrolled the tracks.

While a number of trains were out plying the rails, my first photo was of an eastbound manifest stopped near Clear Lake. Once again, I caught a C44 with an unmatched nose door. Seems like they are common as hen's teeth once you notice.

I hadn't made it 5 miles when the next train popped up-this time a coal empty headed west for more black diamonds. It was led by an ACe, and I grabbed a shot from the side of the highway to document its passing.

I soon overtook another stopped eastbound. Although the photo makes this look like a worm train behind a pair of SD75's, there were a bunch of other manifest cars tacked onto the end of the train out of sight around the corner. It was kind of pleasant to see a decent looking pair of warbonnets on a train. The paint on these has surely held up better than the Santa Fe scheme on the GE's.


After that, it was "petal to the metal" all the way to Owatonna, to make my scheduled session. Oddly, the UP blasted a northbound through town as I was getting out of my vehicle less than a block from the tracks, but I didn't get a chance to shoot the train. For as much time as I spend in Owatonna, I still don't have a decent shot from there. I hear trains frequently but never seem to get the chance to break away and shoot them.

I made my way home by Thursday, strangely enough, by way of Two Harbors. Again, I saw no trains until reaching Staples, where a loaded coal train was heading onto the Brainerd Sub. I got the DPU, again under heavy clouds, just as he left the Staples Sub. The dip in the Brainerd Sub is very apparent in this shot.

And that was it for the week. Hopefully I will get a little time to fan on Sunday afternoon, as the weather sounds good and there would be no better way to usher in spring than a railfanning adventure. Til next time,

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Springtime in Wadena...

I peered out the window this afternoon and was shocked to see a shadow on the ground. Amazingly, the sun had finally burned through the clouds for a little while at least. When I asked Mrs. L4T if she was interested in checking out the sun, she answered in the affirmative. And so we were off.

I knew we would likely see at least two westbounds, and I heard the broken up transmission of a detector at some .6 milepost, with a train on Main 1, so I surmised the first one was not far off. I beat him to Verndale by less than 5 minutes. Here's a preview of a possible Verndale Rail shot-you can tell it's springtime when the afternoon sun is far enough around to get a little nose light on this shot.

Since I was on the Verndale bandwagon, I decided to grab the next train right in town. Olsen's Farm Supply has been busy unloading fertilizer cars on the spur here for the last few weeks and two are sitting there now.

We had ideas about heading to Staples to have supper at the Spot Cafe. However, once we arrived, it was closed. New winter hours call for them to close at 2:00 PM on Sundays. That should change soon as winter is rapidly giving way to spring in central Minnesota.

So after a brief tour of the yard, where a single GP was coupled up to the east end of a long string of cars but nothing else was present, we headed back to Aldrich to get a bite to eat at Ted and Gen's. They have fantastic rib sandwiches. Just before we made it into town, I heard an eastbound clear up his Richards Spur to Wadena warrant and decided to try a backlit shot. Another short wait yielded this parade of GE's:

Then it was off to supper. One more westbound passed while we were eating. The clouds had moved in again by the time we finished, so straight home it was. It's after 7:30 as I write this and there is still light in the western sky. It must be spring.


Friday, March 12, 2010

Matched Power

So today, I had to make a trip to Perham for work. The endless drizzle stayed that way on the drive over, and rendered any photo opportunities useless. That was a shame, since in contrast with yesterday, when MOW crews were everywhere between Wadena and Lake Park, today trains were keeping both mains shiny.

After my meeting, I started for home about 3:15 PM under cloudy but not rainy skies. Just as i was leaving the office, I heard an eastbound blowing the crossings in Perham. This gave me hope I might be able to catch him in the 20 miles between Perham and Wadena, but it was not to be.

Headlights were peering around the corner to the east when I crossed the tracks in town. I reached the edge of town just as a coal empty behind three H2 MAC's was roaring up the hill. It was nice to see a matched set of power, as coal is often behind some mix of MAC's in exec or H2 paint, GEVO's, and/or ACe's.

Resuming the homeward trek, I set the cruise just above the speed limit and headed east. A glance to the east from the overpass again revealed headlights peering from the overcast. Just east of the overpass I picked my way through the ditch without getting wet and shot a matching pair of GEVO's on WEPX empties.

And that was the end of the trains for today. The real trains, at least. Today was also the day the Fed Ex man showed up at look4trains world headquarters with the latest treasure from ebay. I may post some pix this weekend.


Sunday, March 7, 2010

Odds and Ends

Not sure if this ever happens to anyone else, but real life has interfered with my railfanning to a major extent recently. Between running up and down the road for work, a trip to Florida to see my parents, and other assorted obligations, looking for trains has taken a definite back seat.

Still, when I have a spare moment or the opportunity presents itself, I try to get a photo or at least do some trainwatching. Here's a selection of what I have seen over the last 10 days or so. On Friday Feb 26 Mrs. L4T and I headed over to Staples for supper and ended up spotting a couple of trains. The first was an eastbound coal load on the Brainerd Sub. Since the DPU was pointed the "right" way I shot him a bit east of Staples as the train picked up speed on the Brainerd Sub.

I knew a westbound was headed our way as well on the Staples Sub so I waited for the SD39-2 led train to show up. They were lined into the yard, which caused a short wait for an eastbound coal train near the Staples Depot.

The next day the Mrs. gave me a lift to the Cities to catch a plane for a visit with my parents in Florida. Although I missed out on Gopher Rail as a result, the trip was well worth it. As we were headed through Staples, I did a double take as I spotted another pair of SD39-2's as power on DAPX empties, behind an AC GEVO. Regardless of where the light was, this one had to be captured for posterity. Wonder when the last time these classic units were the power on a Staples Sub coal train?

That is not something you see everyday.

After returning home from Florida Tuesday evening (it was a great trip, although a little short on trains-I saw an FEC loco in Fort Pierce from a highway overpass, and two flat cars on my visit to the Kennedy Space Center), I was off again early Wednesday morning-destination Fairfax, MN, on the Minnesota Prairie Line. When I stopped in Paynesville, a diesel horn alerted me to a westbound and I quickly backtracked to near the spot where Highway 4 and 55 intersect. A westbound ethanol train was my target here.

Just like the post is named, nothing but odds and ends. The MPLI was quiet while I was in the area and by the time I headed for home Friday evening the clouds were moving in. I saw a few trains this weekend but no chases or photos resulted, so hopefully some travels along Highway 10 this coming week will produce some fanning opportunities.

All for now,