Saturday, September 25, 2010

The Coal Trail-Part 2

Yesterday I promised a surprise in my report of the second day's journey along the route coal from the PRB takes as it journeys to the Staples Sub. I'll no longer keep you in suspense-here it is:

A side trip through Bismarck, where Mrs. L4T and I first set up housekeeping oh so many years ago, yielded the chance to shoot this former CN wide cab GP40, now hard at work in its second career with the DMVW. While I'd seen reports of these engines back at work in North Dakota, I never expected to see one on a rainy Thursday. It was such a surprise I stepped out into that rain for the shot.

And then, seeing a street sign that read "Soo Line Drive", I made a right turn on the off chance it might involve something railroady. After one left hand curve I was face to face with this sight:

Two pleasing discoveries in one day!

Meanwhile, back on the interstate, the miles melted away as we travelled east. An occasional train on the BNSF entertained, but offered no photo opportunities as they seemed to know just when to appear-usually 1/2 a mile or so after we passed an exit, with no chance to get off I-94 within the next 10 miles, and no knowledge of how to access the track even if we did leave the interstate. Combined with overcast, rainy, hazy conditions, there was little incentive remaining to try and track down one of these trains.

I was frustrated once when we were west of Jamestown, as I spotted an empty coal train crossing the causeways that span the prairie potholes in the area. Seemed like a great and scenic photo location, I told Mrs. L4T, and someone should be taking advantage of it. Turns out, someone was, and only a couple of days earlier, when the sun was out. Nice job, Mike. Once again you have made me jealous!

Before we knew it, we were back in Minnesota. I stopped at the hobby shop in Moorhead, and had to give MN Chris a call to check out how good a deal a certain HO engine was. As we talked a manifest freight passed heading east, and once more my railfan juices were flowing. After retrieving Mrs. L4T from the Moorhead Target, we swung by Dilworth yard in time to see loaded coal train leave with two Exec painted MAC's leading and another pushing. I figured he wouldn't make much time going up the hill, so we visited Watts, where I shot a westbound manifest waiting to enter the yard.

Next up was the coal train. It was still raining on and off, so the best spot to shoot him seemed to be the Highway 32 overpass near Hawley. We made it with about 10 minutes to spare, and when I got out of the car to assess the situation, I heard a westbound blowing as well. The wait seemed to indicate they would meet close to my location. The coal train won the race to the bridge.

It was a close race, though, with the meet occurring just east of the bridge. Turned out to be an all-energy theme, with coal loads going up the hill and crude oil empties drifting downhill.

Most crude trains I have seen have a DPU, so I waited and this one was no different. A final shot as the DPU trails the train into Hawley:

Seems that while this route is still primarily a "coal trail", it's also become something of an "energy trail" as well, with the regular crude oil trains now running these tracks.

We met one final coal empty as we pulled into Wadena, which seemed appropriate given our theme for the previous two days.

That's the story of our journey along the tracks that are travelled by coal trains as they reach this corner of the world. Hope you've enjoyed it.


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