Monday, March 26, 2012


"No one can predict when a derailment will occur and that is why Hulcher Services Inc. is on call and available for service 24/7 365 days a year." So states Hulcher on their Mainline Derailment web page. On Wednesday I caught them at work, doing what they do, just east of Brewster, Minnesota on the Union Pacific mainline. Even though it was a very foggy day, I stopped to grab a few pictures just to capture some of what was going on.

This derailment had occured a few days earlier, and as a result I think the crew on site was substantially samller than what would respond initially. I believe that what they were focused on when I passed by was loading the bodies of cars that were worth repairing on to "hospital cars" for transport to a shop that could handle needed body work.

They were using two side boom cats to load the cars. It looked like the plan was to manuver the car to a spot near the tracks, where one cat could grab and end of the car and raise it far enough to let the train back under the car as it was suspended in the air.

In this photo you can see the huge Minnesota Soybean processing facility at Brewster. This line has no lack of online customers-ethanol plants at Bingham Lake and Heron Lake, the soybean plant, a number of shuttle loading elevators and a huge fertilizer plant at Brewster must generate a good amount of traffic. The Heron Lake ethanol plant is really big, with a double loop of track and two switch engines in their own paint scheme.

Oddly enough this short train had a DPU, which is barely visible toward the right side of the above photo.

Here's a view of the train, with a few of the damaged cars already loaded on it. It didn't look like they had enough flat cars to carry everything that was laying around, so another trip might have been needed.

Didn't spend much time watching due to work requirements, but what I saw was interesting.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Highway 10-the Other Direction

I been bad about blogging. Seems like life has been getting in the way lately, but here's the first of a number of posts in which I try and catch up with what's been going down in my life.

Mrs. L4T and I have been discussing our need for new furniture, which led to an afternoon trip to Fargo March 16. The furniture hunt was pretty much a failure, but we did manage to bag a few trains on the trip home. The first one was a set of EMD spartan cabs in resplendent new paint, working the east end of the Dilworth yard.

That was a quick stop, as we wanted to get home at a reasonable time. A plan that was interrupted when we passed under a loaded crude oil train grinding up the hill in Hawley. All of a sudden a side trip up Highway 32 seemed proper. Here you go:

There's something about that long string of identical cars that just cries out to be photographed. This shot has been done by everyone who ever owned a camera, I'm sure, but just to be safe I did it once more.

As I was stopped an ATCS check was in order. Sure enough, somewhere out there a westbound lurked. It was but a short trip to Mt. Muller, from the summit of which I soon spied a headlight. Since I didn't have a saw with me I had to settle for this angle.

I do believe that might be a C4.

The day finished up with an excellent meal at the DL Taco Johns, and a drive home. No more photo ops meant no more stops. The end of an unproductive furniture shopping trip, and slightly more productive railfanning outing.

What I Stumbled Across this Weekend

The furniture quest continued on Saturday, as Mrs. L4T and I made the trek to Perham to check out 4 floors of stuff at Karvonen's in Perham. It's nice stuff, too, but we still didn't find just what we were looking for. Still the trip wasn't a complete loss since it was a lovely day and I got to shoot a train. Twice. First near the Highway 10 overpass:

And then once more, this time close to Wadena. I might have passed this one up but with a pair of H1's in the consist it seemed worth shooting.

A heads up from Jer on possible unusual traffic across the Staples Sub this afternoon resulted in a short railfanning trip. With ATCS showing a pair of westbounds after lunch, and me not knowing which one might be the mystery train, I headed out to investigate. The first train was another Dash 9 powered manifest, but the second was worth shooting. Loram was moving a grinder around and I got them at Bluffton.

Railfanning was capped off by COLX loads that must have met the grinder close to the 174.1 detector. I shot him at CR 75 west of town, which was the best I could do for nose light on an eastbound at this time of day.

With that, it was home again to work on the ceiling some more.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Highway 10

Thursday was a LONG day. Beginning with a 5:45 AM departure for a meeting in Minneapolis, and ending with a 9:40 PM arrival home after said meeting, and one more in Randall yesterday evening.

Which leads to a lot of time on Highway 10. Everybody knows the Northern Pacific showed someone the route for a highway, and they still run together in most places. The result is any trip along Highway 10 is, by default, also an opportunity to railfan. I didn't get any done in the morning due an extremely tight schedule, but on the way back to Randall a couple of spare moments allowed a capture of this stack train, between St. Cloud and Little Falls.

It's kind of side-lit but not TERRIBLE.

There was a coal empty waiting for a light south of Gregory, and an eastbound about to make room for him. I flew right on by and arrived at Randall with time to spare. After a stop to make people aware the meeting was on, I ran north of town a bit to shoot the coal empty as it rounded a curve. I think this is a pretty good shot, and like how the ghost of the BN emblem still makes itself present on the nose of the MAC. Long live the BN!

A couple of trains interrupted my presentation at the fire hall, but that's all good. Anytime you can hear a train from work, it's worth saying thanks.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

The Return of DST

After spending the better part of the afternoon wrestling with TurboTax (which by the way was programmed, with the help of the federal tax code, to drive normal people insane), a distinct need for a mental health break arose. There was the opportunity to head for the basement and staple up another box of ceiling tile, but then again the sun was out. It wasn't too hard to convince Mrs. L4T that we should go someplace. When she asked where I blurted out "Staples". 'Twas not to be.

Arriving in downtown Wadena, rather than a headlight greeting us, there were not one but two trains passing through town. As is normal Main Two was hosting the eastbound, while a crude oil train was headed west on Main One. Entering available data into my railfan calculator the destination of Staples was quickly replaced with "somewhere west of that crude oil train". We were off.

He was rolling along pretty good. I barely arrived at the overpass west of NYM with time to get this shot.

This was a short train. In fact it's a pretty good bet that Christopher Muller could duplicate it on his layout under construction. The detector at MP 174 announced that none of the 246 axles had defects. I figured it out in my head, and counting the three-six axle locomotives and the buffer car, that comes out to 56 tank cars.

A glance to the west as the train passed below the highway revealed another headlight, headed my way. Weaving through traffic allowed a couple of backlit shots of the power on this train. A pair of CSXT GE's were leading a BNSF MAC and a CSXT EMD unit with a spartan cab. My guess is it was a grain train, but it's just that-a guess.

With the low fuel light on we headed back to Wadena. I tried shooting the visitor one more time as he rolled through town with "meh" results. It did provide the opportunity to notice the pair of pile drivers parked on the former Leaf River Ag spur. Maybe that had something to do with all the pilings laying along the right-of-way near the bridge west of the Bluffton crossing. Seems the Staples Sub will be seeing some major work once again this summer. Probably cause some slow traffic days, with the backups hopefully resulting in fleets of train when the light is nice. Like during Verndale Rail. Again, hopefully.

Speaking of light, thanks to the switch back to Daylight Savings Time there was still enough for one more train. Having heard the CSX train would be waiting for one at Staples (someone else was making a pickup, and had Main Two occupied), we knew there was still a chance. Might as well try the sag. And this time, it worked-we spotted a headlight as we crossed the tracks.

This train made it two out of three on the day for spartan cabs. Heck, this one even threw in a four axle unit for good measure. The power set was an H1 GE, followed by a bright and shiny 40 series six axle, a GP50 in original paint, and another GE, this time an H2.

That was it, as Mrs. L4T needed to get home. So with full stomachs thanks to McD's, we headed back for the house, with dreams of good light on evening westbounds dancing in our heads.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Just Another Road Trip

Driving-it's just how I roll. Not that I'm a truck driver or anything like that, but the Excape does pile up some highway miles. This week was no different, with a trip to Hallock to start the week, drive back to Wadena on Tuesday, an easy Wednesday with only a visit to New York Mills in the evening for a meeting, followed by another meeting Thursday, this time in Rosemount, and wrapping up with yet another meeting on Friday in Plymouth. The trip up north yielded a couple of photos.

And so did the drive to the cities yesterday. An eastbound oil train appeared out of the woods just as I passed Lincoln, which was a prime opportunity for a photo. After abject failure just south of Randall due to a long dead battery saga, I had recovered enough upon reaching the old Soo Line overpass south of Gregory to clamber up the hill and grab a photo as the train approached.

Since the train had no need to stop for fuel in St. Cloud like I did, he passed me once more. This was a good thing as it allowed for another shot. This time the targeted location was the curve where Chris and I wandered around in the grass for a bit last fall, which idea was promptly foiled by a westbound stack train. So I moved down the line to the potato farm crossing, where the tank train soon came into view.

This should be a precious photo, as it shows how I can cover up some painting mistakes on the front of a BNSF GE. In real life this one appears to have spent some time recently in the body and fender shop.

The trip home turned out to be pretty uneventful. During a stop in Randall ATCS showed an eastbound near Philbrook. I decided to take the back roads home and try intercepting the train. The gates were already down as I drove up, so after leaping out of the car and running up toward the tracks I snapped this.

And then it was off again, to reach Wadena in time for supper.

NOTE: I did catch one other interesting thing on the trip. This jumped out at me as I drove through Rosemount and seemed unusual enough to rate a u-turn.

Another day of looking for trains, in the book.