Thursday, April 4, 2013

A Dream Trip

Today was a special day for a railfan (me). I received a call from Dan Mackey a couple of days ago, informing me that I just HAD to take Thursday off. When asked why, he just said to trust him, it would be worth it. Sure enough he was right.

The big surprise turned out to be a trip from the Depot in Duluth to Palmers, via rail. Specifically, a pair of ex-DMIR SD's headed up to grab a coal train that had been stored on the North Shore Scenic Railroad for the winter.

We started the day with a healthy breakfast at the Sunshine Cafe on Grand Ave in Duluth. Soon we were at the Depot, doing all the things that need to be done to prepare locomotives for work. Anyway everyone else was, while I mostly just tagged along doing what I was told. (That's a specialty of mine.) After what seemed like forever, much of that time involving things like locomotive inspections, adding 20 gallons of oil to one unit, and getting a track warrant, we were off. Engineer Mackey was sporting a fancy new Enbridge Rail North Dakota hat as we prepared for the trip through Duluth.

My co-workers heard the horn as we passed in front of my new office, the tracks just across the interstate from the downtown Duluth office where I should have been sitting. We got waves from a number of folks on the lakewalk as we passed. 

The further up the lakeshore we went, the deeper the snow got. Just a couple of miles before reaching Palmers, the track was completely covered and the pair of EMD's got a mini snowplowing workout as they cleared track unused since fall. After we arrived at out destination I jumped out and grabbed a shot of 316, which had led us up the line long hood forward and wore some snow on her pilot as a celebration of April in Minnesota. 

It was shortly after this that I learned my purpose for joining the group on this trip. Today was my first lesson in how to assist with a brake test. I also was reminded what it is like to wade through heavy, wet snow nearly knee deep. It's hard work that reminded me of meter reading back in the old days. It also reminded me of why I kind of appreciate an office job. Oh, and by the way, I also snuck away to shoot the power after it was coupled up to the train. 

I had to be back in the office by 2 PM for a VIM (very important meeting). One thing I DO know about railroads is this-late trains tend to get later. This one had left the depot just a bit later than I was comfortable with given the 2:00 deadline I was facing, and I chickened out and grabbed a ride back to town so I could be assured of making it in time. Before leaving, I noticed the sun had come out and blue skies were moving in, so I grabbed one more shot of the train. 

My apologies to Kevin Madsen for posting a shot with the door open :). But with a crew like this, whatcha gonna do? 

I made it back with 10 minutes to spare after having to park on the 5th level of the parking ramp at work. When I walked in the office, my co-workers were all a-twitter with questions about my adventure. They know more about the NSSR than they did before. 

All in all, a great day. It's a rare event to even get to see a pair of locomotives like this working together in 2013, much less actually get to ride in the leader. Wish I could have stuck around for the return trip, but duty calls and all that. Thanks to Dan, and John, and the entire crew at the railroad for making me feel welcome and actually finding something I could do to help. It was a memory I won't forget. 


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