Friday, June 29, 2007

Broken Loco...

I was called for train 330-990 on May 29th at 1430. This train had been on the lineup for about 12 hours earlier the night before, but it is not unusual for trains to be staged at Portage, so I didn't think anything of it.

When my conductor and I got out to the train, we saw the damage, and asked the Road Manager if it was okay to take it like this; he said that it was, and that it was being forwarded to Bensenville for preliminary repairs. I wasn't really thrilled about it, but as long as it had been blessed, I took it. Initially, neither of the ditch lights worked, meaning we had to cross every grade crossing at a reduced speed. About 10 miles out of Portage, however, the one unbroken ditch light lit up, allowing us to go track speed all the way to Bensenville. You might also notice that one of the headlights was burnt out, as well.

The train had hit a truckload of appliances in Mauston at about 0600 that morning. Apparently there were no serious injuries, at least not that I'm aware of.

Photos are courtesy of Bob Gallegos, taken near KK Bridge in Milwaukee.

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Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Another Twin Towns Trip, June 3, 2007

On June 4-6, 2007, I attended industry standards committee meetings on behalf of my employer in Bloomington, MN. Since I had the time on the 3rd, I offered to drive the round trip for mileage rather than incur the cost of a plane ticket, and my bosses took me up. After a social outing on the 2nd, I left Belgium, WI about 10:45 of the 3rd.
After passing through some vigorous thundershowers in western Ozaukee county, I topped off the Magnum's fuel in Fond du Lac, and recorded the clouds' imposing presence while driving on Scott Street.

Waiting next to the mostly-vacant south yard office at Shops Yard, the south end switch set blocked Lakeshore Drive.

The class engine of a group of rebuilt first-generation EMDs, CN 4000, also was awaiting its next assignment there.
A typical assortment of road power laid over by the fuel rack that morning.
At Subway Road (Shops North CTC), a northbound manifest was preparing to depart when I passed at 12:06, led by a pair of ex-GCFX "SD45 killer" SD40-3s.

Up the road, after passing a southbound manifest at Winnebago whose power I didn't see, I found a meet between T119 (dropping off a block of auto racks for T357 to forward) and a yard engine, WC 3000.

After leaving 3000 at Cecil Street, whose overpass was well on its way to completion, I first found rain showers near the US10 CN overpass west of town. They would be my companion for much of the next few hours, including my visit to the roundhouse and yard in Stevens Point.

The Plover turn was approaching from the south, and waited as an eastbound manifest pulled through on the yard bypass.

Not much of note was seen after that, save for taking note of the full set of CTC signals at Junction City on the new connections, as I encountered rain coming down "axes and hammer handles" soon after I turned west at Abbottsford. CN RTC West broke the silence as I went west from Chippewa Falls, giving permission to someone to tie up on the siding at Colfax. Having not been there for a few years, I drove the few miles north from Elk Mound. Didn't see any trains, but I recorded the state of the museum there, and the pair of WC Railway-era passenger depots.

After dinner and fuel (24 mpg) in Woodbury, MN, I swung over to Pigs Eye to see what was around.

The switch/local power was also tied up at the UP Hoffman yard, just to the west.

Paired up still, the CP's ex-Kennecott Copper GP39-2s (4598-4599) were tied up near the fuel rack.

In fact, a notable amount of the SOO GP38s were collected at Pigs Eye, hopefully not for final disposition.
A second-order SD60 was staged next to a repainted MP15AC, as well.
Checking into my hotel near MSP airport, the departing showers provided a double full-arc rainbow, only portions of which I could catch with the camera as I went to Minneapolis.

I guess the pot o' gold was in the IDS center that evening. :>)

Finally, as the last day's light faded, I visited the Milwaukee Road depot in Minneapolis, which has been refurbished as a Courtyard by Marriott hotel, offices, and a skating rink in the trainshed.

Details of my return journey on the 6th to follow in part 2.

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Friday, June 22, 2007

TPW/TZPR/UP/BNSF trip, May 26, 2007, part 1

Three or four times a year, I make a pilgrimage to one of my favorite photo locations of the upper Midwest, Houlihan's Curve on the BNSF Chillicothe Sub. Historically part of the ATSF mainline from Chicago to Los Angeles, the combination of curvature and elevation was constructed to lift the mainline from the Illinois River valley up to the prairie dividing the watersheds of the Illinois and Rock Rivers.

On the way there, after a flogging of a stretch of state highway in Starved Rock state park with the MR2, I visited the Peoria area, hitting a few of the railroad high points there.

I started at the TP&W East Peoria yard and shop. A part of a larger shortline group, a switcher borrowed from sister road Indiana and Ohio was parked next to some home road power.

Nearby is the home of the Tazewell & Peoria, in Creve Coeur. Formerly the Peoria & Pekin Union, it is named after the counties in which it operates, and serves as a terminal road for much of the area's industry, much of which consists of traffic to/from the plants of Caterpillar (as seen below).

The Chicago Northwestern passed through the area to access St. Louis, with a route which diverges from their mainline at Nelson, IL and runs down toward Springfield. Its yard and engine facilities were located at South Pekin. Not much is left 12 years after the Union Pacific takeover at the location about 10 minutes south of Peoria, but my usual timing was good again, and I found the MPRPB (manifest from Proviso to Pine Bluff, Arkansas) awaiting a crew change at the south end of the yard.

After passing the ethanol plant in Pekin, the generating plants at Powerton and across the river from Pekin, and a visit to the curves of Kickapoo Creek Road in Bartonville, I made for my lunch stop in Chillicothe, following the west bank of the IL river. The Iowa Interstate's Peoria branch follows state highway 29 from its namesake city up to a junction with the IAIS (former Rock Island) main line at Bureau, and their daily train was notable by its absence.
Duly fortified with sustenance from Hardees and Kroger, I took up my position at the Curve just west of town. The weather has been better than that day on previous trips, but it was my challenge to make the figurative lemonade.
Operationally, the Curve is around milepost 134 of the Chillicothe Sub, with hotbox detectors on 160.650 MHz at MP 125 and MP 132.4 on both main 1 and main 2, allowing 6-10 minutes' warning for westbounds climbing the hill. The next hotbox detector west is over the crest of the hill, and (for at least my radio) is inaudible, meaning eastbounds are only announced by their screaming dynamic brake fans and the low rumble of their prime movers.
Settling in about the usual 13:45, three eastbound trains (two manifests and a NS-runthrough stacker) preceded the first westbound, which showed at 15:05 with a 308-axle high-priority train comprised of head=end domestic stacks, and the balance filled out with vans on flats.

Following a van train which included UPS traffic, the next westbound appeared in the freshening showers at 15:31, with 312 axles of auto racks led by a trio of BNSF-paint GEs (567-7710-7731).

Following close behind at 15:43, NS-interchange international stacks rolled by with a total of 216 axles.

After an eastbound stacker (China Shipping boxes, led by 3 BNSF GEs), the daily UP autorack run-through appeared at 15:58 (3 SD70s, 312 axles).

Next on the docket was another westbound stacker at 16:15, with 332 axles of international boxes led by 3 GEs and an SD40-2 (5396-4179-7609-6720).

Another hit the westbound detector shortly after, and as I waited in the rain, I grabbed a shot of my beast of burden for the day.

NS manifest interchange waappeared at 16:31, 272 axles in all.

As the line of thundershowers came through, I set one of the receive channels in the radio to the local weather spotter net, in case I had to contribute. Three more eastbounds came by (racks, Hanjin stacks, manifest) in the next almost two hours of heavy weather before I caught what I promised myself would be the last westbound before I moved up the hill to Edelstein.
At 18:14, a DPU stacker came through, with BNSF4631-BNSF799 on the head end, and NS 9828-BNSF7657 on the tail end, totalling 348 axles.

After 2 inches of rain, I moved up the hill. Details on the balance of the day in part 2.

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