Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Chasin' the Vapor

Canadian Pacific, in partnership with North Star Rail of Minnesota, chartered a number of excursions with the CP 2816 Empress-class Hudson steam engine in August and September. Among those trips, on September 1-3 the train ran from Bensenville, IL to Sturtevant, WI and return, by way of Tower A-5 in Chicago, IL. In the midst of other occasions that weekend and the next, I decided to follow the trip on Labor Day, 9/3.

Given its routing, and thoughts of catching it at least twice, I decided to use the restored Milwaukee Road depot at Deerfield, IL as my first photo backdrop. At about 10:50, I heard the distinctive whistle sound for the nearby crossing to the south, and the excursion appear running wrong-main.

The 2816 was accompanied by a CP GP38-2 for the week, as protection should mechanical difficulties arise.

The Skytop Lounge 'Cedar Rapids,' used for first-class accomodations, added a classy touch, as always.

I then set out to get ahead again. Originally, I had thoughts of stopping next in Bain, but construction on the TriState and good pacing by the excursion meant I didn't get ahead again until they'd stopped in Sturtevant to detrain passengers for lunch and turning the train. When the passengers were all off, CP C&M Dispatcher let train 198 through, with instructions to whistle freely.

After 198 was by, Steve Sandberg and the rest of the crew prepared for the photo run-by. The train was backed to the next crossing south (Braun Road), to provide a good distance to gain speed.

While they were reversing direction, I captured a part of the day's scene, the GP38-2 from the local patrol, laying over for the weekend.

After using the diesel to help start the trainset, the Empress took over the task, and roared by near track speed.

After a fine display of prowess, the task of truning the train on the Sturtevant wye was at hand, with the diesel providing the tractive effort.

Recently, the cab-side herald had been restored to original appearance, as it was before 1930.

A bicycle railfan was in the crowd; a very strange apellation used for their logo, for sure.

After the reverse move, they gingerly proceeded through the southwest-quadrant connection.

After a stop at Somers to investigate its possibilities as a next capture location, I decided to press further south for better angles. Meanwhile, one of the passengers had been so taken by the locale and lunch that they missed the boarding at Sturtevant, and the CP policeman had to bring them to the then-stopped train a mile south, delaying the excursion (and Amtrak Hiawatha service that was no very far behind).
I set up just south of Bain, at the CTH H crossing, after considering the STH 165 overpass (good s-curve just north, but it's marked no parking, and I didn't know how long the wait would be, with law enforcement-attractive license plates). At 13:40, the southbound steam train approached.

Traffic and construction conspired to slow my return south, meaning I was within a half-mile at Lake-Cook Road in Northbrook, before getting back onto 294 and heading for the Des Plaines River bridge. Setting up there, while the excursion was headed for Tower A5, the Metra dispatcher ran a scoot through to keep its schedule.

Then, the scoot's block at 15:03, the excursion rounded the curve, crossing the river and approaching B12 interlocking.

I gambled for one more session, trying first at a grade-crossing in Franklin Park (which I realized would be blocked by 198), then parking at the north end of the Mannheim road overpass, and briskly walking out along the sidewalk to the sunlit side of the yard bypass tracks.

The engineer put on a show for us, sanding the flues of the diesel-burner as it approached the end of its days run, (and what I found out later was a date with a water pumper along York Road).

As the 'Cedar Rapids' went under the bridge, it was time to go homeward, and contemplate the balance of what would end up being 4000 miles' drive in September.

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