Down and out on the Mendota Sub

 2010, BNSF Mendota Sub  Comments Off on Down and out on the Mendota Sub
Oct 072010

The Mendota Sub where coal is king

This was not a good day. Not at all. I was really looking forward to it, my first chance in a long time to get in a full day of fanning out in the open country, something that I really enjoy. Unfortunately all I managed to do was to put on a whole lot of miles to see only a handful of trains, and break the camera! Things definitely could have gone better.

My goal for the day was to do the BNSF Mendota Sub. Definitely not the busiest of the BNSF’s three lines into Chicago, but it does have a couple things that I really like: coal trains, and SD70’s. Tell me that any of those are on the way and you’ll see me reaching for my camera and car keys. On the down side the Mendota Sub can be really slow at times depending on where the coal trains are. Some days they’re one right after another, other days they’re all off somewhere else: at the mines, the power plants, in transit but not in Illinois, and the sub can be very, very dead. There’s no way to know what’s up in advance, you just have to hit the road and see what fate will give you. Today I rolled snake-eyes.

My basic plan for the day was be trackside at dawn, and when I say trackside I mean out in the country beyond the burbs. That means an early start, which means getting up early, and that’s where things first went wrong. For whatever reason I didn’t sleep well, lots of tossing and turning was involved, and I got up feeling like I’d been thru a wringer. I was in a fairly good mood though; I had a great forecast (unlimited sun) and a definite urge to do some photography. I hit the road around 5:45, still full dark, but perfect for the one part of these trips that I hate, driving thru the suburban sprawl. It used to be that once you crossed the Fox River you were out in the country; farms, fields and small towns. No longer. Now it’s mile after mile of strip malls that look exactly like the ones you’d passed a short distance back. I find it depressing and if I could get thru it in the dark and before the rush hour, so much the better. Passing thru Montgomery I paused to pick up a breakfast sandwich from McDonalds. Big mistake. I don’t know why but it landed in my stomach like a brick and just sat there. Great, now I had to deal with that on top of being groggy from lack of sleep!

I landed trackside with the BNSF at Plano around 6:45.  Sunrise was still fifteen minutes off, which was cool since the countryside really doesn’t open up until past Somonauk. There were a lot of new signals up, some in service, some not. The new masts on the east side of Sandwich were impressive, they tower over everything, I guess that it’s to raise them above a clutter of stop lights on neighboring Rt34. It’s sad to see the old signal bridges go, they really add character to the line.

It wasn’t until I got to Somonauk that it got light enough to make it worthwhile to check trackside, but all I found were red boards and no headlights. I finally hit pay dirt at E 23rd Rd; a dead eastbound unit coal was parked to the west on Main 2; I hadn’t seen it from Somonauk because its headlights were off. Luckily for me the sun had just come up so I pulled off to get a few long distance shots from the crossroad:

Dead at dawn

07:02 a.m. – LaSalle Co / E 23rd Rd
BNSF e/b unit coal dead on the main

BNSF 5907       ES44AC
BNSF 8904       SD70MAC

Wow it was cold out! Actually no, but after a summer with a near record number of 90 degree days, the 40’s were a shock!  I was sure glad that I brought a jacket along. Even with a 400mm it was a reach to the parked train from E 23rd Rd, so I just got a couple ISO 800 shots in the low light. I could see another headlight to the west; great since I probably could get a good shot of whatever was coming passing the dead coal train. Unfortunately the new train just sat there and a careful look thru the 400mm (Note to self, bring binoculars along next time!) revealed the reason; the new train was on the same track as the one in front of me, meaning that it was parked too! Drat! Oh well, stuff like this happens a lot on this stretch of the Mendota Sub, it’s just something you have to deal with it.

I moved down the road to get some close up shots of the dead train.

You could even say it glowed…

It wasn’t really a fruitful visit, I had to deal with a nasty pole line, plus the land along the right of way was messily overgrown; it’s probably going to take a couple good killing frosts and a snow storm to knock things down. It was too bad because the low angle light made the engine’s reflective markings really glow. I got a few shots pretty much just to record and moved on.

I pushed on west, zigzagging back and forth across the tracks to keep an eye on things. The line was dead; I wasn’t picking up any scanner chatter, which wasn’t good. I found the second dead coal train parked at E 17th Rd under great light and much closer to the crossing than the last one.  Time for some photos:

Sing it! “Dead, dead on the main, where the deer and the antelope play…”

07:34 a.m. – LaSalle Co / E 17th Rd
BNSF e/b unit coal dead on the main

BNSF 8889       SD70MAC
BNSF 8977       SD70MAC

From the dark side

Good spot, the neighboring field had been harvested so I had a clear view of a great subject, SD70MAC’s!  Too bad it wasn’t on the move. I poked around and shot a number of angles; sunny side, dark side, head on, across the field, stuff like that. Nice catch but also stuff that I’d done before, this wasn’t the first time I’ve found a train parked here, so I moved on in search of something new and different.

Next stop was Earlville. I poked around looking for photos; at first glance Earlville looks like a great place since there’s lots of stuff to play with; crossovers, signal bridges, old brick depot (with a new bright red roof), UP Troy Grove branch crossing, but in reality it’s a mess courtesy of the BNSF signal department which maintains a base in the depot and stores literally tons of stuff along the right of way. I was less than impressed. I ended up camping out at the far west end of town more or less just to wait and see what might happen. The right of way there was liberally decorated with shipping containers holding new signal gear, which looked like an interesting photo subject to play around with, but between my lack of sleep and that darn breakfast sandwich I was so fogged out that I just couldn’t come up with anything imaginative.

The sign of things to come

In the mean time I still wasn’t picking up any hint of action, which was getting really worrisome. Amtrak’s Carl Sandburg and Illinois Zephyr were due thru around nine and I can usually track their progress by listening in on the dispatcher routing them around freight traffic. Not today, the airwaves were dead meaning that either they weren’t running (extremely unlikely) or there simply wasn’t anything to route them past. This was not good.

Time passed, I got bored and headed west looking for a halfway decent spot to the catch the Amtraks, but didn’t find anything inspirational. Since the grain rush was on I was hoping to find a train loading at the Northern Crossing elevator west of Meriden, but it was dead too. I was definitely batting zero this morning! I began to pick up some scanner chatter involving the Amtraks, but it was only about how they were going to get past each other and nothing about freights. It did light a fire under me to find a spot to catch them, so I headed back east checking out the grade crossings along the way for photo ideas. I finally found what I wanted at E 11th Rd just west of Earlville; driving towards the tracks I saw a good across the field broadside shot where I could catch the entire train passing. Definitely not brilliant, but it raised my spirits a bit that I’d come up with something other than a wedgie! I couldn’t see down the tracks from my photo spot, so I camped out at the grade crossing figuring that I’d high tail it down the road when a headlight appeared. As it turned out I didn’t have to wait long, air horns sounded and a headlight popped up to the west; the Illinois Zephyr was on the way. Then air horns sounded to the east too; it was the Carl Sandburg! Oh great, after three hours of waiting everything was going to be done and gone in just a few minutes! The eastbound I-Zephyr was going to arrive first, but instead of making a run for my broadside shot I stood my ground on the off chance that it would meet the Carl Sandburg within shooting distance. Time to catch the action:

Illinois Zephyr eastbound

09:08 a.m. – LaSalle Co / E 11th Rd
Amtrak e/b Illinois Zephyr

AMT 19       P42DC

Prairie meet

I got a variety of wedgies, but no close up shots with the Sandburg since it was still passing thru Earlville. I did catch a going away shot of the Zephyr with the Sandburg’s headlight in the distance. Then it was back to the car and down the road for a broadside of the Sandburg:

Carl Sandburg westbound

09:10 a.m. – LaSalle Co / E 11th Rd
AMT w/b Carl Sandburg

AMT 58       P42DC

I popped off two shots as the train went past and I’m glad that I did since my first try planted a pole across the nose of the locomotive!

Ok what next?  I still wasn’t picking up any signs of action in the area so poked around a bit, looked over the UP’s Try Grove line north of Earlville, and even took off east to check on the two dead coals to see if anything was happening with them. I tried for some long distance across the field broadsides with the E 17th Rd train, but they didn’t work due to a lot of heated air between the subject and myself. I even checked on the train at E 23rd just to make sure it was still around since if anything was going to happen it would have to happen there first. No such luck, it was still dead as a doornail. Back west I went where I revisited the train at E 17th Rd for some 300mm head on shots, more or less out of desperation to do something.

Head on

I landed back in Earlville where things were still dead, so I alternated between camping out in town, checking on the UP Troy Grove line, or driving around looking for photographic inspiration. Maybe I should have stayed put, returning to downtown after one of my jaunts I took a turn a bit too tight and my camera rolled off the passenger seat and hit the center console with a load bang before ending up on the floor. Now that’s happened before with no consequence so I wasn’t too worried until I pulled off and discovered a small problem; the viewfinder was broken! The manual focusing marks were all askew and while the autofocus seemed to be working, all I could see was a blur! The best case scenario: the manual focusing screen had gotten knocked loose, which was something I could fix on my own. The worst case scenario: the camera’s pentaprism had gotten knocked loose, meaning a visit to the repair shop. Either way it was something I couldn’t deal with until I got home. Luckily I had another camera body with me so my day wasn’t at an end.

I began to pick up scanner chatter; apparently two westbounds were on their way out of Montgomery so I settled in at Ottawa St in downtown Earlville.  Not the greatest spot, the eastbound view left a lot to be desired, but since I was dealing with westbounds it wasn’t a great concern. Time passed and a westbound green board popped up on Main 1 followed a few minutes later by the sound of air horns to the east. Cool, time to finally catch some action!

Only a six hour wait

12:08 p.m. – Earlville IL / Ottawa St
BNSF w/b unit coal

BNSF 5774       ES44AC
BNSF 9576       SD70MAC
NS 9912           Dash 9-40CW
NS 7611           ES40DC

I caught a wide angle wedgie of the train before getting artsy and trying for some reflections in a nearby store window, along with some speed blur shots of the passing coal cars.


Cool, my first freight action of the day and it only took 6 hours! Not a record though, I once waited eight hours on the Aurora Sub and then got six trains in about fifty minutes!

Back to waiting. I found an odd widget lying on the ground, sort of a tuft of orange plastic strands attached to a six inch nail, very puzzling. I’d seen strands like this sticking out of the ground at rural grade crossings but hadn’t a clue as to what they were, and I have to admit that I still don’t! Obviously they have something to do with the signal circuit, but what?

A tuft question

There were other tufts sticking out of the ground in the area, but if they were attached to nails I couldn’t see them, and I wasn’t about to starting digging to satisfy my curiosity. Were they for grounding? Static electricity disbursement? Aardvark repellent?  If so it’s very effective, I’ve seen nary an aardvark around.

Time passed and another headlight popped up to the east.  Time for my second freight of the day:

Westbound for Galesburg

12:25 p.m. – Earlville IL / Ottawa IL
BNSF w/b merchandise

NS 9545      Dash 9-40CW
NS 7715       ES40DC

For variation I got a couple tight almost head on wedgies. Nice to see the NS set, they’re not all the unusual on this train, but it’s been a while since a caught a pair.

Time to kick back again. Maybe I should have taken a nap, but after seeing a couple guys across the way examining a cross bow while periodically looking my way I decided to keep my eyes open. The tracks were dead and more importantly the scanner was dead too; if there was anything out there the dispatcher would have been alerting the westbounds to their presence.

As it turned out that was it for the day. I waited a while longer but when the air waves stayed stubbornly silent I decided to cut my losses, head for home and assess the camera. Strange day, but as I said at the start, not totally unexpected.  Stuff like this happens, and in this case I just happened to catch a really dead day on the sub.  Hopefully there will be a lot ore trains next time, and I won’t drop things!

Post Script:  As for the camera it turned out that the only thing jarred loose was the focusing screen. I spent some time fiddling with it the next day, and while it took two tries it seems to be back up to speed. I’m definitely going to give it a test run locally before entrusting to anything big.

Previous post:  Standard Operating Procedure – A visit to Downers Grove Fairview Ave.


 BNSF Mendota Sub  Comments Off on Schnabel!
Aug 292010

CEBX 800

I had an unusual chase after an unusual move today; I caught a freight extra hauling a Schnabel car west along the Mendota Sub. Good chase, good catches; definitely one of the better days of fanning I’ve had in a long time.

A Schnabel car to quote Wikipedia is a “…specialized type of railroad car designed to carry heavy and oversized loads in a such a way that the load itself makes up part of the car.” It’s an unmistakable car; multiple trucks (The one I went after today has eighteen!), huge even when unloaded, and is designed to not only hold and support massive loads, but also shift to and pivot so as to maintain the car’s balance while going around curves. The loads typically are transformers (electrical, not the movie kind), reactors (chemical, not nuclear) and power plant equipment. Due to the size and nature of the loads the cars are usually handled in special trains with a crew riding accompanying cabooses to protect the load and work the car as needed. Very cool cars, and if you want to know more about them click here.

These cars have always been high on my “I want to see” list, but anytime there’s been a move it’s always been five states away or I found out about it three days after the fact. This time around I got lucky when I was given a heads up on Friday that a loaded Schnabel car being handled by Specialized Rail Transport would be delivered to the BNSF at Congress Park around noon on Saturday. The car would then wait until after the last commuter run of the day and then head west at the breathtaking speed of 15 mph, 10 if they had any kind of meet.  Great news, although there was a fly in the ointment and that was the timing. Since the car was going to arrive on a sunny Saturday afternoon the place was bound to be swarming with fans. Now I’ve always believed in “the more the merrier”, but with one major exception and that’s with photography. With photography the more people you have around the more people you have to dodge and accommodate with a net result of twenty people getting exactly the same photo. I like to get different angles and try odd stuff, and so in the end I decided to take a pass on catching Saturday’s delivery (and lived to regret it, take a look at this YouTube video of the move) and aim for a chase on Sunday where hopefully there would be more room and fewer people.

Sunday dawned and my first question was, “Where are my slippers? As you can see I’m not a morning thinker. After resolving that crisis I moved on to checking the railroad news groups hoping to find an update on the train. Good news! The train had passed thru Downers Grove about 4:20 a.m. That was cool, but it was now about 7:20 meaning that if they were keeping to their fifteen mph schedule they were now somewhere around Earlville, and probably out by Zearing by time I got my act together. Should I go, or should I stay?  I may not be a deep thinker, but boy am I good at dithering! Luckily a little after eight another post popped up that the train was at Bristol waiting on a new crew. Now that was definitely good news; Bristol is just west of Aurora putting the train within easy reach. Time to hit the road!

Don’t leave home without it!

I grabbed my gear, loaded the car, went about three miles down the road, and came right back; I’d forgotten my scanner, which I figured was going to be fairly essential. I knew that I should have had a nice cup of tea to get my brain going before I left!

My second attempt worked much better and I was soon wending my way west on Rt34, a real pain in the you know what drive due to all the suburban sprawl. Bring back the cornfields! In the mean time I had no idea what was up with the Schnabel train, my cell phone is just a cell phone, so I didn’t have an internet connection to keep up with postings, and the scanner was silent on the matter. Stopped at Orchard Rd for the light I heard air horns in the distance, but the tracks were out of sight so I had no idea what it was or if it was coming or going, although I gave good odds that it was the inbound Illinois Zephyr. I opted to push on rather than investigate.

Plano depot

Just east of Plano the tracks finally came into sight, although I could only catch glimpses of them thru the rows of ticky-tacky houses, strip malls and corn, what a combination! Arriving in town I pulled off at the station for a look down the tracks. Nothing, and the signals weren’t terribly helpful either. Then air horns sounded to the west, but whose were they? Something coming east? The Schnabel train already past me? Time for another dithering session; hang tight or head west? I finally decided to head west, a decision fueled by the fact that I was the only person around; I sort of figured that if I was ahead of the train that other fans would be trackside too. Just as I hit the road I picked up scanner chatter from someone reporting that they were at MP 49.something-or-other, so I zipped over to the nearest crossing to see where I was. Good move on my part. First off I was at MP 51 meaning that I was ahead of whatever had radioed in. Even better; there was a headlight to the west, so the air horn question was now resolved. Best news of all, there was now also a headlight to the east, and I was ready to bet my bottom dollar that was the Schnabel train. I did a quick circle of the block back to the station parking lot and set up to catch the action. First up was the eastbound:

Green lawns and black diamonds

09:54 a.m. – Plano IL / Center St
BNSF e/b unit coal

BNSF 5626       AC4400EV
BNSF 5715       AC4400CW

Wow, pretty interesting power on this train, especially the lead unit, which is sort of ES44AC test bed. It’s unusual to catch two AC4400’s together, so this was quite a treat. I popped off a four shot series as the power went by, great light!  Figuring that this was going to be a short day of fanning (it was going to be hot, and I don’t do hot very well) I also used up some electrons on some of the passing coal cars, including a couple motion blur shots. The train slowed considerably, great as long as it got of the way in time!  Rather to my surprise the train had a DPU on it, cool, especially since it was a Grinstein green SDMAC and its passage warranted another four shot series:

Shoving east

09:59 a.m. – Plano IL / Center St
BNSF e/b unit coal – DPU

BNSF 9709       SD70MAC

Green and cream

Then it was over to the grade crossing to check on the progress of the Schnabel train.

The Schnabel is coming, the Schnabel is coming!

It was still a fair distance out, but still waddling (Schnabel waddle?) along so I moved to a spot opposite the platform shelter to open up the view a bit and wait on the action, although in this case maybe weight might be a more appropriate term.  It was movie time; first off I got a couple shots of the train crossing Center St…

A weighty matter

10:07 a.m. – Plano IL / Hugh St
BNSF w/b Schnabel extra

BNSF 7908 ES44DC

…a shot of the brand new BNSF 7908 (the BNSF putting on the ritz)…

Great deal, brand new, only used on Sunday’s to haul Schnabels…

…coming and going shots of the Schnabel…

Keep on truckin’

Showing the flag

…and then a couple going away shots.


Wow, talk about a big car; eighteen trucks and a half a block long, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out why it had a fifteen mph speed limit! Note to self; one thing that you’re always warned about with photography is to watch your background, but in this case I broke an even more fundamental rule; watch your foreground. I was so in awe of the sight of this train that firmly planted a crossing signal box in the middle of the Schnabel car I got my full train shots! Not a disaster, but a pretty dumb thing to do, I was still regretting not having that cup of tea before I hit the road.

One nice thing about this train was that at fifteen mph it wasn’t going anywhere fast so this wasn’t going to be a mad chase. Good since I quickly found myself cooling my heels at a “No Turn on Red” intersection watching the traffic go by, including a long line of Hulcher trucks loaded with bulldozers. I was wondering if this was some sort of odd coincidence, but once I got the light I quickly overhauled the Hulcher convoy, which was rather obviously pacing the train. Not a problem here on the four lane, but what were they going to do when the road narrowed down to two? I doubted that people would be thrilled tagging along at fifteen mph!

Oh I got me a Hulcher convoy…

I was looking for a spot where I could pull off and get a shot clear of obstructions since I knew that a pole line started just to the west. As it turned out the end of the four lane was just what I wanted since the curbing ended there and I could pull off. Cool, time to catch the action:

Out in the open

10:14 a.m. – Plano IL / Tara St

Forward rider caboose

Rear rider caboose

An outstanding train in its field

Nice spot, wide open, no poles, no crossing signal boxes although I did attract the attention of a guy on the trailing rider caboose who was rather obviously catching me on video! Security? Home movies? Who knows.

I jumped in the car and headed west aiming for Sandwich. Along the way I came across a nice shot at Little Rock Creek, but the BNSF had a number of trucks parked along the road, apparently to keep an eye on the bridge as this massive load went by, and I wanted to keep out of their way. I settled for second best by pulling off at Sandy Bluff Rd just to the west, a task complicated by a driver ahead of me (a local, not a fan) who stopped about twenty feet short of the gates, which didn’t leave much room between his car and highway for others. No matter there was room enough for me so I pulled off for a quick capture:

Crossing Little Rock Creek

10:18 a.m. – Kendall Co / Sandy Bluff Rd

Just two shots this time, a vertical and a horizontal as it went across the bridge.


As soon as the train cleared I crossed the tracks, hung a uee and headed west into Sandwich.  Not being terribly familiar with the place, I headed for the one spot I’d shot at before, the Stone Mill Museum on the corner of Lafayette and Railroad where I found parking and a clear view to the east. I also had my first fan encounter; something I was honestly surprised had taken so long. Apparently he was coming from the west since he asked where the train was. He was somewhat concerned about security since he wanted to get videos at UP crossing at Earlville, I assured him that everyone had been friendly so far. By then the train was close so we set up right at the grade crossing to catch the action:

Coming into town

10:26 a.m. – Sandwich IL / Lafayette St

Not a really exciting encounter; all I got were coming and going vertical/horizontal wedgies sandwiching (appropriately enough considering the location) a shot of the Schnabel car. Maybe I should have looked for a new spot, but I just didn’t have the time; the train may have been slow, but it was close!

I hit the highway and headed west. Rolling along I picked up an interesting report from a defect detector that had issues with the train’s speed:

BNSF detector milepost 56.9 Main 1
Train too slow
BNSF detector milepost 56.9 Main 1
Train too slow

Now that was a new one for me!

My next stop was Somonauk, a town that I knew. I was planning to catch the train passing under the midtown signal bridge, but I quickly discovered that everyone else had the same idea so I circled the area and landed at Gage St on the east side where I had a nice water tower to play around with as a photo prop. Good thing that I arrived with a long enough lead to look around!

Now just where did I take this photo?

Slow but steady

10:40 a.m. – Somonauk IL / Gage St

Soon to be gone

Good catch! I got a couple wide angle shots of the train passing the water tower and then swung around to shoot it as it passed under the soon to be replaced (the new signals are already up but not in service) signal bridge. I probably did better here than I would have on the other side of the signal bridge.

OK, that was it for the Schnabel and me. It was getting pretty warm (it would eventually hit 94), the fans were gathering, and while I really wanted to get a clear broadside shot of the entire train, the height of the corn argued against being able to do that. (As it turned out I quit too soon, here’s exactly the photo that I wanted, taken just to the west of nearby Earlville.)  So, OK, what to do now? Back in Plano I’d heard the dispatcher tell the Schnabel train that they’d have a clear track to Somonauk implying a meet of some sort there, so I decided to hang around for a bit and see what might turn up. I was expecting an eastbound, but as it turned out it was a headlight for a westbound that popped up. I pitied the poor souls that had to follow in the 15 mph wake of the Schnabel train, but the dispatcher had an app for that, she advised the newcomer that they were going to be routed into Main 2 at Somonauk and to pass the Schnabel at 25 mph. The latter info was a surprise, I’d heard that all movements except passenger trains were to pass at 10 mph, but since the new train was also told to contact the trainmaster before passing (who I assumed was riding the Schnabel) I figured it would get sorted out then. The dispatcher also asked a rather odd question, “How fast are you going today?” Now that seemed pretty strange, but less strange than the answer of “70 mph”! Definitely didn’t sound like a coal train! Whatever, at least I had a train to catch. My only problem was that I didn’t want to duplicate the water tower shot I’d just gotten with the Schnabel, but since the other fans had departed in pursuit of the Schnabel car I headed over to Green St to do a signal bridge shot. Good spot, I could see why it attracted everyone, not only did I have a classic signal bridge to play with as a photo prop, but I also had curbside parking courtesy of a lot behind the town’s business district.  Time to catch the action and get a surprise:


10:51 a.m. – Somonauk IL / Green St
BNSF w/b track geometry train

BNSF 2852       GP39-2

Plus two cars, BNSF 85 and BNSF 86, both ex-passenger and the latter with a classic rear platform. What in the heck was this? At least I now could see why it had been authorized to pass the Schnabel at 25 mph, I guess it rated as a passenger train.  Checking on the web after the fact I found out that the BNSF has been running this train about twice a week and today just happened to be one of those days. While it’s a track geometry train I really doubted that it was being used for that purpose, why would you need to physically check the tracks twice a week? More likely it was being used to test and tweak the signal system, probably for the upcoming switch to Positive Train Control. That would also explain why they were running at 70 mph. Whatever it was, it was pretty cool and I got two quick shots of passing under the signal bridge, and then two more shots as it sped west in pursuit of the Schnabel train.

Well that was definitely it for me, I decided to call it quits and head for home, cooling off along the way courtesy of the car’s air conditioning which I’d left off up to now in order to avoid fogged lenses at very inappropriate times.  My only stop on the way back was Plano where I spotted a headlight to the east. I set up in the shade of the passenger shelter to wait on the action. And wait. And wait. Taking another look I discovered that it obviously wasn’t moving.  Hmmm, waiting on an eastbound?  I waited some more, but my desire to get home was higher than my desire to wait on a meet so I headed off to investigate. Surprise! It was the coal train I’d caught passing thru Plano first thing in the morning; apparently the crew died and the headlight I saw was on the DPU! Oh darn, and too bad, that would be a nice end of the day catch even if it was the middle of the day.  Time to head for home for good.

09/27/10 – An update.  Here’s a photo (not by me) of the unloaded car passing thru Superior WI on it’s way home to Duluth.