Lucky day for me, I went over to Westmont this afternoon chasing after a possible Amtrak Heritage unit and ended up catching two! It was a great day to be out, lots of action, unlimited sun, and obviously, a great deal of luck!
Several Amtrak Heritage units have been prowling the area in the past week; currently #66 was idling downtown having come in on #4 on Wednesday, and #156 was arriving inbound on #6 today. Since it #156 was running against the light I didn’t have any big plans it, but I was intrigued by a comment on the web that the #66 would be outbound today on #3. Great news if true, but that was the rub, I had no idea if this was just wishful thinking on the poster’s part or if he was somehow in the know. What actually got me going was the weather; it was just too good a day to stay inside. While it was hot out (our third 90 degree day of the year so far, a new record) it was also really windy (40 mph plus at times!) so it was pretty nice if you didn’t mind periodically chasing your hat. It was time to hit the road.
I took off for downtown Westmont a little before 2 p.m. and scored a perfect parking spot right across from the station. A good omen perhaps? I hoped so. Nothing was happening when I landed trackside, the signals were all at default so I puttered around and then took one last look before settling in on a shady bench. Whoa, what’s this? The westbound signals were solid green, definitely a first for me! Quite frankly I wasn’t sure if I could believe it; a lot of signal work was going on and this could be just a test, but on the other hand it did make sense. Amtrak #5 and a commuter were due by in the next fifteen minutes, so all that was needed was some freight action to fill the board. I figured that it was Metra on M1, Amtrak on M2, and the freight on M3. Good guess, but as it turned out the dispatchers had a surprise in store; headlight to the east on M2:
02:10 p.m. – Westmont IL / Cass Ave
BNSF w/b empty unit coal
BNSF 8801 SD70MAC
BNSF 9614 SD70MAC
So much for Amtrak on M2! Actually that was still possible, #5 wasn’t due for another ten minutes, which would give the coalie plenty of time to clear the area.
The westbound signals revised to M1 green, M2 red (which quickly switched to green as the coalie cleared the blocks ahead), and M3 yellow. The first two made perfect sense, but I had no idea why M3 had downgraded, I more or less assumed that the passage of the coalie had created an improved solution for the dispatcher.
Metra warned that the next westbound would be delayed by 10-12 minutes due to track construction, and then almost immediately announced its arrival, which was pretty interesting since nothing was in sight! Finally after a short delay it rolled into town about seven minutes late:
02:24 p.m. – Westmont IL / Cass Ave
METX w/b commuter
METX 191 F40PHM-2
I got a single horizontal wedgie from east of the station.
That cleared the board except for the westbound green on M2 and the yellow on M3, which I assumed meant nothing since yellow is the westbound default for the area. Well that was a mistake, a headlight popped up to the east on M3; it was time for another freighter!
02:28 p.m. – Westmont IL / Cass Ave
BNSF w/b vehicle
BNSF 6759 ES44C4
BNSF 4041 Dash 9-44CW
I crossed Cass Ave and caught a short series as the train came upgrade. I was less than thrilled, vehicle trains tend to be long, Amtrak was due at any moment, and I was in danger of being blocked out! Even better the train was obviously slowing; not now please! To my utter frustration it ground to a halt blocking Cass Ave while still stretching out of sight to the east. Oh great thanks people! Time to make lemonade out of lemons, I jogged to the nearest gap between cars, dialed back my shutter speed and set up just in time to catch some very narrow blur motion shots as #5 blew past on M2:
02:32 p.m. – Westmont IL / Cass Ave
AMT w/b California Zephyr – Train 5
AMT 186 P42DC
AMT 68 P42DC
AMT 17 P42DC
Obviously I didn’t get the numbers on my own, my field of view was only two feet wide, it was a kind soul further west who got them for me. The funny thing is these captures were far more imaginative that anything I’d have gotten if the train had been in the clear, so I actually came out ahead! As #5 cleared the block the vehicle train slowly got on the move; I grabbed shots of some of the graffiti as it went past.
The vehicle train crossed to M2 at Fairview Ave revealing the reason that they’d stopped; there was another set of headlights in the distance on M3. At first I thought that it was the next commuter, but it turned out to be something with a bit more kick to it:
02:44 p.m. – Westmont IL / Cass Ave
AMT e/b California Zephyr – Train 6
AMT 156 P42DC
AMT 186 P42DC
Since this train was on M3 I didn’t have much room to play with, the best I could do was set up next to the street side parking lot and go wide angle on it. Rather to my surprise I got a pretty good exposure despite the afternoon backlight, if I’d had to do this with Kodachrome I’d have been SOL.
A westbound flashing yellow that quickly went to green popped up on M1. I got all excited over the prospect of a catching some well lit freight action until I remember that a commuter express was due! I toyed with the idea of catching the action from the north platform, but had the decision taken away by the train’s arrival!
02:51 p.m. – Westmont IL / Cass Ave
METX w/b commuter express
METX 195 F40PHM-2
I caught a nice wedgie of the head end from under the station eves.
The next inbound commuter was on its way in as the express sailed west:
02:54 p.m. – Westmont IL / Cass Ave
METX e/b commuter
METX 114 F40PH-3
Not exactly the most exiting train so I didn’t get the most exciting picture either, just a grab shot of it pulling up at the platform.
Things calmed down, so I kicked back. Westbound greens popped up on M1 and M2, probably for the next regular commuter and Amtrak #3, hopefully the bearer of #66. A few minutes later M3 went green, so for the second time today I was faced with solid green westbound; what a day! I stuck with the shade until it got close to train Amtrak time and then moved to the grade crossing. Good timing, a headlight popped up to the east and it was another surprise, it was a freighter. Figuring that it was on M3, and wishing to avoid a repeat of my last freight capture, I dashed over to the dark side just head of the gates only to belatedly realize that it was on M2! Too late now, the gates had started down and I was stuck with the dark side for this one:
03:18 p.m. – Westmont IL / Cass Ave
BNSF w/b priority intermodal
BNSF 7251 ES44DC
BNSF 4401 Dash 9-44CW
BNSF 723 Dash 9-44CW
I fired off a short series at 200 and 95mm, a pretty good capture despite my all my griping about the dark side!
#3 was due at any moment, and since it would probably be on M3 I decided to stick with the dark side to get a better angle. The big question was, what would be leading; Heritage #66 or something more mundane? Bingo; #66!
03:22 p.m. – Westmont IL / Cass Ave
AMT w/b Southwest Chief – Train 3
AMT 66 P42DC
AMT 97 P42DC
I fired off a movie at 200, 170, 70 and 27mm and unfortunately the distant shots, which had the best composition, were all badly heat shocked, while the close ups suffered from a backdrop of high tension poles that make me want to tear out what’s left of my hair! Not really a bad capture, but I could have done far better if I’d caught it head on from the sunny side.
As an added treat the train had a number of Amtrak business cars bringing up the rear:
10021 Pacific Cape
10031 Ocean View
10001 Beech Grove
Unfortunately I couldn’t do a thing with them; they were totally back lit! Luckily someone further down the line caught the numbers and passed them along.
All right, that was it for me, I was ready to call it quits, but first it was time for one last commuter:
03:26 p.m. – Westmont IL / Cass Ave
METX w/b commuter
METX 193 F40PHM-2
I caught it from the north platform passing the platform shelter, and then called it quits and headed on for home. Good day, good captures.
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