Railroads are always in search of new traffic sources, and one of their recent additions has been movement of crude oil out of the Bakken oil fields in western North Dakota. When you think oil you usually think pipelines, but in this case there’s only limited capacity in the area and the railroads have stepped in to haul massive amounts of crude to various parts of the country. So far movements thru Chicago have been sparse, but they do happen and today I got a heads up that one was on the way. Great news except for one thing, I didn’t know when! Might be in the afternoon, might be in the evening, and the only thing I could do was wait for it. Oh well, this wouldn’t be as much fun if I knew what I was doing!
I headed trackside a little before 1 p.m. I considered doing Westmont since I’d done Fairview the day before, but ended up landing at Fairview Ave anyway since there’s more room to back off.
Landing trackside I took in the scene; there was a big high rail of some sort occupying M2 west of Forest Ave, which explained a M2 diverging green at Fairview. Another westbound green quickly appeared, this one on M1, undoubtedly for a commuter. Cool, lots of action, and that’s exactly what I got; a pair of headlights popped up to the east! First up was the action on M2:
01:20 p.m. – Downers Grove IL / Fairview Ave
BNSF w/b merchandise
BNSF 6842 ES44C4
BNSF 5173 Dash 9-44CW
CLC 3810 GP38-2
I caught sight of the Columbia & Cowlitz unit from a distance, its bright red paint really stuck out, and I back pedaled as best I could to line up coming and going shots that I barely pulled off. As you can see it’s a bit hard to photograph fresh black paint under the midday sun! In the mean time the commuter was playing catch up on M1 after a station stop at Westmont, even though it was on the other side of the train I could track its progress by its monumental exhaust plume.
I was hoping that the freight would clear in time for a photo, but no such luck. Instead I grabbed some blur motion shots of the gallery cars as some empty flats on the merchandise went by.
The trains cleared and the signals went to default, time to kick back; good thing I’d brought a book! I settled in on a bench in front of the station and dove into my book. Periodically I’d surface to the check the tracks and on one of those return to reality visits I found that a westbound green had appeared on M1, hopefully for a freight since the next commuter wasn’t due for another half hour. I returned to my book, a bit of a mistake because I got so engrossed that when the train showed up it was halfway here from Westmont before I noticed! Ooppss, I literally dropped my book and dashed onto the platform to catch the action:
02:05 p.m. – Downers Grove IL / Fairview Ave
BNSF w/b priority intermodal
BNSF 5130 Dash 9-44CW
BNSF 4971 Dash 9-44CW
BNSF 5465 Dash 9-44CW
BNSF 4007 Dash 9-44CW
Luckily I was in a good spot to catch my photos. Big long train, so long in fact that despite all the up front power I kept an eye out for a DPU, but no such luck.
Time passed and an eastbound green appeared on M3. I poked around a bit and found a halfway decent angle just east of the depot:
02:16 p.m. – Downers Grove IL – Fairview Ave
AMT e/b California Zephyr – Train 6
AMT 195 P42DC
AMT 117 P42DC
I got just one shot, the train was going too fast to anything more than that!
A westbound diverging green appeared on M2, and from the timing I was pretty sure that it was for the outbound California Zephyr. Forewarned is forearmed, so I set up west of the depot to catch the Zephyr:
02:25 p.m. – Downers Grove IL / Fairview Ave
AMT w/b California Zephyr – Train 5
AMT 139 P42DC
AMT 192 P42DC
Bing, bang boom; one shot for down low and the train was gone!
A westbound green appeared on M1 and for some reason I got it into my head that it was for the first express of the afternoon. Trying to think of a shot that would say “express” I hiked down to the eastern end of the platform to set up for a telephoto of it coming out of Westmont before remembering a Metra announcing that outbound trains were being delayed upwards of a half hour due to track work and train interference. Well that definitely didn’t work for me so I abandoned my telephoto plans and trudged back to the depot where I could camp out in the shade. As it turned out my reasoning was doubly wrong because just as I got back the next train arrived and it wasn’t the express but just a regular commuter:
02:45 p.m. – Downers Grove IL / Fairview Ave
METX w/b commuter
METX 186 F40PHM-2
I got a single vertical wedgie from the shady comfort just east of the depot.
A fellow fan got off the train, a retired rail who just likes to watch stuff go by; he was coming back from visiting a friend in Chicago. We got to talking about Cromer caps of all things, he was wearing one, and they’re just not seen all that much nowadays.
An eastbound commuter went past that I ignored due to the bad light. Since the light still worked for them I still paid attention to westbounds, so when the headlight for the over expected commuter express popped up I stepped away from my conversation for a couple photos:
02:56 p.m. – Downers Grove IL / Fairview Ave
METX w/b commuter express
METX 210 F40PHM-2
Somehow I managed to blow the first shot, I cut the tail end of the train clean off; I have no idea what I was thinking. Luckily the second shot came out far better framed.
The headlight for #4 popped up to the west; I didn’t put much effort into this since the light blew chunks; I just stepped out from under the station eves for a very tight wedgie.
03:05 p.m. – Downers Grove IL / Fairview Ave
AMT e/b Southwest Chief – Train 4
AMT 194 P42DC
AMT 95 P42DC
There were a couple private cars bringing up the rear, unfortunately they were such a surprise that all I managed were a couple of very distant shots.
According to the drumhead this was Creative Promotions private car “Patrick Henry”, and it can be yours for a mere $8,500 per day! What a deal!
Another set of headlights popped up to the west, this time for a freighter. My fanning friend and I walked east down the platform, me to set up a shot, him to access his car and head for home. The train really took its time getting here, they’d been held west of Forest Ave for some reason and it took a lot of effort to get 14,000 tons of coal back on the move. I set up in the lawn area east of the depot trying for as close to a broadside as I could in order to deal with the tight to the tracks light:
03:13 p.m. – Downers Grove IL / Fairview Ave
BNSF e/b loaded unit coal
BNSF 5752 ES44AC
BNSF 9201 SD70ACe
Wow, this train really howled as it went past, now that’s the sound of railroading! I was less than impressed with what I saw thru the viewfinder and the LCD, it just didn’t look like a happy photo due to the tight light, and that was more or less the nail in the coffin for hanging trackside. The eastbound light had deteriorated to the point that even if the oil train showed up I’d be SOL due to the light, so I called it quits and headed for home. My only hope now was that it would show up after the evening commuter rush where I had a short window of glint light. Who knows, maybe I’d get lucky!
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