I was back at home to cool down and rehydrate from my afternoon adventures trackside while unsuccessfully stalking an inbound oil train; I went thru three large mugs of tea in quick succession and still felt parched. I had nothing to do now but wait until evening when the sun would be north of the tracks and providing some great opportunities for “glint” shots.
Five p.m. arrived along with some good news; the oil train was hovering west of Aurora along with a number of other trains waiting for the commuter rush to clear. Great, the game was afoot! I had a quick bowl of soup (which would come back to haunt me later that night), grabbed my stuff and hit the road. I briefly considered hitting Westmont, but decided to aim for downtown Downers Grove where I had a tried and true evening light location at Forest Ave, plus since it was Friday I could take in the Summer Nights Classic Car show if things went well.
Landing downtown I parked east of Washington Ave, a good distance from Forest Ave, but the extra walk was well worth it to stay out of the downtown traffic mess. Both the commuter rush and the car show were going full tilt, but for right now I only had oil on my mind.
I hiked over to Forest Ave and took in the scene; things looked pretty good except for some high thin clouds to the west, I wasn’t sure if they were going to be a problem or not, I guess that was depended on how thick they got. I quickly violated my “oil train only” rule by catching an outbound express passing another train stopped at Main St; it was just too good an opportunity to pass up.
05:49 p.m. – Downers Grove IL / Forest Ave
METX w/b commuter express overtakes w/b commuter
METX 212 F40PHM-2 (express)
METX 186 F40PHM-2 (commuter)
As it turned out my next shot was also of a commuter, but for a different reason, an inbound popped up to the west and I figured that catching it would be good practice for the freight action I was waiting on:
05:53 p.m. – Downers Grove IL / Forest Ave
METX e/b commuter
METX 117 F40PH-3
I got some shots as it went past the signal bridges and was not impressed; the clouds were soaking up way too much sun making everything look flat and lifeless. (I’ve boosted the color vibrancy just a bit in the above image above to perk things up.) I wasn’t thrilled but I wasn’t ready to throw in the towel either, there were a number of games that I could play with the finished photos, plus there was just as much clear as clouds to the west and I might just get lucky!
This was definitely not a bad evening to be out, the weather was fine and the band over at the car show had fired up so I was grandly entertained. And speaking of the car show, occasionally cars and whatnot from the show would cruise past, including a couple sharp looking Farmall tractors!
The headlight for a Z train popped up to the west. Cool, lets get this show on the road! Unfortunately they still had the commuter rush to deal with and came to a stop in the distance waiting on a commuter flip to clear the way. I was getting a bit antsy, another commuter was coming in from the east and I had a sinking feeling that there was going to be a conflict. Time passed and the Z train just sat there as the commuter got closer, closer, closer; this was not looking good. Finally eastbound M1 went yellow, woo-hoo, great and all that, but the Z train just sat there! Maybe they had to wait for more space between itself and the commuter flip, but whatever the reason I found it really frustrating!
M1 went green and the Z finally began to show some signs of life. Unfortunately this was just as the westbound commuter arrived, and as luck would have it, it expressed past Main St and right into the middle of my photo!
06:12 p.m. – Downers Grove IL / Forest Ave
BNSF e/b priority intermodal
BNSF 6930 ES44C4
BNSF 4625 Dash 9-44CW
BNSF 4578 Dash 9-44CW
Dammitall! Just about everything went wrong; the commuter got in the way, an attempt at a wedgie went awry when the camera refused to get a focus lock until a pole was in the way, and last but not least, the light was still very flat. My major gripe was with the light, if the sun had been out I could have gotten a really cool capture of the commuter passing the Z, but without it the shot came out blah. After a lot of post process conjurings (shadow adjustment, vibrancy, saturation, sharpening; you name it, I probably did it to this shot) I managed to pull a halfway decent looking image out of the mess, but it could have been so much better if the sun had been out.
In the mean time all kinds of action was popping up to the east; there were no less than three sets of headlights on the horizon! The one on M2 turned into the outbound Illinois Zephyr; cool, I had a nice low level telephoto for that, so I set up on the east side of the crossing to catch the action:
06:31 p.m. – Downers Grove IL / Forest Ave
AMT w/b Illinois Zephyr
AMT 53 P42DC
Unfortunately it was more like catching a skunk; the train switched to M1 at the Fairview crossovers and I had to scramble up for a shot without the commuter fence in the way!
Good news, another headlight popped up to the west, this time for a coalie, and better yet and I finally had full sun! Woo-hoo! Time to do The Train Dance!
07:04 p.m. – Downers Grove IL / Forest Ave
BNSF e/b loaded unit coal
BNSF 6216 ES44AC
BNSF 8888 SD70MAC
Too bad that second unit wasn’t leading! I fired off five inbound shots at varying focal lengths; I was not going to let this one get away! I caught sight of the #8888 and managed a going away shot and then added a few of the passing cars as well as the end of train.
So far so good for freighters, but where was my oil train? Bingo, headlight to the west! I was probably going to end up with darn ear the same photos that I’d gotten with the coalie but I didn’t care, all my time trackside had finally paid off!
07:14 p.m. – Downers Grove IL / Forest Ave
BNSF e/b loaded unit oil
BNSF 9194 SD70ACe
BNSF 1010 Dash 9-44CW
Time for another movie except this time around that I fired off seven shots rather than just five. For some reason I didn’t go for any passing car shots (Maybe I was worn out from all the excitement) but I was definitely ready for the train’s DPU:
07:16 p.m. – Downers Grove IL / Forest Ave
BNSF e/b loaded unit oil – DPU
BNSF 9251 SD70ACe
Cool, another ACe! I got a good shot of it passing under the signal bridge and then swung around for a wedgie. I also tried for a straight down the tracks going away shot but had issues with bicyclist who started across the tracks while the gates were still down at Main St; I’ll deal with him with a little creative cropping or perhaps some voodoo too!
Apparently there had been quite a freight backup waiting on the commuter rush to end; yet another headlight popped up to the west! Since I’d just about exhausted the photographic possibilities of Forest Ave (plus the area was getting shaded out) I packed up and moved over to Main St to partake the action:
07:19 p.m. – Downers Grove IL / Main St
BNSF e/b priority intermodal
BNSF 4155 Dash 9-44CW
BNSF 5511 Dash 9-44CW
Ooppss, I blew it with this one! My primary shot was an up close wedgie, a big mistake because the shaded out nose of the lead unit got lost in a dark background. Luckily I’d grabbed a shot of the train passing under the signal bridge that was salvageable.
Speaking of tired, I was really pooped! I’d done a lot of standing around today and now that I’d caught the oil train I was more than willing to forego the car show and head for home. I shambled back east taking my time, after all there was always the chance of something popping up. Bingo, headlight to the east under light so clear that I could make out the unit markings. Unfortunately the light was not so generous in town and my photo session turned into a game of dodgems with the shadows. After dueling with an unfortunately placed milepost marker just east of Washington St (no matter where I stood it ended up in the middle of my photo) I ended up catching the action from the far side of the triple track:
07:37 p.m. – Downers Grove IL / Washington St
BNSF w/b road freight
NS 8733 Dash 8-40C
BNSF 6614 ES44C4
It was really cool to see a conventional cabbed unit; it’s too bad that I couldn’t catch a nice head on telephoto of it. (Actually I could have; later that week I found that by simply standing the platform further to the west would have cleared that darn milepost out of the way, something I should have thought of but was too pooped to do.) I did manage to catch some sunlit shots, but I could have done better.
Well that was definitely it. The day sure had its ups and down, but it was all worth it for those oil train shots. Time to head for home!
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