Photos taken on May 2, 2013
It’s said that what goes around comes around, and that definitely applies to the NS heritage units on the BNSF. If they come in on an oil train, they’ll eventually go out on an oil train, and so with a little luck I’ve got two chances. Today I had a lot of luck, one of my personal favorites, NS 8100, the Nickel Plate unit showed up and for once everything clicked. I could sure use more encounters like this!
The train was an eastbound loaded oil, the same train set I’d caught heading west on the 27th. Now that was a good catch, but the 8100 had been playing second fiddle, which for me is more or less just a tag. Then some good news came in, for reasons unknown someone out west shuffled the motive power putting the 8100 on the lead, and even better it was set for a daytime appearance on the triple track! The forecast wasn’t the greatest, mixed sun in the morning with clouds and rain in the afternoon, but who knows, maybe my luck with the train would extend to the weather too; only time would tell.
Morning arrived bringing with it a couple of surprises, the biggest of which was that the train was running ahead of schedule and could be here as early as 9 a.m. rather than the predicted midday. Even better, at the moment the weather looked great, so instead of waiting for the train at home I decided to head out now, catch the after the rush burst of freight action, and then wait for the 8100, which hopefully wouldn’t be more than an hour behind. Sounded cool to me, so I packed my gear and headed for the tracks.
I landed trackside at Forest Ave in Downers Grove just before 8 a.m., a spot chosen for it’s scenery (lots and lots of signal bridges) and open enough to back off for something other than a head on shot if the 8100 showed up on M3. Due to the season the light wasn’t great for westbounds, but since I was after an eastbound I figured that was a cross that I could bear. There were clouds around, in fact a large bank dominated the west, but they were moving due north and not a problem. Things looked good.
The commuter rush was still on, but having photographed it from this spot a number of times I steadfastly ignored it. My first big action of the day was a badly lit outbound Carl Sandburg that in film days I probably would have taken a pass on, but since electrons are free, I decided to give it a go:
08:05 a.m. – Downers Grove IL / Forest Ave
AMT w/b Carl Sandburg
AMT 166 P42DC
I fired off two shots, the first one, a telephoto, came out halfway decent, but my attempt at a wide angle was doomed to failure when I unconsciously shifted my angle at the last moment, caught the sun, and torched the exposure! Oh well, it was only electrons!
A few minutes later a commuter popped up to the west on M3 that I ignored until it was joined by a freight over on M2! At first I wasn’t worried about getting blocked out, the commuter had a definite edge in speed and acceleration, but I hadn’t counted on the other train being a hot intermodal; the race was on! First up was the commuter:
08:16 a.m. – Downers Grove IL / Forest Ave
METX e/b commuter
METX *** F40PHM-2
I grabbed a shot of it passing under the signal cantilevers, cranked back a bit and hoped that the freight would pop out from behind. I got lucky.
08:17 a.m. – Downers Grove IL / Forest Ave
BNSF e/b priority intermodal
BNSF 7878 ES44DC
BNSF 5098 Dash 9-44CW
BNSF 1117 Dash 9-44CW
As it turned out there was a comfortable distance between the two trains, a whole ten seconds! This train was really hauling, which explained why the commuter had such a hard time gaining a lead.
The action kept up, even as the end of train was sweeping by, the headlight for yet another freight appeared to the west on M1:
08:22 a.m. – Downers Grove IL / Forest Ave
BNSF e/b empty unit fertilizer
NS 9602 Dash 9-40CW
NS 9435 Dash 9-40CW
NS 9573 Dash 9-40CW
NS 9301 Dash 9-40CW
Wow, impressive! I grabbed a couple shots from a sitting position, a mistake because while struggling to stand, which is more or less like a turtle trying to right itself, I accidentally turned off the camera, and missed a signal bridge shot!
That cleared the boards, so I puttered around getting shots of the signal circuit box that’s bound to change in the near future, as well as a small trackside memorial to a young man who recently committed suicide at the crossing. Till now my attention had been focused to the west, so it was a big surprise when I happened to glance east to find clouds overtaking the area! Dang; up to now I had high hopes of clear skies for the Nickel Plate train, but it was pretty obvious that I was going to be SOL for that!
An eastbound commuter express blew past on M3 and then the clouds closed in, unfortunate timing since I had three unit oils (including the Nickel Plate train) and a merchandise headed my way! I was now regretting not dressing warmer, a front had passed thru during the night dropping temps a good thirty degrees and the light weight jacket I’d thrown was not quite enough now that the sun had gone away. At least I was doing better than a lot of other people who were wandering dressed for yesterday’s 80′s; you have to wonder if they ever watched the news.
An eastbound commuter rolled up and I watched with dismay as a guy roared up to the crossing so aggressively that I was sure that he was going to run it! Luckily he pulled up short, but I could see that he was really put out about it, so it gave me great pleasure when a westbound commuter arrived, keeping the gates down, and leaving him steaming. No big surprise, when the gates finally went up he took off with a roar!
The commuters cleared and an eastbound flashing yellow appeared on M3 followed quickly by a headlight to the west. I set up at the crossing to catch the action.
08:58 a.m. – Downers Grove IL / Forest Ave
BNSF e/b loaded unit oil
BNSF 9719 SD70MAC
BNSF 6367 ES44AC
BNSF 4365 Dash 9-44CW
To my great delight the sun broke thru the clouds, but then the train turned out to be a slow poke and ended up being clouded out. I had major exposure issues, this was a worst case scenario with a bright background and a shaded out subject and the metering just didn’t handle it well. Too bad the sun didn’t hold up, that Grin green MAC would have looked great even if didn’t have a nose herald.
Another eastbound flashing yellow appeared in the wake of the oil train, so I moved over to Main St where due to the overcast (and a missing commuter fence) I could shoot from the north side of the tracks, vary the view, and lessen the effect of the train’s headlights.
09:17 a.m. – Downers Grove IL / Main St
BNSF e/b merchandise – H GALBRC
BNSF 5281 Dash 9-44CW
BNSF 1044 Dash 9-44CW
Just as the train passed under the Forest Ave signal bridge some faint sun broke thru providing just enough light to perk up the scene and my spirits a bit. Looking east I could see that the clouds were beginning to break a bit, and while they definitely weren’t going away, I could look forward to better light.
I decided that Main St was the place to be; I had an excellent view of the Forest Ave signal bridge, room to back off, and best of all, places to sit; I could almost hear my knees sighing with relief! An eastbound green appeared on M2, I was expecting another oil train but got a Z that had stolen a march!
09:27 a.m. – Downers Grove IL / Main St
BNSF e/b priority intermodal
BNSF 4192 Dash 9-44CW
BNSF 6714 ES44C4
Wow, the sun came out and I got some great “storm light” shots! It was just a hole in the clouds but it was all that was needed. Great!
I kicked back in front of the depot where I could keep an eye on things. The clouds came back (“Boo! Hiss!) but they definitely weren’t as all encompassing as before. A big MoW crew showed up down by Washington St, after a while I figured out that they were re-installing the commuter fence, a definite bummer since I really enjoyed having it out of the way, and lighting a fire under me to get shots around the station before they finished!
Things got busy. An eastbound green appeared on M3, could be for a freight, could be for a commuter; I was leaning towards freight since I knew that a couple more were on the way. Then a complication; a commuter appeared to the east. Normally not a problem, but in this case I was hoping to catch my next eastbound from the north side of the tracks, and the commuter might get in the way. I kept an eye to the west, and of course just as the commuter started its final run a headlight appeared on M2! I said a couple interesting words before realizing that it was the local headed for Pepperidge Farm, and wouldn’t go by until the next eastbound commuter passed. This was actually good news since once they got over to Pepperidge they would be blocking M3 and forcing all the action, including the Nickel Plate train onto M2! Woo-hoo, definitely a best case scenario short of the sun coming out.
The westbound commuter went past; I skipped getting a photo due to the blah weather. By now I was convinced that the westbound green on M3 was for the next commuter, so of course a freight showed up!
09:47 a.m. – Downers Grove IL / Main St
BNSF e/b road freight
BNSF 4873 Dash 9-44CW
BNSF 6800 ES44C4
BNSF 976 Dash 9-44CW
BNSF 9793 SD70MAC
I had absolutely no luck with the sun and caught a dark shot of the train passing the Main St crossing signal circuit box. I sure hoped that things would be better when the Nickel Plate train showed up!
Next up was the eastbound commuter that I had been expecting, and of course the sun came out for that! No photo, I simply couldn’t come up with an angle that interested me enough to stand! I was a lot more inspired by the local, which got on the move as soon as the commuter cleared the block:
09:57 a.m. – Downers Grove IL / Main St
BNSF e/b local
BNSF 2903 GP39-2R
BNSF 2321 GP38-2
The train headed east and crossed from M2 to M3 to work Pepperidge Farm buoying my hopes that I’d have a good chance of catching the Nickel Plate train on M2! Only time would tell.
In the mean time an eastbound green appeared on M1 for the Illinois Zephyr. Sadly by time it showed up the clouds were back and the sun had deserted me:
10:05 a.m. – Downers Grove IL / Main St
AMT e/b Illinois Zephyr
AMT 169 P42DC
Just a single shot from in front of the station more or less to celebrate my last few minutes of freedom from the commuter fence!
An eastbound green appeared on M2 after the local cleared, undoubtedly for a freight but not MY freight since I knew that there was at least one more train ahead of it. I only had a short wait:
10:17 a.m. – Downers Grove IL / Main St
BNSF e/b loaded unit oil
BNSF 4934 Dash 9-44CW
BNSF 9325 SD70ACe
BNSF 6126 ES44AC
I caught a series as the train passed under the Forest Ave signal bridge and then crossed Main St. Too bad the sun wasn’t out or that ACe was leading!
The train cleared and I began to dither; the local had gone east with just a single car and I was beginning to worry that they’d finish up, clearing the way for the Nickel Plate train to pass on tight to the platform M3. Luck was with me, apparently the local had to do a bit of shuffling to deliver their car, and they were still at it when an eastbound green appeared on M2. Even better the sun seemed to be trying to break thru, was I going to get double lucky? Finally the wait was over, headlight to the west, the Nickel Plate train was on the way!
10:26 a.m. – Downers Grove IL / Main St
BNSF e/b loaded unit oil
NS 8100 ES44AC
NS 8028 ES44AC
BNSF 6807 ES44C4
I did not get the full sun I’d been hoping for, and it was probably for the best because the hazy light did a fine job of illuminating the 8100 without shadows. What a great looking motor! I’d really enthused about it when it was first released and despaired about ever getting a photo. Thank you Bakken oil field boom!
The train cleared and it was obvious that its timing could not have been any better as the local immediately headed west clearing M3 for action.
Surprisingly they didn’t have any cars in tow, unusually they return with an empty or two.
At this point it was all over except for the shouting, but since the sky had cleared a bit I decided to hang tight for a while. Between the sun and my good mood I was even moved to shoot the next commuter.
10:48 a.m. – Downers Grove IL / Main St
METX e/b commuter
METX 188 F40PHM-2
Just a couple quick shots and I as off to move my car which was reaching the three hour limit for where I’d parked. I wasn’t sure how vigorously Downers Grove pursued parking tickets (La Grange, Naperville and Lisle sure do) but I wasn’t going to risk a $40 ticket to find out. The move wasn’t far, just from one side of the tracks to another, but hopefully it would give me enough time to catch an inbound unit coal with an ACe leading that I’d heard about.
Back to trackside. Time passed and I caught a BNSF highrailer being launched over at Forest Ave on M2, which then backed west a bit to do some heavy lifting; thank goodness they didn’t get an earlier start!
The headlight for a freighter popped up to the east, and despite the fact that it was closing in on midday the light for it was so poor that I set up at the corner of Main and Burlington to catch broadside of the lead motor as it hit the grade crossing:
10:55 a.m. – Downers Grove IL / Main St
BNSF w/b merchandise
BNSF 4678 Dash 9-44CW
BNSF 4306 Dash 9-44CW
BNSF 7113 ES44C4
HBRY **** SD50
Since I was shooting a tight broadside I had absolutely no warning of the Hudson Bay Railway SD50, which was probably headed for the Illinois Railway. The sight of it so discombobulated me that I screwed up the number reading even though I had the tape recorder in hand. All I can remember is that there was a 5 and a 0 and a 1, but I can’t remember if it was the 5001 or the 5010! It was pretty cool to see even if I didn’t get a photo.
The ever changeable weather had another shift in mood and the clouds moved back in knocking back my enthusiasm for waiting on the coal train, which for some reason seemed to be hung up out at Eola. Finally it got toe the point that I decided that lunch was more important than catching cloudy day shot of an ACe, so I packed up and headed home firmly convinced that I was thru for the day, but as you will see in Part II, never assume anything!
Previous post: 05/10/13 “This, that, and other things”
Big day today, I caught two NS heritage units! It was a bizarre and sometimes frustrating visit to trackside; the weather was all over the place and the BNSF made some dispatching decisions that left us scratching our heads, but in the end it I got what I was after so I’d call it a success!
The engines in question were the NS 1071 (CNJ) and 1066 (NYC), and I’d been tracking them ever since they started east from the Bakken oil fields. The news could hardly have been better since both were tagged to arrive in Chicago about midday on Sunday, so no worries about their passing thru in the dark, or at least there weren’t until their schedules advanced six hours and all of a sudden they might show up at dawn or even earlier! No, no, no, no, please do not do that! Unfortunately all I could do was sleep on it and see where they were in the morning.
Planning for the worst I set my alarm early enough that if need be I could reach trackside at the crack of dawn. Being a Nervous Nellie, I got up even earlier than that to check for updates and got the happy news they’d be in town around 8:30 to 9:30. Fine with me, I clicked off my alarm and went back to bed!
Daybreak arrived and I shambled out of bed to find the area blanketed with cloudy, gloomy skies; it was hard to believe that the forecasters were calling for sun and the 70’s by afternoon! There wasn’t any new news about the heritage units, but just in case they their schedules had advanced further I plotted to land trackside around 7:30 or so, early enough to be sure of catching the units, and late enough to get my act together! I was sticking close to home today and was headed for Fairview Ave, which was about as close as I can get short of living in the depot! Yee haw, it was time to catch me some heritage units!!!!
I landed trackside a little after 7:30 to find that I had the area all to myself, something I was certain would not last for long. I’m not big on fanning in a mob, but there was nothing that I could do about it short of not bathing for several days, and it was too late for that. Weather-wise I had a solid blanket of clouds to the east, but broken skies to the west that hinted at better times to come. What I didn’t have was any sign of was the south wind that was supposed to drive the temps into the 70’s; instead I had a nice icy gale from the east that sent me diving for my gloves.
Signal-wise I had nothing but red all around, so I puttered around grabbing area shots. Another fan showed up, one of my Facebook friends David Lemke. A westbound green appeared on M2 that I figured was for a freight until Dave pointed out the obvious that it was for the outbound Carl Sandburg. D’oh! At least I did better at photographing it!
08:02 a.m. – Downers Grove IL / Fairview Ave
AMT w/b Carl Sandburg – Train 381
AMT 90 P42DC
I grabbed a couple quick shots as it rolled by. Rather mysteriously there was no horn work this morning, usually they’re good for a couple toots as they pass thru town.
I got a call from my friend Mike Pirelli who was camped out to the west, apparently an oil train with CSX power was headed our way; cool! More fans showed up and we soon had a small convention going. I quickly found out how useful it was to have extra eyes around when Dave noticed that the Fairview crossovers were set to switch something from M2 to M3, undoubtedly the CSX oil train. Since neither of us wanted to deal with a hot train tight to the platform, Dave and I took off to find photos west of Fairview where it would still be on M2. At first glance the area looks wide open, but in reality it’s a hash of power poles, guy wires, switch heater hoods, and even no parking signs, so it was a bit of hike before we found some open ground just short of Maple Ave. I sure hoped that I wouldn’t have to do a lot of this today!
08:43 a.m. – Downers Grove IL / Fairview Ave
BNSF e/b loaded unit oil
CSX 7592 Dash 8-40C
CSX 7507 Dash 8-40C
CSX 7673 Dash 8-40CW
The two lead units were definite beaters but I didn’t care, wow, conventional cabs, what a breath of fresh air! Not the greatest spot to catch photos; pole line back drop, and a new BNSF signal circuit box strategically placed to foul the view, but I was happy with it!
I returned to the platform for what turned out to be my first fiasco of the day. The headlight for an inbound commuter appeared to the west, something that quite frankly I planned to ignore. What I couldn’t ignore was a westbound ethanol that had just appeared to the east, and it looked like the commuter was going to block it out! Well that was no good so I took off across Fairview Ave to clear the view, a great plan, too bad it didn’t work; the last car of the commuter was still passing as ethanol went by! If I’d made it another fifty feet I would have gotten it. No photos, and no number reading on either train, in fact I have to credit fellow fan Stephan Loeb for identifying the tank train as an ethanol. Dang, that did not leave me a happy camper!
Things did not slow down. A headlight for a freight appeared to the west on M3; good. Then another headlight appeared over on M1, bad because it was a surfacing crew on its way east to tie up one of the main lines and mess up train movements! Sigh. Well that was less than thrilling, but since there was nothing I could do about it (I’d left my disintegrator pistol at home today.) I would just have to live with it. As for the freighter, we all scattered around the area to find shots where we’d be out of each other’s way:
09:00 a.m. – Downers Grove IL / Fairview Ave
BNSF e/b merchandise
BNSF 4627 Dash 9-44CW
BNSF 4692 Dash 9-44CW
I grabbed some too distant shots of the train passing the surfacing crew before cranking back to catch it along the platform. Nice shot, although it would have looked a heck of a lot better if it was sunny!
The surfacing crew, which has switched over to M2 at Fairview, disappeared off to the east, so I could probably kiss that track goodbye for the rest of the day. I did get some good news, my friend Mike reported that the first heritage train had just passed his position, which definitely perked everyone up! Undoubtedly the train was going to come down M3, the surfacing crew pretty much guaranteed that, but at the moment the weather was so gloomy that the light was good from either side of the tracks, so Dave and I crossed Fairview to set up on the north side where we’d have a much better angle. The situation definitely wasn’t shiny, but we were doing the best we could!
09:11 a.m. – Downers Grove IL / Fairview Ave
BNSF e/b loaded unit oil – Train U MNUNSD
NS 1025 SD70ACe
NS 1000 SD70ACe
NS 1071 SD70ACe (CNJ heritage paint)
BNSF 999 Dash 9-44CW
The CNJ heritage unit was buried three back, but since this was just a tag session with the 1071 I wasn’t bothered by it. There were a lot of interesting motors in this train, NS 1000 and BNSF 999 both had pretty neat numbers; too bad they weren’t coupled together!
No DPU on this puppy, all the power was up front.
One down, one to go, the 1066 (NYC) was still on the way, and I’m pretty sure that was the one that everyone was really out here for since 1) it’s darn good looking, and 2) it was leading. From what I could tell it was still some distance out, so we all settled back to play wait and see.
The next action was a westbound commuter, which was met with general disdain by the viewing audience, including me, but since it’s hard for me to let a train go by without photographing it I grabbed a shot.
09:30 a.m. – Downers Grove IL / Fairview Ave
METX w/b commuter
METX 210 F40PHM-2
Another gray day commuter photo, I’m not sure why I bothered.
A headlight appeared to the west on M3, so as soon as the commuter departed a number of us shifted to the north platform to catch it passing under the signal bridge:
09:35 a.m. – Downers Grove IL / Fairview Ave
BNSF e/b priority intermodal
BNSF 5277 Dash 9-44CW
BNSF 1073 Dash 9-44CW
We had quite a photo line, there’s only a small area where one can catch the signal bridge and keep the commuter fence out of the way, so I ducked down under everyone else.
An eastbound green went up on M3, and since no commutes were due it had to be for the inbound Illinois Zephyr. This time I set up just east of the depot, and totally blew it! I carefully framed up my shot, waited for the Zephyr, pushed the shutter button, but apparently not enough to trip it! What kind of rookie error was that! I didn’t even get a unit number!
Time for a long break in the action, which was well worth it because eventually the sun came out! Considering how grim the morning had been I’d begun to doubt that it would ever happen, but a distinct break in the clouds worked it’s way in from the west, and hey presto, we had sun and there was general rejoicing by all. The sun also heralded a big pick up in the action, an eastbound commuter appeared in the distance while M2 went to a diverging green westbound, for what, we did not know. We also heard that the NYC train was approaching on short time, good news we thought, no doubt they would just hustle it thru under glorious morning light, but then it was mysteriously decided to do a crew change in Downers! Now that would be super cool if it happened right here, but sadly no, undoubtedly the deed would be done at one of the train holding points at Belmont or in Downers west of Forest Ave, both of which unfortunately are out of easy photographic reach! What really puzzled us was the why, as in why not just keep going? Reportedly they had 45 minutes, more than enough time to reach Western Ave under the deft guidance of the dispatcher, so why the hold up? What we didn’t know is that this train had a crew based out of La Crosse, and those crews are not qualified to run east of Cicero because until the oil trains appeared there was no need to do so! No doubt this would be cleared up with the next union contract, but since that wasn’t going to happen in the next 45 minutes we were kind of screwed. All we could do was hope that the BNSF would have a crew ready to take it east, but recent experiences didn’t give us much hope. As for right now, I had a commuter to catch:
10:51 a.m. – Downers Grove IL / Fairview Ave
METX e/b commuter
METX 210 F40PHM-2
Quite frankly my only inspiration was the fact that the sun was finally out, so I just got a couple quick grab shots after the train arrived at the platform. This was the same train set that had gone west an hour ago, but under much better light!
An eastbound green appeared in the wake of the commuter, good news since we had reports from the west that it involved a freight with a pair of war bonnets leading! I moved down by Pepperidge Farm to line up a telephoto down the platform.
11:00 a.m. – Downers Grove IL / Fairview Ave
BNSF e/b merchandise
BNSF 790 Dash 9-44CW
BNSF 708 Dash 9-44CW
I got a nice photo series as the train came along the platform, luckily the 790’s paint was in pretty good shape, it was actually red rather than the washed out pink on many of these units. Nice!
We got some good news; the NYC train had arrived in Downers and was at the train holding point west of Belmont Ave. The bad news was that it probably wouldn’t see a new crew until 2 p.m., well after the morning light went away! I was very tempted to try for a shot of it, I knew exactly where it was, but reluctantly decided against it since 1) the area is posted No Trespassing and No Parking, and 2) it would be just my luck that I’d get caught and then have a rep with the Downers police that would never go away, not good since I live here! Oh fudge!
While we digested the news a headlight appeared to the east. The light still wasn’t anywhere near favoring westbound’s, so I got arty and set up for a broadside by Pepperidge Farm:
11:13 a.m. – Downers Grove IL / Fairview Ave
BNSF w/b merchandise
BNSF 4991 Dash 9-44CW
BNSF 5506 Dash 9-44CW
BNSF 6976 ES44C4
The idea was to catch the lead unit passing a Pepperidge Farm no trespassing sign, not exactly brilliant, but at least a bit different from what I usually do.
After the train cleared there was a general exodus of the with some people calling it a day, others for lunch, but mostly I suspect to grab a shot of the NYC train! Good luck guys, I was opting for lunch and then a quick return to trackside just in case the crew showed up early and stole a march. Read all about it in Part II!
Previous post: 04/10/13 ”NS 8100″