Normally I don’t fan on Sundays, it’s my kick back, set a spell day, but I can be drawn out given the proper stimulus. In this case I was typing away at my blog when a very interesting message popped up on the IlliniRail list:
Subject: Amtrak CZ
Time: 02:04 p.m.
Amtrak heritage unit 156 is on the CZ today on time departure from union station.
Wow, cool, but then again by now the train was halfway to Downers; could I even make it to the tracks in time? I decided that I couldn’t, thought about it, redecided that I could, grabbed my camera and hit the road. This was railfanning lite, no camera bag, no tape recorder for notes, heck I didn’t even put on a regular shirt or turn off the computer, I just took off figuring that I’d be back within 15-20 minutes. Not quite!
It’s pretty much a straight shot down neighboring Fairview Ave to the station from my house, and my big fear was that along the way I’d see the Zephyr scoot by. Luck was with me, while a train did go by, it was westbound merchandise, a bit of a bummer but at least it wasn’t the Zephyr. Arriving trackside I parked as quickly as possible and jumped out for a look: Bingo, nothing was in sight, so maybe I’d made it in time. A couple fans were around, a retired rail I’d met before chatting with someone in a car, and a fellow fan who was set up about halfway down the platform. I went over to introduce myself and found out that he knew me from my Flickr postings. (I am sorry to say that even though I got his name twice, I can’t remember it! It’s terrible to have a mind like a sieve.) He too was out to catch the Cal Zephyr, but for a different reason, he’d heard that it was running with some private varnish, and didn’t even know about the #156. Well now we both had twice the reason to catch the train, and here it was; headlight to the east!
02:20 p.m. – Downers Grove IL / Fairview Ave
AMT w/b California Zephyr – Train 5
AMT 156 P42DC
AMT 190 P42DC
I fired off three oncoming shots at 62, 28, and 18mm, all good captures under great light. I also grabbed a shot of the PV car in passing, it was the MRLX 800180 owned by Mid America Railcar, a Budd 6 BDRM-Lounge “City of Angels”, ex-Amtrak 3202 “Laurel Stream, ex-PC 4413, ex-NYC 10628.
At this point I was essentially done for the day and could have headed for home, but another headlight popped up to the east on M2 and I could hardly pass on that!
02:23 p.m. – Downers Grove IL / Fairview Ave
BNSF w/b priority intermodal
BNSF 5148 Dash 9-44CW
BNSF 4940 Dash 9-44CW
BNSF 709 Dash 9-44CW
I grabbed a telephoto of the train passing Pepperidge Farm and then tried cranking back for a wide angle, but the camera just wouldn’t get a focus lock until it was too close to be useful. Normally at this point I’d be fumbling for my tape recorder to note the unit numbers, but since I’d left home without it I simply grabbed junk shots of the passing locomotives, after all electrons are cheap.
So, was I done yet? Nope, there was now a headlight to the west on M3, the Amtrak inbound parade was about to begin. I framed up a shot from under the trees, focused, reframed and tried to focus again only to have the focus zoom to infinity and beyond! Yikes! I frantically tried to get things back under control, but nothing worked until the train was past.
??:?? p.m. – Downers Grove IL / Fairview Ave
AMT e/b California Zephyr – Train 6
AMT 194 P42DC
AMT 201 P42DC
(Many thanks to Tim Alund for supplying me with the unit numbers)
So what had gone wrong? Looking back with 20/20 hindsight I’m guessing that I bumped the camera’s badly placed focus mode selector switch (it’s right next to the lens mount and easy to jog out of place while holding the camera) and I confused the poor dear. Oh well, not that big of a loss since there was nothing special about the train.
Things did not slow down because a few minutes later yet another headlight popped up to the east. I set up under the trees by the Pepperidge Farm property line to frame up a shot:
02:34 p.m. – Downers Grove IL / Fairview Ave
BNSF w/b vehicle train
BNSF 4826 Dash 9-44CW
BNSF 4095 Dash 9-44CW
Nothing fancy, just a plain ol’ wedgie under fantastic light.
Just as it disappeared around the curve at Belmont yet another headlight popped up to the west! And here I thought that Sunday was supposed to be a slow day! It was the next Amtrak, so I reset for the shot that I’d blown earlier, taking care to keep my fumble fingers away from the focus mode selector switch:
02:39 p.m. – Downers Grove IL / Fairview Ave
AMT e/b Southwest Chief – Train 4
AMT 62 P42DC
AMT 188 P42DC
This time I managed to get my shot without any technical difficulties.
Things finally slowed down. An inbound Metra came and went, I passed on photographing it due to the light, plus I was being a worrywart about attracting attention under the heightened security for the upcoming NATO summit. Having some time on my hands I got some shots of M2, for some reason it had a definite greenish/yellow hue.
After looking it over my fanning companion suggested that it was probably molten sulfur that had leaked from a passing car, I bet that smelled nice! (A correction: I have now been advised by someone in the know that it’s something far less exotic; weed spraying.)
Time passed and a headlight appeared to the west. Since we were out of inbound Amtraks it had to be a freighter, which was fine by me! I didn’t get very ambitious (quite frankly I was tired and my legs hurt) so I just grabbed a wedgie from the platform:
03:05 p.m. – Downers Grove IL / Fairview Ave
BNSF e/b loaded unit grain
BNSF 7520 ES44DC
BNSF 4645 Dash 9-44CW
Cool train, a unit grain, I grabbed a couple inbound shots (including one of another fan down by the depot catching an image) and then set about shooting the passing cars. I went the wedgie route, but looking back with 20/20 hindsight I should have slapped on the super wide and gone for a broadside.
When I was down in Texas fans called these “earthworm trains” because of the cars uniform boxcar red color, and just like down south this train had a DPU:
03:07 p.m. – Downers Grove IL – Fairview Ave
BNSF e/b loaded unit grain – DPU
BNSF 5672 AC4400CW
I got coming and going shots and then stepped trackside for a couple telephotos that came out perfectly awful, they were way out of focus courtesy of that damnable “focus mode selector” switch that I’d inadvertently bumped to “manual”. As it turned out I’d been shooting on manual for some time, but those shots came out fairly well since it was a bright day and I had a pretty good depth of field. I’m darn lucky that I hadn’t trashed a ton of them!
Another set of headlights appeared to the west, but this time it turned out to be a pair of highrails on M3. A couple more people showed to watch the parade, a husband and wife; they’d heard that the outbound SW Chief would also have some private varnish on it. Cool, the more the merrier. After that it was just a matter of waiting for the action to come our way:
03:21 p.m. – Downers Grove IL / Fairview Ave
AMT w/b Southwest Chief – Train 3
AMT 817 Dash 8-40BWH
AMT 15 P42DC
AMT 189 P42DC
Wow, three units, normally these trains only rate two. Having shot this train six ways to Sunday I went a very different route today and caught the newly arrived couple watching the train go by. For some reason the door on the baggage car was partially open, I don’t know if it was to let some air in, or someone simply forgot to lock it down before departure. Hopefully nothing fell out!
One last train, an outbound commuter was on the way so I hung around for a shot of it:
03:26 p.m. – Downers Grove IL / Fairview Ave
METX w/b commuter
METX 403 MP36PH-3S
I got an inbound shot and then a couple of a gallery car with BNSF Railway lettering.
Wow, what an afternoon! Nine trains in a little over an hour, amazingly busy for any afternoon much less a Sunday. Despite my trials and tribulations with the focus mode selector switch I got plenty of good captures, this was certainly was a great day to be trackside.
Previous post: 05/11/12 ”Clarendon Hills”
I went over to Fairview Ave this morning to catch some action passing the signal bridges in the area. It was a great day to be out, cool, clear, and plenty of action. Who could ask for anything more?
I had dithered about going out today; a big Canadian high had moved in bringing with it stiff breezes and a temps so cold that there had been a chance of frost, and I wasn’t sure if I wanted to deal with it! I guess that I’d gotten spoiled by the “Indian Spring” of a couple weeks back when it was in the 80’s; now it was back to normal and quite frankly I didn’t like it! I considered waiting until tomorrow when the temps are supposed to bump up a bit, but then I woke to a possibility of rain Saturday afternoon I decided that today was the day. Actually it didn’t take much convincing; one look at the deep blue skies was enough on its own.
I headed trackside a little after 8:30 and arrived just in time to miss a westbound commuter that I found blocking my way. Not much of a loss, the light wouldn’t have been good, a far bigger problem was the traffic backup that tied up the area afterwards; it took a couple lights before I could turn into the commuter lot. One reason I was out today was that because of the holiday I wouldn’t have trouble finding parking in the normally full to the brim commuter lot, and it turned out that I guessed right! Cool, that not only saved me a hike but also extended the length of time I could spend trackside. Speaking of which when I arrived there nothing much was happening; default signals all around and no signs of life. Surprisingly there was no sign of the brand new signal circuit box that had been delivered my last time here, did they change their minds and take it back? Nope, I quickly found it parked kitty corner on the south side of the tracks, maybe they dropped it off on the wrong side the first time around.
My first action of the day was a surprise; a headlight popped up to the west on M2, I’d simply missed the signal indication on the Westmont bridge. Not really a problem since I had plenty of time to line something up, but first it was lens juggling time as I switched from my 18-200mm to my 28-300mm so that I could get a tighter shot as the train passed under the signal bridge on the other side of Maple Ave. My plan was to hike down a bit, but I got thwarted by the massive hoods for the switch heaters in the area (they have to be tall to avoid being buried when the nearby road is plowed), there was just no way that I could get past them in time, so I reversed course and set up at Fairview Ave:
08:45 a.m. – Downers Grove IL / Fairview Ave
BNSF e/b priority intermodal
BNSF 4872 Dash 9-44CW
BNSF 4906 Dash 9-44CW
I fired off a five shot sequence of verticals and horizontals, starting out at 300mm at Maple Ave and ending at 85mm at the crossovers. Nice catch that worked well. Then across Fairview as quick as I could (which is none too quick) and down the platform to set up for an eastbound commuter the freighter had passed at Main St.
08:50 a.m. – Downers Grove IL / Fairview Ave
METX e/b commuter
METX 404 MP36PH-3S
I didn’t so much with this one, got a mild telephoto of it passing under the signal bridge just on the other side of Fairview Ave, and a cab shot of the #404. Not the best of captures, it’s kind of unbalanced, but the best I could do caught between the shade in the foreground and waiting passengers right behind me.
Things quieted down and I kicked back by the station, a pleasant place to be this morning since the wind was out of the east and Pepperidge Farm was making bread. Green signals began to pop up, westbound on M1, eastbound on M2, creating a quandary since the best lens to for the westbound was my 12-24mm (I could get a near broadside and minimize the tight to the tracks morning light) while my 28-300 was my lens of choice for the eastbound. Actually it wasn’t a hard choice since I had far better light for the eastbound plus signal bridges to catch, so I stuck with the 28-300mm. As it turned out I guessed right in more than one way since the eastbound showed up first!
09:25 a.m. – Downers Grove IL / Fairview Ave
BNSF e/b vehicle train
BNSF 7247 ES44DC
To vary the view I set up on the dark side for this one and started shooting as the train passed under the signal bridge west of Maple Ave until it was darn near in my lap. I could have saved the electrons on the distant shots; even at this early hour they were badly heat struck by warm air rising from the roadbed. The train was nothing but empty auto racks, impressive looking but light enough that only a single motor was needed for power.
The train cleared leaving me with that westbound green on M1 that was quickly joined by an eastbound green on M3, both probably for commuters. Cool with me, but then a headlight popped up to the west on M2 for a freight, which again was cool, but they didn’t have the switch to M3, so what in the heck was going on. To confound things further it stopped west of Forest Ave and dimmed it’s lights, which in my mind made it the local except that 1) it had a couple burly GE’s rather then the usual geeps, and 2) it was a holiday and I didn’t expect the local to be running. In the mean time I’d switched from my 28-300mm to my 12-24mm in anticipation of the westbound, and then to my 18-200mm for the now stopped freight, so what should I do now? Tiring of juggling lenses I decided to stick with the 18-200mm, and of course this was when the westbound commuter showed up:
09:38 a.m. – Downers Grove IL / Fairview Ave
METX w/b commuter
METX 201 F40PHM-2
I got a single horizontal wedgie on the east side of the station that came out oddly overexposed. I was hoping that its passage would stir things up with that freight parked to the west, but no such luck, it just sat there. Time passed and the headlight for the next eastbound commuter appeared to the west. Looking for something new and different I crossed Fairview Ave and set up to grab a shot of it passing the new signal circuit box sitting on the grass to the west:
09:51 a.m. – Downers Grove IL / Fairview Ave
METX e/b commuter
METX 210 F40PHM-2
Definitely NOT one of my better efforts; very poorly composed; for some reason I got fixated on catching a tight wedgie of it passing the signal box when I really should have stood off to one side and gone all wide angly on it. Yuck!
This finally spurred the freight sitting to the west into motion; they lit up and the Fairview crossovers lined up for a M2 to M3 move. I set up in front of the station to catch the action:
09:55 a.m. – Downers Grove IL / Fairview Ave
BNSF e/b local
BNSF 5293 Dash 9-44CW
BNSF 5363 Dash 9-44CW
I got some telephotos of it coming thru the crossovers and then cranked back to wide for a couple captures as they went by the station. One, two, three, four, five….fifteen cars and they were slowing down while someone was ratcheting a hand brake, so it really was the local! They pulled to a stop down by Pepperidge, blocking a good chunk of the platform with their train. I hiked over hoping to find some juicy graffiti, but all I found was a Florida East Coast well flat in need of some maintenance:
The inbound Illinois Zephyr was due at any time and I was kind of hoping to use the local as a photo prop, but an empty stack car tacked on the rear put the kibosh on that. Instead I moved down by the station and set up for a nice leafy wedgie:
10:02 a.m. – Downers Grove IL / Fairview Ave
AMT e/b Illinois Zephyr
AMT 55 P42DC
They blew thru at track speed on M1 and I got a nicely lit photo! Cool.
The Zephyr cleared and a westbound green popped up on M2. I looked at this with some dismay, quite frankly my body ached (mornings are not good to me nowadays) and the thought of home had far greater appeal that waiting on a poorly lit westbound. I headed for my car, but then I decided that I was being a weenie and headed right back again, noticing along the way that I could get a super wide broadside across the near empty parking lot that dealt with my light issues! Cool. I walked down to Fairview to see around the local and bingo, headlight to the east and I hustled back to the parking lot as fast as I could to catch my shot:
10:09 a.m. – Downers Grove IL / Fairview Ave
BNSF w/b merchandise
BNSF 4898 Dash 9-44CW
BNSF 7784 ES44DC
I fired off two broadsides as the train lugged past, a good move on my part since it was the second shot that came out a winner. Long heavy train, I was kind of surprised that it didn’t have a DPU.
I headed for the station to kick back and plan my future actions. A flashing yellow appeared in the wake of the last train so I decided to keep my 12-24mm on the camera for the time being, but then a surprise headlight popped up on M1 to the west. Ooppss, a freight, and something best dealt with using my 18-200mm, but just as I started fishing around in my camera bag I heard the sound of a train approaching from the east, out of sight behind the local that was still working Pepperidge Farm. I barely had time point and shoot!
10:15 a.m. – Downers Grove IL / Fairview Ave
METX w/b commuter extra
METX 404 MP36PH-3S
I got a single shot framed up under the station awning. Good thing that I hadn’t switched lenses, I couldn’t have pulled off shot with anything other than the 12-24mm.
With that out of the way I quickly switched over to my 18-200mm to deal with the eastbound freight. Stepping out from under the awning I was very, very glad that I hadn’t headed for home!
10:16 a.m. – Downers Grove IL / Fairview Ave
BNSF e/b bare table intermodal
BNSF 742 Dash 9-44CW
BNSF 4678 Dash 9-44CW
I fired off a couple quick telephotos of the train and then cranked back for a wedgie set as it passed the station. Nice; a good looking red bonnet (getting to be a rarity nowadays, especially with the GE’s), flowering crab apple trees in the background, (At least I think that they’re crab apples, unless they’re triffids I generally don’t concern myself much with plants.), and really great light. Definitely the catch of the day.
In the mean time the commuter extra had stopped to the west between Maple Ave and Washington St, it was probably going to run back east behind the next commuter to handle the midday crowds. Off in the distance a headlight for another eastbound freighter appeared on M1, interesting since the local working Pepperidge and the parked commuter extra blocked both it and M2. Figuring that they would just sling it around the two trains I set up on the west side of the station for a wedgie:
10:27 a.m. – Downers Grove IL / Fairview Ave
BNSF e/b merchandise
BNSF 6670 ES44C4
BNSF 4328 Dash 9-44CW
My wedgie shot worked out just fine, unfortunately my last moment try at a telephoto blew chunks; I could have caught a couple nice shots of the train swinging from M3 to M2 at the Fairview crossovers, but concerned that I’d have enough time to dive back for my wedgie shot I didn’t step out far enough and totally blew the framing. Oh well, at least I got the shot that I was after, and that’s what counts.
OK, so what’s next? The local departed clearing M3, and westbound M1 got a green that I figured was for a freight since the next commuter wasn’t for another half hour. Passengers began to gather for the next eastbound commuter, including a fellow who stretched out on the platform for a doze in the sun.
No one gave him a second glance. Time passed and Metra made an announcement that the next eastbound would be extra and would not stop, confirming my theory that the train to the west was going to play clean up for it. More time passed and it became apparent that the westbound green on M1 was probably for the next commuter that direction. Bummer. Finally the headlight for the next eastbound commuter popped up to the west and it was time to deal with the commuter extra shuffle. First up was the regular train:
10:53 a.m. – Downers Grove IL / Fairview Ave
METX e/b commuter
METX 201 F40PHM-2
I fired off some dark side distant shots as it passed the extra on M2, a waste of good electrons since the heated air rising from the roadbed trashed them. Luckily I did manage a couple nice mid distance captures. Rather to my surprise they stopped to pick up passengers, normally they’d skip this stop. Maybe they had room due to the sparse inbound holiday crowd. (They also stopped at Westmont.) As soon as they departed I stepped over to the sunny side of the tracks to catch the second train:
10:56 a.m. – Downers Grove IL / Fairview Ave
METX e/b commuter extra
METX 404 MP36PH-3S
I did not have a lot of success with this one, while I caught a nice shot as it came up on the crossovers to M3 the rest of my captures were bad due to operator error. Poor framing, poor choice of focusing points, grabbing a going away shot that I should have just passed on, but once again all that mattered was that I got that one good shot.
With that I decided that this was a good time to call it a day. The only signals I had were for the westbound commuter, and my body was loudly proclaiming that it was a good time to go home. All in all it had been an excellent day.
Previous post: 04/02/12 ”Taking some heat at Main St”