Photos from the afternoon of May 13, 2013
I got a heads up from a friend that Q NYCLAC, a hot intermodal off the NS, and normally a denizen of the Chilli sub, was being detoured over the Chicago and Mendota subs today due to track work at the IHB crossing in McCook. Sounded kind of cool since intermodals with NS power are as rare as hen’s teeth on the triple track. It also was something that I needed to get on to right away because it was set to leave Cicero ten minutes ago! I figured that this would be an easy catch, run for the tracks, catch the action, run back home, I’d probably be gone a half hour, so I grabbed my gear and flew for Fairview Ave.
I landed trackside about a quarter after two to find a westbound green on M1, probably for the commuter half of the outbound Amtrak / commuter duo due thru in a few minutes. No sign of the hot intermodal, and there wouldn’t be for a while because my friend had mistranslated its 3:50 departure time as 1:50! I didn’t know that yet, so for now I concentrated on the bird in the hand in the shape of Amtrak!
02:26 p.m. – Downers Grove IL / Fairview Ave
AMT w/b California Zephyr – Train 5
AMT 156 P42DC (heritage)
AMT 200 P42DC
AMT 155 P42DC
Bringing up the rear were several private cars.
PPCX 800710 Northern Sky Charters “Northern Dreams”
PPCX 800588 Northern Sky Charters “Northern Sky”
PPCX 29 Dearing Railroad “Dearing”
All three cars were headed for an AARPCO (American Association of Private Car Owners) Cheyenne Cowboy Limited rare mileage tour out in Omaha. I knew that private cars would be on the train, but heritage #156 was a surprise. I caught a bunch of coming and going shots as the train flew by.
As the outbound Cal Zephyr disappeared to the west the headlight for its eastbound counterpart popped up on M3. That put it tight to the platform, but since I was at Fairview I had room to back off for a quick wedgie:
02:30 p.m. – Downers Grove IL / Fairview Ave
AMT e/b California Zephyr – Train 6
AMT 147 P42DC
AMT 41 P42DC
A much less remarkable train than #5, but still pretty impressive at track speed.
I still had one more train to go; it was Metra time.
02:32 p.m. – Downers Grove IL / Fairview Ave
METX w/b commuter
METX 200 F40PHM-2
I got a nice across the green broadside of the arriving train, a shot that I’d noticed when I got out of my car.
Well that certainly was a lot of action, and I hadn’t even seen my hot intermodal yet! I ran into another fan, a retired gentleman from Portland ME taking a short break from the grandkids, and all I can say is that he picked the perfect time to do it!
A westbound green appeared on M2, perhaps for my hot intermodal? Well, it was for a hot intermodal, but not MY hot intermodal!
02:38 p.m. – Downers Grove IL / Fairview Ave
BNSF w/b priority intermodal
BNSF 6924 ES44C4
BNSF 4839 Dash 9-44CW
BNSF 1077 Dash 9-44CW
BNSF 700 Dash 9-44CW
Great looking train under the cloudless sky, honestly the weather could hardly have been better.
It was at this point that I finally found out that my hot train wasn’t due for another hour and a half! Ooppss! I decided to hang tight, the weather was beautiful, the action was great, so why not? And who knew what else might happen by?
A westbound green appeared on M1, but I didn’t get excited about it since I knew that it was for a commuter express. A headlight popped up to the west and I didn’t need to check with my telephoto to tell that it was Amtrak; it was closing way too fast for a freight! I set up by the depot to catch it passing under the signal bridge:
02:54 p.m. – Downers Grove IL / Fairview Ave
AMT e/b Southwest Chief – Train 4
AMT 136 P42DC
AMT 172 P42DC
AMT 146 P42DC (heritage)
AMT 406 F40PHR (heritage)
Wow, two (three if you want to get technical about it) Amtrak heritage catches in one day, not the first time I’ve done that, but still it’s rare. Actually the 146 and 406 are part of Amtrak’s 40th Anniversary Train that was being hauled by #4 to Chicago for forwarding to it’s next destination, but in my book it still counts even if I came close to blowing it. Since the light wasn’t the greatest, I’d decided to get a bit arty and framed up the Portland guy in my shot, a mistake because that angle landed a fat tree shadow across the flank of the lead unit! Not a killer, it shined out nicely in post processing, but I should have looked closer beforehand.
Just as the Chief cleared the Metra express blasted past heading for its first stop at Main St:
02:55 p.m. – Downers Grove IL / Fairview Ave
METX w/b commuter express
METX 189 F40PHM-2
The timing was so tight that I just turned 45 degrees and clicked the shutter. One more train was on the way, an inbound commuter that I ignored due to the poor eastbound light. My compatriot from Portland departed; duty, and grandkids called!
I finally had a lull in he action, but I knew it wouldn’t be for long since the outbound Southwest Chief and a commuter were due about 3:20; I more or less hung out at the depot and waited for them to come to me. First up was the Chief:
03:20 p.m. – Downers Grove IL / Fairview Ave
AMT w/b Southwest Chief – Train 3
AMT 4 P42DC
AMT 74 P42DC
The area trees are still in full bloom, so I framed up my capture between a couple of them. Nice!
The commuter wasn’t very far behind:
03:22 p.m. – Downers Grove IL / Fairview Ave
METX w/b commuter
METX 188 F40PHM-2
Following up on the flower theme I caught it passing a tree in full bloom from the other side of the station.
Westbound greens appeared on M1 and M2 for a commuter express and an intermodal, unfortunately not MY intermodal, but I figured that would be on the way pretty soon. First up was the Z train:
03:33 p.m. – Downers Grove IL / Fairview Ave
BNSF w/b priority intermodal
BNSF 4647 Dash 9-44CW
CSX 5416 ES44DC
BNSF 5641 AC4400CW
I popped off a couple telephotos and then stepped back for a wedgie from under the trees that I almost blew when I caught it a bit too tight between some lamp posts!
That left the express to be dealt with, and to get something different I moved to the north platform to line up a shot of it passing the flowering trees:
03:40 p.m. – Downers Grove IL / Fairview Ave
METX w/b commuter express
METX 205 F40PHM-2
I fired off a series of shots at varying distances, I figured that I’d sort out which was the best later!
Time for another lull. An eastbound commuter stopped by, and just like the last one I passed on photographing it due to the light. Another westbound duo of greens appeared on M1 and M2, I knew that M1 was for a commuter and was hopeful the M2 was for my hot train! An eastbound green appeared on M3 that I worried about until I checked the commuter schedule and discovered that it was for a train that would skip Fairview as a stop. Cool, done and gone, my favorite kind of train! Finally a headlight popped up to the east, but no, it was just one of the commuters, but just as it got under way another train appeared alongside it and it was my hottie! They were really hauling because they outran the commuter to Fairview!
04:12 p.m. – Downers Grove IL / Fairview Ave
BNSF w/b intermodal – Train Q NYCLAC
NS 9492 Dash 9-40CW
NS 9924 Dash 9-40CW
By now the sun was pretty tight to the tracks so I limited myself to a series of telephotos. Cool train, and fast, it really boomed by!
I headed for my car as soon as I got my photo; a lot of people were going to get off that commuter and I did not want to play bumper cars with them in their haste to get home! Wow, what a great day despite, actually because of, getting here two hours early. I need more mistakes like this!
Previous post: Dodging the weather Part II – Afternoon OCS
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!
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