Caught another NS heritage unit this morning, 1065, the Savannah & Atlanta unit. Definitely a crack of dawn project, sunrise was supposedly at 7 a.m. (I’m taking their word for it, it was pretty cloudy out!) and the action rolled thru a little while later. Despite the low light and cruddy weather my little fanning foray worked out better than expected.
I’d heard that the 1065 was coming this way a couple of days ago and had tracked its progress since. Unfortunately it looked like a dawn arrival on the 16th, not good since 1) the forecast was grim, and 2) depending on how things went the train could easily arrive before sunrise! Sigh. All I could do was keep my fingers crossed and hope for the best.
5:30 a.m., time to rise and shine, or in my case, rise and groan. Maggie the Cat was not happy because it disrupted her carefully laid out schedule of events that makes the Sheldon Cooper character on The Big Bang Theory look like an “anything goes” guy. First things first, check the web for news on the 1065. Ooppss, not too good, the train had just passed Oregon IL, which potentially put it thru my area at 7 a.m.! On the other hand this was just an educated guess, so I might still get lucky. I passed the info on to my friend Mike and then embarked on all my usual morning duties, of which I will spare you the details. Just before 7 a.m. I checked the web again and found that the train had just passed Big Rock. That was good news since it backed off the arrival time by about a half hour and I might actually have some light! I sent an update to Mike and hit the road.
My goal was the Fairview Ave station where I could easily shift to the other side of the tracks if need be. Turning onto Fairview Ave I could see the crossing flashers working in the distance; I sure hoped that I hadn’t miscalculated and that was my train! Good news as I got closer, it was an eastbound coalie that I wouldn’t have been able to shoot due to the low light. I pulled up a couple cars back from the crossing and popped off a couple shots thru the windshield, more or less just to see how things worked out. I was operating in full manual mode, something I’m not used to and wanted to make sure that I had right. Well not quite, the shots came out really dark, and while it was pretty dim out, it wasn’t that bad! That was a bit of a puzzle because the metering said that I had everything just right. Oh well, I was pretty sure that I had the time to puzzle it out before the train arrived.
Not much was happening trackside, good news since I obviously needed time to fiddle with the camera. I grabbed a couple more test shots that also came out very dark, although in the case of one of the station I rather liked the effect!
At first I played with the shutter speed, but at the fatal expense of speed. OK, so let’s try the f stops, and I found that by going from f 5.6 to f 3.2 I could raise the shutter speed to 1/100th, not great, but at least it was bearable. I also learned to ignore the meter readings, and to rely on what I saw in the LCD, for whatever reason the metering was running really cold, a puzzlement because in auto it tends to run hot! Then it was just a matter of waiting for things to happen.
My first action of the morning was a westbound commuter:
07:14 a.m. – Downers Grove IL / Fairview Ave
METX w/b commuter
METX 200 F40PHM-2
Unfortunately shooting east dropped the light level just enough to trash any thought of catching the train on the move, so I contented myself with some shots of it at the platform. Got some nice captures, especially of people seen thru the windows of the cars.
I kept playing around with the camera settings trying to improve matters. I took a ton of test shots, something just short of sacrilege back in my film days due to the expense. Between a lot of experimentation, and the sky starting to brighten, I managed to push things up to 1/160th at f 5.6. I wish that I could have lowered my ISO levels, I was shooting at 800, borderline on noise level problems, but playing around with that dropped my shutter speed into the realms of fantasy.
Mike called, he was down at Main St where he could benefit from the platform lights to catch some video. I briefly considered joining him, but decided to hang tight with Fairview where I could easily cross the tracks if need be, and as it turned out, I needed to; eastbound green M3! Wanting a decent angle and keep the commuter fence out of my shots I crossed Fairview and set up in the small parking lot on the north side of the tracks. Time for even more test shots since I wanted to get this right and ended up settling on f 4.5 at 1/160th.
A headlight appeared to the west; it was time to get this show on the road! I moved to my photo spot, framed up my shot, only to have my phone start ringing just as the train passed Main St! That had to be Mike, but why now, I had a train to catch! I just let it ring as I fired off my shots:
07:34 a.m. – Downers Grove IL / Fairview Ave
BNSF e/b loaded unit oil – Train U ELUNSD
NS 1065 SD70ACe
NS 1051 SD70ACe
NS 8106 ES44AC
I was shooting with my fast 35mm, no zoom today (I needed the speed) so my photo options were limited to a wedgie of the train and a capture of the power as it went past. Then I was in for a surprise as a bunch of white tankers went by! I can’t wait to catch a solid set of those!
And as an added extra bonus there was a DPU.
07:36 a.m. – Downers Grove IL / Fairview Ave
BNSF e/b loaded unit oil – DPU – Train U ELUNSD
NS 1056 SD70ACe
I got a bunch of coming and going shots. A number of the goings came out oddly blurry; I may have been unconsciously following it along with the camera!
Back at the car I gave Mike a call to find out what was up and it turned out that he’d missed the train! Seeing a lot the people gathering along the platform (big St Paddy’s crowd apparently) he assumed that the headlight was for a commuter and was sitting in his car; ouch! He was now off to Hammond IN in hot pursuit; good luck Mike!
That was it for me. The light was so grim that I wasn’t going to spend any more time out here than need be, so I packed up and headed for home.
Previous post: 03/12/13 ”Surprise visitor”
I went over to Naperville today for what I thought would be a short visit, after all, how much could be running on a Thanksgiving holiday weekend? It turns out that the answer is “quite a lot”! Goal for the day was to catch an Amtrak extra for the holiday college crowds heading back to the universities along the Quincy corridor. I figured that I’d catch it, perhaps a Metra or two, and if I was really, really lucky, maybe even a freight. Things worked out much better than that.
I hit the road a little before 10:30; I figured that I could put in a couple hours trackside with the Amtrak extra in the middle. Honestly I wasn’t really expecting to see all that much, but it was a halfway decent day that was better spent outdoors than in front of a computer!
Arriving trackside, my expectations were confirmed; no headlights, and red signals all around. Also there was a fair amount of high thin cloudiness working its way in from the southwest that I sure hoped would not be an issue with what little action I might see.
I puttered around getting photos of odds and ends while trying to decide if I should switch to the heavier coat; the temps were in the high 30’s with a nice brisk wind, not too bad, but it would probably get to me if I didn’t keep moving around. For some reason I forgot about all that when an eastbound green appeared on M2, trains have that kind of effect on me! A few minutes later I was joined by fellow fan Robby Gragg who was out and about for the same reason that I was. Even better a westbound green appeared on M1; things were really beginning to look up even if I suspected that it was for the next commuter. Then it time to play was wait and see; who was going to show up first and with what, and the winner was the eastbound. Good news, the lead unit had high mounted headlights meaning something other than BNSF. Robby was really hoping for KCS (he’d managed to score one the other day at Westmont) but it turned out to be something far more mundane, although quite adequate in my humble opinion:
11:23 a.m. – Naperville IL / E 4th Ave
BNSF e/b merchandise
NS 7553 ES40DC
NS 9470 Dash 0-40CW
NS 6711 SD60
I got the obligatory telephoto shots of the train passing under the signal bridges to the west, but my money shot was a wide angle wedgie with the train balanced out by the covered walkway along the platform; too bad that SD60 wasn’t leading! A very nice, and very unexpected catch!
The train cleared and Robby and I went back to discussing trains of all things; what a surprise. Arrival time for Metra came and went, or at least it seemed like it did, as it turns out the schedule posted at the station was out of date, but even taking that into account it showed up late!
11:44 a.m. – Naperville IL / E 4th Ave
METX w/b commuter – Train 1307
METX 210 F40PHM-2
Figuring that I was in for a slow day I took a ton of shots of this train; if I was going to take the time and effort to get my body out here I wanted something to show for it! It took a while for the passengers to board; great since it gave me time to catch all my photos. Ironically, just as the train pulled out Metra began announcing that it was running late!
That cleared the way for the Amtrak extra, or so I thought because an eastbound green appeared on M2. Both Robby and I regarded this with suspicion; we really didn’t want to get blocked out by some mundane freight! I grabbed some shots of the crowd gathering for Amtrak; I sure hoped that they had the room for them!
We were getting increasingly worried about that freight, and it didn’t help when a few minutes later its headlight popped up to the west, putting its passage well within the window of Amtrak’s station stop! Then good news, we could see traffic crossing just a short distance behind it, so whatever it was, it wasn’t long! At first we thought that it might be just be light engines, but it turned out to be a very short freight:
12:05 p.m. – Naperville IL / E 4th Ave
BNSF e/b merchandise
BNSF 4620 Dash 9-44CW
BNSF 4627 Dash 9-44CW
Fourteen cars by my count although I could be wrong. I got some signal bridge shots and then ducked under the covered walkway for a wedgie. Nice, especially since it was so SHORT!
By now the crowd waiting on Amtrak had gotten even bigger, but it was getting so close to train time (plus I was less than thrilled about the walk) that I passed on updating my photos. We were trying to figure out what kind of equipment Amtrak had dug up for the extra; Robby was hoping for a 500 series Dash 8-32BWH or maybe something even more exotic (looking for a dreamer, find a railfan) but what we got was a fairly mundane push-pull set:
12:10 p.m. – Naperville IL / E 4th Ave
AMT w/b extra – Train 385
AMT 31 (leading) P42DC
AMT 32 (trailing) P42DC
Hey neat, consecutive numbers! Robby referred to it as a “Michigan set” (if so, what was Michigan using today?), it had six cars and from the size of he waiting crowd they probably could have used use a few more! It took a while for them to load, fine by me since it gave me time to walk the platform getting shots of the sitting train and even some of the passengers inside. Nice!
At this point both Robby and I were ready to call it quits, Robby for lunch, me for good, but a westbound flashing red popped up behind Amtrak. Since it could only be for a freight we both decided that, yeah, maybe we could stay just a bit longer. Then an eastbound green popped up on M3 for the next inbound commuter; cool as long as it kept out of the way. We waited, and waited, and waited, and then a headlight to the west; drat! And then salvation, headlight to the east, and this one was far closer! Time to catch some freight action:
12:32 p.m. – Naperville IL / E 4th Ave
BNSF w/b empty unit oil
BNSF 4522 Dash 9-44CW
BNSF 6359 ES44AC
I fired off a fairly long series, catching both the head end and a meet with the inbound commuter:
12:34 p.m. – Naperville IL / E 4th St
METX e/b commuter
METX 210 F40PHM-2
There was a large crowd waiting on this train; was it just the holiday, or was something big going on downtown?
At this point Robby and I both decided to definitely call it quits. Unfortunately for Robby just after he drove off, a westbound flashing yellow went up in the wake of the oil train! There was no way that I could walk away from a chance at another freighter, so I hiked down to the east end of the platform to vary my view:
12:42 p.m. – Naperville IL / E 4th Ave
BNSF w/b empty unit coal
BNSF 9794 SD70MAC
BNSF 9381 SD70ACe
Wow, nice, a “grin green” MAC! The only thing better would be two of them, but the ACe was a worthy substitute! I got a nice series as they came along the platform area and disappeared to the west.
Well that was definitely it for me, after waiting a few minutes to be sure that something wasn’t lurking behind the coal train I headed for my car and home. This had been a pretty good day; I got what I was after and far more!
Previous post: 11/21/12 ”Sun”