February 2016 Local Action

by Dave Ingles

Since we snuck the Ground Hog Day shots into the end of the January 2016 Local Action file, we'll begin the meager February offerings with the next day I shot photos, Monday, Feb. 8th. The weather thru the month was more dreary than sunny, tho the snow-cover stayed for quite a while, and I wound up taking photos on only 8 days, ending with my being out being out all day on Leap Day, Feb. 29th, on which I had mixed success. To begin with, here is CN 2nd #199, the midday northbound stack train, at Duplainville with 2802 up front and 3037 as DPU, at 3:30 pm. It was a typical day in which i went out, just to get some fresh air and look around, near "Amtrak time." These first 2 images have been brightened considerably. I'm sitting in my van, first in line at the Green Road crossing gate. Note the connection to the CP hasn't been used in a while (foreground).

Waiting for him was the NS connection train I still call #446, so I went back into Waukesha for him, but the images are too soft to publish; units were the usual GEs, 2642/2531. I saw we'd gotten a new switcher, so I shot it from the van thru the newly opened spot across from the depot, the usual tie-up spot (on the "tie-up track" -- "real" CN GP38) 4705. In CN's early post-WC days, there was a dozen or so of these around Wisconsin, but we haven't seen many in recent times. They were originally 5500s. Like with the stack train, and the subsequent Amtrak #7 shots, this image has been brightened considerably.

Now it was time for Amtrak #7, reported on-time as it has been (in both directions) for most of the month, and we had some fresh snow, I went back to Duplainville for these, engines 46/118 with the usual (slackest time of year) 9-car consist, spot on-time at 4:14 p.m.

On a sunny Thursday, Feb. 11, I went out in midday and at 12:15 pm I got CN's usual northbound stacker, which I call #199 (there has been a #119, too, and often there are 2 north bounds), in Waukesha just south of the depot, unit 3012 up front and 3008 as the DPU, usually about 2/3 back in the train.

The following Tuesday, Feb. 16, was my next outing, again dreary but I needed to go see something, anything. With Amtrak #8 reported on-time, I decided to try for an angle I'd not necessarily done before, similar to on January 28 (see Jan. 2016 local file) when I shot it, from the north side, crossing the Fox River bridge in Brookfield. The tracks there are paralleled by River Road for a mile on the north, and we did shoot trains on that bridge from the south side as the subdivision there was being built, probably in the 1990s? To replicate those now, we'd have to get homeowners' permission to walk into their back yards, perhaps something for summer. This time I chose a "cloudy-day" north-side angle at the Brookfield depot, which survives as allegedly the oldest active railroad building in the state (used a little by MofW forces). Supposedly it will be saved and moved a few hundred feet south and west, on a city-owned private road to their recycling center and MofW truck garage, but those rumors are 2 years old now, and nothing has happened. New apartments are going in north of the tracks, so I parked in front of where they'll go up for these shots, engines 166/93/124 with again 10 cars, on-time at 1:44 p.m. Again, these images are brightened.

With the westbound signal lined up thru Duplainville (binoculars can read them at MP 100 when I'm at the Brookfield depot), I re-positioned for the freight, which turned out to be the expected #281, usually heavy if not exclusively trilevels, at 2:01 p.m. behind NS 2725/CSX 7759/CP 3040, the last a GP38-2 prob being transferred, as those are local engines. The train had 80 trilevels up front and 69 miscellaneous cars including 4 trilevel racks for 149 cars total. Before Ford closed its St. Paul, Minn., plant, this train had hi-cube 80-foot auto parts box cars, but now it's mostly just autos for an unloading center in the Twin Cities. The signals visible in the going-away views are the approach signals for Duplainville.

Sat., Feb. 20th was sunny, so out I went in the afternoon around westbound Amtrak time as usual. It was after 3 p.m., but after checking signals, I got all the way up to the north end of Duplainville siding, on the south edge of Sussex by a big quarry, on Hwy. K, when just after I'd seen a southbound lineup, there came a headlight on the train that i still call #446, the NS connection. Beyond the usual new GEs he had a black IC SD70 trailing; some of these are on the Bessemer & Lake Erie now, and we hardly ever see them any more. This guy had 2655/2567/IC 1005, with 121 cars, and this at Hwy. K is at 3:47, and I shot him 3 more times, once every 2 minutes, along Duplainville Road as he slowed to wait north of the diamond for Amtrak #7 to pass.

Unlike many folks, I've always kind of liked IC's so-called "death star" black scheme of 1987, when they dropped "Gulf" and that horrid gray-and-orange livery and returned to the black Illinois Central! I call that emblem the "AT&T" logo.

Three units just fit a frame on the Spring Creek bridge at MP 103.5 or so, and since the train was crawling, I did another shot, at 3:51. This is right from my van's driver's seat.

Taken from the road shoulder, this shows him curving under the Capitol Drive overpass, at 3:51. His lead unit is about two engine-lengths from MP 103, where the "official" CN "Duplainville" station sign is located.

The westbound Empire Builder was a couple minutes off perfect, passing the diamond at 4:17 with units 116/169 and the usual consist.

CN 2655 South then waited for northbound stacker #198, passing MP 103 behind 2939/3027 at 4:28.

With nothing else due at Dupy, and taking advantage of the newly opened spot across from CN's Waukesha depot, where I knew the switcher had already tied up, I went south into town, shot the switcher, and then, in last sunlight, the "pass." The local engine, GTW 6226, was built in July 1975 as DT&I 226, the 6th of an order for 8 that were, I believe DT&I's last newly bought units. All 8 are still in CN service as far as I know.

Here's two "heritage" units in one shot, ex-DT&I and unrepainted IC.

On Tues., Feb 23rd, it was just "nice enough" to go out. Here is CP #199 at Dupy at 2:50 pm, crawling by so as to hold back at end of double track 2 miles ahead for Amtrak #8. He had 8653/9543 with 139 cars — 24 trilevel racks and 115 stack wells — and it took him 6 full minutes to clear the road crossing.

The rear stacks of #199 just barely cleared Duplainville when the train stopped, and an unthinking railfan motorist almost ruined my meet shot of #8 and #199's rear, when the Builder came past behind 118/97 with 9 cars at 2:50, about 1 hour 15 minutes late. My last shots of the day, in Waukesha of northbound CN stacker #119 (?), aren't worth presenting -- caught me at bad angles and power was routine: 2949 on front with DPU 3025 toward the rear, at 4:10 p.m. ... not worth the wait.

Next day, another gray one now with the snowpack gone, I went out just to see something, at #7's time, and took a somewhat different angle after the first shot as he went thru Pewaukee at the lakefront on-time at 4:14 with 116/169 and the usual 9 cars. For those who don't remember or haven't seen photos of it before, the village's lakefront "faux depot," which has storage rooms, public restrooms, and a small snack bar for take-to-beach counter service in summer, is designed after the old Milwaukee Road depot, torn down in the early 1970s, which was sited about where I took the photos from, on the north side of the then double track.

Saturday, Feb. 27th turned out to be sunny, perfect for Otto Dobnick to ride with me down to Rockford for the North Western Illinois Chapter of NRHS's monthly meeting, this time featuring a passenger-train program of slides, mostly in the pre-Amtrak era, by George Strombeck, a retired teacher who lives in Rockford. We had seen his work presented before and wanted to take in this one, entitled "Mixed Trains and 1-Car Trains." Unfortunately, we could think of few if any railroad items to check out between home and Rockford, as time did not allow us to go beyond Rockford to anyplace like Rochelle. We did get off I-43 at Clinton to drive north via Avalon to head west into Janesville. And lo, at Avalon's new-ish enlarged grain facility, there was this "elevator unit," SD40-2 GAVX 7161, undoubtedly its ex-BN number, now owned by Gavalon, a grain company. We could drive right up to it at the loading point, inactive on a weekend, but on the north side. I don't walk well enough anymore to go across 2 tracks on their ballast and ties without assistance, so I handed Otto my N90 slide camera to snap a couple of frames (my first slides in weeks -- the roll began in November), and I just snapped this digital frame thru the van's windshield (which may not be 100% sharp, sorry) while Otto did his iPhone photography. The word "Gavalon" is on the hood, plus an emblem. And another "Wisconsin industrial" is added to the collection. Anymore, I don't shoot slides locally unless it's sunny and something different. (An NS Heritage unit, or the like, gets a slide even in dark weather if I have advance warning, which I didn't recently on the Interstate unit.)

Our next stop was Janesville, where WSOR presented only these two units. Alas, the WATCO influence of crappy looking leaser units has invaded the red-and-silver-land of WSOR, but WATCO has kept WSOR units in their own livery, including a few sent to other WATCO lines as WSOR itself had more units than it needed, according to WATCO. The standard WATCO black and yellow sometimes, on some lines, has individual railroad lettering, but not always. The current TRAINS Magazine has a feature on WATCO for those who might care.

We considered going over to Belvidere to see what units, usually two, UP had parked there, but decided against it, and pulled into our dinner spot, Steak 'n Shake (was there a question where it would be?), at 5 p.m., giving us over an hour to dine. This was a good thing, since as always, the food was great, but like at many SnS's these days, the service left something to be desired. Not with our own waitress, she was terrific. But as always, getting seated, and then paying at the register, entails long, unnecessary waits -- the "hostess" when she finally showed up after we entered (one family ahead of us) wanted to start a waiting list! She took our names and then -- as we looked out over at least 7 tables/booths empty and cleared, plus a few that needed clearing -- less than a minute later, called our names. We didn't get out of there for an hour, which was fine as we had time to kill. And we were thankful we hadn't gone to Belvidere as the place filled up before 530. t snapped this sunset photo as we left.

Monday was February 29th, and I have a tradition of trying to shoot at least one train on that date. (An aside: Our daughter Suzy, top Manager at a Walgreen's store in West Allis, has one  female employee who "turned 5" this day, i.e., born in 1996.) The weather was occasionally sunny, sometimes cloudy bright, and with the passage of occasional dark clouds. That mix was OK, and it reflected the train frequency -- not quite up to expected par. I went out after 10 a.m., nothing ined up locally, and so headed for Burlington, figuring I could shoot our local L504, with the ex-DT&I GP38-2 unit 6226, on the industrial spur there (a remnant of MILW's "southwestern" line to Beloit, Wis., and northern Illinois). CN still has 4 or 5 good customers there including a foundry and Nestle's chocolate factory. As I went south, following the CN as best one can, there was no action, and the rusty rails on the "Nestle's spur" indicated L504 hadn't gotten down there yet. Some days he doesn't go to Burlington, and this turned out to be one, alas. I saw a lineup southbound into the Nestle's passing siding, though, and figured that would be L504, but after making a "necessary" stop at Culver's, once back downtown I saw a southbound stack train was going through, slowing for a meet. So I headed on south to the first access to the tracks, which is 5 miles south on County Trunk JB,  by that point east of the Fox River.  I saw no northbound across the fields as I drove, so i knew I'd get both trains. The spot isn't the greatest, but you take what you can get. And the northbound was, guess what, the usual midday morning CN stack train I call #199, by me at 12:15 pm with 2906/8101 up front, plus a DPU, 2813; the trailing unit up front is one of the 4 ex-EMD demonstrators, now all repainted from blue and silver to standard CN. On this day, I also took slides, so the zoom telephoto was on the digital D700. The DPU frame is a bit odd as I had been engaged in a conversation by the first motorist in line, and with 2 units on the front, I wasn't expecting a DPU. The crossing-protection bungalow is labeled MP 66.83, but the 3/4-mile marker shows up in the shots looking north, so I don't know what to make of that.

I sat still in the van, on the road shoulder, while the meet occurred, and the southbound, which i call #198, came by at 12:33, units 8802/2275 on the point with no DPU.

Stopping at Culver's again, for a burger to go at the drive-thru, I decided to express it back north, since the scanner was on and silent. I took a pass on checking at Midway siding, but went west to check the north signal at Vernon siding, just south of Waukesha, and lo, it was lined for the siding. So I backtracked to Benson Road and went to the tracks, where a CN Rail Detector truck had moved off the rail to let the two trains go by. Not wanting to get trapped on the west side ( a dead end into Vernon Marsh parking lot ) in case the southbound didn't clear and skunk me on the northbound (even tho it's a 2-mile siding now), I shot the southbound, looking like what I call #446, the NS connection, from Benson Road at 1:33 p.m., units 2901/2802 under now darkening skies. As the train crawled by, I took a couple of shots of the Rail Flaw Detector truck, staffed by two men. Note the ownership.

I headed into Waukesha to let the northbound catch up to me, but he did so at 1:55 at an inopportune place north of the depot, as the sun had come out, so I took a grab shot (not worth presenting here) and headed north to past Duplainville, where I got the standard nice action shot from the road, at 2:10 p.m. This was I think train #341 or #347, whichever it is that has a bunch (56) of empty center-beam lumber bulkhead flats on the rear, behind 87 miscellaneous cars for a total of 143 cars, behind units 2907/2846. As you can tell, CN power on Leap Day was ho-hum routine.

The inactivity was beginning to vex me, and I could not figure out where L504 was, unless I'd missed him when I left Burlington. The unit was not at the depot, nor was it up by the set-out track (for local cars to be picked up) along the North Duplainville siding. I finally heard a bit of radio chatter when I went back into Waukesha, intending to go home. Turns out he was working the sidings by the quarry, inaccessible to me unless I want to go onto the quarry road and fight the gravel trucks (NOT!), and then I heard him say something that indicated he was going to tie up. So I grabbed a couple of shots of him doing that, at 2:45, first at the Frame Park (US 18) crossing -- note the full sunlight now! -- and then on the tie-up track, the conductor out on the front porch to set the hand brake when he stopped. I then headed home.

Sunlight had more or less returned then, so after a brief interlude at the house, I went over to Pewaukee for Amtrak #7 (having missed #8, on-time, when I was at Burlington), which came by spot on-time at 4:16 behind units 97/13 with now 10 cars, to finish my February photography.


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