January 2016 Local Action

by Dave Ingles

Now in early February, this winter has been mild, thanks to El Nino in the Pacific, but we kept our modest snow cover from the late-December storm. Most of January's days were gray, but I actually exposed digital frames on 10 different days, largely, alas, a routine CN stack train going thru Waukesha when I was in town on errands. It's hard to stop a "trigger finger" on a camera that's been "trained" for almost 58 years, and besides, it's just digital and not "real" nor costly, as film was. (Yes, the film N90 still has a roll of Fuji 100 Provia in it, saved for something unusual i know is coming locally, or any out of town jaunts, of which there were none in January.) We begin 2016 with the tradition of a "first train of the year," on a sunny New Year's Day, when old reliable Amtrak #8, the eastbound Empire Builder, running on-time with units 170/44 and the usual holidays 11-car consist, came thru Duplainville at 1:39 p.m. I was the only photographer there, for once! Soon a westbound CP train was on the scene, for which I went into Pewaukee; it turned out to be empty ethanol tank cars behind NS units 8395/9436, by me at 1:57, after which i went back home to the football bowl games.

On Jan. 4th, I lucked out, going to Duplainville after a stint in the office just to see Amtrak #7, which had Heritage unit 156 leading sister 3 and the usual 11 cars, basically on-time at 4:20 p.m. Cranking the ISO up on digital enables us to shoot #7, if close to on-time, almost all year!

A sunny Wed., Jan. 6th found me in Waukesha at 11:!5 a.m. when a southbound CN general freight came by the depot area at Broadway with the relatively new and clean GE ES44AC 3015 on the point, 2879/2834 trailing. Those were built in 2014 and 2013, respectively, and these ES44s are our most commonly seen CN power, the series running 2800-2975. There were 10 "faux" 3000s delivered in early 2015, mistakenly numbered at GE as 3025-3034 — of which we photographed a few — but soon corrected by CN to 2925-2934. The "real" 3025-3034 were among the late-2015 deliveries.

My next exposed frame was nine days later, on the 15th, when I spotted a "bad-order" five-pack stack set on the "tie-up track' at the depot, worth exposing on a very dark day. The local switcher parks on this track across from the depot, hence the nickname, and at this time was out working, tho two tank cars from the previous day's trip had been left here for an unknown reason.

Saturday, Jan. 16th was sunny, but despite being out for a while all I got was CP #281 at Pewaukee, behind NS 6933/9509/CP 4522 at 12:15 p.m. At least the NS 6900 rebuild with the "beetle brow" cab was something unusual, along with the CP local engine being moved. I moved to the street after the front end passed, and as I sat in line and the train cleared, I took the going-away shot showing the rear cars along Lake Pewaukee, with the "faux depot" lakefront building in the foreground. A passable "depot like design," it houses restrooms, supply rooms, and a small snack bar operated in the summer by the local parks department. The old depot was east across the street and on the north side of the tracks; it lasted into the early 1970s.

Having missed the assignment of a black IC 3100-series GP40 as our switcher (Local L504), which only stayed a couple of days, I made sure to shoot 9544, its replacement, at 4:10 p.m. on Wed., Jan. 20, from the newly available westerly "open" vantage point. The unit is a GP40-2LW, originally CN's prime road fleet of 268 units in the 1970s, now numbering 53, scattered from 9409 to 9622, according to the 2015 "Canadian Trackside Guide." We get one as a local engine only now and then. A northbound train was lined up, and I almost gave up, shooting the sunset sky north of the depot at 4:30 before the northbound, a stacker we call #119 or #199 (I've given up keeping track of CN train designations :-), showed up, catching me sort of out of position near Carroll University, where I made a grab shot of lead unit 2933, then waited for the now-standard mid-train (about 2/3 back) DPU, 2916, at 4:40. The head-end frame is cropped vertical so as to include the moon at the top, which I never saw until now on the computer!

Friday, Jan. 22nd, found me at Pewaukee just for a break, to catch Amtrak #8 coming by, on-time at 1:35 p.m., with units 197/71 on the slack-January standard 9 cars (bag, dorm, SEA sleeper, 2 SEA coaches, diner, PDX coach, lounge, PDX sleeper, I think). The view is from the parking lot where the old MILW depot sat, showing the new lakefront depot-like service building. This gray day was typical of January's last 2 weeks.

These photos are included only because they are "birthday shots," another gray day but on Tues., Jan. 26, my 75th birthday, on which this was the only unusual occurrence since we save going out to dinner for "significant events" for when our daughter can join us.

I was prowling thru town after errands when CN's lined-up southbound, another stack train, caught me first behind the gates on Broadway across from the depot, where I shot the head end with 2852 and then moved north a half block to the newly open area across from the depot for the DPU, 2855, at 2:05 p.m.

On Thursday the 28th I went out, intent on shooting Amtrak #8 from a local angle I'd never tried before, from the north (since it's another gray day) in Brookfield's Mitchell Park with the engines crossing the Fox River, right along River Road and a hard spot to shoot, with no parking nearby, a pole line on the north side, etc. The 9-car train was on time at 1:40 p.m. with units 198/117.

Leaving Mitchell Park, I went by Duplainville, finding a northbound stack train going by, not worth pursuing. But he was meeting a southbound, with a lot of lumber loads up front and a long string of empty trilevel auto racks trailing, so I went back into Waukesha for a better view, at Amron siding, at 2:13 p.m., with GEs 2201/IC 2721 were up front. That's a CN signal maintainer sitting in his truck on Progress Avenue.

Thursday ended with another stack train, and Friday yielded yet another, both in town and both with a single leader and a DPU, all the usual GEs and neither worth including, but after we gassed up the van at a Quik-Trip ($1.56.9/gal., a new recent low and since eclipsed), I couldn't resist the sunset sky which relieved all the solid gray days. We're a mile east of the CN thru town here, on Les Paul Parkway, the Routes 59 and 164 "bypass" (lots of traffic lights, 45 mph speed limit).

Saturday, Jan. 30th turned out to be the coup-de-gras (we say it coop-de-grass) of the month, when I took a break and went out about 2:45 p.m., sans scanner as usual but in semi-sunlight, and wound up getting 5 trains in under an hour, including a real prize! Arriving at Duplainville, some of the local fans briefed me on what was up. First was CP #199, at 3 p.m. sharp, behind 8794/9715 -- ho hum, but for once, clean.

We weren't sure which train was next, as westbounds were approaching on both Tracks 1 and 2. "The prize," CP 687, turned out to be first, with a supreme consist of NS 8105, the Interstate RR Heritage unit/NS 8110/DM&E 3800/CP 8978, at 3:12 p.m. I had not brought the N90 along, so I'll take a slide of an 8x10 print of the best shot of 8105 -- the 11th of the 20 original Heritages I've seen in person — for my collection.

Just 4 minutes behind him on Track 2 was what I think was CP #289 with two NS units, ex-UP 7316 and 8316, note the numbers 100 apart!

Two anticlimactic CNs finished the quintet, first an extra #347 with a long consist of empty center-beam lumber flats and then empty trilevels, north across the CP and Green Road at 3:26 behind 2901/2911. As he was passing, I went into Waukesha for the southbound he was meeting at Duplainville, which took some time to get south and thru Waukesha, by me at Grand Avenue interlocking by Carroll University behind 2852/2890 at 3:53, which finished off my January photography, as Sunday was another solid-gray day.

OK, since my webmaster Mike Condren was creating and posting the January 2016 file today, and I went out on a tip about Amtrak, we'll cheat into February a bit here, this being Groundhog Day the 2nd, on which from at least Punxsutawney, Pa., west to southern Wisconsin, Phil or no other groundhog saw his shadow. Heck, I could barely see the Amtrak trains I "photographed." But Pat Malone, a BNSF engineer out of La Crosse, Wis., alerted us via e-mail that #8 had a BNSF leader today, so taking advantage of digital's ability to shoot in almost darkness, I drove thru the mist (36 degrees) with a high east wind, to Pewaukee, and on account of the freight unit #8 kept losing time, eventually passing me at 4:10, or a full 2.5 hours late, having been 2.0 late until after La Crosse or so. With my D700's ISO set at 2,500, I shot at 1/250, f 5.6, on both trains. They met between the beginning of double track at MP 104.5 or so and Duplainville, MP 102, or just east of there, I suspect. Both had 9 cars; #7 was on time. Engines: #8, BNSF 9077/Amtrak 198/188, and #7 98/197, by me at 4:17, 10 minutes after #8. Lots of 7s, 8s, and 9s today if you play the numbers.


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