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On the off chance - Elk River, August 23rd.

This was one of those spur of the moment things. I'd got up bright an early Saturday morning in order to get my 20 mile training run in ready for the Twin Cities marathon. After a long run like that I usually spend the rest of the day recovering. Which I did by watching the days Premiership football from England. ("Proper Football" as I call it) After the third game I was starting to feel a little antsy and Mrs TS-USA said that she was off to do the grocery shopping. Couple this with her planned trip to the health club and it was likely that she would be out for 2 hours. I looked out of the window and saw the beautiful blue sky...
"I can be in Elk River in 20 minutes" I thought to myself. So that was it. A couple of hours lineside in Elk River and I could still be back for dinner.
I got to my perch in Elk River at the Main Street crossing and switched my scanner on. Immediately I heard a dispatcher give a warrant to a train to proceed from Coon Creek to Big Lake. That generally gives me about 10 minutes to set up to get a picture. I picked my spot a set up my tripod. Already at the top of the hill I could see the lights of the oncoming train. It was coming at a fair clip. Whoosh! C44 No. 4505 and several other locos whizzed by me too fast for me to get the other numbers. Shaking the ground as they sped by.
BNSF 4505
Learning my lesson from that I moved over to the other side of the tracks and set up on Great River Energy Road. Here I would be able to see the numbers of the locomotives better. But there the noise from the traffic was so bad I couldn't really hear what was going on on the scanner so I missed the warrant being given to this westbound auto train headed by C44 No. 537 with ES44 7739 behind. So once again I moved.
BNSF 537 and 7739
I headed up the grade along Railroad drive. It's a favourite spot of mine. Eastbounds look good here in the morning coming around the curve with the water tower in the background and I like the way heat from the exhausts from the westbounds distort the pipe bridge over the track at the power station. Lighting was wrong for any meaningful shots of eastbounds. But at least here it was quiet and I could hear the scanner. Trouble is the scanner was quiet too. A guy came down from the power station to see what I was doing. He lived up on the Hinkley sub and had seen steam excusions come past his house last year and felt the need to share that with me. I picked up a few chirps on the scanner from the ATCS which generally mean there's something about. But I had no idea how far out it was. There were no warrants given to westbounds so I was confident something was heading east. Eventually I heard the horn from a ways off and I was rewarded with this ES44 leading a NS C40 on a mixed freight. It too was keeping up a good speed. I've seen trains go up the hill at Elk River far, far slower than this.
BNSF 7788 and NS9606
That train disappeared and things went silent for a minute then I got a few more ACTS chirps, something else could be on the way. No westbound warrants so it must be an easterly. Within 10 minutes there was the sound of a horn again and Warbonnet C-44 No. 733 lead out a triple header of power on a grain train. Once again this was keeping up a good speed.
BNSF 733 leading
That was it. Two hours had passed. I hung about for a couple more minutes. Silence on the scanner. I decided to head for home. I like to leave just after I've seen something rather than wait around for a while for something that might be half an hour away. Besides I was getting hungry and Mrs TS-USA had promised to grill steak for dinner. Now I couldn't argue with that. Now could I?