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While you were sleeping - Staples, July 26th

Friday, I had been planning to go down to Pig's Eye yard in Saint Paul. But I was defeated by the weather. In fact I got soaked just running the 40 yards from the office door to my truck. So I came home and worked on my model railway instead.
We had decided to go up to the in-laws lake place for the weekend on Saturday morning after I'd completed my 15 mile run in preparation for the Twin Cities Marathon. Once we got up there I felt the need for a trip out to Staples, remembering the fun I had last time and my desire to phtograph some westbound trains coming around the curve into the depot area. After lunch everyone fell asleep, so while everyone else dozed I got into the car, hooked up my iPod and headed west. Heading out there, west of Baxter I came across the most incredble sight. Three unit lash up SD70's running elephant style ALL in "Executive" green and grey. I should have done a "U-ie" and headed back to record that but I didn't know where I'd get a good shot. So I headed on hoping this was a good omen for the afternoon.
Once I arrived and picked my spot I could see a 3 unit lash up drawing forwards slowly and then it stopped and waited. I could see it was a coal train but was it going to Superior or was it off towards the Twin Cities?
BNSF 6066 leads coal train
Whatever it was doing, it was waiting for this double headed auto train coming west from the cities behind an ES-44 (7703) and an unidentified C44. For those of you uncertain of the difference between a C44 and the newer, environmentally sound ES44 this picture shows well the most obvious difference. In that the "wing" section of the radiators at the rear is deeper on the ES-44 compared to that of the C-44. I feel this is the most obvious feature to latch onto as a loco goes by. There are other differences in the radiator section too, like the number of grilles and the sloped underside of the wing on the ES-44 has two sections with different slope angles, unlike the single angle on the C-44.
BNSF 7703
After that cleared out then my ES-44 led coal train moved forwards to head out. I was expecting it to head down to the cities but NO! It headed down the Brainerd Sub. It was off to Superior! That was a big surprise. The other train I'd seen on the Brainerd sub could have been no more than 30 minutes ahead of it. But that wasn't the only surprise it had in store for me. The other surprise was the length. I don't know if it was the longest coal train I've ever seen or if it was the fact that it was going so slowly, but this one seemed to go on for ages. People in their cars at the crossing noticed the unusual length too... I would have killed to get the axle count on it to confirm my thoughts.
Coal train leaving
Anyway the coal wagons kept on coming and coming until it eventually cleared out. Much to the relief of the cars stranded at the crossing
the seemingly endless coal wagons
Next up, no more than 10 minutes after the coal train had headed up the Brainerd sub came a Mixed freight under the command of a pair of SD's No. 6703 and Oakway leased 9044 and this rounded the curve and headed off to the twin Cities. I received a wave from the driver of SD40 Number 6703.
BNSF No. 6703
Then almost immediately, (the crossing barriers were up for no more than 30 seconds) an eastbound mixed freight headed by ES44 No.1019 pulled in leading out a pair of SD's 8294 and 8127
BNSF No. 1019
Then another long coal train lead by this warbonnet SD75 No. 8215 with two more SD's behind it. I'd heard this and the following train been given warrants by the Staples dispatcher  so I knew they were on the way. The 400 axle count on the coal train seemed a lot shorter than the one that went up the Brainerd sub previously.
BNSF No. 8215
Following that was  three light locos. Quite what they were doing was unknown to me. I'd not even had a chance to look over at the yard to take note of what was there. There looked to be some stock there waiting for a loco but I was unsure. These the pulled over the crossing and reversed back into the yard to pick up one of the headless trains in the yard.
BNSF No. 4127 leads into the yard
While that was going on 3 C-44's on another westbound train pulled in. Given the earlier identification lesson its easy to see that they are all C-44's
BNSF No. 4002
Less than 5 minutes later a pair of C-44's on a container train rounded the curve. Lead by warbonnet C-44 No. 832 with sister loco 833 behind. I saw and recorded on these pages, No 833 the last time I was in Staples, then too it was heading westbound
BNSF No. 832
I kid you not, this report is of less than 2 hours spotting. It was getting hot and I felt the need for some refreshment. There was a Dairy Queen just up the road. So I retired there for a Heath Bar Blizzard. Guess what? Whilst I was in there yet another westbound went through. A container train. I could see it from DQ. I kicked myself. I looked at my watch it was 4:30. I wondered should I stay a little longer at lineside or should I enjoy my blizzard and head back to the lake. The cold refreshing ice cream treat won out. There was nothing else moving as I enjoyed my blizzard so with that I headed home quite pleased with what I'd seen. But that was not it. Somewhere between Pillager and Baxter I looked over into the trees and guess what? There was some coal empties heading west on the Brainerd Sub. Not bad for a Saturday afternoon