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
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?
|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.
|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
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.
|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
|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.
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
|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.
|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.
|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
|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
|I kid you not, this report is of
less than 2 hours spotting. It was getting hot and I felt the need for
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
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