All in a days work... Elk River to Sartell May 23rd.

 My original plan for Friday was to go to Becker so that I wouldn't have to fight the holiday weekend traffic. In the end I decided to take a couple of hours vacation and make a morning of it. The plan was to get a picture of the "Empire Builder" as she came through Elk River amongst other things.
The weather forecast was promising at at 5:45 I found myself lineside in Elk River (that makes its sound like I woke up to discover there I was, but don't worry I knew exactly what I was doing). Even as I arrived a train was going through (C-44's on a container train) but the sun had not yet risen over the trees so it was still too dark to record both that and the next train on my camera. Once the sun had made it up over the tree line I was rewarded with an E/B container train. The early morning light rather killing the orange hues of the BNSF colour scheme.
BNSF 5260
An hour passed, still no Empire builder. Had it gone through on time? Doubtful, but I did wonder. Then 90 minutes late I heard a sound I'd not heard before. A different sort of horn. This must be it. The excitement began to mount, the camera had been carefully set up in its place. I was ready. Then it appeared around the curve... There is something rather special about a passenger train. it doesn't matter if its late or on time. They breeze through with a certain majesty like they are above all the fuss. It even bought a couple of other people lineside. One was Mike Vandenberg, who introduced himself after the train had passed through. Its always nice to meet fellow enthusiasts lineside Mike is a rather good photographer and his website is linked on the "Who am I?" page. Mike said that the next eastbound was an hour out so I adjourned to Caribou coffee to warm up. (Caramel Hi-rise Latte if you're interested)
Amtrak No 73
After warming up it was back to my spot to catch the eastbound and despite it being headed by C-44's the shot was well worth it.
BNSF 4194
I'd been in Elk River a couple of hours and decided to head up to Sartell and see what was there and as I pulled away my scanner crackled into life and a CSX headed train was given clearance to head up to Staples. CSX? That has to be worth a picture. So when I arrived in Big Lake I searched for a picture. Disaster! the sun was in the wrong place the best lit shot was this one of the locos heading away and the bed of my truck in the way...
CSX leaves Big Lake
But all was not lost. I decided to see if I could catch it further up the line. So I jumped into my truck and set off in hot pursuit. I didn't know if I'd catch up with it, being such a law abiding motorist and all... But thanks to a temporary speed limit I overtook it before Clear Lake and set up on a dirt track side road to wait and got this picture. Not brilliant but its a record of the chase.
CSX No. 5438
That was not all though, because there was an eastbound heading towards me too. I wasn't in any place to record the moment of their meeting but it made an interesting shot anyway.
BNSF No. 5718
Right. I was now totally fired up with the thrill of the chase and decided to try to catch the CSX unit again . It was only doing about 45mph and I caught it again by the state prison, but traffic lights in St. Cloud meant that my last memory of the chase was the sound of the track detector recording some 436 axles as it sped towards Staples. Oh well.
Next I found a roadside car park and set up my camera. Nothing hapenned. Even the scanner was quiet all I could hear was the Northern Lines railway working out towards Waite Park. I caught some chatter about some issue with the track and that there would be a crew working on it until at least 1pm. So with that I packed up and headed for some lunch. After refuelling myself I headed up to Sartell and found an interesting location within sight of the paper mill.
"Might be worth a shot' I thought. Sure enough, just after 1pm there was the distant sound of a horn and a bright gleaming ACe with coal train hove into view. I love ACe's definitely worth photographing. They all seem to be so clean too... I excitedly took 5 or 6 shots this is probably the best. 
BNSF No. 6016
After that things went quiet again. Very quiet. So at about 2:15 I decided to call it a day. I left home at 5:15.  Nine hours. That is like a fully days work and I wasn't getting paid for this.
On the way home I reflected on the results of the day. Sure it had been a disappointing afternoon. But the "Empire Builder" and the following C-44 in the morning had yielded some very pleasing shots and lets not forget the ACe to finish off with.
"What else can I get out of the holiday weekend" I wondered