Day 6, Part 1 Of 4 – Brookings To Cavour, Intercepting A Train On Jointed Rail – 4 April 2012

by Jim on 2022/04/04

This is part of the Eastern Great Plains Spring Break 2012 Road Trip series.

Greetings, and welcome to Part 1 of 4 of Day 6 of Jimbaux’s Spring Break 2012 Eastern Great Plains Road Trip.

This day was essentially the climax of the trip, for many reasons.  It is appropriately at the midpoint, or the day before the nocturnal midpoint, of the trip, and the first day of the trip for which, as I type this in 2022, a decade after the trip, I had no previous draft.  It’s also the day with, by far, the largest number of presentable pictures, and the only day of the trip other than Day 4, which didn’t have nearly as many pictures, that had me (with a friend) chasing trains essentially all day long. 

All of that means that, in some ways, due to sheer volume, the essay – or essays – for this day are the most difficult to write, while, in other ways, this essay and the remainder will be easier to write, simply because I am not bound, or do not feel bound, by what I have written previously for this day, because, other than a few Facebook posts, I have written nothing!

Because of the gigantic volume of pictures, nearly 200, that I am presenting from this day, I am breaking the essay up into more than one part.  Because breaking it up into even only two parts means that breaking an essay up is no longer a cost of breaking it up into more than two parts, I am breaking it up into four parts, even though the sets of pictures from the days remaining in the trip will be noticeably larger than these posts.

Because I was so impressed by what I saw at Lake Benton on the afternoon before and because I noticed that the views there would be good all day long with trains in either direction, I floated the idea of just camping out there all day and just taking what came to us there.  Even though this outing was more ‘my’ outing, because I was much farther from home, whereas my friend could much more easily return here, because we were in his truck, I conceded the authority to determine the agenda to him.  He nixed my low-risk, low-reward strategy of hanging out at Lake Benton all day, and both of us are so glad that he did, particularly as my favorite shots of the day came relatively early in the morning far west of Lake Benton.

From our hotel in Brookings, we left at dawn and found a train very quickly.  My first image of the day is a badly overexposed view of a local freight train, presumably based in Brookings, heading west at Western Avenue behind DME 3832, the same locomotive that we saw and photographed working the Brookings Wayfreight at Volga at dusk yesterday, just about 12 hours ago.

Yeah, that would look better had I had a few seconds to adjust the exposure. The exposure was still set rather open from our post-dusk shots of action with this same locomotive the night before at Volga.

This would be a cool train to chase all morning if it were going the other direction, or a cool train to chase all afternoon, but westbound trains shortly after dawn on a cloud-free morning aren’t great photography targets.

We headed west, which would allow us to see more of this train, though that wasn’t our real goal.

Here are some hopper cars stored north of US Highway 14 northwest of town, as seen from the highway.

Here comes our lagniappe train that we are passively chasing approaching the junction to the spur.

Don’t confuse the train here for the cars parked in one of the storage tracks here.

You can see across Highway 14 here that the junction with the spur is a wye.

In the next image, I used the tree at left to obscure some bad graffiti on the obscured hopper car.

That’s US Highway 14 in the foreground of this southward view.

Some 41 minutes and 28 miles to the west later, we are in Lake Preston, where we see this.

This is CITX 3089 and ICE 6426 shoving some cars eastward.

I can’t remember what the thought process was, but we didn’t stick around to see what this was.

We left Lake Preston and continued westward.

See, what’s happening is that, as it is morning, and as Huron, to the west, is a terminal, we are heading westward in hopes of intercepting a train coming eastward out of Huron.  Although my idea of hanging out at Lake Benton all day was not completely without merit, on an east-west railroad, heading westward in the morning in the hopes of intercepting an eastbound train and heading east in the afternoon in hopes of intercepting a westbound train is a logical thing for a train hunter to do.

This strategy paid off!  I don’t recall how or when we learned that a train was departing Huron – pronounced here almost like “urine” – or if we entered Huron at all on this morning, but we got our coveted morning eastbound train!

I don’t recall if we learned of it prior to getting these pictures of equipment and rolling stock parked by the elevators at Cavour.

Probably, we already knew of the approaching train by the time we took these images, because, otherwise, making this stop comes in the cost of precious morning-light time as we were heading east to find a train.

Soon, we would determine that the crossing a mile to the east of here was a much better photo location, and, so, that is where we went.

I was excited because this is such an archetypal granger-road, Northern Great Plains railroad scene.

Let’s see what the view close to the track looks like.

Let’s see that cropped.

You can see the headlight of the train slowly approaching.

You can see the jointed rail, hence the reason for the 10-mile-per-hour train speed here.

Canadian Pacific invested plenty into upgrading the track of the DM&E mainline in 2008 but stopped the work even before the Powder River Basin extension project was abandoned. That meant that the new continuous-welded rail line stopped a few miles short of Huron, meaning that trains east of Huron most go 10 miles per hour for a few miles before drastically increasing speed to, or after drastically decreasing speed from (for westbound trains), I guess, 49 miles per hour.

I like the charm of the old jointed rail and am grateful that this little stretch survives east of Huron.

Look at this!  It’s such a granger-road scene!

I feel like I am experiencing the granger roads shown by the railroad magazines that I read when I was a kid, and in about the last place that they still operate and look like this.

While we were out here, two passing motorists stopped to ask us what the hell we were doing.  The first was a woman several minutes prior to this part of the story.  When she learned that we were out here photographing trains, she said that she could think of other things that she would rather be doing.  After she got lost, my friend said, like what?  What else is there to do around here?

The second motorist stopped at about this time, and what I remember most from it is that the train was really close at this point, and he was annoying us.

Minus the blue paint, which I like, this does have a CNW feel to it, doesn’t it?

Look at the mile marker on the telephone pole!

We are 353 railroad miles from Winona, Minnesota.

Now the view is looking sweet.  However, what’s this noise distracting us?  It’s the same dude in the pickup truck who stopped to talk to us earlier, backing up to tell us that my friend had his headlights on on his truck.  Okay, dude?  The train is right here!  We’re here only for the train, and you’re interrupting the experience to tell us that the lights are on when we’re about to crank up the truck to leave because the reason for us being here will have passed?  Do people let you know that their lights are on when you are having sex, pooping, or watching the final 30 seconds of the Super Bowl?

For heck’s sake, leave us alone while we are photographing an oncoming train that we came a far distance to see! The headlights can wait.

Yes, I am being repetitive with the views here, but, damn, this view is really worth it.

This is what I came here to do, to record these anachronistic scenes that, as best as I can tell, almost no one ever photographs, while they still happen.

This railroad line is as far north as I traveled on this trip.

Look at that blue!  Look at those 1970s (if that young) six-axle locomotives leading a Class I railroad’s road freight train on 10-mph track in 2012!

I like it plenty.

I liked plenty of the images that I got on the rest of this day, but the scenes that you just saw were perhaps my favorite, because they most accurately conveyed the “granger road” feel that I was trying to experience and capture.

Here are some wide-angle views.

I think that the repetitiveness is worth it here.

I had seen and photographed some DM&E and IC&E locomotives on the Kansas City Southern Railway on my visits to Rich Mountain, as they occasionally found their way down the KCS at least to Shreveport.

This next view is also one of the best of the day.

Here is a good profile view of a snoot SD locomotive, the ICE 6440.

I hope that this broadside view is illuminating.

Okay, this is where I will stop Part 1.  Please stay tuned for Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4 of Day 6 of Jimbaux’s 2012 Spring Break Road Trip!

Thanks for checking this out.


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