This post has been a long time in coming, mostly because I haven’t been quite sure how to introduce this strange (to some) new subject matter. The truth is, every so often I get tired of either watching/photographing trains, or the continuous drivel that seems to be incessant from some members of the railfan community. So, for a couple months earlier this year I spent a couple days in a major Michigan city ignoring trains completely. Yes, that’s right, there will be no (zero) trains in the next post or two. Instead, we’ll be looking at several airplane shots I snapped in the observation area at Kent County’s Gerald R. Ford International Airport.
Truth be told, I’ve had an interest in flying for many years. It’s something I mostly keep to myself these days, but I did take some flight training classes a number of years ago, and some of the lessons have stuck with me through the years. In the process of taking those lessons I also got to see the Wisconsin Central in central Wisconsin shortly after Canadian National purchased/merged the road into its system, back when the maroon and gold was still a normal thing, instead of an ultra rare event as it is today. Unfortunately, I wasn’t much of a photographer back then, and the camera I had at the time wasn’t much good for photographing trains from the backseat of a Cessna 172. On the other hand, I did make some pretty good memories, not all of which faded in my bout with Lyme Disease over the past several years.
March 10, 2018 found me in the South Bend, Indiana area, attempting to remember where the prime train watching spots are in the area, especially in the city of South Bend itself. As I mentioned in my last post, I’ll post some of the pictures I took that day eventually, but not today. The scary, or perhaps sad, thing was, I was attempting to guide one of the guys in the area I live in now around the area, so he’d be able to find his way back later in the weekend, after I left for home. Although we eventually found a popular spot to sit west of town a couple miles, I wound up heading for home in the middle of the afternoon, partly owing to the fact that home was a good 4 hours away, on a good day. Spending time in the Michiana area is nowhere near the top of things I enjoy doing anymore anyway. Too many bad memories from my college days in that area.
On the plus side, having spent the better part of five years living in the Michiana area during the school year, I have several different routes between there and home, and this particular day I chose the route that take me up US-131 to Kalamazoo. The plan was to take I-94 from Kalamazoo to the I-69 interchange just west of Marshall, and I-69 back toward home. However, I missed my exit in Kalamazoo. That’s not a completely bad thing though, as traffic seems to move faster in certain areas on the west side of the state. Dodging trucks on I-94 gets old after a while anyway, so…I got to see some new scenery anyway. One of the neat things I got to see was the infamous 100th Street bridge, which has been repeatedly hit by semi trucks this year. Coincidentally I’d had a discussion just a week or two prior to this about various places in the Grand Rapids area that I didn’t know where they were. In the process of cutting from US-131 to I-96, without going through downtown, I managed to see several of those places firsthand, from the drivers seat of my “station wagon”.
I also managed to stumble across a sign directing traffic to the airport’s observation area, something that up until that point I had thought was a hill or something that people were parking on until airport security came along and kicked them out. Imagine my surprise to find an entire park, complete with parking spots facing the runways, picnic tables and restrooms! Because time was short, and I was already tired from too many hours on the road plus the fresh air from watching trains all day, I didn’t stick around very long, but I did manage to snap this picture through the windshield:
I swore to myself that I’d return again soon, to spend a couple hours in this amazing park. And a week later, I was. Despite a later-than-anticipated departure, Saturday, March 17, 2018 found me back in the airport observation area, with camera in hand. I know most of what I saw is the boring, same old-same old to the folks who live in the Grand Rapids area and go to the observation area all the time, but the concept of being able to take pictures of airplanes taking off and landing was new and different for me. With Spring Break in the air, traffic levels were apparently up as well, and I got to see a number of larger than anticipated aircraft, as well as a number of smaller planes as well.
One thing I noted is that a lot of the flights in/out of the airport are operated by smaller, feeder airlines, although their aircraft tend to wear the corporate paint schemes of their larger partner. Here’s a Delta-painted Skywest aircraft departing:
As I go through the images I’ve processed and uploaded, I’m finding that I have a ways to go in the process of uploading these images, so I’m going to leave the rest of the images for a future post or two. If you’re coming here just for the trains, please bear with me. I have plenty of train material coming as well, but…there’s just something about that moment when an airplane hits the rotation velocity and the wheels leave the ground that I can’t get enough of. So…until next time, take care.
It’s been a while since my last new post. If you’ve been following the site for a while, you may be aware that I was using Photobucket for some of my photo hosting, especially if you’ve seen the Photobucket image placeholder that refers to third party hosting instead of the picture that was originally posted. As far as I can tell, all of the pictures that had been hosted on Photobucket have been moved to a different photo hosting site, and the links have been updated to reflect the change. That’s just the images on this site however, I have several images linked to old posts on other websites that have yet to be updated…
Between work, life and everything in between, opportunities to go out and watch trains aren’t quite what they used to be, but I’ve been out a couple times so far this year. With one notable exception, for which I’m still processing pictures, usually I don’t see more than one train at a time, and I figured it was time to finally share some of those shots here.
When the desire to do so strikes me, I’ve been working through my collection of pictures from various past trips, including the Railroadfan.com meet in Rochelle, Illinois last July. The same meet that I wound up heading home from rather abruptly after getting word that the sewer had backed up into my basement while I was out of town. And the same meet that when I finally got home early Sunday morning, my home smelled like a sewer. Not only did that pretty much put the kibosh on out of town trips last summer, it resulted in a lot of time spent cleaning, sanitizing and disposing of stuff in the basement. But…before I got word of the damage, I had a lot of fun first and saw some really neat stuff. Like this:
Somehow, I managed to avoid using the camera at all during January. At the moment, I’m not entirely sure why, but I know I had good reasons. I did manage to shoot CN train Q149 (and some other numbers) a couple times in late December, but January itself was pretty much a bust as far as sharing things here go.
Speaking of seeing Q149, how about a couple comparison shots showing the relative snowfall we received Christmas Eve? Q149 is a westbound doublestack train that originates somewhere in eastern Canada, runs through the St. Clair River Tunnel between Sarnia, Ontario, Canada and Port Huron, Michigan, USA, and terminates somewhere to the west (Chicago?). I quite often see 149 in Port Huron on my way to work in the mornings, but it was apparently running a little later these days, either due to the holiday or delays suffered along its route.
My first encounter with 149 was on Christmas Eve. I happened to have my camera with me on my way to family Christmas at my parents’ house, and anticipating a little extra time to see what I could see of railroad movements in the area, I left my house early. I “got lucky” as I approached the I-94/I-69 interchange when I caught 149 marking up to go west. With plenty of time to scout a shooting location, I caught the train holding the main, just west of the east end of the siding at Emmett. Most of the snow we’d received a week or two prior had melted, with just a few remnants sticking around.
The snow wasn’t done for the year, and by the time I had planned to leave for the Christmas Eve service at the church I attend, the road conditions had deteriorated to the point that I wasn’t sure I’d be able to get home afterwards. Just making my way home to Marysville was difficult enough.
I had plans to spend a couple days with a friend from the Bethel days, in north central Indiana after Christmas. As I began the journey south and west, I stopped for gas near West Tappan (the west end of the double track leading west from Port Huron), and while I was stopped, I could hear a train departing for the west. After filling the tank, I too headed west, but now with a planned pit stop at Emmett to catch this train passing through town.
Q149 had a bit more power on this day and one of the blue GECX leasers was included in the consist. Most remarkable about the view though, is the amount of snow we’d received a couple days before. On Christmas Eve there would have been hardly any snow visible in this image.
While I was in Indiana, I didn’t spend much time at all focusing on trains, although there was plenty of noteworthy action in that part of the state this year. Somewhere I have unprocessed video of a southbound CSX freight train passing through Reynolds, Indiana, in the middle of the night, but only because I had the presence of mind to grab my phone and start recording as I rolled up to the crossing just before(?) the train rolled across. I also had the opportunity to see Indiana Transportation Museum’s Santa Train, although it was tied down at the time. I don’t think it moved at all the entire time I was down there, but here’s how it looked the first time I saw it:
As February rolled by, I found myself in desperate need of a change of scenery, but my schedule and the weather wouldn’t allow it. I had to settle for a short trip “up north” (where I’m from, up north doesn’t start until you’re at least north of the Bay City metro area) about halfway through February. I made it all the way up to Standish, where I finally got to see the big, new elevator that was built a couple years ago. I didn’t get many pictures as the point of the trip was to drive, not to use the camera, but I did catch a pair of orange Huron & Eastern diesels sitting east of Saginaw, waiting to exchange the train behind them for freight bound for the east end of the HESR system.
The following day I think I hit a drive through for dinner and took it up to the Amtrak station at 16th Street, just outside the St. Clair River Tunnel. Unlike some days, I did manage to catch a train this day, an M385-18(?)(again, there are some other numbers in the symbol, but I don’t know what they are).
Work’s been crazy this year, especially the past several weeks, and I was finding that if I went in for a few hours on the weekend, I was able to get some of my really hot projects taken care of. Coming home from work one weekend afternoon, I noticed a train on the west end of the Port Huron yard with a single locomotive. That’s not unusual, but in my experience, it is unusual for that single locomotive to be a Norfolk Southern (standard cab) SD60. I heard later that the unit is junk, but someone evidently considered it sufficient for that day’s edition of L501 (and some other numbers).
So far this month, I’ve had the opportunity to get out a couple times, not just to watch trains, but also something a little different. I met up with a local railfan while he was working out of town a couple weeks ago, in the South Bend, Indiana area. We caught several trains, but I’ll save those pictures for a later post. Coming back from South Bend, after “missing” my exit in the Kalamazoo area, I found this neat little park in the Grand Rapids area that offers the opportunity to photograph a slightly different mode of transportation, one I’ve been wanting to try my hand at photographing for quite some time now. I’m going to save most of the pictures for (another) future post, but in closing, here’s something of a teaser image:
Following Saturday’s rather unexpected chase of the GTW Santa Train along the Mt. Clemens Subdivision, Sunday morning found two of the guys I’d run across in New Haven, a third guy and I heading west toward Owosso and the first run (on the last day of the season) of Steam Railroading Institute’s North Pole Express, pulled by Pere Marquette 1225. Having not attempted to chase the North Pole Express trains on snow covered roads before, it was a bit of a learning experience, as was finding places to stop where 4 guys could pile out of the car and set up to photograph and/or record the trains’ passage on video. But…in the end, we managed to watch the 1225 pass us twice before the train reached the “North Pole”.
At the first location we set up, a couple miles north of Owosso, I elected to use the video capabilities on my camera, which I quickly regretted while watching voluminous clouds of steam and smoke billow through the air around the locomotive. Here’s the video I elected to shoot instead:
After 1225 and train had passed, we all piled back into the car and headed north, in pursuit of another shot, but…snow covered roads make chasing steam trains treacherous. Our next opportunity to see 1225 was very last second, as we approached the M-57 grade crossing about a minute before the train did. I elected to take pictures this time…
We wound up driving into Ashley (Michigan, the community just north of M-57, and the site of SRI’s “North Pole”). By the time we’d circled the town and found a parking spot, the train had arrived and was unloading passengers. We decided to eat before checking out the now-stationary 1225. I was sticking to cellphone photography at this point, and most of the pictures I took were with other people’s cameras.
After lunch and candids with 1225, we headed south. Our plan had been to see the 1225 and the GTW Santa Train on its trip to Battle Creek. By the time we wrapped up in Ashley, we were starting to cut things a little tight with our timing, but south and east we drove. Our plan was to catch the GTW Santa Train somewhere near Durand, although we weren’t exactly sure where. As we got closer and closer to Durand, we got word that something was approaching Paines (a junction a mile or two south of the diamond at Durand), and figured we probably couldn’t make Durand in time to see the train we wanted to see. So we diverted to Bancroft, which is a couple miles to the southwest of Durand.
As we reached the Bancroft area, our hearts sank as we realized a westbound train was passing over the crossing in the distance. Until we realized that we were looking at autoracks. There were no autoracks in the Santa Train, which meant CN had run some sort of freight train in front of the speed restricted Santa Train, and we had still had time to find a spot to set up at. As it turned out, we would have had plenty of time to make it to the bridge near Durand that we had strongly considered shooting from. I found out later that afternoon that we weren’t the only ones who thought about shooting there, as some friends from the other side of the state started posting their own photos/videos from that bridge. In the end, we were the only ones in Bancroft (that I’m aware of) and only had to worry about staying out of each others’ shots.
Because I hadn’t taken any video of the train the day before, I decided to record the passage of the train on video:
Following the passage of the Santa Train, we headed into Durand and spent a few minutes at the station. Before long, another freight train approached Durand from the west, and blew on through town. Even though the Santa Train was close to Lansing by this point, there was still a small photo line waiting to record the passage of the train. And with 5 locomotives, it was quite a train to record!
Once the eastbound had cleared, after a couple minutes debate (ok, ok- as of the writing of this entry, it’s been almost a month since we chased these trains- the details are getting pretty hazy at this point), we decided to chase the train back towards home.
After some idiotic decisions by the driver (yours truly), we wound up set up at Lake Nepessing Road, on the west side of Lapeer, as the eastbound freight approached Lapeer. A westbound freight train had taken the siding at Lapeer and would depart after the eastbound passed.
First, the eastbound, again led by CN 2872:
After the westbound train and the traffic it had backed up at the crossing had cleared, we departed for home. I know we didn’t try for a 3rd view of the 2872 and train, but I’m pretty sure we beat them back to West Tappan (west end of the double track at Port Huron), by at least a couple minutes or so.
All in all, despite the temperatures and the clouds, it was a fun day.