The Big Chase: Wisconsin & Southern to Reedsburg—Second Try.

A week ago, I traveled with John Gruber and Scott Lothes for a day’s photography on the Wisconsin & Southern,

A couple of days previously, John and I had made some photographs exploring the line to Reedsburg (see previous posts). So armed with that experience plus good information on operations, we set out with Scott for another run.

Among the three of us we have a bit of photographic experience and a lot of railway knowledge, so we were in good position to make the most of the day. I always like learning from fellow photographers as everyone has their own way of seeing.

I have to admit that the old Chicago & North Western line between Madison and Reedsburg isn’t my strongest field of interest. When I lived in Wisconsin this line (then still operated by C&NW) was largely nocturnal. However in more recent times, John and I have made daylight photos.

Until a few months ago the route still featured some vintage wig-wag grade crossing signals, and these had been the focus of my earlier efforts on the line. Since these are gone, we were able to take a more diverse approach.

The Reedsburg line is now but a branch on the sprawling Wisconsin & Southern freight gathering network, but historically the line was a key Chicago & North Western mainline between Chicago, Madison and the Twin Cities. For me this legacy makes the line more interesting.

We picked up the train at Wisconsin & Southern’s Madison Yard, and over the next few hours intercepted it more than a dozen times.

Knutson Drive in Madison, Wisconsin.
Knutson Drive in Madison, Wisconsin.

Sunny weather plus a single clean SD40-2 running short-hood first put us in a good position to make satisfactory images. On the previous run John and I needed to make do with the engine running long-hood first, which is a more challenging subject to photograph.

Here are a few digital photos from our second chase. Any favorites?

A view of scrap cars from an over-pass west of Lodi, Wisconsin. After all, a freight train is about the freight, right?
A view of scrap cars from an over-pass west of Lodi, Wisconsin. After all, a freight train is about the freight, right?
Pastoral Wisconsin scene near Okee.
Pastoral Wisconsin scene near Okee.
Crossing the Wisconsin River at Merrimac. John brought the car across on the ferry, while Scott and I waited on the south side of the river for the train.
Crossing the Wisconsin River at Merrimac. John brought the car across on the ferry, while Scott and I waited on the south side of the river for the train.
Devils Lake, Wisconsin. There's a variety of angles on this place, most of them better in the afternoon or evening. We were there at lunch-time and had to make the best of it. I've adjusted the contrast in Lightroom.
Devils Lake, Wisconsin. There’s a variety of angles on this place, most of them better in the afternoon or evening. We were there at lunch-time and had to make the best of it. I’ve adjusted the contrast using Lightroom. I’ve tried to maintain the sense of lighting while balancing it to produce a more pleasing overall image. It is of course possible to overdo contrast control, which may result in an unnatural appearing image.
Baraboo station. Compare this photograph with my black & white views posted a few days ago.
Baraboo station. Compare this photograph with my black & white views posted a few days ago.
Our freight works at Rock Springs where it dropped grain cars for loading.
Our freight works at Rock Springs where it dropped grain cars for loading.
Scott picked this spot. On the previous trip I'd tried a long telephoto view of the same bridge. I like this wide angle broadside better.
Scott picked this spot. On the previous trip I’d tried a long telephoto view of the same bridge. I like this wide angle broadside better.
We were a bit tardy arriving at the crossing. This is a quick grade crossing grab shot. Not much time to set up. As with a few of the other images, I've adjusted the contrast using Lightroom.
We were a bit tardy arriving at the crossing. This is a quick grade crossing grab shot. Not much time to set up. As with a few of the other images, I’ve adjusted the contrast using Lightroom.

Tracking the Light posts Daily!

One thought on “The Big Chase: Wisconsin & Southern to Reedsburg—Second Try.”

  1. A surprisingly scenic route – would remind you of rural Southern Germany. Great pictures – hard to choose any particular favourite.

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