The Illinois Central has been part of the Canadian National system for more than 20 years.
It’s remarkable that classic IC SD40-2s (listed as ‘SD40-3s’ on some rosters presumably owing to changes to the locomotive electrical systems and other upgrades) survive in traditional black paint.
During my travels earlier this month with Chris Guss and Brian Schmidt, I made these photos of a pair of sequentially numbered IC SD40-2s working as rear-end helpers on a southward CN freight ascending Wisconsin Central’s Byron Hill.
Notice the GE builders ‘plate’ on the trailing unit.
Low evening sun and frigid temperatures made for some rosy light.
Exposed using my FujiFilm XT1 digital camera with 90mm f2.0 lens.
Both feature southward trains on the former Soo Line, Wisconsin Central route ascending Byron Hill on their way south from Fond du Lac, exposed in the morning from the overhead bridge near the top of the grade.
In the interval between the images, the line was improved to two-main track and Wisconsin Central Limited became part of the Canadian National system.
Canadian National had acquired WCL a few years earlier, and while many through freights were operating with CN locomotives a few trains out of Fond du Lac were still assigned WCL SD45s.
I’d made a project out of recording the sounds of these 20 cylinder dinosaurs, while using choice moments to make photos.
This freight had struggled up from Valley siding, where its lead unit had warranted attention from the mechanical department before ascending the five-mile grade to Byron.
The freight was paused short of the grade crossing at Byron, and I exposed this view in the last throes of daylight using my Nikon F3 with Fujichrome slide film mounted on a Bogen tripod.
As regular viewers of Tracking the Light might recognize, I’ve made a variety of photos at Byron, Wisconsin over the years. Key to this composition is my positioning of the codeline, which conveniently switches from one side of the tracks to the other just shy of the grade crossing.
It had been a busy morning at Byron. This southward freight had made a meet and was just coming out of the siding, so I had ample time to make images of these SD45s.
As the train grew close, I made a couple of final images on Kodachrome with my Nikormat FT3 and 28mm Nikkor Lens. I took this low view with a wide-angle to get a dynamic photograph.
I was Editor of Pacific RailNews, and we often had a need for photographs with lots of sky to use as opening spreads. It was a style of times to run headlines, credits and sometimes text across the top of the image. I had that thought in my mind when I made this particular angle.
I was also trying to minimize the ballast and drainage ditch that I found visually unappealing, while making the most of the clear blue dome and allowing for a dramatic position for the locomotives relative to the horizon.
Variations of this image have appeared in print over the years.
CN’s Latest Alternating Current Traction Diesels ply the old Wisconsin Central.
There’s nothing like a shiny new locomotive; It will never look any better. Best of all, it’s really something new, not just the ‘same-old, same-old.’
Last week, Chris Guss and I were working CN’s former Wisconsin Central Limited lines in Illinois and Wisconsin where CN’s latest locomotives were plying the rails.
Until very recently, CN was the last major North American freight railroad to refrain from AC traction technology. First used on wide-scale by Burlington Northern beginning in 1993, by the late-1990s most big railroads had at least sampled AC traction diesels. Yet, CN kept ordering DC traction. But not anymore; today AC’s are the latest thing even on CN!
CN’s new ES44DCs look good working in pairs in the rolling Midwestern countryside.
Here’s a few photos I made over a two-day period in early November 2013.
On our second day, Pat Yough joined us for some of the photos and we also met up with Iowa-based Craig Williams near Fond du Lac while waiting for southward CN ES44ACs to emerge from some trees.
We were all on our way to one of the Midwest’s premier railway photography venues: Beecherfest (held near Milwaukee every year).