Tag Archives: GP7

Sunday Test Pattern

As a youngster I’d get up early in anticipation of Saturday morning cartoons. 

I had no sense of time back then and sometimes would wake before the networks would begin their broadcast. In those situations I’d stare with anticipation at the ‘test pattern’ on the TV until the cartoons began.

Boston & Maine GP7 1575 works the Conn River yard at Holyoke, Massachusetts in 1988. Scan from a Kodachrome 25 color slide.

If you are seeing this post it’s because I’ve been too preoccupied with travel and the making of photographs to prepare a fresh post. If time permits, I’ll plan on posting again later in the day.

PS: At least my ‘test pattern’ is an original photo with a train in it!

Tracking the Light aims to Posts Every Day, even when Brian is on the road.

DAILY POST: Diesel Meets Steam at Dresser, Wisconsin.

Wisconsin Central GP7 and a Northern Pacific 4-6-0 in August 1996.

 This old Kodachrome is a prize! Sometimes a scene has more background that I could have incribed on the slide mount.

Back in August 1996, Dick Gruber and I drove up to Osceola, Wisconsin to spend a weekend photographing Northern Pacific 4-6-0 number 328 that was scheduled for Minnesota Transportation Museum’s Osceola & St. Croix Valley trips over Wisconsin Central’s former Soo Line.

Two days worth of trips were scheduled and we made the most of this classic locomotive under steam. There were some challenges; such as finding a place to stay. I recall scouring motels in the Minneapolis area without any luck.

Steam and diesel
A Wisconsin Central local freight meets Northern Pacific 4-6-0 number 328 at Dresser, Wisconsin on August 17, 1996. I made this image from a low-angle using my Nikon F3T with a 28mm lens.

We ended up back in Osceola in the early hours chatting with crew. The mosquitoes were fierce and accommodations were lacking. I had a sleeping bag in my car, and one of the steam crew suggested I sleep on 328’s tender.

I took this suggestion to heart and laid out my bag on a flat spot away from the coal and got a few hours rest. The heat from the boiler kept me warm, while the smoke discouraged the bugs. Unfortunately, about 5:30 am, a crewman woke me with an apology. “Sorry, you’ll need to move, I need to stoke the engine.”

This was the start for a long but productive day of photography. Some 13 hours later, I made this image. After an excursion, NP 328 had run, ‘light engine,’ (by itself) to Dresser to turn on the wye. Here it met a Wisconsin Central local freight with a former Chicago & North Western GP7, still in its former owner’s paint.

At the time I was researching for my book The American Steam Locomotive (Published by MBI in 1998). I couldn’t help but thinking, that it was GP7s like this one had ousted 4-6-0s from their duties more than 40 years earlier. (However, 4151 was built new for Rock Island, and only acquired by C&NW in 1981). The irony is the GP7 was probably scrapped while today 328 is still around (pending overhaul).

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Chicago & North Western’s Last Year.


Images of the Midwestern Railroad Final Days.

C&NW logo
Historic Chicago & North Western herald on the side of a HyRail truck in Spring 1995.

It’s been nearly 18 years since Union Pacific absorbed the Chicago & North Western system. I was fortunate to have been in position to photograph C&NW in its final year of independence.

C&NW’s busiest route was its largely double-track Chicago-Council Bluffs mainline. Yet, long before C&NW was formally merged with UP, this route had functioned as an eastward extension of UP’s east-west mainline. In the early 1990s, many trains operated with UP run-through locomotives.

C&NW at Rochelle, Illinois.
C&NW was famous for left-hand running. An eastward C&NW freight crosses the Burlington Northern diamonds at Rochelle, Illinois on the morning of April 2, 1995. Nikon F3T with Nikkor f4 200mm lens, Kodachrome 25 slide film.

On April 23, 1995. a pair of C&NW General Electric DASH8-40Cs lead a westward freight on Arcadia Hill in western, Iowa. Nikon F3T with f1.8 105mm lens, Kodachrome 25 film.

I found C&NW’s  surviving secondary lines even more photogenic. Yet, these lines represented just a shadow of C&NW’s once sprawling empire. Many routes had been fragmented or abandoned. Once busy secondary mainlines, served as little more than lightly served freight feeders. Several C&NW operations had been physically isolated from its core network, with the railroad relying on haulage arrangements in place of its own lines.

C&NW Jefferson Junction, Wisconsin
A pair of C&NW GP7s work the Jefferson Junction local on the evening of April 19, 1995. Jefferson Junction, Wisconsin was once the crossing of two important secondary routes, but by this late date it was effectively served as a branch from the Adams Cutoff via Clyman Junction. Nikon F3T with 35mm PC (shift) lens, Kodachrome 25 slide film.

C&NW hoppers at Jefferson Jct Wis Apr 19 1995
C&NW hoppers at Jefferson Junction Wisconsin on April 19, 1995 .

C&NW held onto its identity into its last days. Its historic herald was still proudly displayed on equipment and infrastructure. Vestiges of its former greatness survived as visual cues to an earlier era. So its final year, C&NW retained these threads of corporate continuity. While the appearance of C&NW continued for a while under Union Pacific operation, once it was part of the UP system, these threads were less meaningful.

I made roughly a thousand C&NW images between June 1994 and May 1995 (UP’s intended merger date in late April 1995 was ultimately postponed a few weeks, despite reports to the contrary). These are just a sampling of those efforts.

C&NW logo

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