Tag Archives: Wisconsin Central

One Year Ago-August 1, 2018.

On this day last year, I was traveling with Chris Guss, photographing Canadian National’s Wisconsin Central line.

I made this view of a CN local freight at Ackerville, Wisconsin using my old Lumix LX7. You can see my shadow in the foreground.

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Frosty Evening at Byron, Wisconsin—January 2019.

Tracking the Light is on ‘Auto Pilot’ all week.

Two months ago I was traveling with Chris Guss and Trains Magazine’s Brian Schmidt.

It was below zero fahrenheit when I made this sunset view of a southward Canadian National freight on on the old Wisconsin Central at Byron, Wisconsin.

I exposed this view with my FujiFilm XT1. The cold weather was taking its toll on my hands and the camera performance. In the end I was luck to get results.

As I write this I’m in a warmer climate.

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Illinois Central SD40-2s on Wisconsin’s Byron Hill.


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.

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A Rolling Meet, a DPU and Sun at Highway F, Byron, Wisconsin.


With some pavement passing beneath us in spirited run on the ascent to Byron, Brian Schmidt and I arrived at the Highway F overpass near the summit of Canadian National’s Wisconsin Central line over Byron Hill in time to record the passage of a northward double stack train meeting a southward freight.

I’ve featured both trains previously on Tracking the Light:

Byron Hill, Lost Arrow Road—Old location Revisited in January 2019.

http://briansolomon.com/trackingthelight/2019/01/25/byron-hill-lost-arrow-road-old-location-revisited-in-january-2019/

Canadian National Kicks Up Snow at Ackerville.

For this post: as the northward train glided below me, I was watching for the DPU (the locomotive working as a ‘distributed power unit’, 1990s-speak for a ‘radio controlled remotely operated helper). I timed my exposure to document its passage as the uphill train approached.

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Byron Hill, Lost Arrow Road—Old location Revisited in January 2019.


Years ago I’d work vistas along Lost Arrow Road south of Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, to picture and record Wisconsin Central’s thunderous SD45s.

Last weekend, TRAINS Magazine Brian Schmidt and I revisited this location to photograph a southward Canadian National freight on its ascent to Byron, Wisconsin.

I made these views using my FujiFilm XT1 with 18-135mm Fujinon zoom lens.

Bright sun was contrast from snowy weather earlier in the day. As the freight made its slow progress up Byron Hill we followed with an aim to make more photos, just like in olden times (but with no SD45s this day).

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Wisconsin’s Byron Hill: Then and Now.

Two views almost 24 years apart.

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.

The locomotives are very different too.

For this December 1994 image, I exposed a Kodachrome 25 slide using a Nikon F3t with Nikkor f4 200mm lens.

In August 2018, I worked with my FujiFilm XT1 with 18-135mm Fujinon zoom, that approximates the perspective of the earlier photo.

Tracking the Light Posts Daily.

 

Wisconsin Central and Wig Wags at Fond du Lac.

The old wig wag style grade crossing signal is now virtually extinct. However, in the 1990s, a fair number of these signals could still be found in Wisconsin.

This is an excerpt from my book Railroad Signaling (first published by MBI 2003):

One of the first standard types of automated visual grade crossing warning was the automatic flagman, a signal commonly known as a ‘wig wag’. [This was] adopted as a standard crossing device by the American Railway Association in 1923. A standard wig wag is actuated by a track circuit and consists of a paddle with a red lamp that gracefully swings back and forth in a horizontal pattern when a train approaches [and] usually accompanied by a bell . . . [at one time] the wig wag was the preferred type of grade crossing protection in the Midwest and far west. [They were] largely supplanted by modern flashing signals and crossing gates.

Exposed on Fujichrome Provia 100 using a Nikon F3T with an f1.8 105mm Nikkor lens.

I was traveling with Marshall Beecher on the morning of August 3, 1996, when I exposed this view of Wisconsin Central’s southward freight ANPR-A approaching a grade crossing on the former Chicago & North Western line in Fond du Lac. This line saw less traffic than WC’s near by former Soo Line mainline over Byron Hill, but the attraction was these antique signals. Notice my use of selective depth of field.

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A Visit to the Illinois Railway Museum: “Hello old Friend, What are YOU doing here?”

The Illinois Railway Museum has one of the best collections of North American railway equipment. Hundreds of pieces of equipment spanning more than a century are on display.

It’s great to be able to inspect a traditional 4-4-0, and a Forney Tank engine. I’m fond of classics such as the Santa Fe 2900-class 4-8-4, Burlington’s 4-6-4 Hudson and its streamlined Budd-built Nebraska Zephyr, and of course the Pennsylvania Railroad GG1 in Brunswick green.

Chicago, Burlington & Quincy 4-6-4 at IRM.
Chicago, Burlington & Quincy 4-6-4 at IRM.

Pennsylvania Railroad GG1 electric 4929. A masterpiece of engineering and design.
Pennsylvania Railroad GG1 electric 4929. A masterpiece of engineering and design.

I recall the GG1s under wire. Great sounding air horn on these.
I recall the GG1s under wire. Great sounding air horn on these.

Budd stainless steel. And articulated too!
Budd stainless steel. And articulated too!

My book on streamlined trains came out last year and it was nice to reflect on these amazing machines in the museum. (Puns are extra).
My book on streamlined trains came out last year and so  it was nice to reflect on these amazing machines in the museum. (Puns are extra).

Some of the old girls still work; this Frisco 2-10-0 is serviceable. Just add coal, water and talent!
Some of the old girls still work; this Frisco 2-10-0 is serviceable. Just add coal, water and talent!

Parts anyone?
Parts anyone?

Sister to the popular Milwaukee Road 261 is engine 265. Sure would be neat to get both engines under steam together!
Sister to the popular Milwaukee Road 261 is engine 265. Sure would be neat to get both engines under steam together!

Lots of electrics under the barns. PCC's have been a regular feature on Tracking the Light.
Lots of electrics under the barns. PCC’s have been a regular feature on Tracking the Light.

The old diesels are neat, and there’s great array of old streetcars.

But then, what’s this? A Wisconsin Central SD45? Wow, nice to see that one of those was saved, but it just doesn’t seem that long ago and I was out catching these on the mainline.

And wait, what about this Metra Bi-Level electric? Weird to see THAT in a museum.

Two Chicago & North Western DASH9s!

Now I just feel old.

Views exposed with my FujiFilm X-T1 digital camera with Zeiss 12mm Tuoit.

A former Santa Fe Alco RSD-15. These must have looked great hauling freight back in the day.
A former Santa Fe Alco RSD-15. These must have looked great hauling freight back in the day.

Eight motors, four in each truck, that's what the DDA40X was all about.
Eight motors, four in each truck, that’s what the DDA40X was all about.

An Wisconsin Central SD45. Twenty years ago when I lived in Waukesha, Wisconsin I could hear these roar through town from my apartment. I spent lots of time putting these beast on film.
An Wisconsin Central SD45. Twenty years ago when I lived in Waukesha, Wisconsin I could hear these roar through town from my apartment. I spent lots of time putting these beast on film.

It's like Galesburg Railroad Days! The BN executive Fs! Always cool.
It’s like Galesburg Railroad Days! The BN executive Fs! Always cool.

Whoa! What's this? A Metra electric? Hmm.
Whoa! What’s this? A Metra electric? Hmm.

Two Chicago & North Western DASH9s. Really. It just doesn't seem that long ago that I sat in the cab of one these when they still had that 'new car smell'. And now they too are on display in a museum. Will anyone save a P40?
Two Chicago & North Western DASH9s. Really?! It just doesn’t seem that long ago that I sat in the cab of one these when they still had that ‘new car smell’. And now they too are on display in a museum. Will anyone save a P40?

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Warbonnet in Wisconsin; or an FP45 on the Move—Kodachrome Classic.

In the dim early hours of September 9, 1995, I spotted Wisconsin Central’s recently acquired former Santa Fe FP45 leading a southward train through Duplainville, Wisconsin.

Normally I walked to work. I lived just a few blocks from the Pentrex Publishing offices on Grand Avenue. That morning, twenty years ago today, I’d been prowling around in my Mazda looking for angle to photograph the Wisconsin Central.

WC’s FP45 6652 was a one of a kind, and a prize to be scored! When I saw that engine roll across the diamonds at Duplainville,  knew I’d be a little late to my desk.

WC freights tended to roll along, and chasing was difficult.

However, this southward freight had to make a meet at Vernon, south of Waukesha. The resulting delay was both long enough for me to make a swift drive on country roads to Burlington, Wisconsin, and for the sun to rise high enough to expose Kodachrome.

Exposed on Kodachrome 25 with a Nikon F3T fitted with a Nikkor f1.8 105mm
Exposed on Kodachrome 25 with a Nikon F3T fitted with a Nikkor f1.8 105mm. Bright clear September sun was on my side, and my exposure was f4.5 1/250.

I set up in the park on the east side of the tracks. The Canadian Geese in the pond were an unanticipated bonus.

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Wisconsin Central F45

Tracking the Light Mystery Location!

I’m taking a poll: Can you guess where I made this photo of Wisconsin Central F45 6656 on May 4, 1996? Be specific!

Exposed with a Nikon F3T with 105mm lens.
Exposed with a Nikon F3T with 105mm lens.

By the way, just in case you missed the notice, the previous Tracking the Light mystery photo was exposed at the Bailey Wye in Baltimore, Maryland.

Also there was a seven to one preference in favor of the 1996 view (top image) at the East Broad Top displayed last week in East Broad Top Narrow Gauge—Variations on a Theme.

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Canadian National at Subway Road—Tracking the Light Daily Post.

Fond du Lac, Wisconsin in June 2004.

Ten years earlier in my Pacific RailNews days, I’d often photographed along the Wisconsin Central. By 2004, the railroad had been absorbed by CN, yet quite a few of WC’s old SD45s were still on the move.

It might surprise some regular readers, but photography wasn’t the prime reason for my visit. Rather, I was trying to make high-end audio recordings of the old SD45s working in multiple. As I’ve explained in other publications; the SD45’s 20-cylinder 645E3 produces a distinctive low-frequency sound when working in the mid- throttle positions. I wanted to preserve these sounds that had been so familiar to my earlier railroad experience.

So what does that have to do with this CN DASH 9?

A Canadian National DASH9-44CW hits the Subway Road crossing in North Fond du Lac, Wisconsin on a June 2004 afternoon. Exposed with a Nikon F3T fitted with a 24mm lens.
A Canadian National DASH9-44CW hits the Subway Road crossing in North Fond du Lac, Wisconsin on a June 2004 afternoon. Exposed with a Nikon F3T fitted with a 24mm lens.

Simple opportunity; that is all. I’ve never been one to squander a chance to make a photograph.

This CN General Electric was leading a southward freight toward the yards at North Fond du Lac, and I set up this image at Subway Road a little ways north of the yard.

Unfortunately, a thermal cloud covered the sun moments before the locomotive reached the optimum position. This would have been a greater problem if I’d been using Kodachrome. As it happened, I was exposing Fujichrome.

I’ve made a few minor post-processing adjustments to the slide scan designed to improve the contrast and color balance.

What about the audio recordings? I made most of those late at night when there was minimal interference from random noise, but that’s really the topic for another time.

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Tomorrow: Semaphore Dawn.

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Daily Post: Power Shot, Wisconsin Central SD45s


Byron, Wisconsin, March 23, 1996.

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.

Wisconsin Central SD45 loom large as the lead a southward freight out of the siding at Byron, Wisconsin on March 23, 1996.
Wisconsin Central SD45 loom large as the lead a southward freight out of the siding at Byron, Wisconsin on March 23, 1996.

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.

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Tomorrow: ‘Oh No! I left the SD recording card in my Computer!’

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END OF YEAR POST

Tracking the Light in 2013.

Searchlight signals
Blue sky and red signals; the old Boston & Maine-era searchlight protects the Bellows Falls diamond. In the steam era an old ball signal protected this crossing, then with Rutland Railroad.

Here, a potpourri of images illuminated the net; covering everything from unit oil trains to obscure eastern European transit. So, looking back, 2013 has been a productive and busy time for Tracking the Light.

My original intention with Tracking the Light was to disseminate detailed information about railway photographic technique. Over time this concept has evolved and I’ve used this as a venue for many of my tens of thousands of images.

Among the themes of the images I post; signaling, EMD 20-cylinder diesels, Irish Railways, photos made in tricky (difficult) lighting, elusive trains, weedy tracks and steam locomotives are my favorites.

Since March, I’ve posted new material daily. I’ve tried to vary the posts while largely sticking to the essential theme of railway images. I hope you’ve enjoyed the posts and will tell your friends about this site! There’s more to come in 2014!

Happy New Year!

Brian Solomon

General Motors Electro-Motive Division SD45 diesels
Southern Pacific 7547 leads a manifest freight timetable east at Brock, California, on SP’s East Valley line on April 28, 1991. This 35mm Kodachome image was scanned with an Epson V600. Minor adjustments were necessary using Photoshop to lighten exposure, correct contrast and color balance. The photo is seen full-frame.

Wisconsin Central
Wisconsin Central as viewed from across a cornfield at Byron, Wisconsin on December 3, 1994. Exposed with a Nikon F3T with 28mm wide angle lens on Kodachrome 25 color slide film. Scanned with a Epson V600 scanner. No post processing except as necessary to scale image for internet use and insert byline tag.

Bord na Mona
Bord na Mona trains are loaded with peat. A section of temporary track sits in the foreground. Exposed with a Canon EOS 7D fitted with a 28-135mm lens.

New England Central freights
New England Central freights 604 and 606 at Palmer, Massachusetts. Lumix LX photo.

2-10-0 locomotive
Exposed with a Nikon F3T with 24mm lens with R2 red filter on Fuji Neopan 400, processed in Agfa Rodinal Special.

Bluebell Railway.
My known good spot: here a Bluebell train works the bank north of Horsted Keynes. Lumix LX3 photo.

See: Burlington Northern at Sunset, Whitefish, Montana July 5, 1994Tram in Olomouc, Czech Republic, 2008Donner Pass Part 1Bluebell Railway Revisited, July 2013-Part 2Boston & Albany Milepost 67, Brookfield, Massachusetts; Irish Rail, Wellingtonbridge, County Wexford, December 2005 . . .and more!

 

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Screamer kicks up snow near Shirley, Massachusetts. Canon EOS 7D with 100mm lens. Contrast adjusted in post processing.
Screamer kicks up snow near Shirley, Massachusetts. Canon EOS 7D with 100mm lens. Contrast adjusted in post processing.

Croydon Tram
This tram was difficult to miss in its iridescent special livery.

Tube station.
The National Gallery and Trafalgar Square are among London’s largest tourist attractions. This poster describes Victorian interest in art and places photography in period context. Lumix LX3 photo.

New General Electric DASH8-40B on New York Susquehanna & Western
In 1989, New York, Susquehanna & Western served as the court appointed operator of Delaware & Hudson. By virtue of the 1976 Conrail merger, D&H had been granted trackage rights on the former Erie Railroad route from Binghamton to Buffalo, New York. On this March morning, a new NYS&W General Electric led an eastward double stack train on the old Erie near West Middlebury, New York, 384 miles from Jersey City.Exposed on 120 Kodachrome transparency film with a Hasselblad 500C with 80mm Zeiss Planar lens

 

Locomotive drive wheel
A study in motion: drive wheel, cylinder, valves and valve gear of locomotive 92212 at Kingscote. Canon EAS 7D photo.

PRR Suburban Station.
The former Pennsylvania Railroad Suburban Station as seen in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in July 2013. Lumix LX3 photo.

rail freight

I made this photograph with my Canon EOS 7D with f2.8 200mm lens, set at ISO 400 f 4.5 at 1/1000th. In post-processing I made minor adjustments to contrast and saturation to match how I perceived the light at the moment of exposure.

 

Irish Rail Gray 077 Leads Ballast Train
A landscape view of Irish Rail’s HOBS at Islandbridge Junction near Heuston Station in Dublin on August 2, 2013. Canon EOS 7D photo.

Pan Am 618 roars west at Wisdom Way on November 21, 2013.
Pan Am 618 roars west at Wisdom Way on November 21, 2013.

Distant signal for Nicholastown gates. Nikon F3 with 180mm lens, Fujichrome slide film.
Distant signal for Nicholastown gates. Nikon F3 with 180mm lens, Fujichrome slide film.

Oil train catches the glint.
Away we go into the sunset hot in pursuit of an oil train. Canon EOS 7D with 100mm lens set at f6.3 1/1000 second at ISO 200.

CSX_oil_train_K040
First of four eastward unit oil trains; CSX K040 with a mix of CSX, KCS, and BNSF locomotives.

 

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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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Daily Post: Brand New Canadian National General Electric Locomotives


CN’s Latest Alternating Current Traction Diesels ply the old Wisconsin Central.

In the fading light of a November 2013 evening three new Canadian National GE-built ES44ACs pass the Metra station at Round Lake, Illinois. Canon EOS 7D photo.
In the fading light of a November 2013 evening three new Canadian National GE-built ES44ACs pass the Metra station at Round Lake, Illinois. Canon EOS 7D photo.

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!

New ES44ACs lead a freight near Theresa, Wisconsin on November 8, 2013. Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.
New ES44ACs lead a freight near Theresa, Wisconsin on November 8, 2013. Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.

New CN General Electric diesels with M34241-07 with a freight some 9,300 feet long (weighing an estimated 17,000 tons). Another new GE was cut-in mid-train working as a radio controlled 'distributed power unit.' This train is holding at Marsh siding for a northward train. Lumix LX3 photo.
New CN General Electric diesels with M34241-07 with a freight some 9,300 feet long (weighing an estimated 17,000 tons). Another new GE was cut-in mid-train working as a radio controlled ‘distributed power unit.’
This train is holding at Marsh siding for a northward train. Lumix LX3 photo.

 

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).

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Daily Post: Canadian National at Waukesha, Wisconsin.

Southbound CN Stacks work the old Soo Line, November 8, 2013.

Canadian National

CN’s Q11651-04 at Waukesha at 10:50 am on November 8, 2013. I exposed this photo using my Canon EOS 7D with 100mm lens. To gain a bit of elevation, I stood on Chris Guss’s Toyota 4Runner that is specially equipped with a roof rack for photography.

Between July 1994 and October 1996, I lived within walking distance of the former Soo Line station at Waukesha, Wisconsin.

At that time the railroad was owned and operated by Ed Burkhardt’s Wisconsin Central Limited (a 1980s regional carved from the old Soo Line after Soo Line merged with the largely parallel Milwaukee Road)

I’ve long since moved to new horizons and in the meantime, the ever-expanding Canadian National empire assimilated the WCL. The line through Waukesha that had once been part of the Canadian Pacific family is now a CN route.

Today’s CN has a very different operating style than that of WCL in mid-1990s.

Where WCL ran a tightly scheduled railroad with frequent but relatively short freights connecting Shops Yard at North Fond du Lac with various Chicago-land terminals, CN leans toward enormous rolling land-barges, many of which now take an Elgin, Joliet & Eastern routing around Chicago to reach the former Illinois Central or other connections.

Like the WCL, EJ&E and IC are now part of the CN empire.

On November 8, 2013, Chris Guss, Pat Yough and I photographed CN’s southward intermodal train symbol Q11651-04 led by SD70M-2 8800 passing the old Waukesha Soo Line station. At the back of the train was a modern General Electric working as a ‘distributed power unit’ (a radio-controlled remote locomotive controlled from the head-end).

This is a big change from the pairs of SD45 leading strings of 50 foot box cars or Duluth, Missabe & Iron Range ore jennies that I regularly saw in the 1990s. And, by the way, DM&IR is also another of CN’s railroads.

Vertical view at Waukesha.
Vertical view at Waukesha. CN rolls right along and passes through the town much faster than WC did in the mid-1990s.

CN’s Q11651-04 at Waukesha at 10:50 am on November 8, 2013. I exposed this photo using my Canon EOS 7D with 100mm lens. To gain a bit of elevation, I stood on Chris Guss’s Toyota Front Runner that is specially equipped with a roof rack for photography.
The DPU at the back of Q11651-04 crosses East Broadway in Waukesha. Chris Guss is in position on the roof of his Toyota. Canon EOS 7D with 100mm lens

For a glimpse to how things looked in the 1990s.

take a look at yesterday’s post: Wisconsin Central, Byron, Wisconsin, 1994.

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DAILY POST: Wisconsin Central, Byron, Wisconsin, 1994.

SD45s in a Corn Field.

On the afternoon of December 3, 1994, Mike Danneman and I were following a southward Wisconsin Central freight up the 1 percent grade south of Fond du Lac known on the railroad as Byron Hill.

Wisconsin Central
Wisconsin Central as viewed from across a cornfield at Byron, Wisconsin on December 3, 1994. Exposed with a Nikon F3T with a 28mm wide angle lens on Kodachrome 25 color slide film. Scanned with a Epson V600 scanner. No post processing except as necessary to scale image for internet use and insert byline tag.

Here, heavy freights would slow to a crawl for several minutes as they laboured to reach the summit at Byron. With a bit of swift driving we were able to make several images of the train in the low evening light.

The best part of the experience was listening to the 20-cylinder throbbing roar pulsing into the rural Wisconsin countryside as the SD45s clawed their way up the hill.

Ten years later, I returned to Byron Hill with a DAT recorder to make stereo sound records of SD45s at work.

Tomorrow, Tracking the Light looks at CN on Wisconsin Central.

Also see Tracking the Light’s: Chicago Medley, June 2013

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Locomotive Geometry Part 5; Wisconsin Central F45

Cowls on the Prowl.

Among Wisconsin Central Limited’s 20-cylinder EMD fleet were six F45s and a lone FP45, all former Santa Fe.

Santa Fe had been first to order the FP45—intended as a dual service machine used passenger service and for fast freight. The only other customer for the FP45 was Milwaukee Road which bought five of them. Significant of these designs was the external semi-streamlined cowling leading the locomotive’s ‘Cowls’ nickname.

Santa Fe F45 5972 at N Fond du Lac wis March 11 1995 by Brian Solomon 234116_2
Santa Fe F45 5972 on Wisconsin Central at North Fond du Lac on March 11, 1995.

EMD’s F45 was intended primarily for freight so it didn’t feature a large steam generator. As a result it was several feet shorter. Santa Fe ordered 40, while along with Great Northern and its successor Burlington Northern, bought 56 F45s. Like its SD45, EMD rated both FP45 and F45 at 3,600 hp.These locomotives had a similar appearance to the SDP40F and F40C (see: Locomotive Geometry Part 4).

EMD F45
Former Santa Fe 5959 leads a northward freight near Slinger, Wisconsin in May 1995.

Although Wisconsin Central operated seven of the big cowled EMDs, I found these to be relatively elusive when compared to WC’s far more common SD45s. Yet, I count myself  fortunate to have caught the cowl 20-cylinder locomotives at various occasions, both in Santa Fe and Wisconsin Central paint.

This broadside view of a northward WC freight in Spring 1996 demonstrates the length difference between the leading F45 and trailing FP45.
This broadside view of a northward WC freight in Spring 1996 demonstrates the length difference between the leading F45 and trailing FP45.

Nose view of a WC F45.
Nose view of WC F45 6656 on May 4, 1996.

F45 interior view showing the 20-cylinder 645E3 diesel engine.
F45 interior view showing the 20-cylinder 645E3 diesel engine.

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