On June 6, 2009, I spent a day at one of my favorite railfanning spots along the Mississippi River. The rail line on the eastern shore of the Mississippi River in Wisconsin was originally built by predecessors of the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad. Today, the line is part of BNSF's mainline between Chicago and Seattle. On the days that I've railfanned this line, there have been about one train per hour, so there's plenty of action to see for a patient railfan. While this location didn't produce many artistic photos on this trip (it was colder and rainier than on previous trips), I was able to get a number of reference photos of the equipment that passed me.
One word of caution for readers on a dialup connection, however. This post is very long compared to the rest of the site. There are about 30 images below, each about 50 kilobytes.
A friend of mine owns a house in Glen Haven (map), one of the small towns south of Prairie du Chien, and once a year he invites his model railroad operating crew to the house for a day at trackside. I like to hang out on the upper balcony facing the tracks so I can get an unobstructed view of the trains that pass by. The trains usually go through at somewhere between 40 and 60 mph, so panning is the order of the day for good photos of the equipment. Here are some of the better shots that I was able to get that day.
Intermodal trains are very common on the mainline. While most of them have cars and containers that all look alike, this one had one of those open-frame containers on its lower level.
The B end of BNSF 237823 had two containers from Yang Ming and a piece from a graffitist on its side. I thought the different size type and two styles of logos on the two containers was interesting, and the lower container included the company's URL.
BNSF still has plenty of red and silver locomotives in operation as evidenced by C44-9W number 733. But it seems like every one that I see in this livery always has that one orange box on the fireman's side. According to other photos, this one has had that box since at least 2001.
Here's a modern high-cube boxcar lettered for DWC. That's the reporting mark for Duluth, Winnipeg & Pacific Railway, a subsidiary of Canadian National Railway (thus the CN logo in the corner) in northern Minnesota.
Another CN purchase in the 1990s was Wisconsin Central. Here's WC 22204 with a couple graffitist pieces. Notice the reflective tape was applied on top of the graffiti, which indicates the paint's age on the car. The tape, which is also applied to the DWC car above, is intended to help car and truck drivers see trains at grade crossings after dark.
Coupled to the WC car was a slightly older CN boxcar, this time with CN reporting marks.
My favorite kinds of trains to see are the manifest trains, those with many different types of cars in them. This train had a few tank cars as well, inlcuding this one, SHPX 206008. If it looks swaybacked, your eyes are working right. The straight lines of the car's livery tell us that this car was built with a sag in the middle to help with unloading it from a spout on the bottom of the car. Also, notice the "freshman stripe" on the adjoining tank car, caused by dirt and grime kicked up from the wheels of the car and the cars that it has been coupled to in the past. This is a detail that I discussed in a previous prototype weathering study last September.
Another way to model the effects of graffiti is with paint patches from graffiti clean up efforts, as evidenced by BN 461461. The patches could be applied to the model by plain colored decal film or masked and airbrushed. Also notice that the hatch covers on the top of the car are a brighter shade of green than the car side. One of the first Modeler's Moments that I posted suggested that the hatches could be painted different colors to show that they had been replaced.
Coupled to the BN car was another BNSF predecessor car, ATSF 313611. I managed to catch a rain drop falling in front of my lens as this car passed me. The fading on this car can be modeled by a very light overspray of the car's main paint color.
Graffiti isn't always vulgar and unreadable, sometimes it's quite simple like on ATSF 311646. It looks like whoever left this message also painted over the hazmat placard on the side of the car, making me wonder if this tag applied by a railroad employee or someone involved in loading or unloading this car. This hopper used the Santa Fe circle-and-cross logo while the previous car used the name in large type. It's still quite common to see both styles of this fallen flag in operation, but as I've said many times before, get your pictures now because these cars could get repainted or even scrapped as early as tomorrow.
Shorter hoppers were also on the rails that day, as we can see with ATSF 350320. This one had the large lettering on the side, was still clear of graffiti (at least on this side of the car) and the lettering was still plainly visible. Notice also the round hatch covers on the roof.
One more Santa Fe covered hopper before we move on to other cars. ATSF 315735 is also fairly clear of graffiti. But also notice the center panels where the railroad's name is painted is also not getting streaked from the rain. That's due to the little eave at the top of those panels that redirects the runoff from the roof to adjoining panels. By putting the railroad name there, it doesn't get as strongly weathered as the rest of the car.
We add another car type to the list of those we've seen with this gondola, BN 665863. The lettering is almost completely obscured by the rust, but BN's cascade green is unmistakeable.
BNSF 5262, an ES44DC, leads the next westbound train that we saw. I almost left this picture out because it isn't focused properly, but take a look at the weathering on the side of the fuel tank. There's a bit of white grime from between the two air tanks that flows down the side of the fuel tank. So, now you have another place to use that white weathering chalk.
The first car on that next train was TBOX 665790. Unlike the boxcars we looked at in other trains, this one had a few graffitist pieces on it. But, like one of the CN cars, the reporting data and reflective stripes were applied or repainted over the graffiti.
Another tank car owned by a leasing company, GATX this time. The dark lettering on the top half of the car has faded almost to white. The shelf couplers are quite obvious on both ends of the car.
It looks like this tank car's outer layer was made from one continuous sheet of steel wrapped in a coil around the car. It reminds me of the candy cane tank car that Lionel put out a while ago (and there is a prototype for one painted in a candy cane livery, I just can't find a photo of it right now).
With this car, we've actually got a pretty good idea of what it's carrying. Written right on the outside of the car is "CORN SYRUP ONLY" and the Midwest Corn Producers logo reinforces that to our model building eyes.
The graffitists hit this car too, but this time notice that the piece was done in a way that it avoids painting over the reporting marks on the car. The graffitists have learned that their pieces stay on the cars longer if they don't cover the marks, so this practice is becoming more common. I only wish the railroads would be as colorful in their paint selections as these graffitists.
Okay, we're back to covered hoppers again. This one is a bit newer than the others we've seen, even carrying the new BNSF ("swoosh" or "power bar" or whatever you want to call it) logo.
With this car we move off the BNSF again, but not very far. Mike Haverty, the current president of KCS, was the last president of the Santa Fe, serving from 1989 to 1995. He is responsible for the re-emergence of the silver and red livery on locomotives, and now as president of KCS, reintroduced the Southern Belle livery there.
Yup, another BN covered hopper, but this time, without the graffiti clean up. There's an interesting little piece under the BN logo on the right showing a few dice, but the rest appear to be quick little "I was here" tags.
Open cars can really be a treat to see at trackside. This car full of freshly cut logs was tucked between a covered hopper and boxcar. Notice that each of the three bundles is banded to help prevent load shifting. Also notice that the car floor is cut away between the ends down to just the center sill to reduce the car's tare weight.
Gondolas sometimes carry covers too. This one was probably loaded with newly milled steel on its way to a factory as a raw material. The covers help to reduce the amount of rust that collects on the new steel before it is used.
IBT is the reporting mark for the International Bridge and Terminal Company, which is now the Canadian subsidiary of Minnesota, Dakota & Western Railway. The MD&W's chief customers are paper and lumber companies around the International Falls area, so it's easy to imagine this car loaded with newsprint heading for a press somewhere.
BNSF 5314 was the second unit on the next westbound train. That patck of primer on the side caught my eye immediately. Judging by its location on the locomotive, I would guess that something went wrong with the prime mover and it spewed something all over the side from the exhaust stack. Maybe it blew a gasket and threw oil all out the stack? Whatever the cause, this would be a simple detail to add to any model with some blank colored decal film or a masked off area that is airbrushed with a primer color.
This is more like the kind of tank car that I am now used to seeing. It's a generic car that appears to be carrying a flammable liquid today, based on the placard color visible above the truck on the right hand end of the car.
The last train that we saw before heading home included more fallen flag freight cars, like BN 468397. This car had fairly light weathering and could easily be modeled.
The FRED on the last train was hung on this car, TILX 32914. It looks like the graffitist who left this piece used his own white can of spray paint to reproduce the reporting mark himself.
With that, we'll leave this look at trains passing Glen Haven, Wisconsin, on the BNSF, June 6, 2009.