Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Chasing Z-BKPH-30

It's always a good idea to step back once in a while from working on the layout to truely railfan or chase a train across the railroad that you have planned and built.

This past Sunday afternoon I did just that and decided to railfan the west end of St. Clair Sub and see what train came our way. 

Sitting at the local McDonalds off I-75 It wasnt long before my scanner crackled to life with CN2224 east requesting DTC block authority for EMID, SQUA, and RIVE from the St. Clair Sub Dispatcher. Knowing the train was roughly 15 miles west of our location we took the opportunity to head to the east side of the Saginaw River Swing Bridge and setup for the train.

CN2224 and CN6256 leading the Z-BKPH-30 over the Saginaw River. This train is an overhead haulage freight from Battle Creek to Port Huron using MCIS tracks. The St. Clair Sub sees two of these trains daily, one east and one west. Power can be anything from western road power to Ferromex engines, but normally it is two CN engines.

After catching the train crossing the river at an illustrious 10mph, we knew the train would be stopping at Bay Yard to change crews before continuing onto Port Huron, so a photo at the yard would be win as well.

Quick snapshot of outbound crew boarding CN2224. Soon after boarding and running through their necessary paperwork, they called up the St. Clair Desk and requested DTC authority to Port Huron. Beings it was Saturday, traffic was a lighter, meaning the dispatcher gave them the road all the way to Kincaid roughly 50 miles west. We were going to be hot pursuit with nothing opposing the train at 40mph track speed.

After the Z crept away from depot we were pleasantly suprised to catch MCIS SD40-2M #4059 and SD40-2 #4052 on point of the M-BAMC-31 awaiting its crew. Can't railfan the MCIS without capturing at least one home road motor.

On the way east to begin chase, we stopped briefly on the M-33 overpass to photograph the train coming out of Bay Yard.

Traversing Chessie Jct on "Bay 1"

"Bay 1, Bay 2, and east yard lead coming together"

Looking west as the FDL16 and 645 began spooling up to tackle the gradual grade out of the Saginaw River valley.

Tail end of train snaking through Chessie Jct. past Lakes Forest Products. You can always catch a good mix of the Canadian Wheat Board hoppers on these trains.

The train was now well underway through fertile farmland dotted with sugar beets, corn, and soybean fields ready for harvest. While it would run through Gerhard and Edsel we opted to intercept down the line at Upper Huron.

The scanner came to life as the crew released "GERH" and "EDSE" blocks. We knew it wouldn't be long before the rumble would become a headlight coming into view at Upper Huron. 

Beings that Upper Huron is the highest point on the Sub and crest of the grade, we could hear the engineer notching off the throttle as he passed by. From here to Grays Lake he could maintain track speed with small input and the trains i tonnage. Upper Huron in itself is a nice place to railfan for the day with the wye to the Port Belle branch hosting a daily turn, weekly coal train to Michigan Sugar, and intermittent aggregate and grain trains.

Not the best shot but caught the leader before crossing Quincassee Creek.

Continuing the chase into Grays Lake I decided to capture the train with the sleepy town as the setting with the train traveling through it.
This Saturday afternoon Grays Lake was pretty quiet with exception of the lonely garbage truck as the train lumbered by in the background.

Passing through the east side of Grays Lake we pass a billboard for Tim Horton's. CN and Tim Hortons... Couldn't think of two things that are more synonymous with Canada than these two .

Out of Grays Lake the county highway parallels the main into Gerhard allowing us to capture the head end with the passing siding and local setout track in the foreground. Most of the time we would make a meet here but with a quiet Saturday the train races along at track speed.

With our last spot picked out in advance of the arriving train we catch Z-BKPH-30 passing Gerhards restored station on its way to Port Huron. As the train rolls out of "GRAY" and into "GERH" block we hear the dispatcher issue the "KINC SDG" block at Kincaid to westbound U-MYPB-30 (Empty limestone Marysville to Port Belle), signifying the Z-BKPH will hold the main and continue on east.

The entire trip I have focused on the motors but as the train slips past I notice some intersting graffiti on the Chlorine tank car, and figure what a neat inspiration to model.

Lastly what looks to be a freshly painted Minnesota Commercial boxcar brings up the rear.
Peeking into the photos foreground is MCIS GP40-2 #4008. Traffic levels from numerous customers at Gerhard and Grays Lake warrant a local switcher, which is based out of Gerhard during weekdays. Normally any four axle general pool EMD can be found on this assignment, but lately 4008 has been holding the job. Here in a week or two we will see it back at Bay City for its 90 day, probably swapping with GP38-2 #3816.

We could continue the chase onto Port Huron or wait here for the U-MYPB-30 which never has a dissapointing consist, but today we are going to call it and head for home.

I hope everyone has enjoyed this narrated chase of Z-BKPH-30 on the St. Clair Sub.


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