Yesterday I had a chance, for a fee, to ride the #1225. Wonderful experience.
The Cadillac Express
is a one day out and back adventure from Mt. Pleasant to Cadillac. Time in the train car for both legs is just under 6 hours. Quick math give me that about 3 hours per leg. That's a long time for a trip that is about 60 minutes in a car one way. But the train is limited to 35 MPH, even though it was designed for 60 MPH and more. Apparently this speed limitation is a federal regulation that deals with the weight of the steamer on the rails. The weight of the Steamer is quite different from that of current day diesel-electric models. The tracks have not been maintained for the Steamers. In the end, the day is limited by speed.
The ride was surprisingly smooth. And quiet.
The car I rode in (#5447) was built in 1954. It was built in Canada for the Canadian National Railway passenger services. This car was obtained earlier in 2019 by the Steam Railroading Institute. The car is still going through restoration, but the interior was more than adequate for the day's adventure.
Any plans made for Michigan in October are iffy at best. So, weather-wise the day could have been better with the morning's sun can light breeze all day. Or the entire day could have been as the last half with threatening skies and gusty winds. So a day with half and half is OK. The pictures for the day start with great light, then.........
In the parking lot, we had the hobo band to keep us entertained while we were waiting to board. The trio would roam the cars all day with their music.
I had no expectations of any good 'engine' shots during the ride. Lots of photographers, like me, were on this ride and as I would find out later there were very few places to take good shots of the engine from within the train. There was only one real good 'bend' in the entire trip where we could see the engine from the car. My plan was to get the engine at rest, in the beginning and in Cadillac. Just enjoy the ride.
When we arrived in Mt. Pleasant the engine was totally blocked from our side of the Chippewa River. I wasn't sure I could make it to a good viewing place on the other side of the river and back to the train in time so I didn't venture about. At some point, one of the SRI folks came through the lines stating that the train would be moving back in a few minutes for the passenger loading. That's all I needed to hear. Back to the field next to the river. I wasn't disappointed.
Prior to moving, there was a loud rush of steam. Camera ready.
This was awesome. Nice greens, nice blue sky, sunlight and the white to gray of the steam - and that's working just the photographic side of my mind. The smell, the noise, the vibrations and the engineering were working on the left side of the brain. If it could come back just a bit more?
And it did. And there was a steam release. Awesome.
Already thinking of next year's photos from across the river.
At this time, the cars were loading. On to my car, #5447 - with the nickname of Comet.
Some three and a half hours later, we were in Cadillac. Along the way there were wonderful scenes of back yards, farmland, small towns and some color. (If the trip was two weeks later this year, color boom.) Along the way, at most intersections were the train chasers. And in a few places, I saw what were probably hunters (bow season is open I'm told) looking out of tree stands and from behind trees. C asked me if that is what I was doing last November and December when I was chasing the #1225 during the Polar Express season. Why, yes it was. None of the train chaser pictures came out to where I'd work with them other than for the sake of the day's story. But the chasers were part of the day. We'd see many of the same people at multiple places, the cars matching speeds where they could. There are some serious chasers out there. I am not in their league. Yet? Maybe?
So we arrived in Cadillac, on time. No excuses about headwinds, gate confusion, storms or late take offs. On time.
We had a two, two and a half hour stop over. After we unloaded, the train departed Cadillac and did some of that train magic where the engine, cars and cabooses all had to switch directions for the return trip. After a quick lunch and some tourism, including a few shots of a Shay locomotive for another post, I took ground where I guessed it would be a good place for shots of the train coming back in to town. During that time I could chat with some of the more seasoned chasers. A lot of fun.
The #1225 coming into Cadillac.
Once the train was in Cadillac, then more fun started. I can only equate this to a NASCAR professional pit stop. People and equipment over the wall to get the vehicle ready for the next leg. And that is what happened here. One of the things that had to happen was water needed to be on loaded. I was stuck in Hollywood thinking that 'special water machinery' was needed. Nope. Just hook up to a close by fire hydrant. Good to go. I'm fairly certain there was a city official there counting the gallons.
I overheard a few important facts from one of the volunteers. The #1225 goes through 150 gallons of water per mile. Water returned to the atmosphere. The water tender holds 22,000 gallons of water. As for coal, the tender holds 22 tons, and the train consumes one ton every 12 miles. Do the math for range, but enough fuel to get us back to Mt. Pleasant.
Back to the pit stop. Seriously, there is a support team there. I should say, the team and equipment travel with the train.
On the right is the biggest dude handling the biggest air gizmo I've seen or heard. I'm guessing it is an air powered grease gun. The air used is in the tank above his head. Loud. I bet one release of grease would take the hand off a mere mortal. So this team worked on one side, then moved as a team over to the other side when the maintenance was completed.
While this was going on one side, the other side was being tended to as well.
As you would think, along with our riding crowd, there were locals out to see the train stopped in town. I did the best I could to keep my shots 'focused' on the subject, without distractions. But to be fair, I have to show some of the locals.
A few hours later, we were back in Mt. Pleasant.
All in all a very nice trip. The crew and volunteers were incredibly informative. Great way to spend a day.