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Off to Minneapolis for Fun with the Milwaukee Road 261

by Chris Guenzler

Back when I still thought I was going to be at McFadden I planned a few trips for the fall. Since I had non refundable airline tickets, I had to take the trips. When I met my new principal I was open and honest with her and she said it would be ok. The first one of these trips was the final run of the Milwaukee Road 4-8-4 261 before I would go into the shops for a fifteen year rebuilding. Remember The Milwaukee Road 261 has been the only mainline steam engine to operate in each of those fifteen years and had taken me to many new and exciting locations of the years. Go to my railfanning Page for my "Milwaukee Road 261 Through the Years" story. I received a First Class ticket for the Circle Trip and was very happy to do this trip again as they were going to do it reverse of the other time I rode it. This time we would go down to La Crosse on the ex Milwaukee Road Track in Minnesota and come back on the ex CB&Q tracks in Wisconsin. I would chase the Saturday Run down to La Crescent and ride that final trip on Sunday. The Saturday before the trip I got an e-mail from Judy Sandburg telling me I had been upgraded to a Dome. I called her back and learned that the Caratis could not do the trip so they got the Amtrak Great Dome to take its place. I thought this would be really cool since this car once run over the old CB&Q who used to shuttle the Empire Builder to Chicago over their tracks for the Great Northern from the Twin cities. I could not wait for this trip to start. I worked the four days of the week at my new school Jefferson and then packed Thursday night for what should be a great trip

The Trip to Minneapolis 9/12/2008

I was up at 3:30 AM and after preparing myself for the day. I drove the Geo Metro down to the Santa Ana train station and walked around to Track 1 to buy a Metrolink Ticket for Train 681 for LAUPT. The train came in right on time and it was a quick predawn trip to Los Angeles. I then went to the Flyaway Kiosk and bought a round trip ticket to LAX. The bus got me there in twenty minutes and I went quickly through Security this early Friday AM. I went to Gate 26 to wait for my flight to the Twin Cities. I boarded Northwest Airline Flight 802. We took off on time and I did Sudoku Puzzles most of the way there. The plane arrived into MSP Airport early and I was soon at the Budget Rental Car getting a Toyota to use for the next three days. I took I-484 East to US 10/61 which I took east. Near Cottage Grove I caught up to my first train of this trip.

The BNSF 761 East at Cottage Grove. I drove east and stayed on US 10 to Point Douglas and took County 21 to Interstate 94 and crossed the St Croix River into Hudson, Wisconsin where I stayed at the Best Western Hudson House for the night. I had KFC for dinner and then I got messages on my Cell Phone about that Metrolink Head On in Chatsworth. I watched a few movies as I checked the Internet for more information about this horrible Metrolink accident. I called it a night and got a good night sleep.

A Chase of the Milwaukee Road 261 9/13/2008

I got up and drove down to Prescott and stopped to get some snacks for the morning on a dark rainy morning. My first stop of the day would be in Prescott and a few pictures I had wanted to take through the years.

The St Croix Drawbridge and Tower.

The St Croix Drawbridge. From here I drove to Hastings, Minnesota.

Soo Line GP-38 4401 in Hastings.

The Hasting Station.

Amtrak Empire Builder 8/28 blasts through Hastings with three BNSF Business Cars on the rear end. Something told me to head south to my first planned 261 photo location of the trip.

The Hastings Drawbridge with a Milwaukee Road Emblem on the right bridge tower. I drove south through Red Wing and south of Frontenac the highway was stopped with one lane of traffic due to road construction. I sat there for fifteen minutes and finally we were allowed to head south. I felt sorry for all of the chasers that did not know about this construction. I made my way south of Lake City to my first photo location along the Mississippi River.

My first photo location of the day.

First a northbound Chicago, Iowa and Eastern freight running along the Mississippi River came by our location.

After a great run pass, I headed south and caught up with the pacers and slowly moved south until the road went to two lanes and I made a few great moves and got back ahead of the train. I set up next at Homer, crossing over to the northbound side shoulder and parked so I could continue to chase south.

After another great show by the Milwaukee Road 261 at Homer, I headed south. I knew I had time because the Milwaukee Road 261 was going to do a passenger stop in Winona so I headed south looking for another good location. I got onto Interstate 90 and knew I needed to be on the other side. I exited at Dresbach and found another good photo location.

An interesting gas station across from my photo location in Dresbach. I then waited for the Milwaukee Road 261 to pass through Dresbach.

The Milwaukee Road 261 passing through Dresbach. With that done I knew I needed gas and had something else to do so I headed across the Mississippi River to La Crosse where I parked across the street from Copeland Park where there is a steam engine and Crossing Tower.

Chicago Burlington & Quincy Class S-4A Hudson 4000 {3002} (Aeolus) and the Grand Crossing Tower.

The Grand Crossing Tower.

Chicago Burlington & Quincy Class S-4A Hudson 4000.

A wooden caboose.

The Grand Crossing Tower. I went to Hardees for lunch and gassed up the car before I drove back across the Mississippi River to Dakota finding a railfanning platform with a great view.

The Dakota Platform with a few new friends waiting for the Milwaukee Road 261.

First a westbound CP Rail train came.

Next an eastbound CP Rail train. A few minutes later, here came the Milwaukee Road 261.

After another great runby of the Milwaukee Road 261. I headed down the highway to East Homer and set up there for my next pictures of the Milwaukee Road 261 while the train picked up and dropped off passengers in Winona.

The Milwaukee Road 261 passed through East Homer before I headed back to the other side of the fill where I took the first pictures of the morning.

The fill south of Lake City was a great place for a picture of the Milwaukee Road 261 and train.

Back in the car, I was in the pack of cars I got one pacing shot as I headed north to my next photo location. It was slow going through Lake City and at the construction zone I was able to make eye contact with the flag man and he waited until I had passed before he turned his sign to stop. The Milwaukee Road 261 was serviced in Red Wing while I took Highway 18 and just short of East Blackbird, I set up for my final pictures of the day. While it had rained all day off and on, every time I had stopped to take a picture it had stopped. At Blackbird it rained and the wind blew as the train approached.

Even in the rain, the Milwaukee Road 261 is a great site to behold. I drove into Hastings and then went west on Minnesota 56 to Egan and I checked into the Best Western Dakota Ridge. I had a nice steak dinner before I watched the first half of the USC/Ohio State game. I watched the first half and called it a night making sure I got a good night sleep.

Click here for Part 2 of this story!