May 14th, 2014

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Trains and M-231 Part II

Back in March I was able to score a double -- one of the coal unit trains and part of the M-231 construction (DW). Amazingly almost a month later I did it again.

On Easter Eve, while traveling from seeing Transcendence to the D&W gorcery store in Holland, I saw a pair of BNSF diesels heading slowly west along Lakewood Boulevard leading a full unit coal train -- as opposed to the southbound empties I had shot in March. I knew it was going slowly as it would have to take the cutoff to go north, so I kept going, but where to shoot?

Practically speaking I am all about the head end of trains, so I needed to be over the grade crossing, so that after I got my shot we could go on grocery shopping. After all, this is a long train, maybe 50-100 hopper cars. So there's a no-name gas station just past there, big modern slab of concrete and a convenience store.

Even better, it's right by the tight curve of the cutoff -- almost model railroad like. Lined up the Bravada, brought out the D100 and the 28-80mm f3.3-5.6G AF-NIKKOR and waited.


Here comes the train, tried to get the shot head-on. 75mm (about 105mm FX equivalent). (Click on photo for larger.)
©2014 Dr. Philip Edward Kaldon (All Rights Reserved)


And close up of BNSF GE ES44AC 5964 at 28mm (42mm equivalent). If it looks like the locomotive is leaning away from me -- it is. Railroad curves have a superelevated outside rail. This was the hero shot of the cover of my Spring 2014 PHYS-1070 Final Exam [Form-B]. The A-exam used the shot from March. (Click on photo for larger.)
©2014 Dr. Philip Edward Kaldon (All Rights Reserved)


BNSF SD70ACe 9271. Trailing units aren't nearly as photogenic as lead locomotives, but we're counting coup here. Also, those overhangs on the back of both locomotives on the left? Those are the oversized radiators to deal with the waste heat from the massive turbocharged 4400hp and 4300hp diesels engines. (Click on photo for larger.)
©2014 Dr. Philip Edward Kaldon (All Rights Reserved)


When we parked at the grocery store, we were far enough back to see the coal crowned the open hopper cars. Here at trackside you can't tell they're full unless you inspect the springs on the trucks (wheel mountings, bogeys in Europe). Old coal hoppers had triangular chutes underneath and unloaded by opening the doors. These cars have round bottoms. At one end there's a rotary mounted coupler, so the cars are turned upside-down two-at-a-time to unload. (Click on photo for larger.)
©2014 Dr. Philip Edward Kaldon (All Rights Reserved)


When driving south to the movie, I spotted this covered hopper on the siding at the pet food elevator on US-31, so I stopped to shoot it after groceries. At 55mph, couldn't tell if this was a paint job or an elaborate graffiti tag. Appears to be the latter. But Acer UNIX Erase? It could have been an ad for an Acer computer, which comes with both Windows and Linux, where you choose which one to run. This is the standard three-quarters view favored by railfans. (Click on photo for larger.)
©2014 Dr. Philip Edward Kaldon (All Rights Reserved)


I moved the Bravada to get a better angle on the artwork. If you enlarge, I think you can guess that the Jetsons characters are tags, not commercial art. It's not too different from the previous shot, but there's a cool diagonal lens flare -- even without a lens hood, it's hard to get modern multicoated Nikon lenses to flare like older lenses. (Click on photo for larger.)
©2014 Dr. Philip Edward Kaldon (All Rights Reserved)


When the M-231 bypass around the Grand Haven US-31 lift bridge and Holland was first proposed, probably forty years ago, it was supposed to go from I-196 in the south to I-96 just north of a new Grand River crossing. Currently, if the Grand Haven lift bridge jams in the UP position, the detour is to 68th Avenue in Allendale -- a forty mile detour. The new as-built M-231 crossing will cut that in half when in gets finished in 2016.


View of M-231 construction looking north from M-45. You can see the overpass over Rich Street under construction in the distance. (Click on photo for larger.)
©2014 Dr. Philip Edward Kaldon (All Rights Reserved)

Half a mile east of here they are widening the intersection with 120th Avenue which gets close to the US-31 freeway in Holland by the Chicago Avenue interchange. So the M-231 bypass doesn't actually connect with either US-31 or I-196 at the southern end.


Another way they're cheapening this project after farbling around for forty years putting it off is to make the southern end of M-231 just a grade level intersection with turn lanes under construction here, presumably with a traffic light at M-45. (Click on photo for larger.)
©2014 Dr. Philip Edward Kaldon (All Rights Reserved)

Still, it is exciting to see progress on this. Next up, the northern end of the construction project.

Dr. Phil
smirking-winslet

Now Is The Summer Of Our Disconnect

In looking back over several years, the period running up to Memorial Day can be a mixed bag for gas prices. The Glass-Is-Running-Out crowd of pundits is likely to speculate that price hikes foretell DOOM and $5-6 gas by the Fourth of July, but they go nuts every summer. Others figure a run up to the Fourth and the high prices through Labor Day.

Me? I comment and mock the potential causes...

Yesterday, Tuesday 13 May 2014, regular was $3.51.9/gal, which made midgrade $3.66.9/gal. But... I had two discount coupons from Family Fare -- One for 10¢/gal and one for 50¢/gal, so I paid just $3.06.9/gal for nearly seventeen gallons. I coulda been under three bucks if I didn't mind an engine with 316,000 miles running rough. (grin)

Which brings us to today. Same gas station at 5pm, $3.78.9/gal.**** Really? I mean a week ago it dropped down to $3.40.9 for a day and was $3.65.9/gal the day I ran to Penguicon. Obviously something in the news is causing massive price uncertainty and.. uh... I got nuthin'.

Okay, sure, we got snow in Colorado, big heat through much of the country and a cold snap in the Great Lakes, so the annual winter-summer gas conversion is no doubt confused. And Russia putting the screws on Ukraine... oh, that's natural gas, not gasoline.

My best guess for the summer, based on the last couple of years, is for prices to jump up leading into Memorial Day, then drop off and run $3.50 to $3.70 over the summer. Your mileage, of course, will vary.

Hey, it's not like the pundits know what they're talking about either. (grin)

Dr. Phil

**** Just to muck up everything some more, the Mobil across the road was still at $3.50.9/gal. Who knows something the other does not? Or was Family Failure trying to gouge those using the 50¢/gal coupons from the weekend? Or build up some profit for the Big $2.99.9/gal sale for $100 worth of groceries coming up. Guess we'll know by morning.
dr-phil-nikon-f3-1983

Cows and M-231 Part III

So Friday the 2nd, the day before I drove to Penguicon, I had to make a quick stop at Chevy and get my transmission fluid level checked. The stuff is a pain to measure and they had to add some at the last oil change. You know me, I was going to check it before driving across the state. And right now clambering under the hood is very awkward. Anyway, it was fine.


Afterwards I decided on a field trip. Previously I'd been on the south side of the M-231 construction project. It's funny, I've never driven on Leonard Street west from 68th Avenue in Eastmanville, which is where M-231 would be. It's pretty country, rolling hills with an occasional glimpse of the Grand River. There's one spot I'll have to return to on a nice blue sky day. Looks like the Windows XP wallpaper. (grin) Or the battle fields in Star Wars Episode I. (double-grin)


As expected, there's a new overpass at Leonard. Originally there was supposed to be an interchange here, but it's really only maybe half a mile or so from I-96 and they widened 112th Avenue where it curves up to Exit 10. So because they keep on saving money on this project that should've been built decades ago, they cut the north side of the river interchange before I-96. (Click on photo for larger.)
©2014 Dr. Philip Edward Kaldon (All Rights Reserved)

Now to look for the river crossing.

And there were cows.


Yup. I'm a cow. On 120th Avenue. As in ON 120th Avenue. About half a dozen cows were on the wrong side of the fence. The rains had created a little flooding and so a couple of fenceposts were down, hence the bovine breakout. (Click on photo for larger.)
©2014 Dr. Philip Edward Kaldon (All Rights Reserved)


Cow. It's a different cow trotting along the side of the row. I didn't bother calling 9-1-1 because there were a couple of guys coming up the road in some 4-wheeler ATV. (Click on photo for larger.)
©2014 Dr. Philip Edward Kaldon (All Rights Reserved)

The span over the Grand River on M-231 is not up.


There are piers in the river. It's a difficult crossing. The river is wide and there's quite a soft delta. I had seen the piers through the mud flats back on the first set of shots on 22 March. (Click on photo for larger.)
©2014 Dr. Philip Edward Kaldon (All Rights Reserved)


More on the south shore of the Grand River from the north shore. (Click on photo for larger.)
©2014 Dr. Philip Edward Kaldon (All Rights Reserved)


The little dead end I had shot from has a campground beyond the yellow gate in the photo above. Behind me was this cute little harbor. Having seen much larger harbors, this is so quiet and peaceful. Nice. Yeah, I don't do boats... (Click on photo for larger.)
©2014 Dr. Philip Edward Kaldon (All Rights Reserved)

On the way back, the cows were all fenced in. As expected.

Dr. Phil