Matt finds the trains in TRAINS’ backyard: It’s not always sunny in Waukesha

Posted by Matt Van Hattem
on Thursday, September 1, 2011

Wisconsin & Southern’s Horicon-Janesville freight T004 tread lightly through downtown Waukesha on Canadian National trackage


This month, I want to try a photography project that focuses on the trains in TRAINS Magazine's backyard. How many different pictures can be taken in a circle extending 10.27 miles from downtown Waukesha, Wis.?

I've really enjoyed this chance to revisit some great photo locations and rediscover how fascinating the local railroads are in TRAINS' backyard.

Yet I feel I may have misled you with this series of sunny-day photos, made possible by a blissfully pleasant August. The truth is, not every day in Wisconsin is so nice.

So here's a picture of a typical day in Waukesha!

OK, that's a (slight) exaggeration, but you get the picture. When those cold Canadian air masses come barreling down into the state, bringing below-zero temperatures and gobs of snow, ice, and freezing rain, venturing outdoors is a struggle.

But railroading is a 365-day operation, rain or shine, and I have a lot of respect for the train crews, maintenance forces, yardmasters, and other railroaders who put in their day's work when the weather looks like this.

You're watching Wisconsin & Southern's Horicon-Janesville freight T004 tread lightly through downtown Waukesha on Canadian National trackage approaching the Grand Avenue junction at 7:29 a.m. on March 9, 2011. This winter storm dumped anywhere from 4 to 6 inches of heavy, wet snow over southeast Wisconsin. By 9 a.m., when I was thawing out at work after this early morning photograph, we'd already gotten two and a half inches.

Those three SD40-2s look like they've battled a few drifts on their journey this day.

What I like: Snow like this is fun to shoot in because the flakes are big and show up nicely in photographs. (Never mind that each of those flakes is a cold, sharp needle. I still remember being pelted by them in the brief amount of time I ventured out of the car to take this picture.)

What I don't like: This is my backyard?? Yikes! Three to four months of weather like this can really wear you down.

Flickr: Matt finds the trains in TRAINS' backyard album
Facebook: Trains Magazine Facebook Page

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