'What are the odds?!' Two office car specials in one day!

Posted by Jim Wrinn
on Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Do we have any odds makers out there? If so, read on. We’re feeling lucky.

On Tuesday, not one but two office car specials visited the Milwaukee area on two different Class I railroads. One office car special in town is a rare event, but two? That’s unheard of. As my wife, Cate, likes to say when describing a rare event, “What are the odds?!”

Here’s the story. Union Pacific was first. It ran an 8-car engineering department inspection train from Chicago to St. Paul, Minn., on the former Chicago & Northwestern main line. It’s traveling as part of a tour of the UP system. On the point was a relatively new Tier 4-compliant locomotive, SD70ACe-T4 No. 3032. Thanks to the railfan grapevine on Facebook we knew that it was coming first thing in the morning. I took up a spot in a new parking lot at the Milwaukee Zoo, where the tracks pass over busy I-94 and then duck under the busy intersection of Blue Mound Road and Highway 100. Shortly before 9 a.m., the northbound train silently rolled by on its way to Butler Yard and a turn west to roll across the state. But that was not the end of varnish on freight only lines here.

Next up was Canadian National. Shortly before noon, I found CN’s office car train at Duplainville, the epicenter of train watching in the Milwaukee area, where CN and Canadian Pacific cross, just west of town. The southbound train was running from Stevens Point, Wis., to Chicago. It crossed under the UP line that saw the office car train at Sussex, Wis., a few miles north of where I photographed it meeting a northbound mixed freight. Power for the 6-car train was ET44ACs Nos. 3091 and 3113. The route was the former Soo Line main line across the state.

Some notes: Both trains included full baggage cars, but only CN put theirs right behind the power. Both trains included theater cars on the tail for outstanding views. CN provided a dome for its people.

As I drove back to work after photographing the CN train, I took a call from videographer Kevin Gilliam and told him about my morning. He was impressed. So was I. Who gets to shoot two office car trains in one day? My next thought: Where’s your office car train, Canadian Pacific? I love to hear my wife say: “What are the odds?!”   


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