Wabash On The Point

Nearly a week ago BNSF delivered five locomotives to Fort Worth & Western to be used on a frac sand train to be loaded at Vista Sand in Cresson twenty miles southwest of Fort Worth.  One of the units was a celebrity in the form of Norfolk Southern’s Wabash Railroad heritage locomotive number 1070.  This was only the second time a NS heritage unit had visited the FWWR since the Central of Georgia unit came to town several years ago.

The units were first stored at Waples Siding close to Granbury and then as the week progressed were brought back to Cresson.  The drawback was the NS 1070 was coupled at both ends in the consist so getting a perfect photo was impossible.  Luckily after working as the FWWR photographer for close to twenty years now I have a lot of friends in the railroad’s family.  I asked that if it were possible when the train was built to leave for its destination of Shattuck, Oklahoma if the Wabash unit would be the leader.

As the week progressed it appeared that Friday would be the day that Vista Sand would have enough cars loaded and BNSF would be able to take the train at Saginaw.  Friday morning I started out wearing my TEXRail hard hat as the FWWR 204 job used GP50 number 2010 to deliver the final two cars of the first Stadler DMU train to Grapevine.  The power car and the other two passenger cars were already in Grapevine after arriving by truck from their appearance at the American Public Transit Association expo in Atlanta last month.  Here we see the short train just east of Davis Boulevard in North Richland Hills.

A few minutes later the train is passing Bransford Park and the display caboose in Colleyville.

In both photos you are looking at the concrete ties and 136-pound rail that are replacing the old jointed rails and wooden ties from Haltom City to Grapevine.  Want to learn more about the TEXRail Project?  The website link is www.texrail.org

I spent the morning and early afternoon in Grapevine documenting the unloading of these two cars.  At 3:00 pm I got the call the sand train would be leaving Cresson around 4:30 pm and the NS 1070 would be leading as I had requested.  Success!!

I finished up my TEXRail work and then spent more than an hour fighting traffic back towards Fort Worth.  I received a follow up call that the train was leaving Cresson as I passed downtown and decided to go to Primrose Siding just off the Chisholm Trail Parkway southwest of town for my first shot.  Since the train would be essentially back lit on its trip from Cresson to Fort Worth in the afternoon light I needed locations with as much of a side view as possible.  There had been issues when attempting to set up the train in DPU mode; so in the end it left Cresson with all five units up front on a 103-car, 14,500-ton train to be delivered to the BNSF at Saginaw.

There was an empty sand train tied down in the siding and the lead UP SD70ACe had the perfect light that would be preferred for the Wabash unit, but trains run when they run and you learn to work with the cards you are dealt.

Less than 10 minutes later the loaded sand train sailed by at 40 mph and I worked both trains into the photo.


Now using the speedy Chisholm Trail Parkway to my advantage I easily beat the train to Forest Park where I was joined by friend David Steckler for this late afternoon series.


From here I paced the train as it approached Tower 60 and when they called the BNSF dispatcher he told them they would have to wait at the interchange for Amtrak 822 to go north and a loaded coal train to pass by southbound before they could come out and run to the west pass at Saginaw.  The head end of the train did not stop in a spot that would work for the next photo so I moved on ahead to the NE 29th Street crossing on the BNSF Fort Worth Sub where there was a patch of sun left for a few more minutes.  Amtrak 822 had already passed by on its way to Oklahoma City and a few minutes later the southbound loaded coal the dispatcher had discussed made its appearance.

A few minutes later the crossing gates activated again, but instead of the loaded sand train I was expecting it turned out to be an empty BNSF coal train that had been waiting at Bredenberg south of Tower 60.

The two coal trains were OK but now the patch of sunlight I was counting on had disappeared into the increasing dusk as my target train arrived a few minutes later.


If no longer in direct sunlight at least the subject was now evenly lit.  As the FWWR engineer started to notch out to run 8 for the climb up to Saginaw I drove on ahead to the NE 38th Street crossing.  While the last vestiges of direct sunlight reflected off the skyline in the background the five units were now working hard lugging the 14,500-ton train as they slowly approached my location.  I let the crew know on the radio that the engineer’s side ditch light was out.


As I had earlier changed into my BNSF PPE, I decided on one more run by at the south end of Saginaw yard.  I was ready when the train pulled by into the west pass.

I hoped that other photographers would have been able to get better shots on Saturday of the NS 1070 leading as it headed to its final destination of Shattuck, Oklahoma, but it was not to be.   I learned later that BNSF rules require an originating train to be led by a BNSF PTC-equipped locomotive, and the NS 1070 certainly did not meet that requirement.  Before the train continued on north later in the evening, BNSF ran the entire engine consist around the wye at Saginaw so the trailing BNSF 6709 became the new leader and NS 1070 was against the train.

So now I am especially glad to be able to share the results of this brief but productive chase since I did not realize at the time the photos above would be my testament to the NS 1070’s brief reign as the leader of the pack from Cresson to Saginaw.  

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