When I woke up on Thursday November 30th I never would have guessed when I went to sleep that night it would be on a passenger train instead of back in my own bed. I was out in the morning in the Grapevine area shooting for TEXRail. The entire first Stadler train set in Grapevine is not ready for a roster shot yet as parts are covered by tarps and other equipment. This view of the east cab car will probably be used on the cover of the first printed system map.
Then the phone rang and BNSF asked if I would be available to help with a situation. The 2017 Holiday Express had arrived in Fort Worth overnight from its first event in Temple but the photographer who has worked the train for the past ten years suddenly took sick and would be leaving the train in Fort Worth. Would I be able to cover Thursday evening’s train ride event for military families and also quickly pack and move onto the train for the upcoming events in Oklahoma City, Springfield and Kansas City? My response was that I had no firm commitments for the next few days and I would make the sacrifice…… 🙂
I managed to get home and pack, leave my vehicle in the garage at BNSF headquarters and get a ride to the train with about 30 minutes to spare before the 90-minute round trip from the Stockyards on the FWWR to milepost two on the Dublin Sub and back. The train consisted of a locomotive on each end of eleven cars populated with approximately 350 people on board. My job was to work with Mr. and Mrs. Claus and photograph them with the invited military families so the photos could be posted to BNSF’s Facebook page for the guests to retrieve and be used for media releases. When we got back to the Stockyards there was a ceremony for the presentation of a $10,000 check to the local military support organizations.
After the ceremony we took more “family with Santa and Mrs. Claus” photos with the train as a background.
After we were done with people photos I took a few of the train as an executive dinner was hosted in the dining car Lake Superior.
I took one more photo as I made my way back to the rest of the train under the Stockyards train shed.
Now it was time to set up the laptop at the conference table in the Red River and process all the photos from RAW to JPG and then reduce them down to Facebook size before uploading them to the BNSF media team. After the dinner event in the Lake Superior ended the train started moving to BNSF Saginaw Yard where we picked up the four crew cars that had been left behind due to space limitations at the Stockyards.
Once the train was together and the GEVO on each end set up in DPU mode, we left Saginaw a few minutes before midnight on the way to Oklahoma City. After I finished my work the on board crew helped me move my luggage to a very nice room on the sleeping car Trinchera Pass with a queen size bed and a private bath. I took a much needed shower and settled into the bed as we were approaching Gainesville. As we passed through Gainesville around 1:00 am I put my iPhone up against the glass and made this video with the sights and sounds of my new room with a wonderful view. The night video is best viewed if you use the appropriate button to go to full screen while it plays.
The moon was nearly full so with the room lights out I could see outside pretty well. I was tired enough that I should have gone right to sleep but this experience was too good to miss. As we passed through Ardmore, Oklahoma where I graduated from high school I thought back to my early railfan days there and how I never would have dreamed that years later I would be rolling through town on the BNSF executive train.
Next is a southbound train rolling past the old freight house with a brace of five new GP38’s.
And finally here is a southbound on the freight main powered by a mix of F-units, a CF7 and two GP7’s.
I wanted to stay awake through the Arbuckle Mountains but after Ardmore I started to drift off and would wake up for a minute or two and look out and then drift off again.
Memories from this area include this view of AT&SF #15 the Texas Chief passing Gene Autry.
At the old Dolese crusher south of Dougherty here are a northbound and a southbound train respectively.
North of Dougherty a southbound freight curves along the Washita River.
The next thing I knew it was morning and we were parked in Flynn Yard just south of Oklahoma City. Stay tuned for Part II!