Wednesday August 19th found me driving south to Bryan, TX to perform a photo assignment for a client the next day. It had been over a year since the last time I had checked on the ten-mile rail line between the Luminant Kosse, TX strip coal mine and the Luminant Energy Oak Grove power plant north of Franklin, TX. Driving east from Kosse on Texas 7, when I passed over the north end of the railroad close to the mine I could see one of the two SD70ACe’s under the shed but no sign of any active loaded or empty train sets.
Normal operations see two active train sets with about 45 coal hoppers between a home made cab car on the north end and a radio-controlled locomotive on the south end. I drove to the first of only two public grade crossings on the line about two miles south of the mine loadout and the rails were shiny. I figured I had enough Union Pacific photos and would rather have another photo session with this specialized operation.
It was 2:30 pm and I had about three hours to kill before I needed to head on to Bryan. Armed with water and reading materials, I decided to camp out here as chasing trains is impossible on this line due to no paralleling roads. I cycled through reading a railroad magazine, drinking some water, and listened intently for any sound of a train approaching from either direction.
Even I was starting to lose faith when at 5:15 pm I heard the blare of a Nathan K3LA to the south indicating the approach of a northbound empty train heading back to the mine. I quickly grabbed the camera and set up to capture the unique cab car with empty hoppers trailing behind as the crossing protection behind me started up and the gates went down.
The train was rolling along at about 25 mph as the cab car came by me. The operator was waving and gave me a few extra toots on the horn. I’ll bet it is pretty loud right over his head.
As I looked back to spot the power I was expecting to see an SD70ACe pushing, but instead a pair of ex-SP SD40T-2 “tunnel motors” were doing the honors. I believe this is their backup power.
I wheeled back around for the best lighting on the units and the part of the train that was still visible. This was my “shot of the day”.
Then I zoomed in for one more view of the locomotives before hopping in the SUV and heading back to the Highway 7 overpass for one last look before departing.
When I stopped at the west end of the overpass I was surprised to see a loaded train led by an SD70ACe ex-Caterpillar demonstrator sitting in the distance as one of the massive coal transports arrived from the strip mine. In this telephoto view you can see the empty train I just photographed to the right of the telephone pole as it pulls into the loadout; and the other SD70ACe parked under the locomotive shed to the right of that. A cab car and four empty hoppers are parked in the foreground.
Here is a better view of one of the giant coal transports that pass by every few minutes as seen from the public overpass.
I waited fifteen minutes and saw no sign that the coal load was going to move. I had done well with the SD70AC’e on my previous visit so I decided it was time to move on to my destination for the night in Bryan.