Author Archives: Ken

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.  

Today’s Catch

I got word late this morning July 22nd that BNSF was using their trackage rights on the Union Pacific’s Baird Sub today for the first time in a good while that I am aware of.  A BNSF intermodal symboled S-LHTALT (Los Angeles to Alliance, TX) was eastbound at Weatherford heading my way.  I decided to tackle the heat and drove to Iona near the house and set up at the private crossing in the middle of the siding. In about ten minutes I heard the detector at Aledo go off so I got ready for this photo a few minutes later at 11:43 am.

I had seen two units in the consist on paper and now it was obvious they were running in a 1 x 1 configuration.  I moved down to the crossing and set up for this view of the DPU as it transitioned from power to dynamic braking.

Listening to the radio no other trains sounded close so I quickly headed back home to work on this entry in air-conditioned comfort.

Last Light and First Light

On Wednesday July 12th the UP ran an engineering special from Herrington, KS to Fort Worth.  The original schedule showed it passing  through Saginaw around 5:30 pm and I arrived at the old Kosse depot/chamber of commerce a little after 5:00 pm.  I learned the UP special was running late and then adding to that frustration was the cloud that arrived to block the sun at the same moment that Amtrak 822 passed by.

 

Four UP units running light northbound towards Chico pulled up to the block signal and BNSF DS122 told them they would have to wait on one southbound BNSF that was already lined through.  It turned out to be a manifest freight.

As soon as the last car passed the UP light units shot over the diamond heading to Hicks with an ex-SP leading.

 BNSF 6976 North called DS112 wanting to leave Saginaw for Alliance Yard but the dispatcher told them they were now stuck for three south bounds.  The first south bound train was a solid autorack with a CSX leader.

There was a brand new KCS articulated car that had not yet fallen victim to the taggers.

The next southbound was a transfer run from Alliance to North Yard with a pair of old SD70MAC’s.

Once the rear of this yard job cleared up in the transfer track a 2 x 2 grain train came down the main.

Finally it was time for the BNSF 6976 to make its run to Alliance Yard.

A few minutes later a work train came out of North Yard into the transfer track with a Georgetown Railroad slot train.

Finally at 7:05 pm the radio came alive with the UP 3032 South calling DS122 to get lined through the diamond at Saginaw and being told to come down looking for a signal.  At 7:14 pm with only minutes left before the sun dropped below the trees, the UP special finally was in my sights.

I panned right for a view of the new Tier 4 SD70ACe UP 3032.  One small access door was open and the two short-haul microwave dishes that transmit the view from the forward looking camera to the rear inspection car Idaho detracted slightly from the clean look of the unit.

A few seconds later I took the well lit but cluttered going away shot of the eight car train as it headed towards Davidson Yard for the night.

I followed the same basic principle and headed home to tie down for the night.

After checking the schedule for this morning I noted the train would be heading west on the Baird Sub past my house.  Departure time from Fort Worth was set for 6:30 am; the same time as the scheduled sunrise.  I decided to get up and head over to Aledo to catch the train passing through town hopefully before the back lit sun came up over the horizon.

I pulled up next to the old Iona depot behind the Aledo city hall at 6:30 am just as I heard the dispatcher tell everyone west of Fort Worth to get in the clear for the special.  I was in place and got exactly the shot I wanted when the train rolled by at 6:46 am just a few minutes before the sun appeared in the immediate background.

Here is the going away shot as the inspection car Idaho passed the defect detector at milepost 264.  Everyone was staring intently at their track profiles and did not notice me.

It would have been nice to follow the train to Sweetwater but I had other things to do today.  Overall I was happy that I had caught it twice already even if the lighting was not ideal.

Lackawanna Comes to Fort Worth

Last Saturday July 1st the railfan grapevine indicated a westbound intermodal train coming off the Meridian Speedway and getting on the UP at Shreveport had a Norfolk Southern heritage unit leading.  This time around it was the NS 1074, the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western heritage unit.  The projected schedule showed the train would pass through Fort Worth Sunday afternoon in good light, but as often happens this was not to be since this was a low priority “K” train and not a hot “Z” train.

By late Sunday afternoon the train had only made it to Mineola and would not reach Fort Worth until well after dark so I gave up on it.  Monday morning assuming the train was now well west of Fort Worth I headed out to take new progress photographs for the TEXRail light rail project between Fort Worth and DFW airport.  As I was paralleling the UP east of Davidson Yard on the way to start at the T&P building, suddenly I encountered the NS 1074 moving down grade towards the yard.  Since I was setting my own schedule this day I pulled a quick U-turn and followed the train as it pulled down to the west end of Bypass One for a crew change.

As I was already wearing my full PPE, after the crew van picked up the inbound crew I drove down the single-lane one-way road on the north side of the tracks and took this back lit nose shot of the NS 1074 with a BNSF train parked next door in Bypass Two.

With nothing else possible within the tight spacing here I quickly moved on and deciding the best shot with the full sun would be a broadside from the south side of the yard as the train left town.  I moved over to the south side access road and waited patiently as the outbound crew got on and prepared to leave for Sweetwater.  A call to the dispatcher indicated the Fort Worth to West Colton merchandise train in Bypass Five would leave first and the “K” intermodal train would follow.  I was letting the 2 x 2 powered merchandise train roll past in front of me without taking any photos until I spotted that one of the two DPU’s was a new Tier 4 SD70Ace #3036.

   Now it was showtime for the Lackawanna heritage unit and the broadside lighting did provide the best results for this sequence with the sun in the southeastern sky.

Since the merchandise train ahead was climbing the hill to Iona, the NS 1074 had to stop at the red signal at the west end of the yard and this gave me adequate time to relocate to the I820 overpass in Benbrook.  For some reason there was an older SD70M parked in the west end of the Benbrook house track.

I panned left for one more close up view before letting the train go.  You can see a few spots along the side where the paint has flaked off due to age.

Now I resumed my plan to cover all the new TEXRail construction updates between the T&P station and Grapevine.  I finished up at 4:30pm at the site of the upcoming DFW north station just north of Highway 114 which will be located between the end of the line at DFW Terminal B and the Grapevine Main Street Station.  In this view I am looking south towards where the station platform will be with Highway 114 in the background.  My new Explorer is parked on the future right-of-way and displays a required set of Fort Worth transit Authority “TEXRail” magnetic signs.

All in all a pretty good day before the Fourth of July!

NS Heritage in the Rain

It started raining again here at home around 2:00 am and was still raining when I was getting ready to take a shower and get dressed around 9:45 am.  Then things got interesting when I received a text that Rupert Gutierrez had posted to Railspot the NS 8114 Heritage Unit was leaving Fort Worth a few minutes earlier leading a westbound double stack train.  I quickly showered and listened to the radio while I got dressed.  Even though I live less than ten minutes from Iona siding, if the train was running unopposed it was already past me.  I would have to drive to Judd 30 miles west of Weatherford to get ahead of it, a not too pleasant undertaking in the steady rain.

I heard two trains meeting at Iona and even though no engine numbers were exchanged on the radio this was a glimmer of the possibility the prize was still within my grasp.  I jumped in the SUV and headed that way.  When I got to the point I could see the west end of the siding I could see a stack train there with smoke rising from locomotives I could not quite make out.  Instead of turning up that way I continued north on FM 1187 to Aledo.  When I pulled up in front of the Maria Bonita Mexican Restaurant (excellent food with a track side view!) I was prepared to hurriedly set up for my shot, but then I saw the signals were red in both directions.

New radio conversations between the dispatcher, signal maintainer and trains indicated the signals were out at Iona and here at Aledo.  A big headache for them but now clear as the fortunate reason I was able to shower, get dressed and drive here with plenty of time as the westbound train leaving Iona was having to run at restricted speed.  As I am a regular customer the owner of Maria Bonita did not mind as I took shelter on their porch for ten minutes until I heard the rumble of the slow moving train and took up my position for this sequence.

I like using the Bryant elevator as a background to define the location as being distinctly in Aledo.  Since the train was doing all of 5 mph as it passed the red signal just to the left of the photo I decided I had time to jump on ahead to the FM 5 crossing in Annetta.  I arrived with plenty of time to spare and made ready to shoot a long telephoto shot with my second camera.  Then after close to ten minutes the headlight appeared around the curve, but in the process of accelerating to track speed instead of running at a sedate 5 mph.  I quickly dropped the long telephoto idea and went back to my faithful Canon 5D Mark III with a 24-105 lens for this sequence.

The train was up to around 60 mph when the last car passed so I decided to end the chase here and head back home.  I was more than happy with the results and even though the rain was not fun, if it had been a clear morning the train would have been coming out of the sun.  This time for sure taking a chance instead of deciding “better luck next time” was the right decision!

A Busy Afternoon at Cresson

No FWWR road freight to photograph on Sunday afternoon?  As it turned out all I had to do was wait 24 hours to rectify this situation!

Monday morning I got a text from the FWWR dispatcher’s office that the 403 Job would go on duty in Dublin at 9:45 am and take 103 empty frac sand cars to Cresson before returning with 75 frac sand loads to be forwarded to Texas Pacifico at San Angelo Junction over BNSF trackage rights.  What made this even more interesting was since Sunday’s FWCR did not arrive in Cresson until Sunday night as described in yesterday’s post, an extra board crew would go on duty at Cresson at 12:00 pm as a 405 job to take around 60 merchandise cars south to Dublin.

I took care of a few chores at home and left around 11:00 am with the intention of grabbing a bite to eat in Cresson and then heading on west until I intercepted the 403 Job coming east out of Dublin and chase it back to Cresson.  Then I would catch both the 403 and 405 jobs heading west out of Cresson.  I stopped at Subway in Cresson at 11:20 and just as I sat down with my sandwich I got a text from the dispatcher’s office that the 403 job left Dublin at 11:10 am.

I quickly finished off my sandwich and headed west on highway 377 thinking I should be able to make it to Bluffdale west of Granbury for my first photo.  As I crested the hill south of Tolar I called for the train on my truck radio and got a response that they were about five miles south of Bluffdale.  Success!  I zipped over the last two miles into town and set up for a shot of them passing the Bluffdale sign.

I had seen three FWWR SD40-2’s parked in Cresson that I guessed would be the power for the 405 extra job, but until now I had not inquired about the power for either train.  A total of 14,800 horsepower in the form of two SD40-2’s and two lease-to-own CEFX AC4400’s was overkill for 103 empty sand cars but not so much when they would soon be hauling 75 loaded sand cars back west over hilly terrain.  I gave the crew a highball on the radio and followed them back east.

I easily beat the train to the Colony Road Crossing half way down the grade between Tolar and Granbury for my second shot.

 With all the traffic lights in Granbury I was sure the train would beat me to the east side of town but another location check over the radio indicated I had time to pull over for this view of the train coming up grade off of the Lake Granbury / Brazos River bridge.

From here I drove to the highway 171 crossing at the west end of Cresson for one more view of the inbound train as it approached the siding.

Now in restricted limits the east bound train headed up the main and a minute later met the 405 job in the siding as that crew was putting their train together in the siding on the right with the three SD40-2’s I had seen earlier.

After the 403 job cleared here is a view of the 405 job’s power with an identifying landmark.

After putting their train together and walking an air test the 405 job left the siding at Cresson on its way back to Dublin.

I beat the train down to the highway 171 crossing for one final photo as they were preparing to enter TWC territory.

A few minutes later the now loaded frac sand 403 job pulled past me and stopped on the other side of highway 171 so the conductor could walk the train and perform their air test.  This would also give the 405 job time to get down the line and release a few miles back to the dispatcher so the 403 job could get its own warrant to leave town.

It was now after 4:00 pm and while I would have liked to chase both trains back west to Dublin I needed to get home.  I did not feel too bad as looking in the viewfinder at these photos I felt like I had already done well enough for the day and made up for Sunday afternoon’s meager results!

Three at the Trinity

On Sunday April 23rd I headed into Fort Worth in the afternoon with the hopes of catching Fort Worth & Western’s Cresson Turn leaving town, but thing don’t always go as planned.  David Hawkins texted a photo of what was evidently the power (4 SD40-2’s) for the “FWCR” train taking a cut of frac sand cars through Tower 60 and down to Peach Yard which FWWR shares with UP.  I called the FWWR’s MTO and learned that indeed the “FWCR” crew took the frac sand empties to Peach and would be shoving a UP delivery of 60 or so merchandise cars back up the hill to Hodge Yard.  The UP delivery would then need to be switched as some of the cars would go to Cresson so it would be after dark before the Turn would leave town.

With all this in mind I decided to stop at the south end of the Clear Fork Trinity River bridges and catch the “FWCR” power on the UP Duncan Sub ex-Rock Island bridge when they shoved back up the hill.  I heard the BNSF detector at the south end of Saginaw go off and quickly set up for what turned out to be the Z-ALTROB intermodal train from Alliance Yard to Robstown, TX where the train is handed off to the KCS for the rest of its run to Mexico.

Right after the train cleared the park area David Hawkins, Ron Thur and Matt Shell arrived.  We talked about the overall situation and their just missing the “Z” train, but then a Nathan K5LAA horn to the north resulted in our all catching a loaded UP rock train out of Chico coming down the Duncan Sub before switching over to Choctaw Main One.

With nothing else close but the upcoming FWWR shove David, Ron and Matt elected to head north up the BNSF to Metro to intercept a loaded frac sand train coming off the KCS to go to the FWWR before sunset.  I decided to stay here and after 20 minutes was rewarded with this going away photo.  With the headlight and ditch lights on you really can’t tell they are running in reverse.

At this point with no other trains close by I decided these three shots were good enough to call the brief trip a success and headed back home to process the photos.  There will always be more opportunities to catch the “FWCR” on its normal route!

A Buck and an Ace

This morning December 23rd when I looked out the bathroom window this is what I saw.

And then he spoke to me.  Yes, as I get older I hear more voices in my head than before.

And he was right!

 He must get good scanner reception with those antlers even if his nose is not red.

Washington at Night

Shortly before sunset on September 25th around thirty of us boarded a bus at the hotel for a tour of Washington D.C. at night.  Our first stop was at Union Station to pick up a few more people, so I made it there after all!  Traffic and crowds were abundant, so I was glad I did not try to railfan there earlier in the day.

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How did the rest of the tour go?  I will let you decide based on the following photos.  All were hand-held thanks to the low light capabilities of the Canon 5D Mark III.  As always clicking on any photo will bring up the large version and then use the back arrow to return to the blog post.

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Ours was not the only tour out there as these seem to be very popular and I highly recommend taking one if you are in our nation’s capitol.

My plan for Monday was to railfan south of Washington D.C. while my wife was at her conference, and I will cover that in the next installment of our trip!

A Trip to the East Coast

Back in late September my wife was scheduled to attend a work-related conference in Washington D.C.  We decided to fly to Washington and then add a few vacation days after the conference to drive back to Texas through Virginia, West Virginia and Kentucky.  The conference did not start until Monday September 26th but we flew from Love Field via Southwest to Reagan National early on Saturday morning.  When we arrived we rented a Chevy Tahoe and had lunch in Alexandria before checking in at the Gaylord National Harbor Hotel on the Potomac River south of Washington.

Sunday was check in day at the conference and afterwards my wife planned on visiting George Washington’s Mount Vernon estate with some of her coworkers.  I had Sunday, Monday and Tuesday to railfan before the conference wrapped up Wednesday morning.  Before leaving home I had researched meticulously with Google Earth and maps and timetables.  I wanted to avoid Washington highway traffic and high security areas such as Union Station so as to have a more pleasant experience.  As a result my plan was to spend time east of Washington on Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor and south of Washington on the ex-RF&P now used by CSX, Virginia Railway Express and Amtrak.

Sunday was forecast to be clear, and in terms of reduced traffic on I95 and empty commuter rail station parking lots I decided this would be the best day to spend a few hours on the Northeast Corridor.  I planned to hang out at the Maryland Area Regional Commuter (MARC) station in Seabrook, Maryland about twelve miles east of Washington as it is unmanned and in a quiet suburban area with no MARC or Amtrak trains stopping on a Sunday.  I left the hotel at 10:00 am and with light traffic made it to the Seabrook station by 10:45 just as an eastbound Acela flashed by with a quickly fading roar.

The parking lots and platforms were empty, and I counted over a dozen security cameras and loud speakers on each platform monitoring every angle.  The pedestrian tunnel connecting the platforms under the three track mainline that separated a residential area from local businesses was in fairly constant use by locals, so I decided to situate myself on the eastbound platform with the light behind me and my camera plainly visible.  If the security cameras were monitored on a Sunday and someone objected to my presence I figured I would either hear about it through a speaker or get a visit from law enforcement.

Within a few minutes another eastbound Acela zipped by.  I was set at ISO 400, 1/2000 of a second at f5.6 to freeze the motion as the train was moving in excess of 100 mph.

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I had to look it up later that these Acela train sets built by Bombardier and Alstom were introduced in 2000 and are composed of two 6200 horsepower units with either six or eight coaches in between. Ten minutes later I caught my first westbound led by a 8600 horsepower Siemens ACS-64.

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Not long after an eastbound on the center track.

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After a meet somewhere to the east here is a westbound Acela on the middle track.

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Next a westbound led by another ACS-64 coming and going.

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Next for a bit of variety was a westbound MARC train led by a cab car and with two MPI MP36PH-3C locomotives pushing.

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Later on an eastbound with a ACS-64 pulling.

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A westbound Acela seen from the end of the eastbound platform.

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Not far behind another westbound led by a ACS-64.

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And a final going-away photo of another westbound MARC looking nearly identical to the earlier train.

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This sign shows they take trespassing seriously here.  I noted two individuals cross the tracks on foot at a distance during my stay.

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In total I stayed on the platform for three and one-half hours and actually photographed twice as many trains as I shared here, but saw no reason to show more Acelas and ACS-64’s and MARC trains that all look alike.  If I had more time I would have sought out more locations with different backgrounds.  While I was on the platform no one ever came to check me out or ask me to leave which was refreshing.

I headed back to the hotel as my wife and I had signed up for a tour of Washington at night with other conference attendees.