Author Archives: Ken

Qualified to Lead!

Yesterday morning I received a phone call that all four of the SD40-2’s that Fort Worth & Western recently bought from National Railway Equipment were now fully outfitted with radios, LED ditch lights, etc. and were now qualified as leaders. All four were assigned to be on the Cresson Turn, so even though the skies were overcast once the train left Fort Worth I intercepted it along Winscott-Plover Road. Illustrating that nothing is perfect NREX loaner SD40-2 5665 broke up what otherwise would have been a perfect quartet of 2031 Johnson County, 2029 Eastland County, 2031 Brown County and 2030 Dallas County.

At the east end of Cresson the 501 job was waiting with four locomotives and 100 cars that the Cresson Turn would pick up to go back to Fort Worth after setting out the inbound train and the 2030.

The Cresson Turn headed to the west end of the yard to set out their inbound train and I used the opportunity to concentrate on good photos of the 2031.

When the setout was complete the power was taken around the wye to keep 2031 in the lead for the return trip to Fort Worth since the 2030 would be set out and the 5665 was facing the wrong way.

Back at the east end of the yard the 2030 was set out by itself which allowed for a perfect roster shot with a bit of sun while the crews put the train together.

In this final view the train of eight units with 100 cars in tow is eastbound down the grade next to Winscott Plover Road towards Mustang Creek.

Mission accomplished I headed back to the house. Over time there will be opportunities to catch the 2029 and 2032 leading!

More Drone Work

On January 29th I listened to the radio and after hearing the FWWR Cresson Turn leave Fort Worth I drove over to Winscott Plover Road west of Mustang Creek and prepared the Mavic 2 Pro for flight. There was a slight overcast when the 2017 West came by the crossing and I took this view with the Canon 5D Mark IV.

No sun right here? No problem! Since the train is only doing around 20 mph I had adequate time to launch the drone and fly on ahead a few hundred yards where the lighting was improved. You can see the Fort Worth skyline in the distance over the locomotives.

After retrieving the drone I drove on ahead to Cresson where I heard the MTO tell the Cresson Turn to go around the Cleburne Wye and back into the yard. As this was not a normal move I got ready to launch the drone again to get the shot of the train laid out around the curve with improving light.

For the last view I caught the train as it backed up across Highway 377.

Pleased with the results I treated myself to lunch at BBQ on the Brazos here in Cresson. On the surface of the wakeboard pond outside I spotted this gaggle of geese.

Now if I can just put a camera on one of these and teach it to like trains maybe I can overcome that pesky battery related flight time limit……

Two Perspectives of the Same Train

This morning I kept track (no pun intended) of the progress of Fort Worth & Western’s Cresson Turn as it left Hodge Yard with the intention of intercepting it for a drone shot and hopefully a ground view also. When I heard them entering track warrant territory at milepost two I left the house and set up at the FM 1187 crossing between Primrose and Mustang Creek. I called the train on the radio and asked for a heads up when they were leaving Primrose so I could launch the drone and not worry about battery life.

When the alert came I took off and flew the drone around 400 yards north up the track and set up for this three-quarters view. You can see downtown Fort Worth in the upper right corner and part of Benbrook Lake in the upper left corner. Today’s consist was FWWR 2026, 2032, 2031 and 2017 leading four BNSF units to be used on an outbound loaded frac sand train in a day or so.

I left the drone to hover in place and thirty-six seconds later I took this conventional photo as the train approached the grade crossing behind me.

After taking this photo I brought the drone back to a safe landing and headed home to process what turned out to be two acceptable views of the same train seconds apart.

Fall in Aledo

Today I drove the few miles to Aledo, Texas to have an early lunch at “Poquito Mas” (A Little More).  When I arrive the “79 Local” from Fort Worth to Abilene was beginning to switch the industrial siding for the Bryant elevator.  I can remember a few years back when the regular power was a pair of GP60’s, but now it is anything six-axle on the UP roster.  Today’s power was a pair of aging SD70M’s that were ready to head west with their short train when I came out of the restaurant after an always excellent meal with a view of the tracks.  I picked up my camera from the car and stepped into the open space next to the cafe to frame up this view between a tree and a church steeple as the train started to pull.

Too bad nothing passes for Fall colors around here, so you will have to take the visual cue that the leaves are on the ground instead of on the tree that winter is just around the corner.



KCS Railway Honors Its Employee Veterans

Kansas City Southern had asked me to keep it confidential and so I left the house at 5:00am on Veteran’s Day and drove to Shreveport to photograph their repaint of SD70ACe #4006 into a veterans commemorative scheme.

The locomotive was painted (not wrapped) by one man in three weeks and had not emerged from the paint booth since its completion so photos would not be leaked before this event.

Before noon in a light rain the unit was posed for me to take the first official photograph and then to capture it with a group of KCS employee veterans.

Within an hour the two main photos were sent out in a KCS Railway press release.  I have seen a lot of negative comments on Facebook about the paint scheme, and everyone is entitled to their own opinion. I like it and point out it was done only to honor the KCS employee veterans. Those on hand were very pleased with it, and to me that is what counts. I was proud to have been asked to take the first photos!

New Roy Hill Mining Locomotives

Living near to the new GE Plant in north Fort Worth has its advantages so for today we will stray from the Missouri trip account to show today’s catch.  This morning around 9:30 am I heard from friend Troy Minnick that two of the new ES44ACI’s under construction for Roy Hill in Australia were coupled up and looked like they would be tested today.  I met Troy on the public road at the north end of the GE test track just south of Justin around 11:00 am and we waited in the hot sun for something to happen.  The first thing that did happen was southbound Amtrak 821 just before noon.  I wanted to catch the head end just before it reached the “Justin” water tower in the background but as you can see I was a second too late.

At 12:47 pm still no Roy Hill units but now a northbound BNSF freight.

More time passed and at 1:27 pm the northbound Gainesville local came by led by B40W number 543 that itself emerged from this same GE factory not too long ago after a rebuild.

Shortly afterwards at 1:36 pm the stars of the show arrived.  ES44ACI’s number 1023 and 1024 are two of three units completed for what I understand is an order for five locomotives painted in this unique scheme to honor the Susan Komen Foundation.

The units pulled north of the crossing and stopped for the on board technicians to make changes to their sensors which gave me this opportunity.

Friend Barry Byington has been getting excellently lit early morning / late evening photos of the individual units so far but I was happy with these mid day photos of the pair.  The sun was slightly on the west side of the tracks by now back at the crossing so Troy and I took up a perch on a rock pile and were ready when the units moved back south at 2:20 pm.

We had been hoping for a southbound BNSF to come along while the units were still north of the crossing where we could get both side-by-side but naturally this did not happen until the Roy Hill units had passed by.

One more going away telephoto shot capped the photo session as I needed to get to an appointment back in Fort Worth.

For those who desire to learn more about the Roy Hill rail operation in western Australia, here is a link to their website:



A Charger to Start the Day

While I was in Kansas City last December with the BNSF Christmas Special I missed getting a photo of one of Amtrak’s Siemens Charger SC-44’s by a few minutes so on Thursday April 5th I started my day in Lee’s Summit, Missouri with an agenda.  I had done my homework on Google Earth and Amtrak’s website, so I was aware that Lee’s Summit had a very nice depot and that Missouri River Runner number 314 eastbound to St. Louis out of Kansas City would arrive at 8:51 am probably led by one of the Amtrak Midwest Chargers.  I arrived shortly after 8:00 am and checked out the area.

The UP main here is oriented north-south and old Missouri Pacific depot is on the east side of the tracks and is now the local Chamber of Commerce.  The Amtrak platform is on the west side of the tracks so with the morning sun behind me I stood at the top of the stairs next to the fence on the track side of the depot.  A small crowd of passengers was gathering and right on time Train 314 arrived with Charger SC-44 #4623 leading.

Once the train stopped I moved to the head end for these two shots over the fence.

Then I quickly moved to the other side of the SE 3rd Street crossing for this sequence of the train leaving town with a good view of the local scenery.  I even had a nice clock to work into the photos.

The train had several dead-heading baggage cars on the rear that are supposed to assist in making sure the grade crossing warning systems would activate.

Happy with my success I drove east and north from Kansas City towards Bosworth and a few hours later caught this eastbound unit train with a 2 x 2 locomotive setup on the BNSF Transcon a few miles west of Carrollton, Missouri.

The train soon stopped for a welder to clear up and I made it into Carrollton before it reached the old AT&SF depot.

The east end of the depot has been modified for use by Maintenance of Way.

Carrollton is the east end of joint trackage with the Norfolk Southern west to Kansas City and next I heard the dispatcher talking to a westbound NS train that wanted to enter the Transcon coming off of their main line.  I drove down and caught it with these two photos as the result.

Driving out of Carrollton I took a grab shot of this caboose that more than likely came from the NS family although the Southern never ran here.

I took the back roads out of Carrollton heading northeast and next paused at an old steel truss bridge over the Transcon about halfway to Bosworth.  Here I caught two westbound trains in just a few minutes.

I drove past the job site east of Bosworth where I would start work at 6:00 am the next morning and then scoped out the roads between the site and Chillicothe 32 miles north which was the closest town that I and the video crew could find hotel rooms.  The video crew was about two hours behind me after landing in Kansas City and renting a car so I used the time to check out the town.  Nothing was moving on the CP main so I drove down by the old Wabash station that was now re-purposed as a BBQ restaurant.

With train order signals and operator bays on each side of the building I am assuming this was a joint operation by the Wabash and either the Burlington or the Milwaukee, all of which are long gone today.

I never would have guessed that Chillicothe was the birth place of sliced bread.

Parked a block east of the old depot was this ex-CNW GP7 that was obviously still in use by the Missouri North Central as it had a block heater plugged in and running.

If you look closely on the long hood you can still see the remains of the CNW “Route of the Streamliners” logo.

Later on the video crew and I came back to the Wabash BBQ for dinner and then went to bed early since we had to be on site 32 miles to the south at 6:00 am Friday morning to start documenting the replacement of the Grand River Bridge on the BNSF Transcon.

Five Trains on Two Subdivisions in Perry

In early April I accepted a BNSF assignment to photograph the replacement of the 108-year-old Grand River bridge on the BNSF Transcon just east of Bosworth, Missouri.  I elected to drive up from Fort Worth and in addition to my own equipment to carry the camera gear for the assigned video team so they would be more free to fly to Kansas City.  I left on April 4th and 64 miles north of Oklahoma City I made a stop in Perry where the old Frisco from Tulsa to Avard came into town from the west and then turned north to parallel the AT&SF Oklahoma City to Arkansas City main for six miles to Black Bear where the Frisco crossed the AT&SF at grade and then headed east to Tulsa.  After the merger BNSF installed a CTC crossover in Perry and upgraded the southeast quadrant connection at Black Bear to CTC to facilitate moves between the ex-AT&SF Red Rock Sub and the ex-Frisco Avard Sub which are controlled by separate dispatchers in Fort Worth.

When I arrived in Perry a southbound BNSF train on the Red Rock Sub was just leaving town after a northbound had cleared up.

I drove to the north end of town and spotted a westbound intermodal on the Avard Sub with just enough time to pull over for this view over the Red Rock Sub main line.  Note the inquisitive mule in the lower left corner.

I doubled back and parked at Ivanhoe Street where a quick check of the BNSF dispatcher display revealed two more westbounds approaching on the Avard Sub in the background.  Just as I finished the northbound train from earlier left town on the Red Rock Sub.

I relocated to the next crossing south and a few minutes later caught this westbound passing the Perry sign on the Avard Sub.  The Red Rock Sub is just out of sight on the right.

I moved back to Ivanhoe Street for the third westbound train on the Avard Sub with the Red Rock Sub in the foreground looking north.

Nothing else was close on either line so I drove on to Lee’s Summit on the southeast side of Kansas City for the night.

An Era Comes to a Close

March 31st, 2018 marked the end of an era stretching back fifteen or so years at Metro, TX near Denton.  The KCS would bring a block of loaded intermodal cars from Dallas in the morning to add to the BNSF’s northbound Alliance, TX to Willow Springs, IL “Z” train.  Then the KCS crew would wait and in the afternoon pick up a block of loaded intermodal cars from the counterpart southbound “Z” train from Willow Springs to Alliance.

I could not be there for the last outbound interchange on the morning of the 31st, but with friends Dave Steckler and Troy Minnick I was able to be there the day before on March 30th.  In this first photo the KCS local out of Wylie is on the approach to Metro.

At Metro the BNSF’s ZALTWSP has already arrived and stopped on the main while the KCS stops on the east leg of the wye where the KCS and BNSF conductors swap paperwork.

The ZALTWSP makes a cut and pulls the rest of their train ahead into the Metro siding, then KCS crew pulls their cars down close to the west end of the Metro siding.

The KCS power leaves its cars and clears up on the main at Metro.

Now the ZALTWSP backs up and couples into the KCS pickup.  Then they pull ahead again and clear up in the siding.

At this point the BNSF conductor rides the rear end back south to couple into the cars they had left on the main.

Once the BNSF train is ready to move it pulls forward into the Metro siding  and the conductor reattaches the FRED before getting a ride up to his locomotive from the KCS power waiting on the main line.

After delivering the BNSF conductor back to his locomotive at the east end of Metro, the KCS power comes back to pick up its conductor and their FRED before heading back up the east leg of the wye.  It is determined the southbound BNSF “Z” train will not arrive until early evening so the KCS crew runs back to Denton to eat and switch local customers there.

The northbound BNSF ZALTWSP is stuck in the Metro siding until Amtrak 821 out of Oklahoma City passes by on the way to Fort Worth.

With other commitments looming I could not stay until evening for what turned out to be the last southbound version of the intermodal interchange.

WP Heritage Visits the FWWR

Vista Sand on the FWWR in Cresson and Tolar originates loaded frac sand trains that are handed over to the UP and BNSF in Fort Worth.  Often the locomotives and cars and wind up making several round trips between Cresson and the end customer.  In the second half of March The Union Pacific’s Western Pacific heritage unit ended up in the equipment pool between Cresson and Monahans, Texas on the UP out west.  On Sunday March 18th the UP 1983 was set up to lead a loaded sand train from Cresson to Fort Worth.  I went down there at 1:00 pm and found the FWWR crew putting the train together in a 2 x 2 power configuration with around 100 loads in the new sidings east of Cresson.

The UP 1983 had not been washed in a while but was still interesting enough to hang around in the hopes of getting a few pictures of the train stretched out on the way down grade to Mustang Creek.  Putting the train together was going to take a while so when I heard the 403 Job arriving in Cresson from Dublin I headed to the west side of town to catch them coming in with five units and one car at 1:30 pm.

Third in the consist was the NREX 4321, a National Railway Equipment “SD40-4” that FWWR is testing.  More information can be found in an official You Tube video at this link.

The 403 Job had a fair-sized train to build in the yard, but not before the 503 Job departed for Cleburne.  I hastily relocated to the southeast side of Cresson to catch the two units as they left town at 1:42 pm with cars for Cleburne customers.

I drove back over to where the sand load was nearly assembled and got the not so great to me news the train would be waiting here for the Cresson Turn (FWCR) that was just then leaving Hodge.  At least the sun was coming out now even though it was behind the lead unit.

At least I had thought to bring reading material with me and I caught up on my magazines until the shot I was set up for with both trains came together at 4:55 pm.

I am an avowed opponent of graffiti on freight cars but even I have to admit the Rug Rats depiction on this hopper on the Cresson Turn is pretty good.

The conductor on the sand train needed to walk the train for an air test which was going to take another hour.  Now that it was after 5:00 pm I needed to head home for dinner and with sunset approaching the shots of the train heading down to Mustang Creek were not going to work anyway.  I took one more photo of UP 1983 with a large thunderstorm down around Hillsboro in the background.

I may be primarily a train photographer but I cannot ignore a good landscape when I see it on the way home.

A little more than a week later on the afternoon of Monday March 26th I happened to catch this unchanged train set coming back empty eastbound on the UP at Iona on the Baird Sub near the house.

I wonder which heritage unit will turn up in Cresson next?