Author Archives: Ken

Four Trains and a Funeral

On the afternoon of Wednesday February 7th I headed towards Mansfield to attend the funeral of the niece of a long-time friend.  Thanks to other friends I was aware that Amtrak trains 21 and 22 were detouring over the UP between Temple and Fort Worth for the first of three days while the BNSF performed intensive track maintenance.  I determined I had more than adequate time to pause in Burleson and catch Amtrak 22 northbound before heading on to the funeral home.  I looked around and then chose this location just north of Renfro Street looking south as being readily identifiable as a town off the train’s regular route.  Since the train would be effectively coming out of the sun I moved off to a wider angle and included the mural with the word “Burleson” plainly visible.  See what you think of the results in this photo that is as much if not more about the location than the train.

This spot also fit my philosophy perfectly for a going away shot.  Can you spot the tell tale?

Train 21 was waiting in the siding at Wrenn in south Fort Worth but I needed to head on to the funeral home.  It was a very nice service and as the young lady was only 28 years old at the time of her passing the minister made a good point when he said “the family will be angry about the time lost but should also be thankful for the time they had.”  After the service and visiting time I got back in my vehicle preparing to head for home.  Immediately the radio came alive with a detector transmission on the nearby UP Midlothian Sub just a few miles to the north of my location.  I changed course and drove to just west of downtown Mansfield and a few minutes later photographed the UP 6670 South crossing Walnut Creek.

Now definitely on the way home westbound on FM 1187 as I approached Crowley I heard a conversation between two BNSF trains about to meet there.  I detoured into town and could see the work window responsible for the Amtrak detours was over for today due to the large number of maintenance of way vehicles tied down in the long house track.  I set up down by the south end of the siding and quickly caught this northbound bare table train pull into the siding.

I could tell from the horn the southbound train was led by an SD70Ace and sure enough the BNSF 8444 (diesel, not UP Steam!) was leading a loaded coal train on the main.

For one final shot for the day I moved to a better spot for this view of the DPU’s going away from me with another SD70ACe trailing.

So ended a day of remembrance, reflection and being thankful for the time you have. 



504 Job to Cleburne

In this episode the FWWR 504 Job went on duty at Cresson at noon on February 5th.  I arrived in town around 12:45 and immediately photographed this set of UP power for one of the upcoming outbound frac trains from Vista Sand.

The 504’s power consisting of a GP50 and two GP38-2’s was parked to the left of three SD40-2’s west of the yard office.

I spoke to the engineer and conductor to let them know I would be photographing them today.  The engineer commented they would have “five big boxcars” going to Cleburne this day. A few minutes later they coupled up to the five BNSF units and started pulling east to pick up 22 cars to fill out the train.

With the 504’s power out of the way I took a better photo of the three SD40-2’s.

I pulled ahead to the Lancaster Street crossing and waited as they finished making up their train before leaving town.

Getting ahead of them on paralleling Highway 171 I pulled over at the long abandoned and vandalized approach signal to CTC Cresson left over from Santa Fe days for westbounds out of Cleburne.

The next good spot was about a mile further east at County Road 1001.

I drove on ahead to Godley but with the track speed up to 40 mph on the Cleburne Sub these days the train quickly caught up with me and I chose this view with the Lions Club sign.

At milepost 6.3 I set up for this view with the Singing Winds Ranch sign.

A little over a mile further east the train is seen coming around the sweeping curve at the west end of Windmill Yard.

I took what would be my last photo of the day as the train pulled down to the east end of the yard.

I had a few more photo locations in mind as the 504 Job worked its way further east to the current “end of track” but in the end switching here at Windmill took up the rest of the afternoon and I needed to get back home.  The five units have since been shoved into a fenced compound where a FWWR customer will store them for later rebuilding at the GE Plant in Fort Worth so they may continue to serve the BNSF. 

Saturday’s FWCR

I had some material to drop off at FWWR Hodge Yard on Saturday February 3rd and I had been alerted earlier there were four BNSF B40-8W’s and one Dash 9-44CW from the GE Plant that were going to Cresson on Sunday’s FWCR and then on to Cleburne for storage in a secure location.  I was planning on getting a close look at the old locomotives but as I arrived at Hodge I heard on the radio that FWCR had been moved up from Sunday to right now and was about to leave the yard.  I quickly relocated to the south side of Tower 60 and monitored FWCR’s conversation with the BNSF Fort Worth Sub dispatcher that they would be held for one BNSF and one UP train before proceeding.  Just after 3:00pm the BNSF 4458 South banged across their FWWR diamond leading a merchandise train.

Twenty-five minutes passed and the UP 7296 leading an ethanol train eased across their Choctaw Main One diamond almost paralleling the FWWR at this point.

Two trains had passed but in the following minutes the BNSF dispatcher did not line up for the FWCR.  A few minutes later the UP 8202 South, a coal load on the Duncan Sub, crossed in front of the FWCR as the sun continued to emerge.

After the coal train’s DPU’s cleared the diamond the FWCR called the dispatcher again and asked how many more.  The answer was “watch for your signal” and within a minute they were on the move towards Cresson.

I drove on ahead to the area of Mustang Creek which I could see from a distance was free of clouds.  I waited around thirty minutes at the side of Winscott Plover Road and was rewarded with this well-lit view of the FWWR 2026, 2015, and 2026 under power with the BNSF 511, 536, 502, 500, 674 and seventy or more cars in tow.

The train quickly slowed to around twenty mph on the grade and I stopped again about a mile further west for another good side view.

I paused at the grade crossing just west of here for another shot of the whole train and then each of the BNSF units in tow.

Up by the storage yard on the east side of Cresson where another siding is being added I paused for a view on the other side of the train.

The low sun was in the process of disappearing behind a cloud on the western horizon so I settled for one more photo at the Henson Lumber crossing.

Since the train would have my easy exit from Cresson towards home via Highway 377 blocked until after its passage I settled in to watch the freight cars pass.  It turned out to be worthwhile as I spotted one of the handful of FWWR owned cars.

Now that this weekend’s FWCR had run a day earlier than normal I would be back on Sunday to follow the 504 Cresson Yard job taking the units on to Cleburne for storage.


More Sand and a Surprise

On Monday January 29th I had my camera with me while running a few errands around Fort Worth.  When I was done I headed home along Vickery Avenue paralleling UP Davidson Yard.  At the west end of the yard I could see a green signal for a westbound train and glancing in the rear view mirror I could see a triangle of headlights in the distance.  I still needed to make a stop in Benbrook so I decided to catch the train at the house track so I could get a good open side view of the power.  A few minutes later the head end came into view with a faded AC4400CW leading yet another frac sand train.

Most of these UP frac sand trains have been running in a 3 x 2 configuration with the DPU’s shoving on the rear, but now something a bit different as there were three DPU’s and they were cut in about twenty cars from the rear of the train.

I was about to get back into the SUV but then noticed a green car near the end that stood out from the endless grey procession.  Once I saw what it was I quickly set aside my surprise and captured this image.

It may be tagged and streaked with rust but it still is wonderful to see a favorite old friend from the past!

A Fresh Repaint to End the Day

On Saturday January 27th my wife needed to work at her office for a few hours in the morning.  I drove her in and after dropping her off I went down to Arizona Street southeast of Tower 55 to see what was running.  I arrived just in time to see a southbound BNSF unit train accelerating away from Tower 55 with a line full of undisturbed pigeons overhead.

Behind me a northbound UP train was heading towards Tower 55.

As soon as these two trains had cleared the northbound BNSF in the distance moved on up.

The trailing unit BNSF 728 was an old GE C44-9W which was in one of the last group of units delivered new in warbonnet paint but lettered for BNSF.

Looking back north I spotted another southbound BNSF train approaching but this time I would be blocked by the northbound train.

Now there was a 45 minute gap with east and westbound trains running in the distance before the next southbound train; a UP coming around the wye from Davidson Yard as the clouds moved away.

Six axle standard cab locomotives are becoming a minority on the Norfolk Southern so I made sure to get this photo of the second unit, a GE Dash 9-40C.

I went back and picked up my wife for lunch before we returned back home.  She had brought more work home so I decided to visit the UP in nearby Aledo for a few hours and catch up on my train magazines.  I parked at the old Iona depot behind the city office where I could observe the approach-lit signal and only a few minutes passed before it lit up red to indicate a westbound was leaving Iona.  I walked up the embankment and soon captured the UP 8323 West leading a loaded frac sand train.

I moved to the west side of the old depot for an unobstructed view of the two DPU’s on the rear including one increasingly rare ex-SP unit.

Listening to the radio I heard the westbound would meet two eastbounds at Earls and Weatherford respectively.  I continued with my reading until the first eastbound showed up with a rather mundane lashup of a GE C44-9W and a GE ES44AC in fading paint.

I thought about going home and not waiting for the second eastbound which I heard was led by GE AC4400CW  number 7106 and assumed would also be faded and dirty.  I decided to wait the extra 30 minutes and to my surprise the time was well worth it when this freshly overhauled and painted unit popped out from behind the trees.

I quickly zoomed in for a closer look before it disappeared behind the depot to the right.

Too bad the sun was slightly behind so the nose was not lit up too but I have no complaints!  With this high point to end the day I called it quits.

A Pleasant Sunny Day

While we have had a few sunny days since the first of the year most of them have been too cold to want to get out to photograph except for business.  Yesterday Thursday January 25th the sun was out and the temperature quickly rose into the 60’s.  Heading north I picked up David Steckler and as we approached the south end of BNSF Alliance Yard we spotted a moving northbound merchandise train and a southbound grain train tied down in the new bypass.  We quickly pulled over for this view of the parked southbound train.

A moment later I took this view of the “meet”.

We added Troy Minnick in Justin and just missed a southbound grain train.  Nothing else was close so we drove up to South Metro and arrived after the northbound BNSF Alliance to Willow Springs “Z” Train had cut away from their train and the KCS connection was pulling ahead to add their cut of cars to the train.

I wished I had been recording sound as GP40 #2849 is equipped with a now rare Leslie S5T horn.  although not visible from this angle it really sounded great!

We observed the interchange for a few more minutes and then headed on to the first grade crossing east of Metro at Rector Road.  We at first set up to photograph the northbound “Z” train thinking it would move on up to Valley View to meet southbound Amtrak 821, but we quickly reversed direction when we realized Amtrak was coming on down to meet the intermodal train at Metro by using the siding just vacated by the KCS connection.

After a trip to Amtrak’s Beech Grove shop for electrical repairs cab-baggage car 90222 is back in service.

A few minutes later the northbound “Z” train accelerated past us on the way to Oklahoma City for its next crew change.

Amtrak 821 met the BNSF 5073 north at Ponder that Dave and I had already photographed earlier, and we stopped back by south Metro for this view shortly thereafter as the train once again headed into the siding just to the right.

A southbound grain train had been in the siding at Valley View, and once it met the northbound “Z” train it met this train here at Metro.  We were waiting at the Ganzer road crossing just west of the South Wye switch.

The white plume overhead is actually the smoke trail from a grass fire burning south of Denton.  After a few minutes had passed the single DPU came by shoving hard.

Now it was time for lunch, and after dropping Troy back off at his vehicle we met again at Rudy’s BBQ at Western Center and I35 for food and conversation before heading home after a productive and comfortable morning!

Busy Times at the “Hole-in-the-Wall”

This last Saturday December 16th I was out covering the work going on at the “Hole-in-the-Wall” in Fort Worth where the single track Trinity Railway Express / Union Pacific line passes under the four main tracks just north of Tower 55.  In order to make room for a second track below that will carry the TEXRail light rail to DFW Airport, the bridge pillars that support the four main tracks above and in turn the pillars that support Spur 280 on top have to be rearranged.  The four main tracks overhead from east to west are Choctaw Sub Main Two; North Yard Siding; Choctaw Sub Main One; and the “Gauntlet”.

I took a complete series of photos for the TEXRail documentation project and also took these to share from vantage points that are difficult for others to be in.  In order for the pillars to be reconstructed – all without interrupting train and highway traffic – the Choctaw Sub Main One and the Gauntlet tracks have been moved to a new curved bridge just west of their original location so the old bridge may be removed.  Here is a view taken Saturday while the cut-over is in progress from underneath Spur 280 looking south towards Tower 55.

Here is a view taken just to the right of the previous photo looking down at the TRE main and the construction that has taken place so far to add a second track on the close side.  The loaded coal train in the background is on Choctaw Main Two. Notice that the TRE main track rests on a concrete slab as the “hole” is also a drainage channel during heavy rains.

Next I moved to the middle of the new bridge above the TRE main.  My radio was set to Channel 038 to communicate with the UP “Form C” foreman keeping me informed about his clearance of trains through the work site where I was standing.  The TRE had a foreman performing the same function below on channel 062 and I communicated with him via hand signals that he had a westbound train approaching just after he blew his warning horn.  Just before the TRE showed up a southbound BNSF train came through the scene on its way south to Tower 55.

A minute later the TRE passed below on its way to the ITC and finally the T&P station.

Approximately 30 minutes later the TRE is seen again eastbound towards Dallas.

Now things came together for me as a northbound UP train came down the hill from Tower 55 on its way to Peach Yard and beyond.

On the way back to the car I caught this northbound UP train moving up the North Yard Siding leaving Tower 55 with an empty grain train. 

On the way home I drove through Davidson Yard and happened to catch this SD70M number 3994 that had been tagged in California as an SP unit and will now be repainted by UP as a result.  The nose door is open making the tagged logo applied to the nose harder to view but the “S” was upside down and backwards on purpose or just in haste?


Also present was this MP15DC in an attractive paint scheme for Harbor Rail Services number 3005.  I read later on Facebook that this unit is on its way to Pittsburg, TX.

In the next few days I will add multiple entries from my time earlier this month on board the BNSF’s Holiday Special from Fort Worth to Kansas City!

To The Rescue!

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.

Here are a few of my photos from Ardmore in the 1970’s as examples.  First is a northbound train with two U25B’s and a GP30 about to do some switching.  

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!

Working in Oklahoma City

When I awoke in my room on the Trinchera Pass Friday morning December 1st we were parked in BNSF’s Flynn Yard just south of Oklahoma City.  I closed the blinds, cleaned up and got dressed to have breakfast in the crew dining car Fred Harvey at 8:30 am.  After a great buffet breakfast we had a staff meeting to plan for the afternoon event at the old AT&SF passenger station downtown where we would once again host a 90-minute train ride for invited military families.

Before I go further here is the front of the brochure handed out to all guests as they boarded for each event.

On the back is a list of our complete train consist with a brief history of each car.  To round out the list our power for the entire trip consisted of ES44C4 #6586 coupled to the Mount Ranier on the “crew” end of the train consisting of the Mount Ranier through the Red River; and ES44AC #6616 coupled to the Mt. San Antonio on the “guest” end of the train consisting of all the remaining cars up to the Fox River.

After the staff meeting I returned to my room to organize my equipment and personal items.  Along the way I stopped in a vestibule for this photo of GP38-2 #2329 and GP40X #3036  parked on the east side of our train.

When I said in the previous entry that I had gone home to quickly pack for the trip, by “pack” I meant rapidly throw everything I might need into a suitcase, Pelican camera case and a shoulder bag anticipating an airline flight back home from Kansas City at the end of this trip.  It took a while to get everything organized, and while I worked a switch job drilled the yard tracks on the west side outside my window.



The engineer looked curious as to what was going on next door.


Lunch was at 1:00 pm in the Fred Harvey and then it was back to the room once again for a nap since the previous day was a long one.  At 2:30 pm a crew arrived to move our train to the station and by 2:55 pm we were departing Flynn Yard as seen from the dome level of the Bay View.

To show just how far I go back at this location here is an official AT&SF photo I took from this same yard tower back in 1981 not long after the facility was opened for business.

After crossing over I240 we curved to the west and I captured this view looking forward from the other side of the dome.

At Burnett we had a rolling meet with a southbound intermodal train.

Just north of CP River a southbound grain train was tied down on the other main track.

Here we are crossing the Oklahoma River.

Back in the 1980’s while in the company of a local official I climbed a signal mast with permission for this view of a Santa Fe F45 southbound with the skyline in the background.

More than 35 years later our train approached an upgraded downtown.

Back in the 1980’s time machine, here is Amtrak Train 15 the Lone Star led by two SDP40F’s making a station stop.

We backed into the Amtrak station spur from the north end since it is no longer a through track.  I walked down to the south end of the train to capture this view of the 6616 with the depot.

Walking back to the boarding area I recorded this view of a southbound ethanol train passing the west side of the Bricktown entertainment district.

After boarding our roughly 350 passengers we left the station heading north towards Guthrie.  Mr. and Mrs. Claus along with the lead elf and I worked our way through the train and I started to settle into the routine after last night’s session.  In the third car we came across a face very familiar to me.  On the right in the photo below is old railfan/model railroader friend Greg Hall.  On the left side of Santa Claus is Eric Dillbeck, President of the Oklahoma Railway Museum.

One way to answer the question of how long Greg and I have known each other is to just look at the next photo.  Greg in his teens is on the left below……

Back to business!  Here is our entourage as we enter the lounge car Mountain View near the end of our quest to make it through all the cars before we arrive back at the depot.

Later on after we finished up the family photos with Santa outside the train we honored our engineer for the evening David Townsend who will be retiring in January 2018.  Can you guess what railroad David worked for before the BNSF merger? 

This night I had the option of going back to my room to do the nightly routine of process then upload. I had all this done by the time the train was once again approaching Guthrie, this time on our overnight ferry move to Springfield, Missouri.  Check back for Part III in the next day or so!

Waking up in Missouri

I finished the nightly photo upload to BNSF before we reached Guthrie on the first leg of our overnight jaunt to Springfield, Missouri.  There was a full moon out again and after a shower I propped myself up in the queen size bed under an extra blanket to watch the scenery flash by my now darkened windows.  Using Google maps on my iPhone I could easily see where were at any given moment.

This is a part of the old ATSF Railroad that once again I am very familiar with.  Since photos out the window at passenger train speed of 55 mph were not an option, here are a few memories of this line from the 1980’s.  First up is a southbound ATSF #325 freight with four Geeps led by chop-nose #2110 around Waterloo, Oklahoma climbing the long southbound grade between Seward and Edmond in August of 1984.

In May of 1980 the Santa Fe ran a director’s special from Topeka to Houston, and here we see the train northbound on the return trip heading downgrade towards Seward with three FP45’s up front.  Some of the cars on the train in the photo are probably also on the train I am riding on past here thirty-seven years later.

In about an hour we reached Black Bear north of Perry where at 35 mph we traversed the connector onto the Avard Sub eastbound towards Tulsa.  Here is a southbound ATSF train at Black Bear back in 1981 when the Avard Sub was a Burlington Northern ex-Frisco operation.  What is now a CTC-controlled welded rail connector between the two back in 1981 was a lightly-used interchange track with hand-throw switches.  If I remember correctly the Pawnee Local used this connector and trackage rights to reach its namesake town.

Now that we were on the Avard Sub our passenger train met the requirements for a maximum speed of 70 mph and we cruised smoothly east through the night.  Here are two more photos from my files back in the 1980’s on the Avard Sub.  In the first view in 1986 we see an eastbound train led by six SD40-2’s crossing an arm of Keystone Lake just west of Mannford, Oklahoma.

Five years earlier in 1981 east of Mannford, Oklahoma near Keystone State Park an intermodal train is climbing the grade westbound out of Tulsa paralleling the Arkansas River.  This shot is difficult to duplicate today due to tree growth.

I woke up once as were passing through Tulsa after we made our crew change and then slept until just before sunrise when we eased to a stop on the outskirts of Springfield, Missouri.  I looked out the window and saw we had stopped on the Cherokee Sub at the junction with the Fort Scott Sub on the west side of town.  Three DPU’s on a loaded coal train coming off the Fort Scott Sub from Kansas City were easing into the yard to the right of us in this photo.

Here is the view from my window looking back towards the rear of our train.

Soon we pulled out onto the Fort Scott Sub and then reversed direction to the yard where we pulled into our designated track.  As we arrived a hot intermodal train from Memphis to Los Angeles left town to head down the Cherokee Sub we had just vacated.

After breakfast the sun came out and I checked with the train manager that we would not be moving from this spot anytime soon.  I put on my PPE and hit the ground to walk a bit and capture this view of the engine terminal.

Also nearby were three locomotives whose time on the BNSF is growing short judged by their physical condition.  First up was ex-Frisco SW1500 #315 which has now been reclassified with Great Northern reporting marks.

Next in line was ex-Frisco GP15-1 #103 now probably ending its career on the BNSF as #1478.

Last up was ex-Frisco SW7 #302 which ended its career as the Burlington Northern 77.

To reference how old I am getting to be, I checked my files and came up with this “not so great but can never shoot it again” slide I took of Frisco #302 in Tulsa, Oklahoma on October 5th back in 1974.

Later in the afternoon it was time for boarding and these two views give you an idea of the crowd of invited military guests.

Here are two on board photos during the ride to give you  a feeling for the fun atmosphere and sea of smiling faces.

Later that evening the moon is up, the last guests have departed, and shortly we will be leaving for Kansas City.

  Watch for Part IV!