Older Visitors From The North

Thursday August 13th dawned clear and relatively cool as I prepared for a purely railfan adventure. A loaded grain train from Iowa to the Mexican border crossing at Eagle Pass was coming down the BNSF Red Rock Sub south out of Oklahoma City. What made this train unique for us “foamers” was the Canadian National power that was far from their newest. The lead unit was ex-C&NW C40-8 now CN 2101 with C40-8 CN 2434 second and ex-BC Rail C44-9W now CN 4654; all three far from CN’s newest units constructed recently just down the road at the Wabtec/GE factory.

Studying the running times and the sun angle calculator for early afternoon, I determined the best location was at the south end of Metro siding northwest of Denton where even though the sun would be a bit high there would be 3/4 light on the locomotives. This turned out to be a good prediction as the train rolled by at 2:11pm.

I should mention that as train time approached I was joined here by Troy Minnick in the foreground, Edward Miller with his back to the camera and someone who looked a lot like Jimmy Barlow standing in the bed of his pickup.

I started south on FM 156 in the train’s wake with no clear goals in mind, but managed to get ahead of it at Ponder and pulled over just north of Justin for these two grab shots of the engineer’s side of the older power.

By the time I made it through the traffic lights in Justin and caught up to the train again, the locomotives had already passed over FM 156 and out of sight to the west. The crew had been told to take the train to CP Beth in Alliance Yard and to tie it down there. Not thinking I had even a small chance of catching the head end one more time, I turned west on US 114 and proceeded to the overpass over the north end of the yard.

I was surprised to see the train had slowed down considerably, and quickly joined Travis Berryman and Steve Grabman on the overpass for this final sequence of photos.

Ironically Steve Grabman had just gotten off duty from dispatching this train from Gainesville to Alliance! We were all hoping the train would be quickly recrewed thereby allowing for more photos at points south of the yard. In retrospect I am glad I decided to make the effort to catch the train north of the yard as it ended up not leaving for Temple until after dark. By that time I was home in my recliner.

Fort Worth Skyline

Wednesday morning August 12th found me downtown performing aerial photography for a mass transit customer, and at one point I noticed a southbound BNSF autorack train starting to pull south towards the Tower 55 interlocking. I framed it up with the Fort Worth skyline for this cityscape view.

This side note properly recorded it was time to get back to my primary focus for the day.

Drone Check

On Tuesday August 11th I decided to take the drone out for a few test flights as I had a photo shoot scheduled for the next day. With the current Covid situation it had been a while since I had last used the drone so I wanted to make sure everything was working properly after running updates.

I have a friend who lives next to the nearby UP Baird Sub west of Fort Worth, so I have permission to hang out and launch from private property. My first catch mid morning was an eastbound intermodal with the UP 8171 leading three other units at the new west end of Iona siding with the elevator at Aledo in the distance.

Over the radio I heard this train was going on into Fort Worth where the hot ZAILC “Laser” intermodal from Atlanta to Los Angeles was waiting to head west. Another eastbound would hold up here at Iona to meet the “Z” train. Wanting to keep my flights short in the increasing heat, I waited until the next eastbound intermodal activated the defect detector in Aledo before launching and getting into position for this view of the UP 8123 East.

The eastbound was holding the main for the meet where I had thought it would take the siding for the higher-priority “Z” train, but it soon became evident this was a VERY long train as it stretched back out of sight.

Before long two DPU’s rumbled by about two-thirds of the way back in the train.

The eastbound finally stopped before clearing the west end of the 12,675 foot siding, marking this train at somewhere just over 13,000 feet.

I landed the drone and swapped batteries while I waited for the “Z” train to show up. After about ten minutes I heard the two crews conversing on the radio. I launched again just as the ZAILC was in the clear and the eastbound started moving again.

The ZAILC led by Norfolk Southern 8153 had to pause for a few seconds before the switch lined and the train received a green signal out of the siding to continue its journey. This gave me time to reposition the drone beyond the west end of the siding for one more photo.

Now the outside temperature was over 100 degrees so I decided it was time to call this mission a success and head for home.

Four ACe’s

A brief trip to Joshua on the BNSF Fort Worth Sub this morning at first reaped this photo of a northbound empty grain train with four units up front at the north siding switch.

On the radio I heard this train going on up to Crowley to meet a southbound loaded coal train with an SD70Ace leading. I camped out here at the north switch and before long recorded the BNSF 9026 and 8789 SD70ACe’s heading down the main line.

One hundred twenty or so hoppers later, I discovered BNSF 8484 and 8565 SD70ACe’s bringing up the rear. It is more the norm to see a mix of Progress Rail and WABCO/GE power on these trains, so I was quite pleased with this catch.

Radio chatter indicated the loaded coal would meet a northbound empty rock train at the north end of Cleburne. As the climbing sun was now perpendicular to the tracks, I drove a few blocks south to this spot where I had more open space to take this broadside view of the northbound.

Four aces is a pretty good poker hand and I will more than settle for catching four ACe’s together on this brief outing.

Wednesday Morning in Joshua

When I first looked outside on the morning of Wednesday August 5th, I could see clouds to the north but the skies were sunny elsewhere. I felt like getting out for a few hours, and listening to the railroad radio it sounded like the BNSF Fort Worth Sub south of Tower 55 would be busy. It took me about 25 minutes to drive to Joshua just north of Cleburne. The clouds had followed along and blocked any chance of full sun, but I decided to not let that deter me.

I parked at one of my favorite spots and within a minute of turning off the engine, I heard the distinctive sound of an older K5LA horn approaching. This meant probably something other than a BNSF locomotive and sure enough a minute later a Temple to Tulsa manifest train came by at 9:42am northbound with two older Norfolk Southern Dash 9-44CW’s up front.

Eleven minutes later at 9:53am the quiet here was once again broken by BNSF ES44AC number 5798 leading the Fort Worth to Cleburne local back northbound.

A short time passed and a third northbound was approaching, but this time it took the siding and stopped in the clear of all crossings. With a train now here at Joshua and the two that had already passed in the sidings at Crowley and Birds, it seemed clear from the radio that the next train would be a southbound. Since this spot was in the middle of the siding, I did not want to be cut off from photographing one train by the other.

I moved north of the siding to the area behind the Joshua athletic complex where at 10:54am I captured this southbound corn syrup train with two units up front and one DPU with a bit of sun on its flank.

I heard there was another southbound waiting for clearance at Tower 55 and that all the northbounds would move up one siding. Sure enough at 11:07 what turned out to be an empty rock train heading back to Oklahoma rolled by northbound with an opposite arrangement of one ES44AC up front and two DPU’s pushing on the way to the siding at Crowley.

The radio indicated another northbound had moved up to the Joshua siding south of me and that a southbound vehicle train still waiting at Tower 55 would be the next train here. Luckily I brought reading material as the train with a Norfolk Southern ES44DC / ES44AC combo did not make an appearance until 12:26pm.

Shortly after the passage of the vehicle train, the northbound in the Joshua siding started to move and ES44C4 number 7980 rolled by at 12:38pm.

I saw a matched set of five new and clean BNSF hopper cars approaching and could not resist the photo.

Listening to the radio it seemed like nothing else would be coming soon, so I decided to call it quits after six trains worth of no-contact railfanning and head home for a solitary lunch.

Another “One and Done”

Monday August 3rd I learned from a friend that a southbound loaded coal train approaching Fort Worth had the UP’s Southern Pacific heritage locomotive number 1996 leading. I had a few errands to run anyway so I decided to catch it first. For the best lighting angles around midday I decided to catch it in Echo Lake Park in south Fort Worth shortly after the train started down the Midlothian Sub.

Echo Lake was built by the International & Great Northern back in 1919; I am guessing as a water supply for steam locomotives? Now a city park, it is not in the best part of town but reasonably safe in daylight. I ended up waiting about an hour under a shade tree for this photo. I could have taken the view from across the lake but decided I wanted something closer.

I counted 135 loads which makes this train somewhere around 19,000 tons with power. As the cars streamed by I moved into the old baseball diamond for this view of the DPU’s from what used to be the pitcher’s mound.

Years ago I photographed a southbound train here with a little League game going on in the foreground, but it looks like these days anyone with a bat and ball can play.

One and Done on Friday

On Friday July 31st I learned an eastbound UP merchandise train on the nearby Baird Sub had the 1989 Rio Grande heritage engine leading. As it was now late afternoon as the train approached, it would be coming out of the sun at most locations in this immediate area. I decided to go to the parking lot behind the Aledo City hall as the angle of the track there would allow for a fair broadside photo. At 5:49pm this was the result of my planning.

As the title implies it was one and done for the day.

Two Days Around Fort Worth – Part Two

Monday morning JUly 27th dawned with more activity on the Fort Worth & Western than we had encountered the day before so Mark St. Aubin and I headed to Cresson. First up we caught a switch job leaving for Cleburne with two SD40-2’s.

We chased the train east and photographed it several times including this photo just east of Godley.

We made one more exposure as the train arrived in the yard west of Cleburne and then headed back to Cresson for the turn out of Fort Worth.

We got back to Cresson just a few minutes ahead of the train out of Fort Worth and took this back lit view.

We waited while the four SD40-2’s completed their set out and came back east to make their pickup in this better lit view.

As the train was going to be a while making its pickup before starting back to Fort Worth we decided to take one more view here and then grab something to eat before catching it on the wooden trestle in Forest Park in Fort Worth.

Mark and I brought food from Sonic to the park and waited in the shade as we were joined by David Steckler before the arrival of the train.

Satisfied with this view Mark and I decided to try to catch the train again at Decatur Avenue as it approached Hodge Yard after passing Tower 60. While we waited we were entertained by TEXRail trains first westbound and then eastbound.

Our simple plan became more complicated when we heard on the radio that after clearing Tower 60, the train would be shoving a cut of cars through the interchange track south into Peach Yard. We drove back down to Tower 60 and saw their moved was blocked by a UP train waiting to head north up the Duncan Sub.

Not liking the angles here we decided to return to our spot at Decatur Avenue, but the train beat us there and we had to go east to the next grade crossing at Schwartz Avenue. We aimed our cameras back west where the train had stopped prior to making its reverse move to Peach Yard. Clouds were our friends this time as otherwise we would have been looking into the sun.

After I took this shot I found myself hoping for a TEXRail train on their track in the foreground. Seconds later the Schwartz Avenue crossing immediately behind us activated and I wheeled around for this photo at the double-gated quiet zone.

Quickly turning back to the west my desire came true.

Mark and I decided street traffic would be a mess back at Tower 60 as the train started to move in reverse so we decided to close his two day visit on this note. His timing was good as it was raining here Tuesday morning.

Two Days Around Fort Worth – Part One

On Sunday July 26th friend Mark St. Aubin was in town for two days and I promised to help him find some trains to photograph. Fort Worth & Western was quiet, so we went over to Arizona Street on the southeast side of Tower 55 to catch Amtrak 21 and 22 along with anything else that might be running. At 2:07pm Train 22 swept past us on the way to meet Train 21 at the station.

Seven minutes Later Train 21 came by on its way to San Antonio.

I surely hope Amtrak management fails to cut these trains back to three times a week. Once Trains 22 and 21 had cleared and UP ran several trains east and west, a southbound BNSF manifest was next up to cross Tower 55.

We decided to head north after this train but did not get far before the radio alerted us to a coal load leaving Saginaw. As it was Sunday and the parking lot would probably be empty we stopped off at Tindal Square.

A few minutes later the loaded coal roared by with a green signal to pass Tower 55.

The train had two up front and three DPU’s, the view of which was blocked by a tree.

We arrived at Saginaw just a minute late to get a photo of the power switching the elevator along the Wichita Falls Sub and I settled for this telephoto view of Omnitrax ex-DM&IR SD9e number 1751.

Continuing north at the south end of Alliance Yard we caught this transfer job heading down to North Yard with two SD75M’s and a GP39E.

Driving by the Wabco/GE locomotive factory we pulled over for this view of a rebuilt Norfolk Southern unit, now designated as an AC44C6M.

With nothing else close by we called it a day here and decided to make an earlier start on Monday morning.

Dedicated Railfan

On the morning of Saturday July 25th I stopped by the railfan hang out at the old SP Kosse depot in Saginaw and met up with Ethan Whetstone. A relative of Ethan’s had brought him down from Norman, OK to video trains.

I visited with Ethan and passed along a few items for his upcoming 14th birthday. Before long Amtrak 821 passed by on the last leg of its trip down from Oklahoma City.

Ethan and the Amtrak engineer exchanged waves as P42 #53 banged over the diamonds.

Ethan asked about other nearby locations so I led his party of two down to the linear park on the south side of the Trinity River and the four railroad bridges. The city needs to mow the grass here but we did manage to catch two freights and a TEXRail train here. I photographed this northbound BNSF train with two locomotives up front and one DPU.

I needed to head back home, so I left Ethan and his relative here. Following the UP west out of Davidson Yard I overtook a westbound “Z” train, and thanks to the westbound grade I managed to beat the train to the location of what used to be the west end of Iona siding.

The intermodal train was a long one and I expected to see a DPU on the rear, but that was not the case.