Inspection Train in the Rain

This dreary February 12th morning dawned both cold and rainy, but there was a special Union Pacific inspection train heading west on the Baird Sub so I decided to catch it in Aledo before lunch. While the special was changing crews the Baird Sub dispatcher ran a westbound ZMNLA (Marion, AR to Los Angeles) ahead of it out of Fort Worth.

Around thirty minutes later just before 11:00 am the UP inspection train led by SD70ACe #1111 pulling nine cars rolled through Aledo.

Since the train was just coming out of a 25 mph slow order I had time to get multiple photos.

The two small flat antennas behind the cab facing the rear are part of a wireless video system to send the picture from a front facing camera in the cab back to a TV monitor in the theater car Idaho bringing up the rear. You can see the pair of receiving antennas in the last photo.

The train was traveling at a pretty good clip when the Idaho came by.

If the weather had been better I would have considered chasing the train further west. As it was, I next went to the Aledo Cafe for a good lunch with a view of the tracks as two more westbound intermodals rolled by in the rain.

A Good Winter Day

I have neglected this blog and let nearly six months slip by without an entry. It was a busy fall with some of my work that I can share here and unfortunately a great deal I cannot share as it was done for paying clients. I will try to do better in 2020 and to start here is an adventure from a few days ago.

On Monday February 4th the weather forecast for here in Texas showed a possible snow accumulation northwest of the Metroplex. Not having taken any “trains dashing through the snow” photos since February of 2019, I decided this was probably my best chance for this year without a much longer trip somewhere to the north. Looking at the forecast snowfall versus active railroad tracks I decided on the Wichita Falls area.

So as to be at the potential epicenter of the action with minimal effort, I left home Tuesday afternoon and had an uneventful drive to Wichita Falls. It was raining when I went to bed and everything outside my window was white when I got up at 6:00 am Wednesday morning. There was an average of 4 to 6 inches of snow and slush on the ground when I dug out my Explorer and started west along the BNSF Red River Valley Sub just after official and invisible sunrise.

Not the foot of snow on the ground that I was hoping for, but at least it was snowing heavily several miles west of Iowa Park when I spotted an eastbound headlight in the gloom and had just enough time to find a good open spot for this view.

When I was processing these photos in Lightroom, for fun I also turned it into a black and white image.

The radio indicated this stack train would be going on into Wichita Falls where two westbound trains would depart after its arrival. I followed it back to Iowa Park where a M of W worker was cleaning out the switch at the west end of the siding.

I waited a while and then a westbound bare table with one unit pulled up to the west end of the siding. I drove a few hundred yards west to a nice open spot and before long a westbound “Z” train blasted up the main at track speed raising a plume of snow in its wake.

I drove back to the west end of the siding and as soon as the “Z” train was far enough ahead the bare table train moved out to follow.

The radio indicated my next train would be another “Z” train that was still 40 miles east of Wichita Falls. With time to kill I explored the immediate area for interesting angles and decided to move on west to Electra for new backgrounds. While advertised as the “pump jack capital of the world” I could not find a single working example with a good location near the tracks. So instead when the next “Z” train caught up to me I utilized the abandoned elevator as my prop for these color and black and white renditions.

Not sure what was coming next I stopped at the east end of downtown for this view looking west with the old Electra railroad sign.

Earlier on the radio I had heard that a westbound manifest train might be leaving Wichita Falls behind the second “Z” train and sure enough when I turned back towards the SUV I saw a headlight in the distance. Now when I said I did not find a working pump jack with a good angle to the tracks, I left out the fact there is a dormant unit on display just to the east of the old elevator. I headed over there and composed this scene with the BNSF 3875 West and the old elevator spur in the foreground.

With no indication of more trains in either direction for a few hours, I drove back to Wichita Falls where it was again snowing heavily as I recorded these two Wichita, Tillman & Jackson units idling away in solitude.

My next stop was the Wichita Falls Railroad Museum, understandably closed and quiet this day along with schools and city offices.

My final stop in town was at the BNSF yard where local power was also stationary with their engines idling away to keep from freezing up. From the look of the accumulated snow and ice none of the units had moved since the storm arrived the night before.

As it was now early afternoon, I decided to start back towards home and look for an open restaurant along the way. Highway 287 was wet but fairly clear with plenty of traffic. On the radio I heard that a westbound intermodal was leaving Fort Worth so I decided to find something to eat in Henrietta and let it come to me. The old style Dairy Queen was open and I enjoyed a burger and fries that brought back memories of past railfan trips. On the way out of town I stopped at this stuffed and mounted ex-BN caboose. The FW&D sub lettering on the cupola also brought back pleasant memories.

Driving on towards Fort Worth while wary of the oncoming train, I pulled over at the west end of the relatively new siding called Carter between Bowie and Bellevue just as the signals lit up red. At this point the snow and sleet depth was down to about an inch or less. Fifteen minutes later this intermodal flew past me racing cars on paralleling Highway 287.

Any signs of snow on the ground ended on the other side of Bowie and this turned out to be the last photo of what I consider to be a successful day of Texas snow photography in my book.

An Evening in Hinsdale

The evening of May 6th earlier this year found me in Chicago waiting to start a photo assignment the next day. The rest of the crew was on a later flight so I decided to take an Uber from the hotel to the Hinsdale Metra Station to photograph the evening rush hour. The others would meet me there later for dinner after they landed and picked up our rental vehicle.

Hinsdale is 16.9 miles west of Union Station on the Metra BNSF line to Aurora. The track here was owned by the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy and the historically significant depot was constructed in 1899. Now enjoy 28 photos of some of the many trains I saw and photographed over a two hour period at this scenic and safe location.

If you are ever in the Hinsdale area I highly recommend spending some time here and dinner in the adjacent downtown area was great!

Bucket List Short Line

February 21st as I headed west on I40 through Arizona I unexpectedly accomplished one of my railfan bucket list items. Passing through Holbrook I looked down the tracks and spotted two green and white locomotives in the distance. While I have photographed the pristine Alco’s of the Arkansas & Missouri on multiple occasions, this was my first time to catch the more elusive Apache Railroad. Alco Century 420 number 81 (ex-Louisville & Nashville 1305) and Century 424 number 99 (ex-Canadian Pacific 4233) were finishing up switching the BNSF interchange before heading back to Snowflake 38 miles to the south.

As the crew was finishing up their air test I drove to the south side of the Little Colorado River bridge to catch them leaving town.

I had not done my homework on the Apache before this trip but I did remember the line became inaccessible a short time after leaving Holbrook. I took the highway south about two miles to the next road that branched off to the west and got lucky when I found the last prime photo spot at a grade crossing. The wind was gusting around 40 mph so I had to really brace myself for this final sequence as the train climbed the grade southbound out of Holbrook invisible in the river valley behind the train.

If I had passed through Holbrook thirty minutes later I would have missed them altogether. After this high, ninety miles further west in Flagstaff I found the weather to be radically different.

Twenty-four inches on the ground with another sixteen inches to come before the storm was over!

After Dark in Clovis

February 20th found me on the road to Arizona, and before stopping in Fort Sumner, New Mexico for the night I passed through Clovis around 9:00 pm. I was pleasantly surprised and quickly doubled back after seeing this new display.

The backstory is this 0-6-0 was built by the Baldwin Locomotive Works in 1906 as the Santa Fe 2005 and was renumbered to 9005 in 1946 and switched in the yards here at Clovis until it was donated to the city in 1954. I had photographed it before in a less pristine state, but now it has been repainted as the centerpiece in a small park with complimentary lighting.

As you can see on the right side the city has even fixed up a lit semaphore signal.

This was a rest stop worth taking!

Two Perspectives of the Same Train

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……

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.

After this I drove 30 or so miles north to Chillicothe for the night I went down to the old Wabash station, 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.