Seconds to Spare at 4:35pm

February 13th here is a cloudy and chilly day with a few drops of rain now and then.  I ran a few errands in Fort Worth this afternoon and when I pulled up at home, just as I hit the button for the garage door the previously silent railroad radio came alive.  The UP Baird Sub dispatcher called the UP 3053 East to give the train a slow order and the train reported they were approaching Aledo.  In the old days the first thing that would have come to mind would have been a SD40-2, but now that number belongs to a new EMD Tier 4 SD70AH.

I had unloaded all my camera gear this morning for cleaning and charging after working TEXRail yesterday, so I made a snap decision to catch it and raced in and grabbed by camera off the counter.  Luckily I had already put in a charged battery and memory card this morning so it was ready to go.  I jumped back in the car and headed out for Iona siding on a gamble that I would get ahead of it. I was about 1/2 mile from the turn onto Aledo-Iona Road off of FM 1187 when the head end passed the west end of the siding at around 40 mph.  

Eastbound traffic on the paralleling road was non-existent and I passed the train as it topped the grade in the middle of the siding running on the main line.  I could see the train had a green signal at the east end and I pulled to a stop at the crossing gate just as it reached the bottom of its arc.  I had already set the camera for ISO 800, 1000/second shutter priority and had only a few seconds to frame, focus and then hit the button as the train passed now doing 50 mph or better.

Now less than one hour after taking the photo here you go!

What a Difference a Day Makes

Yesterday when Dave and I were out shooting the Amtrak diversion we were in shirtsleeves and the temperature was up around 60 with sunny skies.  Now less than 24 hours later on Saturday the skies are grey and the thermometer is hovering around freezing.  I went to the gym this morning and then ran a few errands.  When I was done I spotted a green signal at the west end of Davidson Yard that I guessed was up for the ZAILC Atlanta to Los Angeles “Laser” intermodal train.  I decided to catch it at the horse farm crossing in spite of the fact I just had a coat on over my workout clothes.

While I was waiting I heard the UP Terminal Dispatcher talk to the UP 3039 South, a new Tier 4 SD70AH about changing crews.  I knew what I was about to catch would probably not be as good as the new clean unit, but hey, you can’t catch them all!  Then the terminal dispatcher called the ZAILC and told him someone had spotted a defect on a passing car and to stop in Bypass One for an inspection.  The carmen arrived quickly and determined the car would have to be set out.  This would take a while so I drove back to the yard and saw the lead unit was the old and dirty UP 6505.  Well, time to head home.

But next I heard the dispatcher talk to the UP 3039 South and ask him if they were going down the Midlothian Sub or the Fort Worth Sub.  The answer was the Fort Worth Sub and the train was told they would have to meet a northbound before leaving.  I started to think that since I had waited this long I should not go home with a blank memory card.  I hit I20 East and then I35 South to Burleson so as to be sure I was ahead of the target train.  I set up at the same spot just north of Renfro Street where I took the going away shot of Amtrak 22 on Wednesday in much nicer weather.  Less than ten minutes later at 1:46 pm I captured what turned out to be a loaded coal train later identified as a CNRRE9-07 with its nice and clean leader.  I worked in the Burleson Feed Mill sign to give it a presence.

The going away shot of the DPU’s was also the reverse of my shots from Wednesday.

I headed west on FM 1187, and as I came through Crowley I heard a horn and looked ahead towards the BNSF overpass.  I could see an intermodal train with J.B. Hunt containers sitting still as a string or northbound merchandise cars streamed by.  I guessed I was looking at the southbound Z-ALTROB out of Alliance Yard going to Mexico via the KCS at Robstown.  I immediately headed south and pulled over at a recently closed crossing about a mile south of the siding.  I could see the headlight already catching up to me and in a minute I took this photo of the BNSF 7245 South at 2:04 pm with trailing containers and auto racks bound for Mexico.

The lead unit was an ES44DC and the trailing unit was one of the unique rebuilds of a ex-Santa Fe C44-9W into an AC44C4M as the BNSF number 615.

Hard to tell for sure without hearing it but that looks to me like a Nathan P5 horn up there instead of a “K” model.  Not the greatest weather to be out in, but I cannot complain about turning one missed train into two better opportunities!

Finishing Up a Diversion

Today Friday February 9th was the last of the three-day diversion of Amtrak 21 and 22 over the UP instead of the BNSF between Temple and Fort Worth due to a tie replacement project.  I picked up Dave Steckler with the intention of trying to catch both trains together on the UP in Fort Worth in  the same frame since I had caught them separately in more rural settings the past two days.  Wednesday and Thursday the trains had met at Wrenn Siding, but today train 21 was running later than before and so while it was sitting at the Fort Worth ITC the UP dispatcher brought train 22 on into town and up to the station.  Rather than duplicate a shot that can be taken on many other normal days, Dave and I elected to catch number 22 in south Fort Worth at the Bewick Street crossing where the side light was more favorable at 2:28 pm and we had greater open space in the foreground than in other spots.

The abandoned grain elevator in the background further south at the corner of West Dickson and Alice Streets called out to us as a potential background for the better-lit passage of train 21.  At 3:18 pm just before clouds started rolling in we recorded the last UP diversion of this week.

Tomorrow it is back to the the regular route for a few days and then we will cease to see trains 21 and 22 in Fort Worth at all for what is predicted to be a month’s time as the BNSF tie replacement project continues on south from Fort Worth to Temple.  The trains will detour over the UP through east Texas with train 21 running Big Sandy to Tyler to Corsicana to Hearne to Taylor while Train 22 will run Taylor to Hearne to Palestine to Longview.  Maybe this year I can get over there for a few more diversion photos!

An Afternoon at Grandview

Thursday February 8th was a warm and sunny day so I decided to take advantage of the second day of the Amtrak detour and catch trains 22 and especially 21 in one of my favorite spots on the UP Fort Worth Sub.  County Road 400 just north of Grandview on the west side of I35 is a great spot for southbounds in the afternoon coming through the truss bridge over Chambers Creek.  There used to be more opportunities for this shot in the old days when this was the combined Missouri-Kansas-Texas and Missouri Pacific main between Fort Worth and Waco.  Today this UP subdivision hosts primarily northbound trains so catching train 21 southbound coming out of the bridge would be the high point of the afternoon.  I drove down early to engineer a shot of train 22 coming out of the sun and ended up having a great lunch at the R&K Cafe right across the street from my chosen spot at the north end of the Grandview siding.  After lunch I set up with the intention of getting the signal hut with its “Grandview” sign in the photo with train 22.  First up a northbound UP empty grain train pulled into the siding to let train 22 overtake it and I pulled out the 100-400mm zoom on my Canon 70D for this view of the meet a few minutes later.

I dropped the 70D to my left side on its strap and pulled up the Canon 5D Mark IV with  a 24-105 zoom on the right side for this shot a few seconds later at 2:14 pm.

Shadow control in post-processing greatly reduced the back lighting in the RAW version in this photo.  Always shoot in RAW mode if possible to get the maximum leverage when you process your photos!  I quickly switched back to the 70D with the long zoom and easily captured this going away shot.  No problem figuring out where this photo was taken!

The dispatcher told the northbound freight they would be stuck here for train 21 so I moved north to the County Road 400 crossing.  I settled in to do some reading while 22 continued on to meet 21 at Wrenn siding on the south side of Fort Worth.  The dispatcher eventually revealed his plan to let a short Fort Worth to San Antonio freight follow 21 to Grandview where they would hold the main while the northbound already here and another empty grain train passed on the siding in a four train meet.  Even though this route takes the train directly through Waco, capacity issues due to fewer and further apart passing sidings appear to make this UP routing less desirable than the normal path over the BNSF between  Fort Worth and Temple.  At 3:30 pm I took the photo I came and waited for as 21 flew across Chambers Creek in perfect light.

The going away view shows our proximity to I35.

  At 3:45 pm the FWSA came through to subsequently pull down the main behind the now stopped train 21.  I zoomed out to include the unique landscaping of the landowner including a wheel set from a derailment back in the 1980’s.

Too bad the power was not reversed!

At 4:01 pm the first and long delayed empty grain train finally got to leave for Fort Worth while passing milepost 216.

At 4:14 the second empty grain train came by the County Road 400 crossing having just released Amtrak 21 and the FWSA to continue on south to Waco.

With both Texas Eagles and three freights on the memory card I called it a day and headed back home to meet my wife for dinner.  On Friday for the final day of this diversion I will hang around Fort Worth and hopefully catch the meet between 21 and 22 that both previous days has taken place at Wrenn in south Fort Worth. 

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!