Day Three on Cajon Pass

I have been slow in finishing up my trip for the BNSF to Cajon Pass in late January, so let’s take care of that right now!  January 26th and 27th, 2016 were spent mainly photographing a welded rail gang at work near Summit, but January 28th was reserved for photographing intermodal and automobile trains with lead locomotives in the current paint scheme.  The day started at the west end of the narrows at Victorville with shots of trains on the flyover there.  Results were good which unfortunately means the photos belong to BNSF and I cannot share them publicly, so here is the sunrise as a consolation.


Later in the morning the video crew and myself moved back west to a hilltop at the west end of Summit where we could shoot trains coming from both directions.  Here is a westbound UP intermodal about to start down the hill to San Bernardino.


A few minutes later an eastbound UP came charging up the grade.  The Fedex truck in the background is on Interstate 15 fighting its own battle with gravity.


Next up an eastbound BNSF manifest is seen passing the interlocking at Silverwood while following the UP train on Main One.  Main Three drops away down a nearly 3% grade in the foreground.


As soon as the eastbound BNSF manifest clears the crossovers at Summit a westbound UP mainfest starts down Main Two in full dynamic braking.


One of the two units on the rear end is an ex-SP motor.


Traffic is non-stop as a few minutes later an eastbound UP intermodal passes Silverwood just west of Summit.


Almost forgotten in the background is the ex-SP now UP Palmdale Cutoff.  Note the lengthy crossover between the two lines added in the later years just below the lead unit of a westbound manifest train dropping downgrade.


One more westbound UP manifest starting downgrade from Summit and then we decided to move to the famous railfan hot spot known as Hill 582.


Hill 582 is on US Forest Service land as is most of the area around the top end of Cajon Pass and was built up several years ago by a handful of local railfans with trees and benches to make the watching of passing trains more comfortable.  It requires a 4-wheel drive vehicle or a hike of less than 1/2 mile to reach the spot about two miles west of Silverwood with Mains One and Two and the Palmdale Cutoff on the north side and Main Three on the south side.  Here is a BNSF manifest dropping down Main Two with some of the plantings and rock work in the foreground.


A few minutes later a UP bare table train follows along down main Two as seen from a different angle.  Note the dedications to those whose hard work made this spot possible.


In the following sequence we see a meet between a westbound UP train and an eastbound BNSF train that illustrates why this spot is a magnet for area railfans.






After a brief interlude giving time to enjoy the benches, a BNSF intermodal train is seen winding down Main Two with full dynamic brakes whining on both ends.



A few minutes later the eastbound Barstow local roars up the hill with a long train and two older GP60 units in its power consist, one of them a red warbonnet wide cab.


Looking back east to Silverwood as the local grinds past in the background, we finally get to see a westbound UP intermodal that has the proper braking versus tonnage ratio to allow it to tackle the almost 3% grade on Main Three between Silverwood and Cajon.



Our last train of the day before packing it in was an eastbound UP charging up through the deep cuts of the Palmdale Cutoff on the hillside above Mains One and Two.


In the next installment we will spend two hours in Riverside California the following morning before I had to head on to the airport for my flight back to DFW.  Photos from January 29th, 2016 will be mixed with photos I took in the same locations 45 years earlier back in 1971.

Day Two on Cajon Pass

With new UP GEVO’s and another NS heritage unit visiting north Texas out of the way, let’s get back to my visit to California’s Cajon Pass at the end of January.  The first of three days working for BNSF was primarily spent photographing a rail gang changing out worn welded rail in curves at Summit.  On Wednesday January 27th the video team and myself followed the same gang again, this time working just west of the east end of Summit where three main lines go back to two on the way to Barstow.

As before I cannot share the photos that are the property of BNSF, so here are the shots of older paint scheme BNSF power, UP units and other sights encountered along the way.  As the morning job briefing was ending behind me right at sunrise a westbound BNSF bare table train is only a few hundred yards away from starting down grade towards San Bernadino.


A few minutes later an eastbound UP train has just crested the summit and is starting downhill towards Victorville.


Later in the morning down by the job site an eastbound BNSF intermodal slows before passing the welded rail gang while the snow-capped San Gabriel mountains loom in the background.  I really liked this shot and wish this train would have been led by a locomotive in the current paint scheme.


A few minutes later an eastbound UP train followed along.


Looking east a BNSF grain train passes by the rail gang as everyone waits in the clear.  Above the lead unit and the Speed Swing you can see the ex-Southern Pacific’s Palmdale Cutoff.


From a closer prospective another eastbound BNSF passes on Main 3 while the gang stands by on Main 2.


Once we had everything we needed to finish up our work with the gang the video team and I scouted locations for Thursday which would be spent photographing BNSF intermodal and autorack trains on the west side of the pass.  We were checking out a hilltop south of CP Walker when a westbound UP autorack train caught up to us.  The first shot shows the train winding down Main 2 passing under Interstate 15.  The track above is the UP Palmdale Cutoff while Main 3 is out of sight to my right.


The next three photos show the train winding down the pass towards Mormon Rocks with the San Gabriels once again in the background.




While making our way along the forest service and railroad maintenance roads we came across the monument to the railroad employees killed when a runaway BNSF freight crashed here on Main 3 almost exactly 20 years ago.


Here is a link to a free copy of the LA Times story:


Such is a reminder of the serious side of railroading and the unforgivable physics of the grade here if you do not have complete control of your train for whatever the reason.

Got Them Both

A slight detour before we continue with the photos from my California trip.

Last Tuesday February 9th two photographically attractive rail subjects were in the DFW area.  The first was the UP westbound ZMQLC out of Mesquite before sunrise with three new and clean GEC45AH’s and a SD70ACe for power.  The drawback was the train would be back lit until the train reached a few prime locations west of Fort Worth where the Baird Sub briefly curves to the south.  The second target was the NS 8103 Norfolk & Western heritage unit leading the westbound ASMAR auto parts boxcar train eastbound through Dallas around 10:00 am on its way to Arlington.  Until later in the afternoon the only place to get good lighting on this train would be in east Dallas where the UP runs north to south for 2.6 miles between MP Junction and SP Junction.

The dilemma was that if I drove to Dallas to catch the NS heritage unit I would have to miss the UP “Z” train with the new clean units leading or catch it in bad light somewhere between Fort Worth and Dallas.  On the other hand if I waited and caught the “Z” train west of Fort Worth I would not have time to drive to the well lighted area in Dallas to catch the NS heritage unit and I would have to take my chances for a decent shot at Garrett Yard in Arlington in the afternoon.  Add in the fact that I had an appointment just after lunch at BNSf headquarters to upload the results of my Cailfornia trip and you had the makings of an interesting day.

I decided to roll the dice and go for broke by trying to catch both moves in good light.    First I would go west of Weatherford to Preble where the Baird Sub curves southwest to get broadside light on the “Z” train; then go to BNSF headquarters for my appointment; and finally drive to Garrett Yard in Arlington to hopefully get an uncoupled clear shot of the N&W heritage unit in good late afternoon light.

I left home shortly after 8:00 am just as the westbound ZMQLC was approaching Tower 55.  Heading west on FM 1187 when I got within a half-mile of of Aledo I ran into stopped traffic due to everyone trying to drop their kids off for school.  I should have anticipated that, but even if the train passed me here I could still use I20 to beat it to Judd further west of Weatherford with even better side light and maybe a bit on the nose.  I had the time and it was only a few extra miles using cheaper fuel.  I made a U-turn and headed back to Iona to get out to I20 and decided I might as well stop and get a first shot of the “Z” train headed west.  Now, finally after all this rambling, a photo!


Still back lit even for side light, but acceptable.  Two new units up front means the third one and an SD70ACe would be on the rear.  I set up for the going away shot and was rewarded with the third new unit trailing and even facing east!


I talked to railfan friends in Dallas and learned the ASMAR was behind schedule and sitting in the siding at Marith waiting on Amtrak to pass before making a setout at Mesquite.  This meant I had chosen well by going west because if I had gone to Dallas first by the time the N&W heritage unit reached east Dallas the good 3/4 lighting would turn into nose light.  I drove west on I20 to Judd where I found a westbound stack train hanging out of the east end of the siding.  In a few minutes the dispatcher told the UP 8014 East to pull on into the siding as the “Z” train was out of Brazos coming up behind fast.  I was ready when the UP 2651 West appeared around the curve and scored these two views.



The lighting was as good as you could hope for without driving all the way to Sweetwater, so I happily took one more going away shot.


I still had 30 minutes before I needed to start back for my appointment in Fort Worth, so I decided to jump ahead to Gordon and catch the stack train that was in the hole here at Judd.  The light for a westbound was still back lit in Gordon, but I found a composition I liked including local history and geography.


I had already picked a nearby scene for a better lit view of the DPU’s.


I drove back to Fort Worth where I had a quick lunch and kept my appointment at BNSF headquarters.  I finished up there at 2:00 pm and as I was getting in my Explorer I heard from my railfan friends the ASMAR had fallen down even more and at that moment was in downtown Dallas as they waited on the west bank of the Trinity River.  This was great news for me as I now had an opportunity to catch the train before it entered Garrett Yard and get an uncluttered shot of the heritage lead unit.  I treated myself to a 75 mph run on the I820 eastbound express lane to Highway 360 and then south to old Highway 180 where I started to parallel the UP Dallas Sub eastbound from Arlington towards Grand Prairie.


I knew I had only a few minutes to spare so I found a good location just west of where Highway 180 passes over the George Bush Turnpike and got ready.  Less than five minutes later the train came into view and I nailed two acceptable photos as it rolled by at around 30 mph.



At the last crossing before Garrett Yard there was a railfan contingent waiting and I took a telephoto view of the nose.


The train was told by the Garrett Yard MYO to pull into track 4 in the yard and tie it down.  I had the shots I wanted but decided to try for one more sequence regardless.  As I parked at the yard office three GenSets under radio control pulled out with a cut of cars.


The MYO was an acquaintance of mine, and he modified the crew’s instructions to have them go ahead and pull the locomotives up to the marker at the west end of track 4 so the NS 8103 would be visible.  There was a bit of graffiti on a box car behind the heritage unit, but I did not mind.



Now the day was over for me and I was glad the choices I had made combined with fate had worked out to my advantage!

Rail Gang at Summit Day One

Starting the morning of Tuesday January 26th I worked for BNSF with a two-man film crew to cover two days of operations by a welded rail gang at Summit, California at the top of Cajon Pass followed by one day of documenting intermodal and automobile trains passing through the area.  The day began with breakfast at IHOP at 4:45 am PST, then meeting with an engineering manager in the hotel lobby at 5:30 am so we could follow him up the pass to the job site.

The drive to the job site took around 35 minutes, and even in darkness you could tell we were climbing all the time to an elevation roughly 3000 feet higher than San Bernardino.  The morning job briefing was scheduled for 6:30 am at the “Mountain Man” spur at Summit so were there in plenty of time to set up our equipment to record it.  The goal of the work for the day done by a roughly 40 man gang was to change out several 1600-foot strings of worn out curve rail.  All aspects of the work to be done and how to do it safely were discussed by the group before mandatory stretching exercises.  Our goal was to take stills and video illustrating the work and to give visual representation of the adherence to safety rules.

I wish it were possible for me to share all the photos here, but the majority of them are the property of the BNSF Railway.  The photos I can share are of trains led by units that are not in the current “swoosh” logo paint scheme, UP trains passing through on trackage rights, and scenic photos of the area.  With that in mind here is a view looking east of a westbound UP train passing the gang.  All work on Main 3 has stopped while the UP 8911 West rolls by on Main 2 making the transition from power to dynamic brakes as the train starts down the west slope of Cajon Pass.


You can see the old rail laying on the right while a crane pulls the new rail into place on the special plastic pads on top of concrete ties.  In the next photo I am looking west down the hill while the gang continues to work on Main 3 on the left.  The Form B foreman has given us permission to occupy Main 2 in the middle while an eastbound BNSF intermodal train roars up the grade on Main 1 to my right.


Even though we have permission to stand here until the Foreman needs Main 2 to run a train and lookouts are in place, it still feels strange and I keep looking over my shoulder.  Snow covered Mount Baldy in the San Gabriel Mountains can be seen above the train.  In the third and fourth photos I am about 100 yards further west down the grade standing on the outside of the curve next to Main 3.  While I am photographing each machine in the gang as it performs its specific task another westbound UP train on Main 2 where I was standing earlier starts the 25-mile, 3000-foot drop down to San Bernardino.


A few minutes later a BNSF train follows suit.  Notice that both trains have ample head end power and take my word that both have single DPU’s on the rear.  A few trains even had mid-train DPU’s.  Every precaution is taken to make sure there are no more run away trains on Cajon Pass.


The day ended in time to get back to the hotel and have a good dinner and rest before starting the second day of the assignment at Summit.

Rancho Cucamonga

On Monday January 25th I flew Southwest to Ontario, California to spend three days photographing for the BNSF on Cajon Pass starting early Tuesday morning.  I would be working with a two person film crew and we would be based out of San Bernardino.  My flight landed at the nearby Ontario International Airport around 4:00 pm PST and I signed for rental Dodge pickup with high clearance.

I decided to try for a few train photos before meeting my two co-workers at the hotel for dinner.  I had done my homework and knew the only nearby spot I could reach before sunset would be the Metrolink commuter rail station at Rancho Cucamonga.  Cucamonga is a derivative of a native-american word for a “sandy place” and Rancho comes from the days of Spanish rule in the area.

I pulled into the parking lot just as a westbound train for Los Angeles was stopping at the platform just before 5:00 pm.  I had just enough time to hold my camera over the top of the chain link fence at the corner of the lot as F59PH #865 roared by shoving five cars towards Los Angeles.


The next train was a westbound towards San Bernardino that arrived twenty minutes later right at sunset with another F59PH leading.


Here is a view showing the station and the cab car bringing up the rear of the eastbound train.  The San Gabriel Mountains west of San Bernardino loom in the background wearing a light dusting of snow.


The next train would be another eastbound out of Los Angeles in twenty minutes so I walked through the tunnel to the other platform for a different view.  The official Rancho Cucamonga station sign fronted a large open space in the middle of a wye off of the old AT&SF passenger main between Los Angeles and San Bernardino, and I assume that BNSF offers local freight service here.


As the light continued to fade I dropped back to ISO 6400 with 1/60 of a second at f5.6 and composed my photo to include a signature palm tree as the eastbound slowed to a stop with a newer F59PHI leading.


This train had a larger number of commuters who moved away from me down the platform to the tunnel on the way to the parking lot.


As the station clock shows it was now 5:48 pm, so I packed it in and headed to the hotel to make plans with the video team for the next three days of photographing a welded rail replacement gang at work and various intermodal trains.

Making the Most of a Cloudy Day

The majority of Tuesday January 19th was an overcast day in southern Oklahoma and north Texas.  This was less than desirable news as the Norfolk Southern’s Southern Railway heritage engine was leading a southbound loaded 114 car grain train down the BNSF’s ex-ATSF Red Rock Sub heading to Houston.  This was a rare enough occurrence that I decided to give chase regardless, and after an invisible sunrise friend Troy Minnick and I were northbound on I35 approaching the Texas and Oklahoma border shortly before 11:00am.  Friend Dwane Stevens of Ardmore had been following the train south from there and reported it was waiting for Amtrak 821 to catch up before taking the siding at Marietta and cutting the town in half.  When Dwane called back to say 821 had overtaken the grain train, Troy and I exited off of I35 onto old US Highway 77 and cut over to the grade crossing on Lake Gladney Road a mile or two south of Thackerville.  Within a few minutes we caught Amtrak 187 passing through the wide load detector that protects the Red River Bridge just ahead.

001 9K5C4032

Dwane called again to say the NS 8099 South was out of the siding at Marietta, so Troy and I moved to the north switch at Thackerville where we got our first shots a few minutes later as the train once again took the siding; this time to meet the northbound Z-ALTWSP that was at Valley View for Amtrak 821.  We had already seen a loaded tie train train in the siding at Gainesville so this was as far as the grain train could advance.

004 9K5C4035


Both sides of the NS 8099 were dirty and in pretty rough shape with the numbers hard to read, so I decided to concentrate on the nose as much as possible for the rest of the day.  With that in mind I took this view as the train pulled down the siding and stopped short of the Cemetery Road crossing.

012 IMG_4020

The conductor dismounted and the three of us talked railroading until it was time for them to pull all the way into the clear so the Z-ALTWSP would have a green signal when it arrived.  Troy and I relocated to the south end of the siding to record the meet just before Z-ALTWSP came blasting up hill out of the Red River bottoms.

013 IMG_4031

014 9K5C4046

015 9K5C4049

016 IMG_4032

The dispatcher told the grain train they would have a clear shot to Alliance Yard for a crew change and then lined them out of the siding.

019 IMG_4033

We skipped on past Gainesville and waited for the NS 8099 to catch up just north of Valley View.  The train was running close to 60 mph at this point.

021 IMG_4038

We used I35 to our advantage to get ahead again and chose to stop next at South Wye.


024 IMG_4044

025 IMG_4050

Look to the right of the NS 8099 in the first photo and you can catch a glimpse of the KCS job that brought UPS cars from Wylie to add to the Z-ALTWSP we saw earlier.  The two GP40’s were waiting to get inbound UPS trailers from the Z-WSPALT that was also southbound about 40 miles behind us.  We overtook the train again and then north of Ponder I spotted a flashing yellow signal that probably meant a meet ahead.  Troy and I stopped for this scene from a small bluff beside FM 156 that we had used before.

026 9K5C4054

Back in the vehicle we heard the detector south of Ponder give a reading of 12 axles.  The dispatcher had promised them a straight shot to Alliance but now I was guessing they were going to meet the almost daily “GE Job” testing new locomotives from the plant at Haslet.  We pulled over in downtown Ponder and my guess was confirmed as two BNSF ES44C4’s were pulling through the siding.

027 9K5C4055

The going away shot was the keeper and my personal favorite from the day.

030 IMG_4057

For our next location we chose to catch the train passing the north end of the Alliance Yard lead at Lambert.

031 IMG_4063

033 IMG_4068

The going away photo shows the train to be in a 2 x 2 configuration but the BNSF 5796 broke down along the way south and the BNSF 4163 was added at Arkansas City, KS.

034 9K5C4060

Troy and I parted company here.  The crew change was to take place at CP Beth in Alliance Yard so I opted to drive on to the diamonds at Saginaw and meet friend David Steckler and others waiting there.  The crew change went smoothly and we did not have to wait for very long before the NS 8099 and its new crew rolled by on the way to Temple.

035 IMG_4072

I took a chance and took loop 820 to I35 South in an attempt to beat the train to Tower 55 for one last photo.  Traffic was light for once and I made it with a minute to spare as the train took a green signal and quickly accelerated across the diamonds and past the silent tower.

037 IMG_4079

038 IMG_4083

039 9K5C4066

There were several new hoppers in the train and I managed to catch one of them.

040 9K5C4068

One hundred and fourteen loads later the one working and one off-line DPU pushing the 15,849 ton train rolled by South Tower 55.

041 9K5C4069

The sun was starting to come out south of Fort Worth and I could tell if I elected to jump ahead to Joshua and/or Cleburne I would be able to get that elusive full sun photo.  On the other hand while the NS 8099 was mechanically sound, it needed a wash job and some paint and I had other important tasks to accomplish before the end of the day.  Whether or not I was successful with these cloudy day photos I leave up to the reader’s jury!

New GE’s Meet

I received word last night that UP would be operating a diversion train that normally runs over the Sunset Route from Houston to El Paso and on to West Colton, California through Fort Worth and west over the ex-T&P to El Paso instead.  What made the train especially interesting was the lead unit reported as the UP 2624, a nearly new C45AH built at the local GE plant.  This would be my first opportunity to catch one in service.

This morning I learned the train had made it to Fort Worth around 6:00 am, but I did not know when it would head out on the Baird Sub. Listening to the radio at the house I heard a westbound leave the yard just after sunrise.  I drove to Aledo, and in spite of the commuter and school traffic I made it to the Highway 1187 crossing a few minutes ahead of what turned out to be the UP 8265 West, a “Z” train at 8:16 am.


I lingered in the area and listened to the radio in case the train I was interested in was close behind, but the next train was the UP 6037 East that I caught at Iona at 9:15 am.


It was then I got word the diversion train would leave Davidson at 11:00 am, so I headed back home and took care of a few things before driving to the yard.  As I passed the west end at 10:30 am there were a few older locomotives coupled up to four more brand new, not yet in service C45AH’s.  I passed them by for the moment as I could see the diversion train with the clean and shiny UP 2624 sitting at the west end of Bypass #4.

I parked short of the train, and just as I was about to get out the headlights popped on and the engineer whistled off.  I looked back as I jumped out and saw a green signal beckoning them on west.  I took this quick grab shot of the now moving train.


Good thing I arrived early!  As the train was just starting to roll I had plenty of time to turn around and drive back to where the other new C45AH’s were parked next to the lead to Bypasses #4 and #5.

9K5C3974 9K5C3975

My quickly formed goal was to get this photo of the two new C45AH’s meeting, the 2624 in service and the 2669 just delivered by GE.


The sun even came out for me, so this is my personal favorite for the day.  I decided since the 2624 West was pulling out of the yard I might have time to beat the train to Boaz Park for a scenic shot.  The traffic lights were with me, and I made it into position with about two minutes to spare.


The lengthy manifest train on its way to West Colton had three locomotives up front and was quickly up to speed with two more shoving hard on the rear as the sun went out of sight again.


With my mission accomplished I went on to have lunch with a good friend before going home to process these photos to share with you.

Amtrak Moves to the TRE

On Tuesday I had lunch with a friend at a fairly new BBQ restaurant called Jambo’s, and it was worth the drive!

After lunch since I was on the east side of Fort Worth I decided to try to catch Amtrak 21 and 22 now that they have moved off the UP Dallas Sub and now run over the Trinity Railway Express between Dallas Union Station and the Fort Worth Intermodal Transportation Center.  I put the radio on the TRE road channel and sure enough within a few minutes I heard Amtrak 21 getting ready to leave Dallas as they got clearance from the TRE dispatcher in Irving.  This day I decided to catch Amtrak 21 crossing the Little Fossil Creek just east of Carson Street.

I arrived at the location a few minutes before 1:00pm.  Trains are moving at the 79mph track speed here so I set my camera for shutter priority at 1/1600 of a second at ISO 400.  First up was TRE Train 2923 with faded locomotive #569 leading at 1:06 pm.


At 1:37 pm Amtrak 21 led by locomotive #69 and cab car #90222 with nine cars trailing cut through the tranquil scene like an arrow.


At 1:53 pm the train set with  locomotive #569 now in push mode raced across the bridge eastbound towards Dallas.


I checked the Amtrak app on my phone and saw that Train #22 was due into the Fort Worth ITC around 2:30 pm.  TRE westbound Train #2927 would leave the Richland Hills station at 2:33 pm, so I decided to catch it passing the open field just west of the station since it would be a train set I had not yet photographed this day.  I drove up there and read for about 30 minutes before catching Train #2927 with locomotive #126 and three cars in good light at 2:34 pm.


The Amtrak app showed Train #22 should leave the station just before 3:00 pm, so I drove down to the Trinity River levee just off of South Sylvania Avenue.  At 3:03 pm I captured these three views as the train with locomotive #57 up front left Fort Worth for Dallas.




As you can see clouds were starting to roll through from the west, so I departed for home with thoughts for other days and locations on the TRE to catch this new Amtrak action.

A Christmas Present for UP

There are a lot of errands to run around Christmas so I was out again this morning.  That was a good thing as I drove by Davidson Yard and spotted five new GE Tier Four C45AH’s sitting all alone at the west end of the yard.  The freshly delivered but not yet in service locomotives from front to rear were the 2650, 2659, 2625, 2657 and the 2626.

9K5C3766 9K5C3767

I am not sure where these new Fort Worth built locomotives are going to be set up and placed in service, although it does not appear to be here in Fort Worth.  I have yet to see one in revenue service in our local area.

After taking these two photos I finished up my to do list and stopped for lunch at 11:00 am in Benbrook.  When I came out I heard the ZAILC on the radio coming through the yard, so I drove on ahead to the middle of the siding at Iona where I captured this broadside a few minutes later.


After long waits in between I thought I would surprise everyone with two blog entries in two days.  Happy Holidays!

Baird Sub Action

Today on December 20th it was overcast all day, making it a perfect time to share a few sunny photos from Friday and Saturday close to home on the UP Baird Sub.  I finished running errands in Fort Worth on Friday just after noon and I drove by the west end of UP’s Davidson Yard to see if anything was waiting to go west.  Sure enough I saw the Abilene Local in the distance as it slow rolled towards the lead to bypasses #4 and #5, both of which were empty.

The first three bypasses were also empty, but there was a green signal lit for a westbound to leave town.  This usually indicates one of the westbound “Z” trains that change crews at Mesquite instead of Fort Worth is close by.  As the sunlight was still in the southeastern sky and not yet even broadside, I decided to head west right then and find a decent spot.  I passed on Iona and Aledo before opting on the stretch between Annetta and Weatherford where the Baird Sub turns slightly southwest.

About the time I chose a spot along the rural road next to the tracks the detector at Aledo sounded off over the radio.  Five minutes later at 12:50 pm I captured this broadside view of the UP 8173 West, which from the train consist looked like the ZAILC, otherwise known as the “Laser”.


I drove further west to a grade crossing where the tracks curve even more to the southwest before arriving at the east switch of Earls siding.  Twenty minutes later at 1:10 pm I managed this view of the Abilene Local powered by a pair of GP60’s with a bit more light on the nose.


I had not noticed back at Davidson that the local had two fire department training cars in its train.

9K5C3760 9K5C3761

Listening to the radio nothing else appeared to be close so I headed back to the house.  Saturday morning my wife and I went Christmas shopping, but in the background I kept checking on the location of the UP 1989 Rio Grande Heritage Unit which was leading a westbound “Z” train out of Memphis.  After lunch we headed back home to unload our accumulated gifts before heading out again for groceries.

The 1989 West had just left Tower 55, so my wife opted to stay home while I made the five minute trip to the Baird Sub at Iona.  Once again it was still to early in the day for optimum light on the nose of a westbound train without driving at least 55 miles west to Judd.  As I approached Iona I could see an eastbound intermodal pulling into the siding that would hinder a decent broadside shot there.  Driving west I checked downtown Aledo, but found too many vehicles parked in the foreground of the broadside shot I had in mind there.

So once again I moved on to the grade crossing just east of Earls siding and bagged this well lit view of the 1989 West racing by at 60 mph at 1:28 pm.


I had been informed earlier the NS 9133 along with three more NS GE-units was running not far back with another intermodal train, and sure enough seventeen minutes later at 1:45 pm what was obviously today’s “Laser” off of the NS at Atlanta roared by in pursuit of the UP 1989.


Listening to the radio I had knowledge the UP 8046 East was in the siding at Earls one-half mile west of my location, and after the passage of the two westbound “Z” trains it started to pull towards Fort Worth.  I also headed east and at 1:56 pm captured this intermodal broadside as several calves behind a simple wooden fence left the watering trough.


The radio indicated there would be more action soon, but with these three good photos on a SD card I made the wise decision to return home so my wife and I could continue shopping.  The sun will shine for many other days on the Baird Sub!

Fellow railfan Matt Shell had the time to have made the drive out to Judd for perfect light, and captured these two great shots of the UP 1989: