Category Archives: Blog Posts

On The Road To San Antonio

One of my recent assignments for BNSF was to photograph the dedication event for their new Cadet Yard in San Antonio on September 15th.  Construction started last year on ten yard tracks, one departure track and a siding that can hold up to 350 cars in Van Ormy beside the UP Sunset Route just southwest of UP’s Sosan Yard.  Cadet Yard (so named to honor the cadets at nearby Lackland Air Force base) is intended to increase efficiency of operations over Union Pacific trackage rights between the Mexican border crossing at Eagle Pass and other points in south Texas.

BNSF has two tracks at their disposal in the UP yard at Eagle Pass for inbound and outbound traffic.  This meant that before Cadet Yard trains of unblocked cars from Mexico had to travel to Temple and other BNSF yards before they could be switched.  BNSF crew changes between Eagle Pass and Temple had to take place somewhere on the busy UP main line with minimal delay.

With the dedication ceremony starting at 10:00 am on the 15th I drove down from Benbrook on the 14th with the idea photographing a few trains along the way.  Driving east through Crowley towards I35, I witnessed the tail end of a BNSF northbound empty coal train on the Fort Worth Sub main as it passed what looked like a southbound sand train in the siding.  I could not see the power on the sand train nor had I checked the BNSF computer before I left the house, so on an impulse I turned south and stopped about a mile south ahead of the train as it came out of the siding.  This turned out to be a good choice as the lead unit turned out to be a new locally built CSX ET44AH #3423.

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As the cars monotonously streamed by I quickly checked the computer and saw this was a 115-car, 16,000-ton train with a 2 x 2 power configuration.  In another minute the two DPU’s roared by heading towards Cleburne.

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Nothing else was close here so I took I35 south to Waco and then Highway 77 south to Cameron on the BNSF Galveston Sub.  A quick check of the computer showed no trains nearby so I drove on to Rockdale on the UP Austin Sub.  Luck was against me this time as I arrived at the restored depot 30 seconds too late to shoot a northbound UP train passing the structure.  I drove on southwest a few miles to the Rockdale, Sandow and Southern, now a Genesee & Wyoming property.  Indeed just as I drove up to their entrance I saw an orange and black MP15 switcher pulling into the shop and the door instantly closed as if they knew I was coming.  Oh well!

I drove back to Rockdale and since I was not on a strict schedule decided to wait a bit to see if I could catch another train passing the depot.  I read several back issues of Railfan & Railroad and Trains, and then was rewarded with this northbound UP intermodal with two KCS units for power.

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Continuing on south, as I drove through Giddings I could see the UP Giddings Sub signals were set for a northbound to enter the siding. I did not see a shot I liked in town so I headed on south.  Between Giddings and Winchester I caught the BNSF 7320 north in a farm setting on its way from San Antonio to Temple.

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With no highway bridge paralleling the railroad over the Colorado River between Winchester and West Point, I detoured the long way around to the east through La Grange where I stopped to photograph the old M-K-T depot.  One day I hope to catch a train here!

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On the radio I heard the northbound BNSF train I had photographed take the siding at Giddings and be advised by the dispatcher they would be there for three southbound UP’s.  A second northbound BNSF out of Flatonia was passing West Point and going to Winchester to clear up as I left La Grange.  I arrived in West Point a few minutes ahead of the first southbound UP as it curved around the wye from Giddings towards Smithville and on to San Antonio.  La Grange is to the right across the diamond and Flatonia is behind me.

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I had my UP PPE on and was checking the wye for future photo angles as the second southbound, a ballast train, came around the curve also on its way to Smithville.

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The third southbound train was further back so I decided to head on south to Flatonia as it was now after 4:00 pm.  As I arrived in Flatonia I heard a detector go off about ten miles to the west and a quick check of the signals showed an eastbound was lined through town.  I worked with the afternoon sun and composed this view of the passing train to include relocated Tower 3,  an SP caboose, a park bench naming the town, and a building built in 1898 just in front of the moving locomotive.

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A few seconds later I captured more of the power before the view of the lead unit was blocked by the caboose.

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A much better view in my opinion than the back lit approach shot taken right before these two photos although the clouds do help it a bit.

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Now it was just after 5:00 pm and I had at least a 90-minute drive ahead of me to reach San Antonio and attend a pre-event dinner at 7:00 pm.  I really had wanted to stop and visit with “Sidetrack” Tommy Shults but I had taken too long to get here so that would have to wait for another trip.  Next time Tommy!

 

 

Slaton, Texas – A Railroad Town

In 1907 the Santa Fe opened a new branch off of the Amarillo line south from Canyon to Plainview, Texas and in 1910 the tracks were extended further south to Lubbock.  What became known as the “Coleman Cutoff” to Brownwood opened in 1911.  Lubbock citizens were outraged when the new Santa Fe division point was established 15 miles to the southeast at Slaton, named by the railroad after a prominent local citizen.  One hundred and fifteen years later the situation has reversed to a degree as Slaton is still a division point, but all crews and the local yard switcher are now based out of Lubbock.

I have made four round trips this year to Fort Sumner, New Mexico to photograph the building of a new second bridge over the Pecos River to eliminate the final single track section on the Southwest Division’s part of the “Southern Transcon”.  On July 24th while driving to Fort Sumner from home I stopped in Slaton for a short while to rest and see the local sights.

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Nothing was moving on either the BNSF or local switching line South Plains Railroad, so I turned my camera elsewhere.  On the north side of the city square I took these two photos of Santa Fe 2-6-2 Prairie type #1809.

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Turning 180 degrees from the previous photo I could not miss the “Slaton Model Railroad Studio”.

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The storefront was deserted and no hours posted, so I peeked through the windows.  I could see an HO scale layout that appeared to be in a state of disrepair, and in front of that was the old Santa Fe CTC machine for Slaton to Texico.

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On the west side of the square is this beautiful mural painted by Bill “Tex” Wilson in 1998 that decorates the external wall of a local CPA.

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Two inmates from the John T. Montford Psychiatric/Medical Unit assisted in the work.

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Here is the “lowdown” on the aged brick streets that radiate from the square, adding character to this small town.

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Next I drove about 1/4 mile north to the restored Harvey House next to the BNSF main line.  Once again no one was around but I suppose you could call the number on the door if you wanted to stay in one of their rooms overlooking the tracks.

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The Harvey House is on the list of Texas Historic Landmarks and this close up of the sign tells the complete story.

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Unfortunately it is true that a majority of the good shots I take these days are the property of BNSF, UP or FWWR and thus cannot be shared here.  I still take enough that are my own property so I will try to do a better job of updating these blog entries more often!

A Trip Back in Time to Riverside

With the Cajon Pass assignment for BNSF finished, Friday January 29th was my travel day back home to Texas.  My flight was scheduled to leave Ontario International Airport around 11:am, but instead of sleeping in I set my alarm for 5:00 am.  I checked out drove from San Bernardino a few miles west to Riverside, California.  The last time I had visited Riverside was during a family vacation back in February 1971 at age 16 and I was curious to see what had changed over the intervening 45 years.

One big difference was the overwhelming presence of the Metrolink commuter rail.  At 7:00 am with the moon still high in the sky and sunrise around 45 minutes away I took these two photos of a train laying over in their maintenance area.  The old Santa Fe depot can be seen in the background on the right on the other side of the double track main line.

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I walked down to the Metrolink station and took this photo as the light improved.  The train on the right is about to leave for Los Angeles while the train on the left is laying over.

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I drove over to the street side of the presently unoccupied Santa Fe passenger depot for these two shots.

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I started to move in closer for more detailed views, but then saw to the right what I thought was just a pile of tarps start to move and half a dozen or so homeless people began to emerge from their night shrouds.  I did not have time to deal with them so I quickly left and drove over to what had been the Union Pacific passenger station.  The UP main line used to run down the middle of this street, but now the UP uses the BNSF tracks a block to the left and the building has been re-purposed.  With the tree growth this was the only decent shot I could manage.

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There is not a single marker left today to indicate this was once the UP depot in Riverside, but back in 1971 that was not the case.

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The tracks were definitely busy and this is where a moment later I got my only decent photo of a real “in regular freight service” DD40AX westbound towards Los Angeles.  Another DD40AX and a SD24B were trailing.

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It was now 11:30 am, and the westbound City of Los Angeles was due in 31 minutes.

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My parents obliged my wish to stay and I took this view of the long train pulling into the station.

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Here is what this spot looks like today.

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The sun was up enough now for good action photos so I drove over to the east side of the current main lines and set up a few blocks west of the Metrolink depot where the BNSF and UP main lines split.  One benefit of my work is having mobile access to BNSF’s dispatch system on my smartphone, and I could see westbound BNSF and UP intermodals heading for my location along with several Metrolink trains.

First up was this westbound commuter train heading for Los Angeles.  I understand that many of these Metroling commuter rail trains are running with a leased BNSF unit ahead of the cab car while the safety of push-pull operation is debated, but I did not see any on this day.

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The going away view with Pachappa Hill in the background.

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A few minutes behind was this westbound BNSF intermodal with a 2 x 2 power configuration.

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Next up was a westbound UP intermodal moving onto their own tracks for the rest of the journey into Los Angeles.

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As the intermodal was passing in the background another Metrolink train rolled by on the way to Los Angeles.

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A few minutes later a single DPU pushing on the rear of the UP intermodal came by.

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Looking at the dispatcher display on my phone I could see several BNSF and UP freight trains converging on Riverside, so I moved to the Mission Inn Avenue grade crossing just east of the old Santa Fe station.  It was here I took this photo back in 1971 of a westbound Santa Fe freight train led by EMD SD24 #4539 in the pinstripe paint scheme with a SD45 and a F45 trailing.

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Here is as close as I could get to the original location with a westbound UP train doing the honors 46 years later.

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As the westbound passed by the Santa Fe depot, the headlights of an eastbound UP were visible in the distance coming through the Metrolink station.

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It turned out to be an autorack train.

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Ten minutes later a meet here was repeated except this time with two BNSF trains doing the honors.

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It was time to leave for the airport, and I walked the half block to where I had parked the rental pickup.  I took this last photo of the morning looking east up Commerce Street paralleling the tracks.

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Forty-five years earlier I took my last photos of that day at this same spot of two refrigerator cars at the now closed National Orange Company that were having large ice blocks crushed and conveyed into their bunkers.  A common sight in 1971 and for many years before, but now a part of history replaced by the modern technology of self-contained diesel-powered refrigeration units.

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Many thanks to BNSF for providing the opportunity to revisit my past!

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.

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

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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.

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A few minutes later an eastbound UP train followed along.

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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.

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

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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.

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

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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.

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Here is a link to a free copy of the LA Times story:  http://articles.latimes.com/1996-02-02/news/mn-31560_1_cajon-pass

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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.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

 

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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.

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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.

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

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Engineering Special

The months since my last blog post have been busy but rewarding in terms of the photo work I have done for the BNSF, UP, KCS and FWWR.  Being a self-employed photographer has meant long hours just as my last job as a network engineer did, but it is a lot more fun.  I wish I could share the photos here, but now I am under contract and the majority of them are the property of the respective railroads for their own use.

The blog entries here are among things pushed to the back burner, but I decided it was time to rectify that and share my adventures from earlier today.  I was aware that UP is running an engineering inspection trip out of Omaha that is covering this part of the system.  Today the train (SD70AH #8951 and ten Heritage Fleet cars) ran from Parsons, KS to Longview, TX via Fort Worth.  If the train was being pulled by a heritage locomotive and the weather had been clear; or UP had assigned me to photograph it; I would have planned to catch it up in Oklahoma and chase it south, but since neither was true today I decided to not waste the time and fuel and just catch it around Tower 55.

I left the house around 1:00pm and with the help of the UP computer and friends I knew the train was passing Collinsville when I stopped for a late lunch.  The train was out of Denton when I headed downtown to find a good location.  I found there were no trains just north of Tower 55 that would block the view of downtown in the background if I positioned myself on the east side of the tracks.  If it had been clear this afternoon that strategy would have put me on the shadow side of the train, but today with the thickening overcast there were no shadows.  I decided since conditions were not ideal I would risk this spot and hope no freights showed up to block my view of the special.

I could hear the UP Terminal Dispatcher talking to the UP 8951 South coming through Haltom City, but then the odds turned against me when I saw a freight train coming up the hill from the north.  Certain the train was going to block my view, I started to think about alternatives and jumped into the Explorer.  Then the freight stopped in the distance and the headlight went out, so I held my position for the skyline shot.  A few minutes later as the special was crossing the Trinity River, the headlights came back on and the freight train started to move in my direction.  Having gambled and lost, I took my consolation prize photo of the UP 8227 South with the skyline.

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Just as soon as I took the above photo the headlights of the special appeared in the distance.  With my view of the skyline now blocked, I hopped back in the Explorer and drove down to the signal house just north of Tower 55 where I quickly worked the location sign into this photo.

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The plan was for the special to go around the wye from north to east and then stop in Ginny Yard for a crew change before continuing on to Longview.  I waited and got this shot of the locomotive swinging through the curve with the green signal still showing.

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Seconds after I snapped this photo a voice loudly announced “What are you doing out here!” and startled the daylights out of me.  I swung around but no one was right behind me.  It was Heritage Fleet conductor Justin Hilton with whom I have worked before yelling at me from a passing vestibule.  A few moments later the Inspection Car “Idaho” whisked by rounding the curve.

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I quickly relocated to the east end of Ginny Yard and caught the crew change in progress.  I now had a skyline photo but not as pleasing with power lines breaking up the view.

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Three minutes later the crew change was done, passengers were exchanged on the rear, and the train started to move.

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One nice thing about digital versus the old film days is that if I decide to individually photograph every car in the train there is no extra cost!  First is a close up of SD70AH #8951.

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Right behind was Power Car #2066.  In the lower part of the car is a well sound-proofed and insulated roomette where the Heritage Fleet conductor stays.  This trip it is occupied by my now nemesis Justin Hilton.

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Next was the old heavyweight business car “Shoshone”.  Trust me it is beautiful inside.

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Next was crew sleeper “Columbia River”.

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Now came the deluxe sleeper “Lake Bluff”.

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Next in line is the museum car “Promentory”.  This trip it more than likely contains exercise equipment for the personnel on the train.

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Behind the museum/exercise car were two more deluxe sleepers, the “Portola” and “Green River”.

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Now came dome diner “Missouri River Eagle”.

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Right behind the dome diner was the dining car “City of Los Angeles”.

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Still bringing up the rear was inspection car “Idaho” with its full glass rear end.

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One more photo as the train accelerated towards Dallas.

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After visiting Houston and San Antonio, next Tuesday November 10th the train will operate from Fort Worth to Herrington, KS over the old Rock Island main line.  If the sun is out maybe I will get a few more decent photos!

A New Paint Job

This week Fort Worth & Western’s paint shop released the first of three SD40-2’s purchased from National Railway Equipment.  The three used locomotives arrived painted in the green, silver and black colors of previous owner First Union Rail (FURX) leasing with their new FWWR numbers 2026, 2027 and 2028 stenciled on the cabs.  NRE had gone through the units prior to shipping and they were put in service almost immediately after their arrival.  Here are two shots of the 2026 leading a Cresson Turn.

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The FWWR “paint shop” consists of Mechanical Department employee David Bennorth.  On May 8th a few days after taking the 2026 out of service, David had the 2026 nearly ready for decals.

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On May 11th I stopped by Hodge Yard and took these shots of David carefully applying the decals.

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Once in position the backing is peeled away carefully and the letters will adhere to the fresh paint.

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Once the lettering is in place, David uses a razor blase to cut the decals to conform with the hood doors so they will open.

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The name chosen for the 2026 is the Brazos River.

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Yesterday on the 18th I went back to Hodge to photograph the final product of David’s expert work.

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The 2027 (Clear Fork) and the 2028 (Leon River) will be handed over to David soon for his special treatment!