This morning February 24th, social media indicated the westbound Union Pacific ZAILC (Laser) intermodal train from Atlanta to Los Angeles was led by Norfolk Southern AC44C6M number 4003. This was one of the first batch of units rebuilt by NS at their old Pennsylvania Railroad shops in Altoona before the work was transferred to the Wabtec/GE factory right here in Texas. As part of the first group the NS 4003 wears a special paint job.
Today would mark my first opportunity to catch one of these units on film, let alone leading the train. I headed over to Iona siding near the house as this one of the only spots a westbound train in the morning would not be backlit in the manner as the ZMQLC shown here at 8:43 am a bit further to the east.
It would have been better if the westbound had been in the siding to the left and not on the main right next to the side of the cut; but I had to play the card I was dealt. The DPU turned out to be heavily covered with graffiti and I wished I had been able to get more of a side view.
I heard on the radio that this train would be meeting a roughly 14,000 foot long ZLCAI at Weatherford so I moved a bit west to where the old west end of Iona used to be before it was extended. At 9:40 am the detector in Aledo sounded off over the radio and a few minutes later the train came into view as it accelerated up the grade. I used the long telephoto to zoom in under the high voltage power lines.
I quickly changed to my other camera body with the short telephoto for this closer view of the three units up front.
The head end power roared by at full throttle, and the sound died away for a few minutes to a swooshing noise of the stack cars on welded rail. After roughly 10,000 feet of train had passed, the sound of two more units in DPU mode became apparent. The two units were dwarfed by the stacks on either side in this tele view.
I ran home to let the dogs out for a few minutes and then returned to Iona in time to catch a Fort Worth to Monahans merchandise train at 10:44 am that came out of Davidson Yard ahead of my target train.
At 11:20 am I thought I heard a K5LA horn to the east and I got out of the SUV to wait. It was a good thing I did because I was ready a few minutes later when the train came into view running at 50 mph track speed.
I panned for two more views of the unit and then the moment had passed.
Satisfied with the results I headed back home to process these from RAW to JPG and get ready for several days of rainy weather to come.