A Trip to Southern Oklahoma

If things had gone according to plan, last Sunday March 7th I would have been on the road to a photo assignment, but the job fell through by no fault of my own. As the weather for last Sunday was forecast to be perfect I decided to spend the day out by the tracks somewhere. After I learned the NS’s Savannah and Atlanta heritage locomotive was leading a BNSF Willow Springs to Alliance Yard intermodal train, I decided to head north to catch it and then keep going into southern Oklahoma. I graduated from High School in Ardmore in 1973 and had not been there to check out the railroad scene in several years.

I left the house just before sunrise and managed this scenic photo at 6:53 am near the UP at Iona.

I turned ninety degrees to the right and aimed up to catch the half-moon.

A few minutes later approaching the east end of Iona siding I could see a green signal for a westbound. I stopped and set up for this view at 7:12 am before the sun got too high.

After this photo, I headed north and my next stop was at the delivery track from the Wabtec/GE locomotive factory where four rebuilt AC44C6M’s were waiting to be picked up.

Two northbound BNSF’s including a “Z” train were waiting side by side at Lambert for work windows between there and Valley View to end.

With the work windows in effect I did not encounter any other trains until I arrived at the Hockley Creek Road crossing north of Valley View where a southbound manifest train was stopped waiting for the windows to end.

I visited with other railfan friends while we waited along with the train for the work windows to end. When the window ended and the train started to move I composed this view at 8:53 am with an interesting part of the fence line.

Hearing on the radio that our target train with the S&A Heritage Unit leading was close behind, we all drove down to the crossing and I made this exposure of the merchandise train’s DPU heading south.

At 9:29 am the intermodal train led by NS 1065 appeared over the rise and I came away with the following sequence.

The rest of the chasers headed south in the wake of the NS 1065 while I stuck with my plan and drove on north. I arrived at the depot in Gainesville just in time to set up for a southbound grain train at straight up 10:00 am.

An SD70ACe was shoving hard on the rear end.

Amtrak 821 the Heartland Flyer was about to arrive at Ardmore, so I decided to catch it passing Thackerville just north of the Red River. I found a good spot at the north siding switch and waited for these two shots as the train raced by at 10:53 am.

I only made it a few miles further north to Grice Road where I captured this southbound intermodal that was following in the wake of Amtrak 821.

Continuing on to Marietta, I stopped for what would end up being four more trains. I knew the first one I would see here would be the northbound “Z” train from Alliance to Willow Springs that I had photographed earlier sitting at Lambert. Since the photo would be backlit I set up to use the abandoned depot as a prop when the train roared by at 12:19 pm.

The northbound “Z” was going to meet a southbound autorack train at Overbrook, so since access to the tracks between Overbrook and Marietta is limited, I decided to stay here and once again use the depot as part of the scene to be captured at 12:51 pm. No telling when the day will be that it disappears into history with countless other railroad artifacts.

Another southbound train was already coming through Overbrook and was planning on stopping on the main north of the Highway 32 crossing to wait on a northbound light engine movement. I took this close up of the depot as the train arrived in town.

The local police stopped by to see what I was doing, and we had a pleasant conversation while I waited on the northbound light engines to arrive. At 2:04 pm the action began as the light engines came up the siding and the southbound started to pull down the main.

I left town ahead of the light engines and made it to the Graves Road crossing at the south end of Ardmore where I ran into old friend Dwane Stevens. We had a good visit while both recording the passage of the ten light engines at 2:33 pm.

With the knowledge the light engines were going to the siding at Gene Autry to meet two southbounds and a northbound out of Thackerville was coming up behind us, I followed Dwane to the depot at Ardmore where we met another local rail enthusiast, Chris Sampley. We talked for a bit and then I located myself on top of the loading dock on the south side of East Main Street for the northbound train. While I waited I took this view looking north into the yard where the local power was tied down.

The northbound empty grain train rolled up the old freight main at 3:24 pm.

As the empty grain moved north I took the opportunity to take my latest view of AT&SF 2-6-2 #1108 that pulled the hospital train from Gainesville after a tank car full of gasoline exploded here back in 1915 killing as many as 50 people and levelling the surrounding area. When I was in High School, the locomotive was displayed at the Ardmore coliseum a mile or so southeast of this location.

A photo of the depot where I used to hang out to see the Frisco local from Madill and Santa Fe passenger and freight trains rounded out the memories for this day. I drove south to the First Avenue crossing to catch a southbound loaded coal train at 3:53 pm after it met the northbound at Arbuckle siding just north of town.

One interesting footnote here at the First Street crossing is that due to the converging streets on the east side of the crossing, the gate arm is separated from the flashers. It has been this way for as long as I can remember.

Still driving down memory lane, I headed north to the 7th Avenue Northeast crossing where the old freight and passenger mains come together just south of where the old Frisco trestle over the Santa Fe once stood. Crossing the tracks I looked north and saw the headlight of the second southbound. I quickly parked and at 4:07 pm caught these two shots of the merchandise train passing the switch and then splitting the signals.

This turned out to be a very long train, and I was on the phone when the single DPU came by. so I let it go. I heard on the radio this train would meet two northbounds at Overbrook and then a third at Marietta. As it was now after 4:00 pm, I decided it was time to head south myself with the intention of catching the three northbound trains and then Amtrak 822 stopped at the Gainesville depot right after sunset. I made it back to Graves Road at 4:42 pm amidst the deepening shadows in the cut for the first northbound out of Overbrook.

I wanted to catch the second northbound at the north end of Overbrook, but it turned out to be running right behind this empty grain train. I had to quickly park and set up at the Bussel Ridge Road crossing where I at least had full sun at 5:00 pm for this empty coal train.

This time I made it to the north end of Overbrook and was rewarded with a green signal for the third northbound.

So far the day had passed without incident, but this is where things went awry for BNSF. I heard on the radio the very long southbound merchandise train in a 2 x 1 configuration I photographed in Ardmore had stalled climbing the hill into Marietta. The northbound already in the siding at Marietta was an empty grain train with two units up front and the crew quickly cut the crossings in town.

The dispatcher came up with the plan that the empty grain train could run with one locomotive and would give their other unit to the stalled train. The stalled southbound would then back up into the siding at Overbrook and make another run at the hill later on. The north end of Marietta is not close to any roads, so I decided to pass on the engine swap and continue on to Gainesville for Amtrak 822.

I arrived at the depot just before sunset and Amtrak was running a few minutes late as passengers started to gather on the platform.

At 6:39 pm the northbound Heartland Flyer entered the scene and pulled up to a stop as the lights started to come on.

The dispatcher had long ago given the passenger train a green signal up the main towards Oklahoma, and a few minutes later 822 made use of it while accelerating away from the station.

One more photo as the rear P42 raced away from me ended the day.

Eighty-five miles later I turned into our driveway a few minutes before 9:00 pm. Overall I would rate this trip as one of my best in the past year for a no schedule, no pressure, just have a good time railfan day.

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