Just having caught the empty coal with all SD70MAC’s and Amtrak 21 with Heritage 184 leading the day before; early on the morning of Thursday April 22nd I had no intention of getting out as the skies were heavily overcast and rain was forecast for the afternoon. Then things turned on a dime when I learned a loaded frac sand train was about to leave nearby Cresson on the Fort Worth & Western heading west to Brownwood on the BNSF. That in itself was interesting but not necessarily a reason to get out until the topper came that the lead unit was BNSF 5872, one of the 25th Anniversary sticker units.
Now I was in a race to get dressed and load up the Explorer with my photography gear as I heard the train leaving Cresson on the radio. I drove south on US 377 with the idea I would catch sight of the train somewhere near Granbury. Sure enough around 7:45 am I spotted a line of grey sand hoppers slowly moving up the grade into Tolar. I easily got ahead of the train and found my spot in town with the “Tolar” sign included as a reference. The main line had cars parked on it, so at 8:14 am I was rewarded with this sequence of the train creeping through the passing siding.
Since I knew I could easily beat the train to the Bluff Dale area, I drove on west and settled on this view of the other side of the lead units leaning into the curve at the FM 1188 crossing. It is an interesting contrast between the lead unit ES44AC number 5872 in its 25th Anniversary scheme and the C44-9W number 1008 in the Heritage One paint scheme with a burned hood.
Knowing the exact location of the train I raced ahead a few miles on US 377 and pulled over at the west end of a well-maintained horse ranch to launch the drone. I was in position with less than a minute to spare as I recorded the train’s passage along with two relatively disinterested observers.
I knew the train had tow DPU’s but had not laid eyes on them yet. I kept the drone aloft and was pleasantly surprised by a pair of NS units pushing on the rear. You can see a little bit of me to the right of the tree above the first DPU.
I let the sand train go at this point and drove back towards home. Getting close to Cresson again I heard there was a FWWR train out of Fort Worth heading that way. I had time so I detoured over to Mustang Creek for this view of four SD40-2’s with a long train.
I followed the train back to Cresson and took this view as it passed one of the radio controlled switches east of US 377.
The crew swapped out one of their units near the yard office and I took one more more photo including my favorite unit, number 2025 that began life as a Santa Fe SD45 many years earlier.
Overall a successful time out for an unplanned railfan trip!