Two Interesting Trains

On Wednesday April 21st the timing worked out for me such that I was able to catch two interesting trains in the Fort Worth area. My first target train was an empty coal train coming north on the BNSF Fort Worth Sub with four older ex-Burlington Northern SD70MAC’s for power. The second was Amtrak 21 with their Phase IV heritage locomotive P42DC number 184 leading into Fort Worth so it could be quickly set out and become the area protection locomotive. The empty coal train would be the first to arrive in Fort Worth around 11:00 am, so I decided to catch it on the south side of Fort Worth so I would not have far to travel to be in position in Richland Hills for Amtrak 21 around 90 minutes later.

So what is special about this particular empty coal train? The EMD SD70MAC’s were first introduced in the early 1990’s and Burlington Northern purchased 316 units primarily for coal train service. It is not a great slide scan but here is the cover of the June 1994 issue of Railway Age when they used one of my photos of the first test loaded coal train (134 cars if memory serves me correctly) eastbound out of Rhome, TX with three new SD70MAC’s and a dynamometer car.

Now nearly thirty years later only a few of the original versions of these units remain in service on BNSF. Many are in storage for resale or scrap. In spite of the odds, four of these old warriors are currently together on one of the coal train shuttles between the Powder River Basin and a power plant in Louisiana. I had missed their first two round trips when they came through this area during the night both ways, but on April 21st they were heading back north in the late morning hours.

I set up at the south switch of Birds siding just north of West Biddison Street. An empty grain train was running ahead of the empty coal at 10:53 am.

I am not a fan of freight car graffiti as it hinders my professional work for the railroads, but this tagger had an ambitious vision that spanned three hopper cars. Notice as usual these days he was smart enough not to cover up the reporting marks making it less likely his work will be quickly painted over.

At 11:17 am the empty coal passed by on its way north to Tower 55. The two lead units and the first DPU on the rear were still in their original paint and only the trailing DPU had been repainted in to the corporate scheme.

With this train in the bag at 11:19, I drove to one of my preferred spots on the TRE just west of the Richland Hills station. I found a nice patch of yellow flowers, and exactly one hour later at 12:19 pm Amtrak 21 sped past me with P42DC 184 leading sister 204 elephant style. With only five cars in tow the two units were not having any issues maintaining the 79 mph track speed here.

On the way home I put on my Trinity Metro PPE and took two more photos of 184 in Fort Worth Central Station with the skyline for a background. The locomotive was set out to the Amtrak yard so it could become the area protection engine.

When I left the house that morning I was not sure how much time and effort was going to be involved in photographing both trains, but the goal was accomplished with relative ease……this time!

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