Four Days Of BNSF Leaders On The UP

On Saturday December 11th the UP ZAILC had a BNSF leader for the second day in a row but it ran very early and I missed it. The next day, Sunday the 12th, I more than made up for that with two trains with BNSF power on the UP. Judy and I went out early to shop and I dropped her off at HEB market in Hudson Oaks before heading on into Weatherford.

BNSF had experienced several fires between Amarillo and Fort Worth on the ex-BN. As a result an eastbound intermodal train came down from Clovis to Sweetwater to get on the UP at Tecific and use trackage rights over the UP Baird Sub the rest of the way into Fort Worth. At 10:44 am I was ready on the east side of the old T&P passenger station when the BNSF 7072 East rolled through town.

Later in the afternoon I heard the westbound ZAILC once again had BNSF leaders and I headed over to Aledo to catch it. I also was told that BNSF has assigned a block of units to the UP to pay back horsepower hours and that UP was using them in the Atlanta to Los Angeles corridor primarily on the ZAILC and ZLCAI. First up though was the UP 8045 East at 3:06 pm.

The eastbound UP took the siding at Iona, and it was not long before the ZAILC raced by at 3:34 pm doing the 50 mph track speed. Since it was Sunday and traffic was light I was able to get the angle from across the street with three BNSF and two UP units that I missed on Friday. This time with an H2 leader no less.

I heard on the radio the hot “Z” train was meeting another eastbound at Earls so I decided to wait a bit longer before heading home. My reward turned out to be a loaded welded rail train at 4:19 pm. The cars were still using SP reporting marks and a D&RGW hopper made a nice cover car!

On Monday the 13th I was alerted the ZAILC had two BNSF units leading three UP units. As this day was forecast to be the last with full sun for maybe a week, I decided to fly the drone at the big curve at the west end of Iona siding for a change of scenery. This day’s train was running much later and did not arrive until 4:21 pm, less than an hour before sunset. The lighting was perfect and long shadows cast by the train made it more interesting.

Instead of the end of the day, the next morning on Tuesday the 14th the daily ZAILC came through Aledo first thing in the morning at 7:53 am under overcast skies. This time the head end power consisted of four BNSF and one UP.

I had breakfast at the Aledo Diner, and at 9:06 am I took a break from eating and ran outside to catch the eastbound Abilene Local. The normal two SD40N’s for power were in run 8 climbing the grade with 17 cars.

Two more trains on Wednesday December 15th will bring this blog post to a conclusion. This morning I first captured the westbound Mesquite to Los Angeles “Z” train at the spot where Iona siding used to end before it was extended out to 12,000 feet. The clouds at 8:53 am add an extra punch for this train that had two AC44C6M rebuilt units up front and two more in DPU mode on the rear with numerous seasonal UPS trailers in between.

The ZAILC was a little over two hours behind, and the mainly overcast skies gave me the idea to try an angle that would not work on a sunny day. Last summer the UP cleared out the trees and brush lining the track on the “S” curve grade up to Iona out of Fort Worth. Normally this scene would be severely back lit if the sun was out, but I was lucky today as it was behind a cloud bank when the ZAILC roared by at 11:35 am.

Three BNSF units leading two UP’s were today’s power, so now we will see what tomorrow brings!

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