Texas-Sized Spring Trip-Report #2A (Following The FW & D-Part 1) #2a
(July 3, 2004)
Sorry for the long wait in submitting Report #2A, but it has been a busy,
crazy two weeks with big-time distraction.
One is the new job I started when I got back from Texas (New Mexico, Colorado
and Louisiana, too). It is a lot of responsibility, more than I've had to
handle for a few years and keeps me hopping, including about an hour of overtime
each day. I like it though, the pay is good and I have to use my head. The
day flies by....
Two, we took Terry home last Sunday (June 27) and she has kept us all on edge
ever since. She is now 15 weeks old and continuing to grow very fast. It
would be impossible now for her to fit into the carrying case I took her on the
plane with. Terry and the 13-year old Beagle (named Sam) seemed to be getting
along OK, but she has ten times the energy and playfully but incessantly nips
at the older dog's ears, rump and tail. Sam sometimes gets so frustrated she
howls but not all that often. Anyone have a suggestion on what to do about
this? If so, please contact via e-mail. Terry and the 8-year cat haven't
really met yet, as CeCe just keeps hissing and hiding when they see each other.
Now for some good news, ALL slides were returned from Kodak processing today,
but have not yet been "processed" (eyeballed) by me. So far, so good and all
should be easily scannable. If interested in .JPGs as available, again let
me know via e-mail and I can forward. There will probably be far too many
images for Railspot's "Files" in Yahoo! Groups, but I can upload some in time.
First, we have errata For Texas-Sized Spring Trip-Report #1 (Getting Started)
1) Amend "Heartland Valley Flyer" to just "Heartland Flyer," and Train 820 to
2) Scheduled departure for 822 from Ft. Worth is 5:25 PM.
With further review of notes and all of the images from Report #1 finally
here, there are two corrections.
"3) TRE 565 (F59PH) etc., 2919 WB at FORT WORTH INTERMODAL TRANSPORTATION
With the three minute dwell, I had enough time to walk all the way up to the
head end for a stock view of the commuter train at the FTWITC platform, with
part of the Fort Worth skyline as a backdrop. I also took another view of the
cab end as it pulled away:
3A) TRE 1004 (PP) etc., 2919 west of FORT WORTH INTERMODAL TRANSPORTATION
After the TRE train departed, I went back to retrieve the car and kind of
stumbled my way to the T & P Station and TRE terminal on Lancaster. I was unsure
of which parking areas were legal or illegal and was sort of hoping I'd bump
into Michael Gitlin somewhere to help figure the place out. What I wound up
doing was leaving the car in an open space on the periphery and crossing
through the vacant depot building and tunnel to the stairway which appeared to go up
to the commuter platform."
"It was a fairly direct drive back to Euless from Saginaw, almost straight
along 820 and as it was now evening the traffic wasn't too bad. I made a stop
at the Wal-Mart Supercenter in Richland Hills en route for my first wave of
road supplies (soda pop, crackers, batteries and a small pair of sports
binoculars) and filled up for the first time at a nominal $1.78 per gallon. Little did
I know what lay ahead for gas prices".
Those binoculars would become indispensable.
The whole trip to Denver is too long for one e-mail, so it will have to be
broken into sections. Here's Report #2A.
Day 2: Wednesday, May 12
BNSF Wichita Falls Subdivision
After a decent night's sleep, I was out early enough to get to the McDonald's
for a quick breakfast shortly after their 6:00 AM opening. This became kind
of a hurried standard as the time passed, including a #3 Combo (Sausage
McMuffin with Egg and Hash Brown) with a Medium Hi-C Orange drink instead of coffee.
Curling back to 183 West, I simply retraced my tracks from the previous
evening to Highway 820, and was at the Business 287 exit in Saginaw by 0640. It
was with a little regret I passed up the opportunity to get some more shots by
the crossing, but the morning light wasn't really there yet, and there was no
guarantee of improvement vs. the night before. At any rate, the railroad(s)
were pretty tranquil as I started out of the Metroplex on a northwesterly
heading. I kept an eye on what wayside signals I could see, tree lines, telephone
pole tops, and whatever else might reveal the sudden appearance of a train, but
there was nothing going on.
Briefly I diverted to the grade crossing in Avondale, which turned out to be
an unappealing prospect. On "schedule", I bumped to a stop by a grade
crossing in the residential portion of Rhome, near the intersection with Highway 114,
at 0705 . Up to this time there was no activity on the scanner either,
except for a short litany of BNSF chatter related to the Fort Worth Subdivision.
This all changed in about 10 minutes though, when I heard DS 22 respond to
someone's call for Track & Time with a notice that he'd have to get two Westbounds
and one Eastbound through before the crew would get their wish. Soon enough,
he reinforced this notion by reading out a Track Warrant for BNSF 4372 West
from CP11 to Herman.
After that, it was a simple matter of waiting, reading my newsletters and
trying not to miss the sound of an approaching horn. About 10 minutes later, the
fellow near whose home I had parked drove in, and he drifted over for a nice,
friendly chat (after his initial suspicions had been tamed). Sure enough,
the sound of an approaching train broke our vigil in due course, I got out and
set myself up, and the headlights hove into view:
(25) BNSF 4372 (C44-9W) etc., WB TV at Rhome TX-0749.
I started the car anxiously, but had to wait until the whole train passed to
get back to 287 West. I knew the train would be stopping several miles ahead
anyway, and tried to get as far as I could, figuring to catch its meeting mate
somewhere, then set up again in Decatur. My plan worked to perfection as
after a few miles I saw a distant eastbound headlight, and was able to get a shot
at the FM 2264 grade crossing with plenty of time to spare:
26) BNSF 5341 (C44-9W) etc., EB Tank Train at MP 37, east of Decatur TX-0804.
--End of Film #2.
There was a Wise County Sheriff at the crossing, waiting in line with the
rest of the auto traffic. When I ran up to meet the eastbound train I had kind
of just dumped my car in a dirt cutout at the side of the road, so I waited to
see if the cruiser's occupant would pay me a visit. As it turned out (of
course), all I got for my trouble was a cheerful wave as he passed after the
train went by.
Reloaded with film and back on the road, I could hear 4372 West getting its
track authority extended to Dickworsham, and figured they'd soon be breathing
down my neck. As it turned out, there was plenty of time to stay ahead of the
train for the next view:
27) BNSF 4372 (C44-9W) etc., WB TV at Decatur TX-0827.
I was forced to stay on the "sunny" side (despite the presence of pesky
clouds), and with the train speeding up quite a bit as it passed through town,
there was no way I'd be able catch up and give chase. That was OK though, as the
following Westbound had already passed the eastbound Tank Train at Herman and
was not far off. After I got to the next location there was barely a half
hour wait, during which I spent time on the cell phone checking on things at
28) BNSF 4071 (C44-9W) etc., WB TV at Alvord TX-0918.
This train was moving much more slowly than the first, and a combination of
thankful factors (closeness to leader and a 25 mph restriction at MP 60) made
chasing possible. Getting out of town, 4071 West continued to proceed slowly
as I sped along 287, finally passing the train of bobbing trailers between
Sunset and Fruitland. I was thus able to beat it to the next selected location
29) BNSF 4071 (C44-9W) etc., WB TV at Bowie TX-0942.
Then, as it continued west at a sluggish pace:
30) BNSF 4071 (C44-9W) etc., WB TV at Bellevue TX-1004.
Finally, as the train had its Track Warrant secured through Rhea, I got one
last view at an "extra" location:
31) BNSF 4071 (C44-9W) etc., WB TV at Dickworsham TX-1014.
It sounded certain on the scanner that there would be another meet out in
Wichita Falls, so I scouted Henrietta and bided my time. Eventually it became
clear that there were three Eastbounds in the offing. For the first while I
hung out by the BNSF section house on US 82 and continued reading my newsletters.
As skies gradually cleared after Noon, I wandered around a little further in
search of longer, straighter sight lines and found a somewhat obscure grade
crossing slightly to the east. There was also no place to get a quick lunch,
so I chomped on some of those Wal-Mart crackers. Finally I began to hear
whistles somewhere over the horizon, then:
32) BNSF 8800 (SD70MAC) etc., TXUX EB at Henrietta TX-1257.
Skunked on the DPU, I returned to 287 in the hopes of making it at least to
Jolly for the second train. About MP 98 though, I was "ambushed" and forced to
make a quick U-turn for that crossing back at US 82, where I caught:
33) BNSF 9814 (SD70MAC) etc., BN Coal EB at Henrietta TX-1313.
From here I cautiously resumed my journey up 287, but the third train was not
immediately following, so I set up shop again when I finally did reach the
grade crossing in Jolly. A while after hearing a Track Warrant issued from
Wichita Falls to Decatur, a distant headlight slowly approached off the horizon:
34) BNSF 7318 (SD40-2) etc., EB Frt at Jolly TX-1405.
The crew on this job had its hands full with a heavy 98-car train being
pulled by just two units, and one of these in less than perfect running order. The
result was slow motion, which invited me to chase the job back east a bit
before letting it get away. Thus, I wound up almost back in Henrietta at a
decent but desolate viewpoint off the old highway:
35) BNSF 7318 (SD40-2) etc., EB Frt at MP 97, Frame TX-1421.
For all intents and purpose this cleared my day, with several hours of
useable daylight remaining. I thus resumed a westward course, aiming to close
things out in Wichita Falls itself. I passed nothing on the way, but as I was
exiting for Business 287 heard something on the scanner about "the hole at Ray,"
and grabbed my Altamont Press Texas Timetable to figure out what was up. It
turned out there was a westbound coal train being brought down to the switch at
"Rhea" to be in the clear for crew change. Thus, I turned back from my
approach to Downtown Wichita Falls and caught sight of coal cars passing through
town to my west.
The Delorme city map seemed to reveal a split alignment in this section, so I
went all the way back near the US 287/Business 287 interchange and found the
head end of this train stopped beneath the overpass. Someone else with a
camera was there in a Red Ford pickup who could have been a railroader or maybe
just another railfan, and he was talking to the crew. When they finally saw me
waiting at the grade crossing with my camera, the Engineer drifted into the
sunlight so both of us could get some shots:
36) BNSF 9989 (SD70MAC) etc., ETRX EB at Rhea TX-1454.
How 'bout that!
There wasn't a lot of time for celebrating this victory though, as DS 22's
new voice (must be second trick) was suddenly giving a Track Warrant to yet
another Eastbound, one quite obviously about to depart Wichita Falls. It would
have been easy enough to stay right at Rhea, but with my agenda "in the bag" I
figured it was worth a slight risk to capture it in a different setting. Thus,
I sweated out the inbound drive on Business 287 (Scott St.) and aimed for a
large set of grain silos, where I guessed the "station" probably was. A series
of rights and lefts finally brought the tracks into view, and I discovered an
abandoned grade crossing near the intersection of Ohio & Mississippi, where
the 447 Loop overpass crossed. I hustled out of the car just in time to see:
37) BNSF 5402 (C44-9W) etc., EB Stk* at Wichita Falls TX-1459.
Stk*=Double-Stack, Marine/International Containers.
It looked to me like there was also another Westbound, and judging by the
presence of a crew van it wouldn't be long before it got started. Again I ducked
and dodged through city streets and alleyways, keeping the track in sight
until I found a "main" grade crossing at 7th Street. There was a small railway
museum with a former FW & D steam engine (4-8-2 #304) on display handy the
crossing, but really no good way to work it into the shot of a brand new GE unit
depicting early 21st Century railroading:
38) BNSF 5665 (AC4400CW) etc., FPPX WB at Wichita Falls TX-1522.
39) BNSF 9705 (SD70MAC) etc., DPU, FPPX WB at Wichita Falls TX-1528.
Satisfied with these two views, I decided to poke around nearer the museum
and still couldn't get a good angle, or light, on the steam engine. Instead I
settled for an early diesel on static display:
40) MKT 1029 (NW-2/SW1200) at Wichita Falls RR Museum-1535.
It was still bright and much too early to call it a day, so I began dipping
into the location lineup for Day 3. Even so, it took me a little while to find
my way west along the FW & D. At first I was deceived by another, well-worn
line that seemed to head north that turned out to be the Wichita, Tillman &
Jackson. Finally, after several turns I wound up back on Business 287, west
from Interstate 44, and was back with the right railroad. At 1600 I arrived in
Iowa Park, where the only shade near the railroad was being provided by a
Quonset-type machine shop that appeared to have closed for the day. With nothing
doing on the scanner, it was back to my newsletters for quite a while.
Another Westbound was reportedly being re-crewed in Wichita Falls, and
naturally I rooted for it to approach right into the setting sun. Finally after a
long, hot and fairly boring wait I thought I heard a train approaching. When I
climbed out of the car I was right, but it was a harshly backlit Eastbound:
41) BNSF 8955 (SD70MAC) etc., UFIX EB at Iowa Park TX-1733.
--End of Film #3. (!)
Even though the camera had just turned to exposure #29 of a 36 roll, I got an
"End" indication in the Command Window of my Nikon N70. This warrior had
given me 7 years of fine, trouble-free duty up until now, and I assumed this must
have been a "shorted" roll of Kodak Ektachrome film. Whatever the cause, as
the loaded coal train was rumbling through town I hustled over to the car and
grabbed a replacement roll, fingered it into the unit and reloaded.
Amazingly, I was ready for the DPU of the same train, a nice shot in the late afternoon
42) BNSF 9714 (SD70MAC) etc., UFIX EB at Iowa Park TX-1738.
Unsure if the shots were successful, I decided to try the next available
location back toward Wichita Falls, and set up near what appeared to be a grain
mill in Pleasant Valley, near MP 118. This Westbound was widely reported to be
underway by the Dispatcher, but for almost an hour I scanned an empty eastern
horizon with my new binoculars. The line was arrow straight through this
location, and with enough focus I could see the railroad all the way back to the
I-44/Business 287 Interchange. A pair of F-5s out of Sheppard AFB also flew
around to provide entertainment above as I was waiting. At long last I could
discern motion from distant crossing gates. My long-awaited train hove into
view, approached rapidly and finally came into camera range:
43) BNSF 1118 (C44-9W) etc., WB Frt at Pleasant Valley TX-1847.
The sun was ducking in and out of the clouds as it set, this fine spring
evening, and by the time 1118 actually showed up I was able to swing across to the
highway side of the BNSF crossing, which made it easier to get ahead of the
heavy, slowish manifest. Back at Iowa Park for an insurance view, the light
was obscured but I tried anyway:
44) BNSF 1118 (C44-9W) etc., WB Frt at Iowa Park TX-1857.
At this point I decided I'd sweated enough and set out for my night's lodging
at the Motel 6 down in Wichita Falls. The busy scanner once again made for a
change of plans though, as that eastbound coal train was receiving a Track
Warrant as I got into town, though it was "Not In Effect Until Arrival of BNSF
8845 West." This meant the train would be parked somewhere in town for a
while, so I once again meandered the city streets in search of a viewpoint.
Finally, with just enough daylight in the gloaming and skies darkening in advance of
thunderstorms, I found its head end waiting about 200 yards off the grade
crossing at Rosewood. Parking options were slim, so I pulled into a cutout near
the Wichita River bridge and walked through the weeds to the throbbing, idling
45) BNSF 8955 (SD70MAC) etc., UFIX EB at Rosewood (Wichita Falls) TX-1930.
Just as I was walking back to the car, a WFPD cruiser pulled behind it. On
the run I crossed the street and shouted "I'm here!" to the officer. He turned
out to be a pretty good fellow, just checking up on an otherwise abandoned
vehicle in a strange place. Hey, no problem, just as long as someone was
attached to it. We made small talk for a few minutes after I introduced myself and
told him what was up, and at the end he started to lead me over to the Motel
6, until something diverted his attention away, blue lights flashing.
The day ended with me doing my daily log and munching on McDonald's burgers
once again in my room, the air conditioner blasting away against the intense
heat and humidity. Wichita Falls was even mentioned in one of TWC's segments as
the prime battleground for warm air off the Gulf clashing with cold air from
the Plains, and the black skies on the western horizon seemed to assure a
noisy, but fascinating night. Indeed it did not disappoint.
(To Be Continued)
George Chiasson Jr., Rockland, Mass.
[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]