Texas-Sized Spring Trip-Report #2A (Following The FW & D-Part 2) #2a
(July 8, 2004)
I have a day off today to celebrate "July 4," so here's the next installment.
Otherwise, things are settling on the job and with Terry. All three pets
are due for a Vet's visit tomorrow night, so we'll get an update on her medical
condition then. She and the Beagle are hitting it off much better over the
past week, though relations with the cat remain nonexistent.
On Saturday, the first set of images from the Texas-Sized Spring Trip will be
shown in public at the Boston Street Railway Association. As you might
expect these will feature Houston's Metrorail, giving everyone their first up-close
look. I also will be hosting a "Traction Hometown" feature at their meeting
on November 6, when we'll look in detail at DART's system, McKinney Avenue and
the Trinity Railway Express. It will probably be late summer or early fall
before the shows are put together about Texas and surrounding railroads.
There is one reported erratum For Texas-Sized Spring Trip-Report #2A
(Following the FW & D):
"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."
We are advised that the Wichita Falls Subdivision is handled by DS 55, not DS
Plus, to keep the record straight, Iowa Park (MP 125) is actually on the BNSF
Red River Valley Subdivision. The Wichita Falls Subdivision ends at MP 118,
Day 3: Thursday, May 13
BNSF Red River Valley Subdivision
With all the heavy rain overnight, dawn was dark and long-lasting, and the
humidity still hung. As a result my awakening at 0530 wasn't much help, as it
would probably quite some time before there was enough light for pictures.
This gave me a chance to get some "real" breakfast, so I got moving and paused at
a diner along Business 287 near what the railroad calls Orient. This killed
45 minutes, then I figured on moving straight up to Electra for a start around
0745, by which time the questionable light should be sufficient for
I finally got back to the highway portion of 287 just past Iowa Park, and as
on the morning before, the scanner yielded no hint of train activity in the
early going. Also as on the morning of Day 2, I spontaneously decided to peek
in at Fowlkes, just to see if there was a lit signal or anything else hinting
of action. Well, unlike the morning before, I was just slowing for the exit
when an eastbound Manifest roared past, and needless to say I woke up pretty
fast. I looped back onto the eastbound side in hot pursuit, but my query soon
got obscured in the trees and there wasn't any way to know for sure if I was
ahead or behind.
Trusting to luck, I zoomed back to the Iowa Park exit, but instead of
following Business 287 back to yesterday's location, pulled to a set of crossing
gates visible straight off the highway which turned out to be near a processing
plant. There was no sign of the train as yet, and after grabbing the camera and
hustling trackside, I assumed that it must have slowed for some reason. By
stepping into the highly humid air, my well-refrigerated camera had also begun
to fog up once outside the air-conditioned car, so I spent a few minutes madly
wiping the lens, mirror and viewfinder until things finally came together:
46) BNSF 4116 (C44-9W) etc., EB Frt at MP 126, west of Iowa Park TX-0719.
I thought there might be a Westbound in the siding ahead, so hesitated just
slightly to see if there were crew communication as the two passed. No such
luck though, just more silence as the marker slowly disappeared toward Wichita
Falls, and I finally headed back to 287 North. Maybe the train was just
running slow due to congestion at the crew change point.
Whatever the case, I shook this mini-episode off and returned to Fowlkes,
where I exited again, uninterrupted this time, onto the 287J road into Electra.
The light was still shaky but slightly better by this time (0735), and I was
delighted to find a surviving, wood-shingled depot when I got into town, which
created an obvious setting. After 45 more minutes of scanning newsletters and
listening to KNIN out of Wichita Falls, a coal train approached:
47) BNSF 8832 (SD70MAC) etc., UFIX EB at Electra TX-0818.
48) BNSF 9609 (SD70MAC) etc., DPU, UFIX EB at Electra TX-0820.
Even with compensation, the best I could manage in this light was a shutter
speed of 1/160, so I was a little reluctant to move along. But again, I
couldn't be sure when the next train would arrive, or when it did if the light would
be any better. My next stop was Vernon, but again I decided to loiter about
and pulled off the road for a look at Oklaunion. I think this is because of
the name, and another I heard now and then on the radio which referred to this
area as "Texoma." Such linguistic trickery adds interest to the meeting
points for many states, from Calada in the desert outside Las Vegas to West New
York, NJ on the banks of the Hudson River across from Manhattan.
Oklaunion wasn't a bad bit of trackside scenery with a gradual curve at a
dirt grade crossing. As I pulled in though, there was a sudden explosion of
scanner activity, and in the distance it looked like an empty coal train was just
starting onto the mainline westbound. The chase was on again, and Oklaunion
was going to have to wait for another time. The coal empty was just getting
underway as I passed above on 287, and I was several minutes ahead of it upon
arrival at the US 283 grade crossing. By this time the sun was starting to peek
through the murky skies, so I went across to the "bright" side to catch:
49) BNSF 8983 (SD70MAC) etc., WFCX WB at Vernon TX-0858.
50) BN 9641 (SD70MAC) etc., DPU, WFCX WB at Vernon TX-0900.
Scrambling up the ramp and back onto 287 North, I passed the train again near
Tolbert and hightailed ahead into Chillicothe. Once there a "dead" train was
seen at the East end of town, but I anxiously poked about for a decent
vantage point and finally came upon the grade crossing at Highway 91. A BNSF Signal
Maintainer was working on the crossing protection, and we exchanged nods and
pleasantries as he noted me setting up with camera in hand. About five
minutes later, the empty coal train arrived to test his repair work:
51) BNSF 8983 (SD70MAC) etc., WFCX WB at Chillicothe TX-0919.
52) BN 9641 (SD70MAC) etc., DPU, WFCX WB at Chillicothe TX-0921.
8983 West was really picking up speed at this point, and being stuck on the
wrong side of the crossing I decided to let it go. Skies were brightening
quickly, and I felt it more productive to go back for a view of the stranded
Eastbound, which turned out to have one brand-new unit for lead power:
53) BNSF 5662 (AC4400CW) etc., UFIX EB at MP 177, Chillicothe TX-0938.
Back toward town I searched for the DPU end of the same train, and finally
found it at a crossing just shy of the earlier one. Thankfully the engine was
54) BNSF 8855 (SD70MAC) etc., DPU, UFIX EB at Chillicothe TX-0945.
Radio chatter indicated that a crew was now climbing onto 5662 East, so I
went back and watched them prepare to get underway. Finally they alerted DS 55,
got the signal and started to move, with me taking off well ahead up US 287.
Soon I was at a rural crossing in Tolbert, where I had to wait a surprisingly
long to time to hear, then see the loaded coal train rumble by. Now there
were puffy clouds playing havoc with the sun, too, but I lucked out just in time
55) BNSF 5662 (AC4400CW) etc., UFIX EB at Tolbert TX-1043. Light's just
right for that fresh Tangerine. Whir, whir, whir went the motor drive...
56) BNSF 8855 (SD70MAC) etc., DPU, UFIX EB at Tolbert TX-1046. The faded,
obedient, backlit, servant, just plain working hard. Snap...
Back on 287, I expressed up to Quanah (pronounced Cane-uh), where I wandered
about at leisure, as no trains were soon due with Track & Time granted to a
Hi-Rail Truck from Goodlett to Chillicothe through 1230. Noting a gradual
change in the surroundings as I progressed North, I spied a Cactus Flower at
trackside and took a "what the heck?" shot, somewhat out of character.
Finally, I set up near the Highway 6 & 34 grade crossing, using a vacant,
squat brick building with "Grinstein Green" doors (perhaps a former BN freight
station?) for shade when the hot, humid sun appeared. Out came the newsletters
again, but my concentration was suddenly broken by the surprising sound of
crossing gates being activated. Hustling across the street while trying to get
the camera around my neck, I made it just in time to see a set of light power
for a local working somewhere nearby:
57) BNSF 2226 (GP38) etc., Lt Pwr WB at Quanah TX-1146. Heritage I colors.
Soon the Hi-Rail truck approached from the west, and there was some radio
chatter to assure that this power was safely tucked in its siding. At this point
my stomach chimed in and I headed into town for lunch, and as I did the skies
darkened appreciably. The local radio station (100.9) was even talking of
Severe Thunderstorm Warnings for nearby Donley and Collingsworth Counties, which
dominated the conversation at a Subway sandwich shop. Undaunted, I took my
Meatball Sub, cookies and chips back to the BNSF grade crossing and hoped for
the best, albeit with one eye to the dark gray sky.
The magic hour of 1300 came and went, and with it my anxiety grew. I began
to project off yesterday's sightings, and guessed that if the first westbound
Intermodal I'd seen at Rhome and Decatur was a daily move, it ought to be
passing that Hi-Railer somewhere. The DS eventually confirmed this suspicion about
45 minutes later, when the Patrol got a Track Warrant from Vernon, "In Effect
After The Arrival Of BNSF 1051 West." Anxiety reigned for the next 20
minutes or so, while I set and reset my exposure against the harsh, heavy light and
finally, the gates went down and the long-awaited string of trailers dashed
58) BNSF 1051 (C44-9W) etc., WB TV at Quanah TX-1411.
Working out a chancy backdoor escape from town, I caught up with the train's
rear end on the Highway 285 overpass then caught up with the head end just
beyond Acme as I rejoined US 287. The train seemed to be slowing down and though
I may have been able to get it again at Goodlett, decided to keep going all
the way to Kirkland for a little better time cushion. Once there, I didn't
have a complete feel for which turn to make, and turned left to cross the tracks
just east of some tall silos. A glance left revealed the 1051 and company
were gaining on me fast, so I pulled over to get my shot, albeit slightly out of
59) BNSF 1051 (C44-9W) etc., WB TV at Kirkland TX-1431. Didn't get the silos
(very typical), but did get the train passing MP 211 (unique) and it was
cloudy anyway. That'll do!
Trapped by the zooming Westbound, I drove around to the FM 1033 crossing and
continued west on 287, bobbing and weaving with the Intermodal as it made good
time. We both slowed down approaching Childress, I because of Speed Zones
and the train because of a local Speed Restriction, and soon it dove out of
sight behind houses, businesses and trees. Just for the heck of it, I turned left
at FM 3031 and headed for where I believed the tracks should be, and was
surprised to find an empty grade crossing upon arrival. Incredibly, my Westbound
was stopped right at the crossing! As soon as I stopped, got out of the car
and set myself in position the gates activated and it made for a Kodak moment:
60) BNSF 1051 (C44-9W) etc., WB TV at Childress TX-1443.
A look west made it clear what was going on, as an eastbound coal train was
slowly approaching the grade crossing in somewhat of a running meet. Even
before the last trailers had cleared my view, the head end was in my viewfinder:
61) BNSF 8966 (SD70MAC) etc., CEFX EB at Childress TX-1450.
No luck with the DPU, which was facing into the train...oh well! At this
point I assumed that 1051 was starting its race toward Amarillo, and went all the
way back to 287 to continue west. I still had a couple of locations I was
hoping to capture before dark, but wanted to eyeball things along Childress'
main drag for gas, food, lodging, supplies, etc., expecting that I'd have to hope
for 1051's follower (the second theoretical westbound Intermodal, based on
yesterday's observation). I also checked out the crossing for US 82 & 83, where
I discovered that the road had been lowered into an underpass (likely at the
depot site) many years before. In a small area right at trackside sat a
stuffed and mounted FW & D Pacific under a shed, whose black and silver highlights
made for a good shot in the still-stark light:
62) FW & D 501 (4-6-2) at Childress TX-1457.
Getting out of town on 287, I eventually caught sight of 1051 West once
again, undulating through the Red River Valley. Soon I could hear it report clear
of "CTC Estelline," then was advised on another channel (161.100) they would
have a wait in Clarendon, where there would be "at least three Eastbounds."
Aha! Things were getting interesting again. Ahead of the train as I cruised
through Estelline myself, I pushed the speed limit up to a grade crossing at FM
1819 in tiny Newlin, where I actually had a short wait to get:
63) BNSF 1051 (C44-9W) etc., WB TV at Newlin TX-1530.
--End of Film #4.
Hurriedly, I got the car going even as the train was rolling by, grabbed a
fresh film from the back seat and changed it on the fly as I drove north on 287.
My next objective was Memphis, which was as far as I intended to go for the
day. The high speed limit and low density combined in my favor, and I was in
town a good five minutes ahead of the train. With the late afternoon sun
beginning to shine through clouds again, I had to perch at a precarious, hilly
crossing between 287 and FM 1547 and got:
64) BNSF 1051 (C44-9W) etc., WB TV at Memphis TX-1545. Farewell guys, and
As 1051 was disappearing in the distance, I noted an eastbound train stopped
in the siding. This turned out to be a hot "Z" Intermodal, but an empty
westbound coal train with power problems and short on time was at Estelline, so the
Dispatcher soothed the crew's feelings by telling them to "be ready to run"
in about 45 minutes. This gave me ample time to gas up across the street,
where I noticed prices were still on the rise ($1.86 per gallon), and gather my
thoughts. The cheapest I'd noted back in Childress was just a penny less.
After this, I sidled to the eastern edge of town and parked at an abandoned
restaurant across 287 from an industrial switch. It seemed to take forever for the
detector at MP 243 to go off, but the eager, creeping Eastbound didn't even
stay off the crossings as its counterpart slowly approached, and with its lead
coupler almost touching my backside, I still got:
65) BNSF 8845 (SD70MAC) etc., OECX WB at Memphis TX-1644.
After this, there was no time to waste as I sped back east on 287, deciding
"on the fly" to try a shot at Estelline. This turned out to be a hairy
decision, as the mainline was far behind and below this little village. I guessed at
the lone access road from my 1988 "Texas Roads" atlas and committed to a
bumpy, downgrade dirt road. The dirt son turned to silt, then finally sand, as I
slid toward the unknown. Thankfully, I came upon a grade crossing and for
better or worse, climbed atop a small pile of ballast for photographic elevation
while the train could be heard approaching in the distance, receiving a Track
Warrant into Childress:
66) BNSF 5259 (C44-9W) etc., EB TV at Estelline TX-1710.
I held my breath and set the Chevy in low gear as I tried to climb back to
287, and with a slip or two it worked (phew!). I expected this would be it for
the day, but as I approached Childress I could see another Westbound just
getting started after meeting the "Z" train. At first I tried the grade crossing
near the airport, which was a poor vantage point. Then, deciding to take
another chance, got back on 287 and exited for the "Loop" into Carey. Here was a
nice roadside perch on which to wait, as the clouds again thinned to the
sunset and the wind began to pick up. For the first time this trip I had to rescue
my jacket from the trunk, then was set up for:
67) BNSF 8871 (SD70MAC) etc., CEFX WB at Carey TX-1747.
Well, that was enough for yet another successful day and I rolled easily back
into town. Another trip to Walmart for this 'n that (a comb, some emery
boards, more soda and crackers), then supper at a Chinese Buffet across the
street. I finally headed east to my room at the Super 8, where I did my nightly
record-keeping, and spoke for the first time with one Stephen Foyt before
turning in. So far, so good and tomorrow I should reach Amarillo.
(To Be Continued)
George Chiasson Jr., Rockland, Mass.
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