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Three of a Kind

January 5, 2018

You’d think that a power consist of 3 SD70ACe’s would be fairly common on the UP, what with nearly 750 on the roster. But when you realize that there are 6000 or so other road units, that makes getting 3 lashed-up together pretty rare.

Today, 1/4/2018, was one of those rare occasions. Here are 3 shots of UP manifest (but mostly autos) MLDLIX passing MP 19.5 (Stafford, TX) at 11:12 AM with 8974/8774/8780


Brand-New UP SD70ACE T-4 on Amtrak

December 27, 2017

It hasn’t happened around the Houston area yet, but the Southern California crowd got to experience UP 3012 leading Amtrak #11 into Burbank, CA early this year. The freight unit was pinch-hitting for the lead P42 account a grade crossing incident that occurred in the Dunsmuir area. There’s an aviation bonus at the end of the video.

Lastly, to the extent you wonder why I don’t post more often here, I have been assimilated into the Facebook Borg. I do a lot of quick-hit type posts at the Railspot Group on Facebook.

Same Train, Different Day

November 14, 2017

I suspect that most railfans are pretty indifferent to Amtrak operations. If you’ve seen one Superliner trainset with 2 P42’s, you’ve seen them all right?

Then again, if equipment variety is your raison d’√™tre, you’re probably in the wrong hobby. It’s 2017. If you’re lucky, you get to see all GE’s with a few ACe’s. If you’re not (BNSF transcon railfans), it’s all GE’s, all the time. (I do understand that one can travel the country tracking down old/rare/obscure operations, but that’s too much work for me  ūüôā )

Anyhow, if variety doesn’t come to you, you can create variety with how/when/where you capture your images of the same stuff.

These shots of today’s Amtrak #2 are completely unremarkable equipment-wise. But upon learning via ATCS that the DS was routing it via the Sugar Land crossovers, I was able to create a different image, satisfying my desire to not make the same shots over and over.

Entering the crossover.

Clear of the speed restriction for the crossovers, the engineer opens the throttle to get back up to track speed for the remaining 30 miles to the Houston depot.

After Dark Railfanning – Progress Report

October 11, 2017

There’s hope for my after-dark railfanning imagery. My first attempts were less than stellar, but I got right back on the horse and have, IMHO, made some progress.

Last week, a pal and I headed out to catch an empty BNSF auto train, VALTLAR4 04 (Vehicle Alliance TX to Laredo TX) account it had two FXE motors. We knew the train would come in after dark, but didn’t think it would be midnight-thirty before we were able to photograph it. It wasn’t easy getting going the next morning after running around the southeast Texas boonies in the wee hours,¬† but getting some nice images of this train was worth it.

FXE 4063 & 4680 hold BNSF train VALTLAR4 04 on 10/6/2017 as it waited for a new crew just north of Algoa TX.

I like the lighting on this broadside-ish view.

And of course the roster-geek in me like this roster view of a fairly clean SD70ACe

How to do it: Set up your lights properly, turn on the flashes/trigger/receivers, and depress the shutter release. Easy.

Everything is easy. Here’s how to rid the world of disease:

PTRA Motive Power Variety Pack

September 28, 2017

May 21, 1966 was just another day at the PTRA roundhouse in Houston, with HB&T 32, an AS616 working in the background and MP SW1200 1253, CRIP RS1 744, and two SP units in Halloween colors, an S12 and an NW2 further back on the service tracks.

Missouri Pacific SW1200 at Houston PTRA roundhouse

Before 1996, PTRA’s motive power was provided by its owner railroads, hence the variety pack of locomotives in this view.

Hauling You Know What in West Texas

September 28, 2017

Somewhere in far West Texas, GP35 626 and 2 siblings have the daily Fort Worth to El Paso (FEZ ?) hotshot well in hand.

If I had to guess, I’d say the shot’s from about 1968, and location is in the Big Spring, Texas area. Your opinions and guesses are welcome.

* Hauling freight. What did you think?

Why Me?

September 27, 2017

As much as I whine about clouds, you guys probably wonder why I persist in my photographic endeavors. I too, wonder. This past Friday (9/22/2017) had yet another example of how unfair life has been to me ūüėČ.

UP manifest MEWTU-23 had had an elusive, brand-new SD70ACe-T4 on the point. In the 15 minutes that I waited for UP 3039 at Stafford near MP 21, there was amazing sun. As the train came into view, the one cloud in the western sky drove a dagger into my heart (metaphorically).

Cursing my bad luck, I almost brought the camera down from my eye in disgust. But I persisted, making some quick settings changes to compensate for the cloud’s treachery.

These are good looking units. MOAR PLZ.

Had I been 200 yards east, I would have been OK. But I wasn’t. Somebody, please call me a waahhh-mbulance!

No Drama, Just the Pics

September 25, 2017

Here’s two pics from my action-packed Saturday (9/22/2017) night as described in my previous post.

First is Amtrak #1 passing the former Imperial Sugar mill in Sugar Land, Texas just after 7:30 PM. Imperial ceased operations here some 10+ years back. Most of the old mill complex has been demolished, but the current plan is to save the iconic “Char House” and re-develop it with retail and loft apartments.

KCS grain train GKCQRS is back on the move at Missouri City, TX after a 90+ minute delay while the wayward auto was removed from the ROW at Sugar Land, TX. There’s only a handful of SD70ACe’s remaining in the as-delivered grey paint scheme so catching them leading is a treat.

I captured images of another 4-5 trains after KCS 4002 which I’ll post eventually…

I Shut Down the Railroad

September 24, 2017

Some of you might recall I’ve developed an interest in night photography using an array of remotely triggered¬†flash units. That’s what I was doing last night, 9/23/2017, in Sugar Land, near MP 25 of UP’s Glidden sub.

One train, Amtrak #1 had gone by me about 7:35 PM, and I was adjusting my flash units in anticipation of another westbound train which my ATCS screen showed to be at West Junction, about 13 miles east of my location.

I was pretty focused on my chores when I noticed an odd, persistent sound behind me, one that I’d never¬†heard before. It was kind of¬†a medium pitched whine along with the sound of flying rocks.¬†I turned to see what was the cause of this sound was. This is what I saw: (Note my SUV in the background. If you look real hard, you can see my light stands.)

To say that I was shocked would be an understatement! After a few double takes to comprehend what had just happened, I ran over to the driver’s door to check on the driver. It was an elderly Asian fellow who told me that he turned onto what he thought was the street. ¬†He then asked if I would help him push his, very stuck in the ballast on the passenger side, and high centered¬†on the rail head on the driver’s side, car.

I told him there was no way we could push the car free and that he needed to get out of the car because a train was on the way.

As he got out of his car, I called UP’s Terminal Dispatcher #2 to advise him that there¬†was a car stuck on main #1 at MP 24.56. After answering a few questions for him, he told me that he was putting¬†a block on both mains at my location.¬†I then told the dispatcher that I would call 911 to get police and wrecker assistance to our location.

Once the police arrived, I looked at the ATCS screen to see where the westbound I was waiting for had stopped. ¬†Note the two blue segments near Sugar Land Yard.¬†They show the dispatcher track block. Note the red segment to the right. That’s KCS 4002 which was stopped¬†after my call to the dispatcher, just a bit over 5 miles from the location of the stuck car.

Not to be overly dramatic, but had I not been taking night pictures at that spot, there might have been a very different ending to this story.

Long story short, police arrived to the scene promptly, a wrecker shortly thereafter, and the car was pulled¬†off the track by 8:35 PM. Trains didn’t start moving again until 9:40 PM account the time needed for a UP¬†track inspector to reach the scene to ensure the track was not damaged.

Since I had a camera and lights handy, I captured a few views of the recovery operation.

PS – Yes, I did get some decent shots of some trains, but that’s another post…


Tilting at Clouds

September 24, 2017

I actually walked out the door this morning to catch #2 passing through Sugar Land, but there were some huge clouds obscuring the sun. I came to my senses and went back in to enjoy my Sunday morning coffee. I’m just tired of my recent, repeated losing battles with the clouds, and also tired because of being up until 3AM this morning.

That said, I did get out this past Friday, 9/22/2017, morning when ATCS showed the DS holding an eastbound and #2 at Rosenberg for a KCS westbound train. I figured I could make the 20 minute drive to the Brazos River bridge in time to catch these two eastbounds there.
I arrived there with 2-3 minutes to spare, but so did some clouds. I had nice sun on the bridge, but the head end of UP 5111 (ZLAJX?) was another matter. Sigh.

#2 came into view about 5 minutes behind the intermodal in better sun.

The intermodal went into the hole at Harlem to let #2 pass him. As soon as #2 passed me, I headed east to redeem myself with UP 5111. ¬†You’d think it would be easy enough on US 90 to get ahead of a freight train that’s getting underway, but you’d be wrong. I was able to get ahead of the intermodal only because [redacted in order to preserve my 5th Amendment rights].¬†I really needn’t have bothered because I was rewarded with this final shot in the smallest sucker hole ever just east of MP24.

Sometimes You Win…

September 22, 2017

Sometimes you win, most of the time, no. True at the casinos, and for me trackside the last week or so. Here’s an example of my “suffering”.

As CSXT 204 approached my location this past Wednesday at MP 21 of UP’s Glidden sub (Stafford, TX) the sun started to pop out at the last second.¬†It was gonna be epic! Then again, maybe not…

The sun gods laughed at me. But I cursed them with the fire of a googleplex of hypernovas. Then I used a bit of PhotoShop on image 2, so it kind of worked out…

Light ‘Em Up!

September 14, 2017

No, not enemy combatants or cigarettes, but your typical railfan subjects.

I got out a bit last night. 9/13/17, to try my luck at multi-flash photography with a kindred spirit. We only had two lights to play with, but it was manageable with the stationary subjects we shot.

UP SD40N 1890 waiting to enter the Rohm & Haas plant in Bayport. Bayport
is an industrial area just south of Strang Yard.


CREX 1340 is doing DPU duties on a BNSF loaded rock train near the south end
of the Mykawa siding in south Houston, near Hobby airport.



Lastly, BNSF 8172 on a short tank train waits at the north end of Mykawa siding for a route to open up into the Houston terminal area.


As you might guess, I really like the look of the night shots. Stay tuned, I need to practice this new way of shooting as I’d like to use it for the KCS Christmas train which will be visiting my area later this year after a two year absence.