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Does Anything Not Change?

January 30, 2010

It was a pleasant March 8, 1981. I had just photographed the head-end of an empty BN coal train departing Rosenberg, Texas. As the trainset of fairly new UFIX hoppers was rumbling by, I noticed something odd at the end of the train.

As it got closer, I realized that the caboose on the train was not your garden variety green caboose, but a blue caboose still showing Great Northern colors. I wasn’t one that normally cared about cabooses, but this one was different.

Raising the camera quickly, I got off one shot of the caboose. As I got in my car, I was quite pleased with myself for having noticed the caboose, and for having reacted quickly enough to get the shot.

An ex-GN caboose brings up the rear of an empty coal train at Rosenberg, TX on March 8, 1981

I was even more content with myself when I got the slide back and saw that my grab shot of this caboose was actually was in focus.

I mean, the GN had gone away some 11 years prior. The attractive blue paint scheme on this caboose would soon change, and you have to get pictures before things change, or even disappear, right?

Looking at this picture now, I realize that I was wrong, so wrong about virtually everything.

Sure, I got the shot of the caboose before it was re-painted into BN green. But I couldn’t see the forest for one tree.

I failed to document so many other things that would change, even disappear.

What did I miss?

  1. cabooses on trains – gone
  2. the code line in the background – gone
  3. the new UFIX hoppers – gone
  4. steel hoppers on coal trains – gone
  5. owner of the track, the ATSF – gone
  6. originator of the train, the BN – gone
  7. the SD40-s and C30-7’s on this train – gone
  8. 5-6 units on the point of each coal train – gone
  9. Consignee for the coal, Houston Lighting & Power – gone
  10. Operator of  the power plant, Utility Fuels, Inc. (UFIX) – gone
  11. 5 crewmen on the train- gone
  12. Tower 17 at the crossing of the ATSF and SP – gone

The only constants between 1981 and 2010: there’s still a power plant at Smithers Lake and trains deliver coal.

The moral of this too-long post: get your pictures today because everything, I mean everything, will change before you know it.

Don’t say I didn’t warn you….

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Christopher Zurek permalink
    February 3, 2010 9:56 pm

    You know, I think I shot that same caboose around the same time. I’ll have to see if I can find my snapshot of it anywhere. I remember it was an empty coal train tied down in the siding at Wallis.

    • February 3, 2010 10:22 pm

      Now that would be an amazing coincidence. Not so much the fact that we may have shot the same caboose, but to be here talking about it almost 30 years later. Let me know as I’d be interested in posting the shot if you find it.

      • December 1, 2012 10:28 pm

        Almost three years later and I finally found the snapshot of the caboose. It’s is a very bad photo, I think I shot it with a Kodak Instamatic. I scanned the picture and with a lot of tweaking I think it is the same caboose but it’s hard to tell since the original is out of focus.

  2. Jimmy Barlow permalink
    September 8, 2010 4:39 pm

    Before the advent of freds (and now DPUs), I, too, got a few pleasant surprises at the non-powered end of trains. And two were likewise cabeese from BN predecessors–CB&Q (silver) and NP (green). These were especially pleasing since I never shot any motive power from those roads.

    Alas, I never shot anything at EITHER end from GN (or SP&S).

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