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Rio Grande Heritage in Texas – Part 1

September 7, 2010

Union Pacific SD70ACe 1989, the Rio Grande Heritage unit, made a few trips in the Houston area recently. The 1989 was the only heritage engine I haven’t seen, so I was pretty keen on seeing it.

According to a trace around midnight on Aug. 18,  the 1989 was assigned to a junk train, a MEWSA (Manifest Englewood-San Antonio),  scheduled to depart Englewood at 10:00 AM the next morning.  According to my calculations, this would put it into the Sugar Land area, MP 25 on the Glidden sub, around Noon.

My plan was to catch it as it came off the Terminal sub at West Junction and chase it west of Rosenberg as far as was practical based on the conditions. As mid-day light in mid-Summer isn’t the best of conditions for still photos, I decided to shoot video only of this train.

As 10 AM rolled around, I did a quick trace of the 1989 to get a better idea of when to expect it into Sugar Land.  Listening to the trace results, this is what I heard:

“UP 1989, empty, departed Stafford Texas 10:01 AM….”


The Stafford scanner is at MP 20.6, I’m at home sipping coffee, the camera gear isn’t packed, and the train is already past me!

I cursed my foolishness for not tracing it earlier, but who knew that a junk train would get out 2 hours earlier than the previous evening’s intel said it would? At first, I considered blowing it off because I was totally out of position and because the light was going to be even worse than I expected.

Then again, I’ve never been one to allow some foolishness to get in the way of more foolishness. So I grabbed the video camera, tripod, radio, car keys, and a bottle of water and ran out the door and set out to catch my white whale.

I finally get on the road about 10:25.  As I headed west from Sugar Land, the radio was completely silent. Finally, after about 10 minutes on the road, I heard the detector at MP 34.6.

I was hoping it was an eastbound, because if it was the 1989, it was about 8 miles ahead of me. Worse yet, at MP 36, westbounds can open it up to 60 mph, and I hadn’t even begun battling the traffic lights along Hwy 90 in the Richmond/Rosenberg area.

All I could think was stay the course, surely a lowly manifest will get put into a siding. Rosenberg (MP 38), East Bernard (MP 49), even Lissie (MP 63), anywhere so I can catch up.

Fast forward 45 minutes, and about 50 miles. I’m at Lissie when I hear the DS tell the 1989 that he will hold them on the main at Eagle Lake for a while due to M-O-W around Alleyton.

Finally, a break!  I would catch up with the 1989 at Eagle Lake, 50 miles after I first set out. You’d think I’d been chasing Amtrak with the way the MEWSA had the railroad to himself!

This video begins at the west switch of Eagle Lake with the 1989 on the move again at 11:45 AM.

PS-Once the video starts, click where it says 360p at the bottom of the player.
It will switch to 480p, greatly improving the quality of the video.

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