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Fort Worth Bound

January 4, 2011

This past Christmas we traveled to Fort Worth to visit family, railfan a bit, and just generally get out of Houston.

The plan was to drive State Highway 36 to Temple, following the BNSF Gulf sub track. At Temple, we’d hang a right on IH-35 for the balance of the trip to Fort Worth.

We packed up and were on the road shortly around 1 P.M. on Wednesday, Dec. 22. We encountered a few trains between Sealy and Somerville, but no photos as the weather was pretty uncooperative.

We didn’t see anything else until we passed under the BNSF track at Cameron, where we saw the tail end of a northbound auto train. I didn’t really try to get ahead of the train because Hwy 36 is narrow through here and the train is doing close to 60mph. Besides, the train probably has faded orange power anyway, right?

We caught up to the head end just before Rogers. My indifference to the train changed quickly when I saw the train’s power: two red & silver warbonnets.

Now I had to contend with several issues if I wanted a shot of this train.

  • The train is still doing track speed
  • The sun is in and out of clouds
  • I don’t know the area
  • We are less than 10 miles from the fuel racks at Temple.

I picked up the pace while looking for a place to turn in that would get me to the tracks.

By the time we got to Heidenheimer, I knew I was out of options. Now or never.

I made a right turn. I saw a grain silo. That might be nice.

But the street ended about 50 yards short of the track. Wonderful! As I got out of the car, I heard a horn. Run!

I clambered up the embankment to track level. There it is! No time for a test shot or to make camera adjustments.

I almost said the hell with it, because I needed 10 more seconds to get the shot right. I focused on the lead motor and got 5 shots of the train as it passed me at a good 40 mph.

BNSF freight train at Heidenheimer, Texas

BNSF 723 North at Heidenheimer, TX on Dec. 22, 2010.

BNSF auto rack train at Heidenheimer, Texas

BNSF 723 North at Heidenheimer, TX on Dec. 22, 2010.

BNSF auto rack train near Temple, Texas

BNSF 723 North at Heidenheimer, TX on Dec. 22, 2010.

I looked at the back of the camera. The shots were off a bit, but what can you really do?

As it was almost sunset, and we had a way to travel still, I put up the camera. Next stop: Fort Worth.

Epilogue: Thank goodness for digital, because I was able to compensate for a slight under-exposure and end up with  a nice souvenir from this chase. All in all, not too shabby for one of the craziest grab shots in all my years doing this.

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