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Temptation 1, Willpower 0

March 24, 2012

I was trying to bear down and actually get some editing done the morning of March 5th, 2012. But it was difficult because I could see that it was a nice, clear day. Being the typical railfan, sunny days are for, well, railfanning.

As I worked my way through the folder of images, I was listening to the Glidden sub road channel. There was a fair amount of traffic, but all pretty humdrum, so it was easy to stay on task. At least until 11:30 A.M.

That’s when the DS gives an unforseen 10 mph slow order at MP 28 to FXE 4047. Sweet! A Ferromex SD70ACe leading!

It only took a few minutes to get on the road and head to the vicinity of the slow order. En route, I learned that it was an MHOEG train (Manifest Houston-Eagle Pass), a westbound. That called for a first shot at the west switch of Harlem, about 3 miles west of the slow order.

FXE SD70ACe 4047 Harlem TX MHOEG

FXE SD70ACe 4047 at Harlem TX on MHOEG UP freight

I was looking forward to one FXE unit leading, but a solid consist is an unexpected windfall! The chase is on!

The next shot opportunity is going to be on the other side of Rosenberg. I was concerned that the train would get way ahead of me as the drive on US 90A through Richmond and Rosenberg is replete with traffic lights.

But lady luck was on my side today. As I got back to the tracks just west of Rosenberg, I saw the train was stopped in the Rosenberg siding.

FXE SD70ACe 4047 at Rosenberg TX

I assumed the MHOEG was put in to meet eastbound traffic, but nothing showed up. About 20 minutes later, FXE 4047 got the signal to proceed west.

Ferromex SD70ACe 4047 at Rosenberg TX

Next shots were from the Spur 10 overpass, about a mile and a half west.

I decided to follow this train another 13 miles to East Bernard, where I wanted to get a shot of it crossing the San Bernard River. I hadn’t quite caught up to the head end when an interesting exchange occurred between the conductor, a track foreman, and the dispatcher.

The track foreman called the FXE 4047 to give it a 25mph slow order where he was working, about 5 miles ahead. The conductor copied the slow order, but with a somewhat puzzled tone in his voice.

Once the conductor was done with the track foreman, he toned up the dispatcher. The conductor proceeds to ask the dispatcher why was a track foreman giving slow orders? The dispatcher replied that it was common practice for track foreman to give slow orders to crews.

At this point the conductor responds  “Per Rule 6.11, ‘radio slow orders should be issued by the dispatcher’”  I couldn’t believe what I just heard!

The dispatcher was noticeably upset when he responded “Well what are you going to do when a track foreman calls you on the radio to tell you that the track or a bridge is washed out? Are you just going to keep going 60 mph?

“We just want to do it by the rules” replied the conductor.  I have never heard a crew challenge a dispatcher like this.

“If you want to do it that way, fine. Stop your train! And we’re going to talk about this later. Make sure you see an MTO when you get to Kirby.” I have never heard a DS this upset.

The DS called the foreman, got the slow order info, and then called the FXE 4047 with the unforseen slow order.

I have gotten ahead of the train enough to set up for a shot at Tavener, about 500 yards east of the east switch at East Bernard siding. First shot at 200mm, second shot at 70mm.

I saw the MOW crew in the siding at East Bernard, so I decided to get a shot with 2 of the 3 actors from the aforementioned drama. 

 The train is still going pretty slow, but I decided to go ahead to the San Bernard River bridge to set up for my shot. I had two options, a semi-wide shot from the middle of the Hwy 90A bridge, or a short telephoto shot from the west bank of the river. I chose door #2.

The LHT47 local was running behind the FXE 4047, so I opted to set up for the semi-wide angle shot from the middle of the Hwy 90A bridge. It arrived about 10 minutes later.

I do believe that this is the better shot, I should have shot the FXE 4047 from here as well. Maybe next time…

Are you wondering why I didn’t select a spot that actually showed the train and the San Bernard River?

That was going to be it for westbound traffic on the UP for a while, so I headed back east to Sugar Land on the freeway to save a few minutes. As I’m approaching the exit to go home, I hear the dispatcher flag KCS 4016 out of the east end of Sugar Land. Since I’ve already given in to temptation, I might as well get one more shot. So I stayed on the freeway and went to Stafford.

The solid trains of Belle covered hoppers are a thing of the past, but there’s still a lot of them that haven’t been graffiti-ed.  Get your pictures now.

KCS covered hopper at Stafford TX

I liked how the train looked in the slight s-curve between my location and Murphy Road.

That didn’t look too bad. I’ve never tried to catch a westbound right here. And since I just heard the dispatcher tell this train that he’d see one at the east switch of Missouri City, there’s no time like the present to try this shot.

Within 10 minutes this empty rock train came into view.

 What started out innocently enough as “getting a shot of an FXE leading” ended up being a lot more than I bargained for, nearly 4 hours of unauthorized fun.

But I’m sure the editing work is still there waiting for me at home, so no harm, no foul, right?

One Comment leave one →
  1. Scott permalink
    March 25, 2012 3:10 am

    Excellent shots Robert! The DS can be mad all he wants, don’t know what the MTO is gonna say to a crew that requested that instruction governing the movement of his train be communicated as the rule states…..

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