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Pinch Hitting for Union Pacific 844 is….

April 29, 2012

The wheel problems that developed on Union Pacific 844 in Mount Pleasant last week sidelined the legendary locomotive.  Fortunately, UP had its E9 trio on a different special train laying over in Hearne, so the UP150 Passenger Special was able to continue its travels with  motive power of almost the same vintage.  The 844 is 68 years old, the E’s are 57 years old. Who knew?

The train departed San Antonio Sunday morning, April 22, 2012, at 8 AM. We left Sugar Land about 9 AM with the plan of driving west until we knew the special was getting close, then chasing it back to Houston.

Just after 11 AM I heard UP 949 responding to the dispatcher. We had just left Glidden on Hwy 90, so I did a quick U-turn and set up at the west switch of the Glidden siding.

At 11:09 AM the UP150 special came into view.

Union Pacific E9 949 / 963B / 951 on passenger special at Glidden TX

Union Pacific E9 949 / 963B / 951 on passenger special at Glidden TX

The train blew by at a pretty good clip, 55-60mph, so I knew that it would be a while before we caught up with the train. I thought there was a chance to see the train at Ramsey, when the track and highway converge, but when we got there we saw the train was far ahead of us.  But I wasn’t too worried because the train was scheduled to stop at Eagle Lake for 30 minutes, allowing me to easily get ahead of the train.

Imagine my surprise when the train passed right through town, fortunately at a much slower pace. Finally being  able to pass the train on the east side of Eagle Lake, I pulled over at the east end of Lissie for this next view.

UP150 train with UP's E units at Lissie TX

As the train went by us, it was clear that it was going much slower than it was at Glidden.  I hadn’t heard any speed restrictions. As a matter of fact, shortly after the train passed us, the DS called UP 949 to ask if he was moving! The engineer responded affirmatively. The next shot opportunity was near MP 54, just west of East Bernard.

The train was still proceeding at a leisurely pace, maybe 30-35mph. As we caught up again with the train at the East Bernard run-around track, I chose to capitalize on the slow speed of the train to shoot some pacing footage of the 949 as it passed through East Bernard. I’ll post that video soon.

Next stop was near the east switch of the East Bernard siding, where the SSAHO-22 passed us, still running about 30mph.

Due to the overgrown brush along the right-of-way, there’s no real shot opportunity until you reach the far west side of Rosenberg. So be it. (I totally lucked out catching the mile marker. I didn’t see it until I processed the file.)

Not wanting to tempt fate by continuing to pace the train through traffic light-infested Rosenberg, Richmond, and Sugar Land, I opted to jump ahead of the train to Stafford, via Hwy 59.  I set up at the intermediate at MP 20.5.

UP e9 949 with UP150 train at Stafford TX

I thought that this would be the last shot as typically is difficult to get ahead of a train before West Junction, where the track veers away from Hwy 90. But the train ambled by at about 30mph, encouraging me to try my luck at Wrest Junction, 8 miles east of the previous shot.

My worries were unfounded, as the train actually took 21 minutes to arrive where we had set up at MP 12.6.

With that, the train was by us for the last time. What had started out as a frantic chase ended up being a very leisurely pursuit. The first shot at Glidden, MP 89.3, was at 11:09 AM. The final shot at West Junction, MP 12.6, occurred at 1:09 PM.  The train traveled 77 miles in 2 hours and 5 minutes, making its average speed about 35mph.

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