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UP 844 & The UP150 Special’s Houston Arrival on 10/26/2012

November 2, 2012

Mostly cloudy and windy was the forecast for last Friday, October 26, 2012, but that wouldn’t be enough to keep me from heading out to capture the Houston arrival of Union Pacific’s 150th Anniversary Special Train. Then again, it’s not every day that UP’s “Living Legend” 4-8-4 844 leads a spotless passenger special into Houston.

The day started out fortuitously as my arrival to New Caney for my first shot was less than 3 minutes before the train blew by at a good 55-60mph. Thank goodness the train stopped to pick up passengers at Humble, or else I might not have been able to catch up with it until it stopped at the Tower 26 interlocking.

My second shot was along Hirsch Road, near East Mt. Houston Road. Light traffic and cooperative traffic lights allowed me to get to the Jensen Drive grade crossing in the nick of time for my third shot, a nice, slow run-by.

After that, the train slow-rolled down to the Tower 26 interlocking where it stopped to allow Amtrak #2 to get out of the depot. I was able to get set up in time to catch Amtrak drag east across the interlocking and shove south via the Carr Street connection. I’m not sure why Amtrak used the Carr Street connector as its route to the Beaumont sub vs. the normal Maury Street routing, as the moves it made today took much longer than normal.

Once Amtrak was out-of-the-way, the 844 dragged south across the interlocking where it met Amtrak #2 as it dragged north on West Belt main 1 en route to the Beaumont Sub. Afterward, the 844 shoved north on the Carr Street connection in order to access the Terminal sub for the westbound run toward the depot. Fair warning: the video action slows down dramatically for 4-5 minutes as Amtrak and the UP special make their moves back and forth.

I expected the special to head directly to the depot via main 2. I set up at the main 2 grade crossing of the I-10 feeder road, about 1/2 mile south of where main 2 separates from main 1. Much to my surprise, the train took main 1 westward.

“#%$^&%%#$$$# %&*$#&%%#” was my first reaction. My next reaction was to pack up quickly and head to the Taylor Street grade crossing several miles west.

I was the only person there at first, but within 2-3 minutes, another 6-7 cars of fans arrived in time to catch the shot as the 844 rolled by. At this point, it became apparent that the UP150 special would cross over to main 2 at Cheney Jct. and shove back to the depot. Accordingly, I drove to the Silver St. grade crossing. As soon as I arrived, there was an eastbound freight train in view.Apparently the DS was running a QWCEW train ahead of the 844’s shove.

Once the freight cleared up, the special’s reverse move come into view about the same time that a nice bit of sunshine arrived, allowing me to get the best light of the day. I thought that would be my final shot because Silver Street is less than a mile west of the depot. As it turned out, the UP wanted a proper arrival to the ceremony and a reverse move to the depot wasn’t going to cut it.

The 844 shoved about 3/4 mile past the depot, stopping under the University of Houston’s Downtown Campus building. After a bit of TD-2 / train crew communication difficulties, the special was cleared to makes its grand arrival to the ceremony.

Now you might be asking yourself why the train didn’t drag west to the depot on main 2 directly versus all of the back and forth moves? It’s my understanding that the curve on main 2 just west of San Jacinto Street is a bit too tight to accommodate the 844’s drivers and that the convoluted routing was the only way to get the train into the depot while avoiding this curve.

The 844 traversed this curve one time, back in April 2010, when the Hearne-Houston leg of the Valley Eagle arrived. If you’re interested, jump to the 11:00 minute mark of the video I captured that day and you’ll hear the pained squealing, and a few other ominous noises, when the 844’s went through this curve.

Once the train arrived, the ceremony took place, of which I only captured 30-40 seconds (you’re welcome!). Once the festivities were over, I captured the 844 as it slowly dragged the train past the Houston Avenue overpass in order to spot the train and locomotive for servicing, and preparation for the 2-day 150th Anniversary events set for Oct. 27th and 28th.

Sorry for the extremely long post, but I know that there might be 2-3 of you that are interested in the back-story of this video, plus I can read this post 20 years from now (hopefully) and remember all of the gory details…

Oh yeah, here’s the video:

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Marde permalink
    November 2, 2012 1:38 pm

    Thank you for bringing the 844 to me with your video. I have missed every part of this last run, especially the event I have worked for a long time to help organize at the Marshall T&P Depot Centinial Celebration, due to many days of hospital stays after a high speed head on collision with a drunk driver. Your video, along with several others, brought the whole shebang into perspective. Good job!

    • November 2, 2012 1:47 pm

      I’m glad you enjoyed it. A shame you couldn’t witness the fruit of your labors in Marshall. Get well soon so you can get back trackside!

  2. Christopher P. permalink
    November 9, 2012 9:23 pm

    Great video, Robert! It was very well done! The only thing though, is that you mention that the Sunset Limited uses a Maury Street routing. I never knew of #2 using the Maury St. Connector. As far as I knew, #2 leaves the Amtrak Station, and depending on Lafayette Sub traffic and Englewood traffic, UP’s dispatchers will send Amtrak east on the old SP, or if there’s heavy traffic, #2 will head to the Beaumont Sub. But I thought Amtrak always used the SE connector at Tower 26 to get onto the West Belt, as there is no diamond at Maury St. Wouldn’t #2 have to pull to the Carr St. X-Overs on main 2, then crossover to main 1, then back up past Maury St, and then pull forward again to use the connector?

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