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Against All Odds

February 7, 2013

Sometimes things just work out no matter how badly the deck is stacked against you. Case in point is my 2/5/2013 chase of UP 1988, UP’s Katy heritage locomotive, on an SSPSA-05 (Special Spring-San Antonio) passenger special.

I learned of this UP Engineering Dept. special the previous day, but the call time for the train was 0300 at Spring. Even if the train was delayed, no way do I see it, especially since I had a video deposition to cover at  0900 in southeast Houston.

As I left the house at 0730, I considered grabbing the camera “just in case”, but I didn’t.  It was overcast and the forecast called for more of the same, with a chance of rain. There was no reason to take the camera, right?

The deposition was over by 1130, but I had to go to Pasadena to check up on a few things. Finishing there, the trip to the Galleria area in Houston to deliver some finished work was fitful-traffic issues, missed exits, and wrong turns. Nothing was going right.

But at least it seemed to be clearing up a bit so I turned on the radio to see what might be running. You probably know what happened next.  As soon as I turned the radio on, I heard UP 1988 requesting clearance through a Form B on the Terminal Sub literally one mile away from me!

Wonderful.  I’m free, UP 1988 is on a special train near me, the weather is clearing up and I don’t have my camera. Let’s just say that I was slightly agitated at my predicament.

Once I had exhausted my vocabulary of expletives, I considered my options. Giving up seemed to be the prudent option, but I ruled it out immediately. Going home to get the camera was out of the question. The special would be long gone by the time I did that. But I remembered that Eric, our youngest son, happened to be home from school. Maybe he could grab my gear, jump in his truck, and meet me on the side of Hwy 59 in Sugar Land.

I called him, explained my situation, told him where the camera gear was located and agreed on a meeting point all while monitoring the SSPSA’s progress westward.

By the time I got the camera, the special was at MP 22, about 2 miles ahead of me. My only hope was to stay on the freeway past Rosenberg and hope to catch it at the Spur 10 overpass near MP 40.

It was a valiant try, but the train got there about 60 seconds before I did. I wasn’t too unhappy because the sun had taken a dive behind some thick clouds. At least I was finally in position to catch up with the train.

It took another 10 miles before I could overtake the train, setting up at the San Bernard River Bridge with all of 30 seconds to spare.

UP 1988 SD70ACE Katy Heritage on SSPSA special passenger train at East Bernard TX

UP 1988 SD70ACE Katy Heritage on SSPSA special passenger train at East Bernard TX

For a moment I considered declaring “mission accomplished”, but I decided to continue the pursuit. In for a dime, in for a dollar, right?

I wanted to do a proper pacing still shot, with a slow camera shutter speed, but I didn’t feel comfortable making the needed camera adjustments at 75mph. But I did use the SLR like a point & shoot, aiming the camera at the train as I overtook the head end west of East Bernard. This shot at 1/800 second is nice, but it would’ve rocked at 1/30 second. Maybe next time…

UP 1988 SD70ACE Katy Heritage at East Bernard TX

I was able to get ahead of the train, again with about a 30 second margin, at CP SA061, the east switch of Lissie.

UP 1988 SD70ACE Katy Heritage on SSPSA special passenger train at Lissie TX

UP 1988 SD70ACE Katy Heritage on SSPSA special passenger train at Lissie TX

UPP 104, the North Platte, is the sole car on the SSPSA-05.

UP 1988 SD70ACE Katy Heritage on SSPSA special passenger train at Lissie TX

The train would be stopping at Eagle Lake, 7 miles ahead, to drop off and pick up passengers. This allowed me to get ahead of it easily for these shots of it at the far east end of Eagle Lake.

UP 1988 SD70ACE Katy Heritage on SSPSA special passenger train at Eagle Lake TX

UP 1988 SD70ACE Katy Heritage on SSPSA special passenger train at Eagle Lake TX

The SSPSA is stopped at Eagle Lake for some Engineering Dept. employees to dis-board while others boarded.

UP 1988 SD70ACE Katy Heritage on SSPSA special passenger train at Eagle Lake TX

Wanting just one more view of this diminutive passenger train, I headed west before the train got back on the move. The tangent from Eagle Lake (MP 69) to Ramsey (MP 73.6) is oriented west-northwest, making the shot backlit. Can’t have that. From Ramsey to Columbus (MP84), the track turns even more to the northwest (more backlit) and away from the highway.

I ended up at Glidden, CP SA086 for my last shot of the SSPSA-05 as it approached the Hwy 71 overpass.  It was only 18 miles west of Eagle Lake, but you can’t put a price on good light, right?

UP 1988 SD70ACE Katy Heritage on SSPSA special passenger train at Glidden TX

UP 1988 SD70ACE Katy Heritage on SSPSA special passenger train at Glidden TX

The light was very tasty. I considered going further west with this train, but I decided to quit while I was still ahead.  I was over an hour away from home and I’d already caught this train at 6 locations. Against all odds.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. Wes permalink
    February 7, 2013 10:32 am

    Sensational!

  2. February 7, 2013 11:03 am

    I’D SAY YOU SURE ” BEAT-THE-ODDS ” W/ your FANTASTIC-MOVES – – – -GREAT-PIX ! !

  3. March 11, 2013 9:08 pm

    Awesome pictures.Thanx much

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