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Out & About – 3/25/14

March 26, 2014

To the extent that clear skies have been scarce around here this past winter, I’ve decided that whenever it’s nice, I’ll postpone more important matters (like work) so I can work in some railfanning.

I received good news as I prepared my coffee around 10:00 this morning. Radio chatter suggested at least 4 eastbounds and Amtrak #2 would be coming through the Sugar Land area over the next several hours. Time to hit the road!

The first eastbound was UP 9726, an RDTDP (Rock Dittlinger-Dallerup) train.  But the crew was almost dead, and they were instructed to tie their train down in Sugar Land siding. I decided to head that way and use the parked RDTDP as a backdrop for the other eastbounds that were en route.

I was almost there when an unexpected headlight came into view at 10:32 AM. I was just west of the Hwy 6 grade crossing. I was able to pull off the road easily, but I was in a spot with no shots that I was aware of. No matter, I grabbed the camera and figured that I’d conjure one up on the fly.

The headlight belonged to UP 5318 leading the ILBEW-21. As you can see, I wasn’t able to conjure up a decent shot, but what can you really do?

Union Pacific ILBEW

Apparently it was right behind the RDTDP. Once the RDTDP cleared up in Sugar Land siding, the ILBEW  started running on green and catching me off-guard.

I drove the 1/2 mile to where the RDTDP was tied down. As I arrived, I was underwhelmed by the lead unit’s appearance. It reminded me of the peeling clear-coat problems had by late 1980’s-early 1990’s automobiles.

Union Pacific RDTDP train at Sugar Land TX

So be it. You go with the backdrop you have, not the one you wish you had.

I set up just east of “Prison Road” crossing to await the next eastbound. The MEGEW (Manifest Eagle Pass-Englewood), led by ES44AC 7726, rolled into view at 10:48 AM


3-25-4BNSF 5234 arrived at 11:02 AM with a long rock train. It’s not common to see BNSF rock trains on the Glidden sub.


3-25-7The head end as it negotiates a slight curve on the approach to downtown Sugar Land. The old Imperial Sugar mill is in the background.

3-25-8BNSF C44-9W 4913 drew the DPU duties for the BNSF 5234. Odd that the UP has never seen fit to use DPU’s on their aggregate traffic into Houston. Never mind. I just realized that UP has always assigned some of its oldest power to the Houston area aggregate traffic, none of which is DPU-equipped.

3-25-9Amtrak #2 came by 10 minutes later, at 11:02 AM. It was going only 30 mph or so account running on approach/approach restricting signals as it followed the BNSF rock train. Relief for #2 was 6 miles away at CP SA019, where double track begins.



3-25-12I drove east in the hope of getting another shot of #2, but the traffic lights along Hwy 90 didn’t cooperate. I went as far as Stafford before I realized it was a futile endeavor. En route back to Sugar Land, I heard the DS tell LHT 47 (the Sugar Land local) that they had to see 2 more eastbounds before they could come out of Sugar Land yard. He also said the second one was the  LHT 44 (eastbound Flatonia local) which had to shove a 20 car set-out by them into Sugar Land yard.

I decided to catch the next train right at MP 24, about a mile east of Sugar Land yard. It was 11:35 AM when yet another rock train appeared, UP 9624 on an RDTMY-24 (Rock Dittlinger-Melendy).


3-25-14If you look closely in the distance ahead of the lead motor, you’ll notice the slightest of grades, 0.41% actually, between MP 23 and MP 22. (Click on any image for a better view)

3-25-15I re-located to CP SA025 to await the LHT 47. It arrived at 11:51 AM with UP 6155 on the point. UP 6155 is an ex-SP AC4400CW coal motor, SP 114 specifically. That’s some local power, isn’t it?

3-25-16It stopped to allow the conductor and switchman to step off to get in position to protect the shove before dragging past me.


3-25-18Upon clearing the switch, the LHT 44 shoved into the Sugar Land siding. A lead into the yard comes off the siding about 150 yards west of the switch.

3-25-19Note the LHT 47 waiting for the 44 to get by before resuming switching chores at Nalco Chemical.

3-25-20The 47’s switchman helps out the 44’s crew by getting the derail back up for them. Otherwise, the 44 would have to stop and wait for their switchman to restore the derail.

3-25-21Now that the show was over, it was time to head to the bank, after which it was back home and back to work. My bank is only about 5 minutes away. Upon arrival there, I hear the LHT 47 call the dispatcher. Surely, now they’ll get permission to enter the main line and go west to do their work in Rosenberg.

Actually, no. The DS said “you’re not gonna believe this, but I have to run one more eastbound before I can bring you out. Call me after you identify the rear of the BNSF, ummm, make that the CN 5738”

Work can wait, right? I ran in, made the deposits, and got in the car just in time to hear the detector at MP 30.5 announce the next eastbound. I took the quickest route back to the track, north on Hwy 59. I parked right at MP 22, just west of the Hwy 59 overpass.

Within 2-3 minutes, a headlight appeared from the west. At 12:30 PM, CN 5738 / UP 4871 / CSXT 565 arrived with a BNSF loaded oil train.

3-25-22I knew BNSF is hurting for power, but this is crazy!

3-25-23Looking west, the tank cars seem to reach infinity…

3-25-24Looking east, the rear of the train is passing under US 59.

3-25-25Once the oil train got by, the DS did give the LHT 47 authority to enter the main line and head west to Rosenberg. But he told the LHT 44 that they would have to tie their train down in the Sugar Land yard. There was no way he could get them to Englewood. because he had at least 5 westbounds to run.

Unfortunately, some thick cirrus was rolling in, so I shut it down and headed home. But I’ll take 9 trains, 8 in good light, in 2 hours any day of the week!




2 Comments leave one →
  1. THE OZARK WEAVERS permalink
    March 26, 2014 9:11 am

    I’d say ” THAT’S-REALLY-HAUL-N-M-IN ” ! ! ! ! ! ! !

  2. March 26, 2014 10:10 pm

    Great photos ! Keep them coming. By the way, what are they doing with the box cars at Sugar Land Yard ?

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