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High Sun Heritage

September 5, 2014

(Images taken September 2, 2014)

I received word last night that Amtrak’s Phase 1 heritage unit, P42DC 156, would be leading the eastbound Sunset Limited into Houston today. I’ve seen it a few times before, but have never been able to photograph it adequately.

Before going to bed I checked #2’s status. It was west of Del Rio. More importantly, it was running on schedule. This would put it into my area around 10:30 in the morning, early enough to avoid the mid-day high sun.

I checked Amtrak’s website at 8:15 AM to learn #2’s location. It’s schedule calls for a 6:25 AM departure from San Antonio and an 11:10 AM arrival into Houston, so I expected it to be somewhere between Luling and Harwood. Imagine my dismay when I saw that #2 hadn’t even left the San Antonio depot yet!

Oh well, I guess I can work on some editing to pass the time.

It was just after noon when the DS told MOW working between near MP 25 that he would be fleeting 5 eastbounds through their limits. A quick check of indicated that #2 was between East Bernard and Rosenberg, so it was time to hit the road.

Signal indication at CP SA019 for the first eastbound  was approach diverging, telling me that it would be crossing over from main 2 to main 1 at CP SA916, aka Ormandy.

As I set up just east of the cross-over, the headlight of the first train appeared in the distance. Perfect timing!

UP 7652 on the MLDEW-01 (Manifest Laredo-Englewood) arrived at 12:32 PM.

UP 7652 ES44AC on MLDEW Houston,TX



This train will frequently have brand-new freight cars coming into the U.S. from the Mexican car builders.


There was a block of coil steel cars at the end of the train that caught my eye. The middle car, CR 63155, really sticks out due to the different cover.




As I waited for the second train, a large, slow-moving cloud did a number on the sun. I was reluctant to move because the second train wasn’t far off, but the allure of sunlight about a mile to the west convinced me to take the risk. I was able to get to a crossing near MP 17 a few minutes before the 12:49 PM arrival of UP 8794 on the QWCEW.




The QWCEW typically has DPU power, so I stuck around to photograph it. It wasn’t a smart decision because #2 was following the QWCEW and I intended to move 3 miles west to get better light. Of course, it had to be monster QWCEW. The detector reported 542 axles!


My last shot of the DPU was at 12:52 PM.


I made a very nervous drive to the crossing at MP 20.5. In some sort of cosmic harmonic convergence, I caught all 4 of the traffic lights en route. Otherwise I would have blown the shot, because #2 came into view as I was jumping the curb to park.

High sun or not, #2 looked real good as it passed by me at 12:58 PM at a good 50 mph.




I was so intent on the mechanics of executing the shot properly that I didn’t even notice that there was an extra unit in the consist until it was by me. It’s actually my second time to see P32-8BWH 500 on the Sunset Limited, but alas, both times it was the third unit.



Well, that wasn’t too shabby. It would be nice to have the 156 go back west on #1, but it’s not likely because of the Sunset’s tri-weekly schedule. Amtrak is chronically short on power. There are 2 daily long-distance trains out of New Orleans and Los Angeles where Sunset Limited engines can get right back out versus waiting for the next Sunset Limited is set to run.

There was no reason to move because this location has the best light for early afternoon eastbounds. UP 7764, the MKBHO-01, arrived at 1:11 PM.


Today’s MKBHO was lacking the customary block of auto racks. It makes sense, though. Being the day after Labor Day, no Toyota Tundras were shipped from the San Antonio assembly plant over the holiday weekend.

Five gons of pipe and a long block of 20 or so brand-new XOM oil tank cars were interesting. Yes, I did attempt a shot of a single tank car, but I messed it up. Sorry.



I almost didn’t stick around for the last train of this episode because it started raining at MP 20.5 After waiting a few minutes, it appeared that I might get lucky west of my location so I decamped to a crossing near MP 22.

BNSF 9104 on an oil load arrived at 1:24 PM, 13 minutes behind the MKBHO. Note the little orange flags marking the location of underground fiber-optic cable in preparation for the upcoming second main track through here.


No need to adjust your monitor. The lead unit is really fresh and the trailing unit is really that faded.


I’m sure I’ve said it before: SD70ACe’s are the best looking of all of the contemporary engines. Of course, there’s only 2 basic models out there: the 6-axle GE and the 6 axle EMD product.




By the time the DPU’s came into view, some serious clouds were just about to make their presence known.




I was satisfied with the outing. Five trains in less than an hour, not to mention a decent shot of Amtrak 156, worked for me…

One Comment leave one →
  1. September 9, 2014 5:04 pm

    Awesome! Fantastic catch with the heritage Amtrak and again with the colorful consists on the freights!

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