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Blue Monday

January 1, 2015

(All images from Nov. 24, 2014)

The Monday before this past Thanksgiving was a blue Monday for me. But not in the conventional sense of a blue Monday in which one is depressed because the weekend is over.

First I was blue because of a missed opportunity. Then I was even more blue, basking in the reflected light of my photographic subject.

I was just about to start some editing chores about 0830. Out of habit, I turned on the RR radio, just in case there was any  traffic worth going out for.

Right off the bat, I hear a MOW foreman trying to clear a westbound through the Form B between MP 18.85 – MP 24.95. But the foreman was having radio issues. He finally told the westbound to call him back once they got closer.

A few minutes later, I hear NS 8-static-static-8 calling for clearance through the Form B. The foreman answered, telling them to stand by while he got some contractors out-of-the-way. By this point I was curious about this train because not too many 8000 series NS motors come through here.

The foreman gets back on the radio, calling the NS 8098 West with clearance through the Form B restriction.  Hmmm, that is an odd number.

I googled NS 8098. The instant the Conrail heritage unit appeared on my monitor I flew out of my chair.

Crap! I knew it had been the DPU on a BNSF oil train that came into Houston over the weekend , but had no inkling it was headed at me right now!

I started fumbling around, looking for car keys, camera, lenses, memory card, while telling my wife that I had to leave. No time for explanation, but none was needed. She knows me well.

It seemingly took me forever to get out of the house, even though it wasn’t more than 3-4 minutes. Now I needed find decent light for a westbound at 8:45 AM

Of course, good light on a westbound at 0830 doesn’t exist, at least not around here. OK, I’ll settle for what I can get.

I decided to make my stand at the Hwy 6 grade crossing, near MP 25.5. But I got nailed by the traffic light at Hwy 6 and US 90, a mere 50 yards from my planned destination. Seconds later the crossing gates came down. Damn! But NS 8098 did look great as it went by me at a good 40mph. Double-damn!

The light did not change until the train had passed. I was ready to head back home because there’s no way I can catch the train. But at the last second,  I speculated that the train might have to meet an eastbound at Harlem, so I turned left to follow the train.

Surprisingly, the train did start to slow. I was actually able to get ahead of it just west of MP 28. I pulled to the shoulder and quickly set up on the back bumper. My first shot of BNSF empty oil train UGPMELU 026T (Unit train – Galena Park, TX to Eland, ND) coasting by me was at 8:53 AM.

NS 8098, Conrail heritage locomotive, at Harlem, TX on 11-24-2014

NS 8098, Conrail heritage locomotive, at Harlem, TX on 11-24-2014

Nice train, but backlit like a mother! But I’ll take it. It’s a damn sight better than what I got a few minutes prior.

The train came to a stop just east of the Harlem Road grade crossing. I decided to get the best shots of the NS 8098 that were available.

NS 8098, Conrail heritage locomotive, at Harlem, TX on 11-24-2014

NS 8098, Conrail heritage locomotive, at Harlem, TX on 11-24-2014

The conductor noticed me and came down to visit. He asked about my interest in their train. I told him about the significance of their lead motor. He had no idea, saying he thought it was just an NS unit. He also mentioned that they were waiting for a track rider to finish and get off the track ahead. He thought they’d get on the move again shortly.

Fair enough. I decided to stick around, maybe get another backlit shot leaving Harlem, and maybe a broadside shot crossing the Brazos River.

Around 0930, the DS called the NS 8098 to advise that the track inspector had released and that he’d light them up after one east. I set up for a shot showing the meet.

UP 8454, the QWCEW-21, came into view at 9:44 AM:

NS 8098, Conrail heritage locomotive,  and UP SD70ACE 8454 at Harlem, TX on 11-24-2014

NS 8098, Conrail heritage locomotive,  and UP SD70ACE 8454 at Harlem, TX on 11-24-2014

A very clean 7513 does the DPU honors:

NS 8098, Conrail heritage locomotive,  and UP ES44AC 7513 at Harlem, TX on 11-24-2014

I headed to the west switch to await the NS 8098’s departure. I had just set up when the NS 8098 tones up the DS to advise that they were having power problems. Specifically, the cab signal equipment was acting up and they were dead in the water. They needed to access the cab signal equipment to cut them out, but they didn’t have the necessary key to open the cabinet.

The engineer added that he might be able to access the equipment and fix the problem with the conductor’s hammer. The DS laughed as he turned down the engineer’s offer. The engineer said that he expected his suggestion wouldn’t be accepted. They had already called their people and South Yard was sending mechanical forces with the needed key.

The DS told them to keep him posted and that he was going to run some trains.

It was 10:00 AM at this point. The longer the NS 8098 sat, the better the sun angle would get. It’s misfortune just might be my good fortune.

Before anything else ran, I made the short drive to photograph NS 8098’s DPU:

NS SD70ACE 1060 at Harlem, TX on 11-24-2014

Next up was a loaded BNSF oil train, BNSF 5057 East, by me at 10:55 AM:

NS 8098, Conrail heritage locomotive,  and BNSF C44-9W 5057 at Harlem, TX on 11-24-2014

The oil train’s DPU, BNSF 4175, passes the NS 8098:

11-24-09_WEB

KCS 3941 East was right behind BNSF 5057, but it tripped the wide load detector at MP 34.5 and had to stop to inspect their train.

I couldn’t believe my luck! Yet one more problem to delay the NS 8098’s departure. I just might be able to get good light on my quarry.

BNSF mechanical forces arrived at 11:27 AM to assist the crew:

NS 8098, Conrail heritage locomotive, at Harlem, TX on 11-24-2014

As they were working on the cutting out the cab signals on the NS 8098, I headed to Richmond to check on the KCS 3941. I found its head end just over the Collins Road grade crossing at MP 33.37.

KCS SD70MAC 3941 at Richmond TX

I occupied myself with some other shots of the stopped KCS train until shortly after noon, when the KCS 3941’s engineer advised the DS that they would be ready to pull shortly. He added that the conductor was headed back to the head end after securing some loose tie down straps that had activated the detector.

I headed back to Harlem to wait for KCS 3941. I set up just east of CP SA030, the west switch of Harlem. It came into view at 12:25 PM

KCS SD70MAC 3941 at Harlem TX

KCS SD70MAC 3941 at Harlem TX

Once the KCS got by, NS 8098 toned up the DS to advise they were finally ready to go. The dispatcher replied “signal indication after one more eastbound”.

For the next eastbound, I decided to do a trial run of a shot I had in mind for the NS 8098. UP 5917 leads a loaded rock train over the Brazos River bridge at 12:39 PM:

11-24-14_WEB

11-24-15_WEB

11-24-16_WEB

A 10 mph slow order just east of the bridge allowed me plenty of time to drive the 3 miles back to Harlem Road for a shot of this rock train passing the Conrail heritage led oil train. I actually had enough time for a few shots of NS 8098 before the rock train arrived

NS 8098, Conrail heritage unit, at Harlem TX

NS 8098, Conrail heritage unit, at Harlem TX

It wasn’t until 12:53 PM that UP 5917 passed by the NS 8098.

NS 8098, Conrail heritage unit, and UP AC4400CW 5917 at Harlem TX

NS 8098, Conrail heritage unit, and UP AC4400CW 5917 at Harlem TX

Just over 4 hours after my first “better than nothing” backlit shot of NS 8098, I am able to capture this train in much better light as it passes me at 1:02 PM:

NS 8098, Conrail heritage unit. on BNSF oil train at Harlem TX

The money shot:

NS 8098, Conrail heritage unit. on BNSF oil train at Harlem TX

NS 8098 as it approaches CP SA 030.

NS 8098, Conrail heritage unit. on BNSF oil train at Harlem TX

Well, that didn’t suck at all! But no time to savor the catch. The aforementioned 10 mph slow order allowed me to get ahead of the train easily for this shot at MP 30.75:

NS 8098, Conrail heritage unit. on BNSF oil train at Richmond  TX

A short drive west provided these views as NS 8098 crossed the Brazos River at 1:14 PM:

NS 8098, Conrail heritage unit. on BNSF oil train at Richmond  TX

NS 8098, Conrail heritage unit. on BNSF oil train at Richmond  TX

The train was starting to pick up speed as it crossed the river, so there would be no more photo-ops of it and its celebrity lead unit. But I was quite happy with how a big disappointment could turn into a major score.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t express gratitude for the factors that contributed to a 4-hour delay: track inspector track & time, motive-power problems, tripped wide-load detectors, and waits for opposing traffic to clear up.

In case you were wondering, the crew on NS 8098 came on duty at 0500 at South Yard, near MP 5. It took them over 8 hours to reach the Brazos River bridge at MP 32, an average speed of 3 mph! Just another day on the railroad….

I was ready to get back home, but there were 2 westbounds right behind the NS 8098. Gotta make hay while the sun shines, so I went back to Harlem to wait for them.

A short wait, maybe 3 minutes, before BNSF 4001 arrives at 1:21 PM:

BNSF 4001 C44-9W at Harlem TX

Bringing up the rear of BNSF 4001 were 4 of the cleanest tank cars I’ve ever seen:

11-24-29_WEB

Wanting a different location for the next westbound, I headed east. It was a good plan, but I didn’t realize that the shot I had in mind was blocked by the tail end of UP 5917, the rock train I’d photographed an hour earlier. It was holding the main at the east switch of Harlem until the westbound traffic cleared up.

One shot of UP 3796 on the MEWEG-24 near MP 28 for the record:

UP SD70M 3796  at Harlem TX

I returned to the west switch of Harlem for a proper wedgie:

UP SD70M 3796  at Harlem TX

3 flared SD70M’s made a nice going-away shot.

11-24-32_WEB

If you’ve made it this far, thanks for hanging on through one of my longest posts ever. Not just anyone can endure 1592 words of blather, so congrats to you…

And before I forget, Happy New Year!

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. GeorgeG permalink
    August 12, 2016 6:18 pm

    New to the site, so even the “older” photos are new to me. Enjoyed reading about your so-called Blue Monday. By the way, the photos that you consider “bad” look really good to me.

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