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The Tower 17 Shuffle

June 12, 2016

The bad news is the Brazos River bridge in Richmond, TX is still out of service. The good news, at least for patrons of Amtrak’s Sunset Limited, is that service east of San Antonio has been restored. Service was suspended on 5/31. Buses were used between New Orleans and San Antonio.

Starting this past Friday, 6/10, Amtrak is detouring around the damaged bridge via the BNSF Galveston and Mykawa subs. This routing connects to the UP West Belt sub at T&NO Jct. allowing #2 to reach Tower 26. I assume there it will drag through the Maury Street connection to the Houston sub, then shove into the depot.

Because this is an exceedingly rare routing, (I don’t think it’s ever occurred!) I ignored the hot, humid, and cloudy weather this morning and drove to Rosenberg to capture video of #2’s moves at the Tower 17 interlocking (CP SA036 for you young whippersnappers!).

It arrived at 9:40 AM and stopped west of CP SA036. After a job briefing with the DS, the train dragged through the interlocking. It then stopped. After the customary 5 minutes for the signals to time out, it received a diverging approach to shove through the Tower 17 connector track onto the BNSF. After waiting another 5 minutes for the signals to time out, it proceeded on the BNSF across the diamond for the remainder of the trip to Houston.

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9 Comments leave one →
  1. Tom Harmon permalink
    June 13, 2016 8:54 am

    Hi Robert, I don’t see hardly any coal trains going through Luling to San Antonio power stations. There use to be two a day one in morning and usually one in evenings. Have the plants converted to natural gas? Or the coal trains using a different route or time table.

    Thanks
    Tom Harmon

    • June 13, 2016 4:13 pm

      I’m not sure about the specific cause, but coal traffic everywhere is down dramatically!

    • Jeff Pearson permalink
      June 14, 2016 11:28 am

      They coal plants have converted to natural gas.

  2. R. Saunders permalink
    June 13, 2016 3:48 pm

    Thanks, have not been to Tower 17 in years,….. LOTS of changes…

  3. Jeff Pletcher permalink
    June 13, 2016 8:02 pm

    Robert,
    Great video, thanks for posting. If I lived closer, I would love to ride the detour routing. I used to live in Houston, and I believe that the connecting track that the Sunset traversed in your video, between the UP and the BNSF, was utilized on a regular basis by Amtrak’s Texas Chief. Early in the Amtrak era, the TC used Union Station, traversed the HB&T I believe between there and T&NO Junction, than used the S.P. between there and Tower 17 where it finally accessed the then-Santa Fe. I have some photos of the train at U.S. and T&NO Jct. in the 70’s.

    On another subject: I read some time back that Amtrak’s Sunset was utilizing the ex-MoPac in one direction between Houston and Beaumont, eastbound I think. Can you verify this? Is this the regular routing? If so, where and how does the train access the MoPac after leaving the Amtrak station? Does this require a move over the HB&T, a backup, etc.?

    I’m glad to have found your site, plan to check back as I get time.

    Regards,
    Jeff Pletcher

    • June 13, 2016 10:32 pm

      Thanks for checking in. UP has directional running between Houston and Beaumont. Eastbound traffic will run on the Beaumont sub, the old MP line to Beaumont. To access it, #2 will drag out past the point where the passenger main joins the freight main (near the intersection of Lyons & Maury St,), shove west on the freight main about 1/2 mile, then pull forward onto the West Belt sub (ex-HB&T). It proceeds north, making a right at Belt Junction. At Pierce Yard it will catch the Settegast bypass track which takes it to the Beaumont sub. #1 has a much easier trip, travelling the Lafayette sub (ex-SP) between Beaumont and Houston.

  4. Jerremy Brown permalink
    June 15, 2016 10:04 pm

    As a avid train buff since I was kid thanks for the update. I am also a fire fighter with the City of Sugar Land and most of my time was stationed near the tracks by the old sugar plant. As of lately, it feels weird not hearing the trains. Our former station was on the corner of Ulrich and Gunther. That fire station would actually shake when a coal or gravel train would roll through.

    Are they still waiting for water to recede more to assess the damage to the bridge?

    • June 16, 2016 2:59 pm

      No, they didn’t wait for the water to recede. They started as soon as the damage occurred back on 6/2

  5. Tex-Hogger permalink
    July 9, 2016 12:22 pm

    I was working north (back to home in Temple) the beginning of the week and I head our DS23 mention that the bridge will be out for 2 weeks. So the UP, KCS, and Amtrak re-routes are going to keep running on the BNSF Mykawa, and Galveston Subs and will be doing the Tower 17 shuffle. I did get to run the Glidden sub out of Houston right after they opened the bridge. There was a big operation going on there.

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