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US Army on the Move!

March 14, 2017

I happened across a UP military special this afternoon. Symboled SNOYR, it’s the equipment for a Fort Polk (LA) unit that’s en route to the Fort Irwin National Training Center (CA). Video shot at Stafford, TX (MP 20.25 of UP’s Glidden sub) on 3/14/2017.
Sorry about the idiot in the corner of the screen. I tried throwing rocks and screaming at him to get out of my video, but it was no use. His pictures were more important than my video. Sad! 🙂

BNSF Windmill Special Train

February 2, 2017

On January 28, 2017 I captured this BNSF windmill component special train at Rosenberg, Texas. Symboled UPTNGDN1-27, the train originated at the Port of Houston / PTRA (Port Terminal Railway Association) with a final destination of Garden City Kansas.

The train is shown as it transfers from the UP Glidden sub mainline to the BNSF Galveston sub mainline at the Tower 17 interlocking.

UP Work Train at Work

July 18, 2016

This past January I captured some video of a UP work train dropping ballast for the new second main track in Stafford TX (MP 20 of UP Glidden sub).

Apologies for the lack of steadiness. I didn’t have a tripod because I wasn’t planning on shooting video. Not to mention the SLR and 70-200 2.8 combo is heavy, nearly 6 pounds. Then again, you get what you pay for, right? 🙂

It’s not as dramatic as a run-8 run-by of SD40-2’s, but it’s interesting nonetheless. I am especially impressed with the high-tech tool they use to keep the new ballast from accumulating above the rail head.

Brand-New Power Consist on the UP

July 8, 2016

If you’re interested in seeing a solid set of SD70ACe’s or ET44AC’s, you should probably move on and I apologize for misleading you. The new power I’m referring to isn’t from 2016, but from the summer of 1959 when the UP was taking delivery of 75 SD24’s. This was back when the UP was a big proponent of cabless diesels. Accordingly, 45 of the 75 were B units.

We’re in the little town of Schuyler, Nebraska, about 70 miles west of Omaha. UP had a small yard, or more correctly, a couple of sidings here. Two crewmen are on the ground alongside the brand-new A-B-B set of SD24’s that’s been assigned to their manifest train.

UP 404 Schyler, NE 1959

This angle clearly shows a feature unique to the SD24, the rounded equipment blower bulge behind the cab. Subsequent EMD models had blower bulges that extended to the walkway.

UP 404 & 408B, Schuyler, Neb

I really like this view that shows all of the connections between the two trailing units.

UP 404 Schyler, NE 1959a

This last shot shows the entire consist nicely, along with an example of the official Nebraska state structure, the grain elevator.

UP 404 Schyler, NE 1959b

As I was writing this post, I was thinking that the SD24 is an older diesel. Then it dawned upon me that these images were captured 57 years ago, making the SD24 officially ancient. What does that make me?

2016 Circus Train In The House – Via The Back Door

July 5, 2016

The RB-B&B circus train made its 2016 San Antonio to Houston trip on July 5, 2016. The train detoured on the BNSF between Rosenberg – Houston account UP’s Brazos River bridge is out of service.

In previous years, the train typically gets to the Houston area in the evening. This year it arrived much earlier than normal, 2:45 PM at Rosenberg, where it shoved onto the BNSF at Tower 17.

Because it never gets into Houston in good sun, I had high hopes today to get nice light on this train. Maybe next year. The clouds did a number on me each time the train came into view. Once the head end got by me, the clouds opened up. Close, but no cigar.

I caught the train at two locations. The first run-by, at 3:45 PM, is at Richmond, TX near MP 61 of BNSF’s Galveston sub. The second run-by is at South Creek, near MP 9 of the Mykawa sub, at 5:30 PM

Patriotism – Then & Now

July 4, 2016

As we get older, it’s common to, as Lionel Richey put it, “wish for younger days”.
I’m no different, but in a slightly different context.


SP’s entire bi-centennial fleet on a PR-photo special at Hiland siding in early 1976.


KCS boxcar 13891 passing through Stafford TX on 1/10/16.

No matter your choice of patriotic symbolism, I hope you have a great & safe 4th of July.

PS – A true patriot doesn’t conflate jingoism with love of country.

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.

Brazos River Bridge Repairs – June 9

June 10, 2016

I drove to Richmond this evening to see what the repair crews were up to at UP’s Brazos River bridge in Richmond,TX. Several substantial cranes are on site. I suspect the red one will be used once its time to drive some piles.

You might recall I had speculated that some of the approach piers may have been damaged. It appears that may be the case because all of the substantive work in this video is directed at the driven steel piers that are east of the truss pier.

KCS is telling it’s clients that this bridge will be back in service on June 17th. We’ll see….

UP Brazos River Bridge-A Different Perspective

June 7, 2016

Here’s a beautifully shot video showing UP’s Brazos River bridge in Richmond,TX during the current flood event.
It was shot on 5/31, several days before the bridge pier failure that closed the Glidden sub to rail traffic.

UP Brazos River Bridge Woes

June 7, 2016

Over the past week or so, I’ve made 3 trips to see the Brazos River at historic levels due to extreme rain events in Central Texas. This post will cover the 3 different trips in chronological order.

May 31, 2016
A KCS empty grain train proceeds east across the Brazos River bridge at Richmond, TX, near MP 32 of the Glidden sub, about 30 miles southwest of Houston, TX. Compare this first image to the second image, from 11/24/2014, showing the Brazos River under more typical conditions.Brazos-1_WEB


A tighter view of the east end of the bridge. The river is running about 40 feet higher than normal!



June 4, 2016

So much water for so long has compromised the easternmost pier of the bridge. The Glidden sub is closed up to 14 days according to the UP. The 30-40 trains per day that pass through here are being re-routed. Note that 50-60 feet of the east approach to the bridge is now visible because all of the trees that obscured it have been washed away! To give you a better idea of the scale of the change in the river, the employees in the next image are standing above where the shoreline was.


It’s clear that pier between the approach and the truss has settled 3-4 feet. What isn’t clear is the condition of the piers supporting the approach, to the extent they’ve been exposed to unprecedented water flows.





June 6, 2016

The rain has stopped so it’s time for another visit to see what recovery efforts might be underway.

The river appears to be down a good 5 feet or so, but there’s a long way to go to the typical depth of 15 feet compared to the 54 feet depth when it crested on June 4.6-6-8_WEB

The next 2 views show the north face of the bridge.



I assume the yellow tape is to provide a legal fig leaf should some miscreant venture across the bridge, stumble, and fall to a watery demise.


An OHIO crane (hopefully not made in China) is visible on the east approach to the bridge.


UP has selected Jay-Reese Contractors, out of Austin, to get this bridge back in service.


Before they can work on the bridge, they have to be able to get to it. They’ve cut a road through the trees and mud to provide access. This is the line of 18-wheelers waiting their turn to dump their loads of rock.


It’s a good 200 feet from Hwy 90A to the right-of-way.


I’ll try to document as much of the work as possible over the next couple of weeks. Stay tuned…

Better Late Than Never

February 13, 2016

Here’s a dashcam video of #2 last summer, 7/14/2015 to be exact, with Heritage P42DC 156 leading.
West Junction is in far southwest Houston, where the Glidden sub ends, diverging to the Harrisburg
or Houston subdivision.

Sorry about the bug strike on my windshield. It was a spur-of-the-moment decision to orient
my car toward the track to see how the dashcam would capture the train.

Go East, Young Man!

February 4, 2016

Historically, if you wanted to see big-time SP power, you would go west. Donner, Cajon, Beaumont Hill, etc. were a parade of SP’s best and biggest power. Understandably so, what with the grades to be surmounted.

However, if you were interested in less than super-sized power, you must go east. Historically, the T&L lines were the refuge of smaller power, again because of the grades, or lack thereof. Yes, there were some (company) political issues as well, but that’s a different thread.

Here’s a wonderful illustration of my point: an eastbound manifest at Waelder, TX in 1985. 5 units, all 4-axle, have what appears to be a WCHOM in hand as it passes the west switch of Waelder siding. Note the dimmed headlights, a courtesy, tradition, and rules-requirement, in preparation to meet a westbound that’s waiting in the siding.

Southern Pacific GP38-2 4844 at Waelder,TX 1985

If you wanted to see 4 T-2’s on the point, 4 more on the swing helper, and 2 more for good measure shoving on the caboose, you’d definitely go west.  But if you had a hankering for something smaller, say a GP38-2 / GP35 / GP35 / GP9 / GP38-2 lash-up, you’d best disregard Mr. Greeley’s exhortation.