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Amtrak Excitement!

May 17, 2017

98% of Amtrak excitement is either budgetary or accident-related. I’d like to focus on the other 2%, which is consist-related.

This past Sunday (Is it sacrilegious to railfan on Mother’s Day? A rhetorical question because the deed is done.) I learned that #2, the eastbound Sunset Limited, was running 3+ hours behind schedule because of locomotive failure. I later received word (Thanks!) that UP was providing a unit at San Antonio, AC4400CW 5630 specifically.

The best spot to minimize backlighting on an early afternoon eastbound is in Stafford, between MP 19.75 – MP 21.25. Of course the backlighting became a moot issue because clouds rolled in shortly before the train did.

Union Pacific AC4400CW 5630 steps up to help Amtrak train #2 on May 14, 2017 at Stafford, Texas near MP 20.5 of UP’s Glidden sub.

Since the train was flying, there was no chance of another shot before the train arrived to the depot downtown.

No problem. I’ll just drive 30 miles into town for a second bite of the apple once the train departs. My game plan was to catch it as it was pointed north on the approach to Belt Junction, expecting that this would be the best possible light before the train turned east there.

Fortunately, the sun cooperated and I was able to get better shots of what’s actually a rare occurrence, at least in my area, for freight power leading the Sunset Limited.

Amtrak’s Eastbound Sunset Limited has just departed Houston, Texas on May 14, 2017 and is approaching Belt Junction where it will diverge from UP’s West Belt sub to the East Belt sub.

A more proper US flag on the conductors side of UP 5630 is a bonus as it makes the right turn at Belt Junction at 3:35 PM, over 3 hours later than normal.


Out & About – May 15, 2017

May 15, 2017

Nothing fancy today, just a few images from the two trains I saw today.

First up is KCS 4765 and a BNSF motor bringing an eastbound grain empty through the big curve at Stafford at 11:04 AM

A follow-up shot of this guy at West Junction was foiled by, you know it, clouds.

Grown-up duties occupied my day, but by late afternoon the metaphorical coast was clear and I headed out to catch Amtrak #1. To the extent sunset is getting later, I got brave and tried a new location for this train, CP SA029.

The train departed Houston on time at 1855, but for some reason, showed up at 1938, over 10 minutes later than is typical. The sun had almost hit the tree line when it showed up, but nothing that ISO 1000 couldn’t handle.

First shot across a corn field while the train was about a 1/2 mile away.

Second shot exiting the curve just east of CP SA029.

Finally, the last shot as P42 150 is gettin’ up in my face. This is the same unit that led #1 2 weeks ago. It was the co-star of my previous post.

The Sunset Limited at Sunset-Separated by 60 Years and 1530 miles

May 11, 2017

Monday before last, 5/1/2017, I got out after dinner to photograph Amtrak train #1 as it passed through. It’s usual time through my area is 7:30 PM, shortly before sunset at this time of year.

Amtrak P42DC 150 leads the Sunset Limited at track speed as it passes MP 26 of UP’s Glidden sub at Sugar Land, Texas.


A nice image, but nothing remarkable. At least not today.

Which leads me to another image that was unremarkable shortly after it was made. Southern Pacific train #1, the Sunset Limited, is departing Alhambra, CA amid the lengthening shadows. #1’s scheduled time into Alhambra was 3:55 PM, putting sunset in Southern California less than an hour away on this clear mid-1950’s winter day.

Nothing in image 2 was remarkable in the mid-50’s. ALCO PA’s in the daylight-scheme were a daily occurrence. Just like Shamu-schemed P42’s are a daily (almost) event today. Will railfans in 2077 view P42’s the same way today’s railfans view the PA’s?

Only time will tell…

Glidden Sub Hosts BrightLine Trainsets

May 8, 2017

The third time is the charm, albeit with less than ideal conditions.

“What the heck are you talking about?” you ask. Sorry. Allow me to elaborate.

I missed the first two shipments of BrightLine trainsets through the Houston area because of misplaced priorities, namely work commitments.

I promised myself that the third, and last, shipment of these brightly painted trainsets would not evade my camera. Well, today was the day.

They departed Sacramento this past Saturday 5/5/2017, reaching the Houston area today, Monday, 5/8/2017.

A Good Lookin’ Girl

May 1, 2017

To follow up on my previous post, I snuck out this past Saturday evening to try my luck at some night views of this fine looking machine. Nothing but your basic roster views, but you don’t get to see them this clean very often.

This unit was still at Katy as of this writing, but it will be leaving soon. It’s not making any money for the UP by just sitting there being beautiful.

Miss Katy Goes Home

April 26, 2017

You probably know the Katy Railroad Historical Society is having their annual convention in Katy, Texas this year from 4/27 to 4/29. And you’ve probably heard that UP 1988, the Katy heritage engine, has just received a fresh coat of red paint. And you certainly are aware that the UP has graciously moved it to Katy, Texas for display in support of the Katy Railroad Historical Society convention. Good.

To join in the celebration of all things Katy, here’s a post of mine from 12/21/2007. Pretty hard to believe that it’s been 10 years ….

The QHONL 21 has just departed the top end of Settegast and is approaching Pierce Yard on the near North side of Houston.

West of Pierce Yard, the UP 1988 heads into more favorable sunlight as it approaches the US 59 overpass where your photgrapher suddenly and unexpectedly had idiopathic car trouble. Most fortunately, the car trouble cleared up as soon as the train went by.

Trust or Luck? You Decide.

April 24, 2017

So I had a job in Beaumont,TX last Friday, 4/21/2017. I was able to do a bit of railfanning there in the afternoon. Highlight of the time I was there was seeing the ZLAJX train pull up to a stop right next to me to await the arrival of an APABVR empty autorack train.

You don’t see too many Z trains with only one unit, much less one ancient, nearly 22-year-old ex-SP AC4400CW. UP 6318 was SP 280 in a previous life. Any shots out there of SP 280 from back in the day?

Nice to see the the trust UP has in this old warrior. Or was the power planner feeling lucky?

Light angles weren’t ideal, but the subject matter was!

LORAM Rail Grinder – Euro Styling

April 20, 2017

Last Saturday, 4/15/2017, I’d received word that a LORAM rail grinder was approaching the Houston area, southbound on the BNSF Galveston sub. Because rail grinders aren’t the best looking traffic on the rails, I didn’t worry much about chasing it down.

As it was a mostly cloudy day, I hadn’t gotten out until mid-afternoon to do some errands. We were driving west on Hwy 90-A after shooting a few images of a KCS grain train at the east end of Harlem (CP SA029-UP Glidden sub).

ATCSMon showed an eastbound approaching, but I didn’t worry about it because of the clouds. When the headlight came into view, it seemed odd. As the train passed us, I could have sworn I was looking at a European passenger train!

No time to ponder what I had just seen, I made a quick u-turn in order to attempt a shot of this odd train. I managed to get ahead of the rail grinder right before the Hwy 99 interchange. It wasn’t the best of locations, but there was a bit of sun at the moment and something is better than nothing.

BNSF symbol UCBLHOU-13 near the east switch of Harlem, TX:

That’s the best looking rail grinder ever, the polar opposite of the grungy ones I’ve seen previously. It appears to be brand-new, travelling from LORAM’s manufacturing plant in Hamel, MN to the Port of Houston for shipment to Network Rail in the UK. Network Rail is the owner and infrastructure manager of most of the rail network in England.

Views of some of the components of the rail grinder:


The decision to shoot this at a less than perfect location proved to be a wise one as a 2 minute wait at the traffic signals at Hwy 99 allowed the train to get so far ahead of us that chasing it into Houston would be a futile endeavor.

Busted by Big Brother!

April 18, 2017

We all know that the surveillance state is everywhere, but it becomes quite real when you find yourself caught in the act.

This past 1/3/2017, I ventured out to catch a few trains. I found myself in Missouri City, TX along UP’s Glidden sub waiting for a westbound train that was on my ATCSMon.

As I was waiting, I noticed a small car with a strange apparatus on the roof. As it passed by, I saw that it had Google logos on it. I suspected it might be doing streetview imaging so when I got home that evening I made a note in my calendar to check Google maps at a later date.

Meanwhile, I busied myself with the arrival of KCS 3952 with yet another Mexico-bound manifest.

Fast forward to today when my calendar app prompts me to look up the street address of the above images:

Click here: 1940 US-90 ALT Missouri City,Texas

What do I find?

Yours truly in flagrante delicto. Allegedly…

Three Seconds at Stafford

April 14, 2017

Between weather and work, there haven’t been any photo-ops in a week. Even though we’re getting into the high-sun time of year and lots of clouds out this morning, I decided to try my luck and catch Amtrak #2 this morning on its approach to Houston.

After considering a few other spots, I settled for the curve at Stafford, TX, near MP 20.5 of UP’s Glidden sub. As I got to my spot, I heard a westbound freight blow for the Gessner Road crossing one mile east of me. I wasn’t worried because I knew #2 was lined on main 2, the track nearest me, and my shot wouldn’t be blocked by the freight.

Then again, maybe I can get a meet. But the odds are not in my favor because both trains are moving, #2 at track speed and the freight train, not so much because I could hear its power struggling before it came into view.

As the block signal lit up for #2, the freight train came into view, a KCS manifest. It was struggling to do 15 mph for some reason. I knew #2 would come into view any second, so I started walking along the ROW toward the KCS train to give myself the best chance at getting both trains in the frame with the best light possible.

As I got to the block signal at CP SA020, #2 came into view, doing a good 60 mph. I started shooting #2 as it entered the big curve, this shot at 11:46:53.

I could hear the westbound KCS train right behind me, nothing to do but zoom back with #2 in the frame and see if the KCS train would enter the frame. This shot was at 11:46:55, with KCS 4686 / QJATL entering the right side of the frame an instant before AMTK 47 would have blocked it. Bingo!

A second later, a final shot at 11:46:56.

Those of you that know me know that I am my own worst critic, and that I’m rarely happy with anything. Well, I’m pretty happy with this series of images. Yeah, I know that the sun’s a little high, and a few other things that could have been better. I also know that nothing, nothing, is ever perfect!

But this 3-second sequence of images is about as close as I’ll ever get. To paraphrase BTO, “I’ll take what I can get”.

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.