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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 beenย 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! ๐Ÿ™‚

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? ๐Ÿ™‚

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.