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Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Heat of the day:

Against my better judgment, I decided to ride my bike to the Keller Post Office (about a 12-mile round trip) this afternoon... of course it was blazing hot (temps in the high 90s, and heat index over 100)... I made it, but not without experiencing dizziness and light-headedness (obvious symtoms of heat exhaustion bordering on heat stroke!) on the return leg... this despite carrying two liters of water and also stopping at the Tropical Sno stand for a Hawaiian shaved ice. I guess it'll be a while before I attempt anything that stupid again on a hot summer afternoon... the good news was, I saw a train on my way there:

15:09 - UP s/b grain loads on the UP Choctaw Sub at Wall-Price in Keller:
UP 6694 (AC4400CW)
UP 6831 (AC4400CW)
UP 6661 (AC4400CW)
UP 6286 (AC4400CW)
102 covered hoppers

* * * * *

A few days ago, I got an email from an old high school friend who had found my website during an internet search for train photos to show her daughter. We had gotten to know each other during our sophomore year at San Angelo Central High, and found that we shared a common interest in alternative music, skateboarding, fashion, and we even shared the same birthday. But we had sort of a falling out when I hooked up with her best friend, which pretty much ruined their friendship and definitely strained ours. But we remained on speaking terms through high school, and then lost contact with one another, as I did with most of my high school friends after starting college. So, imagine my surprise when I received her email after a cool 15 years of being out of touch! That's part of the beauty of the internet -- it provides a means of restoring contact between old friends.

Similarly, a year or so after I started the Southwest Shorts website, I received an email from an old railfan friend who had found my site. Unbeknownst to both of us, after losing contact in the early '90s, we had both pursued careers in railroading and both became dispatchers -- he with a northeastern shortline and then the UP, and I with the BN. We've been back in contact ever since, sharing war stories, photographs, and just generally shooting the sh-- several times a week.

So the moral of this story is, if you're reading this and you know me from way back (junior high, high school, college, maybe that depressing year I spent working at KMart, etc), drop me an email! Let's catch up and see if each of us is where we thought we'd be 10 or 15 or 20 years ago... You'll find my email address on the
blog index page.

Oh, and about that trip report... details forthcoming. I'll post the full report in a few days (hopefully).


NP: Ray Wylie Hubbard - "Cooler-N-Hell" on KHYI 95.3 FM
NR: Stephen Ambrose - Undaunted Courage

"Mini" Trip Report - June 16-23, 2005

We went to Hawaii.


NP: "Texas Blues Radio" on KNON 89.3 FM
NR: Stephen Ambrose - Undaunted Courage

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Tuesday's Train:

I was headed north on Denton Highway along the Choctaw Sub on Tuesday afternoon and noticed that the intermediate signal at North Tarrant Parkway was lit up. At Wall-Price, I intercepted a southbound:

14:55 - UP s/b MKCFW-12
UP 7303 (AC6044CW)
UP 7209 (AC4400CW)
UP 7507 (AC6000CW)
130 cars mixed freight

* * * * *

I watched "Team America" (rented from Netflix) the other night. I remember when it came out in the theaters, the previews made it look pretty cool and funny. But I found it really hard to be impressed or amused with most of this movie. It's not that I'm not a big fan of Trey Parker and Matt Stone; I've enjoyed most of the South Park stuff that I've seen, especially the South Park movie. I recognized the parts of "Team America" that were supposed to be funny; I just didn't find most of them to be funny... with the exceptions of the Team America theme song ("America! F--- yeah!" ... How great was that?) and the puppet love scene, which was more hard core than some adult films I've seen.

It was weird hearing some of the voices I recognized from South Park providing the voices for puppets... puppets, I might add, that really didn't look that good. Maybe it would have worked better if it had been animated in the South Park style. But hearing Phil Hendrie (a comedy "talk show" host, not a South Park regular) provide the voice of "Intelligence" was a nice touch. It was definitely a unique movie, but it fell short of my expectations of a Parker / Stone comedy.

Speaking of things American, yesterday was Flag Day. I posted a new flag-themed page to The Railfan Experience, viewable


NP: KHYI-FM - Kevin Fowler - "Don't Touch my Willie"
NR: Stephen Ambrose - Undaunted Courage; Edward Joesting - Hawaii - An Uncommon History

Monday, June 13, 2005

Sunday, June 12, 2005: BNSF Wichita Falls Sub:

A friend from out of town was visiting north Texas this weekend, and we woke up early on Sunday morning to go out and get some shots. The BNSF Wichita Falls Sub looked to be especially promsing for a busy morning.

Our first sighting was a northbound grain empty on the Ft. Worth Sub, going under us as we headed northwest on US-287...

1) 06:15 - n/b X LARHUT2 09 on BNSF Ft Worth Sub, going under US-287 at Lake Wanda
KCS 2042 (AC4400CW)
KCS 2026 (AC4400CW)
unknown car count

We were briefly tempted by the possibility of chasing him north, but decided to stay on course for Alvord, where the Ft. Worth West dispatcher was setting up a meet. On our way, we spotted an eastbound coal load west of Rhome:

2) +/- 06:25 - e/b C CAMSLP0 85 on BNSF Wichita Falls Sub west of Rhome
BNSF 9603 (SD70MAC, Grinstein)
BN 9679 (SD70MAC, Grinstein)
BNSF 8851 (SD70MAC, H2) - DP
127 cars - CEFX / BN / HZGX

When we arrived at Alvord, the eastbound was already stopped, waiting...

3) 06:50 - e/b S CLOALT3 10 at Alvord
BNSF 968 (C44-9W, H1)
CSXT 738 (SD70MAC)

Then the westbound showed up:

4) 06:54 - w/b Q ALTLAC1 11 at Alvord
BNSF 4090 (C44-9W, H2)
BNSF 4362 (C44-9W, H2)
BNSF 4869 (C44-9W, H2)
BNSF 4496 (C44-9W, H2)

The Alvord helper was right behind the Q ALTLAC, returning to Alvord after shoving the CAMSLP (train #2 above) to Decatur.

5) 07:06 - w/b K AVTAVT1 12 (Alvord Helper)
BNSF 6480 (SD45-2, Santa Fe blue/yellow)
0 cars

As soon as the helper cleared his warrant, the 1st shift dispatcher (just taking over from 3rd shift) decided to send him BACK to Decatur to assist an M BARALT in picking up a bad order car. So the helper crew copied a warrant to follow the S CLOALT... in the meantime, we attempted to find a suitable location to shoot the CLOALT, but I made a wrong turn on the backroads east of Alvord and he got away. No great loss, though.... there were more eastbounds coming, and in better light. We headed west to Fruitland to catch the Q ALTLAC (# 4 above) meeting the next eastbound:

6) 07:48 - e/b Z LACALT2 10 at Fruitland:
BNSF 4720 (C44-9W, H2)
BNSF 4310 (C44-9W, H2)
BNSF 4409 (C44-9W, H2)
EMD 9099 (SD60)

I have no idea how that "Oakway" (the EMD SD60, normally part of the northern lines coal fleet) ended up on a Z-train! We chased him back to Alvord for another shot, but slow drivers in Sunset and Alvord impeded our progress such that we ALMOST missed the shot we wanted (Alvord at 08:08). Guess we should have just stayed right there at Alvord.

Stephen gets the shot - Z LACALT at Alvord

Stephen "gets the shot" - Z LACALT2 10 at Alvord.

The eastbound Z stopped on the main at Alvord to meet two westbounds... we stayed around to see the first...

7) 08:16 - w/b E SLPCAM0 83 at Alvord
BNSF 9764 (SD70MAC, Grinstein)
BN 9561 (SD70MAC, Grinstein)
BNSF 4523 (C44-9W, H2)
BNSF 8969 (SD70MAC, H2) - DP
127 cars - UFIX rotary gons

We knew that the eastbound M BARALT was going to meet the Q ALTLAC (# 4 above) at Dickworsham, so we headed west to search for a place to shoot the BARALT. We decided on a spot on the "roller coaster" hills between Bowie and Bellevue.

8) 09:10 - e/b M BARALT1 08 west of Bowie:
BNSF 4497 (C44-9W, H2)
FURX 7238 (SD40-2, former BN green)
BNSF 6939 (SD40-2, Santa Fe blue / yellow)
99 cars mixed freight

BARALT between Bellevue and Bowie

M BARALT between Bellevue and Bowie.

We turned back east, stopped in Bowie for gas, and still managed to beat the BARALT to Fruitland by a cool 5 minutes, where he went in the hole to meet the E SLPCAM0 83 (# 7 above) ... (BARALT and E SLPCAM at Fruitland: 0938). There were now two MORE westbounds behind the empty, so the BARALT had to wait...

9) 09:45 - w/b Q AUGLAC6 11 at Fruitland
ATSF 640 (C44-9W, warbonnet)
BNSF 974 (C44-9W, H1)

10) 09:58 - w/b Z ALTRIC1 12 at Fruitland
BNSF 4016 (C44-9W, H2)
NS 9864 (C40-9W)
BNSF 5295 (C44-9W, H2)

After the Z cleared, the BARALT left, with a track warrant to Decatur to meet the Alvord helper which would help him pick up a bad order for Alliance. We stayed with the BARALT through Alvord (10:27) and then got a couple shots of him at Decatur (10:48, 10:52) before we called it quits on account of high sun and Stephen needing to get headed back to Arkansas (and Whiskey having to go home and get ready for work).

M BARALT rolls through Alvord

M BARALT rolls through a curve at Alvord.

On our way back to Ft Worth, we spotted one more westbound:

11) 11:00 - w/b E MONBTM0 20 at Herman
BNSF 5611 (AC4400CW, H2)
BNSF 9773 (SD70MAC, Grinstein)
BNSF 8803 (SD70MAC, H2)
126 cars - EGSX, ETRX, BN, CEFX

Additionally, we knew of ANOTHER westbound (BNSF 8909, another coal empty) cleared to leave North Yard in Ft Worth to meet the BARALT at either Avondale or Herman... and there was an eastbound UP CAICL way back behind the BARALT that would be stuck at Dickworsham to meet three westbounds (7, 9, and 10 above). A BUSY morning, to say the least....

* * * * *

Now... based on the westbound traffic recorded above, I was expecting to sit down to a BUSY 2nd shift on the Amarillo desk Sunday afternoon. Our schedulers surprised me by moving me off assignment to the Ottumwa desk (former CB&Q west from Galesburg IL and across southeastern Iowa). It ended up being kind of a neat day to work that desk... in addition to several contacts I had with old friends and acquaintances (this was the first dispatching desk I ever worked, 9 1/2 years ago now), I also received contacts from two railfan friends who were out driving and/or taking pictures and heard me on their scanners! An hour or so after one of them called me on his cell phone (he was shooting the IC&E west of Ottumwa), Amtrak # 5 -- just out of Ottumwa -- reported trespassers dangerously close to the tracks at a bridge near Chillicothe, Iowa. The engineer's description of one of them described my friend to a "T", and I was sure hoping it wasn't him... After telling a following train to whistle freely approaching that location, I notified our Resource Operations Center (special agents), hoping that my friend wasn't about to land in the Wapello County hoosegow! Luckily, it turned out not to be him.

Meanwhile, over on the Amarillo desk, the young lady working the desk in my place was lucky that westbound fleet (that Stephen and I saw earlier) ended up being spaced fairly nicely out of Wichita Falls, so things didn't get TOO bunched up when they started knocking on Amarillo's door.

* * * * *

Well, the new Chip Taylor / Carrie Rodriguez cd arrived a few days ago. It's got some good songs on it ("Must be the Whiskey", "Keep your Hat on, Jenny") but it bogs down with some slow tracks that just about put me to sleep. I like their up-tempo stuff much better. I could select three or four songs from this album, along with three or four from their previous two releases ("Let's Leave this Town" and "The Trouble with Humans") and put together a SWEET "best of" compilation. I also picked up the newest Robert Earl Keen release ("What I Really Mean")... it seems to be receiving favorable reviews and so far, I'd agree... I've been enjoying it. Track 10... "A Border Tragedy"... pure Keen genius!


NP: KHYI-FM - "Dillon's Daily Double" (two from Robert Earl Keen, two from Dwight Yoakam) and bonus joke-of-the-day: Why was the candle flunking school? Because he wasn't too bright! Ah ha ha ha hahahaha.... (M loves those)

NR: Stephen Ambrose - Undaunted Courage

Wednesday, June 8, 2005

Two-for-one on the Choctaw:

I usually spend most of Wednesday sleeping after working my weekly 3rd shift on the Amarillo desk. When I can't sleep anymore, sometimes I'll get up and take a bike ride. I didn't sleep that well today, and considered just staying at home, but at about 15:00 I thought the better of it and decided to ride over to Keller and try my luck on the Choctaw.

The signals at North Tarrant and Golden Triangle were both dark, suggesting that nothing was close, but danged if a northbound didn't almost sneak up on me as I was pedaling toward downtown... I could hear him whistling just after I cleared Wall-Price, so I had to put on the afterburners in order to beat him to Bear Creek Parkway for the mandatory OS:

1) 15:33 - northbound MFWNP-08 at Bear Creek Parkway:
UP 6508 (AC4400CW)
UP 7286 (AC4400CW)
UP 5693 (AC4400-CTE)
114 cars mixed freight

Racing ahead of him on my mountain bike was no easy task (even downhill with a tailwind), especially since I can't use the upper three gears (the mounting equipment for M's kiddie seat blocks the derailleur from moving the chain to the upper gears). Ahhh, memories of 6th grade, racing to the tracks on my one-speed Mongoose dirt bike!

MFWNP was running on a flashing yellow, suggesting that he was going to meet one at Roanoke. I rode to the E-unit display and back; upon my arrival back at Bear Creek, the signal had dropped to red to indicate the approaching southbound:

2) 15:55 - southbound AAMGP at Bear Creek Parkway:
CSXT 9023 (C44-9W)
CSXT 8618 (SD50)
60 auto racks

And to think I considered staying at home today...

* * * * *

It's too bad that I started this blog in June; with only one week of vacation remaining for the year, it'll be early 2006 at the earliest before I have the chance to post a report on one of my multi-day foaming road trips! In the meantime, if I get tired of posting local stuff, maybe I'll scan some slides from one of my trips from mid-1995 when I was just starting out with the railroad, and post those.

(Actually, we do have a trip planned for the near future, but it'll be about the farthest thing imaginable from a railfan trip. But I still might have a chance to shoot one or two fairly unique operations...)


NP: Willie Nelson - "Rainy Day Blues" on KNON 89.3 FM's "Texas Renegade Radio"
(Yep, I'm still waiting for Chip and Carrie to arrive from
NR: Stephen Ambrose - Undaunted Courage

Sunday, June 5, 2005

Railfanning on Thursday, June 2:

Temperatures were in the low 90s on Thursday afternoon as I took both kids with me for a short trip out on the UP Baird Sub to see what was running. A couple of phone calls provided some valuable information on the location of trains. As we drove I-20 over Earls, we could see a westbound freight in the siding, waiting to meet an eastbound Z. We'd see the westbound up the road a little later at Preble:

1) 18:00 - w/b MFWWC on UP Baird Sub at Preble:
NS 8441 (C40-8W, Conrail Quality "patched" for NS)
NS 9526 (C40-9W)
CSXT 9048 (C44-9W)
50 cars mixed freight

MFWWC at Preble, TX

Westbound MFWWC rolls over the east switch at Preble, TX
on the UP Baird Sub. June 2, 2005.

When he cleared, we decided to chase him west... despite the ongoing construction on I-20 between the Brazos and Gordon exits, we beat him to Judd with about 5 minutes to spare. He arrived at 18:38.

MFWWC at Judd, TX

Westbound MFWWC approaches the east switch at Judd, TX
June 2, 2005.

kids on ties

The kids selected an elevated location to conduct their roll-by.

We knew of another westbound that was leaving Ft Worth about the time MFWWC passed through Brazos. I would liked to have gotten the second one at Annetta, but we didn't have time to beat him there, so we set up west of Weatherford instead. He arrived just in time for a cloud-fudging...

2) 19:42 - w/b MFWOD on UP Baird Sub leaving Weatherford:
UP 2468 (SD60M)
UP 2432 (SD60M)
UP 9378 (C40-8W)
UP 2175 (SD60)
108 cars mixed freight

On our way home, we stopped for dinner in Saginaw and saw a couple more:

3) 20:55 - BNSF e/b CEBMSLP0 02 on BNSF Wichita Falls Sub at CP 11:
BNSF 9964 (SD70MAC, H2)
BNSF 8249 (SD75M, warbonnet)
BNSF 9783 (SD70MAC, Grinstein) - DP
127 rotary gons - CEFX, BN/BNSF, HZGX, FURX

4) 21:00 - UP s/b RCICT-02 on UP Duncan Sub, just south of Bailey-Boswell xing:
UP 2057 (GP60 - SP "speed lettered", patched for UP)
UP 2076 (GP60)
UP 3678 (SD40-2)
UP 3552 (SD40-2)
50 cars

* * * * *

I just ordered the new Chip Taylor / Carrie Rodgriguez cd ("Red Dog Tracks")... KHYI has been spinning several of the tracks since its release last week, and I'm looking forward to getting my hands on it. I saw Mr. Taylor and Ms. Rodriguez live at the Sons of Hermann Hall in Dallas a few weeks ago -- what a show! Although Chip Taylor is probably best known for his songwriting skills ("Angel of the Morning" and "Wild Thing" are his most famous works), he's a talented singer and guitarist as well. But Carrie Rodriguez is really the one who is worthy of mention here... what an amazing voice she's got! And she can really saw that fiddle... if you're a fan of the "alt-country" or "Americana" genres, or just great music in general, be sure to check them out.


NP: tape of Friday's "Texas Blues Radio" show from KNON 89.3 FM
NR: Stephen Ambrose - Undaunted Courage

Wednesday, June 1, 2005

Nothing especially noteworthy for today; just an introductory note as this is my first blog entry.

So, why am I starting a blog?

1) I thought it would be an interesting way to share news and photos of some of the noteworthy occurrences in my daily life... from the mundane (describing a train I saw during a bike ride to Watauga) to the remotely exciting (Hawaii vacation photos, anyone?) Friends, family, and even total strangers are welcome to visit anytime to see what I've been up to lately.

2) I must admit that since I read a selection of the Lewis and Clark journals earlier this year, I've developed a newfound respect for the historical value of written records of almost any kind. Lewis and Clark's journal entries contain invaluable descriptions of western North America in the early 1800s. Just imagine what we'd be missing out on had the journals been lost, or not been kept at all.

I certainly don't pretend that my blog entries will be anywhere near as valuable or important as Lewis and Clark's journals (nor will my entries likely survive anywhere near as long), but if the entries I post are useful to anyone -- if someone finds them interesting, informative, or entertaining -- then I'll consider my efforts to be worthwhile.

3) I will probably even use these entries as a source of reference for myself, to answer such questions as: WHEN did the BNSF Employee Appreciation Special operate through north Texas? Or, WHERE did I see Texas musician Billy Joe Shaver perform in 2004?

Those of you on the Railspot list are already familiar with the format of my train sighting reports, which probably won't mean much to my readers who aren't interested in trains. But that's ok; everyone will find plenty non-rail-related stuff on here too -- as often as I find the time and motivation to post it. Thanks for visiting, and check back frequently.


NP: tape of today's "Texas Blues Radio" show from KNON 89.3 FM
NR: Stephen Ambrose - Undaunted Courage

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