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Ft. Worth & Western - Coe Rail's Bondo Flyer (Texas Star Clipper)

Texas Star Clipper dinner train - Grapevine, TX Southwest Shorts - home of the unofficial Bondo Flyer Tribute page! Coe Rail F7 407 at Colleyville, TX

Ft. Worth & Western -
Coe Rail's Bondo Flyer (or the Texas Star Clipper)

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Mention the name "Bondo Flyer" to the average North Texas railfan, and there's a good chance he'll know what you're talking about. Mention the name "Texas Star Clipper", and he might not.

In April 1999, Ft Worth & Western turned over the operation of its Tarantula passenger trains to Coe Rail, Inc., a dinner train and excursion train operator based in Wixom, Michigan. Coe was seeking to establish a presence in north Texas first by operating the already-established Tarantula train, and planned to implement dinner train service at a later date.

In September 1999, two F7 locomotives and three cars, last in service on Coe's Iowa Star Clipper dinner train, arrived in Ft. Worth for Coe to begin the process of restoring them for its new dinner train, the Texas Star Clipper

Coe's operations in the D-FW metroplex were surrounded by controversy and plagued with criticism from the very beginning. FWWR employees who had worked on the Tarantula train prior to the change in operators were offered the chance to continue working for the passenger train under Coe. Those who stayed on took a pay cut and lost some of the employment benefits they had enjoyed under FWWR. Those who elected not to do so lost their jobs. In at least two Ft. Worth Star-Telegram articles ("Tarantula Train Changes Spin Web of Discontent", September 24, 1999; "Sidetracked Tarantula", April 24, 2000), several former and present Tarantula employees openly criticized Coe Rail, claiming that the new operator had removed first aid kits and drinking water (previously provided by FWWR) and stated that Coe provided employees with only an outdoor garden hose for their drinking water. The changes resulted in the resignations of several employees, leaving Coe short of qualified personnel.

In a second Star-Telegram article ("Dinner Train Still off the Track", November 13, 1999), the owner of the warehouse that housed the Star Clipper during its restoration complained that Coe Rail had fallen behind on its rent payments, and would soon be facing eviction. The same article mentioned that some of Coe's employees who had been performing the restoration work had begun referring to the train as the "Bondo Flyer", a name that north Texas railfans, particularly those on the Railspot list, immediately adopted. (The "Bondo Flyer" name was a reference to Coe's use of Bondo body putty to patch dents and holes on the dinner train's locomotives and cars during their renovation.)

The restored dinner train finally departed the warehouse early in January 2000, and made its way to Grapevine, where Coe workers completed the finishing touches. Dinner train service began in January and lasted through March. After Coe sidelined FWWR's 4-6-0 steam locomotive at Grapevine, it began using its F7 locomotives on the Grapevine-Ft. Worth Tarantula trains.

The controversy surrounding Coe and its relationship with the Ft. Worth & Western reached its peak on March 15, 2000, when a Tarantula passenger train, operated by a Coe crew running one of the F7 locomotives backwards, collided with a Ft. Worth & Western train near the Ft. Worth Stockyards, sending more than a dozen passengers to area hospitals for treatment of minor injuries. At issue in the accident were the facts that both trains should have been moving at restricted speed, and that the FRA had reportedly previously instructed Coe not to run their locomotives backwards. Also at issue, according to Star-Telegram reports, were the facts that Dennis Larson, Coe's general manager, was at the controls of the train and may not have been a certified engineer, and that Coe had been cited by the FRA the previous fall for violations in its engineer training program.

Shortly after the accident, Ft Worth & Western obtained a restraining order to effectively kick Coe Rail, its employees, and the Texas Star Clipper dinner train off FWWR property. The order allowed FWWR to resume operation of the Tarantula train; by the end of May, all Coe equipment had left the area. Although FWWR continues to operate the Tarantula, an article appearing in the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram on September 6, 2000 mentioned that the City of Grapevine was considering taking over the operation after receiving an offer from FWWR owner Bill Davis.

Regardless of one's opinion of Coe Rail and the damage it caused to the Tarantula name and the public image of host railroad Ft. Worth & Western, one cannot deny that Coe's brief presence in the D-FW area certainly resulted in some colorful and interesting operations. Presented below are 15 images featuring the Bondo Flyer, er, Texas Star Clipper.

Please click on any of the following pictures to see a larger image:

  Texas Star Clipper F7 416 - Grapevine, TX Coe Rail's Texas Star Clipper F7 416 prepares to depart the depot at Grapevine, TX with a westbound Tarantula passenger train on January 9, 2000.
  Texas Star Clipper 416 - Grapevine, TX Coe Rail's Texas Star Clipper dinner train, consisting of three cars and an F7 locomotive at each end, occupies a track at Grapevine, Texas on January 6, 2000, two days after being moved out of the north Ft Worth facility that hosted the train during its restoration. Coe employees and contractors were still working on the train when this photo was taken.
  Texas Star Clipper logo The " Texas Star " logo adorned the nose of Coe Rail F7s 407 and 416, and was the only thing that even remotely resembling a reporting mark until the "Texas Star Clipper" lettering was added to the sides of the locomotives at a later date.
  Texas Star Clipper dinner train - Grapevine, TX A mechanical worker climbs down from the cab of Coe Rail F7 416 at Grapevine, TX on January 6, 2000. A team of electricians and other mechanical workers were working on the Coe locomotives and the dinner train cars, preparing them for service later in the month.
  The bondo job on the Bondo Flyer - F7 407 Here's a good look at how the Texas Star Clipper earned its "Bondo Flyer" nickname…the nose of F7 407 reveals several locations where body putty lurks underneath the fresh coat of yellow and burgundy paint.
  Checking out the Bondo Flyer at Grapevine A mother and daughter take a look at Coe Rail F7 416, a newcomer to Grapevine when this photo was taken on January 6, 2000.
  Putting the finishing touches on the Bondo Flyer Coe Rail crews are hard at work putting the finishing touches on the Texas Star Clipper dinner train at Grapevine, Texas on Jaunary 6, 2000.
  side by side at Grapevine:  bondo Flyer F7s While F7 407 occupies the storage track with the Texas Star Clipper dinner train (right) , F7 416 departs Grapevine with a Tarantula passenger train on January 9, 2000. Although FWWRs 4-6-0 steam engine would return to service the following weekend, January 16 was the last day it ran on the Tarantula train. Coe, the operator of the passenger trains between Grapevine and Ft Worth, began running the F7 locomotives on the train daily; they remained assigned to the train until Coe was kicked off the property following their accident in March.
  Coe Rail F7 416 on Tarantula passenger train Coe Rail's Texas Star Clipper F7 416 leads a westbound Tarantula passenger train through the north side of Ft. Worth on January 9, 2000. The train is approaching Tower 60 after passing through FWWR's Hodge yard.
  Coe Rail F7 416 - Ft. Worth Stockyards turntable Coe Rail F7 416 rides the turntable at the Ft. Worth Stockyards on January 9, 2000.
  Coe Rail F7 416 - Ft. Worth Stockyards Coe Rail F7 416 idles at the Ft. Worth Stockyards while the Tarantula train loads and unloads passengers on January 9, 2000.
  Coe Rail F7 416 - Ft. Worth Stockyards Coe Rail F7 416 idles at the Ft. Worth Stockyards while the Tarantula train loads and unloads passengers on January 9, 2000.
  Coe Rail F7 407 - Grapevine, TX Coe Rail F7 407 and the Texas Star Clipper dinner train occupy one of the station tracks at Grapevine on January 16, 2000. Note that the 407 has received its "Texas Star Clipper" lettering.
  Coe Rail F7 407 - Grapevine, TX Coe Rail F7 407 prepares to depart Grapevine with a Tarantula passenger train on January 23, 2000. Joining the 407 to help power the expanded consist (six cars - to carry additional passengers to the Ft. Worth Stock Show and Rodeo) is BNSF GP39E 2911.
  Coe Rail F7 407 - Colleyville, TX Coe Rail F7 407 and BNSF GP39E 2911 lead a westbound Tarantula passenger train through Colleyville, Texas on January 23, 2000

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All images on Wes Carr's Southwest Shorts © 2000 by Wes Carr. All rights reserved.
Wes Carr claims no affiliation with the Ft. Worth & Western, Coe Rail Inc., or any other shortline railroad.