February 15, 2005. The closest rail line to my family's home in the Fort Worth suburb of Keller is the Union Pacific Choctaw Subdivision main line between McAlester, Oklahoma and Fort Worth. It's about three miles east of our house. The line is not especially scenic, especially in our area, and we've seen a real explosion in urban clutter (billboards, power lines, stop lights, "strip" shopping centers) in recent years. So, needless to say, I don't spend much time photographing Choctaw Sub trains near my neighborhood. But that's not to say that there isn't some interesting railroading taking place here...
Take last Tuesday for example. I was driving north along Denton Highway, on my way home from Dallas,
when I spotted the headlight of a southbound Choctaw Sub train. The sun was out, but I didn't have my cameras
with me, and I figured this would probably be just another Choctaw Sub train that I wouldn't get a shot of. Then
I realized the train was stopped, in a location where trains don't normally stop unless they want to block a couple
of very busy grade crossings! As I got closer, I realized what the problem was... the train had broken in two
between the fifth and sixth cars behind the engines, and the first car on the rear portion of the train had its
drawbar missing from the south end. In other words, "uh-oh"!
This train, southbound MKCFW, was powered by three locomotives:
an SD60 / AC6044CW / SD90MAC, adding up to a total of 14,180 horsepower. I found out later that he
had a total of 104 cars weighing 10,787 tons and was 7,251 feet in length. At the time that they broke in two, the
head end of the train had almost crested the grade, so they had pretty much the entire length (and weight)
of the train on the ascending grade behind the power when the drawbar broke on the sixth car.
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The photos I took that day weren't exactly prize-winning shots, but they do illustrate an unusual occurrence on a rail line that I don't usually go out of my way to photograph, even though it's so close to home. And it was interesting to watch... in nine-plus years of train dispatching, I've had a handful of trains on my territory endure drawbar "incidents", and I've heard about and dealt with the after-affects of several others... but I had never seen one in person until last Tuesday. Who would've thought that the first one I'd see would be at the closest grade crossing to my home?
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