Thursday, November 27, 2008

I Got The Fever

And the only cure for it is...well, there is no cure I think.

I know it's been a long dry spell. I've not had the chance to get out and about in well over a month, into this beautiful weather. But finally my chance came, and my fire was stoked anew. A visit to the UP yard that made the long wait worthwhile.

Now, to be fair, I had an earlier impetus. It's one thing to check the tracks in the morning before work, to spend the day watching out the window of my little office to see freights pass throughout the day. The same old same old sets in--the local, the early morning manifest train around 9, once a week a single SD70MAC pulling a two mile line of empty autoracks, and if I'm very lucky the KATLB, a stack train headed through Fort Worth, TX en route to Long Beach, CA. One morning like any other morning it all changed, like it does sometime.

I heard the horns, knew it was westbound. The consist stopped at the exit 94 crossing there in Boyce, long enough for a conductor to debark and put out fusees, then it rolled forward again. Slowly. Heavily. I knew it was the KATLB. I glanced up and watched first one, then a second, then a third and fourth engine roll through slowly. Nothing surprising, I've seen a few use as many as five SD70s as power. When the sixth and seventh passed I started to climb on my chair for a better view.

When the tenth (and final) unit passed I raced into my boss' office begging for a half hour break. She looked at me funny until I managed to stammer out "Ten! Ten units! KATLB! TEN!" She grinned and said "Go, and I wanna see the pictures when you get back!" I got.

Ten Unit Lashup

Like the notes say, I KNOW all ten weren't pulling. I doubt a consist has ever been safely assembled that required 50,000 horsepower to pull. I'm certain it was a power transfer back to CA to balance a shortage there, but still...I felt like I did the day I first discovered trains. Watching that monstrous lashup pass through Boyce it took all I had in me to keep from shrieking like a little boy. I did wave hard enough to make my elbow sore.

That, naturally, reprimed the pump.

Like I said, I've had a long dry spell of no spotting. Not sure why, honestly, other than a big confluence of little free time and not having a motorcycle to ease transport here and there into tight places. This week, to celebrate the holiday and to get emotionally ready for a 50+ person reunion/feast at my brother's house I took the week off.

I started off easy--I dropped the Missus off at her job Tuesday morning and went back to Alexandria to the UP yard to see what was cooking, and boy did it pay off. There were a pair of NS units posed perfectly right at the southern edge of the yard, ticking and hissing to themselves the way engines will when you leave them alone. Feeling feckless, I started playing around with black and white, which is what got me into photography in the first place.

Black And White All Over

I don't know that I've ever seen the yard so packed--every siding seemed to have a full consist on it, acres and acres of freight in every colour and shape and design. Front and center, as it was all day, that lovely NS pair. Behind? UP yellow, from small to large.

Full Yard

Now, before you turn your nose up at me for standing on an overpass exit taking pictures let me add insult to injury--it was COLD up there! I was dressed for driving my wife to work and back home in a nice climate-controlled car, not 'spotting in 40 degree windy weather on an interstate, so I stayed pretty chilled, but oh it was worth it.

I watched a lashup of three GP units pulling thirty + gons full of substrate gravel pull up and wait while a beautiful new SD70ACe rolled up slowly. The conductor got out of his setup and worked the switch for the conductor riding the nose of his train, and the engineer slowed long enough for them to exchange some papers, a manifest perhaps. It was a nice display of teamwork (which was later rejected by the screeners at Barstards.


The substrate/MoW train finally got it's turn and snaked it's way across track after track, lining up on its own exit.


Lest you think I was standing only on the sunny side of the exit, I offer this, an inbound UP/NS/UP sandwich that did it's own share of creeping snakewise across the tracks to take it's place on a newly-vacated siding in the depths of the yard.


I guess if I were really good or really patient I'd take the time to edit out those powerlines, but I don't have the software nor the patience. Nor the steady hand. *S*

Finally, a little extra, to show you my soft side. Just yesterday while waiting for one of those ubiquitous SD70MACs pulling (this time it was sixty-eight) empty autoracks I saw this moment and knew that if I didn't take the photo I'd kick myself forever.

Old Man

I have to tell you this--I came to a conclusion that chilled morning on that overpass--I could have happily stayed there all day, just watching and snapping and smiling like a kid with a pocketful of candy. No apologies, no questions about it. I'm a foamer through and through.

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Sunday, November 23, 2008

Sometimes it looks like a freaking Xmas tree out in the Alexandria UP yard.

UP yellow and grey. Faded black and red from old Southern Pacific fallen flags still pulling duty and long consists. Black and white Norfolk Southern Dash 9s are always lurking around in pairs, as are CSX Bright Future and Dark Future units. There's even the brilliant blue and white of GATX leased units around at any time, both small GP38 units for yard and local use and the big boys passing through.

Today, though, it was nuts. Driving to a balloon flight out at LSUA I passed the yard driving along the interstate. I glanced in. Black and white, check. Yellow in scads, check. One lonely black and red SP. Check. A few nice graffiti pieces--an Ichabod The Rail Fiend on a grain hopper, unusual but nothing to dive out of 70mph traffic for.

Coming to the end of the run, though, I had to make a decision--turn around or lose it forever. The most unusual meet of heralds I'd ever seen on a pair of tracks.

Two Companies, One Fallen Flag

An Unlikely Pair Of Faces

Look at those faces! What a comparison. And don't think I wasn't thanking my lucky stars and garters for catching such a mix. An hour later when I drove past again the Retro Belles were long gone, unwilling, perhaps, to hang out in such a Yellow state.

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