A Visit to North Texas,
June 12-25, 2008

Don Winter

Introduction

This trip was to attend the 2008 NRHS Annual Convention in Fort Worth. As usual, we traveled out and back on Amtrak.

The Journey East (4/17-4/20)

Thursday, June 12th, 2008

With an early evening departure from Los Angeles Union Station, 120 miles to the south, we plan on leaving Tehachapi at 1 pm, to avoid the impacts of LA traffic. We head out on Highway 58 to Mojave, south on 14 to Sylmar, "East" on I-210 to Pasadena, and south on the Pasadena Freeway to Los Angeles, arriving in the MTA garage by 4:00 pm. We check two bags to Fort Worth, check-in with Customer Services to have our photo IDs compared to our tickets, and get our dinner reservations. Then, so we sit in the garden until its time to go back to the car for the carry-on bags and make our way to the train. As usual, the train is on track 12, and I manage to get the consist before leaving.

[consist]
P42                177
P42                170
Baggage        1754
Dorm            39026
Sleeper          32111    Texas
Sleeper          32027
Diner              38028
Lounge           33046
Coach            34090
Coach            34077
Coach            34079

Train 4, 6-12-2008

Schedule

Actual

Los Angeles

6:45 pm 6:45 pm

Fullerton

7:20 7:17-26

Riverside

8:03 8;06-11

San Bernardino

8:29 8:29-48

Victorville                             PT

9:40 9:34-41

6-13-2008

   

Gallup, NM                         MT

8:51 am 9:09-16 am

Albuquerque

12:12 pm
12:55
11:47 am
12:55 pm

Lamy

2:00 2:30-32

Las Vegas, NM

3:45 4;18-25

Raton

5:32 6:06-11

Trinidad, CO

6:31 7:07-13

La Junta

8:13
8:25
8:23
8:36

Lamar                                 MT

9:15 9:28

6-14-2008

   
Topeka, KS                         CT 5:20 am 5:48-51

Lawrence

5:49 6:22-24

Kansas City, MO             arr.

7:25 8:04

Southwest Chief Route Description

After our 8 pm dinner, we're in bed before 10 pm.

Friday, June 13th, 2008

For the second eastward trip this year, I don't wake up until somewhere east of Winslow, which results in a scramble to get into the Diner for breakfast before it closes for breakfast at Gallup. Along the way between Gallup and Dalies (where it leaves the freight main), Train 4 crosses over from track to track, weaving its way past BNSF freights (mostly double-stack) heading in both directions. The train is early into Albuquerque (due to the padding in the schedule).

Between Bernalillo and Lamy, there is much trackwork going on to prepare the line for the introduction of RailRunner commuter trains through to Santa Fe (such as cutting in a new switch at Waldo), which results in a 30-minute loss of time before reaching Lamy. However, we meet train 3 at Glorieta, as required by the schedule, so it too is a half hour late (and will get later, due to that same trackwork).

We eat dinner between Trinidad and La Junta, and go to bed around Lamar.

Saturday, June 14th, 2008

I'm awake at Topeka, and we get up soon after, since we're getting off at Kansas City. We hear that this morning's Ann Rutledge to St, Louis has been canceled due to flooding on the Missouri River, and the equipment will be deadheaded to Chicago on Train 4, so it can be used in the rump of the train service between Jefferson City and St. Louis. This doesn't bode well for our next travel stage, tomorrow morning, on that same route!

We walk over to the Westin Hotel, catercorner across the street from the station, using the skywalks provided for access to the hotels and shopping center there. To our amazement, our room is available (at 9 am), but after dropping the bags there, we proceed to the Hertz counter to rent the car we've reserved for the day, so that we can visit sites of rail interest in the area.

We first head southwest a couple of miles to Glen Park Yard, three tracks alongside the UP, former MKT, line shared by the BNSF (former Frisco), adjacent to which is the UP Under Cutter Service Center, which repairs freight cars; I take some photos from an adjacent street. We then head directly west to the BNSF, former Santa Fe, yard and maintenance facilities at Argentine, KS, past which we had just come on the train as it entered the area. There is a road bridge across the entire yard with a walkway which I use for taking photos, after which we drive along the north side of the yard (opposite from the side the train had taken) from one end to the other.

Crossing the Kansas River, we (re-)enter Kansas City, KS, visiting the UP (former Rock Island) 18th Street Yard, now mainly used for autoracks and intermodal, the Kansas City Southern Mill Street Yard, which has 16 tracks full of tank cars, being switched by a Loco Leasing Partners diesel, LLPX 216, , and then the UP, former Rock Island, Armourdale Yard, east of 18th Street and north (on the city streets) of Mill Street, which has several autorack trains as well as general merchandise. We drive around the edges of the UP, former MP, Armstrong yard, immediately to the north of Armourdale, and then cross the river into Kansas City, MO, stopping in a parking lot that is just in Kansas to photograph the former MP bridges over the Kansas River.

Making our way past the former Frisco 19th Street Yard and the Kansas City Terminal 12th Street Yard, both having only two or three tracks in the "bottoms", we then take the Broadway bridge across the Missouri River into North Kansas City, along the entire west edge of the 16-track BNSF (former CB&Q) Murray Yard, full of coal and grain unit trains, and then back into the town to the east side of that yard, hard by a number of large grain silos, turning east across town to the Norfolk Southern (former Wabash) Avondale Yard, with an even larger grain silo adjacent to it. We then head back across the Missouri River on the Chouteau Bridge, east of Avondale, to the Kansas City Southern Knoche yard and East Yard, and the KCS locomotive facilities at the west end of Knoche Yard, crossing the line to the south and turning east to the large UP, former MP, Neff Yard, with more large grain silos adjacent to it.

We then head south to Sheffield Junction, with the BNSF flyover over the parallel KCT tracks below and the orthogonal KCS tracks making a flat crossing with the latter, try to find a way to Rock Creek Junction, just to the east, and then making our way to Leeds Junction, to the south. Although this has taken us past several freeway intersections, and along a short stretch of one freeway, we have seen no restaurants at any of these locations (and haven't seen one at all since the north side of Argentine Yard, some three hours ago), so we head back to the hotel, fueling the car on the way, and drop the car off in the spot in the hotel parking garage from which we had taken it four hours earlier, just as the Hertz agent is leaving for the day. He's somewhat surprised to see us, but we assure him everything is OK, and drop the papers in the drop box at the Hertz office on our way up to the room.

We then walk back over to the station, eat lunch at the diner in the space once occupied by a Harvey Lunch Counter, visit the exhibits in the former station spaces, check with Amtrak about our train status for Sunday (no word yet), cross back to the hotel, and visit a couple of the shops in the mall there. Later, we have dinner in an excellent Italian restaurant in that mall.

Sunday, June 15th, 2008

We arise early, to be over at Amtrak by 7 am. When we check at the desk, Train 314 is, indeed, being bused this morning. However, the agent demurs when I suggest taking Train 4 to Galesburg and then the bus over to Train 21 at Springfield, because he isn't sure whether Train 4 will get as far as Galesburg, because of high water at Fort Madison, or if it does, that it will be in time for the bus connection to Train 21 (it's currently two hours late, and won't be into Kansas City until after 9 am). So, we ride the bus, which stops at Warrensburg and Sedalia, to pick up passengers, and delivers us to Jefferson City at 11:30 am, before the rump train out from St. Louis, which should have been there at 10:50 am, gets there. It arrives about noon, and gets underway eastward a half hour later. There is a locomotive on each end of the train of this Horizon Fleet train to facilitate this reversal.

[consist]
P42                15
Coach            54584
Coach            54560
Coach            54531
Cafe/Business 58002
P42                  3

Train 314, 6-15-2008

Schedule

Actual

Jefferson City

10:33 am 12:29 pm
Hermann 11:18 1:24-26
Washington 11:46 1:55
Kirkwood 12:28 pm 2:51-53
St. louis 1:10 3:21

Kansas City and St. Louis Route Description

This train crosses from track to track several times to run around many freights (with crews) that are standing on the other track. It appears that Union Pacific is expecting to be able to run freights west of Jefferson City some time within the next twelve hours! As we approach St. Louis, the Barnum & Bailey 'Red' Train is parked on the UP east of Grand Avenue. (In the next two hours, the animal cars will be added to the west end, and locomotive to the east end, and the train will depart.) At St. Louis, passengers continuing towards Chicago are annoyed to hear that their continuing train has already left, at its scheduled time!

In St. Louis, we park the bags with the agent (petting the dog that's behind the scenes as we do so), and then head out to ride the Metrolink Light Rail's Shrewsbury branch, which has opened since the last time we were in town. We then ride the return train across the Mississippi to East St. Louis, and take another train back to Leclede's Landing, where we have dinner at the Old Spaghetti Factory. The river is high enough that the TRRA viaduct along the west bank is standing in the water, but not as high as we had seen it in 1993. After dinner, we ride one more light rail train back to Amtrak. The light rail station nearest the current Amtrak station is at the abuilding new transportation center that will form the new Amtrak station, with access to two parallel platforms, when construction is completed. In the meantime, the existing Amtrak 'temporary' structure continues to serve.

Train 21 is over an hour late into St. Louis, and almost two hours late leaving. It has two locomotives, because it has on the rear six private cars, to be used on Saturday's train at the NRHS Convention in Fort Worth. On board the Amtrak portion are several people whom we know, heading for that Convention (and some on the private cars as well). Since we've already had dinner, we don't take up the offer for us to eat in the Diner this evening, so that we can go right to bed.

[consist]
P42               153
P42                70
Dorm            39018
Sleeper          32071    Arizona
Diner-Lounge 37012
Lounge           33027
Coach-bagg.   31029
Coach            34016
Coach             34056
Coach            34038
Private            Kitchi Gammi Club
Private            Mount Vernon
Private            Braddock Inn
Private            NYC 38
Private            Henry Hudson
Private            Golden Shore

Train 21, 6-15-2008

Schedule

Actual

St. Louis

7:27 pm
8:00
8:35 pm
9:52
6-16-08    
Little Rock, AR 3:10 am 7:34-41
Malvern 3:55 8:25
Arkadelphia 4:20 8:48
Texarkana 5:58 10:04-12
Marshall 8:15 11:39-44
Longview 9:00 12:30-34 pm
Mineola 9:50 1:42-44

Texas Eagle Route Description

Monday, June 16th, 2008

On awaking this morning, several observations soon tell me that we're just passing Bald Knob, AR, and have thus lost another two and a half hours overnight. This seems hard to believe, since we were moving every time that I awakened during the night, but I'm happy to be able to get route description details this far north! There seem to be freight trains in almost every siding as we continue south on this line that UP runs as the northbound half of a paired track arrangement with the former Cotton Belt, further east. This means that the southbound passenger train is bucking the current of traffic on this single track line! As the morning progresses, speculation starts among the NRHS folks as to whether we shall get to Fort Worth in time for this evening's barbecue at Saginaw (first bus 4:00 pm). There is 35 minutes of padding in the schedule into Dallas, and at least 35 minutes more into Fort Worth, which might put us into Fort Worth before 5 pm.

But it is not to be! At Edgewood, UP makes us stop at the west end of the siding for "three" (one of which is already in the siding). We come to a stop at 2:12 pm, and the engineer gets down from the lead locomotive, with the intent of 'restarting' the second one. he is unable to do this, and by the time he returns to the first one, it too has stopped and the train has no motive power, no Head-End Power (and thus no air-conditioning), and is dead in the water with the temperature 101 degrees (F.) outside. At first, the crew mandates keeping the train closed up, while Amtrak sends a maintenance truck out from Dallas. By 4 pm, however, the smokers are getting restless, and the crew opens the doors and allows passengers off to smoke, even though the outside temperature is still at least 10 degrees higher than that inside (with the doors closed). Meanwhile, the maintenance truck has arrived, but the maintainers are having no success starting either locomotive.

A neighbor observes the large number of passengers standing around, and calls the police. The police chief arrives, declares a public health hazard, and orders everyone off the train. (Those in the private cars, with generators running, draw their shades a lie low.) The police chief himself drives a schoolbus that takes the first group of passengers, from the sleeper, over to Edgewood High School, getting there about 4:30 pm, where the Red Cross and the local Paramedics have deployed and attend to those with various complaints. Over the next hour or so, the remainder of the passengers are brought over from the train in two schoolbuses. Chris busies herself letting new arrivals know what is happening in the gym, where we've been seated in the bleachers.

About 6:45 pm, four 'luxury motor coaches' from Longview, TX, arrive, as do a couple of Amtrak managers from Dallas and the sleeping car attendant, Tony, who takes charge with a megaphone, sorting the passengers into those going to Fort Worth, those going to Dallas and Oklahoma, and those continuing beyond Fort Worth. The first group takes two buses, the second and third get one each. The Amtrak manager dithers about getting the buses going, even though our is completely full, and Tom Nemeth gets off to argue with him, which has no discernible impact. Finally, we leave at about 7:30 pm, with the San Antonio bus heading directly for Cleburne, and the other three heading south to I-20 and then west on that road. The two Fort Worth buses head directly across the Metroplex on I-30, getting us to the Fort Worth Transportation Center about 9 pm, where they pick up more passengers for points south.

At the Convention (6/16-6/22)

Monday, June 16th, 2008

A city bus picks up the NRHS folks and takes us the three blocks to the hotel, where we check-in, drop the bags off in our room (which smells of tobacco, even though we're assured it's a no-smoking room), and go to the NRHS Registration Room, where Joe and Lisa Williams handle our registration while I chat with Bob Brewster and we sign-up for banquet seats. Then, Chris and I go to the expensive attached restaurant (Ruth's Chris Steakhouse) for a later, abbreviated, dinner before going to bed.

Tuesday, June 17th, 2008

Today's excursion is on the Grapevine Vintage Railroad, which runs over the tracks of the Fort Worth & Western Railroad between Coppell, to the east, and the Fort Worth 8th Avenue Yard, to the southwest. For someone's convenience (certainly not ours), this excursion starts and ends at Grapevine, some 18 miles northeast of downtown Fort Worth, even though the GVR runs trains from the Fort Worth Stockyards, about a mile from the hotel, and the train will make a stop there. We take 'luxury motor coaches' east on freeway-standard Route 121, north on route 820, and northeast again on Route 121/183, during the morning rush hour. At Grapevine, the Grapevine Vintage Railroad's train is waiting in the yard, with former SP 4-6-0 2248 on the east end and Geep 2199 on the west end.

[Consist]:
Geep        2199
Coach        208
Open        1809
Coach        209
Open        1818
Coach        206
Coach        207
4-6-0        2248

Dallas-Fort Worth Route Descriptions

The last bus from the hotel has been delayed, due to an accident on the freeway, so the rest of us have to wait for its arrival. When it does, there's a photo runby with the Grapevine depot in the background, before the train departs, eastward, at 8:54 am (an annoyance to those of us on the buses at 7 am). It goes as far as MP 28.6 in Coppell, which is as far as the GVR has operating rights on the FWWR (it would have taken tens of millions of dollars in liability insurance to go further), and then reverses. There is a runby with the 4-6-0 leading at MP 27.5, between 9:15 and 9:45 am.

Returning to Grapevine, the 4-6-0 is serviced and turned, being placed on the west end of the train with the Geep on the east end (but the train itself isn't turned). Heading west on the former Cotton Belt line operated by the FWWR, the weather darkens and becomes very windy, making many of us think about the many tornados in the affected part of the country so far this year. The train has to wait for ten minutes, just before noon, east of the line's intersection with the UP (former M-K-T) Choctaw sub., for a loaded coal train and a northbound manifest to clear, before proceeding past the FWWR yard at Hodge (and the BNSF North Yard on the former Fort Worth & Denver) and the crossing of the BNSF Fort Worth sub. and UP (former Rock Island) Duncan sub. at Tower 60, turning north on the east leg of the wye into the GVR's Stockyard's station, which is outfitted with cafes and tourist shops. Here the lunches are loaded while the passengers are permitted another break (12:37 to 1:11 pm).

The train then reverses back out onto the main line, still facing west/south and heads southwest to the FWWR 8th Avenue yard, passing underneath the UP, former Texas & Pacific, line to the west on the way. This segment of the FWWR was once a Frisco line. After some interaction with the FWWR's "103" job and Tolar Turn, our train reverses (1:39 to 2:14 pm) and we have a photo runby at the Trinity River West Fork bridge, about a mile from the hotel in Fort Worth, from 2:29 to 3:09 pm. The train then turns on the wye, but does not enter the Stockyards again, and heads for Grapevine, which it reaches at 4:54 pm. After another rush-hour freeway bus ride, we're at the hotel at 5:50 pm.

An hour later, we ride a bus the few blocks south to the former Texas & Pacific depot and office building, at the west end of the Trinity Rail Express line between Fort Worth and Dallas, on the north side of today's UP freight line west to El Paso, where tables have been set up in the magnificent great hall of the depot for a Tex-Mex buffet, followed by a presentation by railroad historian Steve Allen Goen, who gives an interesting talk on the last days of operation of passenger trains to all the stations in Texas (complete with examples based on questions from the audience), and then a slide show on those passenger trains in the 1950s and '60s.

Wednesday, June 18th, 2008

Today's excursion is on the Texas State Railroad, between Rush and Palestine in East Texas, some 180 miles from Fort Worth. Thus the day unavoidably begins and ends with a three-hour bus ride, taking I-35W south, I-20 east, and then US 287 southeast to Ennis, where the buses stop to pick up a breakfast of kalaches (and orange juice, with no provision made for those who can't drink it), continuing on I-45 to Corsicana and then US 287 again, past Palestine, to Rush, with (on our coach) Garl Latham pointing out locations and buildings of railroad interest along the way. (The route parallels the UP, former Houston & Texas Central, later SP, Midlothian sub. to Ennis, and the same railroads' Ennis sub. thence to Corsicana, crossing the former Trinity and Brazos Valley, later Burlington-Rock Island joint, and now BNSF, at Waxahachie and Corsicana, the latter with an ornate depot visible from the highway, and later crossing the former International & Great Northern, later Missouri Pacific, and now UP, line from Longview to Austin and San Antonio, at Palestine.)

Somehow, our coach overtakes the two ahead of it on the way into Ennis, and we end up taking only 3 hours for a run that takes some of the other coaches 3 hours and 45 minutes. An earlier group is visiting the Texas State Railroad's workshops at Rush, and joins the rest of us when the excursion train pulls into the Rush depot. Meanwhile, back in Fort Worth, NRHS Senior VP Barry Smith has overslept and has to be driven to Rush to catch up with the others, while convention chair Skip Waters has driven his pickup truck, and stopped to acquire the lunches along the way. This means that the train departs Rush late. This train is staffed by members of the NRHS Gulf Coast Chapter, most of whom we had met at the Board Meeting in Houston in October, 2007.

[Consist}:
2-8-0            300
Open            70
Open            71
Coach            41
Combine        60
Coach (A/C)  40
Coach (A/C)  42
Cafe-Obs.    1511

Texas State Railroad Route Description

We're riding in Premium Class, which means the rear Cafe-Observation, and are somewhat surprised to discover that this car, unlike the two coaches in front of it, is not air-conditioned. However, it does have all-day snacks and other such amenities, which Skip Waters later claims justifies its premium price even without the air-conditioning. On the way back, this car is also right up against the steam locomotive, but that doesn't justify the con. job either.

The train eventually departs Rusk at 11:33 am (compared to a schedule of 11:00 am). A photo runby scheduled between noon and 12:45 pm, near the west end of the line, actually takes place from 12:47 to 1:22 pm (two runs), and the scheduled 12:50 pm arrival at Palestine is actually at 1:41 pm. Fortunately, the lunches (Premium Class lunches are the same as for everyone else) had been served before the runby. At Palestine, the railroad gets former American Freedom Train (and later Southern Steam Program) locomotive, T&P 2-10-4 610, out of its shed for photographs. During the Palestine stop, I manage to buy some coffee, to Carl Jensen's bemusement on this hot day, as we reboard.

The supposed 2:00 pm departure becomes 2:32 pm, and is followed by runbys at Jarvis (3:00 to 3:21 compared to the schedule of 2:25 to 3:10, with only one instead of the intended two runs) and MP 5.5 (4:05 to 4:45 instead of 3:45 to 4:30, but we do get two this time), with the return to Rusk at 5:05 compared to the scheduled 4:45 pm. During the day, I manage to get a few minutes to chat with Garl Latham about his current passenger train advocacy activities in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Garl thinks that passenger rail has now become 'inevitable' due to the rising prices of gasoline and aviation fuel, and thus rising demand, and has moved from working the political arena to planning the future of passenger rail.

Of course, we still have a three-hour bus ride back to Fort Worth, getting there after 8 pm, after which Chris and I head to a Mexican restaurant down the street for dinner. There, we observe Bob Brewster having dinner with Greg Molloy and Barry Smith, and have fun teasing Barry about his oversleeping on the morning.

Thursday, June 19th, 2008

Today's trip comprises Trinity Rail Express from Fort Worth to Dallas (and eventually, back), a ride on the Dallas Area Rapid Transit's Light Rail System, with a ride through their shop area, a visit to the Interurban Museum in Plano, a ride on the McKinney Avenue trolley, and a visit to the latter's shop. Other conventioneers are taking a later train to Dallas, comprising RDCs, and visiting the Age of Steam Museum at the fairgrounds. The original plan had been for everyone in the first group to take the 7:45 am train, but recent rises in TRE ridership have made it unlikely we (and the regular riders) would all find seats on that train, so TRE has asked that half of us take the earlier 7:05 am train. (Return is ad lib.)

The Trinity Rail Express currently provides commuter passenger service along the former Burlington-Rock Island joint line (later BN, and then BNSF, now owned by TRE) between Fort Worth and Dallas, with connections into the T&P station on the north side of the UP in Fort Worth, and over the UP into Dallas Union Station at the eastern end of the line. BNSF still runs freight trains over the TRE line, subject to the TRE Dispatchers finding time between TRE services over this single track line.

It's raining heavily as we leave the hotel for the station, three blocks away, so we hurry over there, and the when it's train time, hurry onto the train as it arrives from the T&P station. As a result, I don't get the consist for this train.

[consist]
Cab Car
Cab Car
Coach
Coach
F59           

Train 2910, 6-19-2008

Schedule

Actual

Fort Worth (ITC)

7:05 am 7:05 am
Richland Hills 7:18 7:16-18
Hurst/Bell 7:26 7:24-26
Centrepoint/DFW 7:36 7:35-37
West Irving 7:42 7:42
South Irving TC 7:49 7:47-51
Medical/Market Center 7:59 7:59-8:01
Dallas Union Station 8:07 8:07

Because of the weather, it's still dark as we leave Fort Worth, and remains that way for the first half of the journey. Nonetheless, it becomes clear that progress is quite leisurely, but that the schedule is set up that way and is thus kept. In Dallas Union Station, we wait for the second group of people, off the next TRE train, and then move out onto the DART southbound platform to wait for our train, coming off regular service (and destined "Cedars", the last station before the shops) at 9:15 am at this station. South of Cedars, this train makes a lefthand turn into the shops on the site of the old Santa Fe facilities in Dallas, instead of the righthand turn made by the in-service trains.

In the DART Shops, we see the first car, 170, that has been split apart at the articulation and had a low floor section added to make it ADA compliant. In parts of the city, existing stations are being rebuilt with higher platforms to match the level of the new sections. The combination will, when all cars and all stations are modified, remove the need for ramps and bridge plates at DART stations. Leaving the shops, we continue straight ahead, on the line heading south on the former Santa Fe right-of-way. After crossing the Trinity River on a viaduct that also crosses over the UP main line at Tower 19, we take the line south to Ledbetter (the Blue Line) at Oakwood Junction with the southwest line (the Red Line).  This line follows the route, and some of the infrastructure, of the old Texas Electric interurban line south to Corsicana and Waco, and, after the junction of those two routes at Illinois (with the old Mount Rowe shops in the vee of those two routes), the Waco line.

The line continues in the median of Lancaster Boulevard to the end of the line at Ledbetter. On the return, we stop at Illinois and walk north of the station to photograph an outbound DART train with the Dallas skyline in the background. As we make the turn from the former TE right-of-way to the former Santa Fe r-o-w, we can see that the former TE viaduct across the Trinity River is still largely intact passing the shops, we make the turn on the third leg of the wye and head back past Cedars, Convention Center (underneath the facility) and Union Station, making a big turn east just north of the station (where the former T&P comes in from Fort Worth to the west) onto a former T&P right-of-way down Pacific Avenue. There are stations along this segment, of which Akard is closed for rebuilding to the new platform height.

At Pearl Junction, the Green Line will head north (on the west side of the current line), and there's another junction right after that at which the line from Fair Park trails in on the east side. The line then runs through a three-mile tunnel, with City Place station one mile into the tunnel, emerging at the Mockingbird station, where we stop for photos of the station (in a deep trench). We then continue north on a former Houston & Texas Central (later SP) r-o-w, with the former Texas Electric r-o-w visible first on the east and then on the west side, past the junction with the Blue Line to Garland (on the east side), and the former end of track at Park Lane (where the original station is buried beneath the current viaduct) to Downtown Plano, where we leave the train (as it continues to the end of the line at Parker Road). Half the group goes to eat at the rented space on the east side of the station, while the other half (including us) walks across the park one block west to the Interurban Museum in the former Texas Electric Plano depot, which tells the story of the TE, including many old photos, a model of a rotary converter and some other artifacts, and combination (passengers, baggage, and RPO) streetcar 360 on display outside.

Lunch in the rented space is another box lunch, after which we board our private train for the run back to the City Place station, where we take the escalators and stairs (or elevator) to the surface, 300 ft above) to board the McKinney Avenue Trolley streetcars, waiting on their trackage out on the street. One car takes half the group to the maintenance shop, while the other two take the group we're in on a run around the whole length of the current line, around some one-way streets, and then down McKinney Avenue to its southern terminus at the Dallas Art Museum (about two blocks from the Meyerson Symphony Hall that Chris and I had visited back in January). Here, regular travelers are surprised to find they have to squeeze into two already-full cars for the ride back to the shops, where we trade places with the other half of the group.

The shops are quite small, but well equipped, and the craftsmen there are turning a trolley into a moving restaurant like those we've taken in European cities. After the visit to the shops, we walk back to the trolley stop, where Chris squeezes ahead onto the arriving, well-loaded trolley, and I'm one of the last couple of people to board it. Back at City Place, I glance back to make sure she's off the trolley, and then take the stairs and escalators down to the platform. After two southbound trolleys have passed, I'm sure I must have missed her, and I get on one with Wes and Shirley Ross. Chris, meanwhile, has taken the elevator at the top level, and not seeing group members has latched onto a local Chapter host, who is riding out to Garland before heading for Union Station.

Naturally, I don't find Chris already at Union Station, so I stand on the platform where the southbound DART trains arrive (adjacent to the one from which the TRE trains leave), with at least six DART trains arriving without her, before jumping on the 4;33 train to Fort Worth just as its about to leave. Chris gets to Union Station on the very next DART train!

[consist]
F40            565
Coach        1055
Coach        1056
Cab Car     1007
Cab Car     1009           

Train 2929, 6-19-2008

Schedule

Actual

Dallas Union Station

4:33 pm 4:33 pm
Medical/Market Center 4:41 4:43
South Irving TC 4:52 4:50-52
West Irving 4:58 4:58
Centreport/DFW 5:05 5:02-04
Hurst/Bell 5:14 5:14
Richland Hills 5:21 5:21
Fort Worth ITC 5:33 5:31-33
Fort Worth T&P 5:37 5:37

In Fort Worth, I ride on to the T&P station, with three other group members including Wes and Shirley, and then walk back to the hotel past the Convention center, which occupies almost all the space between the hotel and T&P station along the east side of Houston Street. In the room, I watch group members coming from the next TRE train, and then Chris arrives at the room, having come off that train and walked back via the route I can't see!

We walk over to the Irish pub a couple of blocks away, for dinner, and then go to the 8:00 pm At-Large Members meeting, where we have about half-a-dozen people other than the At-Large Directors for an interesting hour-or-so's discussion, mostly led by Jack Hilborn. Greg Molloy and Barry Smith do pop in for a few minutes after the 'Meet the Officers' session ends at 8:30 pm.

Friday, June 20th, 2008

We take the opportunity to sleep in late, and then go to the Railroadiana Show, where I buy some books and some 1950s ETTs, and then have lunch in the hotel cafe with Bill Chapman and Dave Flinn. Then, after lunch, it's time for the NRHS Board Meeting.

At Registration, on Monday, I had picked up (and signed for) a package of reports that Directors were asked to read, and that will not be covered in the meeting itself. Also, earlier in the week, Joe Williams had distributed the current versions of the separated Conflict-of-Interest and Confidentiality Policies. the latter now looks like a standard corporate policy, and is thus acceptable, but the former still has some strongly adversarial language regarding the relationship between National NRHS and the Chapters. I have mentioned this to Joe, as have others, and Joe has worked on this with Greg and Barry (on Wednesday's train). A revised version, distributed at the start of this meeting, is still not quite acceptable, due to a mis-nesting of certain provisions, which Richard Shulby raises in the meeting, and to which I point out the solution to Joe before he and Richard sit down to fix it. With these adjustments, the Conflict-of-Interest policy is approved, and so is the Confidentiality Policy.

 The other major item at this Board Meeting is the change in venue for the 2009 Convention. The Central Florida Chapter has encountered difficulties, and has asked to withdraw from that year's Convention. (They may be back, later.) In substitute, the National Convention folks will be running a Convention in Duluth, MN, and have already been trolling for pre-registrations on the excursions so far. That change is ratified at this meeting. Other business runs long enough that the board takes a recess from 3:45 to 5:15 pm, while the Annual Meeting takes place from 4 to 5 pm, without incident.

At the banquet, the after-dinner speaker is Pete Rickershauser, of BNSF, who offers some thoughts on railroad history in the making at present, via the strategic planning efforts of railroads in general and BNSF in particular. One of the charts he shows is of congestion on the railroad network in 2005, which I had previously seen, and on which the congested areas on the routes used by Amtrak correlate very well with our experience of Amtrak train delay minutes.

Skip Waters closes by asking us to be on the Saturday excursion train on time, since it will close the doors at 6:45 am and depart promptly at 7 am, to fit into the BNSF train 'schedule' on the line north to Saginaw for that time in the morning.

Saturday, June 21st, 2008

Today's excursion is heading northwest on the former Fort Worth & Denver, route of the erstwhile Texas Zephyr, to Quanah, some 190 miles from Fort Worth. We get up even earlier than I had originally planned, and are over at the ITC on the platform next to our assigned car, Kitchi Gammi Club, before the doors are opened for boarding. I ask John Harmon, who's waiting to board Mount Vernon, if he's flying out tonight to ride over Tehachapi on Sunday (as I know several other mileage collectors are, including Bart Jennings and Tom & Carol Sulanke), but he says he thinks it's too risky to do so!

On the train, we take seats in one of the sections in  Kitchi Gammi Club, with mine facing forward with table space, ideal for taking route description notes. In adjacent sections are various people whom I know electronically as mileage collectorsóChuck Weinstock and his co-listowner, and Dave Ingles. Many others are on the trainóthese folks eventually make up a list with 56 names on its, of people they see on the train! Since we're in the rear car, I manage to collect the entire consist as we walk down the platform before boarding.

[Consist}:
ES44DC        7752
P42                     50
Concession    800764    Stampede Pass
Coach            82710
Coach            82560
Coach            82630
Coach            82580
Coach            82620
Coach            82500
Coach            Golden Shore
Pullman           Henry Hudson
Pullman            NYC 38
Pullman            Braddock Inn
Pullman            Mount Vernon
Pullman            Kitchi Gammi Club

As promised the doors close at 6:45 am. The train then backs up at 6:55 am, to clear the switch out to the BNSF Fort Worth sub. headed north, used by Amtrak's Heartland Flyer, which is halfway down the platform (whose tracks otherwise head for the TRE line east), and then pulls north at 6:58 am, out onto the BNSF line to Tower 60 and Saginaw at 7:02 am, with a couple of short stops on the way. North of Saginaw, we turn west onto the connector to the former Fort Worth & Denver, past CP 10 and CP 11, stopping between them from 7:36 to 7:50 am to check a brakeshoe problem on two of the Amfleet cars. At 8:44 am, we take siding at Alvord, for eastbound loaded coal train BNSF 9612 east. From the radio traffic, there are pairs of trains meeting at every siding along this line, just as Pete Rickershauser had asked us to look out for, the night before.

At 9:07 am, we meet an eastbound manifest at Fruitvale, and at 9:26 am, an eastbound manifest at Bellevue. At 9:44, we stop in Dickworsham for an eastbound loaded coal train that is still entering the west end of the siding. We hear on the scanner about a man laying on the tracks at around that point, and then the coal train stops suddenly. Apparently, the man has a axe, and has severed at least two brake hoses on that train. It later transpires that he's also set some retainers and some handbrakes before being apprehended by Sheriffs and BNSF Police. By the time the coal train has fixed all of its problems, and we can proceed, its 10:53 am, and we finally leave that siding at 11:03 am.

At 11:25 am, we meet an eastbound loaded coal train at Rhea. From 11:31 to 11:39 am, we stop east of Wichita Falls, at 11:41 am, we meet another eastbound loaded coal train in Oklahoma Yard, and from 11:44 to 11:50 we stop at Wichita Falls to pick ups a dozen or so people. At 12:09 pm, we meet an eastbound manifest at Iowa Park, at 12:25 pm, an eastbound loaded coal train at Fowlkes, at 12;38, an eastbound grain train at Harrold, and at 1:28 pm, an eastbound double-stack at Chillicothe. Nearing Quanah, a family rides alongside on their horses, and the teenage boy jumps from his horse onto the rear of the train. Carl Jensen drags him inside, and gives him a severe lecture. We stop in Quanah at 1:25 pm, and Carl then has angry words with the boy's father, who threatens Carl in return. Presumably, if the boy had fallen, the father would have been the first one wanting to sue the train operator and the railroad for large amounts of compensation!

Lunch in Quanah is hamburgers, prepared and served at a storefront in town, where we sit at a table with Chris Gunzler (who wants to know if we've seen Chris Parker, who is also here somewhere). After lunch, we visit the town's museum in the former Quanah, Acme & Pacific depot, and then have an interesting chat with the convention's food chairman about meeting passengers' special food needs. He has two kosher meals in hand, but can't find their intended recipients. While we're in town, the entire train is turned on the wye on the north side of the line, but on its return, the crew seems to have difficulty deciding where to stop it and whom to board first. We finally depart Quanah at 4:16 pm.

At 4:35 pm, the train meets a westbound grain train at Chillicothe. At 4:51 pm, we take the siding at Vernon for BNSF 5905, a westbound empty coal train that is already there waiting for us. We wait while BNSF 7570, a westbound double-stack, also passes us at 4:58 pm at Vernon, which we leave at 5:03 pm. At 5:18 pm, we meet a westbound grain train at Harrold. Finally, at Fowlkes at 5:45 pm, we pass a siding without meeting or overtaking a train. At 5:58 pm, we meet BNSF 4890 with a westbound at Wichita Falls, where we stop from 6:00 to 6:11 pm to load box dinners. There are no opposing trains between Wichita Falls and Fruitvale, nor do we overtake any.

At 7:14 pm, we meet a westbound unit tank car train at Fruitvale, and at 7:32 pm, UP 6005 west at Alvord. At 7:48 pm, we meet a westbound BNSF double-stack at Decatur, and at 8:14 pm, westbound BNSF 5037 with a grain train at Avondale. We take the same connecting track over to the Fort Worth sub as on the outbound trip, and pass the Saginaw crossings at 8:34 pm, with a couple of stops to throw switches, reaching the ITC platform at 9:01 pm. This ends the convention activities, for us. (There are some buses to DFW Airport on Sunday.)

Sunday, June 22nd, 2008

The vagaries of three-days-a-week Amtrak service mean that we're not leaving for home until Monday. We have a late breakfast in the hotel restaurant, and then watch trains on the north side of Tower 55 from the hotel room. There's a track gang working on the east side of the crossing, today, causing numerous delays to trains traveling that way. Amtrak 22, with the private cars attached, starts from here (its Amtrak cars had sat here overnight, rather than heading for San Antonio and then back again, as had happened a couple of times during the preceding week), leaving at 2:59 pm (a half hour late), and then taking 90 minutes to reach the crossovers five miles east of Tower 55!

At 6 pm, we meet Bob and Shirley Carter, our travel-mates on several IRT trips in Europe (who live in Fort Worth), for dinner at a local Chinese Restaurant, spending a pleasant couple of hours with them. Back in the room, we watch Amtrak 21 come across Tower 55 at 8:35 pm, and then leave for San Antonio at 9:11 pm. Even though the train is very late, it does at least suggest that we will have a train, not a bus, for our trip down to San Antonio on Monday!

The Journey West (6/23-6/25)

Monday, June 23rd, 2008

We sleep in again, this morning, checking out of the room at the appointed noon, and eating lunch after that time. We head over to the station after 3:30 pm, expecting, based on my checks of Train Status on the Amtrak website, that Train 22 will already have left. It has not, and all our companions heading east today (the ones who hadn't left on Sunday) are still in the crowded waiting room. There's an announcement that our Train 21 has left Dallas at 3:45 pm, before Train 22 arrives from the south at 4:10 pm, departs at 4:35 pm, and then sits north of Tower 55 until 5:14 pm. The northbound Heartland Flyer pulls into the station to load, and then makes like it's going to leave before Train 21 arrives, but is stopped by orders from afar. Train 21 finally appears at 5:40 pm, making it clear that it had been waiting for Train 22 to clear. (The track gang is working right on the crossing itself, today.)

[consist]
P42               100
P42                198
Coach            82500
Coach            82620
Coach            82580
Coach            82630
Coach            82560
Coach            82710
Dorm              39035
Sleeper           32042*
Diner-Lounge  37004
Lounge            33046
Coach-bagg.   31029
Coach            34016
Coach            34056
Coach            34102*
*to Train 1 at San Antonio

Train 21, 6-22-2008

Schedule

Actual

6-23-2008

   
Fort Worth 1:55 pm
2:40
5:40 pm
7:01
Cleburne 3:22 7:40-42
McGregor 4:30 9:43

Our train adds the six deadheading Amfleet cars to the head end after closing its doors for departure, but before actually heading across Tower 55. This takes an hour (before the 7:01 pm shown), and makes the entire dinner service after that one hour late, due to the lack of Head-End Power for most of that hour. We eat dinner with Linda and Bill, regular NRHS Convention-goers from Davis, CA. We don't even make it to Temple before bed, but later discover that we entered San Antonio on Track 1, causing the transfer cars to be reversed during the changeover process.

Tuesday, June 24th, 2008

The two transfer cars are added to Train 1, in San Antonio, just about as I awake, but nothing then happens until the rest of the cars, with a new sleeper, have departed north as Train 22. The six deadheading Amfleet cars are then added to the head of the train before it departs westward. Evidently, they're from the west coast pool!

[consist]
P42            81
P32            505
Coach            82710
Coach            82560
Coach            82630
Coach            82580
Coach            82620
Coach            82500
Dorm              39010
Sleeper            32019
Diner               38058
Lounge            33032
Coach-bagg.   31004
Coach            34032
Coach            34102*   
Sleeper          32042*
* from Train 21 at San Antonio

Train 1, 6-23-2008

Schedule

Actual

6-24-2008

   
San Antonio 5:40 am 8:18 am
Del Rio 8:35 11:58-12:05 pm
Sanderson (F) 11:10 2:45 (pass)
Alpine                                  CT 1:24 pm 4:44-50
El Paso                                 MT 5:10
5:55
7:30
7:53
Deming, NM (F)                  MT 7:26 9:37-40
6-25-2008    
Yuma, AZ                             PT 4:19 am 5:59-6:04 am
Palm Springs 6:37 9:19-33
Onatrio 8:05 11:18-27
Pomona 8:15 11:35-41
Los Angeles 10:10 12:29 pm

Sunset Limited Route Description

Union Pacific is building a large new intermodal yard at MacDona, orthogonal to the Sunset Route tracks, south of the line, with two additional track parallel to the Sunset Route for a couple of miles both east and west of where the connector to the north end of the yard will be.

At the west end of double track, west of MacDona, we stop from 8:44 to 8:52 for eastbound double-stack UP 7634 to clear. At 9:40 am, we meet UP 7763 east at Hondo; at 10:27 am we pass a westbound unit grain train at Uvalde; from 10:50 to 10:58, we stop at the west end of Odlaw for eastbound UP 6233 to pass; and at 11:07 am, we overtake a westbound baretable at Amacacho. There are 10 mph speed restrictions at the west end of Pinto and the west end of Shumla. At 3:42 pm, we overtake a westbound double-stack at Tesnus, at 5:06 pm, we meet UP 7848 east at Alpine Siding,  and at 5:40 pm (MT), we meet an eastbound UP double-stack at Hot Wells. The Sunset Route, east of Sierra Blanca (which we reach at 5:58 pm) is not as busy as the former Fort Worth & Denver!

From 8:08 to 8:16 pm, we stop at Anapra, during diner, for the crew to correct sticking airbrakes on two of the Amfleet cars. Perhaps these were the same two cars with this problem as on Saturday at CP 11? We're in bed and asleep before Lordsburg. 

Wednesday, June 25th, 2008

When we make the crew change at Maricopa at about 3 am, Pacific Time, I know we will be late enough out of Yuma for me to make route description notes between Yuma and Niland, the last remaining segment on the Sunset Route west of the Louisiana line needing this level of detail!

At 6:09 am, we meet an eastbound double-stack at Winterhaven; from 6:32 to 6:34, we stop for an eastbound freight at Clyde; from 6:49 to 7:09, we stop at Glamis for eastbound UP 5517 with a double-stack; at 7:16, we meet an eastbound UP freight at Acolita; at 7:46, we meet an eastbound UP double-stack at Mortmar, and at 8:10, we meet an eastbound UP double stack at Thermal. While not quite 'a train in every siding', this is quite a bit more traffic than east of Sierra Blanca (as it should be, with the additional traffic flows from the former T&P at Sierra Blanca and the 'Cotton Rock' at El Paso).

East of Indio, there are a lot of construction gangs working on doubling the line between Indio and Garnet. We overtake a westbound UP double-stack at Rimlon at 9:04 am, and westbound UP 8416 at Garnet at 9:30 am, after following the latter since before Indio. Once on the double track, we cross over several times to weave our way around freights, including UP 5482 east autoracks at West Palm Springs at 9:43 am, an eastbound intermodal at 9:45 am, and UP 8497 helpers at Cabazon at 9:52. There's a westbound autorack train with UP 8390 stopped west of Banning crossovers, behind another westbound in UDE (undesired emergency braking), which the helper set has been directed to assist in reversing over the crossovers, once we have passed them.

At 10:13 am, we meet eastbound UP 8416 with autoracks, west of Beaumont, an eastbound double-stack at MP 560.2, an eastbound manifest at 10:16, behind the double-stack, and at 10:19, an eastbound double-stack at Hinda, with two NS locomotives. At 10:22, we meet UP 5446 with an eastbound trash train at El Casco, at 10:42, UP 4142 east with double-stacks at Mount Vernon, and at 10:47, manifest UP 2747 east at Rancho. There are track gangs every five miles or so along here, as well. West of West Colton Yard, there are fewer opposing freights, but renewed construction activity all along the route, creating grade separations and adding additional track (the "Alameda Corridor East" project). We overtake UP 8435 west on our line at Pomona (as well as trains on the parallel Los Angeles sub. between Montclair and Pomona). There are more track gangs between City of Industry and El Monte, adding the new track on the south side of the present one.

Once in Los Angeles, we drop the carry-on bags at the car and go to lunch at Olvera Street before collecting the checked baggage, then head to the grocery store in South Pasadena, before heading the 120 miles north to Tehachapi, where we're home before 6 pm.