How I Built a Famous Heritage Consist
Saturday evening, December 28, 2013, as I prepared for another night shift I noticed a text message advising that Chicago to Tacoma stack train S-LPCTAC1-28 was operating on the Ottumwa Subdivision with Union Pacific's MoPac Heritage unit No. 1982 in the consist. Not in the lead, though, UP 1982 was the east-facing 2nd unit on the head end consist of the train which was in a 2x1 DP configuration. Interesting, I thought...
Upon arrival at work I was quickly distracted by OpCon III conditions on the Ravenna and Creston Subs, forgetting about the "Screaming Eagle" that was racing through the night towards Lincoln. Locomotive engineer Shane Palus came up to the tower to say hello and ask if I knew where the NS 1069 was. Amid the busyness of the shift I had missed the fact that the Virginian Heritage Unit was in Lincoln.
The words did not need to be said. The challenge was in the air. Could it happen? Could I create a consist of Heritage units from two different railroads? Game on! The vision of the money shot on Firth Hill of a Heritage Unit duo from two railroads was clear in my head:
Back to Mr. Burkart, I asked if there was a plan to get this locomotive to the house. There was not. Knowing my penchant for playing with Heritage units, he stated that he did not want to know what I was up to; but, he promised to get after it. Within minutes a hostler/pilot team was headed to the Prepo to pick up the NS 1069 and take it to the house.
This was one of those nights where everything that could go wrong, did. It was a holiday weekend, so crew availability was problematic. The temperature was dropping from 50° to 8° so both rails and locomotives were failing. The number of unplanned power mods on through trains was very high. I had a feeling that the S-LPCTAC1-28 would not fare well. I just knew it! Heeding this premonition, I positioned a pair of ES44C4s (6922 & 6590) in my back pocket just in case this train would become an unplanned power mod.
The NS 1069 made it to the house and was first spotted to the S-F-S (Sand-Fuel-Service) facility for servicing. I challenged the ramp foreman to provide a quick turnaround on this unit and was given a commitment of an 0500 release from the wheel machine. Several follow-up inquiries throughout the night kept this unit on target.
S-LPCTAC1-28 landed on fuel pad track F-2 and was a full service inspect. Blue-flagged on arrival, mechanical car and locomotive teams began their work. Soon a machinist announced on the radio that the lead unit, BNSF 5138, had failed inspection for federal shell wheel defects, also on the No. 5 axle. Those words were music to my ears for we would fresh mod the head-end consist, replacing the BNSF 5138/UP 1982 with the BNSF 6922/6590. With this volume of traffic, processing track time was at a premium. Replacing the whole head-end consist was quicker than cutting just one and then having to hook and test the new consist. The UP 1982 was now at my disposal!
The seeds had been planted for the photo harvest that the day would yield.
I advised the Diesel Tower Foreman that the power for train H-LINKCK1-29 would be UP 1982 and NS 1069. Both locomotives were promptly assigned. I then job-briefed with the third-shift Control Yardmaster on the moves to be made. Another call to the Ramp Foreman confirmed that the 0500 predict on the NS 1069 was still accurate. When asked what was so important about this locomotive, I simply stated that we were very short of freight power and it was imperative to get this machine back in service ASAP.
Gerry Swenson is a first shift hostler who came in four hours early to fill half of a 3rd shift vacancy. Gerry appreciates such things as unique locomotives so I made sure his first move was to pull the head end consist off of the S-LPCTAC1-28. They plucked the BNSF 5138 and UP 1982 off the train, headed down Engine Running, and split the consist up in the North Yard while another Hostler/Pilot crew took the BNSF 6922/6590 to the train. The 5138 was placed in North Yard 4 and the UP 1982 was left by itself in North Yard 3 (derail protected, of course).
Upon completion of this move, I overheard the Control Yardmaster line them up with their next move...according to plan. He told them to get a van, head to the wheel machine, grab the NS 1069 and couple it onto the west end of the UP 1982 in North Yard 3. At 0530 they were on their way to the wheel shop and by 0600 it was done. The train was built in Departure 2 and the two Heritage Units were together in North Yard 3, ready for diesel forces to hook-and-test. Thanks for coming in early, Gerry!
Fortuntely, this was my Friday so I could afford to play during the day. I had already arranged for a chauffeur. The morning was a waiting game of processes--shift change, locomotive hook-and-test, power hostled to train, train inspection. Before I left the desk I called a DC South crew for 0906 to be on-spot for the inspection and departure. This crew would also bring other trains into Lincoln.
After arriving at Argentine in Kansas City, the units remained together
and traveled to Alliance, TX on train M-KCKALT1-30, Slaton, TX on train
H-ALTSLA1-01, and Barstow, CA on train H-SLABAR9-03. We will see
how long they stay together.....
Many thanks to all of the team players who helped pull this off!