Front Range Explorers Passenger Special
I got a last minute message from Phil Gosney yesterday letting me know that he would be boarding Amtrak train No. 21, the southbound Texas Eagle, in Dallas that evening and staying with some private cars that would be set out for an overnight layover in Fort Worth. The message included a cordial invite to swing by and say hello! The cars would depart the next morning on a High Iron Travels Rail Excursion trip named the Front Range Explorers Special Train. He also added that a number of the cars would be painted in the IC Chocolate-and-Brown passenger scheme. This is a weak-spot for me for sure!
It had been a while since I went out to get the shot. It was time. My son Jacob joined me for the evening. We sung by my parents' house and borrowed a couple of digital video cameras and we headed downtown to scope out the shot. We decided to set up on the west levee of the Trinity River and photograph the train crossing the TRE bridge.
Normally the Texas Eagle is a "One-Unit-Wonder" with a single locomotive powering the train for the run from Chicago, IL to San Antonio, TX. Today's train had an additional two locomotives coupled back-to-back ahead of the regular locomotive. These units would provide extra horsepower to assist with the weight of the seven private cars on the rear. At Fort Worth the lead two units would be removed from the train and coupled to the seven private cars. This would set the consist for the Front Range Explorers special train. I handed Jacob the Canon 30D and he scored a few good shots. He even got a shot of me getting the shot!
We then headed for the Fort Worth ITC (Amtrak Depot), parked, and walked to the platform tracks. We grabbed a few quick shots of the IC colors that had taken over the scene. Sure enough, Phil Gosney was hanging out near the rear of the train. I have know Phil for a long time and my father has known him for even longer. In California he holds the Number 1 spot on the Amtrak engineer's seniority roster. It is always good to catch up with friends. Phil insisted that Jacob and I pose on the open platform of the Caritas for a photograph. Thanks Phil! It is a great shot. Next we got an interior tour of all of the cars. I think Jacob was impressed!
Phil joined us for a quick tour of downtown Fort Worth. We visited the historic T&P station as well as Tower 55. The Texas Eagle had positioned the equipment southbound at the Fort Worth ITC. Since tomorrow's departure would be northbound this wouldn't do. An Amtrak crew was on-hand to wye the train on the TRE at Dalwor Junction and Purina Junction. We managed to get some shots of this move at a couple of locations.
First was at the 8th Street grade crossing just north of the Fort Worth ITC. He we got some shots of the train backing out of the depot and under the Tindall Building. The sun was getting pretty low, casting long shadows. The crossbuck shadows were fun to work with on the side of the train. I handed Jacob a video camera on the fly just to see what he could do...
Finally we navigated the road construction and made our way to Purina just in time to catch the train on this leg of the wye. Our vantage point would be from the East 1st Street grade crossing. The train would pull by us to clear the control signal. Once the route was changed, the train got an approach signal and backed by us one more time. The Purina Mill is one of the more interesting elevator structures to photograph in the Fort Worth area. The shadows were getting longer yet, but I think it worked out OK! Again, Jacob had a video camera.
Schedule - FRONT-RANGE EXPLORERS SPECIAL TRAIN
May 31-June 6, 2016
Ft. Worth, TX-Denver, CO-Gillette, WY-Glendive, MT-Minot, ND (via Snowden)-Minneapolis/St. Paul. With connecting service from and to Chicago.
A 2,350 “rare mileage” extravaganza.
Connecting Chicago Service:
May 29. 1:45PM Dpt. Chicago on Amtrak #21 (Texas Eagle)
May 30. 1:25PM arr. Ft. Worth. Park overnight at Amtrak station.
Front Range Explorers’ Special
May 31: 7:00AM, Dpt. Ft. worth for Amarillo via Wichita Falls (ex-Ft. Worth and Denver)
Arr. Amarillo 6:30PM. Park overnight.
June 1: 7:00AM Dpt. Amarillo for Denver via Sixela, Trinidad and Pueblo. (ex-Colo. &
Southern). Park overnight at Denver Union Station.
June 2: Free day in Denver. Explorers’ banquet.
June 3: 7:00AM Dpt. Denver for Gillette via Wendover then to Gillette via the “coal line.”
Park overnight in Gillette.
June 4: 7:00AM Dpt. Gillette for Forsyth, MT (ex-NP). Park overnight in Forsyth.
June 5: 7:00AM Dpt. Forsyth for Minot via Glendive then on Sidney branch to Snowden
where we join the ex-GN high-line to Minot. Park overnight in Minot.
June 6: 3:00AM Dpt. for Minneapolis/Dst. Paul via KO sub. for Moorhead and Willmar
(original route of GN’s Empire Builder). Arr. Midway (former Amtrak station) 4:30PM. Trip ends.
Connecting Chicago ServiceJune 7: 7:00AM Dpt. Behind Amtrak #8 (Empire Builder).
Arr. Chicago 3:35PM.
Equipment will include a full (ex-Santa Fe dome), full diner, Caritas open-platform business car and sleepers with bedroom, roomette and section accommodations.
New Freight Car Delivery Today
The Meridian Speedway took delivery of seven covered hoppers today. The simplest cars in the latest InterMountain release got my attention this time. A plain "Data-Only" run of ACFX 4650 CUFT 3-Bay covered hoppers with round hatches is a perfect fit for my railroad.
I managed to secure two of them - ACFX 49279 and ACFX 49951.
Two additional ACF 4650 CUFT 3-Bay hoppers made this order - BN 446197 and BN 458531. These cars will ad to my growing Burlington Northern grain fleet.
Three PS 4750 CUFT cars reached out to me as well. ICG 765764, NAHX 55169, and PTLX 14185.
The ICG car, well there is no such thing as too many ICG grain hoppers! The Ralston-Jefferson and Sand's of Iowa cars I have seen in Illinois Central grain trains. Below is a picture I took of NAHX 55208 on the IC at Hammond, LA. I also remember seeing and photographing the Sand's of Iowa cars on the IC in Illinois. Those photos are somewhere....
CSX NO&M Sub Part I - Mobile, AL to Pascagoula, MS
I took a week of vacation while my wife and daughter took a girls trip to the East Coast. During this vacation I made a trip with my uncle Joe Scorsone to a storage unit where he had been saving a number of VHS tapes that I took in 1997 and 1998 when I was working for Amtrak as an intern out of New Orleans, LA.
My internship with Amtrak was probably one of the most fun jobs I ever had, though also one of the least paying. I was assigned to work for the Manager of Safety for the Amtrak Gulf Coast Business Group. Among other things I was trained as an Operation Lifesaver Level II presenter and went all over the system presenting to professional drivers, driver's education classes, and other groups.
Target areas would be where we had a high number of "near miss" incidents and actual collisions. To make the presentations relevant to each audience I would make several trips on the head end of trains in the area with a video camera rolling. Edited tapes showing locations recognizable to the audience from this perspective were quite powerful.
The videos were taken with a Panasonic VHS camera bought by my grandfather, Michele Palmieri. My uncle and I purchased all of the VHS tapes used for these projects so all of the tapes remained in our possession.
Unfortunately, I did video one collision with a vehicle during this exercise. It was a fatality involving Train No. 20 and a Mazda MX3 north of Hattiesburg, MS. This incident and a near miss with an LPG tank truck on the return trip shaped my decision not enter train service with Amtrak as a career choice. Train Dispatching is done from a much more stable environment!
There are probably 200 video tapes that we pried from storage. With the passage of time many of the videos have captured things that have significantly changed. Four of the videos were taken from the head-end of Amtrak train No. 1, the Sunset Limited, between Cantonment, FL and New Orleans, LA.
These tapes are valuable to me since passenger service on this route was discontinued due to damage from Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and has not returned to date. I have decided to add to my list of many projects the editing of these videos for publishing to YouTube as Meridian Speedway Productions.
The first cab ride video has been uploaded to YouTube. It is "CSX NO&M Subdivision Part I - Mobile, AL to Pascagoula, MS." This was filmed on the above mentioned Sunset Limited trip on December 21, 1997. Amtrak P40-8 826 was the lead unit. Tragically, the 826 was destroyed in a collision with a truck carrying steel beams at Bourbonnais, Illinois on March 15, 1999. On this date the 826 was the lead unit on train No. 59, the southbound City of New Orleans. 11 passengers were killed in this incident.
On a more positive note it was refreshing to hear the familiar voice of CSX train dispatcher Jerry Lachaussee at the beginning of the video as we are navigating Mobile, AL. I added some notes including Mile Post locations for reference as the video progresses. Below is the link to my first YouTube cab ride video:
Stay tuned for CSX NO&M Part II - Pascagoula, MS to Bay St. Louis, MS. For this leg we will change trains. Our vantage point will be from Amtrak F40PH 270 on the very last run of train No. 23, the Gulf Coast Limited.
I also found the below video on YouTube. It is collection of new clips documenting the tragedy at Bourbonnais.
Please remember when crossing railroad tracks to expect a train at any time and in any direction.