How I Built a Famous Heritage Consist
(Note: Below images are linked to larger files on RRPictureArchives.net)
Playing with other railroad's heritage units has provided me with a great deal of entertainment over the past two-and-a-half years that I have been Terminal Manager for BNSF in Lincoln, NE. I have managed to position a number of them for photography on the BNSF Nebraska Division. This past weekend proved to be particularly amusing for me.
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:
I asked Control Yardmaster Matthew Burkart where the NS 1069 was. He stated that it was in the Prepo. This unit was set out from an empty coal train earlier in the day. I consulted with the Diesel Tower Foreman and learned that the NS 1069 had been set out for a federal shell defect on a wheel on the No. 5 axle.
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.
To pass the time while the train was being inspected, we headed out to Grafton, NE on the BNSF Hastings Sub. "Lincoln-Laurel" train H-LINLAU1-28 had just departed with a pair of brand new, consecutively numbered, CitiRail ES44ACs, 1341 and 1340. These striking silver, blue, and yellow beasts won't be clean for long. The effort was worth the time.
Back in Lincoln to check on the H-KCKLIN1-29, things were progressing slowly. The power was on the train, but the cold temperature meant the air pressure was slow to come up in the train line. In addition the carmen were attempting to make repairs to slack adjusters on four cars. It was cold! Though time consuming, their efforts were successful and the cars did not need to set out. Here is the view form the yard tower of the train being inspected in Departure 2.
After a quick bite to eat, the train was finally highballed - no bad orders. Normally, the shot first referenced above on Firth Hill would be the first photo location, but on this weekend day Superintendent of Operations Rich Duncan was conducting operations testing. Arrangements had been made to perform a stop test on the train at the Control Signal at Hickman, NE. This known delay would allow us to shoot the train at Roca, NE and still make it to Hickman and Firth. The colorful duo looked good rolling through Roca.
As the train was rolling through Roca, Rich and I discussed the tonnage of the train (11,000) and the viability of the stop test at Roca. We decided to proceed with the test as both units were AC and the route would be the less severe Main Track 2. Both the crew and the train dispatcher performed flawlessly for the Hickman stop test and after proceeding at restricted speed to the intermediate signal at Panama Road, the Heritage Duo marched the train up Firth Hill without missing a beat! They sounded great! After getting the vision shot on Firth Hill linked above, we were able to capture this head-on view of the UP 1982 cresting Firth Hill.
Though cold, the day was beautiful. This consist provided an excuse to spend some time on the division so we took in the spectacle several more times....
And charging through Humboldt, NE:
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!
Athearn even got in on the Action!