Deer Crossing the Tracks

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It was a rail fan morning next to the Joint Line, and not much was going on. I had glanced away from the tracks, until I heard the ballast shifting. When I looked up, this young buck was climbing the other side of the tracks. He came down the side I was on. He didn’t really pay me much attention.

Then his small harem appeared and similarly crossed the tracks:

One of them posed for me:

The trio crossed the road, and headed toward the river. Before starting down the bank, they mooned me:

And the young buck gave me one last glance before he disappeared:

Intermodal Freight – Union Pacific 2607

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For the July 4th holiday weekend, my family gathered in McPherson, Kansas at my brother’s house. Wendi and I sneaked off to Hutchinson, about 20 miles south of McPherson, a few times for some alone time in the guise of trips to Starbucks. We drove around Hutch a little bit one morning, and as we were headed back toward McPherson, I saw the distinctive radiator grills of a new GE Tier IV, ET45AH pulling an intermodal freight train. We gave chase.

I was not prepared for how quickly this train got up to speed, nor was I prepared for how fast he was going. At home in the mountains of Colorado, trains are heavy and slow, going around 45 or 50 mph. There are inclines and curves to deal with. Not in Kansas. Out of Hutchinson, this train shot up to around 70 mph, an it’s a relatively straight shot for most of the run. To see a train moving that fast was impressive, awe inspiring. It also threw off my timing a little bit.

I pulled off the highway at a random exit, telling Wendi it was a shot in the dark. As I was saying to her “I don’t know how long we’ll have to wait”, she said “There’s the signal”. With barely enough time to set up my shots, the train was there.

We got back on the highway, and overtook him again, this time much(!) closer to McPherson. I knew I couldn’t beat him across town, so I sort of stayed put on the side of the road and took as many photos as I could.

We don’t see a lot of intermodal traffic on the Joint Line, so this was a little bit of a treat. Bringing up the rear of this speeding mass was Union Pacific 6689, a GE AC4400CW

I don’t typically chase trains; I usually sit in one spot and wait for them to come by. Given the speed of this train, that’s the tactic we took the rest of the weekend.

Coal Train – BNSF 5925

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BNSF 5925, a GE ES44AC engine, leads an empty coal train through Colorado Springs. It’s followed by sister ES44AC, BNSF 5752.

Incidentally, these hoppers will be transporting coal to an Xcel Energy power plant. This sign on the hopper caught my eye as the train passed, and I had to laugh. Health and Safety departments just don’t have enough to do, I guess:

Operating as distributed power units at the end of this train was another pair of GE ES44ACs: BNSF 5883 (I think — I didn’t get the number clear enough), and BNSF 5865.

The Great Salt Lake

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Friday morning, we woke up and Wendi noticed the Piano Guys were putting a concert on in Salt Lake City the following night. The Piano Guys is one of Wendi’s favorite groups, and we’ve listend to them a lot in the few years we’ve been together. We had talked about driving to Salt Lake City to see them perform in the past, since for some reason they rarely have come to Colorado venues. “We should go,” she said after reading the announcement.

So we did.

We bought our tickets, booked a hotel room, ate breakfast, then hit the road. Ten hours and 630 miles later, we were pulling into our hotel car park in the Salt Lake City suburb of Sandy. I’d never been to Salt Lake City before. A couple of years ago when we talked about doing something like this, I thought a trip to the railroad museum in Ogden might be fun. So we got up on Saturday, and headed that way. I’ll be posting the pictures from there, of course.

One place we definitely wanted to visit was the Great Salt Lake, the obvious namesake of the city:

One thing we noticed for us — being the Front Range residents that we are — is the mountains felt “on the wrong side”. Normally to us, mountains are west, but these are to the East in the mid-afternoon:

South of the causeway, the water was very still and I caught the reflections of the mountains on the surface of the Great Salt Lake.

Coal Train – BNSF 6357

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The weather in Colorado Springs at the end of June was temperamental, but it led to some great (if unpredictable) lighting, as in the photo above. BNSF 6357 (GE ES44AC) leads an empty coal train north (and into the sunlight), assisted by sister ES44AC BNSF 5758.

Bringing up the rear was a third ES44AC, BNSF 6219.

Ballast Duty – Union Pacific 9029

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“It’s going to be something special,” my daughter said while we stood near the railroad tracks and waited. She was right. I’ve mentioned before that Union Pacific trains here on the Colorado Joint Line are rarer catches, so by themselves they’re a little special. When I told her that it was a Union Pacific train, she responded in a matter-of-fact manner: “See?”

Union Pacific 9029 is an EMD SD70AH, which differs from the EMD SD70ACe only in weight. The SD70AH is 427,000 lbs instead of 420,000 lbs. I believe this one is relatively new, because the searches I did on the number bring up an old GE (C36-7) or an old ALCO steam engine. This one is clearly neither of those.

Riding shotgun behind 9029 was Union Pacific 7680, a GE C45ACCTE.

Then came the string of ballast cars, proving once again that my daughter was right. Ballast is loaded into the hoppers and released on the rails in maintenance operations:

And bringing up the rear was an EMD SD70ACe, Union Pacific 8419.