Friday, August 25, 2006

Checking in

I'm sure the two or three people who read this blog regularly have been wondering why I haven't been posting. I been too damn biz-zay, that's why!

I was out of town for a full week at the end of July: a 2-day photo trip to Sweetwater and Lubbock with M on July 23-24... immediately followed by a 5-day, company-sponsored familiarization trip to Enid, Oklahoma so that I could see and ride trains over my dispatching territory. It took me a couple weeks to get caught up on things at home after that, and in the meantime I purchased and installed a new computer, took L and a friend to Six Flags over Texas for an evening of roller coaster riding, and sent the kids back to school (they've been back for over two weeks as I type this on August 25!)

And I've been trying to keep up with my bike riding... I fell behind on my miles in late July and early August, but have been stepping things back up in preparation for the Hotter 'n Hell Hundred in Wichita Falls tomorrow (August 26). I didn't feel that I was quite ready for the hundred MILE ride, so I registered for the 100-k instead. That works out to about 62 miles. Maybe next year I'll be ready for the REAL hundred.

South Plains Road Trip

Although our trip to Sweetwater and Lubbock was not entirely rail-related, we did see and photograph several trains. I am about to start putting together some digital slide shows, and one of the shows I'm planning will feature the Texas Panhandle and other flatland areas. I needed some non-train photos from the Lubbock area to kind of "fill out" my flatland coverage. Of course, not all of the land around Lubbock and Sweetwater is flat... we found some neat locations around Buenos (between Post and Slaton) where the table-flat Llano Estacado gives way to scenic mesas and dusty arroyos.

An NS visitor powers an eastbound
on the BNSF Slaton Sub at Augustus

Eastbound at Buenos, TX (about 10 miles southeast of Slaton)

Red Dirt road trip

Every so often, the railroad offers dispatchers the opportunity to take a road trip to see their dispatching territory. My most recent trip before this one was a 1998 trip to the former Santa Fe branchlines of New Mexico (the El Paso and Carlsbad Subdivisions). This time around, I am working the Avard desk (former SL-SF from Tulsa, through Enid to Avard, where our line connects with the former ATSF Panhandle Subdivision.) I had five days to drive to Enid, see as much of the railroad and meet as many of my co-workers as I could, and return home.

I drove to Enid on Tuesday July 25 to begin my week. On Tuesday afternoon I caught an eastbound train to Tulsa and on Wednesday I rode back. On Thursday the 27th, I spent a full day with our maintenance of way guys; in the morning I observed a bridge replacement project, and then spent the afternoon with one of our track inspectors. On Friday afternoon, I rode a westbound train out to Waynoka and then caught an eastbound back to Enid. I had time for another trip to Tulsa so I caught another eastbound to Tulsa on Friday night, and rode back to Enid on Saturday.

It was a good trip, and I'm glad I got to take it. I rode with three Enid crews, two Amarillo crews, and met several other crews at the yard offices. I met all of our Enid yardmasters and two of the relief yardmasters. I met two of our track inspectors, one of our signal maintainers, several of our section workers and machine operators, and several more guys from the structures department. If I may assume a half serious tone for about 30 seconds... The experience of meeting and getting to know some of my co-workers in the field will be of great benefit to our working relationship in the future. Seeing things from their perspective will allow me to make better and more informed dispatching decisions.

I also had time to do a bit of photography during my trip. On Wednesday and Thursday after "work" I went out to get some pics of westbound trains that I knew were in the area. And of course, I got lots of shots during my train rides and during my day with the MW guys. I brought my bike along, but only had time for one ride, a 36-mile round trip from Enid to Hennessey on Friday morning. That's a ride I'll remember for a long time -- a WHOLE lot of straight n' flat! The wind was out of the south that morning, but I was still making 15 mph as I rode south. But the trip back was a joy... I barely fell below 20 mph the entire way back to Enid. I could get used to riding up there... the only problem was the lack of shoulders along some stretches of US Hwy 81.

In all, it was a great trip. Maybe I'll get to take another one in about 8 years.

Enid city limits

Our conductor lines a switch at Pawnee

from the cab: meeting an eastbound at Hallett

westbound at Fairmont

bridge renewal project near Fairmont

track inspector "sets on" at Goltry

UP switch engines in Enid

From "occasional" to "infrequent"

Don't expect many blog updates during the next few months... I'm about to dive head-first into my next project, assembling digital slide shows and setting them to music. I'm hoping to have two short shows ready by early to mid-September. Once I figure out how to post them on-line, you'll find the links here. Until then, I'll be busy.


nr: Jack Kerouac - On the Road

np: Ralph Stanley - Shine On


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