Monday, September 17, 2007

steam train, Wayne the train

UP 844 comes to Texas - for a few hours

UP 844 southbound south of Stoneburg, TX on Sept 14

Last Friday, one of Union Pacific's steam engines made a brief appearance in north Texas. UP has been running a special train, powered by UP steam locomotive # 844, to help commemorate the Centennial of Oklahoma's statehood. It began in Wichita, KS last week and ran south to a different Oklahoma town (Enid, El Reno, Waurika) each day. On Friday, the train crossed the Red River into Texas en route to Chico, where the railroad planned to turn it on a wye (a triangular arrangement of tracks which allows a train to change direction by making essentially a "3 point turn") and send it back north.

On Friday morning, Stephen and I (with L in tow -- a minor illness had kept her home from school for the day) headed north through Chico and Bowie and intercepted the train south of Stoneburg. We planned to follow the train back to Chico for more photos, and end our chase when it was time for me to come home and get ready for work. Few things on the railroad ever work out exactly as planned, however, and Friday was no exception.

A grain train was running ahead of the steam engine and experienced a train separation when a knuckle broke on the hill south of Bowie. (A knuckle is the part of the coupler that opens and closes to connect the cars.) After putting the train back together, the crew wasn't sure they'd be able to pull up the hill from where they were without either stalling or breaking the train again. The crew on the steam engine offered to shove them up the hill from behind, but the dispatcher had to "talk to Omaha" (UP management) and it was decided instead to have the grain train double their train (take half the cars, then return for the second half) to Chico. This process would take a minimum of two to three hours. Our second shot of the steam engine, rolling to a stop at a crossing south of Bowie, ended up being our last.

waiting for something to happen - fans look on as UP 844 and the Oklahoma Centennial train stop south of Bowie behind a disabled grain train
Plenty of other fans were out, but it was mostly just "local yokels" at the crossings where we stopped. At the crossing south of Bowie, my friends Joe and Blair caught up with us, and entertained our small group with various theories of what was probably happening "behind the scenes" up in Omaha, and how long it might take to get things moving again. We finally decided to head back home -- it was obvious that the train wasn't going anywhere.

Blair and Joe cool their heels after chasing 844 south from Waurika
Fun times? Well, we caught a steam engine, it was running, and it was in Texas. We came home with one decent shot, which is what I told myself going into this that I would be happy with if that was all I got. I guess we have next summer to look forward to, with the NRHS (National Railway Historical Society) convention coming to Ft Worth... maybe we'll get to see some big steam down here again then.
Wayne Hancock in Denton - Friday, Sept 14

Friday night after work, I met some friends at Dan's Silverleaf in Denton for a Wayne Hancock show. Joe and Stephen eventually made it up there; they had been busy shooting pictures out west of Ft. Worth.

Wayne Hancock and his band at Dan's in Denton - Friday, Sept 14
This time around, steel player Eddie Rivers wasn't with the band. He's only been there about half of the times I've seen Wayne. Instead, they had fiddle player Katy Cox on stage, sharing solos with guitarist Eddie Biebel. It was the first time I had seen her with the band. She really tore it up! Not many of Wayne's studio songs include fiddle, but she came up with some nice solos for most of the songs. Highlights included hearing them play a few Hank Williams originals ("Lovesick Blues", "Move it on over", "Jambalaya"), a Hank III song, Johnny Cash's "Big River" (with guitarist Eddie on vocals) and and of course some of Wayne's own material like "Tulsa", "Walkin' the dog", and Johnny Law". They wrapped up the show right at 2 am. When I saw them back in February they played for about 20 minutes past closing time and the bar staff pretty much had to kick them off stage!

Stephen and Joe - front porch Whataburgers at 3:30 am.

We wrapped up our evening (now three hours into Saturday morning) with Joe and Stephen eating Whataburgers on our front porch. They would both be catching their flights home later in the day, so that was the last time I'd see them during their visit.


np: ESPN SportsCenter
nr: Ayn Rand - the Fountainhead

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