Thursday, December 06, 2007

Sweetwater day trip

Sunday, December 2 - M joined me for a railfan trip to Sweetwater. Our objective was to chase and photograph trains on the UP Baird and Toyah Subdivisions, along with whatever BNSF stuff we could find between Tecific and Sweetwater. Here are a few highlights:

UP 7730 eastbound - passing Texas & Pacific depot in Abilene.

M gives a roll-by at Abilene

T&P logo on Abilene depot

Ft Worth & Denver depot at Abilene

BNSF 5353 eastbound, east of Merkel

I've been going to Tecific since I was in high school. Located about 5 miles east of Sweetwater, Tecific features a mile-long straightaway where the UP Baird Sub runs parallel to the BNSF Lampasas Sub. There's also a connecting track between the two lines, to allow BNSF trackage rights trains using UP tracks from Ft. Worth to return to home rails. I first visited Tecific in 1989, during my senior year of high school. At just over an hour's drive from San Angelo, it was the closest place to home that I could see trains on two different railroads. I returned there several more times during high school and college. I don't make it that far west very often anymore; Sunday was the most time I've spent at Tecific since I spent a day there in 1996.

UP 5526 leads a westbound Z-train approaching Tecific.

Racing across the flatlands near Roscoe

That ain't snow... viewed from across a cotton field, UP 5312 leads an eastbound out of Roscoe toward Sweetwater.

BNSF 944 westbound at Tecific.

Visiting places like Abilene and Sweetwater definitely felt like a bit of a "homecoming". It was nice to spend some time in west Texas. Things haven't really changed much out there -- except for the railroad. Holy smokes, I hardly recognized the old T&P! Twenty years ago it was essentially nothing more than a 500-mile dead-end branch line from Fort Worth to El Paso, hosting only 3 or 4 trains a day -- if that. These days, in the wake of the UP-SP merger, 20 to 30 trains are rolling through sleepy little towns like Putnam and Baird and Merkel and Roscoe -- every day. Union Pacific has invested millions to increase the line's capacity -- replacing rail and ties, adding new sidings and extending existing ones, and upgrading the signal system. It is one impressive railroad, especially compared to what it was twenty years ago.

Coming next... I-20 ghost signs.
np: Pearl Jam - Yellow Ledbetter
nr: John Steinbeck - East of Eden

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