Wednesday, October 31, 2007

short vacation re-cap

Here's what I've been busy with during the past week and a half...

Sunday 10/21 - flew from DFW to San Jose, rented car, drive to Modesto to spend the night.

Modesto & Empire GE 70-tonners - October 22, 2007

Monday 10/22 - railfanned Modesto and Stockton areas - mainly on the Modesto & Empire Traction but also the ST&E, CCT, and a little bit on BNSF and UP. Drove to Monterey to spend the night.

Cannery Row in Monterey

The Pacific Coast south of Carmel Highlands, CA

Tuesday 10/23 - sightseeing in Monterey - Monterey Bay and Cannery Row. Visited the National Steinbeck Center in Salinas, then drove south on Highway 1 along the Pacific Coast from Monterey to Cambria, then east to Bakersfield and Tehachapi.

Tehachapi Loop - October 24, 2007

Wed 10/24 & Thu 10/25 - watched and photographed trains in the Tehachapi Mountains - stayed in Tehachapi Tue, Wed & Thu nights.

a smoky day on Cajon - an eastbound climbs the pass on Oct. 26.

Fri 10/26 - drove to Cajon Jct and spent the day photographing trains on Cajon Pass. Drove to Ontario to spend the night.
Sat 10/27 - caught flight from Ontario to DFW. Picked up car at airport, drove to Wilburton OK to spend the night.

KCS 4597 at Rich Mountain, AR - October 28.

Sun 10/28 - drove from Wilburton to Heavener, met up with friends photographing the KCS around Rich Mountain. Drove home Sunday evening - end of vacation.

A foamy day in Wickes, AR - October 28.
Stay tuned for several upcoming reports and a ton of photos.
nr: John Steinbeck - East of Eden
np: Ernest Tubb - Give Me a Little Old-Fashioned Love

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Thursday, October 18, 2007

Cresson trains, blog hiatus

On Thursday morning, I spent some time watching the Fort Worth & Western switch cars at Cresson. Traffic out there has increased dramatically during the past few years; virtually all of it is related to Barnett Shale petroleum drilling projects. The small yard at Cresson is crammed full of covered hoppers loaded with frac sand and gondola loads of steel pipe.

Fort Worth & Western switches sand cars at Cresson - October 18, 2007.

A crew member studies his switch list.

An interesting collection of fallen-flag logos at Cresson.

B&O "Capitol" logo and ACI tag
Gone vacationin'
Due to my upcoming travel plans, readers will be without my services for about the next 10 days. I should have some interesting stories and photos to share around the end of the month. Until then...
np: Wayne Hancock - "California Blues"
nr: back issues of TRAINS magazine covering Tehachapi Loop and Cajon Pass

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Friday, October 12, 2007

a Southern Belle in Cowtown

One of the biggest news items in US railroading this year is Kansas City Southern's latest order of locomotives, which began arriving a few months ago dressed in an updated version of the company's classic "Southern Belle" paint scheme. Complete with the railroad's 8-sided logo, the scheme features bold colors of red, yellow, and black, with the company's full name spelled out along both sides of the long hoods.

KCS 4047 at Hodge in Fort Worth - October 12, 2007

I had been wanting to get photos of these for a while, and even considered making a trip to KCS country (eastern Oklahoma / western Arkansas / northern Louisiana) last weekend, but a forecast for unfavorable weather forced me to stay home. As it turned out, I wouldn't need to go all the way to Arkansas to see my first Belle. On Friday morning, I was fortunate to learn that one of them was the lead unit on a Union Pacific train tied down at Hodge siding on the norht side of Fort Worth, about a 15-minute drive from my house. I was in the truck and out of the garage before I had even completed the phone call which provided me with this information. Of course, I would have preferred to see it on a moving train, but then again, a stationary locomotive is a lot easier to shoot, especially for detail shots...

the "Stop Sign" logo

builder's plate (a decal, actually)

I've always liked the looks of KCS locomotives in the gray paint scheme, and even their older "ghost" units in solid white. But these new Belles do look sharp. Chalk one up for the appeal of all things "retro"... it's cool to see new diesels dressed in a scheme that locomotives were wearing 50 years ago.

Southern Belles new and old

nr: John Steinbeck - Tortilla Flat
np: Jack Ingram - Biloxi

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Sunday, October 07, 2007

photos, scrapped locomotives, and beer

a few photos from some of my recent bike rides...
Lucky Lady truck stop - north Fort Worth

a Tuesday morning bike ride on the Trinity River trails

BNSF hoppers pass over me during a ride south of Justin.

This Kroger truck made a brief stop in my neighborhood last week. The kids and I call these "big baby butts".

"the end"
Two of RESCAR's CF7 locomotives headed to that great roundhouse in the sky last week. I remember seeing these locomotives during my earliest visits to Saginaw, 17 or 18 years ago. Longtime fixtures of Saginaw, CF7s 2507 and 2535 were assigned to switch the Horizon flour mill (a former Cargill facility), but had recently been sidelined after a newer locomotive replaced them earlier this year. They were finally scrapped last week. Here's a shot of them meeting their unhappy end.

Nothing left but the cabs... scrappers' torches were hissing as I snapped this photo of the remains of 2507 / 2535 on September 29.

And here's a photo of them back in July...

RESCAR CF7s 2535 / 2507 in Saginaw - July 2007

The story behind the creation of locomotives like RESCAR 2507 and 2535 makes their very existence in Saginaw in 2007 all the more remarkable.

An original F7, and a post-conversion CF7

During the 1970s, Santa Fe's locomotive shops in Cleburne embarked on an ambitious program to rebuild and convert 1950s-era streamlined F7 passenger locomotives to freight locomotives of a more utilitarian design, suitable for yard and road service. Between 1970 and 1978, Cleburne churned out some 233 of the converted locomotives, designating them "CF7" (for "Converted F7"). Bearing little resemblence to the handsome F7, the CF7s were often referred to as "ugly ducklings". Displaying an appearance that was more function than form (and some would question the "function" as well), the locomotives were somewhat similar to EMD's GP-series locomotives, but had slightly larger cabs and oddly-shaped noses. The only parts of the F7 that were even recognizable were the trucks and the front of the frame (and a curved portion of the cab roof on some of the units). The locomotives held down assignments across the Santa Fe system, but always seemed to be commonly found in Texas.

In the 1980s, Santa Fe began to sell off the CF7s to shortlines and regional railroads throughout North America. A large number of them were traded to Amtrak in exchange for a group of troublesome six-axle passenger locomotives which Santa Fe planned to use in freight service. Still others, like the two RESCAR units in Saginaw, found work at grain elevators and other industrial facilities. Units 2507 and 2535 in Saginaw began their careers as F7s 313L and 38L, built in 1953 and 1949, respectively. Rebuilt and converted in 1974, they continued to serve the Santa Fe until 1987, and then lived out their final 20 years on the RESCAR roster, assigned to the Saginaw flour mill.

Parted out for scrap at the age of 58 and 54 (and 33 years after their conversion to CF7s), it's safe to say that the 2507 and 2535 lasted for many years longer than their intended lifespans, both pre- and post-rebuild.
attack of the light beer commercials

So, Coors Light is running new versions of their commercials featuring football coach "interviews". Those are still pretty clever, although the ones last year were funnier. Meanwhile, Bud Light is running the hilarious skit of two guys whose beer bottles are shattered by a high note at the opera. Nothing wrong with that (except for the beer). And Miller Lite is running ads featuring John C. McGinley from "Scrubs" as the "commish" of ... "the More Taste League"? Dude, are you s***ing me? What a bunch of lame crap. If their commercials are supposed to make me want to go out and buy their product, they're failing pretty spectacularly. In fact, I'm tempted to go to the fridge right now, gather up all my bottles of Miller products, and pour them down the damned sink. And I actually consider Miller Lite to be the best tasting of the three! This has to be one of the worst ad campaigns from a beer company in years. How about another round of "Man Law" commercials? Now that was some funny stuff. Hell, how about going "retro" for a year -- bring back Madden and the "Less Filling - Tastes Great" debates. But this "More Taste League" garbage is a waste of my time. And yours, too, since you just finished reading about it...
np: ESPN - SportsCenter
nr: John Steinbeck - Cannery Row

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Monday, October 01, 2007

a different side of Ft Worth - IV

Uniquely Fort Worth

Not many things outside of a good train chase or a bike ride can even motivate me to leave the house, much less travel outside of my neighborhood "comfort zone". But I do like to travel and see different things, and after three and a half years of seeing the same stuff every day, sometimes it's good to just get out and experience a change of scenery. In our neighborhood -- one of those "master planned communities" -- the landscaping and buildings and homes all look clean and sterile and borderline artificial. It's not an unpleasant setting in which to live; it just feels a little too "generic". The strip shopping centers with their Subways and 7-Elevens and donut shops and nail salons could be ANYWHERE in suburban America. To look at them as I drive down the street numerous times each day, I see nothing that helps give the area an identity that sets it apart from, say... suburban Phoenix or suburban St Louis or suburban Atlanta or suburban Cleveland -- nothing that tells people, "this is Texas."

So it was the promise of finding some things uniquely "Fort Worth" -- red brick buildings displaying fading names of long-closed hotels; storefront signs shaped like boots and horses and stetson hats; brick streets; cattle barns; abandoned slaughterhouses; tacky gift shops; mysterious side-street saloons -- that lured me down to the Stockyards last Monday morning.

As you might have concluded from all the photos, I didn't come home disappointed.

np: Mark Davis & Hal Jay - WBAP morning show
nr: Ayn Rand - the Fountainhead

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a different side of Ft Worth - III

More stuff that caught my eye last Monday in the Fort Worth Stockyards...

np: Mr. T Experience - "New Girlfriend"
nr: Ayn Rand - the Fountainhead

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a different side of Ft Worth - II

More from the Fort Worth Stockyards last Monday, including the daily cattle drive...

np: Mark Davis and Hal Jay - WBAP morning show
nr: Ayn Rand - the Fountainhead

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